Each Friday during the Fall and Spring academic semesters, a faculty volunteer gives a 30 minute lunchtime talk on her/his scholarship and/or teaching practices. Faculty members are invited to learn a little more about their colleagues, chat with others that attend the presentations, and enjoy a wonderful buffet lunch. Talks start at 12:30 p.m. and are usually over a little past 1 p.m.
The event is sponsored by the Office of Academic and Faculty Affairs.
Fall 2023 Schedule
SEPT 8 MacE McDonald (LGBTQ+ Resource Center Director)
Detainment and Datafictions: The Freedom of Information Control
In this presentation, I explore how predictive analytics proliferated in the US in the wake of 9/11. Building from Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Walter Benjamin’s work, I argue that while the information machines of post 9/11 United States were often described as “data-driven” and objective, these machines were driven by hegemonic and subjective narratives of social control that frame freedom as a form of control. I call these persuasive narratives for greater reliance on data-driven approaches datafictions. Datafictions gain their persuasive allure from the false promise of objectively dividing people into subjective groups—such as friends and enemies—so that bad surprises and other violent consequences happen only to enemies. Freedom from bad surprises is predicated on the condemnation of others. To claim these systems authorize fictions is not to dismiss their power. These fictive systems are empowered rationalizations of an irrational and paranoid desire for control over the future.
I begin with Donald Rumsfeld’s op-ed “A New Kind of War” and continue to analyze the USA Patriot Act and its lineage of control as freedom policies. In addition to textual propaganda and policy, I analyze military photographs from Guantánamo Bay and their attempts to give form to narratives of information control. From there, I turn to counternarratives of control and freedom. Though much of this presentation is devoted to a hegemonic narrative of information control, that narrative is not the only data story in circulation. Detainees at Guantánamo Bay—who were subjected to some of the most extreme and violent versions of information control the US enacted during Operation Enduring Freedom—formulated their own conceptions of freedom as something that lies beyond governmental control. These stories are captured in op-eds, detainee artworks, and Mansoor Adayfi’s memoir Don’t Forget About Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo Bay. I conclude by considering how alternative narratives can reform, but not yet eradicate, the information systems that seemingly control our futures.
SEPt 15 Kristen Brubaker (Environmental Studies)
Ecosystem Services in Post-Agricultural Forests: Lessons Learned with New Spatial Tools
Legacies of human activity can have long-lasting effects to ecosystems. For example, land used for agriculture can have reduced organic matter in the soil and a more homogeneous textural surface for decades to centuries. In the Northeastern United States (including the Finger Lakes region of New York), peak agriculture occurred around 1900, and land has been converting back to forest ever since. Over the past several years, I have been working with lidar data (light detection and ranging) and historic airphotos to identify signatures of land use legacy, particularly agriculture, and then exploring how spatial tools can be used to model the effects of this land use legacy on current ecosystem services. These ecosystem services include biomass and forest structure, as well as terrestrial and stream salamander habitat.
SEPT 22 Don Spector (Physics)
Listening to the Language of Particle Physics
Within quantum mechanics, graphical depictions known as Feynman diagrams provide the standard method for analyzing and thinking about phenomena in particle physics. In this very precise mathematical framework, however, lies something else: a structure familiar to those who study rites of passage. After an introduction to Feynman diagrams (no technical expertise required!), we will see where the ingredients of rituals appear and what they mean. This unwitting recapitulation of the structure of rituals inside the mathematical methodology of physics serves a surprising function: it turns the tools of quantum mechanics into a means to express an ambivalence towards quantum mechanics itself.
SEPT 29 Alden Gassert (Director of Institutional Research)
OCT 6 Jon Forde (Mathematics)
Modeling for the Next Pandemic
Our collective experience with the Covid-19 pandemic brought the challenges of facing a global public health challenge into sharp focus and also highlighted how difficult it is to decide on effective public health policy when information about the nature of the threat is also being developed in real time. The next pandemic will almost certainly not be Covid, but it is also almost certainly on its way. So, what can we do in the meantime to be better prepared for the difficult decisions we will have to make in an environment of uncertainty?
One possible approach is to develop a deeper understanding of the interdependencies and tradeoff present in pandemic decision making. By understanding these fundamental dependencies, we will be better able to make decisions about how to deploy limited public resources, even when information about the specifics of the infectious agent is uncertain. In this talk, I will present some interesting results about the tradeoffs between vaccination and test-and-isolate campaigns, including how resource allocation should change over time. We will also talk about how generalized mathematical modeling approaches might incorporate not only interventions like testing, vaccination, treatment, lockdowns, and quarantine, but also take into account vital considerations about political feasibility, public trust, and logistics.
Oct 13 Wenwen Li (Mathematics)
The shape of data: A (brief) Introduction to Topological Data Analysis
Unlike the classical tools and methods that data scientists have historically employed to analyze data, topological data analysis (TDA) provides a tool for analyzing the shape of data. One of the central tasks in TDA is finding the proper representation of a given data cloud. Such representation contains algebraic and geometric features of the data cloud, and one can understand the shape of the data using those features. Moreover, one can evaluate the difference or similarity between two data clouds by measuring the similarity of their barcodes.
Although 1-parameter persistence is well-behaved under small perturbations and has the structure theorem which is essential to characterize the given data cloud, nevertheless, there is no canonical way to define the barcodes for the multi-parameter persistence modules. In fact, the indecomposable submodules of a multi-parameter persistence module can be very complicated, and no multi-parameter persistence module was known coming from a filtration that is not interval decomposable. If time permits, I will present joint work with Murad Ozaydin on the 2-parameter persistence module raised from a double filtration of configuration spaces of metric star graphs with parameters r and l, which is the first example of non-interval decomposable 2-parameter persistence module obtained from a double filtration.
OCT 20 Rebecca Burditt, Jiangtao Harry Gu, Lisa Patti, Leah Shafer and Iskandar Zulkarnain (Media and Society)
NOV 3 Keoka Grayson (Economics) and David Galloway (Russian Area Studies)
Sakartvelo: Bread, Wine, & an Inspired Collaboration
In times of international crisis, we often turn inward from fear, and while this is a natural reaction, there is a whole world to embrace which craves our engagement. Come listen to an accounting of the 2023 Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad in Sakartvelo (Georgia), a collaborative project that brought together people from across the country to immerse themselves in a very different culture.
Dec 1 Wes Perkins (Sociology)
As Perkins began studying the social psychology of student drinking at HWS in the 1980s, he developed what has become known as the social norms approach to promoting health and well-being. Much of the original theory and successful application of the approach evolved out of efforts to reduce alcohol misuse at HWS and at other collegiate settings. Perkins and colleagues have extended the strategy to address the social motivators behind other risky health behaviors. During his faculty talk, Perkins will review this evolution and point to its further expansion internationally.