My research draws on scholarship and methods from science and technology studies, cultural anthropology, and the history of science and technology. My primary interest is the role of place in scientific work. I use ethnographic and archival methods to ask how place matters, both as a setting for research but also as a product of that research.
Past, Present, and Future Projects
- Placing Outer Space. My first book explores how planetary scientists transform planets from scientific objects into meaningful places and how this is central, not ancillary, to their work. This book is the first academic treatment of the growing field of exoplanet astronomy. The professional success of these astronomers and the Mars scientists I also write about is determined by their ability to build planets into worlds. Through language, images, and the imagination, scientists conjure a sense of place, of being, on distant planets. In doing so, they argue that their work helps us understand our place in the universe.
- Virtual Reality. Virtual reality (VR) has been a technology promised for the past several decades. In recent years, developers have brought cheaper platforms to the consumer market initiating a boom in the commercial and research industry. From vision scientists to medical workers to gamers to moviemakers, VR promises a new way of doing research, training, interacting, and entertaining. In tracking this new technology and its applications as it develops, this ethnographic project focuses on the norms of the development and research community and the ways in which new understandings of place, our being in the world, and our being with each other form along side the VR devices and applications.
- Imagining Earth. I continue to be interested in how questions of planetary place, developed in my first project, come to bear on our own planet. What are the scientific origins of our ability to conceive of Earth as a whole, connected world? Is the Earth better understood as unique or in relation to other planets in our solar system and others? How does living in the "Age of the Anthropocene" change our ability to conceptualize human action on a planetary scale?