Colloquium & Events

The STS Graduate Program at UBC draws on a rich set of resources at UBC, in Vancouver, and at our sister universities, Simon Fraser University and the University of Washington


STS Colloquium Schedule (2023/4)


Thursday, September 12, 2023 / 5:00-6:30 pm / Buchanan Tower 1112

Dr. Dan Steel, Associate Professor, School of Population and Public Health, UBC and Dr. Paul Bartha, Professor, Department of Philosophy

We use an interpretation of the precautionary principle (PP) based on lexical utilities to explore how differences in climatic and economic vulnerability influence targets for climate change mitigation. We use novel precautionary arguments to derive two main results: all countries should favor some degree of mitigation, and each has a minimum level of mitigation that varies depending on its susceptibility to climate impacts and economic risks of mitigation. Our proposal improves on previous applications of PP to climate change, and advances climate ethics more generally by drawing attention to moral complexities arising from the intersection of climatic and economic vulnerabilities.


Thursday, October 12, 2023 / 5:00-6:30 pm / Buchanan Tower 1112

Dr. Rafi Arefin, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, UBC

With the outbreak of COVID-19, wastewater surveillance rapidly emerged and expanded globally as a non-invasive and unbiased public health surveillance tool. In this article we chart the variegated ecosystem of private biotechnology startups and established life sciences firms that work closely with public and nonprofit entities to create new multi-institutional spaces of public health governance. We find that these emerging partnerships present concerning transformations in health governance where profits displace public health needs, proprietary technologies blackbox public health decisions, and vulnerable populations are experimented on for prototyping technology.


Thursday, November 9, 2023 / 5:00-6:30 pm / Buchanan Tower 1112

Dr. Eric Conway, Historian, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology

Title: The Big Myth: How General Electric Helped Sell Americans the Myth of the Free Market

Abstract: In our recent book, The Big Myth, Naomi Oreskes and I trace the efforts of big business to fight economic reform by promoting the myth of the free market. To be an American meant to believe that free markets were indivisible from religious and political freedoms–a “tripod of freedom.” In that view, banning child labor would lead straight down a slippery slope into totalitarianism. In this talk, I’ll trace one thread of that story, the role of the General Electric Corporation in spreading the gospel of the market.


Thursday, December 7, 2023 / 5:00-6:30 pm / BUCH D324

Dr. Serhii Zhabin, Dobrov Research Institute of Scientific and Technological Potential and Science History, Kyiv, Ukraine

This talk is co-sponsored with ANTH, CENES, CES, ENGL, GEOG, HIST, SPPGA

Title: Origins of the Soviet computer subculture in 1960s Kyiv: Prototype of Personal Computer “MIR” and the Association of Users “Cybertonia.”

Abstract: The Laboratory of Calculating Machines in Kyiv that in 1950 built the first Soviet electronic digital computer (MESM), after 1956 continued working as a department of the Mathematical Institute of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences under the direction of V.M. Glushkov (1923-1982). In 1962 it was reorganized into the separate Institute of Cybernetics which in the 1960s developed a pioneering series of computers for personal use (at least for engineers), MIR-1, MIR-2 and MIR 3, with an advanced programming language and friendly user interface. The community of MIR designers created a virtual realm of pranks, music, and intelligent robots, akin to the subculture of early non-aggressive hackers. Kievan cyberneticians developed marketing strategies to promote MIR computers in the USSR and even internationally. They also formed the first All-Union association of computer users reaching out to the Soviet engineering public, as well as to general public at large, despite facing some political backlash for the latter.


Thursday, January 25, 2023 / 5:00-6:30 pm  (ONLINE)

Dr. Heidi Lawrence, Associate Professor, English / Director, Professional & Technical Writing Graduate Programs at George Mason University

Title: Resisting Medicine: Considering Consent, Ethics, and Rhetoric in a Post-COVID Era

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant social upheaval and a revolution in the ways that publics were asked to engage with science and medicine. This talk will consider the ways in which this new access to and reliance on scientific and medical information in the public sphere coincided with new forms of resistance to medical authority. Vaccines, in particular, are a key driver of this resistance. Ongoing backlash to vaccines and vaccine mandates is fueled by worries about the still unknown long-term effects of the vaccine, rumors of unknown side effects, and fears about rising levels of disease and death across all causes. The result is a newer and larger public with bigger and broader skepticisms than in vaccine controversies past. These publics are not just refusing vaccines for themselves as the outcome of concern, but are: seeking to dismantle policies requiring vaccination; gathering and connecting the unvaccinated online to share alternate medical information and access to providers friendly to their beliefs; refusing medical procedures, such as blood or organ transfusions, because they do not want vaccinated products; and challenging doctors and medical systems for new accommodations, resisting old norms. This talk will examine how notions of patient consent, ethics, and rhetoric are challenged by this new landscape marked by such widespread resistance.


Thursday, February 29, 2024 / 5:00-6:30 pm / Buchanan Tower 1112

Dr. Amber Benezra, Associate Professor, School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Stevens Institute of Technology

Title: The Social Microbiome: What Anthropology, Equity, and Transdisciplinary Collaboration Has To Do With Microbes

Abstract: The trillions of microbes in and on our bodies are determined by not only biology but also our social connections. In this talk, Dr. Benezra describes how as a sociocultural anthropologist she developed a collaborative “anthropology of microbes” with human microbial ecologists to address global health crises across disciplines. Based partly at a preeminent U.S. lab studying the human microbiome, the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University, and partly at a field site in Bangladesh studying infant malnutrition, she examines how microbes travel between human guts in the “field” and in microbiome laboratories, influencing definitions of health and disease, and how the microbiome can change our views on evolution, agency, and life. Her work follows microbes through various enactments in scientific research—microbes as kin, as data, and as race.


More colloquia to be announced soon. Please check back regularly for updates!