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School of History and Sociology

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 82
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    Productive Self and Burnout Body in Numbers: A Sociamaterial Investigation of Self-tracking and Health in China
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2023-07-07) Zheng, Li
    Self-tracking practices, facilitated by smartphone applications and wearables, have become increasingly popular, allowing individuals to monitor and analyze various aspects of their health such as steps, heart rates, and sleeping patterns. This individualized approach to health governance emphasizes productivity, personal responsibility, and self-surveillance. However, despite the promises of technological advancements in self-knowledge and behavioral change, the actual outcomes often fall short due to numerous factors including demanding schedules, exploitative workplaces, privacy concerns, and lack of trust. While scholars have critiqued the neoliberal model of health embedded in these technologies, it is crucial to situate the human-technology relationship within a broader social context, particularly in non-western societies. Understanding the complex interplay between technology, health, and selfhood, and how bodily data is produced, interpreted, and enacted within sociotechnical networks of health-tech, requires a nuanced examination. Empirically situated within the context of China's overworking culture, this dissertation examines the intricate relationship in sociomaterial assemblages of self-tracking and the ambivalence surrounding personal health. Through interviews, combined with digital ethnographic methods, the study draws connections between technological practices and social contexts. Drawing on theoretical frameworks from Science and Technology Studies (STS), this dissertation explores the meaning-making processes of health and fitness, the interplay between ecosystem of technology and users’ practices, and how they correspond with broader social and political context of health-tech and overworking culture. The dissertation investigates the influence of China's political economy on the health-tech market and personal pursuit of health, the ways self-tracking design and interactions shape health-related perceptions and practices, and how individuals actively navigate the intensive pursuit of health while managing potential risks through self-tracking and personal data. Based on empirical and theoretical investigations, this study concludes that the political economy of China, characterized by authoritarian governance and neoliberal techniques, has influenced the sociotechnical network by emphasizing productivity and self-actualization in an all-encompassing way. Technological practices mediate individuals' selfhood within this framework. The design of self-tracking technologies enables users to interpret health and fitness as personal achievements, aligning with the quantification and materialization of personal growth within an overworking culture. The logic of datafication and engagement, along with the pursuit of personal data, is manifested in productivity-oriented technological designs within a broader ecosystem of technological imaginaries. The promotion of technology-driven health management as tools for consumption has resulted in intensified engagements and conflicts in the ambivalence of self-care: self as source of productivity yet also vulnerable to burnout. Therefore, the relentless pursuit of productivity in the health-tech market and everyday life is often criticized by the overworked workforce as a reflection of societal "involution," an endless and purposeless competition. To counteract these trends, individuals utilize self-tracking technology and data as a means to create balance and resistance, aiming to construct a sense of self that embraces vulnerability. Technological practices act as mediators between individuals and their social contexts, particularly within the current political economy in China. In this regard, the sociomaterial assemblages of self-tracking serve as vehicles for agency, autonomy, and control in the face of stress, exploitation, precarity, and uncertainty. It is argued that critical scrutiny of technological design, as an integral component of these assemblages, should be undertaken in light of social context. Assessments of technological engagement and health outcomes should be complemented by contextual understandings of health and selfhood, leading to the reconfiguration and reaffirmation of users' agency and capacities.
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    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2022-05-23) Bianchini, Mario J.
    This dissertation explores the creation of a technological culture in the German Democratic Republic in order to entice its citizens to not only become state engineers, but also to work toward a state sponsored vision of the future. The result was a promised stateless technological utopia, in the face of sustained state power. This dissertation terms this paradoxical situation a ‘real-exiting’ utopia, and explores both its genesis and consequences. To do this, the dissertation focus on three cultural nodes: education, sport, and hobbies, sites where the state sought to directly intervein in visions of the future and impart technical consciousness. The education segment of the project explores the technological influence on curricula, education practices, and youth ceremonies. East Germany replaced Christian Conformation with the Jugendweihe, where children pledged themselves not in service to god, but rather to the promises of science and scientific textbooks focused on a gleaming technological future. The investigation of hobbies focuses mainly on model trains, chemistry sets, and building toys. The state saw modeling as a way to nurture budding technical talent, as modeling introduced the geometrical, spatial, and physical reasoning necessary for an engineer. Furthermore, the packaging, marketing, and instruction booklets of technological toys served as sites for state companies to extoll the virtues of the technological future. The chapter on sports investigates the technological influence on sport. Sport offered a tangible medium to trumpet the victory of East German technoscience. Specifically, I argue that between 1960 and 1990 the East German ruling party treated sport as a pure science, one amenable to strict regulation, measurements, and experimentation, while treating athletes as scientific subjects ready to be improved by technology, culminating in the doping of their Olympic athletes. Taken together, these case studies elucidate the GDR as a ‘real-existing’ utopia. The GDR remained in a constant state of becoming, never seeking to settle on a fixed idea of perfection lest the state lose its rhetorical claim to be working for a better future. By recruiting the population through the cultural nodes of hobbies, sports, and education, the central party could retain state power while shifting criticism to the future, a time when all current problems would be supposedly solved.
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    Invasions: 'Othering' and the Social Control of Migrants, Cats, and Kudzu in Atlanta, GA
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2021-12-09) Bunyak, Garrett
    Invasion metaphors are today commonly used to describe immigrants, refugees, non-human animal and plant species, viruses, and even ideas. Despite the varied and widespread use of invasion narratives within and between species, mainstream research has underrepresented potential connections and relationships between such narratives. In order to better understand the role of invasion metaphors, this dissertation draws on fields such as critical animal studies (CAS), ecofeminism, and Chicana feminism while focusing on three case studies exploring the application of invasion metaphors to immigrants, feral cats, and kudzu in Atlanta, GA and surrounding communities. In the first case, I examine several competing narratives related to migration. In the second case, I explore the ambivalent ways deployed to manage and control feral cats. In the third case, I examine the history of the kudzu vine which covers millions of acres of land in the United States. I reveal the changing meanings U.S. scientific or “expert” claims makers have applied to this oft maligned vine. I conclude the dissertation by putting the cases into conversation with one another. The methods of analysis used in this dissertation are narrative and discourse analysis. The data analyzed included a wide range of representations collected from sources including interviews, corporate media, independent media, social media, academic literature, and websites. My analysis suggests invasion metaphors coarticulate to reproduce the inferiority and material exploitation of numerous “others” including migrants, nonhuman animals, plants, and all of “nature.” Further, the dissertation highlights the interconnected roles the state, market, science, and technology play in the social control of people, animals, and “nature” more generally. These findings not only shed additional light on such conditions, but perhaps more importantly point to Indigenous and feminist ways of thinking to help readers imagine other possibilities.
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    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2021-07-22) Clifton-Morekis, Alice S.
    This dissertation seeks to address the use of gender and race in constructing U.S. engineering identity. It analyzes individual and institutional identities at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) between 1933 and 1953 through a model of multiple white masculinities. Predominantly drawing on oral histories, autobiographical text, and correspondence by and involving TVA engineers and administrators, it shows how these men combined and exhibited various white masculinities to communicate what they believed ‘a TVA engineer is’—and, by implication, what such an engineer ‘isn’t.’ The first part of the dissertation identifies patterns in the institution. It organizes these patterns into four archetypes: white-collar masculinity, physical masculinity, frontier masculinity, and military masculinity. The second part of the dissertation applies the same organization to one individual: Harry A. Curtis, who worked as TVA’s chief chemical engineer, engineering consultant, and director. The dissertation finds that TVA engineers between 1933 and 1953 performed multiple white masculinities that resembled larger contemporary trends. These actors valued certain white masculinities more than others. For example, they lauded and performed traits of white-collar and frontier masculinities more often than those distinctive to military masculinity. They were notably consistent across time. Further, TVA performances of multiple white masculinities functioned as a hybridized hegemonic bloc, which appropriated traits of various masculinities to maintain hegemony. Such hybridization obscured the strong association of engineering identity with masculinity and whiteness while strengthening boundaries around it. Because the multiple masculinities were associated with varied and often contradictory traits, actors selectively focused on lauded traits that specific ‘insiders’ successfully performed and those that specific ‘outsiders’ failed to perform. In doing so, they judged the same traits positively or negatively depending on the subject, showing the powerful flexibility of hybridization.
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    The Emergence and Development of Cross-National Knowledge Sharing and Production: Case Studies of International Collaborative Projects in South Korea
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2021-04-26) Lee, Soo A
    Highlighting South Korea’s transition from a recipient of official development aid (ODA) to a donor country in 2010, this study examined two cases of cross-national university knowledge sharing and production in South Korea: one with the US and the other with Tanzania. Methodologically, this study entails qualitative approaches such as ethnography, participant observation, and semi-structured interview, and theoretically, Bourdieu’s concepts of symbolic powers and habitus are used. The findings of this study suggest that economic, social, and cultural capital simultaneously promotes and hampers cross-national knowledge sharing and production among developed, developing, and bridging countries. In addition, this study argues that actors from a bridge country (South Korea) contribute to cross-national knowledge sharing and production by balancing structural discrepancies through different forms of agency. In-depth analyses of findings with Bourdieu’s framework of structure and agency offer unique insights to literature regarding cross-national university collaborations and development, and relevant S&T policies.
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    The birth of the Taipei Metro and technological hybridity under American hegemony: The history of the rail mass transportation in postwar Taiwan
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2020-05-18) Huang, Ling Ming
    This dissertation discusses how a complex rail mass transportation emerged in postwar Taiwan, with particular emphasis on the role of U.S.-Taiwan relations in shaping Taiwan's profession of transportation studies and planning, and the subterranean railway project in Taipei, as well as the Taipei Metro. Two main interrelated theoretical innovations characterize this project. Firstly, I situate the evolution of the system in a global context. This is dominated in the 1950s and 1960s by American hegemony that "imposes" an 'American model" on Taiwan in the transportation study and planning phase in a Cold War context beginning with the Korean War. US President Nixon's tilt to mainland China in the 1970s opened a space for Taiwanese stakeholders to shop around for consultants and technology in different countries and led to the acquisition of very different types of hardware, to the consideration of different ways of laying out the tracks to facilitate passenger comfort, and even to different concepts for the huge central station to respect local customs. Facing a huge trade deficit with the U.S. in the 1980s, Washington then tried to impose a ‘Buy America’ policy on Taiwan, only to find that the local officials were now confident enough to push back against proposals made by U.S. consultants. Secondly, I introduce and analyze the concept of technological hybridity to capture the rich complexity of this "large technological system.” Thinking about the Taipei Metro as a multi-dimensional hybrid system that is also engaged in the project of nation-building obliges me to ask: in what sense can it be regarded as a national project? I suggest that the national achievement lies in the capacity to integrate these multiple hybridities into a smoothly functioning technical system that is the pride of local authorities, the government, and the people of Taiwan. Technological hybridity means the coexistence of knowledge, artifacts, and ideology coming from different nation-states in a technological system. However, we need to limit the use of the idea to particular conditions to give it any analytical weight. First, when hybridity redefines or changes the functions and meanings of the technology. Second, when hybridity mixes different political and technological ideologies even if they differ sharply from each other. Third, when hybridity reverses or at least changes the power relations between the stronger and the weaker partners. This dissertation aims to explain why and how hybridity occurred by analyzing the temporal-spatial environment, actors' interests and strategies, and the interactions among different actors and technology. Finally, this dissertation also discusses how people maintain and manage the systems and how users have used them. Taiwanese technical officials and Taiwanese people have built a "Formosa technological sublime," a concept derived from David Nye's American technological sublime, to exhibit Taiwan's collective morality and nationality by building and displaying a spectacular technological system. The Taiwanese do not have a techno-nationalist attitude towards the rail mass transportation system, which emphasizes the nation's originality in technological innovation. Rather, they treat the metro and even the high speed rail system as emblems of a modern nation, as materials from which to construct a newly emerging Taiwanese national identity.
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    Designing Justice: Sexual Violence, Technology, and Citizen-Activism
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2020-05-18) Shelby, Renee M.
    The institutionalization of technologies used to prevent, report, and prosecute sexual violence is signaling a shift in the dominant paradigm from legal to techno-legal responses to sexual violence. These new “anti-violence technologies,” raise urgent questions about how power and inequality are inscribed in law and technology. However, few studies have examined these objects, nor engaged activist voices to identify to what extent these technologies could be redesigned to meet survivors’ multiple justice needs. “Designing Justice” addresses this gap through a qualitative examination of how activists—particularly those on the social, political, and racialized margins—have designed, deployed, and institutionalized these objects since the 1970s. Each chapter discusses different prosecutorial movements through the legal system to analyze the cultural, political, and epistemological significance of “smart” rape-prevention products, rape reporting software, sexual assault exam kits (SAKs), and electronic monitors. Chapter 1 briefly traces the social and legal impacts of anti-violence technology across the moments of attack, reporting, investigation, and punishment. Chapter 2, “Sociotechnical Imaginary of Anti-Rape Technology,” analyzes data on rape-prevention products created between 1970 and 2019 by survivor-inventors. These inventors use advertising not only to sell rape-prevention products but also to narrate an imagined future in which sexual violence is eradicated. However, their imaginaries envision a simplistic understanding of violence that centers gender inequity at the expense of how race, class and sexuality mutually constitute experiences of violence and attempts at redress. Chapter 3, “Coding Intersectionality,” argues that allies can ‘design justice’ to better account for the multiple forms of oppression that structure survivors’ experiences and justice needs. In examining the reporting platforms of Callisto, Spot, and JDoe, I document how algorithms can be strategically designed to create inclusive cultures of accountability while also disrupting rape myths, and thus articulating “victim-centered” approaches to justice. Chapter 4, “Ordering Evidence and Responsibilizing Survivors,” examines the racial and sexual politics of SAKs as modes of survivor responsibilization, in which individual survivors are held accountable by the state to actively participate in redressing their own victimization by submitting to the forensic analysis offered through these kits. In Chapter 5, “Punishing Sexual Subjectivities,” I trace the development of electronic monitors focusing on how state legal actors comprise an “official public” that circulates gendered and racialized narratives of the sex offender figure just amidst the rise of the prison-industrial complex. I also document how the monitoring logics of social control are increasingly applied to youth caught in the “abuse to prison pipeline. Taken as a whole these chapters demonstrate that without attention to intersecting systems of power, social movement technologies produce multiple forms of contentious knowledge, including between citizen-activists and the state, and amongst differently situated citizen-activists. Additionally, anti-violence activists must be wary of what I call “criminal justice symbiosis”—whereby the emphasis on formal justice co-produces the knowledge cultures of law enforcement and “get tough on crime” policymakers.
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    Truth under Siege: Making Climate Knowledge in an Age of Transparency, Skepticism, and Science Denial
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2019-11-11) Edwards, Paul N.
    This talk examines the history of environmental data systems in the context of the current US administration’s assault on environmental science. Tracking and understanding environmental change requires scientific memory, aka “long data”: consistent, reliable sampling over long periods. Weather observations can become climate data, for example — but only if carefully curated and adjusted to account for changes in instrumentation and data analysis methods. Environmental knowledge institutions therefore depend on an ongoing truce among scientific and political actors. For at least 25 years, climate denialism and deregulatory movements have sought to destabilize this truce, which nevertheless has held until recently. Since 2017, however, climate change deniers and non-scientist ideologues have been appointed to lead key American knowledge institutions. These leaders, and the White House itself, view certain environmental data systems as targets, which they may yet succeed in crippling or completely dismantling. These developments threaten the continuity of the “long data” vital to tracking climate change and other environmental disruptions, with significant consequences for both domestic and international security.
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    Race space: The transformation of iconic motorsport circuits from public use to large technical system (1950 – 2010)
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2019-07-23) Westin, Peter Gustav
    The 1950s marked the beginning of a key transformational period in automobility and the socio-technical realm of motorsports. However, the car was not at the heart of the narrative which was much more complex. In Post-War Europe, people began to drive for pleasure on weekends and holidays while in the US, this extant access was supplanted by the quest for more status-oriented and powerful cars. On both continents it was also the time when motorsporting activities became formally organized and regulated with the creation of the globally oriented Federation Internationale de L'Automobile (FIA) in Paris, France and the American oriented North American Stock Car Automobile Racing (NASCAR) in Daytona Beach, Florida (US). This chronicle is a transnational examination of motorsport’s place in automotive technology and culture as well as of unique motorsport sites with physically shifting landscapes and tensions that cascaded across socio-cultural strains, technological innovation, and regulation. I locate this ambitious narrative at an intersection where several themes are fused together incorporating my interpretation of Thomas Hughes’ concept of large-technical systems in conjunction with Manuel Castells’ notion regarding highly technical nodes of a transnational business network, environ-mental complexity, easier mobility in Europe and America from proliferation of roadway networks, postwar consumption and increased “time budgets” coupled with technological enthusiasm, and coproduced hegemony instrumental to this evolution. Over time these would coalesce into a heterogenous network reliant upon multiple actors. According to Hughes’s model there are four phases: invention and development, interregional technology transfer, system growth, momentum. While not yet a transnational network in the first phase, motorsports grew to become inextricably intertwined globally. This growth also complicated the relationship between technology, regulation, and the environment. Further as people earned more (especially in Europe) they learned to be a consumer and with more free time they could take vacations and drive to races. Enthusiasts formed social networks and communities of DIY car clubs, fan clubs, clubs for specific automotive brands, amateur driving clubs, and Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA). Active participants who were initially hobbyists and mechanics transformed into professional drivers and engineers as they learned to apply scientific principles like fluid dynamics, and methods like modeling to designing very complex machines. These heterogenous networks incorporating what became large technical systems and their socio-cultural dynamics illustrate that the car was not central.
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    Engineering Shanghai: Water, sewage, and the making of hydraulic modernity
    (Georgia Institute of Technology, 2019-05-08) Shen, Xincheng
    This dissertation explores the water technologies in Shanghai from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century and in what ways the infrastructures – the drainage system, the water supply, culverted rivers, the water closet, and the water-carriage sewer system – played a role in the shaping of the cityscape, economics, and politics of Shanghai. While previous scholarship has engaged the social aspect of city water engineering, especially with respect to hygiene and its relation to growing state intervention, this dissertation focuses on the engineering work itself, indicating that the concept of being modern might be an aspiration, but it was the material and practical aspects of water engineering that laid the ground and set the rules for government intervention. Only within the spatial and economic limits allowed by the engineering feasibility could the authorities materialize political influence. Following the Introduction, Chapters 2-5 discuss components of the engineering system in Shanghai – drainage, waterworks, culvert, and sewage treatment. An exhaustive look at the technical details provides us with better explanations as to why foreign technologies were accepted and in what context decisions were made by authorities. Despite these works being the embodiment of state-of-the-art Western knowledge, what facilitated their local adoption were practical and mundane concerns. Chapters 6-8 discuss how economics competition and political struggle prior to WWII played out in the context of growing engineering sophistication between actors such as corporations, consumers, political authorities from the city to the state, and from Chinese to foreigners. Chapter 9 offers a criticism about the ill-fitting, conventional concept of modernity for China studies and calls for a new theoretical framework within which the question of development could be answered in light of the incremental improvements in engineering practices. The thesis of this research is to propose the concept of hydraulic modernity. The contention here is that practical aspects of the technocratic-engineering system of city water dictated the pattern of engineering works and consequently influenced how political and economic capital were organized for the system to achieve greater capacity and homogeneity, the two criteria used to measure the development of a system in this dissertation. The former indicates the maximum output of an engineering system and the latter points to the reduction of the number of heterogeneous interest groups inside a technocratic-engineering system in order to lower the risk of malfunction. Modernization of Shanghai was not driven by top-down infusion of knowledge, etiquette, and ideology, but a process of meticulous interconnection of layers of technocratic-engineering systems, upon which further institutionalization of social actors was able to come into being.