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Nocebos & Meaning-Making: A Call for Abstracts

We’re delighted that our panel, Nocebos, Nocebo Studies, and STS: Meaning-Making and Recalcitrance, has been accepted for the upcoming meeting of 4S.  This session will be organized/chaired by Ada Jaarsma (Mount Royal University), Suze Berkhout (University of Toronto), and Khadija Coxon (McGill-Queen’s University Press).  4S will take place in Prague, August 18-21; here’s the link to more conference information.

Here’s our call for abstracts:

Nocebos, described by some as placebo’s evil twin, are unwelcome yet inextricable elements of medical treatment. In the mid-twentieth century, practices of informed consent were eliciting such pervasive adverse effects that researchers coined the term “Nocebo Effect” to render such impacts recognizable. Rather than anticipations of healing, the nocebo effect expresses expectations of harm—like side effects that emerge even when patients or trial participants receive placebos. While they are rarely familiar to the broader public, nocebo effects are intimately part of the array of interactions with which individuals relate to biomedicine. Nocebos point to the porous lines between bodies and epistemologies and between clinics and daily lives; as experiments in the burgeoning field of Nocebo Studies suggest, learning one’s genetic predispositions for disease or encountering media coverage of a generic drug’s ineffectiveness contribute to negative outcomes. Nocebos dramatize a liveliness that Isabelle Stengers and Vincianne Despret describe as “recalcitrance.” At odds with bifurcating logics that keep “matter” and “meaning” apart, nocebos animate a kind of meaning-making that is palpable, involuntary, and unwanted. This panel seeks to contribute to STS by exploring how nocebos and Nocebo Studies draw attention to the ontological choreography of biomedicine, such as the assemblages, practices or relations that constitute medical treatment and research. We welcome papers that examine the import of nocebos—broadly construed—for resistance to the norms and curative ambitions of medical treatment. And we invite presenters to make use of creative or new methodologies for identifying, interpreting and making sense of nocebo effects.

The deadline for submissions is Feb 29, 2020; here’s the link to submit a 250-word abstract.

Book symposium begins this week

I’m delighted that an interactive symposium on my book, hosted by the wonderful site Syndicate, has begun this week.   The Learning Gene emerged as a pedagogical project directly out of this book project, especially chapter 5 (which is titled “Tomatoes in the Classroom”).   I found it to be enormously useful, receiving four sets of commentaries on the book (each of which I’ve crafted responses to).  It’s fascinating to note how this book, once published, has transformed into open-ended and dynamic conversations about form, perspective, the relations between knowledge and existence, and the very nature of hope (and despair).  Over the next four weeks, each commentary and response will be published on Syndicate. I’m excited to find out what new questions and problems emerge from these conversations.

Book cover of Kierkegaard after the Genome

Podcasting & Process event series

Here’s an updated line-up of our Podcasting & Process event series.   Everyone is welcome!

Jan 12, 7pm @ Loft 112:  “Politics,” featuring Kate Jacobson (CJSW) and Azren Raju (The Language Nerd)

Feb 1, 8:30am in the Visualization Lounge, first floor of Riddell Library, Mount Royal University:  Guy Obrecht, performing Alvin Lucier’s “We are sitting in a room” (1969)

Feb 8, 10am in the Visualization Lounge, first floor of Ridell Library, MRU:  Mickey Vallee, talking about “Voice, Intimacy & Control: Intersections in Sound & Science Studies”

Feb 9, 7pm @ Loft 112:  “Sound,” featuring Mickey Vallee, talking about “Soundscape Cartography in Northern Alberta”

March 2, 7pm @ Loft 112:  “Design,” featuring Meg Wilcox (Journalism at MRU) and Sean Perrin (Clarineat podcast)

There will be beer/cider by donations at the Loft 112 events; Loft 112 is wheelchair accessible through the front library, and washroom is gender neutral.   These events are sponsored by the Faculty of Arts and Department of Humanities at Mount Royal University, as well as Pod Summit.


Podcasting & Process: a series of philosophical meet-ups

The Learning Gene is hosting a series of philosophical meet-ups, beginning on December 1, 2017, to explore the stakes of podcasting:  the import of voices, especially in relation to the craft of editing and framing, and the significance of perspectives shared through audio-creation.

Each event is organized around a theme (Process, on Dec 1; Politics on Jan 12, Sound on Feb 9, and Design on March 2) and will take place in Loft 112, in Calgary’s East Village neighbourhood, at 7pm. Loft 112 is wheel-chair accessible, through the front lobby, with gender-neutral washrooms.   Loft 112 is at #112, 535 8 Ave SE.

This series is sponsored by Mount Royal University’s Faculty of Arts and Department of Humanities, organized by Ada Jaarsma in collaboration with Logan Peters and Pod Summit.


Poster for Podcasting & Process series

Critical Podcasting

(co-written by Ada Jaarsma & Anna Mudde)

We are each philosophy professors, and we’re both increasingly drawn to audio as a medium for critical inquiry, especially in relation to teaching and learning.  The world of podcasts is growing all the time, and there are many podcasts that lend themselves directly—as open access educational resources—to the classroom.  (See our curated list of “especially teachable” episodes here).  Audio, in the form of recorded and edited conversations, adds invaluable dimensions to the exchange of ideas: the tone of a person’s voice, as they express a story or assert a claim, makes the somatic and affective aspects of arguments more apparent.  (“What happens when scholarly communication gets intimate?” is a question that arises in the context of academic podcasting (Altman 2015, 573)). As well, when a podcast is distributed in an accessible format, we are able to read the transcript or listen to an episode, enabling a greater range of communication-styles.  And, significantly for higher education contexts in particular, podcasts tend to be free to download and exchange, and so the wide range of podcasts expands the possibilities of curricular content that students can access without accumulating higher educational costs.

But we’ve been wondering something:  what’s the rationale for our assumption that audio is an apt medium for critical, collaborative thinking?  And, if we grant this assumption, what would be a helpful basis for choosing which podcasts to incorporate into our classes, podcasts that exemplify what we’re calling “critical podcasting”?   Read more

Starting in the Middle (part 1)

I am in the process of launching a podcast, The Learning Gene, as part of a bigger project that brings audio together with philosophy, science studies and pedagogy.

I’m sharing a pre-episode to the podcast in the spirit of starting in the middle.    The podcast will launch with actual episodes shortly.  As Isabelle Stengers writes, “What is unknowable is unknown” (2011, 261).  Put otherwise, we don’t know what we don’t know.  We start in the middle as a way to encounter the unknown.  (Of course, “the unknown” could be a matter of concepts and relationships…. but it could also be a matter of craft, design and genre.  I’ve left in some truly terrible audio quality in this pre-episode, for example– in part because I’m still not sure why the tape is so garbled in this rendered mp3!  There’s a moment in my interview with Erin Manning in which I say, “Hi, Erin, it’s Ada!”  but in the rendered version, you can barely hear a thing.  I’m still mystified at what went wrong in the sound design process here). Read more