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STS 001: Introduction to Science Studies

What is this course about?

How do we discern the difference between science and non-science? Why are certain scientific pursuits so politically contentious? Why do we have rich scientific research on certain topics and a dearth of research on other topics? This course introduces students to topics in the interdisciplinary field of science and technology studies. Through a series of case studies, we consider how scientific controversies emerge and why they matter. In this course, we discuss how public discourse and media representations of science shape what research gets funded, prioritized, legitimized, and contested.

Why is this course important?

This course helps students think through the complex conditions that shape scientific research and the production of knowledge. In other words, it helps students unpack how and why we know what we know about our social and physical world. It helps students develop skills in media literacy and discourse analysis, and it provides students with opportunities to practice applying these skills in written assignments.

Fall 2019 Syllabus for STS 001

STS 101: Data and Society

What is this course about?

Data is increasingly becoming a significant resource for understanding civic life and addressing civic problems. In this course, we examine the social and cultural forces that impact the availability, structure, and governance of civic data, as well as the forms of  ethics, activism, and advocacy that emerge around data. As we analyze civic datasets about eviction, toxics, education, crime, municipal services, civic infrastructure, and water quality, we think through the politics shaping how data gets defined, calculated, and visualized.

Why is this course important?

Data is a powerful tool for making claims - claims that can advance equity and social justice, as well as claims that can misrepresent civic issues and marginalize certain populations. To critique claims posed from data, we need to understand where data comes from and the techniques used to analyze and visualize it. This course provides students with opportunities to engage in analysis of civic issues, develop skill in socially responsible data analysis and interpretation, and critically think through what a dataset represents.

Fall 2019 Syllabus for STS 101

STS 115: Data Sense and Exploration

What is this course about?

The rapid spread of Covid-19 has revealed a great deal about local, national, and global capacity to understand, mitigate, and respond to complex public health concerns. Data analysts have an important role to play in making sense of our current information landscape - a landscape that is both overwhelmed with the volume, speed, and heterogeneity of relevant data production, yet remains riddled with knowledge gaps. This course has been designed to give students hands-on experience making sense of the data landscape emerging in the wake of a global disaster, as well as practical skills in communicating data during times of rapid response.

Why is this course important?

This course introduces students to finding, exploring, and presenting data. Themed around issues of health inequity, students learn how to narrate what they do not know about an issue, navigate data portals to find relevant data, assess the usefulness of data resources in answering complex questions, and evaluate gaps in knowledge. Students also learn how to present data in ways that are both accessible and compelling.

Spring 2020 Syllabus for STS115

FRS 004: Data Feminism (co-taught with Emily Merchant)

What is this course about?

This course explores the ubiquity of data in modern life and the way that objectivist language surrounding data obscures its role in reproducing gender inequality and other forms of social inequity. Students are introduced to the basics of data generation and analysis and concepts from feminist theory such as intersectionality, standpoint epistemology, and situated knowledge. Students create and visualize their own datasets to consider how complex phenomena get reduced to fit standard categories in the processes of counting and classifying the world. Students also learn to think critically about objectivity, the gendering of data work, and the role of data in propagating oppression.

Why is this course important?

The course is targeted towards students pursuing degrees in computational and non-computational fields. Students from computational disciplines gain experience thinking about the real world consequences of data and data work, and students in non-computational disciplines gain understanding of what data are and how they are generated and analyzed.

Spring 2020 Syllabus for FRS 004

STS 205: Data Cultures

What is this course about?

This graduate seminar examines the history and culture of data practices, sharing, and infrastructure in both research and civic domains. In studying ethnographies of various scientific and civic communities, we investigate the epistemologies of data work and how the emergence data-based infrastructures has reshaped representation, how expertise operates, how evidence is trusted, how collaboration is valued, and how communities cope with uncertainty in diverse domains. In the second half of the quarter, we transition towards examining the ways in which data practices and infrastructures mediate belonging, difference, and social justice. Throughout the quarter, institutions and policies seeking to advance cross-domain data sharing is studied, along with various forms of advocacy for and resistance to data standards and collection. Literature at the intersection of critical data studies, information infrastructure studies, and STS is surveyed. Students have an opportunity to experiment with new data studies methodologies and to practice techniques in data management planning and stewardship in preparation for sharing data across diverse data cultures.

Spring 2020 Syllabus for STS 205