Workshops Funded for Spring 2013

Tim Parker, Coordinator (Biology); Nick Bader (Geology); Patrick Belanger (Rhetoric); Tim Doyle (General Studies); Moira Gresham (Physics); Christopher Leise (English); Kelly McConville (Mathematics); and Dan Vernon (Biology).
Inference in Science
Description: Science holds a privileged place in our society. Knowledge that can claim to be ‘scientific’ is explicitly valued by governments, many segments of the private sector, and by large portions of the public. This is rooted in the belief that something often referred to as ‘the scientific method’ exists and that it provides a uniquely robust means of building understanding of the material world. This belief plays an important role in our society, but this belief and the assumptions behind it are not widely discussed or examined. Even most scientists devote little if any time to critical examination of the ‘scientific method.’ There is certainly almost no discussion of these topics between scientific disciplines. Further, many of the academics who think most about scientific inference as a phenomenon are outside of science, and communication between those who study science and those who practice science is typically equally rare.

The goal of this workshop is to bring scientists and those outside of science concerned with problems of inference
together to discuss science as a mode of understanding the world and as an institution in society. Some of the
questions we may address include:

  • Is there a monolith called ‘science’ that relies on a fundamental set of principles of inference?
  • How does science generate knowledge?
  • Are some scientific practices more effective than others? (Are some sciences weaker or stronger?)
  • Does scientific understanding progress?
  • How do scientists’ understandings of scientific inference fit with the understanding of the public?
  • What role should science play in society?
  • How is the public’s understanding of science manipulated for political ends?
  • How does the funding of science implicitly or explicitly endorse different beliefs about the process or value of
  • science?

We will address these and other questions using a series of case-studies selected by participants. We will read
primary scientific as case studies as well as literature from other disciplines to provide insights on the sorts of
questions listed above.

Nohemy Solórzano-Thompson, Coordinator (Spanish); Daniel Forbes (Sheehan Gallery); Nicole Pietrantoni (Art History); Margarita Picnataro (Spanish); Malynda Poulsen-Jones (Art); and Zahi Zalloua (FLL-French).
Visual Culture and Theory
Description: Visual Culture is the cross-disciplinary study and practice of the visual. Emerging as a scholarly field in the 1990s, Visual Culture actively pursues the study of the visual in everyday life and its use in public space and discourse. The Journal of Visual Culture (Sage Publications) defines it as the critical engagement “with ways of seeing, practices of looking, regimes of vision, and the epistemological and ontological questions that both underpin and challenge our notions of the visual, and visual culture itself.”1 The Visual Cultures Program at NYU emphasizes that, “By means of cross-cultural, crossplatform and cross-temporal comparison, visual culture endeavors to create critical approaches to the convergence of war, economy, religion, the environment, technology, and other issues in globalized visual media.”2 Furthermore, as the Center for Visual Studies at the University of Madison-Wisconsin states, Visual Culture “considers visuality in a global context and attends seriously to differences.”3 Visual Culture encompasses theoretical tools derived from diverse disciplines including but not limited to: anthropology, art, art history, geography, literature, philosophy, politics, sociology, technology, etc.

This workshop is designed to promote cross-disciplinary thought, collaboration, and the continued development of cross-disciplinary pedagogies among Whitman faculty and staff whose teaching and research engages with Visual Culture and Theory. Participants include faculty and staff from both Humanities and Fine Arts disciplines, as Visual Culture is interested in both theory and praxis. We are fortunate to have the participation of the Sheehan Gallery director, as Visual Culture studies critically engage with the display and installation of artwork and objects.

The gathering of this diverse group of scholars and practitioners will advance cross-disciplinary conversations and collaborations across our disciplines. One of the goals of this workshop will be to explore future intellectual collaborations between our different Whitman departments and units and to foster more cross-disciplinary teaching and research opportunities.

The majority of the texts chosen for this workshop were published within the last six years as we want workshop participants to critically engage with the most recent scholarship in the field. The workshop will be divided into three units, each unit will be five weeks long. Participants will take turns leading discussion throughout the semester.

The first unit of the workshop (Weeks 1 to 5) will focus on texts that situate Visual Culture as an emergent field that draws from cross-disciplinary perspectives and which questions the role of the visual in everyday life. The selected readings will situate the field both globally and broadly to include studies focusing on different media and approaches. During the second unit (Weeks 6 to 10), participants will read specific Visual Culture studies that highlight key interdisciplinary theoretical approaches, including feminism, psychoanalysis, and postmodernism. In the final unit (Weeks 11 to 15), participants will analyze Visual Culture studies on specific forms of media. We will read texts that discuss the current practices and theories of photography, film, digital and new media, and installation. Finally, we will meet at the end of the 15 weeks to evaluate the workshop and provide participants with the opportunity to make final reflections on the subject and ideally develop future collaborative projects around visual culture and theory.

1 The Journal of Visual Studies Website,
2 NYU Visual Cultures Program Website,
3 UW-Madison Center for Visual Cultures Website,