NOV. 4 Colloq| Paul Edwards

The Glass Laboratory: Climate Knowledge Infrastructures in the Age of Hyper-Transparency

Paul Edwards | University of Michigan


AbstractIn this talk, I argue that new media environments have created a “glass laboratory,” where even scientists’ emails become metadata in the public life of climate knowledge. I begin with a historical account of data-making in climate science, drawn from my book A Vast Machine. Next, based on recent work with climate software developers and Earth system scientists, I analyze the 1990s emergence of the knowledge infrastructure that underlies today’s broad scientific consensus on global warming. Against this historical background, I explore three climate controversies of the early 21st century: the “hockey stick,” Climategate, and the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. In each episode, outsiders leveraged new media to “audit” climate science, expose the deepest details of the climate knowledge infrastructure, and even create their own climate datasets. The glass laboratory presents a paradox. It holds the potential to democratize expertise and improve public trust, yet also risks rendering expert knowledge impotent in public debates. Understanding the roots of this paradox is essential for all future science-related policymaking.

Unless otherwise noted, all events take place on Fridays, from 4:15-6:15 PM in room C415A (concourse level) at the Graduate Center, CUNY (365 Fifth Avenue). Please visit: http:;//www.gc.cuny.edy/anthropology for more information.

OCT. 28 Colloq | Stephen Houston

Virile Predicaments: Shaping Men in Ancient Maya Civilization

Stephen Houston | Brown University


Abstract:  The human arc traverses from birth to death and, depending on view, to states well beyond. What is made of that journey—a travail, a delight—constitutes a welcome opportunity for visual culture, in themes taken up around the world. So too for the Classic Maya, who flourished from c. AD 250-850. A literate people, occupants of Mexico and Central America during the first-millennium AD, they left inscriptions now open to scrutiny. Recent decipherments reveal the makers, meanings, and motives behind Classic Maya images, buildings, and the dynastic personages who commissioned them. This talk develops the claim that a central concern in Maya imagery and texts was the virile task of “growing men.” Boys and teenagers, always elites in surviving evidence, were conceived as vegetal sprouts (ch’ok), a decipherment made some decades ago but left partly in fallow. For Classic rulers, the hope was that youths would grow to become kings and nobles, ready to govern, maraud, game, feast, and reproduce.

Unless otherwise noted, all events take place Fridays, from 4:15-6:15 PM in room C415A (concourse level) at the Graduate Center, CUNY (365 Fifth Avenue). For more information please visit: