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Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
This thesis uses a postcolonial lens to interpret development in India and disentangle the contemporary relationship between development and design thinking. Recently, design thinking, originally a product of design research, has moved beyond the business and academic bubbles and is increasingly applied to development projects. Building on theories of postcolonialism and technology transfer as well as James Scott’s concept of high modernism, I explore the intricacies of power dynamics within development as well as the recent addition of design thinking, asking: What forms has development in independent India taken? How has development been influenced by its colonial past, technology, and modernism? How is the practice of design thinking perceived and adapted as it is transferred? What role is there for design thinking in the future, particularly in international development? These questions identify conceptualizations of international development and problematize design thinking’s rapid adoption. To do this, I look at development in India at two different periods. The first is the state-led infrastructure projects of dam building during Jawaharlal Nehru’s administration immediately after independence. The second is the modern practice of design thinking in development projects today. Using historical and academic texts, I establish that Nehru continued to use many of the British colonial regime’s practices, particularly around the idealization of technology and other high modernist principles to form India as a modern nation-state. I conducted interviews with designers and development practitioners in both India and the United States and code for terminology, principles, and content. I find that design thinking diverges and loses nuance as it is transferred both from the United States to India as well as from design to development. Ultimately, I recommend that design thinking be rethought as a terminology and practice. At the project level, design thinking is rarely useful or fully understood; these problems should be left to designers. Design thinking should continue to be taught, but specifically as a vehicle to help reimagine the purpose and role of organizations.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
As technology continues to expand, so does the presence of digitization in society. With the ease and accessibility of digitization, individuals of Western society have begun to assume a virtual presence. The countless hours of curating online profiles have created digital shadows of real lives. If digital profiles become embedded with the “spirits” and memories of their users, what happens to their virtual existence after death? America’s cremation movement demonstrates society’s complex perception of life and death. As the scattering of ashes displaces a person, what becomes of the role of the body? What becomes the role of a virtual presence? Researchers have observed how the bereaved have used technology, but there is limited study of the implications of these digital tools. This thesis examines the role of technology on the ways in which society grieves. Case studies are analyzed to identify the patterns and characteristics of grieving in the age of technology. These first hand accounts from the bereaved support the thesis that digital profiles allow the bereaved to maintain a connection to the departed, and social networks help them realize the impact the deceased had on others. However, some of the bereaved believe that when the person is gone, so too should their profile fade. If digital profiles prolong the relationship between the deceased and the bereaved, is the ability to visit the deceased online helpful to the bereaved? Through meta-analysis of psychology studies, the innate attachment style of the bereaved is the essential marker for the value of the digital presence of the deceased. By Freudian logic, social media profiles would inhibit successful mourning as they prolong detachment. However, according to Bowlby and the continuing bonds theory, digital profiles can be used as helpful tools to reconstruct a relationship with the deceased.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
Internet technologies, from Napster to Spotify, have changed the musical tastemaking process dramatically over the past fifteen years. Popular narrative assumes that these platforms have democratized musical tastemaking by diminishing major record labels’ monopoly over mass distribution. This same narrative predicts that the democratic forum afforded by these platforms should foster diversity and innovation in popular music, relieving us from the typical formulaic, standardized fare. But is this really true? Have these platforms enabled democracy, or have technology companies usurped the hegemonic power that major labels once held? Furthermore, have these new platforms diversified popular music and eliminated barriers to entry for marginalized artists, or do these platforms hold biases of their own? By conducting interviews with top executives, and mapping trends in key indicators of diversity and innovation across Billboard charts, viral charts, human-curated Spotify charts, algorithmic recommendations, and record label rosters, I examine the impact of digitized tastemaking on popular music. In my interviews, I found that music executives unanimously sense a loss of power, but are conflicted about the effect of streaming platforms on diversity and innovation. They remain skeptical of streaming as a democratic tool, fearing that streaming statistics can be manipulated, and that online platforms may advantage certain artists and consumers over others. In my statistical analysis, I find mixed results: increased representation for specific demographics (Asian men, Scandinavian bands, and openly gay performers), but decreased representation for others (African-American, Hispanic, and Female performers). Biases within Internet communities, curators, and algorithms, have created barriers, rather than eliminated them, for certain artists. Most notably for Female artists, representation appears to decrease significantly as labels rely more on streaming and social media statistics. Innovation—measured by number of genres represented, as well as standard deviation of tempo and chord structures—has increased in the 2010’s, but has yet to fully recover from massive declines in the 2000’s, which are likely linked to risk-averse scouting required by dramatic declines in music revenues. Meanwhile, the types of innovation most rewarded by the Internet, including shock-value and aggressive self-meming, are considered by some to be a step backward in product quality.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
This thesis asks what technological and corresponding ideological innovations caused the American relationship with nature to shift over time. It uses the national parks as an isotope, akin to a dye that measures the changes in attitude and cultural norms. While convention approaches nature as a static entity, I argue that the American relationship with nature is dynamic. Specifically, my thesis explores four inflection points, and explains how the American understanding of “nature” pivoted at each of these points —the creation of the National Park Service and zone photography, the construction of the Interstate Highway System and invention of Winnebagos, the utilization of satellite imagery to capture Earth from space, and the popularization of social media—with an increased emphasis placed on the investigation of social media. I rely upon analysis of relevant environmental literature and a survey (n=564) to draw conclusions about the manner in which our interactions in the parks have transformed. Primary research and analysis of the literature show an increasingly democratic association to the natural world and an enhanced but not universal appreciation for the ecological impacts of nature in the present day. There appears to be a tradeoff between democracy and the sublime in the national park experience.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
Widespread belief in the Internet's potential to increase access to information and contribute to development has given rise to movements aimed at providing Internet to distant parts of the world that do not yet have it. Spearheaded by Western corporations, these efforts at connecting the unconnected draw support from a conventional understanding of Internet diffusion that stresses the Internet's positive contribution to development in third world countries. Development, however, cannot only be measured by economic growth. Gender equality, too, is a fundamental piece of the puzzle. Furthermore, the conventional understanding of Internet diffusion ignores the sociocultural factors that are preventing the Internet from reaching those who need it most. Using Facebook's Free Basics initiative in Pakistan as a case study, this paper will draw on findings from original ethnographic research to examine the consequences of current corporate Internet diffusion strategies, specifically with regards to gender inequality. A close analysis of Internet diffusion will show that without measures to ensure fair and equal distribution of information, the spread of the Internet not only is ineffective in catalyzing development, but can also aggravate the social injustice that already exists in target societies. This paper will propose a modified Internet diffusion strategy, one that prioritizes making the Internet wholly accessible and beneficial for all members of society, regardless of gender. The modified strategy will seek to address the shortcomings of current attempts at Internet diffusion by focusing on human-centered development, community engagement, and collaboration with local governments and NGOs. Ultimately, this paper’s recommendations can improve current and future diffusion strategies so that the Internet can reach and benefit all members of society, especially women, as quickly and effectively as possible.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
How is the rise of new media affecting democracy? It has been popularly expected that the rise of the network society would spell the rise of a newly-reflective and civic-minded citizenry. This expectation is critical because new media allow everyday people to circumvent gatekeepers like never before, placing on them a heightened responsibility to maintain their democracies. However, the empirical record—information cascades, echo chambers, a right-wing populist backlash, a “tyranny of emotions”—suggests that the pervasiveness of new media disrupt democracies around the world. These phenomena challenge the enduring popular characterization of new media as a vessel for democratic participation and a force for evoking this new critical consciousness in the polity. This paper confronts the framework presented by optimistic analysts and explores how the heuristics that it relies on for measuring the relationship between new media and democracy are blind to an important aspect of freedom. Instead, a civic humanist ideal of good citizenship is presented, tested in comparison of a forum-based textual internet culture and a visual-based meme culture, and demonstrated to better account for the intervening factors that support or prevent the emergence of democracy-strengthening cultural sensibilities in the context of new media.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
In this project I explored how marijuana’s medical, social, and political interpretations have converged to define the current American understanding of cannabis. More specifically, I examined the following questions: • How are the positive and negative points of marijuana’s physiological effects currently understood, in relation to the effects produced by individual cannabinoids? • How has marijuana legalization fostered new perceptions of marijuana? • How is the medicinal value of marijuana used to separate it from other recreational drugs? How does this affect the medical vs. recreational ideology? The research done in this project holds essential value to the intellectual conversation on marijuana. First, my research project has filled in gaps left by past studies on marijuana. One of the most significant gaps in the past research is a lack of focus on the specific components of cannabis (cannabinoids), which has sufficiently compromised the current medical analysis of cannabis and created misunderstanding in marijuana’s medicinal properties. Another gap that has been created by past studies is a lack of communication between marijuana’s social and cultural understanding, and political understanding. Past research has also left a barrier between the terminology behind medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. These terms have become instrumental to defining how the United States in particular views and accepts the use of cannabis. My project has deepened the academic awareness of the connotations of the two different terms, as well as how the terms determine society's view of marijuana in a medical, cultural and political context. Primary findings included: • Private interests (alcohol, private prisons, pharmaceutical corporations) play a role in keeping cannabis illegal and have an incentive to reduce public knowledge of benefits from cannabis. • Future private interests (cannabis corporations) will have an incentive to reduce public knowledge of harms caused by cannabis. • The attention on marijuana’s medicinal value in recent years has begun to overshadow attention given to marijuana’s harms. This threatens the success of legalization. • Harm is most often understood when compared to other drugs, especially alcohol and tobacco. • America has poor understanding of marijuana’s harms, and many believe the harms of the drug to not be real. • Possible damage to cardiovascular system, more severe than cigarette smoke. • Structural changes to brain & potential damage to the cardiovascular system. Few cannabis users are aware of these effects on the body. Also, these harms are still under some medical debate. • Marijuana is often championed for its medical value even when it has not been scientifically tested or proven, • Existing medical knowledge relies upon anecdotal evidence. • A balance of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids is most therapeutic. • There are issues with dosing, and the lack of predictability in known effects and side effects limits the ability to use cannabis as a medicine. • FDA approval and clinical trials are necessary to know dosing and bodily effects. • The federal government has long known of the potential for medicinal use of cannabis but has failed to inform the public of this knowledge. • Medicinal value offers support for use and legalization, and can create confusion about harms in recreational use and medical use. Limitations included a lack of depth to the sub-topics of privatized interests and their impact on marijuana legalization, and assessment of marijuana in a racial and criminal justice context. The potential for biased data and results was present, and I attempted to mitigate this risk by utilizing diverse sources while gathering data. Additionally, because of time constraints, my survey sample size was less impactful than had been hoped. Future research could expand upon my work in the area of private interests and their role in marijuana legality or illegality, and marijuana’s racial context. Additionally, research on the impacts of marijuana legalization on organized crime is needed.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
The advancement of mankind is often thought to be linked to developments in science and technology. For thousands of years, we have invented technologies that are meant to make life more efficient. By automating cumbersome tasks, humans can focus their efforts elsewhere and increase their productivity. However, the automated technologies of today - such as robots, robo-advisors (non-human financial advisors based on software algorithms), and customer service bots – are capable of performing operations thought to be out of a science-fiction movie. The number of tasks that a human can carry out that a robot can’t is becoming fewer and fewer each year, putting much of our society at risk of unemployment. This paper examines technological automation through a historical lens, analyzing Classical Antiquity and the British Industrial Revolution in order to have a better understanding of how societies of the past have dealt with waves of automation. How have these episodes been viewed by their respective society? What debates dominated these episodes? And how is the current wave of automation similar to, and different from, these past waves? In addition to the historical analysis, I conducted original research in the form of a survey in order to gather and generalize current public opinion on automation. I find that there is overwhelming support for our current trajectory. John Maynard Keynes warned of technology outpacing human skill, coining the term “technological unemployment.” For him, it was a temporary state in which humans must catch up in order to adapt and learn how to work with these advanced devices. Regardless of whether the current episode is temporary or not, society must have an open conversation about this pressing issue and take steps to mitigate serious negative consequences.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
Why have recent neuroscience research findings on young adult development (age eighteen to twenty-five) not caused widespread reform for this age group in the criminal justice system? The research shows that eighteen is an arbitrary age of maturity and full criminal responsibility, but the United States continues to treat young people eighteen and older like adults. This thesis seeks to answer this question through an analysis and synthesis of scientific papers, legal cases, policy reports, and academic works. It argues that current reform efforts fail to translate scientific research into practical reform because they do not place the science within its social context, which is defined as the history and present social trends, practices, and beliefs about juvenile and criminal justice in America, including the uniquely American relationship to race and crime. This argument is grounded in a historical and theoretical discussion of the relationship between science and law. Both science and law are flexible reflections of social ideals, and both can be used as tools for social control over targeted groups. This thesis places relevant neuroscience literature on young adult development within the broader history of juvenile and criminal justice. It also puts the scientific research in conversation with the present way that young adults interact with the justice system, including in specialized young adult programs. It argues that these programs do not go far enough and that categorical reform for all young adults is necessary. This discussion concludes with a proposed model for categorical young adult reform. In short, the model suggests waiting for, being prepared for, and creating the right contextual moment for reform.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
In this paper, we analyze past approaches in designing and marketing Augmented Reality apps or devices, and we discover key issues that prevented their mainstream adoption. We offer insights into novel approaches to marketing consumer technology products; in particular Augmented Reality devices. We analyze marketing strategies in order to understand which have been successful and which problems should be avoided in future campaigns. Although other papers have discussed some of these topics, none of them has discussed them with an interdisciplinary lens. We also attempt to understand how recent Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality devices have been perceived in society and reported by media. This research includes human-computer interaction expert interviews, historical evolution models for consumer technology, and socio-cultural and political analyzes.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
The following research study is an empirical examination of the nature and infrastructure of the economic activities carried out in the Online ‘Gig’ Economy (OGE). More specifically, this thesis investigates, through the case study of one singular instance of the OGE (the Uber X market in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico), the role of structures of social relations and institutionalized formal processes with respect to the organization, regulation, transacting, and broader functioning of the OGE. We study these structures and processes through three concrete methods: (1) a series of 15 in-person semi-structured interviews with Uber X drivers and partners in Guadalajara; (2) an online survey distributed through online social networks to a larger pool of Uber X drivers and partners in Guadalajara and (3) the collection (and regression) of data on Uber’s business models and on the economic and social conditions of the countries in which these business models appear. We find: (1) that the operation of the OGE relies on a complexly intertwined dancing around of formality and informality, (2) that the elements of informality in the OGE enhance its social embeddedness, (3) that ‘informal’ workarounds may, paradoxically, have both positive and negative impacts on the formal systems which they underlie, and (4) that on the global scale of Uber’s operations, specific economic and social macro-level affordances correlate with the appearance of informality. We conclude that depending on the context in which it emerges, informality has the potential to impact development both positively and negatively and that its development and impact are closely associated with the affordances and characteristics of structures of social relations.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
In writing this thesis, I explored the following research questions: What is the relationship between a console’s design characteristics and the types of video games developers tend to create for it? Do increases in hardware capabilities (i.e., processing power and storage capacity) correspond to increases in the creativity of video game developers, as reflected by increased software variety? Is there a relationship between increased software variety and console sales? Most specifically, this thesis evaluated the hypothesis that unconventional hardware corresponds to increased developer creativity. I found that ‘unconventional’ consoles (i.e., consoles that upended preexisting hardware paradigms in one or more ways) corresponded to increased genre variety, but processing power and media storage capacity had little correlation to genre variety. I also identified a correlation between genre variety and console unit sales: consoles with greater genre variety tended to outsell consoles with lower genre variety.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
The three key changes: a growing population, an aging population, and urbanization, will have significant social, environmental, and economic impacts on the human population. This thesis examines technologies that stem from the challenges of the three global changes. The growing population will lead to increased demands for food, which can be addressed by cultured meat production. By 2050, it is projected that there will be an 80% increase in demand for animal protein, which makes meat production one of the most pressing| challenges the world will face in the coming years. This thesis employs STS frameworks to explore the impact of the projected changes in the global population demographic, identifies how the three emerging technologies could address the rising challenges, and critiques the challenges that these new technologies are facing. A thorough understanding of these technologies will facilitate critical discussions that address how we should tackle some of the largest challenges of the future.I urge people to| overcome the tendency and temptation to resort to simplifying these technologies into their techno-economical impacts, and set higher standards for the technologists, engineers, and corporations creating these technologies to understand the wider implications of the technology more comprehensively. address the demand for meat while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
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Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
Why do certain artifacts retain their designs despite compelling reasons to change? What happens when aesthetic, symbolic, and physical needs conflict? In a world where design theory and practice emphasize functionalism, the harp is a technological product whose stubborn anti-functionalism manifests in its enduring reputation of romance, femininity, and high culture. Past research in sociology and STS shows that artifacts are not just practical, but also symbolize status. My research addresses the intersection of the classical harp as a physical musical instrument and as a semiotic artifact laden with cultural meanings, bringing together diverse bodies of Science and Technology Studies (STS), sociology, and design research. More broadly, this interdisciplinary inquiry seeks to understand the complex mechanisms through which cultural meaning and technological development are intertwined, and thus contribute to knowledge about design and innovation processes. Through 28 semi-structured interviews, field observations at two European harp manufacturers, and archival research, I explore how priorities of harpists, along with three other relevant social groups (harp makers, medical professionals, and the audience) influence the design of harps. I develop a diagram which maps, in loose chronology, how the experience of a harpist intersects with the experiences of harp makers, medical professionals, and the public/audience. The diagram is also based upon harpists’ experiences with pain as they develop personal relationships with their harps. Finally, I outline three criteria to define a larger class of objects (beyond musical instruments) in which harps and objects like ballet pointe shoes can be classified. This framework can help illuminate understanding of these objects’ problem areas, their cultural meanings, and the knowledge essential for redesigning them. These artifacts, abbreviated as HEET, fuse elements of High culture, are used Every day, and are Engaging Technologies.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
This Excel Spreadsheet includes the data and calculations used in my thesis, titled: Opening Up Open Access: Investigating Alternate Funding Models to Stimulate Open Access Publishing.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
The question that must be answered – and the question that to which two different answers are given – is this: are human actions influenced by factors outside of the actor’s control in a way that mitigates moral culpability? In other words, can the physical, psychological, and social circumstances surrounding a human action render that human morally inculpable? In summary, there are two incompatible belief frameworks contained within United State criminal justice legislation. Diminished responsibility relies on mind-body supervenience, in which the mind is necessarily affected by the physical circumstances of the brain— such as psychology, biology, and sociology. Ordinary criminal punishment, however, relies on a view of the mind-body connection that does not allow for moral culpability to be mitigated by physical circumstances – mind-body independence. Both of these views cannot be incorporated into a single coherent framework. Empirical evidence indicates that external factors significantly affect human behavior. Given this, we should view all criminals as being subject to a diminished moral responsibility. In current law, those with diminished responsibility are not punished retributively. Thus we should eliminate retribution as a justification for all cases of criminal punishment.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
Open access, or the publishing practice of making a printed work available to anyone, embodies the idea that the world is better off when we freely share knowledge. As it stands, only a small percentage of academic articles are published under such a license, meaning that new, emerging, and exciting research is often inaccessible to many who might benefit from it. This is, in part, due to the cost of publishing; those journals that do offer open access as an option must shift the cost of lost revenue to the authors. As a result, the author usually must spend thousands of dollars of their grant money to make an article open access. In this thesis, I explore the question: is it economically feasible for publishers to make a revenue-neutral move to open access by realigning funding pathways? I propose a new model which shifts the monetary burden of open access from publishers and authors to funding agencies through the direct support of article publishing. This thesis shows how such a model can be revenue-neutral for a journal moving from closed subscription to open access. The results demonstrate that funding agencies are already involved in sponsoring research articles, and that a revenue-neutral shift is possible due both to a reduction in transaction costs and the proposed redistribution of publishing costs across several stakeholders. The data collected for the purpose of this thesis from publicly available sources indicates which groups of agencies play large roles in funding research, and addresses various concerns raised about the proposed system. My analysis shows that a revenue-neutral move from subscriptions to open access system is feasible, while pointing to potential cost savings and advantages for each stakeholder in the academic publishing industry.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
In this thesis, I will explore the current ethical debate surrounding autonomous vehicles. I explore the following research questions: 1. What legislation already exists regulating the design and use of autonomous vehicles, and how, if at all, does ethics play a part in these laws? 2. Is ethics perceived as an important factor or consideration for AVs? 3. What common themes or patterns of discourse emerge in discussion of AVs and related ethical challenges? 4. What specific concepts are seen as the most important or relevant when discussing AVs? 5. With regard to AVs facing ethically challenging scenarios, what differences in attitude can be observed among different groups of people? Utilitarianism is the most common system of ethical thought referenced when discussing the ethics of AVs, probably due to its relative simplicity and familiarity. Indeed, utilitarianism proved to be a strong enough value to override even an otherwise consistent moral philosophy, although when utilitarian ideals are not at stake people tend to default back to thinking in terms of who is in the wrong, rather than how many people are affected. However, people were considerably less in favor of a utilitarian AV when faced with the idea of riding in one themselves. This discrepancy will need to be addressed and overcome if utilitarian AVs are to become mainstream.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
The impact of context on how science and technology are adopted in society has been a focal point for Science, Technology and Society (STS). Contextual differences must be taken into account when scientific or technological innovations are transferred to new communities. Neuroethics, in its modem form, investigates the impact of brain science in four basic dimensions: the self, social policy, practice and discourse. In this study I compiled a set of 461 peer-reviewed articles with neuroethics content published by authors from around the world. I analyzed the data to examine two central topics: (1) the development of international neuroethics over time and, (2) the differences in how challenges at the intersection of ethics and neuroscience are viewed in countries that are considered developed by International Monetary Fund (IMF) standards, and those that are developing and participate less in capital-intensive science such as neuroscience. My results demonstrate that from 2002 to 2005 there has been a steady increase in global participation in neuroethics as measured by numbers of articles published, journals publishing articles, and countries contributing to the literature. The majority of the countries publishing neuroethics-related material are developed. The focus of these publications as well as of the publications from developing countries was the practice of brain science and the amelioration of neurological disease. Indicators of technology creation and diffusion in developing countries were specifically correlated with increases in publications concerning policy implications of brain science. Neuroethics is an international endeavor and, as such, should be sensitive to the impact that context has on acceptance and use of technological innovation. STS models provide an important framework for informing advances in neuroscience and its partnership with the growing field of neuroethics.
Collection
Stanford University, Program in Science, Technology and Society, Honors Theses
This paper analyzes the evolution of rap music from a technological, cultural, and historical perspective. Although rap music was born in the early 1980s, in the South Bronx, New York, it has since become a worldwide phenomenon. People from numerous countries who speak many languages have assimilated the style and culture of rap, all adding their own flavor to this once unique form of music. This paper examines the evolution first by addressing rap music's relationship to technology and then by comparing cultural and economic trends in hip-hop to the same trends in rock & roll fifty years ago. I argue that this comparison provides a basis for forecasting the future of rap music and therefore conclude by providing my own ten-year forecast.