Book Summaries: History, Tools, and Practices of Genetics and Hereditary Science

Here comes another contribution to my summaries for my list with Susan Lindee. Topic of the day: “History, Tools, and Practices of Genetics and Hereditary Science.” My original notes are much longer than what I provide in this essay, but I have a maximum of six pages to deliver. So I had to cut some of my observations. Have fun! Continue reading

More Book Summaries! Today: Sorting People Out and Digital Technologies

Last Wednesday, I had another orals meeting with Susan Lindee. You can find the bibliographical details of the books discussed in the blurb and my analytical essay below that. Guess which book I liked least! Continue reading

DH and Me

I’m in Indianapolis for HILT 2015. The digital-humanities workshop on “Large-Scale Text Analysis with R” sounded as if it can help me to finally surmount the obstacle of several thousands of neuroscientific articles I will have to analyze in order to continue my project on adult neurogenesis. Mark Algee-Hewitt from Stanford’s Department of English is an awesome instructor and thus far, I’ve understood everything and was even able to ask a not-so-stupid question during the first session. (Why does R return “character” when I ask about the class of a vector whose contents are characters—and not “vector”?)

I know I promised to continue this post a long time ago—odds are that it will happen soon.

What Kind of Sex Do We Need in Neuroimaging?

(”Like Dancers in a Line” by Viewminder, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Four members of the NeuroGenderings network, Gina Rippon, Rebecca Jordan-Young, Anelis Kaiser, and Cordelia Fine, recently published a fabulous piece on “Recommendations for Sex/Gender Neuroimaging Research: Key Principles and Implications for Research Design, Analysis, and Interpretation” in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience.

Continue reading

NeuroGenderings III: So Many Women Saying Smart Things in a Conference Room

From May 8–10, 2014, more than a hundred students and scholars from the neurosciences, social sciences, and the humanities convened at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, for the NeuroGenderings III conference. The organizers Cynthia Kraus (University of Lausanne) and Anelis Kaiser (University of Bern) titled this meeting the “1st international Dissensus Conference on brain and gender.” 14 papers by scholars at different career stages, mainly from Europe and the US, provided examples of successful sex/gender-sensitive brain research and addressed problematic neuroscientific concepts and practices from feminist and queer perspectives. The four keynote speakers illustrate the diversity of approaches: Rebecca Jordan-Young (Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Barnard College), Gillian Einstein (Social & Behavioural Health Sciences, University of Toronto), Georgina Rippon (Psychology, Aston University), and Anne Fausto-Sterling (Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry and Gender Studies, Brown University). Papers were selected by the NeuroGenderings Network, a non-institutionalized interdisciplinary group of scholars, which was founded in 2010 to offer a platform for exchanging best practice models for and reservations against sex/gender research in the neuroscientific realm. All attendees consented that dissenting from unquestioned concepts and practices in brain research can benefit both our neuroscientific knowledge and our social life. Continue reading

Somebody Help Us Explain What Embedded Statistical Technologies Achieve in fMRI Research

I promised to write more about my thoughts on how the question of what software is—and does—relates to fMRI research. Tonight seems the perfect time to do so, as I just received feedback on my paper proposal. Besides that, my calendar tells me that the following days got assigned to other projects of mine, so I’d better use this rainy night to share my ideas with you. (I divided the remaining days between the three final written assignments for this term; and, as a colleague told me yesterday, I did so in a stereotypically German manner of accuracy.) Continue reading

Inspired Part 4: Tools vs. Machines—A Helpful Distinction?

One last—and regarding further work maybe even the most important—in this season of posts inspired by recent exposure to John Tresch’s The Romantic Machine deals with fMRIs in a rather broad sense: Even though Tresch does not write much about sciences of the brain, his reflections on human-technological alliances and their transformative potential add a lot to my interest in putting people in numbers and negotiating the measures between domains. Categorizing humans according to bodily and mental measures and personal characteristics by making use of devices of any sort is part of the attempt to inform contemporary policies and improve—or justify—social realities and political economy. Continue reading

Follow up on Techno-Mathematical Tools

This is the moment I have been waiting for so desperately: I am currently formatting my new computer’s hard drive—all by myself! However, it does not really make me feel like the mature nerd I always wanted to be, rather like the exile Swabian lacking her brother’s assistance. The best news is certainly that there is a new computer to work on—finally. I have been waiting for this sustainably produced (or green washed?!) HP device for two months, checking in at the store several times, in order to ask if it has arrived yet. The answer was always negative. They had problems with the delivery, suggested to lend me another computer, or to sell an alternative device for the same price. (Why would I borrow a laptop, format it, encrypt the hard drive, and return it after a few weeks? I did not lay out my reasons. I politely declined the offer.) When I came in today to cancel my order, however, without my wallet, only with $ 10 in my back pocket, having had lunch with two fellow grad students, the guy at the check-out went to the stacks and returned with my “EliteBook.” Everybody seemed seriously embarrassed for forgetting to notify me of the computer’s arrival, and they gave me a $ 100 discount. Nice. I could not take the computer with me, though, since I did not have a card for the refund on me. Less nice. Continue reading

Research Paper: Sex and Stats

One of the courses I am attending this year is a research seminar on Cold War science. I am not sure how to phrase this—”despite” or “even though”—, but as a student in Germany, I had no idea what impact the Cold War had on natural and social sciences, and how deeply intertwined modern genetics and the atomic bomb are, for example. These Tuesday classes are definitely my least enjoyable regarding subject matter, because I simply cannot deal unemotionally with human experiments, hydrogen bombs, and non-heterosexuals driven into suicide. Yet, it is one of my (three) favorite classes; since not only what I learn concerning methodology and content, but also my excitement for my own research project within the course exceed my expectations. Continue reading

Food Co-Op and Instruments

I love how having a “real life outside the Department”1 contributes to my work-related ideas. Most of the time, however, they remain work-related ideas, and cannot be transformed into actual reading and writing, since what I am currently working on are mainly the assigned readings for my weekly classes. Be that as it may, living the “real life” meant attending Mariposa‘s new member orientation on Sunday, where I found myself sitting next to a Penn teacher (whose name I will not tell, since I am not sure if she wants the world to know that we met, and that it happened in this specific location). Before the two-hour ideological indoctrination started, we spent a few minutes talking about our work and mutual acquaintances in the HSS Department. As it turned out, she had co-authored several papers on the history of arts and sciences with Penn HSS faculty. Thanks to our introduction-to-rule at Mariposa, I found out her name (as well as gender self-identification and food co-op experience), and was able to google her department website in the evening. Continue reading