Measuring Knowledge and Measuring Discrimination: Entangled Histories
This talk will trace the entangled history of attempts to fight sexual discrimination in academia and the rise of technologies and algorithms for measuring scientific productivity during the 1970s. New legislation passed in the United States in 1972 opened the door to a string of lawsuits against universities claiming discrimination in hiring and tenure decisions. This happened just as scholars and entrepreneurs were beginning to develop tools to use citation data to evaluate and compare not only scientific fields but individual scientists. Early optimism that these new tools might provide objective proof of discrimination were tempered by an increasing realization that citations weren't quite the neutral and unobstrusive markers that some hoped they might be. What emerged from these entanglements by the early 1980s was not only a great deal of research in the field of scientometrics, but the beginnings of a theory of a politics of citation and calls for citational justice.
Alex Csiszar is Professor at the Department of the History of Science, Harvard University. He is an expert on the history of science in modern Europe, focusing on the history of communications media and information technology. His work asks how formats and genres - newspapers, journals, books, and databases - have evolved in conjunction with changes in how groups come to know things about the natural world, and in the criteria they use to trust the knowledge claims of others. He is the author of the widely-acclaimed book The Scientific Journal: Authorship and the Politics of Knowledge in the Nineteenth Century (2018) and is currently writing a book titled Rank and File: From the Literature Search to Algorithmic Judgment.
This seminar is organized by Lukas M. Verburgt and Sjang ten Hagen. Please visit the website for more information, the full 2022-23 program, and to subscribe to the newsletter.
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