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AstroDime is pleased to announce that we now have our own domain name and beautiful new web site. It was designed by Gina Kamentsky at

To keep up to date, visit us at

This blog will remain up but will not be updated.

January 18, 2010 at 11:04 pm Leave a comment

The Spanish Patent

I am looking through old copies of Scientific American at Harvard University. wow what amazing images! i’ve only scratched the surface of it..the writing and images are fascinating.

I have been focusing mainly on the “Export Edition” which was distributed throughout the world in the late 1800’s. There were some ads in Spanish and a few in German, but it was clear that this is an “export” from the United States to the rest of the world. Anyway, I found this notice printed several times below. I wonder what it means? More mysteries as AstroDime works on La America Científica. -sam smiley

December 7, 2009 at 9:44 pm Leave a comment

VideoSur II : Experimental Video from Latin America

Wednesday, December 9, 2009
8:00pm – 10:00pm
FILM Dept. Screening RM 1
621 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA

The MassArt Film Society and Discordiafilms present VideoSur II, a selection of Latin America experimental video that includes documentation of performance and art actions, noise video and stop motion animation from Chile, Argentina and Mexico.

Inspired by the spirit of exchange in the Americas, VideoSur II is the second of a series of video showings that convey the complex cultural vision of Latin American artists.

Paulo Ahumada Rovai
Juvenal Barría
Ciudad Dormitorio
Claudia González
Antonia Lopez
Hector Llanquín
Manuel Orellana Sandoval
Javiera Ovalle Sazie
Constaza Piña
Agustina Rodríguez Suhurt
Ana Silva Binvignat
Pia Sommer
Andrés Torregiani
Venado Negro
Paula Venegas

Co-curated by Julio Lamilla, Liz Munsell and Anabel Vázquez.
8pm Wed. December 9th, 2009 @ MassArt Film Society

December 7, 2009 at 9:33 pm Leave a comment

SLSA 09 shakedown: Decodings

On to the next conference: SLSA (Society for Literature, Arts and the Sciences). The theme this year was Decodings. I presented AstroDime’s work on the Transatlantic Cable of 1858 on a panel called Decoding Technologies of Mediation. My co-panelists were N. Katherine Hayles, who gave a great talk on telegraph codebooks from 1850-1950, and is working on an online telegraph codebook database. I was also presenting with Robert Rosenberger who was doing work on media literacy and television.

On the way to SLSA hotel

Generally, I think I have less patience with the esoterics of literary analysis vs. of that of qualitative research. Since 4s and SLSA were back to back, this gave me a chance to reflect on that. Having said that, there was a lot of great art and literature presentations at SLSA.

Quick summary: Wendy Wheeler gave an interesting talk (although too late at night for me to be really alert) on the idea of biosemiotics. She is working with biologists to develope this idea. She went on to speculate about the semiotics of a species. From there I started speculation about dogs..and what the semiotics of smell might be for dogs. my mind drifted from there..into the next session, Friday AM.

Notes from Wendy Wheeler's talk

I saw a presentation by my roomate for SLSA Clarissa Lee (science and texts as free play) and John Bruni (a history of popular science in the United States)
From there I went to what was perhaps my favorite panel of the conference: Performance: A method of Decoding/Decoding: a method of performance. This panel talked about Performance Studies as a methodology, which I thought was excellent. Performance artist Katherine Behar talked about her work with BDSM and cybernetics in the context of consumer electronics..take a look at her web site. Frenchy Lunning talked about the concept of KOS-play, drag, and the performance of abjection. Jon Cates did a great presentation on his project OUR080R05, work with sound, video, noise, and performance. All and all a really interesting study of performance as methodology, in a few different contexts.

For the keynote speech on Friday, Ian Bogst talked about Alien Phenomenology. I think my favorite part of his presentation was the metatext created by his numerous slides next to his talk. Interestingly, one of his many ideas was about practice as theory in the context of craftsmenship, which links a bit to some of the ideas discussed in 4S.

Karaoke til 3AM Saturday nite at this spot. Go figure!

Another interesting panel was Visual Decodings I.
Both Drew Ayers and Maria Aline Ferreira talked about DNA portraiture, but from different angles, I thought the talks complemented each other well. Ayers talked about believablity and authenticity and why these images mean so much to people. Ferreira gave an excellent presentation on a number of artists who work with biology and identity. She talked about the idea of “Genetic Determinism” surplanting the idea of Biological Determinism..which is a scary thought. To get a sense of what DNA portraits are go to
Isabel Wunshe talked about how the images of crystals around the turn of the 20th century potentially influenced Cubist painters, which I thought was interesting.
Christina Nguyen Hung showed her own work..she is a painter, but colaborates with biologists to create tiny images out of proteins as an art medium. She works with researchers in bioengieering department. She has used neuron cells from chick embryos, and gets images of them through a process of microlithography. She works in microscopic environments, essentially. All in all this was another awesome panel which worked together well.

I saw a talk given by Suzanne Black “Giant Molecules through the decades: a content analysis of figures in biochemistry books”... Her talk was great, she was looking at the development of representations of molecules through textbooks in the 1930’s to now. She looked at both figures and tables. I thought it was facinating, and since her background was in biochemistry, she had learned on some of those books. She actually brought the books with her which was amazing considering how heavy they are. This is the beginning of her study but I hope she continues..I love her methods of visual analysis.

There was much more to this..but this is a quick summary. Overall, met some great people and got some good leads for our “Scientific American” INtransit issue.

-sam smiley

Awesome lunch here after SLSA was done.

November 30, 2009 at 8:47 pm Leave a comment

4s in Washington D.C. Part 1: Latin American STS

Well it’s a long time coming, but a lot happened at I can be excused from my lateness in posting about that and also (in the following message) SLSA.

As AstroDime is currently working on Scientific American/La America Científica, I was out scoping for some ideas and conversation on both ideas. What follows is not a summation of the whole conference of 4S (Society for Social Studies of Science), but my biased account. 4S took place in Washington DC from October 28-30, 2009 in Crystal City Virginia (a few trainstops from D.C.
-sam smiley

Train in D.C. to 4s


I was lucky enough to spend a night with my friends Alberto Roblest and Christine Macdonald. Alberto is a video/media artist and Christine is a writer. In the evening I went to the reception for 4S. The first evening reception at 4S was a huge event, but I met up with some folks from RPI for a great ethiopian dinner.
This first section is devoted to the development of the Latin American STS track at the 4S conference.

Thurs morning, I decided to focus my energies on the Latin American/post-colonial track organized in part by Rick Duque. The session was called Environment, Technology and Society Interactions in Latin America. I greatly enjoyed a session presented by Erick Castellanos of Ramapo Unversity called “The Mexican and Transnational Lives of Corn: Technological, Political, Edible Object” (Co-written by Sara Bergstresser?). Part of the focus of the presentation was on the overproduction of corn in the U.S. for corn syrup and ethanol. He talked about corn genetics and the social issues between the US and Mexico, and public protests against bio-engineered corn in Mexico.

Another interesting talk was by a science writer from Brazil on P-MAPA, a drug which boosts the immune system and is helpful in the treatment of AIDS and also to deter various cancer cells and tumors. The talk was called “Across Borders: the Discovery and Development of the compound P-MAPA in Brazil”, and I THINK the presenter was Carlos Henrique Fioravanti. He talked about the history of the development of the drug, and how it hasn’t been mainstreamed in its use in the US despite its effectiveness and low cost. A link to P-MAPA is at

The next session I went to was called Technology, Biology, and Medicine in Latin America. This was really interesting. Sandra Patricia Gonzales-Santos presented a talk (and later in the conference joined me for my presentation, much to my delight). Her talk was called “Negotiating Authority in the Mexican Assisted Human Reproduction Scenario” and it was a really interesting cultural studies analysis of the representation of assisted reproduction in Mexico. She did an in-depth study of mass media in mexico, both headlines, bylines, and images/represtnation. She also did an analysis on the vocabularies used to describe this.

One interesting comment by a group presenting on cloning in Argentina and Brazil (Juan Mariano Fressoli and Hernan Eduardo Thomas) talked the “social construction of the periphery” in Latin American STS. That was very intriguing food for thought.

Finally, following the Latin American STS thread, the last panel on this topic I went to was Theories and Methods in Latin American STS. Again, my coverage of this will be by no means comprehesive, these are what interested me.

Ivan de Costa Marques’s talk was “A Latin American Food for the Children Program and Limits of Relativism”. He described this food product which is sold as a food supplement in Brazil called “multimistura” and how it is being discredited as “scientific” as nutrition by scientists, but is still embraced by a lot of people. It was developed by Clara Brandao. A web site in English describing it is

Rodrigo Ribiero gave his talk “The Sociology of Scientific Knowledge in High School”. I thought this was really amazing. He is fortunate enough to be able to introduce 2 different schools, one public, and one private to STS, and is doing a followup study (I think he quoted Sara Delamont’s work from the education side). He talked about the issues and problems (the idea of science delivering certainty in an uncertain world being challenged, relations with science teachers in the high school) but since sociology is required in Brazilian high schools, the 2nd year followup for these high schools is STS. I think (and i will note this later) that the STS split from the K-12 setting, as an academic discipline only is problematic, and this talk really was interesting as a bridge between the worlds of K-12 education and higher ed (a split that is by no means confined to STS). He also shared a detailed syllabus/Unit which I thought was very generous.

this ends my report (albeit) incomplete on the Latin American STS track at 4S. However, I do want to add an important note (which also connects to the last paragraph I wrote). There is an uneasy relationship of STS to K-12 education. I believe this is in part because of the enormous gulf (at least in the United States) between higher ed and K-12. As an example: when I was first applying for teaching jobs in higher ed, I was told NOT to put any teaching experience I would have had with K-12, because it would not help my chances of getting a job, and might hurt it. A colleague of mine, who had taught high school media and was applying for a new media position at a university was told the same thing.
I can certainly understand that there are differences in pedagogy between k-12 and higher ed. However, I think that it is important to note that some people trained in STS have in fact gone on to work, either in a research capacity or teaching capacity in the K-12 area. (Since I work at Lesley University, I know a few of them). At the Friday evening Presidential Plenary Discussion (Trends and Futures of STS), Sheila Jasanoff was asked about involvement of STS with K-12 settings. In her reply she talked about participant observation or doing ethnographys in schools, thus describing the K-12 setting as a research site only. I disagree with this..I think there are a number ways STS graduates and scholars could be involved in introducing critical thinking about science in the K-12 setting. How about STS in high schools, like in Robert Ribiero’s talk? Also..what is STS’s relationship to STEM (an integrated program called Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics currently part of a K-12 dialogue)?? where does it fit in? Does STS relate to that at all? How about K-12 teachers as researchers rather than objects of study? I think STS can fit into the K-12 area, there does not have to be an artificial separation. As the audience member asked about STS in the K-12 setting, there was spontaneous applause in the crowd. And that in and of itself was interesting.

-my two or more cents (sam smiley)

November 29, 2009 at 9:15 pm Leave a comment

Astrodime at Maker Faire Rhode Island

Astrodime at Maker Faire Rhode Island

Sept 30 2009 by Amanda

This is a recap of Astrodime’s experience at the Maker Faire festival in Providence, RI. The website for the festival is at

On Saturday, September 19 the Astrodime Transit Authority demonstrated our tin can telecommunications system at the Maker Faire Rhode Island festival. The technicians of Astrodime, including sam, Julia, Lisa, and Amanda worked directly with adults and young children in using the AstroCan communications systems. Many adults were eager to prove to their children that the tin can system worked just as well as their iPHONES.

Set in the heart of the Financial District in Providence, Astrodime’s exhibition consisted of 2 videos displaying the most current INtransit journal “Can You Hear Me Now?” and “Secret Decoder”. Also on display were the hand-crafted iCANs, tin can phones, and wire tapping devices. Between 2pm and 10pm locals and out of towners experimented with our iCAN, tin can party line, and tin can phone wiretapping. Throughout the day, over 200 people tested the tin can communication device, and sam experimented with our wiretapping capabilities.

Maker Faire is the foremost event for grassroots American innovation. Being the first Maker Faire festival in Providence, this event attracted over 50 makers, inventors, and artists to showcase their most recent inventions. One of the highlights of the day was the disco bicycle party, designed by the custom frame bike-makers Circle A Cycles; another rare gadgeteer was Tellart, and they installed an interactive mixed reality pong game that people could play by wearing helmuts with IR LED’s attached. As Maker Faire continued into the late evening, the Providence River was set on fire as the themed “Celebration of Life” Waterfire festival took place!

October 3, 2009 at 5:44 pm Leave a comment

Conference: Futures of Science, Race, and Gender

Report on MIT Program in Womenś and Gender Studies: Futures of Science, Race, and Gender
Sept 26 2009 by sam \(^_^)/

This is a summary and digest of a conference I went to at MIT. I was looking to research for Scientific American/La America Científica. The web site for the conference is at

Panel 1:
Mentoring Women: Four Generations of Women Scientists at MIT

This session was an intergenerational panel of women who work in Cognitive Science. (specifically cognitive neuroscience). The discussion was primarily about intergenerational mentoring, and all the women on the panel had mentored or been mentored by the others. It was quite an interesting “lineage” as it were. At the end of the whole session, the audience response took it into another direction entirely (noted below)
Molly Potter began by outlining a history of women at MIT over the past century and into this one. She said an interesting thing, when McCormick hall (residence for women) was built at MIT, there was an upsurge of women students. Seems like a no-brainer? but sometimes the institutional barriers are so obvious they are hard to notice, paradoxically.

Nancy Kanwisher talked about the importance of mentoring.She made an interesting comment about the relation of neuroscientists and psychologists and their different ways of studying the mind. So when brain imaging (PET) scan came along it was a long time before psychologists were able to use this technology because the medical field had it and didn’t want to let it go.

Rebecca Saxe and Liang Young spoke in brief, about mentoring and their relations to their mentors. Both of them do not feel so much about ¨being a woman in the field” but just being in the field.

A question for me that came out of this: what is the critical mass of women where being a women ¨doesn´t matter”? that it’s “not an issue?” i.e. your self recognition of yourself as female does not come up constantly in a job with respect to promotion.

and is this a generational break in feminisms? (At least North American feminisms?)

Part II (i.e. holy crap!)

So after the talk (which was largely about these intergenerational collegial relationships) the audience had questions.One audience member asked how did white priviledge influence the panelists’ success. Actually the question was more like you all were white, how did you benefit from being white? NOTE TO SELF: the youngest panelist was Asian, i am wondering how she thought about being described as white. Rebecca Saxe intervened and said actually Liang was Chinese not white.

The issue exploded as a second questioner said that Liane Young is “basically white” because she is a model minority. (NOTE TO SELF: WTF! what is Basically White, anyway?) At this point it was actually painful to be in the room.
Another audience member intervened (fortunately) and said she appreciated the idea of ¨lineage” and mentorship ideas in this talk, and felt that should have been the main theme. Dr. Potter did some mediating on the spot, there was an awkward closing, and the group dispersed for lunch. Bottom line: 4 brilliant women in cog sci in panel, 1 audience meltdown discussion at the end.

Wow. how did this happen? Meltdown! I guess having a conference on race and gender going to engage with race and gender throughout. Panelists self identifying as white or a person of color..would that help? these are hard questions and i wonder how that will unfold in future discussions.
[NOTE TO SELF: it didn’t substantially]

some notes from Panel 2

some notes from Panel 2

Racialized Bodies
Pilar Ossorio, Sandy Alexandre, David Jones, Amy Marshall

I missed Sandy Alexandres mistake. too long at the MIT book store. I entered in the middle of Pilar Ossorio’s talk. one of her fields is developmental biology. the field in this talk was the topic of genetics, and ¨pharmacogenetics” and race in discussion of science and medicine. Ossario talked about race as a social construct, but said race can influence where people live, work, and get healthcare. She talked about the use of ‘racially differentiated biologies’ and should they exist. her theoretical influence is standpoint theory.

David Jones began his response with this question: is all of biology reducible to genetics?
He asked, how do differences accumulate on the body, and bodies. He explained Pharmacogenetics as being how genes affect drug absorbtion. He said there are other issues to be considered in that question..such as..things you eat can have an effect on drug absorbtion and so can “non compliance” ie not taking the medication. he said not enouf studies have been done on the effect of non compliance. He ended by asking should science research be directed by differences or common experiences?

Amy Marshall, another respondant, and an alumni of the Women’s and Gender studies dept at MIT talked about the problem of the definition of race in genetics.
David Jones also mentioned how it is easier to get scientific funding for genetics research (pharmacogenetics) than for studies of non-compliance.

Summary: overall a nuanced and interesting session on the issues of race and genetics in context of scientific and medical research.

Notes from panel 3

Notes from panel 3

Race, Gender, and In Vitro Fertilization in Ecuador: A reproductive economy.
Speaker: Elizabeth Roberts

Elizabeth Roberts is a medical anthropologist who did an ethnography with women in Ecuador as they got assisted reproduction. She talked about her assumptions prior to do this..that Ecuadorian women were too poor, catholic, or overpopulated to want assisted reproduction. I appreciated her sharing that..a reflexive approach.

In-vitro fertilization gained ground in the 1990’s in Ecuador. She noted that in Ecuador, there is intense privatization of health care, the public system is not good…race and class are intertwined with whether women get private or public health care.

She also noted about race in Ecuador, that race is perceived as a form of shape shifting..she claiims that it is possible to shift race over the course of one’s lifetime.i’m not sure how that can be long as color of skin is connected with perception of race. I do understand that in different countries, race has different histories, and different nuances. I wanted more details on that and less on assisted reproduction at this point.

respondant: Corrine Williamsshe talked about the ethical issues of picking the gender of a child (that was her field of study)

respondant: Rachel Dillon
she talked about transgender surgeries in relation to in-vitro fertilization, and the similarities and differences in negotiating them. For example, both surgeries tend to be out of pocket costs, so they are hard to get by lower income people (in the United States) But the differences rest in family non support for trans surgeries.
Also it is hard for trans men to get surgeries such as voluntary hystorectomies, in the United States, there are barriers for trans men to get surgeries that might stop potential reproduction.

I have to say I think both the respondants got the short end of the stick. They introduced interesting ideas that never had a chance to really get discussed in context with this panel. This could have been a conversation and interesting at that, but it should have been either just 1 speaker, or a panel of 3 with a followup.

SUMMARY: interesting talks but lost opportunity for developed dialogue.

OVERALL SUMMARY: glad i went. Awkward moments. some good conversations. Brilliant women. I did fell that it needed to be written up and posted on this blog. TOok a lot of work. I’m sure i missed some details, but did the best editing i could. Phew!

September 28, 2009 at 2:21 am Leave a comment

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