In this second entry in our series asking STS faculty to reflect on moments in science and technology that they find particularly interesting or meaningful (read the first entry here), Lilias Jones Jarding, Joshua Houy, and Frank Van Nuys address technologies of destruction and violence. Some – like nuclear weapons – are directed at humans; others – like coyote-getters – at nonhumans. All, however, have their limits.
Technologies of Communication: STS Faculty Reflectcommunication, Technology
This is the beginning of a short series in which several STS faculty share elements of science and technology that they find intriguing or meaningful. This opening post features reflections from Evan Thomas, Erica Haugtvedt, and Olivia Burgess on communication technologies. Their choices highlight both the ways we connect with each other and the role that technology plays in that connection.
STS Faculty Profile: Kyle KnightSTS Faculty Profile
Kyle Knight is Department Head and Professor of Sociology.
What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?
I’m an environmental sociologist. I primarily research the human dimensions of environmental change, which includes the social causes, consequences, and responses to environmental problems. Besides introductory, statistics, and methods courses in sociology, I’ve also taught courses on environmental sociology, environmental justice, and society and climate change. My research has lately focused on social patterns in climate change public opinion. For example, my most recent publication examined how outdoor recreation, such as hiking and birdwatching, might foster greater concern for climate change. My initial interest in sociology was motivated by questioning the centrality of materialism and consumerism in our society, and that blossomed into a drive to understand how we might achieve a more sustainable and equitable future.
What’s one of your favorite courses, topics, or specific texts to teach? Why?
One book I’ve used in my classes for a while now is Andrew Szasz’s Shopping Our Way to Safety, which I think provides an excellent illustration of how treating systemic social problems as individual-level issues to be solved by consumers not only doesn’t solve these problems but actually makes them worse. One of the biggest challenges in teaching environmental sociology is to get across the point that environmental problems are, at their root, social problems, and this book usually does the trick.
What’s something you’ve done that you’re really proud of?
While working on my Ph.D. at Washington State University, I co-authored and published an article with a fellow sociology graduate student and we received a departmental award for it. It was at this moment that I began to feel like a real scholar, and I continue to be proud of the work we did on our own to make it happen.
Tell us about a book you’ve read recently, a movie you’ve seen recently, or another work of art or media you’ve engaged with recently that you really enjoyed and would like to recommend.
I am a big music nerd and love all kinds of genres and traditions. I listen to music all day long, especially while working in my office, and enjoy reading album reviews. My musical tastes run the gamut – some of my favorite musical artists lately are Jake Xerxes Fussell, Yasmin Williams, Madlib, Cassandra Jenkins, Ben Chasny, Julian Lage, and Protomartyr. Right now, I’m fascinated by Marina Herlop’s new album titled Pripyat, which is named after the Ukrainian city abandoned in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Herlop is a classical pianist and experimental producer from Barcelona, and this album creates a wordless, other-worldly soundscape that is just completely captivating. My favorite track is “Shaolin Mantis” but the choir version of “Miu” is a close runner-up.
Tell us something about yourself outside of work. What do you enjoy doing? What’s a detail about you that Mines students might not already know?
I’m pretty boring and just enjoy spending time with my family outside of work. We especially like to hike, camp, and ride bicycles. We’re very excited to get to know the Black Hills and to eventually ride the Mickelson Trail when it’s not so hot!
Planting Seeds: Anchoring Ethics in the DirtClasses, Environment, teaching
By Christy Tidwell
My Environmental Ethics & STEM class asks big questions about knowledge, values, justice, and responsibility – both individual and systemic – related to environmental issues. Although I try to situate these conversations in specific, real-world examples, they can still sometimes seem abstract or beyond the scale of my students’ reach. They may wonder what they can do to address climate change, for instance, or to change corporate policy.
But they can, of course, make a difference, and we look for ways to identify the actions they can take (again, not just individually but within larger contexts). In the meantime, to help connect us more fully to the environment, this semester I asked my students to plant seeds and to do their best to grow them and keep them alive. It’s my hope that working to protect and nurture one small plant will give the class a personal connection that issues of pollution, plastics, or water rights may not always have.
Changes in the STS Program: Saying Hello and Saying GoodbyeSTS Faculty
As the 2021-2022 academic year ends, we are looking forward to welcoming new members to the STS program in the fall, but we are also saying goodbye to a faculty member who will be greatly missed.
After the retirement last year of our previous department head, Allison Gilmore, and the capable leadership of Frank Van Nuys this spring, we will begin the 2022-2023 year with a new department head: Kyle Knight. He comes to us from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he was Associate Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Department of Sociology. He has an emphasis in environmental sociology, which will add new expertise to the STS program’s environment & sustainability track.
We also welcome two new assistant professors: Gerrit Scheepers as Assistant Professor of Music and Paul Showler as Assistant Professor of Philosophy!
We are excited to get to know and work with all of them. Look for more about and/or from each of them in the future!
And a Sad Goodbye
Even as we look forward to new people joining us, we are very sad to say goodbye to Laura Kremmel (Assistant Professor of English & Humanities), who has accepted a position at Brandeis University. She has been a wonderful colleague and friend for the years she has been here, and little we could write in this short space would adequately express our sadness that she is leaving. Nonetheless, we all wish her well and hope that her colleagues at Brandeis appreciate her!
STS Faculty Profile: Jonathan GibsonSTS Faculty Profile
Jonathan Gibson is Associate Professor of Psychology.
What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?
Meditation and interoception are my primary areas of research interest and expertise. Interoception is an awareness of what is going on inside your body. Current research is discovering that this sense is really important to health and well-being. All those physiological processes meant to maintain homeostasis turn out to shape and inform our emotional and psychological state. My specific research is aimed at using meditation to increase interoception.
What drew me to this field is a good question. A short answer is I felt “pulled” towards it. Neither interoception nor meditation were ever topics I intentionally set out to study; I just sort of discovered those as I was investigating psychophysiological research in my graduate programs.
Accessibility to Non-Emergency Transportation Services for Senior Citizens & Veterans with Medical Health Disparities in Rural AreasSTS Students
By Anthony Wright
Anthony is a Cincinnati-born, Los Angeles-raised STS: Policy & Law senior. Some of his hobbies include reading financial literacy and personal development books, competing in CEO business plan competitions, and leading various student organizations.
According to the Transportation Research Board, “Nearly 4 million Americans miss or delay medical care each year due to a lack of transportation.” This issue is pertinent to the community because every family, especially senior citizens and veterans, needs transportation access to life-sustaining services such as primary healthcare providers, pharmacies, nursing homes, grocery stores, and banks in order to stay alive. There is a lack of affordable, safe, and efficient transportation in America, and rural areas are impacted the hardest. My solution is to create a non-emergency transportation network connecting Rapid City public transportation services with local primary health care providers, nursing homes, pharmacies, grocery stores, and various essential service vendors to make them more accessible for seniors and veterans.
Research has proven that consistent transportation access to healthcare vastly increases the health outcomes of members and leads to dramatic cost savings. For example, there was an “experiment of transportation brokerage service administered in Kentucky and Georgia where access to healthcare improved and resulted in hospital admissions and medical expenditures decreasing for diabetic adults.” The Centers for Disease Control estimated that “8% of the adult population ages 55 and older have at least one chronic condition, resulting in these individuals in need of non-emergency medical transportation to access life sustaining treatments and services they need. More importantly, a large percent of the 20 million adults living with chronic kidney disease undergo dialysis three times a week. Approximately 66% of dialysis patients rely on others for transportation to and from their appointments.”
How Fires Can Create CloudsAtmospheric Science Students
By Jackson Zito
Jackson is majoring in Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at South Dakota Mines. He plans on working with wildfires and the development of pyro-cumulus and pyro-cumulonimbus clouds.
When people ask me why I am going to school, I often tell them it’s to get a degree so I can hopefully get a job. After that answer we usually have a conversation like this:
Them: Cool, so what are you learning then?
Me: Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences.
They look at me in confusion as if I just spoke a foreign language.
Me: It’s meteorology.
Them: Oh, so you’re going to be a weather boy like the one on TV then.
Me: No, you know there is a lot more you can do with a meteorology degree than just be on the nightly news.
Them: Like what?
Me: Well, right now I am researching pyro-cumulonimbus clouds.
Assuming you have a confused look on your face as they often do, let me explain.
Searching for a Place to Live with the Most Ice and ThunderstormsAtmospheric Science Students, STS Students
By Steven Slater
Steven is majoring in Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, and his primary interest is extreme weather.
Ever since I can remember, I enjoyed watching the rare thunderstorms whenever they occurred in Western Washington. I often had to wait a year or more between seeing individual lightning bolts. I often watched The Weather Channel as my main source of weather-related content, whether it had to do with storms or snow. My mind was blown as I watched the reported snow totals rise close to 12 feet for the lake-effect vent in February 2007.
The lowlands of Western Washington don’t receive much snow, so I had to wait for that, too, though it happened more frequently than thunderstorms. I was an advocate for receiving as much snow as possible in the shortest time. The biggest event I experienced in Washington was in December 2008, where I remember playing in ~15 inches of snow at the peak of the event.
Balancing Expectations: Preserving the Nature and History in South DakotaSTS Students
By Louise Swanson
Louise is majoring in Science, Technology, and Society with a minor in Environmental Science. She plans on working with the parks system or in museum work.
When I was growing up, I spent my weekends going to ghost town sites around the Black Hills with my father. Each time we went to Spokane we made guesses as to whether or not the old community center that Elizabeth Cady Stanton spoke at would have collapsed (a couple of years ago it did) or if the Two-Bit Mill would still be standing (about 10 years ago it was bulldozed into a nearby ravine to better allow for nature to return to the area). Meanwhile, I watched as the Gordon Stockade was refurbished and preserved for visitors to come and see where the Gordon Party lived while in the Black Hills.
In college I have taken both history and environmental science classes and worked for a year at The Journey Museum, and I have only become more curious about how the decision to preserve some things and not others is made and how agencies decide whether to prioritize the environment or the history of an area. The optimist in me also hopes that maybe sometimes we don’t have to choose. Maybe, sometimes there is a way that environmental conservation and historic preservation are linked.