MIT News - History http://news.mit.edu/topic/mithistory-rss.xml MIT News is dedicated to communicating to the media and the public the news and achievements of the students, faculty, staff and the greater MIT community. en Tue, 18 Feb 2020 13:25:01 -0500 Charlotte Minsky and Lyndie Mitchell Zollinger named 2020 Gates Cambridge Scholars http://news.mit.edu/2020/charlotte-minsky-lyndie-mitchell-zollinger-named-gates-cambridge-scholars-0218 MIT seniors will pursue graduate studies at Cambridge University. Tue, 18 Feb 2020 13:25:01 -0500 Office of Distinguished Fellowships http://news.mit.edu/2020/charlotte-minsky-lyndie-mitchell-zollinger-named-gates-cambridge-scholars-0218 <p>MIT seniors Charlotte Minsky and Lyndie Mitchell Zollinger have won the prestigious&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gatescambridge.org/" target="_blank">Gates Cambridge Scholarship</a>, which offers students an opportunity to pursue graduate study in the field of their choice at Cambridge University in England.&nbsp;</p> <p>Minsky, from Greenfield, Massachusetts, is completing her bachelor’s degree in earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, as well as history. She had always thought her dual interest in science and the humanities were disparate until she joined the MIT and Slavery project, which illuminated for her the ways that science and technology can be tools for the structures of oppression. Minsky then realized that she could combine both science and history, and that the combined studies would allow her to struggle with the historical legacies of science. At Cambridge, she plans to read for an MPhil in history and philosophy of science before returning to the United States to earn a PhD in planetary science.&nbsp;</p> <p>Regarding Minsky's work on the MIT and Slavery project, Professor Anne McCants notes, "I was awed by the sophistication of the public presentation she gave of her research on the relationship between MIT and the economy of the post-Civil War reconstruction South, an event that was attended by all members of the MIT upper administration, as well as live-streamed for a global public audience. For someone so young, her clarity of thinking, personal confidence, and historical humility about the remaining questions were all quite extraordinary. I can honestly say that I had never seen anything like it before from a student, let alone one not even halfway through college.”</p> <p>Minsky has proven herself equally adept at scientific research, and is currently working with Professor Ray Jayawardhana's group at Cornell University on testing a new method to characterize exoplanet atmospheres. She previously studied with Professor Julien de Wit (assistant professor in earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences) to investigate the propagation of biases in exoplanet atmosphere models, as well as with Professor Benjamin Weiss and Research Scientist Mary Knapp, searching for the theorized Planet 9 by using archival radio data. She plans to continue similar work during her doctoral research.&nbsp;</p> <p>Minsky is the current vice president for the Undergraduate Association (UA), and former chief of staff to the UA. She is the former president and co-founder of the Prison Education Initiative, and regularly teaches astronomy to inmates, as well as educating the MIT community about mass incarceration. She also served as the president of Queer West, a LGBTQ+ community and advocacy organization at MIT.</p> <p>Mitchell Zollinger, from Sandy, Utah, was raised with a passion for learning, teaching, building, and medicine. After conducting research at the University of Utah’s Chemistry Department, she decided to come to MIT to study engineering. Mitchell Zollinger will graduate from MIT with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, and then pursue a doctorate in engineering at the University of Cambridge. During an unfortunate accident when a giant hamster wheel fell on top of her in one of her mechanical engineering classes, she realized the importance of a mechanical perspective on medical challenges. At Cambridge, she will develop mechanical models of the progression of traumatic brain injuries. This will provide clinicians with a range of patient-specific predicted outcomes to assist them in choosing the best treatment options, and will improve patients’ lives by saving vital time and reducing the risk of further brain damage.</p> <p>Mitchell Zollinger’s work at Cambridge will build upon her summer research at the University of Auckland, where she worked to develop implantable sensors for the brain. Previously, she worked with Steven Gillmer of MIT Lincoln Laboratory, investigating the complexity of motions and required forces to open doors for people in wheelchairs. Her end goal was to create robotic assistive devices for people in wheelchairs who struggle with things like this on a day-to-day basis. “The most important thing about Lyndie’s research,” says Gillmer, “is she is doing it for the well-being of others.” She was also selected as one of only seven juniors to be a Pappalardo Apprentice.</p> <p>Mitchell Zollinger has always been committed to encouraging women in STEM, as she herself was encouraged in the field by a female neighbor who had a doctorate in science. AT MIT, she has served as a residential tutor for the Women’s Technology Program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, where she worked with high school girls to introduce and encourage them to pursue STEM fields. Mitchell Zollinger plans to continue similar initiatives through her future career as an academic in engineering.&nbsp;</p> <p>Mitchell Zollinger led the effort to create the Addir Interfaith Engagement Association to expand the group’s efforts beyond conversation about diversity to promoting greater mutual respect and understanding across the Institute. She has also been pivotal to the establishment of the Office of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life’s student advisory board.&nbsp;</p> <p>Minsky and Mitchell Zollinger were advised in their applications by Kim Benard of the Office of Distinguished Fellowships team in Career Advising and Professional Development, who remarks “Charlotte and Lyndie are superb examples of an MIT education, combining compassion with creativity to create a better world. We are proud that they will be representing the Institute at Cambridge, and we are equally proud of the other students who interviewed.”</p> <p>Established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship provides full funding for talented students from outside the United Kingdom to pursue postgraduate study in any subject at Cambridge University. The 2020 awards process was extremely competitive, with 28 ultimately chosen. Since the program’s inception in 2001, there have been 30 Gates Cambridge Scholars from MIT.</p> Lyndie Mitchell Zollinger (left) and Charlotte Minsky have been named 2020 Gates Cambridge Scholars.Photos courtesy of Mitchell Zollinger and MinskyEAPS, Lincoln Laboratory, Women in STEM, Mechanical engineering, Awards, honors and fellowships, History, School of Science, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, School of Engineering, Undergraduate, Students, Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ), Social justice, Exoplanets The complex effects of colonial rule in Indonesia http://news.mit.edu/2020/sugar-factories-colonial-indonesia-olken-dell-0206 Evidence links Dutch-era sugar production and greater economic activity today. Wed, 05 Feb 2020 23:59:59 -0500 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2020/sugar-factories-colonial-indonesia-olken-dell-0206 <p>The areas of Indonesia where Dutch colonial rulers built a huge sugar-producing industry in the 1800s remain more economically productive today than other parts of the country, according to a study co-authored by an MIT economist.</p> <p>The research, focused on the Indonesian island of Java, introduces new data into the study of the economic effects of colonialism. The finding shows that around villages where the Dutch built sugar-processing factories from the 1830 through the 1870s, there is today greater economic activity, more extensive manufacturing, and even more schools, along with higher local education levels.</p> <p>“The places where the Dutch established [sugar factories] persisted as manufacturing centers,” says <a href="https://economics.mit.edu/faculty/bolken">Benjamin Olken</a>, a professor of economics at MIT and co-author of a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/restud/article-abstract/87/1/164/5385518?redirectedFrom=fulltext">paper</a> detailing the results, which appears in the January issue of the <em>Review of Economic Studies</em>.</p> <p>The historical link between this “Dutch Cultivation System” and economic activity today has likely been transmitted “through a couple of forces,” Olken suggests. One of them, he says, is the building of “complementary infrastructure” such as railroads and roads, which remain in place in contemporary Indonesia.</p> <p>The other mechanism, Olken says, is that “industries grew up around the sugar [industry], and those industries persisted. And once you have this manufacturing environment, that can lead to other changes: More infrastructure and more schools have persisted in these areas as well.”</p> <p>To be sure, Olken says, the empirical conclusions of the study do not represent validation of Dutch colonial rule, which lasted from the early 1600s until 1949 and significantly restricted the rights and self-constructed political institutions of Indonesians. Dutch rule had long-lasting effects in many areas of civic life, and the Dutch Cultivation System used forced labor, for one thing.</p> <p>“This paper is not trying to argue that the [Dutch] colonial enterprise was a net good for the people of the time,” Olken emphasizes. “I want to be very clear on that. That’s not what we’re saying.”</p> <p>Instead, the study was designed to evaluate the empirical effects of the Dutch Cultivation System, and the outcome of the research was not necessarily what Olken would have anticipated.</p> <p>“The results are striking,” Olken says. “They just jump out at you.”</p> <p>The paper, “The Development Effects of the Extractive Colonial Economy: The Dutch Cultivation System in Java,” is co-authored by Olken and <a href="https://scholar.harvard.edu/dell/home">Melissa Dell</a> PhD ’12, a professor of economics at Harvard University.</p> <p><strong>On the ground</strong></p> <p>Historically in Java, the most populous of Indonesia’s many islands, the main crop had been rice. Starting in the 1830s, the Dutch instituted a sugar-growing system in some areas, building 94 sugar-processing factories, as well as roads and railroads to transport materials and products.</p> <p>Generally the Dutch would export high-quality sugar from Indonesia while keeping lower-quality sugar in the country. Overall, the system became massive; at one point in the mid-19th century, sugar production in Java accounted for one-third of the Dutch government’s revenues and 4 percent of Dutch GDP. By one estimate, a quarter of the population was involved in the industry.</p> <p>In developing their research, Olken and Dell used 19th century data from government archives in the Netherlands, as well as modern data from Indonesia. The Dutch built the processing plants next to rivers in places with enough flat land to sustain extensive sugar crops; to conduct the study, the researchers looked at economic activity near sugar-processing factories and compared it with economic activity in similar areas that lacked factories.</p> <p>“In the 1850s, the Dutch spent four years on the ground collecting detailed information for the over 10,000 villages that contributed land and labor to the Cultivation System,” Dell notes. The researchers digitized those records and, as she states, “painstakingly merged them” with economic and demograhic records from the same locations today</p> <p>As the results show, places close to factories are 25-30 percentage points less agricultural in economic composition than those away from factories, and they have more manufacturing, by 6-7 percentage points. They also have 9 percent more employment in retail.</p> <p>Areas within 1 kilometer of a sugar factory have a railroad density twice that of similar places 5 to 20 kilometers from factories; by 1980, they were also 45 percent more likely to have electricity and 4 percent more likely to have a high school. They also have local populations with a full year more of education, on average, than areas not situated near old sugar factories.</p> <p>The study shows there is also about 10 to 15 percent more public-land use in villages that were part of the Dutch Cultivation System, a data point that holds steady in both 1980 and 2003.</p> <p>“The key thing that underlies this paper, in multiple respects, is the linking of the historical data and the modern data,” Olken says. The researchers also observed that the disparity between industrialized places and their more rural counterparts has not arisen since 1980, further suggesting how much Java’s deep economic roots matter.</p> <p><strong>Net Effects?</strong></p> <p>The paper blends the expertise of Olken, who has spent years conducting antipoverty studies in Indonesia, and Dell, whose work at times examines the effects of political history on current-day economic outcomes.</p> <p>“I had never really done a historical project before,” Olken says. “But the opportunity to collaborate with Melissa on this was really exciting.”</p> <p>One of Dell’s best-known papers, published in 2010 while she was still a PhD student at MIT, shows that in areas of Peru where colonial Spanish rulers instituted a system of forced mining labor from the 1500s to the 1800s, there are significant and negative economic effects that persist today.</p> <p>However, somewhat to their surprise, the researchers did not observe similarly promounced effects from the Dutch Cultivation System.</p> <p>“One might have thought that could have had negative consequences on local social capital and local development in other respects,” says Olken, adding that he “wasn’t sure what to expect” before looking at the data.</p> <p>“The differences between the long-run effects of forced labor in Peru and Java suggest that for understanding persistent impacts on economic activity, we need to know more than just whether there was forced labor in a location,” Dell says. “We need to understand how the historical institutions influenced economic incentives and activities initially, and how these initial effects may or may not have persisted moving forward.”</p> <p>Olken adds that the study “can’t measure every possible thing,” and that “it’s possible there are other effects we didn’t see.”</p> <p>Moreover, Olken notes, the paper cannot determine the net effect of the Dutch Cultivation System on Indonesian economic growth. That is, in the absence of Dutch rule, Indonesia’s economy would have certainly grown on it own — but it is impossible to say whether it would have expanded at a rate faster, slower, or equivalent to the trajectory it had under the Dutch.</p> <p>“We can’t say what would have happened if the Dutch had never showed up in Indonesia,” Olken says. “And of course the Dutch [colonizing] Indonesia had all kinds of effects well beyond the scope of this paper, many of them negative for the contemporaneous population.”</p> Researchers find that Dutch sugar production in Indonesia in the 19th century entailed industrialization whose economic benefits are still evident today. Image collage: Christine Daniloff, MITEconomics, Asia, Europe, History, Research, Global, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences 3 Questions: Isabelle de Courtivron on the shock of becoming old http://news.mit.edu/2020/shock-of-becoming-old-isabelle-de-dourtivron-0203 MIT professor emerita talks about her new memoir and aging in a patriarchal society. Mon, 03 Feb 2020 16:00:01 -0500 MIT Global Languages http://news.mit.edu/2020/shock-of-becoming-old-isabelle-de-dourtivron-0203 <p><em>“Only those in whom youth has not entirely died are capable of speaking of old age,” writes Benoite Groult; this makes MIT Professor Emerita Isabelle de Courtivron eminently qualified to write on the subject. A professor of French literature, former head of Foreign Languages and Literatures (now Global Languages), and director of women’s studies before her retirement, De Courtivron’s latest book, “<a href="https://livre.fnac.com/a13934030/Isabelle-de-Courtivron-L-Ete-ou-je-suis-devenue-vieille" target="_blank">L'Eté où je suis devenue vieille</a>” (“The Summer When I Became Old”), is forthcoming from L’iconoclaste later this month. The memoir takes on the rarely-discussed subject of aging for women, and De Courtivron tells her tale with “rare sincerity tinged with humor.” The book has been called “brilliant” and “provocative.” Professor Emma Teng, director of Global Languages, caught up recently with de Courtivron to discuss.</em></p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> What inspired you to write this book?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> I took early retirement from MIT 10 years ago, and decided to go live in Paris in order to fully enjoy its numerous cultural events and return to a country where art and pleasure were still essential values. Also, I wanted to travel around the world to see all of the magical places that I had not had the time to visit.</p> <p>This I did for 10 years. I spent my 70th birthday with friends on Easter Island.</p> <p>Then my body and my mind began to let me know that I was on the cusp of getting old. This was a total shock, in part because I had never really thought about it before, and because it threatened a life dedicated to independence, freedom from social restraints, nonconformity, and being unafraid to take risks. When this happened, I began the hard work of thinking differently about my past, and about significant topics such as family, friendship, love, literature, career, feminism, technology. I also tried to express my difficulties in facing a world that had changed so drastically since I was young. A world in which I now felt increasingly invisible and inaudible — especially as a woman.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> You have written extensively on the differences between feminism in the United States and in France. Are there any gendered differences in these two countries when it comes to the experience of aging?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> It is risky to generalize, but clearly the concepts of “femininity” and “masculinity” are quite different in every country, and each has been determined by centuries of culture and history. In an article I wrote in 2000 about the middle years in women’s memoirs, where I tried to make a comparison based on my readings, I concluded that “French women tend to wax poetic, fatalistic and serene; Anglo-Saxon women tend to wax angry, energetic and political.” I now think this has in some ways remained the same, at least for my generation, but is also changing for young women today. After years of rejecting feminism as a threatening American import leading to the dangerous separatism of the sexes, I have been happily surprised by the new fourth wave of feminism occurring in France during the past five years or so. Young women are now vigorously and increasingly affirming and broadening the values, demands, and vision that my friends and I espoused when we were their age, and that clearly receded in the ’80s and ’90s. So, while the two cultures today still could not be more dissimilar, I think that this will be less the case in the future, at least as far as feminist consciousness.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> You have always loved teaching, and students have kept you young at heart. What inspiration have you drawn from students?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Despite some of the bumpy rides I experienced over my teaching career, I am grateful to the Institute for the freedom I was granted to move from teaching French literature, to teaching women’s studies, to moving into translingual and transcultural studies during my 30 years at MIT. I was never bored, and the challenge of getting MIT students to talk, read, debate, and write outside of their comfort zone was always rewarding. The last third of my teaching life made me acutely aware of the diversity of young people on campus and of the difficulties they confront in being immigrants or hybrid in any way. Soon, there were no more awkward silences in classes, as students from all over the world read, discussed, and wrote about the vexing issues of language and relationships to previous generations, and about the painful questioning of identity. This was immensely rewarding because these revelations often led them to new directions and a new understanding of self and others. This, I believe, was always my mission in teaching in the humanities, where questions are often more fruitful than answers and thus central to any undergraduate education.</p> Isabelle de Courtivron's latest work takes on the controversial subject of aging for women, with its particular implications in French culture. Photo: Ed AlcockGlobal Studies and Languages, 3 Questions, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty, Aging, Women, France, History, Humanities, Books and authors 3 Questions: Professor Kenda Mutongi on Africa, women, power — and human decency http://news.mit.edu/2020/3-questions-kenda-mutongi-africa-women-power-human-decency-0114 Mutongi discusses the connection between Kenyan widows and the #MeToo movement, myths of African entrepreneurship, and the wider implications of her research. Tue, 14 Jan 2020 16:50:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2020/3-questions-kenda-mutongi-africa-women-power-human-decency-0114 <p><em>MIT Professor Kenda Mutongi teaches courses in African history, world history, and gender history, and serves on the MIT Africa Working Group. She is the author of two award-winning books:&nbsp;</em>“<em>Matatu: A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi</em>”<em>&nbsp;(University of Chicago Press, 2017) and&nbsp;“Worries of the Heart: Widows, Family, and Community in Kenya</em>”<em>&nbsp;(University of Chicago Press, 2007). The latter book explores how widows, a marginalized group in Kenya, weathered the country’s transition to a post-colonial society and found novel ways to address their collective social, economic, and political problems. </em></p> <p><em>Mutongi, born and raised in rural Kenya,&nbsp;recently spoke with SHASS Communications on the interplay of African history and current gender issues within the United States; the importance of multidisciplinary thinking in solving the world's concerns; and the wider implications of her research.</em></p> <p><strong>Q</strong>: In “Worries of the Heart” you examine how Kenyan widows have navigated the country’s changing power structure. What lessons can be drawn from this history, two years into the #MeToo movement?<br /> <br /> <strong>A:</strong> In that book, I argue that the patriarchal structure of society in rural western Kenya established the expectation that women would be dependent on men. Widows were generally considered weak and helpless, and yet they found ways to get their needs met.<br /> <br /> To ensure that men supported them, widows presented their grievances to the men in public so that they could be witnessed by the whole community. By airing their grievances publicly, widows were able to put the men in a vulnerable position. Men who refused to help widows were emasculated in the eyes of others, because strong, respectable men were expected to take good care of women — especially widows.<br /> <br /> In essence, the widows turned the very gender norms that were designed to oppress them to their own advantage. While the Kenyan widows did not overturn the patriarchal structure, they managed to refashion it to their advantage and garner the resources they needed to raise their children.<br /> <br /> Today, I see something similar taking place in the #MeToo movement, which&nbsp;encourages women who have survived sexual assault and harassment to go public and expose those who have assaulted them. The assumption is that this&nbsp;going public&nbsp;will empower the women, but also send a strong message to the men about the serious consequences of their behavior. By going public, the #MeToo women are doing exactly what widows in Kenya did: They are — at least partly — trying to modify men’s behavior by shaming them, and in the process they are empowering themselves.<br /> <br /> Reflecting on this history is important because it underscores a central truth of power dynamics: There are many ways in which populations that are not in power can make gains, even when existing societal structures are heavily stacked against them.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong>Q:</strong> Your latest book, “Matatu: A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi,” provides a window into African entrepreneurship that serves as a counterpoint to the idea that African businesses need help from outsiders. What other myths do you think most need to be dispelled about Africa’s countries, cultures, and peoples?<br /> <br /> <strong>A:</strong> One myth is that Africans are not capable of mechanical or scientific innovation. Africans are just as innovative as anybody; they just lack the capital to turn their discoveries into something bigger.<br /> <br /> This is similar to the idea that Africans lack the entrepreneurial spirit, which can be debunked by examples such as that of Nairobi’s matatu industry. Matatus are minibuses used as shared private taxis. The success of the matatu drivers reflects wholly African entrepreneurship: The industry is thriving without any governmental or outside development assistance.<br /> <br /> Unfortunately, Africans are often underestimated. In terms of scientific innovation, I think of my aunt, who was an herbalist when I was growing up in rural western Kenya. She searched the fields and found many herbs that could cure family members of stomach aches, flu, skin rashes, coughs, and colds. Rich drug companies such as Pfizer and Unilever use some of these same herbs — yellow dye root, rosy periwinkle, and Asiatic pennywort — in their pharmaceuticals.</p> <p>My aunt certainly knew the medical significance of the herbs. What Africans like my aunt too often lack are the resources to turn their specialized knowledge into what is accepted as science in the global context. This is an important topic and one that has thoroughly been addressed in the work of my colleagues [MIT Associate Professor] Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga and [MIT Program in Science, Technology and Science graduate student] Jia-Hui Lee.<br /> <br /> We need to start taking all forms of African knowledge seriously, because until we do, we will continue to lose out on the contributions of a large swath of humanity.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> MIT President L. Rafael Reif has said that solving the great challenges of our time will require multidisciplinary problem-solving and “bilingual thinkers” — approaches that bring together insights and expertise from the sci/tech and humanistic fields. Can you share some ways you think knowledge from your field is important to such global problem-solving?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Lately I have been trying to think of African history from the perspective of goodness and basic human decency. Many of us in the humanistic disciplines have become so dedicated to examining conflict that we have reached a point where every action — arguably, even positive action — is treated as if it simply magnifies the webs of power in which we live.</p> <p>And yet, I suspect that we cannot expect to change our societies for the better when no good deed is left uncriticized. Of course, conflicts exist, and do a great deal of damage in our lives, and we must confront them — but we must also allow ourselves to appreciate basic goodness and kindness when we see it.</p> <p>In my own work I plan to examine more how people are working together and helping each other build stronger communities rather than focusing only on corruption and civil wars. Goodness is just as complex as evil, and yet, we tend to privilege analyses of evil. As the late Toni Morrison has noted, “Evil has a blockbuster audience; Goodness lurks backstage. Evil has vivid speech; Goodness bites its tongue.”</p> <h5><br /> <em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial team: Emily Hiestand and Kathryn O’Neill</em></h5> "Lately I have been trying to think of African history from the perspective of goodness and basic human decency," says Kenda Mutongi, an MIT professor of history. "Of course, conflicts exist, and do a great deal of damage in our lives, and we must confront them — but we must also allow ourselves to appreciate basic goodness and kindness when we see it."Photo: Jon Sachs/MIT SHASS Communications Africa, Faculty, Gender, History, Law, Social justice, Women, Women's and Gender Studies, 3 Questions, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences How to stage a revolution http://news.mit.edu/2020/how-to-stage-revolution-mit-history-class-0107 MIT History class explores the roots and complexities of revolutions across the globe. Tue, 07 Jan 2020 14:30:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2020/how-to-stage-revolution-mit-history-class-0107 <p>Revolutions are monumental social upheavals that can remake whole nations, dismantling — often violently — old paradigms. But the stories of the epic struggles that leave their mark on the world’s history are frequently fragile, precarious, and idiosyncratic in their details, leaving some key questions only partially understood: Why and how do peoples overthrow their governments? Why do some revolutions succeed and others fail?</p> <p>These are not simple questions, and, for 12 years, MIT students and faculty have set out to answer them in a survey course that spans centuries and continents. &nbsp;<br /> <br /> Course 21H.001 (How to Stage a Revolution, or Revolutions for short) is an MIT history class that examines the roots, drivers, and complexities of how governments fall. Co-taught this past fall by three historians — History Section head Professor Jeffrey Ravel, Associate Professor Tanalís Padilla, and Lecturer Pouya Alimagham — the semester is divided into three parts, with each instructor covering, respectively, the French Revolution, the Mexican Revolution, and the Iranian Revolution.<br /> <br /> During a mixture of lectures and breakout discussion sessions, students explore the causes, tactics, goals, and significant factors of each revolution, drawing insights from music, film, art, constitutions, declarations, and the writings of revolutionaries themselves.<br /> <br /> <strong>A wide-angle approach</strong><br /> <br /> The topics covered this year span centuries, from the near-mythic French Revolution (1789–99) to the Mexican Revolution (1910-20) to events that have emerged in the students’ own lifetimes, such as the Arab Spring (2010-12). Alimagham brought the semester to a close with a focus on the Iranian Revolution; having students begin their exploration with the roots of American intervention in Iran the latter half of the 20th century, and tracking developments through to today’s western media narrative of the Sunni/Shia conflict.<br /> <br /> “Revolutions are a surprisingly good way to learn about a culture,” says Quinn Bowers, a first-year student who took the opportunity to deepen his understanding of history as a parallel to his intended double major in mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering. “Revolutions&nbsp;draw&nbsp;attention to the values the culture holds. This class did a lot to dispel assumptions I didn’t even know I had.”<br /> <br /> For another first-year student, Somaia Saba, the offering leapt out at her as she browsed the course catalog to plan her first semester at MIT. With an intended major in computation and cognition (Course 6.9), she was drawn to the class by a fascination with major political transformations, “especially because of the tense political climate in which we are currently living.”<br /> <br /> The freedom and exploration in essay-writing was a transformative experience for Saba; essay prompts and writing assignments had never been her favorite aspect of the classroom. But, snagged by a brief mention in class about women’s roles during the Mexican Revolution, she found herself writing extensively on the subject, drawing on her personal attentiveness to women’s issues and roles in history.<br /> <br /> “I did not realize the extent to which these issues mattered to me until [seeing the professor’s] comments on my essay.” She also notes that the class has given her ways of thinking and analyzing that allow her to be more engaged with current political events.</p> <p><strong>Ever-evolving </strong><br /> <br /> How to Stage a Revolution is also a chameleon course in that its subject matter fluxes from year to year depending on the expertise of the faculty instructors — a plan that allows a venerable course to cover any number of revolutionary histories. Two years ago, for instance, when Alimagham first taught the course, working alongside MIT historians Caley Horan and Malick Ghachem, the class consisted of modules on the Haitian Revolution, the American Civil War (as America’s second revolution), and the Iranian Revolution.<br /> <br /> Not only is the course constantly transforming, Alimagham notes, but its three co-instructors are always adapting as well. “When you’re involved in a team-taught course that includes material in which you are not the primary expert, you evolve as an instructor. It keeps you on your toes.”<br /> <br /> Ravel agrees: “One benefit of co-teaching is that we learn from each other. It’s a great conversation among the three of us.”<br /> <br /> Ravel currently serves as the head of the MIT History Section, as president of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and as a co-director for the Comédie-Française Registers Project, which is producing a collaborative, extensive history of one of France’s iconic theater groups. “Co-teaching reminds me of what it’s like to be a student again,” reflects Padilla. “It makes me more sensitive to how students are taking in information that, for me, is now second nature.”<br /> <br /> Padilla is a historian of Latin America and a contributor to numerous publications and volumes surrounding the Mexican Revolution. Her current book project centers on how rural schoolteachers “went from being agents of state consolidation to activists against a government that increasingly abandoned its commitment to social justice.”<br /> <br /> <strong>The technological contexts of revolutions</strong><br /> <br /> Like a number of other humanistic courses at MIT, How to Stage a Revolution is also a hands-on “maker class.” In addition to classroom lectures and discussion sessions, students produce posters on MIT’s Beaver Press, a student-built replica of the wooden, handset printing presses on which the great documents of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution were printed.<br /> <br /> Carving linoleum printing plates and inking them by hand, students use their academic understanding of various revolutions to design and produce colorful pro- and counter-revolutionary posters. In one print, the evocative image of a Mexican worker raises the Olympic rings between his hands like chains. In another, the guillotine stands ready with its victims nearby, indicating a mounting death toll, each head labeled respectively with Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité.<br /> <br /> Historic revolutionary narratives have a particular urgency in an MIT classroom: From the dissemination of revolutionary messages via an 18th century printing press to changing fuel technologies to the global social media that shaped the Arab Spring, the technological contexts of revolutions are intrinsic to understanding them.<br /> <br /> “Whatever we end up doing in our post-MIT lives and careers will be in the context of complex, real-world problems,” says Bowers. “This class sheds light on some of the world’s most volatile problems.”</p> <h5><em>Story by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial and design director: Emily Hiestand<br /> Writer/reporter: Alison Lanier</em></h5> Like a number of other humanistic courses at MIT, How to Stage a Revolution is also a hands-on "maker class." In addition to lectures and discussion sessions, students produce posters on MIT’s Beaver Press, a student-built replica of the wooden, handset printing presses on which the great documents of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution were printed.Photo: Jon Sachs/SHASS Communications History, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Technology and society, Classes and programs, Faculty Exploring hip hop history with art and technology http://news.mit.edu/2019/exploring-hip-hop-history-art-and-technology-museum-1220 With its centerpiece exhibit for the forthcoming Universal Hip Hop Museum, an MIT team uses artificial intelligence to explore the rich history of hip hop music. Fri, 20 Dec 2019 09:00:00 -0500 Suzanne Day | Office of Open Learning http://news.mit.edu/2019/exploring-hip-hop-history-art-and-technology-museum-1220 <p>A new museum is coming to New York City in 2023, the year of hip-hop’s 50th birthday, and an MIT team has helped to pave the way for the city to celebrate the legacy of this important musical genre — by designing unique creative experiences at the intersection of art, learning, and contemporary technology.</p> <p>With “The [R]evolution of Hip Hop Breakbeat Narratives,” a team led by D. Fox Harrell, professor of digital media and artificial intelligence and director of the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality, has created an art installation that takes museum-goers on an interactive, personalized journey through hip hop history.</p> <p>The installation served as the centerpiece of an event held this month by leaders of the highly anticipated Universal Hip Hop Museum (UHHM), which will officially open in just a few years in the Bronx — the future home of the UHHM, and where many agree that the genre of hip hop music originated.</p> <p>“Hip hop is much more than a musical genre. It is a global phenomenon, with a rich history and massive social and cultural impact, with local roots in the Bronx,” Harrell says. “As an educational center, the Universal Hip Hop Museum will have the power to connect people to the surrounding community.”</p> <p>Harrell’s immersive art installation takes museum-goers on a journey through hip hop culture and history, from the 1970s to the present. However, not everyone experiences the installation in the same way. Using a computational model of users’ preferences and artificial intelligence technologies to drive interaction, the team of artists and computer scientists from the Center for Advanced Virtuality has created layered, personalized virtual experiences.</p> <p>When approaching the exhibit, museum-goers are greeted by “The Elementals,” or novel characters named after the five elements of hip hop (MC, DJ, Breakdance, Graffiti Art, and Knowledge) that guide users and ask key questions — “What is your favorite hip hop song?” or “Which from this pair of lyrics do you like the most?” Based on those answers, the Elementals take users through their own personalized narrative of hip hop history.</p> <p>Harrell developed the Elementals with professors John Jennings of the University of California at Riverside and Stacey Robinson of the University of Illinois — artists collectively known as Black Kirby. This visual aesthetic ties the work into the rich, imaginative cultures and iconography of the African diaspora.</p> <p>Through these conversations with the Elementals they encounter, people can explore broad social issues surrounding hip hop, such as gender, fashion, and location. At the end of their journey, they can take home a personalized playlist of songs.&nbsp;</p> <p>“We designed the Breakbeat Narratives installation by integrating Microsoft conversational AI technologies, which made our user modeling more personable, with a music visualization platform from the TunesMap Educational Foundation,” Harrell says.</p> <p>The exploration of social issues is about as close to the heart of Harrell’s mission in the Center for Advanced Virtuality as one can get. In the center, Harrell designs virtual technologies to stimulate creative expression, cultural analysis, and positive social change.</p> <p>“We wanted to tell stories that pushed beyond stereotypical representations, digging into the complexities of both empowering and problematic representations that often coexist,” he says. “This work fits into our endeavor called the Narrative, Orality, and Improvisation Research (NOIR) Initiative that uses AI technologies to forward the art forms of diverse global cultures.”</p> <p>Through this art project enabled by contemporary technologies, Harrell hopes that he has helped museum leadership to achieve their goal of celebrating hip-hop’s heritage and legacy.</p> <p>“Now, people internationally can have a stake in this great art.”</p> Designed by an MIT team using artificial intelligence, “The [R]evolution of Hip Hop Breakbeat Narratives” is an immersive art installation designed for the forthcoming Universal Hip Hop Museum in New York City.Photo: MIT Center for Advanced VirtualityOffice of Open Learning, Machine learning, Artificial intelligence, History, Arts, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Technology and society, Music, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, School of Engineering MIT Press authors earn coveted “best of” book honors in 2019 http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-press-authors-earn-best-of-honors-1218 The book publisher continues to produce intellectually daring, scholarly work. Wed, 18 Dec 2019 15:30:01 -0500 MIT Press http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-press-authors-earn-best-of-honors-1218 <p>The MIT Press recently announced that six MIT Press authors were awarded “best of” recognition in 2019. From Bill Gates’ recommendation of “Growth,” by one of his “favorite authors,” to “2016 in Museums, Money, and Politics,” which was selected as the <em>ARTnews</em> No. 1 pick for “Best Art Books of the Decade,” the authors of the MIT Press continue to produce intellectually daring, scholarly work.</p> <p>“We are thrilled to have this recognition given to our forward-thinking authors,” says Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press. “Their work and expertise continue to drive our mission and foster the exchange of ideas, reinforcing the importance of intellectual conversations across the arts and sciences&nbsp;that advance our world.”</p> <p>Awards were given to the following books:</p> <p>“Gyorgy Kepes: Undreaming the Bauhaus,” by John R. Blakinger, was selected by <em>The New York Times</em> as a top art book of 2019 by critic Martha Schwendener.</p> <p>“An overdue treatment of the Hungarian-born artist and designer Gyorgy Kepes explores his career,” wrote Schwendener. “Technology and war are often common threads in Kepes’s work. Innovating forms of camouflage during World War II, his designs coincided with clashes around M.I.T.’s connections with the military during the Vietnam War. Mr. Blakinger argues that Kepes represents a new form of modern artist fluent in and influenced by technology: ‘the artist as technocrat.’”</p> <p>“2016 in Museums, Money, and Politics<strong><em>,</em></strong>”<strong><em> </em></strong>by Andrea Fraser, was the No. 1 pick on the “The Best Art Books of the Decade” by Alex Greenberger, senior editor for <em>ARTnews.</em></p> <p>“Where would we be without Andrea Fraser’s “2016 in Museums, Money, and Politics?” asked Greenberger. “This book has become a touchstone at a time when activists are calling out board members for their political leanings … seeing it all collected neatly in one tome is powerful — as a cool-headed study, an intelligent research-based artwork, and a clarion call for change all in one.”</p> <p>“Mass Effect: Art and the Internet in the Twenty-First Century,” edited by Lauren Cornell and Ed Halter, was No. 4 on Greenberger’s “Best Art Books of the Decade.”</p> <p>He wrote, “The closest thing to a movement that emerged this decade was a new kind of digital art — one that was termed ‘post-internet’ by some for the way it moved the slick aesthetics of the web into the world at large. Mass Effect has become the go-to critical companion to this style and work made by the artists whose pioneering pieces inspired it.”</p> <p>“Growth,” by Vaclav Smil, was recommended by Bill Gates on <em>Gates Notes
.</em></p> <p>“When I first heard that one of my favorite authors was working on a new book about growth, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it,” said Gates. “(Two years ago, I wrote that I wait for new Smil books the way some people wait for the next Star Wars movie. I stand by that statement.) His latest doesn’t disappoint. As always, I don’t agree with everything Smil says, but he remains one of the best thinkers out there at documenting the past and seeing the big picture.”</p> <p>“Fables and Futures,” by George Estreich, was featured on <em>NPR Science Friday</em> as among “The Best Science Books of 2019.”</p> <p>“As new prenatal screening tools enter the market and we begin to seriously grapple with the idea of human genome editing, we would do well to think deeply about the consequences of such technologies on the rights and welfare of individuals we consider disabled,” wrote Valerie Thompson, editor for <em>Science Friday.</em> “I recommend 'Fables and Futures' to anyone who wants to seriously engage in the human genome editing debate at the society and species levels.”</p> <p>“Find Your Path: Unconventional Lessons from 36 Leading Scientists and Engineers,” by Daniel Goodman, was featured as a “Selected New Book on Higher Education” by <em>The Chronicle of Higher Education.</em></p> Six MIT Press authors were awarded “best of” recognition in 2019.Image courtesy of The MIT Press.Awards, honors and fellowships, Books and authors, MIT Press, Science communication, Arts, Economics, Politics, History, Science writing 3 Questions: Shola Lawal on human rights and social justice http://news.mit.edu/2019/3qs-shola-lawal-human-rights-social-justice-1217 The Nigerian journalist is the recipient of a prestigious fellowship that provides residencies at MIT, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times. Tue, 17 Dec 2019 14:55:01 -0500 Michelle English | Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2019/3qs-shola-lawal-human-rights-social-justice-1217 <p><em>It’s been a banner year for Nigerian journalist Shola Lawal. The young reporter, who focuses on human rights and social justice issues, was selected as the 2019&nbsp;<a href="https://www.iwmf.org/2019/06/2019-neuffer-fellow-shola-lawal/">International Women’s Media Foundation’s Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow</a>. The fellowship brought her to MIT this fall as a research associate at the Center for International Studies and provides further journalistic training at </em>The&nbsp;Boston Globe<em>&nbsp;and </em>The&nbsp;New York Times. <em>Last month, she got news from back home that she received&nbsp;<a href="https://awards.thefutureafrica.com/burna-boy-israel-adesanya-timini-egbuson-simi-drey-adejumo-tolani-alli-others-emerge-winners-at-the-future-awards-africa-2019/">The Future Awards Africa Prize for Journalism</a>&nbsp;for making significant contributions toward that continent’s future. Finally, she is set to release her first long-form documentary. The film, “<a href="http://calendar.mit.edu/event/StarrForum_WherePowersLive#.Xe-puy2ZMQ8">Where Powers Live</a>,” chronicles the lives of marginalized indigenous religious worshippers in Nigeria and will be screened on campus next month.</em></p> <p><em>Lawal began her career as a freelance correspondent upon graduating from the University of Lagos. She has covered such topics as women’s rights movements in Nigeria, migrants in Libya, forest reserves in Ghana, and political upheaval in Togo. During this fellowship, she is focusing on&nbsp;issues of injustice&nbsp;that sit at the intersection of certain U.S. policies.</em></p> <p><em>She sat down to discuss what it is like to work as a journalist in Nigeria, her reportage last spring on Boko Haram, and her recent trip to Mexico to investigate the migrant crisis.</em></p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>The Nigerian government is notorious for putting limits on press freedom, including detaining journalists and activists. How does this impact your work?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Compared to dictatorships on the continent, Nigeria has been fairly navigable for me as a journalist. There have always been stumbling blocks with institutional corruption, secrecy, and insecurity, but journalists have been able to pull through. This is not to say journalists are not killed or targeted. We’ve always been. However, it has been a particularly hard time for us under President Muhammadu Buhari. He was a former military dictator who got recently re-elected. Fears that dictatorial tendencies would emerge even as a democratically elected official are being realized now. This year alone, there have been raids on newsrooms by the military and persistent persecution of journalists. Critics of the government have disappeared without a trace and, as we speak, a media entrepreneur is in detention indefinitely for protesting against the government.</p> <p>Worse, parliament is pushing a social media bill that will criminalize insulting government officials with a jail term. The presidency seemed ready to sign off on it, with First Lady Aisha Buhari publicly citing China as an example of a country that "successfully controls" social media. Public outrage forced parliament to drop it temporarily, but it is still disheartening to know that this is being seriously discussed in the first place. Policies like these negatively impact on journalists and citizens in an age where digital and social media have become crucial tools for bearing witness and exposing injustice.</p> <p>There is a grand strategy of fear at play here, and to be frank, it is, for the most part, effective. It’s hard not to self-censor when you know you can be kidnapped or detained and that you’ll only become another statistic. It’s hard not to be scared when you see educated parliamentarians pushing such a regressive policy. I’m scared of what this means for myself and my colleagues, truly. But I’m undaunted. I continue to work even with that stomach-churning fear, and so do my colleagues. That gives me hope.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>The founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, died in police detention 10 years ago this past October. His death led to the radicalization of the sect and it becoming a jihadist terrorist organiziation. You reported from the heart of the crisis just last spring. Is there any end in sight?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>The end is not nearly in sight, I’m afraid. While things have been quiet on the international front regarding Boko Haram coverage, the reality on the ground is that the group continues to control pockets of territory in northeast Nigeria. A different faction, backed by ISIS, has emerged and calls itself the Islamic State’s West Africa Province, ISWAP. Although ISIS was defeated in Syria and Iraq, it seems to have settled in Africa. The group supports networks of militia groups now operating in West Africa.&nbsp;</p> <p>Across the region, we’ve seen an uptick in insurgency movements. They have similar strategies of guerrilla attacks and suicide bombings, and they kidnap people for funds. These groups operate in the West African Sahel region, a zone that is vulnerable to climatic changes, causing even more pressure on communities there. Several countries, including Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali, have been especially affected.&nbsp;</p> <p>In Nigeria, Boko Haram’s influence has shrunk, but we will reckon with the consequences of the group’s terror for generations. Millions are displaced, languishing in camps where resources are inadequate. Many are missing. In Borno, where the insurgency started, I spoke to mothers who have not seen their sons in 10 years. The military has rounded up hundreds of young men that are suspected of terrorism without trial. Their families don’t know if they are alive or dead. Trust has been destroyed: trust in government, but even trust within communities. For a society that is big on social connections, that says a lot. For example, teenagers rescued from Boko Haram enclaves are finding it difficult to re-integrate in their communities because community members see them as insurgents, too. I know we will heal as a nation, but it will take a long time.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>You recently wrote an&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2019/10/22/trump-asylum-policy-death-sentence-for-africans-fleeing-violence/3z0tM2LjFZqvWmHsIW3TxN/story.html">opinion piece</a>&nbsp;for <em>The Boston Globe</em> on the Trump administration’s asylum ban. You described it as targeting Central American migration and that it will have a devastating impact on people who are fleeing conflict in African countries. You recently returned from a reporting trip to Mexico’s southern border. What did you learn?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>It’s very easy to focus on the U.S.-Mexico border with the administration’s emphasis on ‘the wall’, but a lot is happening on Mexico’s southern border. I was surprised to see not just Africans, but also Asians and migrants from the Caribbean in their thousands. They are all trapped by U.S. restrictions in Tapachula, a border city with Guatemala. Mexico is cracking down on transiting migrants, containing them in its poorest region to avoid trade sanctions from the U.S. There’s no aid provided to these people, so many are living in tents. Locals are nervous about the burden of housing all these people on already-inadequate infrastructure. I think it’s only a matter of time before they lash out.</p> <p>For context, thousands of Africans have traveled from countries like Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, both countries in conflict. They fly to South America and walk or bus north to get to the U.S.-Mexico border. People from Haiti have done the same. It’s a difficult journey. They must pass through the Darien Gap, a jungle between Columbia and Panama where wild animals, flash floods, and armed men have taken souls that we cannot account for.</p> <p>Now, they are caught between a wall and a hard place. Living conditions in shelters are miserly. People are sleeping in tents on the streets and surviving on donations. Women are presenting with reproductive diseases and children with skin infections. I saw a woman cradle a 5-day-old baby who had not received proper medical attention. She looked so desolate, so helpless. It’s an emergency, to put it plainly. And we must all work, in any capacity we can, to call attention to it so that these policies are reversed and these people can be free.</p> “There is a grand strategy of fear at play here, and to be frank, it is, for the most part, effective,” says Nigerian journalist Shola Lawal. “It’s hard not to self-censor when you know you can be kidnapped or detained and that you’ll only become another statistic.” Photo: Laura Kerwin/Center for International StudiesCenter for International Studies, Social justice, Africa, Mexico, Political science, 3 Questions, History, Government, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Journalism, Latin America Bringing figures in anticolonial politics out of the shadows http://news.mit.edu/2019/sana-aiyar-history-politics-1210 MIT historian Sana Aiyar sheds new light on the complexities of independence movements and global migration. Tue, 10 Dec 2019 00:00:00 -0500 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/sana-aiyar-history-politics-1210 <p>Independence movements are complicated. Consider Burma (now Myanmar), which was governed as a province of British India until 1937, when it was separated from India. Burma then attained self-rule in 1948. Amid some straightforward demands for autonomy from India, one Burmese nationalist, a Buddhist monk named U Ottama, had a different vision: He wanted his country to break free of Britain but remain part of India, until Burma could become independent.</p> <p>Why would a Burmese Buddhist want independence from one country, only to seek a union with a much bigger — and majority Hindu — neighbor to achieve this?</p> <p>“At the heart of Ottama’s politics lay a spiritual and civilizational geography that framed his argument for Burma’s unity with India,” says MIT historian Sana Aiyar, who is working on a book about Burma and India at the time of the independence movement. “As Burmese nationalists increasingly defined their nationhood in religious terms to demand the separation of Burma from India, U Ottama insisted that since India was the birthplace of Buddhism, Burma was inextricably linked with India.”</p> <p>That this vision found an audience hints at the extensive connections between Burma and India. From 1830 through 1930, an estimated 13 million Indians passed through Burma — the majority of whom were migrant or seasonal laborers — making the city of Rangoon a cosmopolitan capital. Many stayed and married Burmese women — which helped spark an anti-immigrant, anti-Indian backlash that became one driver of Burma’s independence movement.</p> <p>The complexity of the political fault lines of Burmese self-rule makes the topic a natural for Aiyar. A historian of the Indian diaspora, she generally examines how migration, nationalism, and religion have fed into 20th-century anticolonial politics.</p> <p>Aiyar’s work has another distinctive motif. She specializes in illuminating figures like U Ottama, who were once influential but are little-known now.</p> <p>“The core interest that I have is in political history,” says Aiyar, who was awarded tenure earlier this year. “But I’m interested less in the big event, the obvious narrative, and the big leaders. What has always fascinated me are the alternatives, the possibilities that did not get a chance to see complete fruition — the person who didn’t become ‘Gandhi,’ didn’t quite get the same following, but seems to have really mattered in the moment.”</p> <p>In Aiyar’s 2015 book “Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora,” for instance, a key figure is Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee, a trader who, in another complex scenario, became a leader for Indian rights in British-occupied Kenya, even as many Indians never became fully aligned with the British or other Kenyans. But even people strolling through Jeevanjee Gardens, a park in central Nairobi, are unlikely to know much about its namesake.&nbsp;</p> <p>“In all of my research, I’ve been following those kinds of elusive figures whose long, shadowy presence emerges in fragments in colonial and national archives,” Aiyar says. “They allow me to ask questions about the dilemmas and dynamics of the moment.”</p> <p><strong>Old and new in Delhi</strong></p> <p>Aiyar grew up in Delhi, in an intellectually minded family; her mother was a journalist, and her father a diplomat and politician.</p> <p>“Even around the dining table, history and politics were always there. It was just part of growing up,” Aiyar says.</p> <p>History and politics were always there in Delhi, too.</p> <p>“Growing up in a city like Delhi … you’re surrounded by history,” Aiyar notes. “It’s almost impossible to look out of the window when you’re driving anywhere in Delhi without seeing historical sites and the outcomes of historical processes in people’s everyday lives.”</p> <p>Aiyar received a BA in history at St. Stephen’s College of Delhi University and then a BA and MA in history at Jesus College in Cambridge, U.K. Aiyar’s stay in England was also the first time she had observed Indians abroad, which made a significant impression on her: “I noticed the way the diaspora made itself visible in Britain, especially in a multicultural state, was not by presenting itself as secular, but through religion,” she says.</p> <p>At that time, politics within India had also taken a turn away from the secularism of the post-independence era, opening up, Aiyar says, “the question of what defined Indian nationhood, who is Indian.”</p> <p>Aiyar attended Harvard University for her PhD in history, originally planning a dissertation about the rise of Hindu nationalism among the Indian diaspora in Britain. She started her research examining the first group in Britain to assert their right to belonging through religion — Indians who had arrived in the U.K. from East Africa in the 1960s. Aiyar became fascinated by the migration of Indians to Kenya in the 19th and 20th centuries, a little-known history at the time, and the relationship they had to both sides of anticolonial politics. Visiting Kenyan archives made clear there was abundant material on hand involving Jeevanjee and many other figures.</p> <p>“Methodologically it always comes back to the archives, where I find a person or an event that calls into question what we think we know about the past,” Aiyar says. “I wonder what is this person doing there, and then I start digging up all the files I can find. I am really an archive rat and the thing about dealing with South Asian history in the colonial period is, there’s just files and files and files of documents — the Brits really liked their paperwork! If one likes the joy of discovery in the archives, there’s so much to piece together.”</p> <p>After completing her dissertation, Aiyar took a postdoc position at Johns Hopkins University, then served on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin at Madison for three years. She joined MIT in 2013.</p> <p><strong>Partition project</strong></p> <p>At MIT, Aiyar appreciates her students — “They are curious, they are open-minded, and a lot of fun to teach” — and enjoys being part of a history faculty with global scope.</p> <p>“One of the things I absolutely love about being here is how international our world history section is,” she says. “For a small department, we really pack a punch. We have every region of the world represented with top-rate scholars.”</p> <p>While teaching, Aiyar is pursuing two long-term research efforts. One project is about the encounters between African soldiers and civilians during World War II, &nbsp;in Burma and India. The other, about Burmese independence and titled “India’s First Partition: Recovering Burma’s South Asian History,” is her second book project.</p> <p>The title is an indirect reference to the division of Pakistan from India in 1947, which almost exclusively holds claim to the world “partition” in South Asian history. But Aiyar’s contention is that this term applies to the separation of Burma from India in 1937. &nbsp;</p> <p>“It is a partition,” Aiyar says. “It’s the very first time a carceral border is created in South Asia, and immigration laws are introduced that literally prevent the millions who moved in and out of Burma from crossing over without paperwork. The border creates a surveillance state. All of this takes place a full decade before Pakistan is created. … I am arguing that 1937 was the first partition of India.”</p> <p>In writing the book, Aiyar is also digging into literature, diaries, and other documents to reconstruct daily life in Burma and show the many interconnections among people of Burmese and Indian heritage.</p> <p>“The history of the mundane, the everyday, I think will really complement the political history of conflict and tension,” Aiyar says. “I’ve always been interested in how people live together with difference.”</p> <p>Or not live together, as the case may be. In South Asia or elsewhere, then and now, as Aiyar recognizes, separatist identity politics can also be a powerful animating force for individuals and political factions.</p> <p>“We can look to history to understand what these questions are about and why people are that invested,” Aiyar says. “I’ve always found history is a really useful way to understand what is going on in the contemporary world.”</p> Sana AiyarImage: M. Scott BrauerSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, History, India, Faculty, Profile, Books and authors Uncovering the role of technology and medicine in deaf and signing worlds http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-timothy-loh-technology-medicine-deaf-signing-worlds-1205 Timothy Loh, a HASTS program doctoral student studying deafness, sign language, and technology, is a sociocultural and medical anthropologist-in-training. Thu, 05 Dec 2019 15:00:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-timothy-loh-technology-medicine-deaf-signing-worlds-1205 <p>If the joy and excitement of following your own path could be personified, it would look like Timothy Loh. A love of languages led him nearly around the world to study, and then to MIT, where he is a sociocultural and medical anthropologist-in-training.<br /> <br /> Now in his second year in the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences doctoral program in History/Anthropology/Science, Technology and Society — HASTS for short — Loh marvels at what he has already learned and at the “happy confluence” that led him to MIT.<br /> <br /> Growing up in Singapore, Loh was already fascinated with languages. In school there, he studied French and started learning sign language. Add his native languages — English and Mandarin Chinese — and Loh was a polyglot before he arrived at Georgetown University in 2012. There, he studied in the School of Foreign Service where, to satisfy a language requirement, he opted for Arabic, a language he had never before encountered.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> “Structurally, I found it very compelling,” says Loh. “There’s a tri-consonantal root in Arabic, so every word has three letters that form the root of a word, and they can be manipulated into different ways to create new words. I was really blown away.”<br /> <br /> “But I also remember very distinctly in Arabic class when my classmates were talking about the Syrian crisis and I couldn’t understand their conversation. Not because I didn’t understand the words, but because I didn’t know anything about Syria. That marked a turning point for me. I started taking classes in the history, politics, and economics of the Middle East. I realized that you can’t really understand a language without knowing the culture and history behind it.”</p> <p><strong>Sign language, identity, and assistive technology</strong><br /> <br /> For an undergraduate research project, Loh merged these two interests — sign language and the Middle East — and received a grant to study the pedagogical structure of a school for the deaf in Jordan, picking up some Jordanian Sign Language in the process to carry out the research.<br /> <br /> “Sign languages are different in every country,” Loh explains, “because they emerge naturally within communities. They develop individually and become different languages, just as spoken languages do. American Sign Language and British Sign Language, for example, are different sign languages even though these signers are all surrounded by English speakers.”<br /> <br /> Soon, however, Loh began to explore assistive technology and, in particular, cochlear implants. These devices are surgically implanted and bypass the normal acoustic hearing process with electronic signals; these stimulate the auditory nerve to provide a sense of sound to the user.<br /> <br /> “Implants were controversial within the deaf community in the United States at first,” says Loh, “and still are, to some extent. There was a fear of what they would mean for the future of the deaf community. There were scholars who described cochlear implants for the deaf as a form of cultural or linguistic genocide. That sounds like an extreme description, but it really does index the depth of attachment that people have to a sense of themselves as deaf. So, I started thinking about the implications that technology has in the world of the deaf and for their ability to navigate the world.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Teaching and learning in the Middle East</strong><br /> <br /> Returning from Jordan to Georgetown, Loh completed a master’s degree in Arab Studies, considered starting a PhD in anthropology, then decided to spent two years first working in the Middle East: the first year with a refugee program for Syrian, Iraqi, and Sudanese families in urban areas in Amman; and the second at a boarding school in Madaba, teaching Chinese and Middle East history.<br /> <br /> By then, Loh knew his next step was a doctoral program in anthropology, in which he could explore deafness, sign language, and the role of technology and medicine. “MIT is the best place to be an anthropologist studying issues of science and technology,” he says. “We’re right beside colleagues who are inventing the very technologies and devices whose ethical and social implications we’re trying to understand. It’s a place where we’re able to think deeply and critically about how scientific knowledge and authority is constructed.<br /> <br /> Loh is now framing his doctoral thesis and taking advantage of features available to HASTS students, such as auditing MIT classes in technical fields and also taking Harvard classes. “It’s such a privilege to be able to draw on the intellectual resources of two universities in one city,” says Loh.<br /> <br /> “I’ve also found that as a program and a cohort of students, MIT HASTS is very collegial and welcoming,” he says. “As doctoral students, we benefit from a level of focused attention from professors across all three HASTS departments that’s really rare and generative for interdisciplinary work.”</p> <p><strong>Speaking truth to power</strong></p> <p>Reflecting on his first year at MIT, Loh says it was humbling for several reasons: realizing how much he didn’t yet know; doing research in languages in which he’s not a native speaker; and the politics of writing about the deaf community, particularly as a person who is not deaf.</p> <p>“The history of anthropology is full of foreigners, often ones with privilege and social capital, coming in and speaking for a group that, for some reason, might not be able to speak for itself. With that history in mind, we as anthropologists are constantly thinking, ‘How do we represent social life responsibly?’</p> <p>“Last summer, when I was doing fieldwork, one of my deaf friends asked me straight up, ‘How does your work benefit the deaf community in Jordan?’ That’s a fair question. I told him I am still thinking about this. It’s an important question to answer well. How do anthropologists give back to the community that we’re learning from?</p> <p>“I think for many anthropologists, we hope that our work can ‘speak truth to power,’ to resist and complicate simplistic and hegemonic narratives, like the idea that technology can provide technical solutions for political problems. I do hope that my research can eventually inform policymaking for people in the Middle East whose voices need to be heard.”<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h5><em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand<br /> Writer, Photographer: Maria Iacobo</em></h5> “MIT is the best place to be an anthropologist studying issues of science and technology," says Timothy Loh, a sophomore in the HASTS PhD program. "It’s a place where we’re able to think deeply and critically about how scientific knowledge and authority is constructed."Photo:Maria IacoboSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Anthropology, History, Technology and society, Assistive technology, Middle East, Students, Gradaute, Graduate, postdoctoral, Profile, Program in STS MIT art installation aims to empower a more discerning public http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-apollo-deepfake-art-installation-aims-to-empower-more-discerning-public-1125 With “In Event of Moon Disaster,” the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality aims to educate the public on deepfakes with an alternative history of the moon landing. Mon, 25 Nov 2019 11:30:01 -0500 Suzanne Day | MIT Open Learning http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-apollo-deepfake-art-installation-aims-to-empower-more-discerning-public-1125 <p>Videos doctored by artificial intelligence, culturally known as “deepfakes,” are being created and shared by the public at an alarming rate. Using advanced computer graphics and audio processing to realistically emulate speech and mannerisms, deepfakes have the power to distort reality, erode truth, and spread misinformation. In a troubling example, researchers around the world have sounded the alarm that they carry significant potential to influence American voters in the 2020 elections.&nbsp;</p> <p>While technology companies race to develop ways to detect and control deepfakes on social media platforms, and lawmakers search for ways to regulate them, a team of artists and computer scientists led by the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality have designed an art installation to empower and educate the public on how to discern reality from deepfakes on their own.</p> <p>“Computer-based misinformation is a global challenge,” says Fox Harrell, professor of digital media and of artificial intelligence at MIT and director of the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality. “We are galvanized to make a broad impact on the literacy of the public, and we are committed to using AI not for misinformation, but for truth. We are pleased to bring onboard people such as our new XR Creative Director Francesca Panetta to help further this mission.”</p> <p>Panetta is the director of “In Event of Moon Disaster,” along with co-director Halsey Burgund, a fellow in the MIT Open Documentary Lab. She says, “We hope that our work will spark critical awareness among the public. We want them to be alert to what is possible with today’s technology, to explore their own susceptibility, and to be ready to question what they see and hear as we enter a future fraught with challenges over the question of truth.”</p> <p>With “In Event of Moon Disaster,” which opened Friday at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, the team has reimagined the story of the moon landing. Installed in a 1960s-era living room, audiences are invited to sit on vintage furniture surrounded by three screens, including a vintage television set. The screens play an edited array of vintage footage from NASA, taking the audience on a journey from takeoff into space and to the moon. Then, on the center television, Richard Nixon reads a contingency speech written for him by his speech writer, Bill Safire, “in event of moon disaster” which he was to read if the Apollo 11 astronauts had not been able to return to Earth. In this installation, Richard Nixon reads this speech from the Oval Office.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>To recreate this moving elegy that never happened, the team used deep learning techniques and the contributions of a voice actor to build the voice of Richard Nixon, producing a synthetic speech working with the Ukranian-based company Respeecher. They also worked with Israeli company Canny AI to use video dialogue replacement techniques to study and replicate the movement of Nixon’s mouth and lips, making it look as though he is reading this very speech from the Oval Office. The resulting video is highly believable, highlighting the possibilities of deepfake technology today.</p> <p>The researchers chose to create a deepfake of this historical moment for a number of reasons: Space is a widely loved topic, so potentially engaging to a wide audience; the piece is apolitical and less likely to alienate, unlike a lot of misinformation; and, as the 1969 moon landing is an event widely accepted by the general public to have taken place, the deepfake elements will be starkly obvious.&nbsp;</p> <p>Rounding out the educational experience, “In Event of Moon Disaster” transparently provides information regarding what is possible with today’s technology, and the goal of increasing public awareness and ability to identify misinformation in the form of deepfakes. This will be in the form of newspapers written especially for the exhibit which detail the making of the installation, how to spot a deepfake, and the most current work being done in algorithmic detection. Audience participants will be encouraged to take this away.</p> <p>"Our goal was to use the most advanced artificial intelligence techniques available today to create the most believable result possible — and then point to it and say, ‘This is fake; here’s how we did it; and here’s why we did it,’” says Burgund.</p> <p>While the physical installation opens in November 2019 in Amsterdam, the team is building a web-based version that is expected to go live in spring 2020.</p> "In Event of Moon Disaster" reimagines the story of the first moon landing as if the Apollo 11 astronauts had not been able to return to Earth. It was created to highlight the concern about computer-based misinformation, or "deepfakes."Photo: Chris BoebelOffice of Open Learning, Augmented and virtual reality, Machine learning, Artificial intelligence, History, Space exploration, Film and Television, Arts, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Comparative Media Studies/Writing, NASA, Computer science and technology, Technology and society, History of science, School of Engineering, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences PhD student Marc Aidinoff explores how technology impacts public policy http://news.mit.edu/2019/marc-aidinoff-mit-phd-student-hasts-history-of-technology-1118 Historian&#039;s research focuses on understanding how visions for social and economic policy are tied to changing ideas about technology. Mon, 18 Nov 2019 14:50:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2019/marc-aidinoff-mit-phd-student-hasts-history-of-technology-1118 <p>“Computers have encapsulated so many collective hopes and fears for the future,” says Marc Aidinoff, a PhD candidate in History/Anthropology/Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS), a doctoral program that draws on the expertise of three fields in MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS).</p> <p>“In the 1990s, you have Vice President Gore, President Clinton, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson saying that closing the digital divide was a fundamental civil rights issue of our times. What does it mean when civil rights become about access to computers and the internet? When lack of internet access is considered a form of poverty? These are really big questions and I haven’t been able to get them out of my system.”</p> <p><strong>How is social policy tied to ideas about technology?</strong></p> <p>Aidinoff has become dedicated to understanding how policymakers have thought about technology. It makes sense. After graduating from Harvard University, Aidinoff worked for Barack Obama's presidential campaign and subsequently joined the administration working as a policy advisor for three years — including a two-year stint as the assistant policy director for Vice President Joe Biden.</p> <p>“But these questions were getting under my skin,” Aidinoff explains. “I wanted to know how visions for social and economic policy were tied to changing ideas about technology. So I became a card-carrying historian who pokes around archives from Mississippi to D.C., trying to get answers.”</p> <p><strong>Restructuring the citizen’s relationship to the state</strong></p> <p>The story in Aidinoff’s dissertation project begins in 1984, with the breakup of the Bell System and the launch of the Macintosh computer. That was also the year the U.S. federal government began measuring citizens’ access to computers. The dissertation traces policies designed to democratize information and the implementation of massive systems built to digitize the U.S. government.</p> <p>“Networked computing,” Aidinoff argues, “has been part of a larger restructuring of the citizen’s relationship to the state in U.S. history. For example, when you see a welfare caseworker, and there is a computer on their desk — does it matter who wrote that software?”</p> <p>The Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy presented Aidinoff with its John Stanley Award for History and Ethics earlier this year to support his efforts and fund his research trips.</p> <p>Aidinoff’s research has sent him searching for some of the same types of information he reviewed and generated as a policy advisor. He lights up when talking about a visit to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas, to examine a hodgepodge of materials from policy memos to computer manuals. These archives help him understand how information moved around the executive branch and how policymakers would have understood technological systems.</p> <p><strong>The archive you need</strong></p> <p>Reading through the documents he locates can be difficult, however; Aidinoff credits the HASTS program for sharpening his research skills so he can home in on what is essential.</p> <p>“The HASTS faculty are really good at teaching you how to be unsatisfied until you’ve figured out how to construct the archive that you think is right for the question you’re asking. For me, that has meant a lot of newspapers and computer manuals. There’s a real belief among historians of science and technology that you need to go out and construct the archive you need. Archives aren’t just things that are waiting for you to discover. You’re going to need to go out and be creative.”</p> <p>“HASTS pushed me harder than I expected. I knew MIT would be challenging, but my colleagues encouraged me to spend time in places where I was less comfortable, including rural Mississippi.”</p> <p><strong>The humanistic/technical synergy at MIT</strong></p> <p>In fact, Aidinoff spent a semester at the University of Mississippi and the most recent summers teaching college-bridge courses to high school students in the Mississippi Delta with the Freedom Summer Collegiate program — an organization that continues the work of the 1964 Freedom Summer.</p> <p>For Aidinoff, there is no question that SHASS is the best place to continue his studies. The combination of rich humanities research programs and surrounding science and technology expertise was exactly what he wanted.</p> <p>“You’ve got such amazing people, world-class historians and historians of science and technology. The people I get to work with in a small, loving, interdisciplinary department is pretty extraordinary. My friends are technical, and being technical is really valued. I hang out with computer scientists all the time, which is great. I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t have people pushing back on me from a social science perspective and from a technical engineering perspective.”</p> <p>Aidinoff’s position with the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory’s Internet Policy Research Initiative has complemented the perspective of his home department in SHASS.</p> <p><strong>Knowledge is social</strong><br /> <br /> “A key lesson from the history of science and technology is that knowledge is social. Some knowledge comes from sitting and thinking, and that’s important. But over and over again we learn it’s sitting and thinking and then going and having lunch or a coffee with people in your discipline and across disciplines.</p> <p>“I don’t think I’ll ever again be in a community with this many historians of science per square mile. It’s just an incredibly exciting community. And it’s social. We think these questions really matter, so it’s worth looking up from the book, too, and having the discussion where you fight about them because these are real live questions with political consequences.”</p> <p><br /> <span style="font-size:12px;"><em>Story prepared by SHASS Communications<br /> Writer, photographer: Maria Iacobo </em></span></p> "What does it mean," Aidinoff asks "when civil rights become about access to computers and the internet? When lack of internet access is considered a form of poverty? These questions were getting under my skin," he says. "I wanted to know how social and economic policy were tied to changing ideas about technology."Photo: Maria IacoboSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Students, Anthropology, History, History of science, Policy, Civil rights, Program in STS, Computer science and technology, graduate, Graduate, postdoctoral Historian of the hinterlands http://news.mit.edu/2019/professor-kate-brown-historian-1113 In overlooked spots on the map, MIT Professor Kate Brown examines the turbulence of the modern world. Tue, 12 Nov 2019 23:59:59 -0500 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/professor-kate-brown-historian-1113 <p>History can help us face hard truths. The places Kate Brown studies are particularly full of them. &nbsp;</p> <p>Brown, a historian in MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society, has made a career out of studying what she calls “modernist wastelands” — areas suffering after years of warfare, social conflict, and even radioactive fallout from atomic accidents.&nbsp;</p> <p>Brown has spent years conducting research in the former Soviet Union, often returning to a large region stretching across the Poland-Ukraine border, which has been beset by two world wars, ethnic cleansing, purges, famine, and changes in power. It’s the setting for her acclaimed first book, “A Biography of No Place” (2004), a chronicle of the region’s conflicts and their consequences.</p> <p>The same region includes the site of the Chernobyl nuclear-reactor explosion, subject of Brown’s fourth and most recent book, “Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future” (2019), which uncovers extensive new evidence about the effects of the disaster on the area and its people.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Progress [often] occurs in big capitals, but if you go to the hinterlands, you see what’s left in the wake of progress, and it’s usually a lot of destruction,” says Brown, speaking of areas that have suffered due to technological or economic changes.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>That does not apply only to the former Soviet Union and its former satellite states, to be sure. Brown, who considers herself an transnational historian, is also the author of 2013’s “Plutopia,” reconstructing life in and around the plutonium-producing plants in Richland, Washington, and Ozersk, Russia, which have both left a legacy of nuclear contamination.</p> <p>With a record of innovative and award-winning research over more than two decades in academia, Brown joined MIT with tenure, as a professor of science, technology, and society, in early 2019.</p> <p><strong>When “no place” is like home</strong></p> <p>The lesson that life can be tough in less-glamorous locales is one Brown says she learned early on. Brown grew up in Elgin, Illinois, once headquarters of the famous Elgin National Watch Company — although that changed.</p> <p>“The year I was born, 1965, the Elgin watch factory was shuttered, and they blew up the watch tower,” Brown says. “It was a company town, and that was the main business. I grew up watching the supporting businesses close, and then regular clothing stores and grocery stores went bankrupt.”</p> <p>And while the changes in Elgin were very different (and less severe) than those in the places she has studied professionally, Brown believes her hometown milieu has shaped her work.</p> <p>“It was nothing near what I describe in wartime Ukraine, or Chernobyl, or one of plutonium plants, but I finally realized I was so interested in modernist wastelands because of my own background,” Brown says.</p> <p>Indeed, Brown notes, her mother moved four times in her life because of the “deindustrialized landscape,” from places like Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, and Detroit. And her parents, she says, “moved to Elgin thinking it was healthy, small-town America. So how many times do they have to jump? … What if you care about your family and community? What if you’re loyal?”</p> <p>As it happens, part of the direct impetus for Brown’s career came from her mother. One day in the 1980s, Brown recalls, she was talking to her parents and criticizing the superficial culture surrounding U.S.-Soviet relations. To which Brown’s mother responded, “Do something about it. Study Russian, change the world.”</p> <p>As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, Brown soon “took everything Russian, Russian lit and translation, grammar, history, politics, and I just got hooked. Then I thought I should go study there.” In 1987, she spent a year abroad in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). After graduating, Brown worked for a study-abroad program in the Soviet Union for three more years, helping students troubleshoot “pretty major problems, with housing and food and medical care,” as well as some cases where students had run afoul of Soviet authorities.&nbsp;</p> <p>Returning to the U.S., Brown entered the graduate program in history at the University of Washington while working as a journalist. She kept returning to the Ukraine borderlands region, collecting archival and observational material, and writing it up, for her dissertation “in the narrative mode of a first-person travelogue.”</p> <p>That did not fit the model of a typical PhD thesis. But Richard White, a prominent American historian with an openness toward innovative work, who was then at the University of Washington, advocated to keep the form of Brown’s work largely intact. She received her PhD, and more: Her thesis formed the basis of “A Biography of No Place,” which won the George Louis Beer Prize for International European History from the American Historical Association (AHA). Brown joined the faculty at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County before joining MIT.</p> <p><strong>A treasure island for research</strong></p> <p>In all of Brown’s books, a significant portion of the work, a bit atypically for academia, has continued to incorporate first-person material about her travels, experiences, and research, something she also regards as crucial.</p> <p>“Because these places are rarely visited, they’re hard to imagine for the readers,” Brown says. “That puts me in the narrative, though not for all of it.”</p> <p>Brown’s approach to history is also highly archival: She has unearthed key documents in all manner of local, regional, and national repositories. When she entered the profession, in the 1990s, many Soviet archives were just opening up, providing some rich opportunities for original research.&nbsp;</p> <p>“It’s amazing,” Brown says. “Over and over again I’ve been one of the first persons to walk into an archive and see what’s there. And that is just sort of a treasure island quality of historical research. Being a Soviet historian in the early 1990s, there was nothing else like it.”</p> <p>The archives continue to be profitable for Brown, yielding some of her key new insights in “Manual for Survival.” In assessing Chernobyl, Brown shows, local and regional studies of the disaster’s effects were often extensive and candid, but the official record became sanitized as it moved up the Soviet bureaucratic hierarchy.</p> <p>Brown’s combination of approaches to writing history has certainly produced extensive professional success. “Plutopia” was awarded the AHA’s Albert J. Beveridge and John H. Dunning prizes as the best book in American history and the Organization of American Historians’ Ellis H. Hawley Award, among others. Brown has also received Guggenheim Foundation and Carnegie Foundation fellowships.</p> <p>Brown is currently working on a new research project, examining overlooked forms of human knowledge about plants and the natural environment. She notes that there are many types of “indigenous knowledge and practices we have missed or rejected,” which could foster a more sustainable relationship between human society and the environment.</p> <p>It is a different type of topic than Brown’s previous work, although, like her other projects, this one recognizes that we have spent too long mishandling the environment, rather than prioritizing its care — another hard truth to consider.</p> Kate Brown is a professor in MIT's Program in Science, Technology, and Society.Image: Allegra BovermanSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty, Profile, Technology and society, Energy, History, Program in STS, Nuclear power and reactors, History of science, Science communications Meet the 2019 tenured professors in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2019/five-faculty-school-humanities-arts-social-sciences-receive-tenure-1022 SHASS faculty members Nikhil Agarwal, Sana Aiyar, Stephanie Frampton, Daniel Hidalgo, and Miriam Schoenfield were recently granted tenure. Tue, 22 Oct 2019 15:30:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2019/five-faculty-school-humanities-arts-social-sciences-receive-tenure-1022 <p>Dean Melissa Nobles and the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) announced that five members of the school's faculty members have received tenure. Their extensive research and writing investigates a wide variety of topics, from&nbsp;the history of western thought to electoral behavior in low-income areas. They are:</p> <p><a href="http://economics.mit.edu/faculty/agarwaln" target="_blank">Nikhil Agarwal</a>,<strong> </strong>associate professor of economics, joined the MIT faculty in 2014 after earning his PhD at Harvard University and teaching economic policy at Stanford University. He has received grants from the National Institute of Health and a Sloan Research Fellowship. He teaches Microeconomic Theory and Public Policy (Course 14.03), and courses on industrial organization.</p> <p><a href="http://history.mit.edu/people/sana-aiyar" target="_blank">Sana Aiyar</a>, associate professor of history, is a specialist in the history of modern South Africa, She is the author of "Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora" and her research focuses on colonial and postcolonial politics and society in the Indian Ocean. She formerly taught at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.</p> <p><a href="http://lit.mit.edu/people/sframpton/" target="_blank">Stephanie Frampton</a>, associate professor of literature, is a classicist, comparatist, historian of media in antiquity, and the author of "Empire of Letters." She joined the MIT faculty in fall 2012 after teaching at Harvard University and the College of the Holy Cross.</p> <p><a href="http://polisci.mit.edu/people/f-daniel-hidalgo" target="_blank">F. Daniel Hidalgo</a>, the Cecil and Ida Green Associate Professor of Political Science, focuses on the political economy of elections, campaigns, and representation in developing democracies, especially in Latin America, as well as quantitative methods in the social sciences.<br /> <br /> <a href="http://web.mit.edu/philosophy/schoenfield.html" target="_blank">Miriam Schoenfield PhD '12</a>, associate professor of philosophy, returned to MIT in 2017 after holding teaching positions at the University of Texas at Austin and at New York University. Her primary research interests are in epistemology with ethics and normativity more broadly.</p> Newly-tenured faculty in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences: (clockwise from top left) Nikhil Agarwal, Sana Aiyar, Miriam Schoenfield, F. Daniel Hidalgo, and Stephanie Frampton.School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty, Economics, History, Literature, Political science, Philosophy, awards, Awards, honors and fellowships 3 Questions: Historian Elizabeth Wood on election interference http://news.mit.edu/2019/3-questions-historian-elizabeth-wood-russian-election-interference-1017 How do we understand Russia’s multi-layered interference in the 2016 elections? A Russia expert and professor of history analyzes Russia’s motives. Thu, 17 Oct 2019 14:10:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2019/3-questions-historian-elizabeth-wood-russian-election-interference-1017 <p><em>Elizabeth Wood is a professor of history and the author of three books on Russia: “Roots of Russia’s War in Ukraine”</em> <em>(co-authored; Woodrow Wilson Center and Columbia University Press, 2016); “Performing Justice: Agitation Trials in Early Soviet Russia”</em> <em>(Cornell University Press, 2005); and “The Baba and the Comrade: Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia” (Indiana University Press, 1997). She is also co-director of the MIT-Russia and Eurasia Program (through the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives), coordinator of Russian and Eurasian Studies, and advisor to the Russian language program.</em></p> <p><em>Recently, SHASS Communications asked Wood to share her perspective on U.S.-Russia relations and the implications of Russia’s interference in U.S. elections as highlighted in the Mueller Report.</em><br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong>Q:</strong> As an expert on Russian history and the rule of Russian President Vladimir Putin, can you comment on the historical context that may have influenced Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Many have expressed disappointment in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s complex conclusions on the question of President Trump’s collusion with Russia in the matter of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. But in his televised speech on May 29, Mueller left no room for doubt about the interference itself:<br /> <br /> “I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.”</p> <p>The short answer to why Russia interfered in U.S. elections is that the two countries have been rivals on the world stage since World War II. Russia has a long history of spying, money laundering, and issuing propaganda to further its own interests, and the United States is not innocent of interference in other countries. The challenge in answering a question about the historical roots of Russia’s specific interference in the 2016 election is that there were at least three different issues at play at that moment in time, each with its own etiology and consequences for U.S. democracy.</p> <p>Russian interference, as shown by the Mueller Report and numerous investigations by journalists, has taken three principal forms: 1) fake news and articles on Facebook and other social media sites orchestrated by the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia; 2) cyberhacking into files belonging to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee [DCCC] and the Democratic National Committee [DNC] by the internet persona Guccifer 2.0, who distributed the spoils with the assistance of WikiLeaks; and 3) longstanding ties between members of the Trump campaign organization (and some people who joined his administration) and Russian oligarchs.</p> <p>In the Mueller Report, these are shown to violate U.S. laws in the first case through “conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft”; in the second case, conspiracy to hack into the computers of the Clinton campaign, the DCCC, the DNC and other individuals, plus conspiracy to hack into the computers of 2016 election officials [punishable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. 1030]; and in the third case, violation of the Foreign Agent Statutes, especially the Foreign Agents Registration Act and Agents of Foreign Governments, 18 U.S.C. § 951, and making false statements to government investigators.&nbsp;</p> <p>All of these forms of meddling have long roots in Russian history, as 1) propaganda and disinformation; 2) a wide range of “dirty tricks” for information gathering and dissemination of ill-gotten gains; and 3) financial machinations designed to protect the wealth of individuals, the KGB (later renamed the FSB), and the state itself by moving money that should belong to the Russian people into and out of the country through shell corporations, offshore accounts, and money laundering.</p> <p>These tactics have been researched by excellent scholars, and they are worth considering in the larger context of Russian statecraft. After all, what I would call the Russian “dark state” — i.e., that part of the state that operates abroad for nefarious purposes, including most recently interference in Ukraine, in Western European elections, and in the poisonings and beatings of both Russians and foreign nationals around the world — has been around for a long time; it is not an invention of Russian President Vladimir Putin, though he has certainly expanded its reach.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> In fact, historian Mark Kramer has shown that Soviet secret forces tried to intervene in both the 1968 and the 1976 U.S. elections; they also worked to spread disinformation designed to discredit a range of individuals from J. Edgar Hoover to Martin Luther King Jr., and to foster conspiracy theories on the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the spread of AIDS. Under Gorbachev during the period usually known as perestroika, KGB head Vladimir Kryuchkov is known to have directed his agents to recruit more Americans, especially those in business and politics.<br /> <br /> At this time, as Karen Dawisha has shown, his top officials were actively engaged in infiltrating the Western financial system (banks and legitimate companies as well as offshore accounts and shell companies) in elaborate schemes to launder the money of both the KGB and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, convinced that the USSR might follow the path of Eastern Europe and fall into the hands of democrats.</p> <p>In my view, the core motivation behind this kind of interference is a two-fold belief a) that the most important goal of the Russian state is to achieve world power status, and b) that that status cannot be achieved without recourse to the dark arts of espionage, murder, and manipulation. The latter belief is buttressed by the conviction (and the reality) that other powers, including the United States, are also interfering in and manipulating foreign elections. (For example, the United States has been engaged in such processes in the Philippines and the Caribbean since the 1890s and in Central and South America since at least the 1950s.)<br /> <br /> World power status has been considered a leading desideratum for centuries in the face of fears that otherwise Russia will be invaded and stripped of its wealth. A quiet desperation and willingness to use violence abroad has been particularly characteristic of Putin’s regime since the advances of NATO to the Russian borders in 1999 (the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland), 2004 (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia), 2009 (Albania and Croatia), and 2017 (Montenegro).</p> <p>Since the 2011-12 protests of tens, even hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens against Putin’s regime, the latter has sought to cultivate a more conservative self-image of the Russian state as a power seeking to promote reactionary values for the sake of Europe itself. For example, the regime holds up Russia as the country that will “save” Europe from its own LGBTQ population.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q:</strong> In recent years, Russia has been promoting nationalistic views and policies not only at home but in Ukraine&nbsp;and&nbsp;elsewhere, including in the United States, in particular among white nationalists who are opposed to immigration. What Russian history or traditions contribute to or help explain this behavior?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Journalists and internet scholars looking at the content of Facebook and Twitter posts have expressed surprise that Russian-influenced social media has supported both right-wing causes, especially the candidacy of Donald Trump, and the anti-racist work of groups like Black Lives Matter. This is usually attributed to either eclecticism or a conscious decision to divide the U.S. electorate and thus bring down democracy.</p> <p>Looking at Russian and especially Soviet history, however, we can see a much simpler and ultimately more interesting pair of explanations. Support for Trump can be explained both by a perception that he can be manipulated and/or blackmailed financially and by an overwhelming desire to bring down Hillary Clinton. (She became a target for her role in supporting the EuroMaidan Revolution in Ukraine and the Russian election protests in 2011-12, as well for making negative comments about Vladimir Putin himself.)</p> <p>But then why support Black Lives Matter? That effort was a direct continuation of Soviet propaganda geared toward showing the alleged “racelessness” and hence international superiority of the USSR — conceived as the first workers’ state.</p> <p>Such propaganda has historically included a barrage of critical journalism about American atrocities, particularly lynchings — which claimed the lives of almost 5,000 individuals, most of them black, under the most lurid and horrendous conditions imaginable. Whatever the USSR’s shortages and hardships, Soviet propagandists could always claim they were a more civilized country than the barbaric United States with its violence and mayhem.</p> <p>This pattern continues: Just this summer, Ria Novosti, a leading news agency in Russia, made sure to give prominent coverage to a report from the Chinese Society for Human Rights Studies called “The Deep-Rooted Racial Discrimination in the U.S. Highlights Its Hypocrisy on&nbsp;Human Rights.” While racial discrimination is genuinely an important topic — and one urgently needing action and remedy within the United States — for Chinese and Russian state outlets it serves to underline the United States as two-faced and not worthy of respect, even as such research also calls attention to practices that their own societies have failed to address.</p> <p>On the question of immigration, Russian support for anti-immigration populists in Europe, the United States, and most recently Canada over the past 20 years is rooted not in any particular views about immigration, I would argue, but rather in an attempt to ally with groups aiming to break up the European Union and stir dissension in North America. A dismantled European Union, which removes the power of a united bloc, would be a gain for Russian power in the region. A secondary goal of these efforts is to weaken the societies in question by ensuring that pro- and anti-immigration forces become deadlocked.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong>Q: </strong>MIT President L. Raphael Reif has said that solving the great challenges of our time will require “bilinguals” — a term adapted from language abilities to mean people who have expertise in both technical and humanistic fields. How can knowledge from the field of history help us navigate such geopolitical challenges as the ones presented by Russia’s election meddling?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> The more we know about the history, language, and customs of other countries, the more we can anticipate why they are taking the actions they do, and the more we can consider possible responses.</p> <p>Underestimating the dark side of Russian history is extremely dangerous. Western leaders, both European and American, have been caught off-guard at multiple points in recent history (especially in the Georgian War of 2008 and the invasion of Crimea and Ukraine in 2014). The Trump administration, meanwhile, continues to believe that it can make “deals” with Russia (as well as other countries), an approach that seems to play to the advantage of Russian oligarchs and the Russian state.</p> <p>Most recently, Congress was persuaded to lift sanctions on Rusal (the leading Russian aluminum company) on the grounds that the oligarch Oleg Deripaska had been removed from leadership in the company. Yet, according to a Reuters report, he still owns a 44.95 percent share in En+, the parent company of Rusal, which itself holds a 56.88 percent stake in the latter entity. Together with allies, that makes it easy for Deripaska to control Rusal. The leading U.S. beneficiary of lifting sanctions has been the state of Kentucky, whose senator (Mitch McConnell) made a “deal” to bring the aluminum company to his home state. This is very concerning.</p> <p>Nevertheless, I still feel passionately that we should not cut off contact with Russia, but rather encourage engagement in a reasoned way. For Russia to return to its Soviet isolation (probably impossible anyway) would be a tragedy both for the country and the world.</p> <p>As I regularly tell my students, if you focus only on the challenging sides of Russia and its Soviet past (the gulag, the gross mistreatment of dissidents, the manipulation of the press), you miss the stunning beauty and power of the culture, which is famous, of course, for its great writers, but which also deserves unstinting praise for the hard work of its people, their rich spirituality, their warmth and hospitality.</p> <p>There is also much we can learn from becoming both bilingual, in the original sense, and bicultural. Learning to drink tea and sit and talk, learning to care deeply about a collective community that is larger than oneself, learning hospitality and generosity — these are all central to understanding what it means to be Russian.</p> <p>But more broadly, experiencing other cultures and interacting with other peoples expands our understanding of what it means to be human. Binary thinking — us versus them — clouds our thinking, making us as U.S. citizens more susceptible to demagogues and small-minded individuals interested only in short-term and often extremely mercenary gains. Conversely, immersion in other cultures gives us greater nimbleness in our thinking, opening our eyes to multiple ways of seeing and learning from the world.</p> "In my view," says MIT Professor Elizabeth Wood, "the core motivation behind [election] interference is Russia's two-fold belief a) that the most important goal of the Russian state is world power status and b) that such status cannot be achieved without recourse to espionage and manipulation."Photo: Allegra Boverman Democracy, Faculty, History, International relations, Russia, Policy, Government, 3 Questions, Voting and elections, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences 3 Questions: Alan Lightman’s new novel about Cambodia and family http://news.mit.edu/2019/alan-lightman-novel-three-flames-cambodia-1015 MIT writer’s new work, “Three Flames,” explores the fractures and bonds among kin in a rebuilding society. Mon, 14 Oct 2019 23:59:59 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/alan-lightman-novel-three-flames-cambodia-1015 <p><em>MIT’s Alan Lightman is a physicist who made a leap to becoming a writer — one with an unusually broad range of interests. In his novels, nonfiction books, and essays, Lightman, a professor of the practice of the humanities at MIT, has explored many topics, from science to society. His new novel, “Three Flames,” recently published by Counterpoint Press, follows the fortunes of a family in post-civil war Cambodia. It’s a topic Lightman knows well: He is the founder the Harpswell Foundation, which works to empower a new generation of female leaders in Cambodia and across Southeast Asia. Lightman recently talked to </em>MIT News<em> about “Three Flames.” </em></p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> What are the origins of ‘Three Flames”?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> I’ve been working in Cambodia for 15 years, and I’ve spent a lot of time there, and I’ve heard a lot of stories of families, particularly [about] the residue of the Khmer Rouge genocide in the mid-1970s. Just about anybody you meet in Cambodia today has a relative who was killed or starved or tortured over that period of time. So it’s affected everybody in the entire country. And I have been very interested in how a country can recover its humanity after that kind of devastation, when family members were turned against each other. The Khmer Rouge soldiers rounded up anybody that they had the slightest suspicion about, and encouraged families to turn in anybody that they had any suspicion about. It disrupted families and led to an every-person-for-themselves mentality, which still hasn’t disappeared.</p> <p>In the face of all that destruction and moral degradation, I also heard stories of courage and resilience and forgiveness. After many years, I thought I was beginning to understand the culture enough to begin writing stories about it. But I waited 10 years before I started writing anything. You have to understand a culture much more deeply to write fiction about it than to write nonfiction, because fiction involves small daily mannerisms, which you have to get right. And you don’t pick that up from a couple of trips.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> There are many connected stories in this novel, and many distinctive characters. What is the main theme, and how did you weave that in throughout different parts of the book?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> The overriding story is the struggle that women have in a male-dominated society. And that, of course, is true not only in Cambodia but in many countries, even the U.S. Almost every chapter of the book has that struggle in it. … A number of the [other] themes in the book are universal. I hope the themes of redemption, and forgiveness, and revenge, and women’s struggles will go beyond Cambodia.</p> <p>Five years ago, I wrote the first chapter of the book, about the mother, Ryna. When I wrote that, it was a stand-alone short story [published in the journal <em>Daily Lit</em>, and as an Amazon Kindle single]. In that story, I mention other members of the family. One daughter is married off to a rubber merchant; another one went to Phnom Penh to work to pay off a family debt; the son is kind of a ne’er-do-well; the father is very ignorant, sexist, and condescending. About a year after writing the first story, I began wondering about the other family members. Once you write a character in fiction, they come to life and stay in your head. And so I decided I would write a story about each member of the family. Of course, I had to interweave all the stories, as they involve the same family.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> How did you then assemble those elements into a cohesive story? It must have been fairly complicated to place these parts of the story into a larger narrative. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> After I had written the book, I decided to place the stories in the order where they would have the most dramatic impact. For the story about Pich, the father, I wanted to wait until that character had been developed to show how he became the person he is, because none of us are all good or bad. The story about Nita [a daughter of Pich], I wanted to save until the later part of the book because it’s such a shocking story. The story about Srepov has to come last, because she’s the only hope for the future. The date of each story is when the most dramatic action happened to each character, the most influential [moment] in shaping who they are.</p> <p>[In books], there are two times that are important. There’s chronological time, and then the time of readerly experience. Taking the Pich story as an example, in my view as a writer it’s more powerful to first see Pich as he is today, an unsympathetic, dictatorial, cruel father, and to even grow to hate him. Then, only later in the book, we see him in childhood and see the forces that shaped him as he is. To save the childhood portrait for later, that’s a more powerful experience for the reader.</p> Alan Lightman and his new novel, “Three Flames.”Image: Greg Peverill-ContiSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Faculty, Books and authors, Asia, History Engineers put Leonardo da Vinci’s bridge design to the test http://news.mit.edu/2019/leonardo-da-vinci-bridge-test-1010 Proposed bridge would have been the world’s longest at the time; new analysis shows it would have worked. Wed, 09 Oct 2019 23:59:59 -0400 David L. Chandler | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/leonardo-da-vinci-bridge-test-1010 <p>In 1502 A.D., Sultan Bayezid II sent out the Renaissance equivalent of a government RFP (request for proposals), seeking a design for a bridge to connect Istanbul with its neighbor city Galata. Leonardo da Vinci, already a well-known artist and inventor, came up with a novel bridge design that he described in a letter to the Sultan and sketched in a small drawing in his notebook.</p> <p>He didn’t get the job. But 500 years after his death, the design for what would have been the world’s longest bridge span of its time intrigued researchers at MIT, who wondered how thought-through Leonardo’s concept was and whether it really would have worked.</p> <p>Spoiler alert: Leonardo knew what he was doing.</p> <p>To study the question, recent graduate student Karly Bast MEng ’19, working with professor of architecture and of civil and environmental engineering John Ochsendorf and undergraduate Michelle Xie, tackled the problem by analyzing the available documents, the possible materials and construction methods that were available at the time, and the geological conditions at the proposed site, which was a river estuary called the Golden Horn. Ultimately, the team built a detailed scale model to test the structure’s ability to stand and support weight, and even to withstand settlement of its foundations.</p> <p>The results of the study were presented in Barcelona this week at the conference of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures. They will also be featured in a talk at Draper in Cambridge, Massachusetts, later this month and in an episode of the PBS program NOVA, set to air on Nov. 13.</p> <p><strong>A flattened arch</strong></p> <p>In Leonardo’s time, most masonry bridge supports were made in the form of conventional semicircular arches, which would have required 10 or more piers along the span to support such a long bridge. Leonardo’s bridge concept was dramatically different — a flattened arch that would be tall enough to allow a sailboat to pass underneath with its mast in place, as illustrated in his sketch, but that would cross the wide span with a single enormous arch.</p> <p>The bridge would have been about 280 meters long (though Leonardo himself was using a different measurement system, since the metric system was still a few centuries off), making it the longest span in the world at that time, had it been built. “It’s incredibly ambitious,” Bast says. “It was about 10 times longer than typical bridges of that time.”</p> <p>The design also featured an unusual way of stabilizing the span against lateral motions — something that has resulted in the collapse of many bridges over the centuries. To combat that, Leonardo proposed abutments that splayed outward on either side, like a standing subway rider widening her stance to balance in a swaying car.</p> <p>In his notebooks and letter to the Sultan, Leonardo provided no details about the materials that would be used or the method of construction. Bast and the team analyzed the materials available at the time and concluded that the bridge could only have been made of stone, because wood or brick could not have carried the loads of such a long span. And they concluded that, as in classical masonry bridges such as those built by the Romans, the bridge would stand on its own under the force of gravity, without any fasteners or mortar to hold the stone together.</p> <p>To prove that, they had to build a model and demonstrate its stability. That required figuring out how to slice up the complex shape into individual blocks that could be assembled into the final structure. While the full-scale bridge would have been made up of thousands of stone blocks, they decided on a design with 126 blocks for their model, which was built at a scale of 1 to 500 (making it about 32 inches long). Then the individual blocks were made on a 3D printer, taking about six hours per block to produce.</p> <p>“It was time-consuming, but 3D printing allowed us to accurately recreate this very complex geometry,” Bast says.</p> <p><strong>Testing the design’s feasibility</strong></p> <p>This is not the first attempt to reproduce Leonardo’s basic bridge design in physical form. Others, including a pedestrian bridge in Norway, have been inspired by his design, but in that case modern materials — steel and concrete — were used, so that construction provided no information about the practicality of Leonardo’s engineering.</p> <p>“That was not a test to see if his design would work with the technology from his time,” Bast says. But because of the nature of gravity-supported masonry, the faithful scale model, albeit made of a different material, would provide such a test.</p> <p>“It’s all held together by compression only,” she says. “We wanted to really show that the forces are all being transferred within the structure,” which is key to ensuring that the bridge would stand solidly and not topple.</p> <p>As with actual masonry arch bridge construction, the “stones” were supported by a scaffolding structure as they were assembled, and only after they were all in place could the scaffolding be removed to allow the structure to support itself. Then it came time to insert the final piece in the structure, the keystone at the very top of the arch.</p> <p>“When we put it in, we had to squeeze it in. That was the critical moment when we first put the bridge together. I had a lot of doubts” as to whether it would all work, Bast recalls. But “when I put the keystone in, I thought, ‘this is going to work.’ And after that, we took the scaffolding out, and it stood up.”</p> <p>“It’s the power of geometry” that makes it work, she says. “This is a strong concept. It was well thought out.” Score another victory for Leonardo.</p> <p>“Was this sketch just freehanded, something he did in 50 seconds, or is it something he really sat down and thought deeply about? It’s difficult to know” from the available historical material, she says. But proving the effectiveness of the design suggests that Leonardo really did work it out carefully and thoughtfully, she says. “He knew how the physical world works.”</p> <p>He also apparently understood that the region was prone to earthquakes, and incorporated features such as the spread footings that would provide extra stability. To test the structure’s resilience, Bast and Xie built the bridge on two movable platforms and then moved one away from the other to simulate the foundation movements that might result from weak soil. The bridge showed resilience to the horizontal movement, only deforming slightly until being stretched to the point of complete collapse.</p> <p>The design may not have practical implications for modern bridge designers, Bast says, since today’s materials and methods provide many more options for lighter, stronger designs. But the proof of the feasibility of this design sheds more light on what ambitious construction projects might have been possible using only the materials and methods of the early Renaissance. And it once again underscores the brilliance of one of the world’s most prolific inventors.</p> <p>It also demonstrates, Bast says, that “you don’t necessarily need fancy technology to come up with the best ideas.”</p> Recent graduate student Karly Bast shows off the scale model of a bridge designed by Leonardo da Vinci that she and her co-workers used to prove the design’s feasibility. Image: Gretchen ErtlCivil and environmental engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, School of Engineering, Architecture, History, School of Architecture and Planning, Research, 3-D printing Meet the 2019-20 MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars http://news.mit.edu/2019/dr-martin-luther-king-jr-visiting-professors-and-scholars-program-1008 Six scholars and professors are spending this academic year in engagement with the MIT community. Tue, 08 Oct 2019 16:40:44 -0400 Beatriz Cantada | Institute Community and Equity Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/dr-martin-luther-king-jr-visiting-professors-and-scholars-program-1008 <p>Founded in 1990, the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Visiting Professors and Scholars Program honors the life and legacy of Martin Luther King by increasing the presence of, and recognizing the contributions of, underrepresented minority scholars at MIT. MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars enhance their scholarship through intellectual engagement with the MIT community and enrich the cultural, academic, and professional experience&nbsp;of students. The program hosts between four and eight scholars each year with financial and institutional support from the Office of the Provost and oversight from the Institute Community and Equity Office. Six scholars are visiting MIT this academic year as part of the program.</p> <p><a href="https://www.math.umd.edu/~okoudjou/" target="_blank">Kasso Okoudjou</a> is returning for a second year as an MLK Visiting Professor in the Department of Mathematics. Originally from Benin, he moved to the United States in 1998 and earned a PhD in mathematics from Georgia Tech. Okoudjou joins MIT from the University of Maryland College Park, where he is a professor. His research interests include applied and pure harmonic analysis, especially time-frequency and time-scale analysis; frame theory; and analysis and differential equations on fractals. He is interested in broadening the participation of underrepresented minorities in (undergraduate) research in the mathematical sciences.</p> <p><a href="https://cnmat.berkeley.edu/people/matthew-schumaker">Matthew Schumaker</a> joins MIT for another year in the Music and Theater Arts Section within the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Schumaker received his doctorate in music composition from the University of California at Berkeley. At MIT, he teaches a new course, 21M.380 (<a href="https://mta.mit.edu/music/class-schedule">Composing for Solo Instrument and Live Electronics</a>), a&nbsp;hands-on music technology composition seminar combining instrumental writing with real-time computer music. Additionally, <a href="https://radiusensemble.org/products/concert3">The Radius Ensemble</a> in Cambridge, Massachusetts has commissioned Schumaker to write a new piece of&nbsp;music that seeks to translate into music the vibrant, curved gestures and slashed markings in the abstract landscapes of celebrated Ethiopian-born painter Julie Mehretu.</p> <p><a href="http://jamiemacbeth.com/">Jamie Macbeth</a> is visiting from Smith College, where he is an assistant professor in computer science. He received his PhD in computer science from University of California at Los Angeles. Although this is his first year as an MLK Visiting Scholar, he is not new to MIT, since he has been a visiting scientist since 2017. He is hosted by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). Macbeth’s research is focused on building and studying intelligent computing systems that demonstrate a human-like capability for in-depth understanding and production of natural language, and thus can achieve richer interactions with human users. He is especially keen on building systems that decompose the meaning of language into complex conceptual structures that reflect humans’ embodied cognition, memory, imagery&nbsp;and knowledge about social situations.</p> <p><a href="https://swagergroup.mit.edu/ben-mcdonald">Ben McDonald</a> has been a postdoc in the Department of Chemistry since 2018 and is now an MLK Visiting Scholar. McDonald received his PhD in synthetic organic chemistry from Northwestern University. His research focused on the total synthesis of flavonolignan natural products and the development of reverse-polarity carbon-carbon bond forming reactions. As a member of the department’s Chemistry Alliance for Inclusion and Diversity, he is focused on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. One of the initiatives he seeks to establish is a summer research program, which recruits talented future scientists from underrepresented backgrounds.</p> <p><a href="https://www.babson.edu/academics/faculty/faculty-profiles/tina-opie.php">Tina Opie</a> is an associate professor in the Management Division at Babson College. Opie obtained her PhD in management (with a concentration in organizational behavior) from New York University’s Stern School of Business. As an MLK Visiting Scholar in MIT Sloan School of Management, along with access to MIT’s Behavioral Research Lab, she is conducting research to develop the construct of <a href="https://hbr.org/podcast/2018/11/sisterhood-is-power" target="_blank">Shared Sisterhood</a>. “Shared Sisterhood examines how high-quality relationships (e.g., relationships characterized by trust, emotional vulnerability) between black, white, and Latinx women at work facilitate workplace inclusion and equity.” Though her work has a specific focus, people of all genders and racioethnic backgrounds can be “sisters” and can contribute to fostering a more inclusive work environment. Opie established Opie Consulting Group, a diversity-and-inclusion consultancy that incorporates Shared Sisterhood in creating inclusive workplaces. &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://as.vanderbilt.edu/history/bio/rhonda-williams">Rhonda Williams</a>, an MLK Visiting Professor hosted by the Department of History, joins MIT from Vanderbilt University, where she was recently appointed the John L. Seigenthaler Chair in American History. She is the founder of the <a href="https://case.edu/socialjustice/about/institute-founder">Social Justice Institute</a> at Case Western Reserve University. Her essay titled <a href="https://blackwomensocialjusticeed.net/book">“Black Women Who Educate for Justice and Put Their Time, Lives, and Spirits on the Line"</a> was recently published in "Black Women And Social Justice Education: Legacies and Lessons" (2019, SUNY Press). On Oct. 25, Williams will deliver a social justice-related performance-lecture called “<a href="https://diversity.mit.edu/event/the-things-that-divide-us-meditations/" target="_blank">The Things That Divide Us: Meditations</a>” at MIT. In spring 2020, she will facilitate a social justice workshop for students, faculty and staff.</p> <p>For more information about our scholars and the program, visit <a href="https://mlkscholars.mit.edu/" target="_blank">mlkscholars.mit.edu</a>.</p> The 2019-2020 MLK Visiting Scholars and Professors: (l-r) Tina Opie, Matthew Schumaker, Rhonda Williams, Ben McDonald, Kasso Okoudjou, and Jamie Macbeth.Photo: Beatriz CantadaCommunity, Faculty, Staff, Diversity and inclusion, Mathematics, School of Science, Music and theater arts, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Chemistry, Sloan School of Management, History, School of Engineering A new act for opera http://news.mit.edu/2019/emily-richmond-pollock-opera-zero-hour-1002 Emily Richmond Pollock’s book examines creative attempts to refashion postwar opera after Germany’s “Year Zero.” Tue, 01 Oct 2019 23:59:59 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/emily-richmond-pollock-opera-zero-hour-1002 <p>In November 1953, the Nationaltheater in Mannheim, Germany, staged a new opera, the composer Boris Blacher’s “Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1,” which had debuted just months previously. As it ran, music fans were treated to both a performance and a raging controversy about the work, which one critic called “a monstrosity of musical progress,” and another termed “a stillbirth.”</p> <p>Some of this vitriol stemmed from Blacher’s experimental composition, which had jazz and pop sensibilities, few words in the libretto (but some nonsense syllables), and no traditional storyline. The controversy was heightened by the Mannheim production, which projected images of postwar ruins and other related tropes onto the backdrop.</p> <p>“The staging was very political,” says MIT music scholar Emily Richmond Pollock, author of a new book about postwar German opera. “Putting these very concrete images behind [the stage], that people had just lived through, produced a very uncomfortable feeling.”</p> <p>It wasn’t just critics who were dubious: One audience member wrote to the Mannheim morning newspaper to say that Blacher’s “cacophonous concoction is actually approaching absolute zero and is not even original in doing so.”</p> <p>In short, “Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1” hardly fit its genre’s traditions. Blacher’s work was introduced soon after the supposed “Zero Hour” in German society — the years after World War Two ended in 1945. Germany had instigated the deadliest war in history, and the country was supposed to be building itself entirely anew on political, civic, and cultural fronts. But the reaction to “Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1” shows the limits of that concept; Germans also craved continuity.</p> <p>“There is this mythology of the Zero Hour, that Germans had to start all over again,” says Pollock, an associate professor in MIT’s Music and Theater Arts Section.</p> <p>Pollock’s new book, “<a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/opera-after-the-zero-hour-9780190063733?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;">Opera after the Zero Hour</a>,” just published by Oxford University Press, explores these tensions in rich detail. In the work, Pollock closely scrutinizes five postwar German operas while examining the varied reactions they produced. Rather than participating in a total cultural teardown, she concludes, many Germans were attempting to construct a useable past and build a future connected to it. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“Opera in general is a conservative art form,” Pollock says. “It has often been identified very closely with whomever is in power.” For that reason, she adds, “Opera is a really good place to examine why tradition was a problem [after 1945], and how different artists chose to approach that problem.”</p> <p><strong>The politics of cultural nationalism</strong></p> <p>Rebuilding Germany after 1945 was a monumental task, even beyond creating a new political state. A significant part of Germany lay in rubble; for that matter, most large opera houses had been bombed.</p> <p>Nonetheless, opera soon bloomed again in Germany. There were 170 new operas staged in Germany from 1945 to 1965. Operationally, as Pollock notes in the book, this inevitably meant including former Nazis in the opera business — efforts at “denazification” of society, she thinks, were of limited effectiveness. Substantively, meanwhile, the genre’s sense of tradition set audience expectations that could be difficult to alter.</p> <p>“There’s a lot of investment in opera, but it’s not [usually] going to be avant-garde,” Pollock says, noting there were “hundreds of years of opera tradition pressing down” on composers, as well as “a bourgeois restored German culture that doesn’t want to do anything too radical.” However, she notes, after 1945, “There are a lot of traditions of music-making as part of the culture of being German that feel newly problematic [to socially-aware observers].”</p> <p>Thus a substantial portion of those 170 new operas — besides “Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1” — contained distinctive blends of innovation and tradition. Consider Carl Orff’s “Oedipus der Tyrann,” a 1958 work of musical innovation with a traditional theme. Orff was one of Germany’s best-known composers (he wrote “Carmina Burana” in 1937) and had professional room to experiment. “Oedipus der Tyrann” strips away operatic musical form, with scant melody or symphonic expression, though Pollock’s close reading of the score shows some remaining links to mainstream operatic tradition. But the subject of the opera is classical: Orff uses the German poet Friedrich Holderlin’s 1804 translation of Sophocles’ “Oedipus” as his content. As Pollock notes, in 1958, this could be a problematic theme.</p> <p>“When Germans claim special ownership of Greek culture, they’re saying they’re better than other countries — it’s cultural nationalism,” Pollock observes. “So what does it mean that a German composer is taking Greek tropes and reinterpreting them for a postwar context? Only recently, [there had been] events like the Berlin Olympics, where the Third Reich was specifically mobilizing an identification between Germans and the Greeks.” &nbsp;</p> <p>In this case, Pollock says, “I think Orff was not able to think clearly about the potential political implications of what he was doing. He would have thought of music as largely apolitical. We can now look back more critically and see the continuities there.” Even if Orff’s subject matter was not intentionally political, though, it was certainly not an expression of a cultural “Zero Hour,” either.</p> <p><strong>Opera is the key</strong></p> <p>“Opera after the Zero Hour” continually illustrates how complex music creation can be. In the composer Bernd Alois Zimmerman’s 1960s opera “Die Soldaten,” Pollock notes a variety of influences, chiefly Richard Wagner’s idea of the “totalizing work of art” and the composer Alban Berg’s musical idioms — but without Wagner’s nationalistic impulses.</p> <p>Even as it details the nuances of specific operas, Pollock’s book is also part of a larger dialogue about which types of music are most worth studying. If operas had limited overlap with the most radical forms of musical composition of the time, then opera’s popularity, as well as the intriguing forms of innovation and experiment that did occur within the form, make it a vital area of study, in Pollock’s view.</p> <p>“History is always very selective,” Pollock says. “A canon of postwar music will include a very narrow slice of pieces that did really cool, new stuff, that no one had ever heard before.” But focusing on such self-consciously radical music only yields a limited understanding of the age and its cultural tastes, Pollock adds, because “there is a lot of music written for the opera house that people who loved music, and loved opera, were invested in.”</p> <p>Other music scholars say “Opera after the Zero Hour” is a significant contribution to its field. Brigid Cohen, an associate professor of music at New York University, has stated that the book makes “a powerful case for taking seriously long-neglected operatic works that speak to a vexed cultural history still relevant in the present.”</p> <p>Pollock, for her part, writes in the book that, given all the nuances and tensions and wrinkles in the evolution of the art form, “opera is the key” to understanding the relationship between postwar German composers and the country’s newly fraught cultural tradition, in a fully complicated and historical mode.</p> <p>“If you look at [cultural] conservatism as interesting, you find a lot of interesting things,” Pollock says. “And if you assume things that are less innovative are less interesting, then you’re ignoring a lot of things that people cared about.”</p> Emily Richmond Pollock and her book, “Opera After the Zero Hour.”Image: David Kinder and Emily Richmond PollockSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Music, Arts, Faculty, Books and authors, History The permanent struggle for liberty http://news.mit.edu/2019/narrow-corridor-acemoglu-liberty-0924 Daron Acemoglu’s new book examines the battle between state and society, which occasionally produces liberal-democratic freedom. Tue, 24 Sep 2019 10:43:52 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/narrow-corridor-acemoglu-liberty-0924 <p>Where do democratic states with substantial personal liberty come from? Over the years, many grand theories have emphasized one specific factor or another, including culture, climate, geography, technology, or socioeconomic circumstances such as the development of a robust middle class.</p> <p><a href="http://economics.mit.edu/faculty/acemoglu" target="_blank">Daron Acemoglu</a> has a different view: Political liberty comes from social struggle. We have no universal template for liberty — no conditions that necessarily give rise to it, and no unfolding historical progression that inevitably leads to it. Liberty is not engineered and handed down by elites, and there is no guarantee liberty will remain intact, even when it is enshrined in law.</p> <p>“True democracy and liberty don’t originate from checks and balances or from clever institutional design,” says Acemoglu, an economist and Institute Professor at MIT. “They originate [and are sustained] in the much more messy process of society mobilizing, people defending their own liberties, and actively setting constraints on how rules and behaviors are imposed on them.”</p> <p>Now Acemoglu and his longtime collaborator James A. Robinson, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, have a new book out propounding this thesis. “<a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/555400/the-narrow-corridor-by-daron-acemoglu-and-james-a-robinson/" target="_blank">The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty</a>,” published this week by Penguin Random House, examines how some states emerged as beacons of liberty.</p> <p>The crux of the matter, to Acemoglu and Robinson, is that liberal-democratic states exist in between the alternatives of lawlessness and authoritarianism. The state is needed to protect people from domination at the hands of others in society, but the state can also become an instrument of violence and repression. When social groups contest state power and harness it to help ordinary citizens, liberty expands.</p> <p>“The conflict between state and society, where the state is represented by elite institutions and leaders, creates a narrow corridor in which liberty flourishes,” Acemoglu says. “You need this conflict to be balanced. An imbalance is detrimental to liberty. If society is too weak, that leads to despotism. But on the other side, if society is too strong, that results in weak states that are unable to protect their citizens.”</p> <p><strong>From the “Gilgamesh problem” to the “narrow corridor”</strong></p> <p>Following the English political theorist John Locke, Acemoglu and Robinson define liberty by writing that it “must start with people being free from violence, intimidation, and other demeaning acts. People must be able to make free choices about their lives and have the means to carry them out without the menace of unreasonable punishment or draconian social sanctions.”</p> <p>This has been a nearly eternal concern, the authors note: Gilgamesh, per the ancient epic, was a king who “exceeded all bounds” in society. The need to curb absolute power is something the authors call the “Gilgamesh problem,” one of several coinages in the book. Another is the “cage of norms,” the condition where society, in absence of a state, organizes itself to avoid extensive violence — but only through restrictive social arrangements.</p> <p>States, by becoming the guarantors of liberty, can break the repressive cage of norms. But social groups must curb state power before it too stifles freedom. When state capacity and society develop in tandem, the authors call this the “Red Queen effect,” alluding to a race in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass.” This “race,” if balanced enough, occurs in the “narrow corridor” where liberty-supporting states can exist.</p> <p>Acemoglu and Robinson examine ancient cases of political reform from Athens to the Zapotec state, and they locate liberty’s largest direct wellspring in the early Middle Ages. Germanic tribes had quasidemocratic assemblies; meanwhile some leftover administrative structures of the Roman empire still existed alongside those of the Christian church. When the Frankish king Clovis created a “fusion of Roman state structure with the norms and political institutions of the Franks” in 511, the authors write, some parts of Europe were “at the entryway to the corridor” toward liberty.</p> <p>To be sure, there was a “gradual, painful historical process” to be played out; it was another 700 years before King John of England signed the Magna Carta in 1215, a watershed for the distribution of lawful power beyond the throne.</p> <p>Still, state structures being grafted onto a mechanism for representing society, through assemblies, meant both state and society could expand their power. As Acemoglu and Robinson put it, this “fortuitous balance” effectively “put Europe into the corridor, setting in motion the Red Queen effect in a relentless process of state‐society competition.” Eventually, European democracies evolved.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>“Liberty is fragile”</strong></p> <p>That Europe took the lead in creating liberty-granting states was not inevitable, Acemoglu and Robinson emphasize. Almost 3,000 years ago, they note, ancient China was organized into city-states, and one influential political advisor of the time wrote that “the people are masters of the deities.” But by the fourth century B.C.E., spurred on by the politician and theorist Shang Yang, Chinese rulers built a much more powerful state, which became the Qin empire. Despite many potential moments of reform, detailed in “The Narrow Corridor,” China’s state has largely remained much more powerful than its social interests.</p> <p>Moreover, Acemoglu suggests, the longer a despotic state exists, “the more self-reinforcing it becomes.” He adds: “The more it takes root, the more it sets up a hierarchy which is hard to change, and the more it weakens society. … That’s why I think dreams of China smoothly converting to a democratic system have been misplaced — [it’s had] 2,500 years of state despotism.”</p> <p>The account of the U.S. in “The Narrow Corridor” also takes a long view, albeit over a much shorter period. The U.S. Constitution and the architecture of government developed in the late 18th century, Acemoglu and Robinson write, was a “Faustian bargain” created by Federalists to limit both absolute power and popular power. This structure, they believe, especially its emphasis on states’ rights, “meant that the federal state remained impaired in some important dimensions. For one, it obviously didn’t protect slaves and later its African American citizens from violence, discrimination, poverty, and dominance.”</p> <p>Acemoglu and Robinson also believe that focusing too much on “the brilliant design of the Constitution” is problematic because it “ignores the critical role that society’s mobilization and the Red Queen [effect] played at every turn. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights … were the result of the tussle between elites and the people.” The expansion of U.S. rights and liberties has emerged intermittently&nbsp; — following the Civil War, the civil rights movement, and the women’s rights movement, among other things. But these liberties can also recede if political counter-movements become effective enough.</p> <p>“That is the sense in which liberty is fragile,” Acemoglu says. “If you thought liberty depended on clever designs, you’d have thought we would find the perfect design that protects liberty all the time. But if you think it depends on this messy process, then it’s a much more contingent and troubled existence.”</p> <p><strong>Facing the “urgent challenges for us today”</strong></p> <p>“The Narrow Corridor” examines many additional cases of state-building in history, from India and Africa to Scandinavia. It also builds on a body of work Acemoglu and Robinson have produced examining the relationships between society, state institutions, and growth. That includes the books “Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy” (2006) and “Why Nations Fail” (2012). The two scholars have also co-authored 36 published papers on these topics (some with additional co-authors).&nbsp;</p> <p>Acemoglu has also published widely on labor economics, the impact of technology on work and growth, and macroeconomic dynamics. He was named as one of MIT’s 12 Institute Professors this summer and has been on the faculty of the Department of Economics since 1993.</p> <p>As the authors view it, their account of liberty stands in contrast to many other models. The close of the Cold War helped generate the idea of a geopolitical “end of history,” in which states would converge on a liberal-democratic model. That notion did not closely forecast subsequent developments. Neither did postwar theories of modernization that posited a standardized path to democratic prosperity for the developing world.</p> <p>“There are multiple destinations countries can be headed to,” Acemoglu says. “There is nothing ephemeral about a despotic state or a weak state, and there is no ineluctable process that’s going to take every country smoothly toward some sort of liberty at all.”</p> <p>Moreover, Acemoglu says, “Our argument is not a culturally deterministic one.” He adds: “There are views that are very economistic. … Ours is a view that emphasizes the role of agency by individuals and society, and maintains that different social organizations lead to different outcomes. It’s also not geography-based. I think there are a lot of differences from [other] theories.”</p> <p>Scholars have praised “The Narrow Corridor.” Joel Mokyr, a historian at Northwestern University, has called it “a magisterial book of immense insight and learning,” which “draws a chilling conclusion every thinking person should be aware of: Liberty is as rare as it is fragile, wedged uneasily between tyranny and anarchy.”</p> <p>Today’s politics have also generated abundant discussion about the future of governance and democracy. In this vein, Acemoglu says, “The Narrow Corridor” is an engagement with the past meant to illuminate the present.</p> <p>“We need to think about history,” Acemoglu says. “We are writing this book because we think it’s relevant to the urgent challenges for us today. Creating the right sort of political balance, and mobilizing society while not disempowering laws and institutions, are completely first-order challenges we face today. I hope our perspective will shed some light on those issues.”</p> Daron Acemoglu and his new book, “The Narrow Corridor.”Image: Jared CharneySchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Economic, Politics, Books and authors, Faculty, Research, History, Government Computing and artificial intelligence: Humanistic perspectives from MIT http://news.mit.edu/2019/computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-0924 How the humanities, arts, and social science fields can help shape the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing — and benefit from advanced computing. Tue, 24 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2019/computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-0924 <p><em>The MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing </em><em>(SCC) </em><em>will reorient the Institute to bring the power of computing and artificial intelligence to all fields at MIT, and to allow the future of computing and AI to be shaped by all MIT disciplines.</em></p> <p><em>To support ongoing planning for the new college, Dean Melissa Nobles invited faculty from all 14 of MIT’s humanistic disciplines in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences to respond to two questions:&nbsp;&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>1) What domain knowledge, perspectives, and methods from your field should be integrated into the new MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, and why? </em><br /> <br /> <em>2) What are some of the meaningful opportunities that advanced computing makes possible in your field?&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>As Nobles says in her foreword to the series, “Together, the following responses to these two questions offer something of a guidebook to the myriad, productive ways that technical, humanistic, and scientific fields can join forces at MIT, and elsewhere, to further human and planetary well-being.” </em></p> <p><em>The following excerpts highlight faculty responses, with links to full commentaries. The excerpts are sequenced by fields in the following order: the humanities, arts, and social sciences. </em></p> <p><strong>Foreword by Melissa Nobles, professor of political science and the Kenan Sahin Dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences </strong></p> <p>“The advent of artificial intelligence presents our species with an historic opportunity — disguised as an existential challenge: Can we stay human in the age of AI?&nbsp; In fact, can we grow in humanity, can we shape a more humane, more just, and sustainable world? With a sense of promise and urgency, we are embarked at MIT on an accelerated effort to more fully integrate the technical and humanistic forms of discovery in our curriculum and research, and in our habits of mind and action.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-foreword-dean-melissa-nobles" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Comparative Media Studies: William Uricchio, professor of comparative media studies</strong></p> <p>“Given our research and practice focus, the CMS perspective can be key for understanding the implications of computation for knowledge and representation, as well as computation’s relationship to the critical process of how knowledge works in culture — the way it is formed, shared, and validated.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Bring media and computer scholars together to explore issues that require both areas of expertise: text-generating algorithms (that force us to ask what it means to be human); the nature of computational gatekeepers (that compels us to reflect on implicit cultural priorities); and personalized filters and texts (that require us to consider the shape of our own biases).” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-cms-william-uricchio" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Global Languages: Emma J. Teng, the T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations</strong></p> <p>“Language and culture learning are gateways to international experiences and an important means to develop cross-cultural understanding and sensitivity. Such understanding is essential to addressing the social and ethical implications of the expanding array of technology affecting everyday life across the globe.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “We aim to create a 21st-century language center to provide a convening space for cross-cultural communication, collaboration, action research, and global classrooms. We also plan to keep the intimate size and human experience of MIT’s language classes, which only increase in value as technology saturates the world.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-global-languages-emma-teng" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>History: Jeffrey Ravel, professor of history and head of MIT History </strong></p> <p>“Emerging innovations in computational methods will continue to improve our access to the past and the tools through which we interpret evidence. But the field of history will continue to be served by older methods of scholarship as well; critical thinking by human beings is fundamental to our endeavors in the humanities.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Call on the nuanced debates in which historians engage about causality to provide a useful frame of reference for considering the issues that will inevitably emerge from new computing technologies. This methodology of the history field is a powerful way to help imagine our way out of today’s existential threats.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-history-jeffrey-ravel" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Linguistics: Faculty of MIT Linguistics</strong></p> <p>“Perhaps the most obvious opportunities for computational and linguistics research concern the interrelation between specific hypotheses about the formal properties of language and their computational implementation in the form of systems that learn, parse, and produce human language.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Critically, transformative new tools have come from researchers at institutions where linguists work side-by-side with computational researchers who are able to translate back and forth between computational properties of linguistic grammars and of other systems.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-linguistics-faculty" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Literature: Shankar Raman, with Mary C. Fuller, professors of literature</strong></p> <p>“In the age of AI, we could invent new tools for reading. Making the expert reading skills we teach MIT students even partially available to readers outside the academy would widen access to our materials in profound ways.”</p> <p>Recommended action: At least three priorities of current literary engagement with the digital should be integrated into the SCC’s research and curriculum: democratization of knowledge; new modes of and possibilities for knowledge production; and critical analysis of the social conditions governing what can be known and who can know it.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-literature-shankar-raman" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Philosophy: Alex Byrne, professor of philosophy and head of MIT Philosophy; and Tamar Schapiro, associate professor of philosophy</strong></p> <p>“Computing and AI pose many ethical problems related to: privacy (e.g., data systems design), discrimination (e.g., bias in machine learning), policing (e.g., surveillance), democracy (e.g., the&nbsp;Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal), remote warfare, intellectual property, political regulation, and corporate responsibility.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “The SCC presents an opportunity for MIT to be an intellectual leader in the ethics of technology. The ethics lab we propose could turn this opportunity into reality.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-philosophy-alex-byrne-and-tamar-schapiro" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Science, Technology, and Society: Eden Medina and Dwaipayan Banerjee, associate professors of science, technology, and society</strong></p> <p>“A more global view of computing would demonstrate a broader range of possibilities than one centered on the American experience, while also illuminating how computer systems can reflect and respond to different needs and systems. Such experiences can prove generative for thinking about the future of computing writ large.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Adopt a global approach to the research and teaching in the SCC, an approach that views the U.S. experience as one among many.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-sts-dwai-banerjee-and-eden-medina" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Women's and Gender Studies: Ruth Perry, the Ann Friedlaender Professor of Literature; with Sally Haslanger, the Ford Professor of Philosophy, and Elizabeth Wood, professor of history</strong></p> <p>“The SCC presents MIT with a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in addressing some of most pressing challenges that have emerged from the role computing technologies play in our society — including how these technologies are reinforcing social inequalities.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Ensure that women’s voices are heard and that coursework and research is designed with a keen awareness of the difference that gender makes. This is the single-most powerful way that MIT can address the inequities in the computing fields.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-wgs-perry-haslanger-wood" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Writing: Tom Levenson, professor of science writing </strong></p> <p>“Computation and its applications in fields that directly affect society cannot be an unexamined good. Professional science and technology writers are a crucial resource for the mission of new college of computing, and they need to be embedded within its research apparatus.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Intertwine writing and the ideas in coursework to provide conceptual depth that purely technical mastery cannot offer.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-writing-thomas-levenson" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Music: Eran Egozy, professor of the practice in music technology</strong></p> <p>“Creating tomorrow’s music systems responsibly will require a truly multidisciplinary education, one that covers everything from scientific models and engineering challenges to artistic practice and societal implications. The new music technology will be accompanied by difficult questions. Who owns the output of generative music algorithms that are trained on human compositions? How do we ensure that music, an art form intrinsic to all humans, does not become controlled by only a few?”</p> <p>Recommended action: Through the SCC, our responsibility will be not only to develop the new technologies of music creation, distribution, and interaction, but also to study their cultural implications and define the parameters of a harmonious outcome for all.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-music-eran-egozy" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Theater Arts: Sara Brown, assistant professor of theater arts and MIT Theater Arts director of design</strong></p> <p>“As a subject, AI problematizes what is means to be human. There are an unending series of questions posed by the presence of an intelligent machine. The theater, as a synthetic art form that values and exploits liveness, is an ideal place to explore the complex and layered problems posed by AI and advanced computing.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “There are myriad opportunities for advanced computing to be integrated into theater, both as a tool and as a subject of exploration. As a tool, advanced computing can be used to develop performance systems that respond directly to a live performer in real time, or to integrate virtual reality as a previsualization tool for designers.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-theater-arts-sara-brown" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Anthropology: Heather Paxson, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Anthropology</strong></p> <p>“The methods used in anthropology —&nbsp;a field that systematically studies human cultural beliefs and practices — are uniquely suited to studying the effects of automation and digital technologies in social life. For anthropologists, ‘Can artificial intelligence be ethical?’ is an empirical, not a hypothetical, question. Ethical for what? To whom? Under what circumstances?”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Incorporate anthropological thinking into the new college to prepare students to live and work effectively and responsibly in a world of technological, demographic, and cultural exchanges. We envision an ethnography lab that will provide digital and computing tools tailored to anthropological research and projects.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-anthropology-heather-paxson" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Economics: Nancy L. Rose, the Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics and head of the Department of Economics; and David Autor, the Ford Professor of Economics and co-director of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future</strong></p> <p>“The intellectual affinity between economics and computer science traces back almost a century, to the founding of game theory in 1928. Today, the practical synergies between economics and computer science are flourishing. We outline some of the many opportunities for the two disciplines to engage more deeply through the new SCC.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Research that engages the tools and expertise of economics on matters of fairness, expertise, and cognitive biases in machine-supported and machine-delegated decision-making; and on market design, industrial organization, and the future of work. Scholarship at the intersection of data science, econometrics, and causal inference. Cultivate depth in network science, algorithmic game theory and mechanism design, and online learning. Develop tools for rapid, cost-effective, and ongoing education and retraining for workers.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-economics-nancy-rose-and-david-autor" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Political Science: Faculty of the Department of Political Science</strong></p> <p>“The advance of computation gives rise to a number of conceptual and normative questions that are political, rather than ethical in character. Political science and theory have a significant role in addressing such questions as: How do major players in the technology sector seek to legitimate their authority to make decisions that affect us all? And where should that authority actually reside in a democratic polity?”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Incorporate the research and perspectives of political science in SCC research and education to help ensure that computational research is socially aware, especially with issues involving governing institutions, the relations between nations, and human rights.” <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-computing-and-ai-humanistic-perspectives-mit-political-science-faculty" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em>Series prepared by SHASS Communications<br /> Series Editor and Designer: Emily Hiestand<br /> Series Co-Editor: Kathryn O’Neill</em></span></p> Image: Christine Daniloff, MITEducation, teaching, academics, Humanities, Arts, Social sciences, Computer science and technology, Artificial intelligence, Technology and society, MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, Anthropology, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Economics, Global Studies and Languages, History, Linguistics, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political science, Program in STS, Theater, Music and theater arts, Women's and Gender Studies A new lens into the past http://news.mit.edu/2019/new-lens-into-past-one-ma3-0919 Summer program in civil and environmental engineering examines the intersection of modern engineering and cultural heritage. Thu, 19 Sep 2019 14:30:01 -0400 Taylor De Leon | Fatima Husain | Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering http://news.mit.edu/2019/new-lens-into-past-one-ma3-0919 <p>Remnants of ancient Roman structures withstand centuries of wear and warfare across Europe, recording the history and culture of the people who lived around them. But hidden within mortar, and hinted by delicate cracks and chips, the structures record something else that could improve how similar materials are built today: ancient engineering.</p> <p>For the fourth summer in a row, 16 rising sophomores visited civilization-spanning structures and monuments in Italy through the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s ONE-MA3 program, which integrates the study of art, architecture, and archaeology. During the three-week field course, which is supported by the&nbsp;<a href="http://area-3.org/">AREA3 Association</a>&nbsp;(Associazione per la Ricerca e l'Educazione nell'Arte, Archeologia e Architettura), students conducted research on ancient artifacts and structural materials to inspire new research projects grounded in time, which they explore further in the fall semester in 1.057 (Heritage Science and Technology).&nbsp;</p> <p>Admir Masic, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering who leads the program, says, “Bringing students into the field is the easiest way to stimulate their curiosity.” Along with CEE, Masic is also an archaeological materials faculty fellow for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) at the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology (CMRAE). In his research, Masic and his team apply principles of chemistry and materials science to characterize and organize human-made materials used both in the past and at present.&nbsp;</p> <p>ONE-MA3 “offers students a hands-on experience to learn about how materials are the backbone of infrastructure, and how the field has evolved over thousands of years,” says McAfee Professor of Engineering and CEE department head Markus Buehler. Buehler considers the summer program a quintessential MIT experience — by studying ancient construction materials in the field, students are able to connect theoretical concepts to practical settings, and can begin to tackle modern issues in construction.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Constructing sustainable structures</strong></p> <p>One material, Roman concrete, served as the foundation for the course. Unlike the quick-to-disintegrate, weather-sensitive and pothole-prone concrete used to construct roads and highways today, Roman concrete hardens and repairs itself in the presence of water.&nbsp;</p> <p>Conventional modern concrete is usually composed of three materials: water, rock, and cement. However, that formula is deceptively simple: The specific compositions of those materials can make or break the resulting structure. In the case of Roman concrete, those specific compositions are not well understood, only archived in the structures themselves.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Understanding the reasons behind the resilience of Roman concrete could pave new paths,” says Janille Maragh, a graduate student and three-time teaching assistant for the program who worked alongside graduate student Linda Seymour. “It’s one thing to do research using cultural heritage data, but without context, it’s difficult to grasp the magnitude of the problem.”&nbsp;</p> <p>To kick off the summer program, students gathered at the castle in Sermoneta, a historical village located in the Italian countryside. There, they learned about the significance of lime, a key ingredient in Roman concrete, and they tried their hand at composing Roman concrete using different aggregates such as&nbsp;pozzolana<em> </em>(volcanic ash),&nbsp;cocciopesto (ground clay bricks), and pumice under the instruction of local guest lecturers. The aggregates studied were readily present in different environmental and volcanic settings in ancient Rome, and don’t require a carbon emission-heavy industrial process to create, unlike aggregates and materials used in modern concrete today.&nbsp;</p> <p>One main goal of this specific exercise, and the program in general, is to elicit creative and advanced ways to engineer new materials and technologies. Through experimentation with different materials, proportions, and compression testing of the resulting samples and structures, students learned first-hand the challenges behind creating mortars that are both durable and sustainable. They presented the reasoning behind their chosen compositions to their peers ahead of their next lessons.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Traveling time</strong></p> <p>Reflecting the Institute’s motto, "mens et manus" ("mind and hand"), Masic led students on excursions to various historical and archeological sites around Italy to give students the opportunity to interact with different materials, examine their uses first-hand, and contemplate the cultural significance of ancient structures and the materials that built them. Through lectures and field exercises, students studied the chemical makeup, historical significance, and conservation methods of preserved structures in order to set the stage for future engineers to build structures that last and positively impact society.&nbsp;</p> <p>“My hope for ONE-MA3 is that this experience will allow participants to grow as humans and as students,” Masic says. “The program allows students to view our modern world with a completely new perspective.”&nbsp;</p> <p>By using ancient Roman materials as the building blocks for modern structures in the presence of architectural and structural paragons, students were exposed to a learning opportunity not available in the classrooms of Cambridge, Massachusetts.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sophomore Anna Landler, a student who participated in the 2019 iteration of ONE-MA3, says the program helped her grasp concepts crucial to civil and environmental engineering that would take months to understand in the classroom. “Being out in the field, where we were able to see and feel these objects, helps me understand them better and know how they interact with the world around us … I wouldn’t be nearly as inspired as I would be if it was in a lecture format or a textbook.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to studying ancient technologies, students learned about restoration, the practice of best preserving artifacts. In a tour of the Vatican museum, students heard from Guy Devreux, the head of the museum’s laboratory for stone conservation, as he described and showed them behind-the-scenes restoration of marble sculptures. Sophomore Sophia Mittman, a student majoring in materials science and engineering, says the experience enhanced her passion for conservation. “Everything we learned came alive right in front of us, whether it was producing 3-D models of structures and statues … It is an incredible way to learn from ancient technologies and discover how they can be adapted and applied to modern technology today,” states Mittman.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The students also visited Pompeii — the ancient city buried by four to six meters of volcanic ash due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Excavations at Pompeii offer archeologists a glimpse into Roman life, freezing people and their environments in time. There, students were presented with a pressing issue: No one knows how to effectively preserve Pompeii and its ruins. They also explored the American Academy in Rome with the Director and MIT Professor John Ochsendorf, where they examined significant ancient texts, such as Galileo Galilei’s original works and the first edition of the Italian copy of Vitruvius.&nbsp;</p> <p>Motivated by a newfound passion for cultural heritage, students next studied photogrammetry for 3-D modeling in an effort to digitally document and preserve museum artifacts and structures. “I think there is an intriguing combination between using digital arts and media in order to explain these engineering concepts to those who may not understand it as well, or don’t have the kind of opportunity to meet with experts and professors, it is definitely important to reach youth around the world and encourage them. I felt that I have been able to explore my interests during the program, and it has allowed me to ask questions and grow a lot,” says sophomore Ben Bartschi.</p> <p><strong>Looking forward</strong></p> <p>After exploring the extravagant baroque palaces in Turin, the students made their way to the Egyptian Museum, Museo Egizio, where they had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and investigate ancient Egyptian artifacts, roughly 3,000 years old. They used non-invasive characterization tools to study and collect data on the centuries-old materials. They also learned about the fascinating Egyptian Blue pigment, invented 5,000 years ago, which continues to be used in modern science and technology today.</p> <p>“The fact that we are dedicating so much time to ourselves to engage in this process makes us realize the amount of time, care, and importance of conservation,” Landler says. Without visiting and studying ancient materials, structures, and cultural artifacts in their environments, “you don’t really understand the labor that goes into this job.”&nbsp;</p> <p>With each iteration of the program, ONE-MA3 students learn the significance of looking into the past to inspire innovation today, and the imperative cultural heritage enabled and preserved due to feats of civil, environmental, and material engineering. Many, including Masic, are excited to see the acquired knowledge applied as students begin the new academic year.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Advancement lies at the interface of various disciplines,” says Masic. “To be able to innovate, we need to observe and challenge many different perspectives. When it comes to ancient technologies, this holds true as well: It’s a great avenue for innovation, and we hope to translate that into inspiration for modern materials and structures.”</p> <p>Contributors to ONE-MA3 include: Restorer and art conservator Roberto Scalesse from the Società Erresse, IT specialist Gianfranco Quaranta from the Artech Laboratories srl, chemist and conservation scientist Marco Nicola from the Adamantio srl and the University of Turin, professor of archaeology and ancient technology Dorothy Hosler from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, Duncan Keenan-Jones from University of Queensland, Christian Greco and Enrico Ferraris from the Museo Egizio, Guy Devreux from the Musei Vaticani, Tommaso Agnoni from the Roffredo Caetani Foundation, Francesco Di Mario from the Soprintendenza Archeologia and Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le Provincie di Frosinone and Latina e Rieti, Lisa Accurti from the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio Città Metropolitana di Torino, Bruno de Nigris and Massimo Osanna from the Parco Archeologico di Pompei, Mastro Gilberto Quarneti, Gianni Nerobutto from the Calchèra San Giorgio, Alessandro and Gian Luigi Nicola from the Nicola Restauri srl, Mauro Volpiano and Claudia Cassatella from the Politecnico di Torino, Riccardo Antonino from Società Robin and Politecnico di Torino, Stefano Trucco and Anna Piccirillo from the Centro per la Conservazione e Restauro “La Venaria Reale,” Dario Parigi from the Aalborg University, Michal Ganobjak from the Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Chiara Mastreopolito, Alessandro Marello and Alessandro Bazzacco from the Adamantio srl, Piercarlo Innico from the Associazione Acropolis, Giuseppe Donnaloia from Società CACO3, Franco Vitelli from Società Sectilia, and freelancers Michele Sinisi, Claudia Rivoli, Francesca Mancinelli, and Livio Secco.&nbsp;</p> MIT engineering students display the frescoes and mosaics that they created at the Caetani Castle in Sermoneta, Italy. Photo: Max KesslerCivil and environmental engineering, School of Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Concrete, Architecture, Anthropology, Classes and programs, History, STEM education, DMSE, Global, International initiatives J-WAFS announces 2019 Solutions Grants supporting agriculture and clean water http://news.mit.edu/2019/j-wafs-solutions-grants-hlb-greening-citrus-disease-clean-water-nepal-0917 Projects address access to clean water in Nepal via wearable E. coli test kits, improving the resilience of commercial citrus groves, and more. Tue, 17 Sep 2019 12:00:01 -0400 Andi Sutton | Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab http://news.mit.edu/2019/j-wafs-solutions-grants-hlb-greening-citrus-disease-clean-water-nepal-0917 <p>The development of new technologies often starts with funded university research. Venture capital firms are eager to back well-tested products or services that are ready to enter the startup phase. However, funding that bridges the gap between these two stages can be hard to come by. The Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food System Lab (J-WAFS) at MIT aims to fill this gap with their J-WAFS Solutions grant program. This program provides critical funding to students and faculty at MIT who have promising bench-scale technologies that can be applied to water and food systems challenges, but are not yet market-ready. By supporting the essential steps in any startup journey — customer discovery, market testing, prototyping, design, and more — as well as mentorship from industry experts throughout the life of the grant, this grant program helps to speed the development of new products and services that have the potential to increase the safety, resilience, and accessibility of the world’s water and food supplies.</p> <p>J-WAFS Solutions grants provide one year of financial support to MIT principal investigators with promising early-stage technologies, as well as mentorship from industry experts and experienced entrepreneurs throughout the grant. With additional networking and guidance provided by MIT’s Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, project teams are supported as they advance their technologies toward commercialization. Since the start of the program in 2015, J-WAFS Solutions grants have already been instrumental in the launch of two MIT startups — <a href="https://www.viaseparations.com/">Via Separations</a> and <a href="http://www.xibus.systems/">Xibus Systems</a> — as well as an open-source technology to support clean water access for the rural and urban poor in India.</p> <p>John H. Lienhard V, director of J-WAFS and Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Mechanical Engineering at MIT, describes the role of the J-WAFS Solutions program this way: “The combined effects of unsustainable human consumption patterns and the climate crisis threaten the world’s water and food supplies. These challenges are already present, and the risks were made plain in several recent, high-profile international news reports. Innovation in the water and food sectors can certainly help, and it is urgently needed. Through the J-WAFS Solutions program, we seek to identify nascent technologies with the greatest potential to transform local or even global food and water systems, and then to speed their transfer to market. We aim to leverage MIT’s entrepreneurial spirit to ensure that the water and food needs of our global human community can be met sustainably, now and far into the future.”</p> <p>Two projects funded by the J-WAFS Solutions program in 2019 are applying this entrepreneurial approach to sensors that support clean water and resilience in the agriculture industry. Three projects, all in the agriculture sector and funded by previous grants, are continuing this year, which together comprise a portfolio of exciting MIT technologies that are helping to resolve water and food challenges across the world.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Simplifying water quality testing in Nepal and beyond </strong></p> <p>In 2018, the J-WAFS Solutions program supported a collaboration between the MIT-Nepal Initiative, led by professor of history Jeffrey Ravel, MIT D-Lab lecturer Susan Murcott, and the Nepalese non-governmental organization <a href="http://enpho.org/">Environment and Public Health Organization</a> (ENPHO). The project sought to refine the design of a wearable water test kit developed by Susan Murcott that provided simple, accessible ways to test the presence of <em>E. coli</em> in drinking water, even in the most remote settings. In that first year of J-WAFS funding, the research team worked with their Nepali partners, ENPHO, and their social business partner in Nepal, EcoConcern, to finalize the design of their product, called the ECC Vial, which, with the materials that they’ve now sourced, can be sold for less than $1 in Nepal — a significantly lower price than any other water-testing product on the market.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This technology is urgently needed by communities in Nepal, where many drinking water supplies are contaminated by <em>E. coli.</em> Standard testing practices are expensive, require significant laboratory infrastructure, or are just plain inaccessible to the many people exposed to unsafe drinking water. In fact, children under the age of 5 are the most vulnerable, and more than 40,000 children in Nepal alone die every year as a result of drinking contaminated water. The ECC Vial is intended to be the next-generation easy-to-use, portable, low-cost method for <em>E. coli</em> detection in water samples. It is particularly designed for simplicity and is appropriate for use in remote and low-resource settings.</p> <p>The 2019 renewal grant for the project “<a href="https://jwafs.mit.edu/research/projects/2018/manufacturing-and-marketing-e-coli-test-kits-promote-safely-managed-drinking">Manufacturing and Marketing EC-Kits in Nepal</a>” will support the team in working with the same Nepali partners to optimize the manufacturing process for the ECC Vials and refine the marketing strategy in order to ensure that the technology that is sold to customers is reliable and that the business model for local purveyors is viable now and into the future. Once the product enters the market this year, the team plans to begin distribution in Bangladesh, and will assess market opportunities in India, Pakistan, Peru, and Ghana, where there is a comparable need for a simple and affordable and <em>E.coli</em> indicator testing product for use by government agencies, private water vendors, bottled water firms, international nonprofit organizations and low-income populations without access to safe water. Based on consumer demand in Nepal and beyond, this solution has the potential to reach more than 3 million people during just its first two years on the market.</p> <p><strong>Supporting the resilience of the citrus industry </strong></p> <p>Citrus plants are very high-value crops and nutrient-dense foods. They are an important part of diets for people in developing countries with micronutrient deficiencies, as well as for people in developed economies who suffer from obesity and diet-related chronic diseases. Citrus fruits have become staples across seasons, cultures, and geographies, yet the large-scale citrus farms in the United States that support much of our domestic citrus consumption are challenged by citrus greening disease. Also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), it is an uncurable disease caused by bacteria transmitted by a small insect, the Asian citrus psyllid. The bacterial infection causes trees to wither and fruit to develop an unpleasantly bitter taste, rendering the tree’s fruit inedible. If left undetected, HLB can very quickly spread throughout large citrus groves. Since there is no treatment, infected trees must be removed to prevent further spreading. The disease poses an immediate threat to the $3.3 billion-per-year worldwide citrus industry. One of the reasons HLB is so troubling is that there doesn’t yet exist an accessible and affordable early-detection strategy. Once the observable symptoms of the disease have shown up in one part of a citrus grove, it is likely many more trees are already infected.</p> <p>Taking on this challenge is a research team at MIT led by Karen Gleason, the Alexander and I. Michael Kasser (1960) Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. A 2019 J-WAFS Solutions grant for the project&nbsp;“<a href="https://jwafs.mit.edu/research/projects/2019/early-detection-huanglongbing-hlb-citrus-greening-disease">Early detection of Huanglongbing (HLB) Citrus Greening Disease</a>” is supporting the development of a new technology for early detection of HLB infection in citrus trees. The team’s strategy is to deploy a series of low-cost, high-sensitivity sensors that can be used on-site, and which are attuned to volatile organic compounds emitted by citrus trees that change in concentration during early-stage HLB infection when trees do not yet exhibit visible symptoms. Using the data gathered via these sensors, an algorithm developed by the team provides a high-accuracy prediction system for the presence of the disease so that farmers and farm managers can make informed decisions about tree removal in order to protect the remaining trees in their citrus groves. Their aim is to detect HLB disease in months, rather than the years it now takes for the infection to be found.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Currently funded J-WAFS Solutions technologies seeking to revolutionize agriculture practices</strong></p> <p>Three other J-WAFS Solutions projects are continuing through the 2019-20 academic year. From a tractor-pulled reactor unit that can turn agricultural wastes on rural farms into nutrient-rich fertilizer, to a polymer-based additive for agriculture sprays that dramatically reduces runoff <a href="https://www.bbc.com/reel/playlist/follow-the-food?utm_source=MIT+Energy+Initiative&amp;utm_campaign=9c18c2c8af-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_07_11_01_27_COPY_02&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_eb3c6d9c51-9c18c2c8af-66414689&amp;mc_cid=9c18c2c8af&amp;mc_eid=1b49a6835d">recently featured by the BBC</a>, to an affordable soil sensor that aims to make precision farming strategies available to smallholder farmers in India, these J-WAFS-funded projects are each aiming to transform the sustainability of small- and large-scale farming practices.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The J-WAFS Solutions program is implemented in collaboration with <a href="http://communityjameel.org">Community Jameel</a> — the global philanthropic organization founded by MIT alumnus Mohammed Jameel — and is administered by J-WAFS in partnership with the <a href="https://deshpande.mit.edu/">MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation</a>.</p> <p>Fady Jameel, president, international of Community Jameel, says: “Access to clean water, and better management of water resources, can boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction. We always aim through J-WAFS to support the development and deployment of technologies, policies, and programs which will contribute to help humankind adapt to a rapidly changing planet and combat worldwide water scarcity and food supply.”</p> Left: A water sample undergoing testing using the J-WAFS-funded water quality test kit soon to be deployed throughout Nepal. Right: Citrus trees infected with citrus greening disease are highly contagious and can wipe out whole orange groves. A J-WAFS-funded sensor could help farmers detect the disease much earlier. Image: Murcott/Ravel research teamDeshpande Center, Food, Water, Agriculture, Climate change, Sustainability, Global Warming, Environment, Developing countries, Chemical engineering, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Grants, Funding, School of Engineering, History, J-WAFS Understanding populism http://news.mit.edu/2019/global-populism-0916 At MIT forum, scholars wrestle with the dynamics of a global political trend. Mon, 16 Sep 2019 10:19:45 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/global-populism-0916 <p>We are living in an age of populism, according to a wide array of pundits and politicians. But what does that mean, exactly? Some high-profile scholars examined that issue at an MIT public forum on Thursday, discussing the key hallmarks of populism, as well as its relationship to global economics.</p> <p>While populist politicians have growing prominence and power in Europe and around the world, arriving at a working definition of the subject is not easy, noted MIT political scientist Richard Samuels, in introductory remarks.</p> <p>Populism is “a very complex phenomenon,” said Samuels, the Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the MIT Center for International Studies (CIS), adding that there is significant “diversity that’s hidden … within the simple label of populism.”</p> <p>Moreover, Samuels said, the promises of populists during campaigns do not always match the reasons they seek power, making it all the more important to look under the surface of the movement.</p> <p>“They run for the people, [and] they run against the establishment,” Samuels said. However, he added, “They run for themselves, above all.”</p> <p>Thursday’s event, ‘The Rise of Global Populism,” was held in MIT’s Bartos Theater, with an audience of about 200 people. The panel was part of the Starr Forum series hosted by CIS.</p> <p>The event featured two other scholars: Jan-Werner Mueller, a professor of politics at Princeton University and author of the recent book “What Is Populism?” and Suzanne Berger, a professor of political science and MIT’s inaugural John M. Deutch Institute Professor. Berger has extensively studied both popular politics, especially in rural Europe, and the dynamics of globalization and industrial production.</p> <p>As Mueller noted in his remarks, all kinds of politicans have been granted the populist label in recent years — even French president Emmanuel Macron, an unapologetic technocrat, has been called a “populist of the extreme center.”</p> <p>Nonetheless, Mueller suggested, a useable definition of populism should be focused on a commonality of populist politicians: They always claim “a monopoly for representing the people” in politics.</p> <p>“Populists are going to say that all other contenders for power are fundamentally illegitimate,” Mueller said, noting that this has “dangerous consequences” for democracies.</p> <p>In a related vein, Mueller noted, populists consistently claim their own supporters are the “real” citizens of a given country. For instance, he explained, when the Brexit referendum won at the polls in June 2016, the pro-Brexit politician Nigel Farage declared the outcome a “victory for real people” in Britain, despite the narrow 52-48 margin.</p> <p>“The populist decides who ‘truly’ belongs to the people, and who doesn’t,” said Mueller. “What is distinctive and dangerous about populism is, for shorthand, antipluralism, the tendency always to exclude.”</p> <p>Mueller also devoted a significant portion of his remarks to his contention that populists, perhaps contrary to common perception, do not just win elections, but can also govern well enough to meet their political goals.</p> <p>“Not only can populists govern, they can govern as, fundamentally, populists,” Mueller. Populist leaders might preside over deeply divided electorates, but they practice “mass clientalism,” with policies targeted to reward their own supporters.</p> <p>While Mueller’s remarks focused more on building a robust definition of populism, Berger discussed the relationship between populism and globalization — which is often regarded as a driver of populist sentiment and unrest, by hollowing out wages and jobs in industrialized countries.</p> <p>As Berger noted, an expanding group of scholars and writers has called for a halt or a slowing to globalization. Indeed, Berger — who is also working on a new book about globalization — noted that it is by no means an inevitable phenomenon. The world experienced what she called its first modern-scale globalization in the late 1800s and early 1900s, only for World War I to bring the process to a sudden halt.</p> <p>“We’ve been here before,” Berger said. “The first globalization … ended on one day,” she added, referring to Aug. 4, 1914, when Britian declared war on Germany.</p> <p>“Border walls went up all around the world, and they didn’t come down again until the 1980s,” Berger said. “Capital markets were more integrated in the 1880s than they were in the 1970s.”</p> <p>Using history as a guide, then, Berger noted, “globalization could end,” especially if economic barriers become a common part of populist policymaking. And in Berger’s view, that could lead to increased economic distress.</p> <p>“The possibility that protectionism will lead to a recession is a very real one,” Berger said.</p> <p>However, as Berger said in her remarks, while “slowing the pace” of globalization may help democratic politics, she does not regard a rolling back of global economic connections to be desirable. The larger problem, Berger suggested, is not globalization in itself, but a globalizing economy that has not been accompanied by inclusive politics.</p> <p>The “first globalization,” Berger said, “was actually a period when democracy expanded and consolidated,” noting that it took place in an era of wider voting rights and other reforms in industrialized nations. “Most of these reforms were won in hard-fought battles [led by] unions, from strikes, and [from] large-scale mobilizations.” In those cases, she added, “elites acted out of necessity and out of concern for social peace ... and in order to build coalitions that would support opening the borders.”</p> <p>To sustain globalization without producing a further backlash from populist leaders and their followers, then, Berger suggested it was necessary to “build organizations that can bring the voices of those most affected by globalization into policy.”</p> <p>To be sure, she added, “building such a coalition is going to be very difficult. But it’s what we need to make good on our old promises to make globalization a lever to help everyone. … We need a politics capable of massive initiatives in state and society.”</p> <p>For his part, Mueller also suggested that mass democracy and greater political participation would not necessarily feed the current populist movement, and indeed might limit the trend.</p> <p>“It’s not the people who destroy democracies,” Mueller said. “It’s the elites. You might say, ‘Well, sounds like a populist.’ But I remind you: Not all critics of elites are populists.”</p> Richard Samuels, the Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the MIT Center for International Studies, introduces Suzanne Berger, MIT’s John M. Deutch Institute Professor, and Jan-Werner Mueller, a professor of politics at Princeton University, at MIT’s Starr Forum event on global populism, Sept. 12.Image: Laura Kerwin/MIT Center for International StudiesSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Politics, Center for International Studies, Political science, Special events and guest speakers, History, Voting and elections Uncovering links between architecture, politics, and society http://news.mit.edu/2019/timothy-hyde-architecture-0910 “Every building is ultimately a compromise” involving many stakeholders, says architectural historian Timothy Hyde. Tue, 10 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/timothy-hyde-architecture-0910 <p>A building is many things: a stylistic statement, a form shaped to its function, and a reflection of its era.</p> <p>To MIT architectural historian Timothy Hyde, a building represents something else as well.</p> <p>“Every building is ultimately a compromise,” says Hyde. “It’s a compromise between the intentions of architects, the capacities of builders, economics, politics, the people who use the building, the people who paid for the building. It’s a compromise of many, many inputs.”</p> <p>Even when architecture is stylish and trend-setting, then, buildings are developed within political, legal, and technological limits. And Hyde, formerly a practicing architect himself, has built a niche for himself at MIT as a scholar exploring those issues.&nbsp;</p> <p>In a relatively short span, Hyde, an associate professor at MIT, has written two books on the relationship between architecture and society, one exploring modernism and democracy in 20th&nbsp;century Cuba, and the other looking at the connections between architecture and power in modern Britain.</p> <p>In both, Hyde, whose sharp archival work matches his grasp of buildings, shows how buildings have co-evolved along with the political and legal practices of the contemporary world.</p> <p>“I really think about myself first as a historian of modernity,” Hyde explains. “Architectural history is the particular vehicle that I use to explore the history of modernity.”</p> <p><strong>The writing on the wall</strong></p> <p>Hyde grew up in New York City’s Greenwich Village and double-majored in English and architecture at Yale University. He then received a master of architecture degree from Princeton University and became a practicing architect, mostly working on residences. But he kept writing about architecture, a fairly common practice in the field.</p> <p>“In architecture, as a profession, writing has always been a companion to the building,” Hyde says. “Many architects write.” But before long, he says, “I just had a recognition that the ideas I wanted to explore were best expressed through writing, as opposed to through building.”</p> <p>At about the same time, Hyde was teaching a course at Northeastern University and soon realized he wanted to fully commit to the academic life.</p> <p>“Instead of trying to write alongside my practice, I realized at that point I wanted to flip the two around and focus on writing as a historian, and to be able to teach and work in academia but still remain engaged in a contemporary conversation about architecture,” Hyde says.</p> <p>Hyde thus returned to school, earning his PhD at Harvard University. He sought out an academic position, and at MIT, has landed in the Program in History, Theory, and Criticism, a highly active group of architectural and art historians within the School of Architecture and Planning.</p> <p>“We’re a humanities discipline, but we’re affiliated very tightly to a professional practice that is itself a composite of art and engineering,” Hyde says. “So the role of the historian within the architecture program is a very broad one. We can talk about many facets of buildings.”</p> <p><strong>Cuba, Britain, and … the South Pole?</strong></p> <p>One hallmark of architectural history at MIT is geographic scope: Professors at the Institute have often made a point of examining the subject in global terms. Hyde takes that approach as well.</p> <p>Hyde’s 2012 book on Cuba — “Constitutional Modernism: Architecture and Civil Society in Cuba, 1933-1959” — stemmed from his realization that Cuba at the time “was an incredibly exciting and fertile place for cultural exchanges and avant-garde aesthetics, and had an economic boom that allowed the commissioning of very innovative projects.”</p> <p>When Cuba drafted a new constitution in the 1940s, philosophers, artists, and writers were a part of the process. Architectural thinking, Hyde contends, was an integral part of the planning and vision of the country — although that became discarded after Cuba’s communist revolution of the late 1950s.</p> <p>“I wrote about the relationship between a national project that was being articulated in political and legal terms, and a national project that was being articulated in terms of architecture and planning,” Hyde says.</p> <p>His book on Britain — “Ugliness and Judgment,” published in 2019 — explores several distinct episodes in which aesthetic disagreements over architecture in London helped produce modern social and legal practices. For instance, Britain’s libel law took shape in response to failed lawsuits filed by Sir John Soane, whose early 19th-century buildings were the object of stinging put-downs from critics.</p> <p>Moreover, in Britain, environmental science and policy have important roots in a controversy of the Houses of Parliament, rebuilt in stone in the 1840s. When the parliament building quickly became smothered in soot, it instigated a decades-long process in which the country gradually charted out new antipollution laws.</p> <p>Hyde is currently working on a third book project, which looks at the historical legacy of buildings that have vanished, from Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond to shelters in Antarctica. Their presence as architectural objects was crucial to the people who inhabited them; Hyde is exploring how this shapes our understanding of the history surrounding them.</p> <p>“Thoreau’s cabin at Walden has an enormous textual presence, but it has virtually no physical presence,” Hyde says. “If the architecture is so central to Thoreau’s book, yet no longer has a presence as a material object, how should architectural history approach that?”</p> <p><strong>Working well with others</strong></p> <p>Beyond his own work, Hyde has helped establish a new, cooperative group of scholars in his field, the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative.</p> <p>The group holds workshops and produces published volumes and pamphlets in architectural history, to aid scholars who often work in isolation. Their edited volume, “Governing by Design: Architecture, Economy, and Politics in the Twentieth Century,” was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.</p> <p>The idea, Hyde says, is “to try to allow for a collaborative conversation that is otherwise not cultivated very strongly within the field.” The group’s in-depth workshops provide scholars with substantive feedback about works in progress.</p> <p>“Having a workshop where you can spend two days talking about each other’s work is an enormous luxury, and something that I have not experienced elsewhere in our field,” Hyde says.</p> <p>Scholars participating in the collaborative can thus can enjoy a win-win situation, pursuing their own work while getting help from others. Perhaps every building is a compromise — but architectural history don’t have to be one.</p> “I really think about myself first as a historian of modernity,” says Associate Professor Timothy Hyde. “Architectural history is the particular vehicle that I use to explore the history of modernity.”Image: Bryce VickmarkSchool of Architecture and Planning, Architecture, Design, History, Law, Politics, Faculty, Profile, Program in HTC How to make a book last for millennia http://news.mit.edu/2019/temple-scroll-ancient-preservation-0906 Study of Dead Sea Scroll sheds light on a lost ancient parchment-making technology. Fri, 06 Sep 2019 13:59:59 -0400 David L. Chandler | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/temple-scroll-ancient-preservation-0906 <p>First discovered in 1947 by Bedouin shepherds looking for a lost sheep, the ancient Hebrew texts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls are some of the most well-preserved ancient written materials ever found. Now, a study by researchers at MIT and elsewhere elucidates a unique ancient technology for parchment making and provides new insights into possible methods to better preserve these precious historical documents.</p> <p>The study focused on one scroll in particular, known as the Temple Scroll, among the roughly 900 full or partial scrolls found in the years since that first discovery. The scrolls were found in jars hidden in 11 caves on the steep hillsides just north of the Dead Sea, in the region around the ancient settlement of Qumran, which was destroyed by the Romans about 2,000 years ago.</p> <p>The Temple Scroll is one of the largest (almost 25 feet long) and best-preserved of all the scrolls, even though its material is the thinnest of all of them (one-tenth of a millimeter, or roughly 1/250 of an inch thick). It also has the clearest, whitest writing surface of all the scrolls. These properties led Admir Masic, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a Department of Materials Science and Engineering faculty fellow in archaeological materials, and his collaborators to wonder how the parchment was made.</p> <p>The results of that study, carried out with former doctoral student Roman Schuetz (now at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science), MIT graduate student Janille Maragh, James Weaver from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, and Ira Rabin from the Federal Institute of Materials Research and Testing and Hamburg University in Germany, were published today in the journal <em>Science Advances</em>. They found that the parchment was processed in an unusual way, using a mixture of salts found in evaporites — the material left from the evaporation of brines — but one that was different from the typical composition found on other parchments.</p> <p>“The Temple Scroll is probably the most beautiful and best-preserved scroll,” Masic says. “We had the privilege of studying fragments from the Israeli museum in Jerusalem called the Shrine of the Book,” which was built specifically to house the Dead Sea Scrolls. One relatively large fragment from that scroll was the main subject of the new paper. The fragment, measuring about 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) across was investigated using a variety of specialized tools developed by researchers to map, in high resolution, the detailed chemical composition of relatively large objects under a microscope.</p> <p>“We were able to perform large-area, submicron-scale, noninvasive characterization of the fragment,” Masic says — an integrated approach that he and Weaver have developed for the characterization of both biological and nonbiological materials. “These methods allow us to maintain the materials of interest under more environmentally friendly conditions, while we collect hundreds of thousands of different elemental and chemical spectra across the surface of the sample, mapping out its compositional variability in extreme detail,” Weaver says.</p> <p>That fragment, which has escaped any treatment since its discovery that might have altered its properties, “allowed us to look deeply into its original composition, revealing the presence of some elements at completely unexpectedly high concentrations,” Masic says.</p> <p>The elements they discovered included sulfur, sodium, and calcium in different proportions, spread across the surface of the parchment.</p> <p>Parchment is made from animal skins that have had all hair and fatty residues removed by soaking them in a lime solution (from the Middle Ages onward) or through enzymatic and other treatments (in antiquity), scraping them clean, and then stretching them tight in a frame to dry. When dried, sometimes the surface was further prepared by rubbing with salts, as was apparently the case with the Temple Scroll.</p> <p>The team has not yet been able to assess where the unusual combination of salts on the Temple Scroll’s surface came from, Masic says. But it’s clear that this unusual coating, on which the text was written, helped to give this parchment its unusually bright white surface, and perhaps contributed to its state of preservation, he says. And the coating’s elemental composition does not match that of the Dead Sea water itself, so it must have been from an evaporite deposit found somewhere else — whether nearby or far away, the researchers can’t yet say.</p> <p>The unique composition of that surface layer demonstrates that the production process for that parchment was significantly different from that of other scrolls in the region, Masic says: “This work exemplifies exactly what my lab is trying to do — to use modern analytical tools to uncover secrets of the ancient world.”</p> <p>Understanding the details of this ancient technology could help provide insights into the culture and society of that time and place, which played a central role in the history of both Judaism and Christianity. Among other things, an understanding of the parchment production and its chemistry could also help to identify forgeries of supposedly ancient writings.</p> <p>According to Rabin, an expert in Dead Sea Scroll materials, “This study has far-reaching implications beyond the Dead Sea Scrolls. For example, it shows that at the dawn of parchment making in the Middle East, several techniques were in use, which is in stark contrast to the single technique used in the Middle Ages. The study also shows how to identify the initial treatments, thus providing historians and conservators with a new set of analytical tools for classification of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient parchments.”</p> <p>This information could indeed be crucial in guiding the development of new preservation strategies for these ancient manuscripts. Unfortunately, it appears that much of the damage seen in the scrolls today arose not from their 2,000-plus years in the caves, but from efforts to soften the scrolls in order to unroll and read them immediately after their initial discovery, Masic says.</p> <p>Adding to these existing concerns, the new data now clearly demonstrate that these unique mineral coatings are also highly hygroscopic — they readily absorb any moisture in the air, and then might quickly begin to degrade the underlying material. These new results thus further emphasize the need to store the parchments in a controlled humidity environment at all times. “There could be an unanticipated sensitivity to even small-scale changes in humidity,” he says. “The point is that we now have evidence for the presence of salts that might accelerate their degradation. … These are aspects of preservation that must be taken into account.”</p> <p>“For conservation issues and programs, this work is very important,” says Elisabetta Boaretto, director of the Kimmel Center for Archaeological Science at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who was not associated with this work. She says, “It indicates that you have to know very well the document needing to be preserved, and the preservation has to be tailored to the document’s chemistry and its physical state.”</p> <p>Boaretto adds that this team’s study of the unusual mineral layer on the parchment “is fundamental for future work in preservation, but most importantly to understand how these documents have been prepared in antiquity. This work certainly sets a standard for other researchers in this field.”</p> <p>The work was partly supported by DFG, the German Research Foundation.</p> High-resolution mapping of the distribution of elements in a sample from the 2,000-year-old Temple Scroll, as shown by the colors at the right of this image, is providing insight into the scroll's ancient fabrication methods.Photo-illustration by James WeaverResearch, Civil and environmental engineering, School of Engineering, Anthropology, Materials Science and Engineering, Middle East, History Taking the next giant leaps http://news.mit.edu/2019/taking-next-giant-leaps-0905 Fifty years after the first moon landing with Apollo 11, the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics looks to the future of space exploration at MIT. Thu, 05 Sep 2019 15:00:01 -0400 Sara Cody | Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics http://news.mit.edu/2019/taking-next-giant-leaps-0905 <p>In July, the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. MIT played an enormous role in that accomplishment, helping to usher in a new age of space exploration. Now MIT faculty, staff, and students are working toward the next great advances — ones that could propel humans back to the moon, and to parts still unknown.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“I am hard-pressed to think of another event that brought the world together in such a collective way as the Apollo moon landing,” says Daniel Hastings, the Cecil and Ida Green Education Professor and head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro). “Since the spring, we have been <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2019/50th-anniversary-moon-landing-0315" target="_self">celebrating</a> the role <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2019/behind-scenes-apollo-mission-0718" target="_self">MIT played</a> in getting us there and reflecting on how far technology has come in the past five decades.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“Our community continues to build on the incredible legacy of Apollo,” Hastings adds. Some aspects of future of space exploration, he notes, will follow from lessons learned. Others will come from newly developed technologies that were unimaginable in the 1960s. And still others will arise from novel collaborations that will fuel the next phases of research and discovery.&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is a tremendously exciting time to think about the future of space exploration,” Hastings says. “And MIT is leading the way.”</p> <p><strong>Sticking the landing</strong></p> <p>Making a safe landing — anywhere — can be a life-or-death situation. On Earth, thanks to a network of global positioning satellites and a range of ground-based systems, pilots have instantaneous access to real-time data on every aspect of a landing environment. The moon, however, is not home to any of this precision navigation technology, making it rife with potential danger.&nbsp;</p> <p>NASA’s recent decision to return to moon has made this a more pressing challenge — and one that MIT has risen to before. The former MIT Instrumentation Lab (now the independent Draper) developed the guidance systems that enabled Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to land safely on the moon, and that were used on all Apollo spacecraft. This system relied on inertial navigation, which integrates acceleration and velocity measurements from electronic sensors on the vehicle and a digital computer to determine the spacecraft’s location. It was a remarkable achievement — the first time that humans traveled in a vehicle controlled by a computer.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, working in MIT’s Aerospace Controls Lab with Jonathan How, the Richard Cockburn Maclaurin Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, graduate student Lena Downes — who is also co-advised by Ted Steiner at Draper — is developing a camera-based navigation system that can sense the terrain beneath the landing vehicle and use that information to update the location estimation. “If we want to explore a crater to determine its age or origin,” Downes explains, “we will need to avoid landing on the more highly-sloped rim of the crater. Since lunar landings can have errors as high as several kilometers, we can’t plan to land too closely to the edge.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Downes’s research on crater detection involves processing images using convolutional neural networks and traditional computer vision methods. The images are combined with other data, such as previous measurements and known crater location information, enabling increased precision vehicle location estimation.</p> <p>“When we return to the moon, we want to visit more interesting locations, but the problem is that more interesting can often mean more hazardous,” says Downes. “Terrain-relative navigation will allow us to explore these locations more safely.”</p> <p><strong>“Make it, don’t take it”</strong></p> <p>NASA also has its sights set on Mars — and with that objective comes a very different challenge: What if something breaks? Given that the estimated travel time to Mars is between 150 and 300 days, there is a relatively high chance that something will break or malfunction during flight. (Just ask Jim Lovell or Fred Haise, whose spacecraft needed serious repairs only 55 hours and 54 minutes into the Apollo 13 mission.)</p> <p>Matthew Moraguez, a graduate student in Professor Olivier L. de Weck’s Engineering Systems Lab, wants to empower astronauts to manufacture whatever they need, whenever they need it. (“On the fly,” you could say).</p> <p>“In-space manufacturing (ISM) — where astronauts can carry out the fabrication, assembly, and integration of components — could revolutionize this paradigm,” says Moraguez. “Since components wouldn’t be limited by launch-related design constraints, ISM could reduce the cost and improve the performance of existing space systems while also enabling entirely new capabilities.”</p> <p>Historically, a key challenge facing ISM is correctly pairing the components with manufacturing processes needed to produce them. Moraguez approached this problem by first defining the constraints created by a stressful launch environment, which can limit the size and weight of a payload. He then itemized the challenges that could potentially be alleviated by ISM and developed cost-estimating relationships and performance models to determine the exact break-even point at which ISM surpasses the current approach.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moraguez points to Made in Space, an additive manufacturing facility that is currently in use on the International Space Station. The facility produces tools and other materials as needed, reducing both the cost and the wait time of replenishing supplies from Earth. Moraguez is now developing physics-based manufacturing models that will determine the size, weight, and power required for the next generation of ISM equipment.</p> <p>“We have been able to evaluate the commercial viability of ISM across a wide range of application areas,” says Moraguez. “Armed with this framework, we aim to determine the best components to produce with ISM and their appropriate manufacturing processes. We want to develop the technology to a point where it truly revolutionizes the future of spaceflight. Ultimately, it could allow humans to travel further into deep space for longer durations than ever before,” he says.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Partnering with industry</strong></p> <p>The MIT Instrumentation Lab was awarded the first contract for the Apollo program in 1961. In one brief paragraph on a <a href="https://wehackthemoon.com/people/first-apollo-mission-contract-goes" target="_blank">Western Union telegram</a>, the lab was charged with developing the program’s guidance and control system. Today the future of space exploration depends as much as ever on deep collaborations.&nbsp;</p> <p>Boeing is a longstanding corporate partner of MIT, supporting such efforts as the <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2017/mit-construct-new-cutting-edge-wright-brothers-wind-tunnel-1113">Wright Brother’s Wind Tunnel</a> renovation and the New Engineering Education Transformation <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2019/neet-welcomes-sponsor-and-industry-collaborator-boeing-0423">(NEET) program</a>, which focuses on modern industry and real-world projects in support of MIT’s educational mission. In 2020, Boeing is slated to open the <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/boeing-kendall-square-initiative-first-major-tenant-0801">Aerospace and Autonomy Center</a> in Kendall Square, which will focus on advancing enabling technologies for autonomous aircraft.</p> <p>Just last spring the Institute announced a new relationship with <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-blue-origin-cooperate-sending-research-experiment-moon-0510">Blue Origin</a> in which it will begin planning and <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-blue-origin-cooperate-sending-research-experiment-moon-0510" target="_self">developing new payloads</a> for missions to the moon. These new science experiments, rovers, power systems, and more will hitch a ride to the moon via Blue Moon, Blue Origin’s flexible lunar lander.&nbsp;</p> <p>Working with IBM, MIT researchers are exploring the potential uses of artificial intelligence in space research. This year, IBM’s AI Research Week (Sept. 16-20) will feature an event, co-hosted with AeroAstro, in which researchers will pitch ideas for projects related to <a href="https://researcher.watson.ibm.com/researcher/view_group.php?id=10186">AI and the International Space Station</a>.</p> <p>“We are currently in an exciting new era marked by the development and growth of entrepreneurial private enterprises driving space exploration,” says Hastings. “This will lead to new and transformative ways for human beings to travel to space, to create new profit-making ventures in space for the world’s economy, and, of course, lowering the barrier of access to space so many other countries can join this exciting new enterprise.”</p> Building on the legacy of the Apollo program, MIT faculty, staff, and students are working toward the next great advances in space flight — ones that could propel humans back to the moon, and to parts still unknown.Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, Spaceflight, Space, astronomy and planetary science, History of MIT, History, Industry, Collaboration, Additive manufacturing, 3-D printing, NASA When religion meets secularism in urban planning http://news.mit.edu/2019/babak-manouchehrifar-0724 “I’m interested in the peaceful coexistence of communities,” says PhD student Babak Manouchehrifar, who left his home country of Iran to study at MIT. Wed, 24 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Daysia Tolentino | MIT News correspondent http://news.mit.edu/2019/babak-manouchehrifar-0724 <p>One of Babak Manouchehrifar’s favorite places in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a city block on Prospect Street that hosts residences, a mosque, a synagogue, and a church. This is unsurprising considering that the fourth-year PhD candidate’s research centers around the relationships between urban planning, secularism, and religion.</p> <p>“I’m interested in the peaceful coexistence of communities with differing views on religion and secularism through urban planning initiatives,” says Manouchehrifar, who left his home country of Iran to study at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP). “This interest comes from my professional as well as social experiences, before and after coming to the U.S. To me, this is part of what MIT calls ‘building a better world.’”</p> <p>According to Manouchehrifar, planners deal with various aspects of religion and secularism in their daily practices considerably more often than they do in their academic training. On the job, planners work with communities of differing viewpoints, such as when a host community opposes certain secular proposals or practices of different faith groups, or when a group of citizens requests religious exemption from zoning laws.</p> <p>At the same time, these planners must work within the legal and political structures that authorize their work, such as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act of 2000, which bars planners from burdening a person’s free exercise of religion.</p> <p>“My research aims to spur further discussion on what I see as a practical dilemma, namely, how should planners deal with religious differences when their professional code of conduct calls for a particularly ‘indifferent’ approach,” Manouchehrifar says.</p> <p>In his research, including a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/14649357.2018.1540722">paper</a> recently published in the journal “Planning Theory and Practice,” which was selected as one of the five best papers published in the field of planning in 2018, Manouchehrifar critiques the conventional view that there is a clear, simple distinction between religion and secularism in the practice of urban planning.</p> <p>“My goal is to transcend the secular-religious dichotomy through the planning perspective. I aim to show that these two categories are in fact inextricably linked and deeply entangled in planning practice; they depend on each other for meaning,” he says.</p> <p><strong>Early constraints and the passion for a better world</strong></p> <p>Through his work, Manouchehrifar hopes to promote a better understanding of the religious differences of global communities away from the adversarial rhetoric of war or conflict. This hope is rooted in his childhood experiences. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Born in Iran at the brink of the Iranian Revolution and right before the Iran-Iraq War, Manouchehrifar’s childhood took place in a world in conflict. He recalls thinking war was normal because he didn’t have another frame of reference with which to compare his environment. But he and his family did imagine a different world, one in which he would run outdoors to soccer fields instead of bomb shelters.</p> <p>“It was quite a difficult time, but I was part of a lucky generation because when I became a teenager, things began to be more stable,” he recalls. The war ended when Manouchehrifar was almost 10, but his wartime experience sparked his passion for contributing to a more peaceful world.</p> <p>Before coming to MIT, Manouchehrifar received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and surveying from Isfahan University and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Shahid Beheshti University (SBU), both in Iran. His first job after college was as a surveying engineer in Isfahan, where he worked on a highway project that was cutting through a low-income neighborhood.</p> <p>He was presented with an ethical dilemma when he was told that homes would have to be demolished and their residents be displaced in order to clear the way for the construction of the highway. When he brought his concerns to his project manager, he was told that it wasn’t his job as an engineer to worry about the social impact of the work. This led Manouchehrifar to quit his job and pursue a career in urban planning, believing that it would allow him more knowledge and power to consider the social impacts of urban projects.</p> <p>After working as a planner and teaching at SBU for seven years, Manouchehrifar and his wife, Pegah, moved to Cambridge in 2013 so he could pursue a master’s degree in urban planning and international development at MIT. He completed the program in 2015 (their daughter, Danna, was also born at MIT at this time) and has since been working on his PhD. Studying in the U.S., and at the Institute in particular, has been a highly positive experience for Manouchehrifar, but it hasn’t been without its difficulties.</p> <p><strong>New constraints — and new possibilities</strong></p> <p>Manouchehrifar was halfway through his PhD when the White House imposed its <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2017/two-mit-undergraduates-return-us-middle-east-0203">travel ban</a> in 2017. His initial research centered around the relationship between religion and planning in Iran, meaning that he had to do his fieldwork there. But Manouchehrifar was unsure as to whether or when he would be able to come back to the States and finish his studies if he left.</p> <p>Although it wasn’t easy, he redirected his research project to focus on the U.S. instead. “I was rather forced to change course, but the results have also been fruitful for my research because it has enriched my understanding of the topic and given me a more nuanced comparative lens,” he says. On a personal level, the impact of the travel ban has been much harder for Manouchehrifar and his family to handle: “The disruption of research is something that we can manage one way or another. The disruption of family life, on the other hand, is quite unsettling and oftentimes paralyzing.”</p> <p>Manouchehrifar says such constraints have motivated him to work harder in his studies.</p> <p>“I think [these experiences] have reinforced my passion for building a better world through planning and international development initiatives. What I decided to do, following a period of contemplation and consultation especially with my advisor, Professor Bish Sanyal, was to try to transform such constraints into an intellectual energy to conduct research on a topic that is meaningful both for myself and for my field of study,” he says.</p> <p>Manouchehrifar has served as an instructor for 11.005 (Introduction to International Development Planning) and has been a teaching assistant for four other courses. Sanyal says that Manouchehrifar’s students have praised him for creating “an atmosphere where everyone could get their thoughts out and learn, and be challenged by each other.”</p> <p>When he isn’t working, Manouchehrifar spends as much time as he can with his wife and daughter. The family particularly enjoys going to parks and museums together. Manouchehrifar says he is grateful for everything his family has done for him: “I couldn’t have done my studies without their support and sacrifices, and it is really like the entire family is a getting a PhD.”</p> Babak ManouchehrifarImage: Jared CharneyProfile, Graduate, postdoctoral, Students, Urban studies and planning, School of Architecture and Planning, Religion, Cities, Middle East, History Philip Freelon, professor of the practice and champion of diversity in architecture, dies at 66 http://news.mit.edu/2019/philip-freelon-professor-practice-champion-diversity-architecture-dies-0715 Noted architect designed landmark civic, cultural, and educational buildings. Mon, 15 Jul 2019 09:00:00 -0400 School of Architecture and Planning http://news.mit.edu/2019/philip-freelon-professor-practice-champion-diversity-architecture-dies-0715 <p>Philip G. Freelon MArch ’77, professor of the practice in the MIT Department of Architecture, lead architect for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and a dedicated force for inclusivity within the field of architecture, died on July 9 in Durham, North Carolina, of the neuro-degenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), with which he had been diagnosed in 2016. He was 66.</p> <p>For nine years beginning in 2007, Freelon taught 4.222 (Professional Practice), a required subject in the master’s in architecture program that uses current examples to illustrate the legal, ethical, and management concepts underlying the practice of architecture.</p> <p>“Phil was a remarkable architect, a motivating teacher, a spirited public intellectual and above all, an exceptional human being whose modesty and respect of others and their ideas put the best face on the architect and on the profession,” says Hashim Sarkis, dean of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P).&nbsp;</p> <p>A native of Philadelphia, Freelon attended Hampton University in Virginia before transferring to North Carolina State University, from which he graduated in 1975 with a bachelor of environmental design degree in architecture. He earned his master’s degree in architecture from MIT and at age 25 was the youngest person to pass the Architecture Registration Exam in North Carolina.</p> <p>The Freelon Group, which he founded in 1990, became one of the largest African American-owned architectural firms in the country.</p> <p>“Phil Freelon was a creative and productive alumnus of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning,” says Adèle Naudé Santos, SA+P dean when Freelon joined the faculty. “His buildings are beautifully crafted and spatially inventive, and we were proud to have him on our faculty. We are greatly saddened by his passing.”</p> <p>Freelon headed multifaceted design teams for museum projects and cultural institutions such as the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture in Charlotte, Emancipation Park in Houston, and the Anacostia and Tenleytown branches of the District of Columbia Public Library System.</p> <p>The practice joined with three other design firms as Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup to create the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. As lead architect and architect of record for the project, on which David Adjaye was lead designer, Freelon directed the programming and planning effort that set the stage for the museum’s design.&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2014, The Freelon Group joined global design firm Perkins and Will. Recent and current projects led by Freelon include North Carolina Freedom Park in Raleigh, the Durham County Human Services Complex, the Durham Transportation Center, and the Motown Museum Expansion in Detroit. He was appointed to the board of directors and the executive committee of Perkins and Will while serving dual roles as managing director and design director of the firm’s North Carolina practice.</p> <p>In addition to his role at MIT, he was an adjunct faculty member at North Carolina State University’s College of Design and lectured at Harvard University (where he was a Loeb Fellow), the University of Maryland, Syracuse University, Auburn University, the University of Utah, the University of California at Berkeley, Kent State University, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, among others. A Peer Professional for the GSA’s Design Excellence Program, he also served on numerous design award juries including the National AIA Institute Honor Awards jury and the National Endowment for the Arts Design Stewardship Panel.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Phil was one of the hardest working people I ever knew,” said Lawrence Sass, associate professor in the Department of Architecture at MIT and director of the computation group. “I could not believe that someone so humble could have done so much. He was a dedicated professor in addition to being a trusted design professional, and a leader who lived in the spirit of a design giant. He taught from real-world experience. He was emotionally and professionally accessible. I will forever miss and remember his larger-than-life presence walking down the Infinite Corridor.”</p> <p>Freelon was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and the recipient of the AIA North Carolina’s Gold Medal, its highest individual honor. A LEED Accredited Professional, he was the 2009 recipient of the AIA Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture, and in 2011 was appointed by President Obama to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. The Freelon Group received 26 AIA design awards (regional, state, and local) and received AIA North Carolina’s Outstanding Firm Award (2001). Freelon’s furniture design received first prize in the PPG Furniture Design Competition, and he did design contract work with Herman Miller.</p> <p>His work has appeared in national professional publications including <em>Architecture</em>, <em>Progressive Architecture</em>, <em>Architectural Record</em>, and <em>Contract</em> magazine (Designer of the Year, 2008), and his and the firm’s work has been featured in <em>Metropolis</em> and <em>Metropolitan Home</em> magazines and the <em>The New York Times</em>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Freelon is survived by his wife of 40 years, Nnenna Freelon; his children Deen, Maya, and Pierce; three siblings; and six grandchildren. A celebration of his life will be held on Sept. 28 at the Durham County Human Services Complex in Durham. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to NorthStar Church of the Arts, a nonprofit art and culture center founded by Nnenna and Phil Freelon.</p> Philip Freelon stands in the lobby of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, designed by the Freelon Group and HOK.Photo: Mark Herboth, courtesy of Perkins and WillAlumni/ae, Faculty, Architecture, Obituaries, History, Design, Diversity and inclusion, School of Architecture and Planning 3Q: David Mindell on his vision for human-centered robotics http://news.mit.edu/2019/3-questions-mit-historian-engineer-david-mindell-0618 Engineer and historian discusses how the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing might integrate technical and humanistic research and education. Tue, 18 Jun 2019 14:35:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2019/3-questions-mit-historian-engineer-david-mindell-0618 <p><em>David Mindell, Frances and David Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and professor of aeronautics and astronautics, researches the intersections of human behavior, technological innovation, and automation. Mindell is the author of five acclaimed books, most recently "Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy" (Viking, 2015) as well as the co-founder of the Humatics Corporation, which develops technologies for human-centered automation. SHASS Communications spoke with Mindell recently on how his vision for human-centered robotics is developing and his thoughts about the new MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, which aims to integrate technical and humanistic research and education.&nbsp;&nbsp;</em><br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong>Q:</strong> Interdisciplinary programs have proved challenging to sustain, given the differing methodologies and vocabularies of the fields being brought together. How might the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing design the curriculum to educate "bilinguals" — students who are adept in both advanced computation and one of more of the humanities, arts, and social science fields?<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong>A:</strong> Some technology leaders today are naive and uneducated in humanistic and social thinking. They still think that technology evolves on its own and “impacts” society, instead of understanding technology as a human and cultural expression, as part of society.<br /> <br /> As a historian and an engineer, and MIT’s only faculty member with a dual appointment in engineering and the humanities, I’ve been “bilingual” my entire career (long before we began using that term for fluency in both humanities and technology fields). My education started with firm grounding in two fields — electrical engineering and history — that I continue to study.<br /> <br /> Dual competence is a good model for undergraduates at MIT today as well. Pick two: not necessarily the two that I chose, but any two disciplines that capture the core of technology and the core of the humanities. Disciplines at the undergraduate level provide structure, conventions, and professional identity (although my appointment is in Aero/Astro, I still identify as an electrical engineer). I prefer the term “dual disciplinary” to “interdisciplinary.”&nbsp;<br /> <br /> The College of Computing curriculum should focus on fundamentals, not just engineering plus some dabbling in social implications.<br /> <br /> It sends the wrong message to students that “the technical stuff is core, and then we need to add all this wrapper humanities and social sciences around the engineering.” Rather, we need to say: “master two fundamental ways of thinking about the world, one technical and one humanistic or social.” Sometimes these two modes will be at odds with each other, which raises critical questions. Other times they will be synergistic and energizing. For example, my historical work on the Apollo guidance computer inspired a great deal of my current engineering work on precision navigation.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q:</strong> In naming the company you founded Humatics, you’ve combined “human” and “robotics,” highlighting the synergy between human beings and our advanced technologies. What projects underway at Humatics define and demonstrate how you envision people working collaboratively with machines?&nbsp;<br /> <br /> <strong>A:</strong> Humatics builds on the synthesis that has defined my career — the name is the first four letters of “human" and the last four letters of “robotics.” Our mission is to build technologies that weave robotics into the human world, rather than shape human behavior to the limitations of the robots. We do very technical stuff: We build our own radar chips, our own signal processing algorithms, our own AI-based navigation systems. But we also craft our technologies to be human-centered, to give users and workers information that enables them to make their own decisions and work safer and more efficiently.<br /> <br /> We’re currently working to incorporate our ultra-wideband navigation systems into subway and mass transit systems. Humatics' technologies will enable modern signaling systems to be installed more quickly and less expensively. It's gritty, dirty work down in the tunnels, but it is a “smart city” application that can improve the daily lives of millions of people. By enabling the trains to navigate themselves with centimeter-precision, we enable greater rush-hour throughput, fewer interruptions, even improved access for people with disabilities, at a minimal cost compared to laying new track.<br /> <br /> A great deal of this work focuses on reliability, robustness, and safety. These are large technological systems that MIT used to focus on in the Engineering Systems Division. They are legacy infrastructure running at full capacity, with a variety of stakeholders, and technical issues hashed out in political debate. As an opportunity to improve peoples' lives with our technology, this project is very motivating for the Humatics team.<br /> <br /> We see a subway system as a giant robot that collaborates with millions of people every day. Indeed, for all their flaws, it does so today in beautifully fluid ways.&nbsp;Disruption is not an option. Similarly, we see factories, e-commerce fulfillment centers, even entire supply chains as giant human-machine systems that combine three key elements: people, robots (vehicles), and infrastructure. Humatics builds the technological glue that ties these systems together.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q:</strong> Autonomous cars were touted to be available soon, but their design has run into issues and ethical questions. Is there a different approach to the design of artificially intelligent vehicles, one that does not attempt to create&nbsp;fully autonomous vehicles?&nbsp;If so, what are the barriers or resistance to human-centered approaches?<br /> <br /> <strong>A:</strong> Too many engineers still imagine autonomy as meaning “alone in the world.” This approach derives from a specific historical imagination of autonomy, derived from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency sponsorship and elsewhere, that a robot should be independent of all infrastructure. While that’s potentially appropriate for military operations, the promise of autonomy on our roads must be the promise of autonomy in the human world, in myriad&nbsp;exquisite relationships.<br /> <br /> Autonomous vehicle companies are learning, at great expense, that they already depend heavily on infrastructure (including roads and traffic signs) and that the sooner they learn to embrace it, the sooner they can deploy at scale. Decades of experience have taught us that, to function in the human world, autonomy must be connected, relational, and situated. Human-centered autonomy in automobiles must be more than a fancy FitBit on a driver; it must factor into the fundamental design of the systems: What do we wish to control? Whom do we trust? Who owns our data? How are our systems trained? How do they handle failure? Who gets to decide?<br /> <br /> The current crisis over the Boeing 737 MAX control systems show these questions are hard to get right, even in aviation. There we have a great deal of regulation, formalism, training, and procedure, not to mention a safety culture that evolved over a century. For autonomous cars, with radically different regulatory settings and operating environments, not to mention non-deterministic software, we still have a great deal to learn. Sometimes I think it could take the better part of this century to really learn how to build robust autonomy into safety-critical systems at scale.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h5><em>Interview prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand<br /> Interview conducted by writer Maria Iacobo</em><br /> &nbsp;</h5> "As an engineer and historian, I’ve been 'bilingual' my entire career,” says David Mindell, the Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing; professor of aeronautics and astronautics; and co-founder and CEO of Humatics Corporation. “Dual competence is a good model for undergraduates at MIT as well."Photo: Len RosensteinSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, School of Engineering, Faculty, Technology and society, Program in STS, Human-computer interaction, History of science, MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, History, 3 Questions, Autonomous vehicles, Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Industry A scholar and teacher re-examines moments in the history of STEM http://news.mit.edu/2019/student-clare-kim-0614 “I love teaching,” says PhD student Clare Kim. “It’s not that I’m just imparting knowledge, but I want [my students] to develop a critical way of thinking.” Thu, 13 Jun 2019 23:59:59 -0400 Daysia Tolentino | MIT News correspondent http://news.mit.edu/2019/student-clare-kim-0614 <p>When Clare Kim began her fall 2017 semester as the teaching assistant for 21H.S01, the inaugural “MIT and Slavery” course, she didn’t know she and her students would be creating a historical moment of their own at the Institute.</p> <p>Along with Craig Steven Wilder, the Barton L. Weller Professor of History, and Nora Murphy, an archivist for researcher services in the MIT Libraries, Kim helped a team of students use archival materials to examine the Institute’s ties to slavery and how that legacy has impacted the modern structure of scientific institutions. The findings that came to light through the class thrust Kim and her students onto a prominent stage. They spoke about their research in media interviews and at a standing-room-only <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/event-explores-initial-findings-mit-and-slavery-research-class-0223">community forum</a>, and helped bring MIT into a national conversation about universities and the institution of slavery in the United States.</p> <p>For Kim, a PhD student in MIT’s Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS), it was especially rewarding to help the students to think critically about their own scientific work through a historical context. She enjoyed seeing how the course challenged conventional ideas that had been presented to them about their various fields of study.</p> <p>“I think people tend to think too much about history as a series of true facts where the narrative that gets constructed is stabilized. Conducting historical research is fun because you have a chance to re-examine evidence, examine archival materials, reinterpret some of what has already been written, and craft a new narrative as a result,” Kim says.</p> <p>This year, Kim was awarded the prestigious Goodwin Medal for her work as a TA for several MIT courses. The award recognizes graduate teaching assistants that have gone the extra mile in the classroom. Faculty, colleagues, and former students praised Kim for her compassionate, supportive, and individual approach to teaching.</p> <p>“I love teaching,” she says. “I like to have conversations with my students about what I’m thinking about. It’s not that I’m just imparting knowledge, but I want them to develop a critical way of thinking. I want them to be able to challenge whatever analyses I introduce to them.”</p> <p>Kim also applies this critical-thinking lens to her own scholarship in the history of mathematics. She is particularly interested in studying math this way because the field is often perceived as “all-stable” and contained, when in fact its boundaries have been much more fluid.</p> <p><strong>Mathematics and creativity</strong></p> <p>Kim’s own work re-examines the history of mathematical thought and how it has impacted nonscientific and technical fields in U.S. intellectual life. Her dissertation focuses on the history of mathematics and the ways that mathematicians interacted with artists, humanists, and philosophers throughout the 20th century. She looks at the dialogue and negotiations between different scholars, exploring how they reconfigured the boundaries between academic disciplines.</p> <p>Kim says that this moment in history is particularly interesting because it reframes mathematics as a field that hasn’t operated autonomously, but rather has engaged with humanistic and artistic practices. This creative perspective, she says, suggests an ongoing, historical relationship between mathematics and the arts and humanities that may come as a surprise to those more likely to associate mathematics with technical and military applications, at least in terms of practical uses.</p> <p>“Accepting this clean divide between mathematics and the arts occludes all of these fascinating interactions and conversations between mathematicians and nonmathematicians about what it meant to be modern and creative,” Kim says. One such moment of interaction she explores is between mathematicians and design theorists in the 1930s, who worked together in an attempt to develop and teach a mathematical theory of “aesthetic measure,” a way of ascribing judgments of beauty and taste. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Building the foundation</strong></p> <p>With an engineering professor father and a mathematician mother, Kim has long been interested in science and mathematics. However, she says influences from her family, which includes a twin sister who is a classicist and an older sister who studied structural biology, ensured that she would also develop a strong background in the humanities and literature.</p> <p>Kim entered college thinking that she would pursue a technical field, though likely not math itself — she jokes that her math career peaked during her time competing in MATHCOUNTS as a kid. But during her undergraduate years at Brown University, she took a course on the history of science taught by Joan Richards, a professor specializing in the history of mathematics. There, she discovered her interest in studying not just scientific knowledge, but the people who pursue it.</p> <p>After earning a bachelor’s in history at Brown, with a focus in mathematics and science, Kim decided to pursue a doctoral degree. MIT’s HASTS program appealed to her because of its interdisciplinary approach to studying the social and political components of science and technology.</p> <p>“In addition to receiving more formal training in the history of science itself, HASTS trained me in anthropological inquiry, political theory, and all these different kinds of methods that could be brought to bear on the social sciences and humanities more generally,” Kim says.</p> <p>After defending her thesis, Kim will begin a postdoc at Washington University in St. Louis, where she will continue her research and begin converting her dissertation into a book manuscript. She will also be teaching a course she has developed called “Code and Craft,” a course that explores, in a variety of historical contexts, the artful and artisanal components of AI, computing, and otherwise “technical” domains.</p> <p>In her free time, Kim practices taekwondo (she has a first-degree black belt) and enjoys taking long walks through Cambridge, which she says is how she gets some of her best thinking done.</p> PhD student Clare Kim studies the history of mathematics and the ways that mathematicians interacted with artists, humanists, and philosophers throughout the 20th century.Image: Jared CharneyGraduate, postdoctoral, Profile, History, Mathematics, History of science, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Diversity and inclusion, Technology and society, Race and gender, Program in STS, Students Engineers set the standards http://news.mit.edu/2019/joanne-yates-engineering-rules-0612 MIT business historian’s new book chronicles the emergence of global standardization in technology. Wed, 12 Jun 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/joanne-yates-engineering-rules-0612 <p>It might not seem consequential now, but in 1863, <em>Scientific American</em> weighed in on a pressing technological issue: the standardization of screw threads in U.S. machine shops. Given standard-size threads — the ridges running around screws and bolts — screws missing from machinery could be replaced with hardware from any producer. But without a standard, fixing industrial equipment would be harder or even impossible.</p> <p>Moreover, Great Britain had begun standardizing the size of screw threads, so why couldn’t the U.S.? After energetic campaigning by a mechanical engineer named William Sellers, both the U.S. Navy and the Pennsylvania Railroad got on board with the idea, greatly helping standardization take hold.</p> <p>Why did it matter? The latter half of the 1800s was an unprecedented time of industrial expansion. But the products and tools of the time were not necessarily uniform. Making them compatible served as an accelerant for industrialization. The standardization of screw threads was a signature moment in this process — along with new standards for steam boilers (which had a nasty habit of exploding) and for the steel rails used in train tracks.</p> <p>Moreover, what goes for 19th-century hardware goes for hundreds of things used in daily life today. From software languages to batteries, transmission lines to power plants, cement, and more, standardization still helps fuel economic growth.</p> <p>“Everything around us is full of standards,” says JoAnne Yates, the Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management at MIT. “None of us could function without standards.”</p> <p>But how did this all come about? One might expect government treaties to be essential for global standards to exist. But time and again, Yates notes, industrial standards are voluntary and have the same source: engineers. Or, more precisely, nongovernmental standard-setting bodies dominated by engineers, which work to make technology uniform across borders.</p> <p>“On one end of a continuum is government regulation, and on the other are market forces, and in between is an invisible infrastructure of organizations that helps us arrive at voluntary standards without which we couldn’t operate,” Yates says.</p> <p>Now Yates is the co-author of a new history that makes the role of engineers in setting standards more visible than ever. The book, “Engineering Rules: Global Standard Setting since 1880,” is being published this week by Johns Hopkins University Press. It is co-authored by Yates, who teaches in the MIT Sloan School of Management, and Craig N. Murphy, who is the Betty Freyhof Johnson ’44 Professor of International Relations at Wellesley College.</p> <p><strong>Joint research project</strong></p> <p>As it happens, Murphy is also Yates’ husband — and, for the first time, they have collaborated on a research project.</p> <p>“He’s a political scientist and I’m a business historian, but we had said throughout our careers, ‘Some day we should write a book together,’” Yates says. When it crossed their radar as a topic, the evolution of standards “immediately appealed to both of us,” she adds. “From Craig’s point of view, he studies global governance, which also includes nongovernmental institutions like this. I saw it as important because of the way firms play a role in it.”</p> <p>As Yates and Murphy see it, there have been three distinct historical “waves” of technological standardization. The first, the late 19th- and early 20th-century industrial phase, was spurred by the professionalization of engineering itself. Those engineers were trying to impose order on a world far less organized than ours: Although the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to set standards, a U.S. National Bureau of Standards was not created until 1901, when there were still 25 different basic units of length — such as “rods” — being used in the country.</p> <p>Much of this industrial standardization occured country by country. But by the early 20th century, engineers ramped up their efforts to make standards international — and some, like the British engineer Charles le Maistre, a key figure in the book, were very aspirational about global standards.</p> <p>“Technology evangelists, like le Maistre, spread the word about the importance of standardizing and how technical standards should transcend politics and transcend national boundaries,” Yates says, adding that many had a “social movement-like fervor, feeling that they were contributing to the common good. They even thought it would create world peace.”</p> <p>It didn’t. Still, the momentum for standards created by Le Maistre carried into the post-World War II era, the second wave detailed in the book. This new phase, Yates notes, is exemplified by the creation of the standardized shipping container, which made world-wide commerce vastly easier in terms of logistics and efficiency.</p> <p>“This second wave was all about integrating the global market,” Yates says.&nbsp;</p> <p>The third and most recent wave of standardization, as Yates and Murphy see it, is centered on information technology — where engineers have once again toiled, often with a sense of greater purpose, to develop global standards.</p> <p>To some degree this is an MIT story; Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, moved to MIT to establish a global standards consortium for the web, W3C, which was founded in 1994, with the Institute’s backing. More broadly, Yates and Murphy note, the era is marked by efforts to speed up the process of standard-setting, “to respond to a more rapid pace of technological change” in the world.</p> <p><strong>Setting a historical standard</strong></p> <p>Intriguingly, as Yates and Murphy document, many efforts to standardize technologies required firms and business leaders to put aside their short-term interests for a longer-term good — whether for a business, an industry, or society generally.</p> <p>“You can’t explain the standards world entirely by economics,” Yates says. “And you can’t explain the standards world entirely by power.”</p> <p>Other scholars regard the book as a significant contribution to the history of business and globalization. Yates and Murphy “demonstrate the crucial impact of private and informal standard setting on our daily lives,” according to Thomas G. Weiss, a professor of international relations and global governance at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Weiss calls the book “essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the major changes in the global economy.”</p> <p>For her part, Yates says she hopes readers will, among other things, reflect on the idealism and energy of the engineers who regarded international standards as a higher cause.</p> <p>“It is a story about engineers thinking they could contribute something good for the world, and then putting the necessary organizations into place.” Yates notes. “Standardization didn’t create world peace, but it has been good for the world.”</p> JoAnne Yates and her new book “Engineering Rules: Global Standard Setting Since 1880.” Image: Ed CollierSloan School of Management, Business, History, Economics, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Information Technology, Books and authors, Technology and society, Faculty Dwaipayan Banerjee receives 2019 Levitan Prize in the Humanities http://news.mit.edu/2019/dwaipayan-banerjee-receives-levitan-prize-humanities-0610 Award will support research for &quot;A Counter History of Computing in India.&quot; Mon, 10 Jun 2019 10:20:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2019/dwaipayan-banerjee-receives-levitan-prize-humanities-0610 <p>Assistant Professor Dwaipayan Banerjee of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) has been awarded the 2019 James A. (1945) and Ruth Levitan Prize in the Humanities. The prestigious award comes with&nbsp;a $29,500 grant that will support Banerjee's research on the history of computing in India.<br /> <br /> Melissa Nobles, the Kenan Sahin Dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), announced the award, noting that a committee of senior faculty had reviewed submissions for the Levitan Prize and selected Banerjee’s proposal as the most outstanding.<br /> <br /> “Dwai’s work is extremely relevant today, and I look forward to seeing how his new project expands our understanding of technology and technological culture as a part of the human world,” Nobles says.</p> <p><strong>Postcolonial India and computing</strong></p> <p>Banerjee’s scholarship centers on the social contexts of science, technology, and medicine in the global south. He has two book projects now nearing completion: "Enduring Cancer: Health and Everyday Life in Contemporary India" (forthcoming in 2020, Duke University Press) and "Hematologies: The Political Life of Blood in India" (forthcoming in 2019, Cornell University Press; co-authored with J. Copeman). Both books assess how India’s post-colonial history has shaped, and been shaped by, practices of biomedicine and health care.<br /> <br /> Banerjee says he was delighted to receive the Levitan Award, which is presented annually by SHASS to support innovative and creative scholarship in one of the Institute’s humanities, arts, or social science fields. “Its funds will go a long way in helping explore archives about computational research and technology spread across India, some of which have yet to receive sustained scholarly attention,” he says.</p> <p><strong>Global computing histories</strong><br /> <br /> Banerjee's Levitan project will investigate the post-colonial history of computing in India from the 1950s to today. “Contemporary scholarly and popular narratives about computing in India suggest that, even as India supplies cheap IT labor to the rest of the world, the country lags behind in basic computing research and development,” he says. “My new project challenges these representations.”<br /> <br /> Banerjee adds, “In presenting this account, I urge social science research, which has predominantly focused on the history of computing in Europe and the United States, to take account of more global histories of computing.”<br /> <br /> The project, titled "A Counter History of Computing in India," will trace major shifts in the relation between the Indian state and computing research and practice. Banerjee explains that “In the first decades after India’s independence, the postcolonial state sought to develop indigenous computing expertise and infrastructure by creating public institutions of research and education, simultaneously limiting private enterprise and the entry of global capital.”</p> <p>Noting that today the vision for development relies heavily on private entrepreneurship, Banerjee asks: “Why and how did the early post-colonial vision of publicly-driven computing research and development decline?”<br /> <br /> <strong>Policy, computing, and outsourcing</strong><br /> <br /> More broadly, Banerjee plans to investigate how changing policies have impacted the development of computing and shaped the global distribution of expertise and labor. “After economic liberalization in the 1980s, a transformed Indian state gave up its protectionist outlook and began to court global corporations, giving rise to the new paradigm of outsourcing."<br /> <br /> Banerjee says he will endeavor to answer the question, “What is lost when a handful of U.S.-based corporations seek to determine hierarchies of technology work and control how its social benefits are globally distributed?” The Levitan Prize will support Banerjee's field research in India and help him develop a multi-city archive of primary sources relating to the history of computational science and technology in the region.<br /> <br /> First awarded in 1990, the Levitan Prize in the Humanities was established through a gift from the late James A. Levitan, a 1945 MIT graduate in chemistry who was also a member of the MIT Corporation.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <h5><em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand<br /> Writer: Kathryn O'Neill</em></h5> Dwaipayan Banerjee says he will endeavor to answer the question: What is lost when a handful of U.S.-based corporations seek to determine hierarchies of technology work and control how its social benefits are globally distributed? Photo: Jon Sachs/MIT SHASS Communications School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Program in STS, Awards, honors and fellowships, India, History, Computing, Faculty, History of science, Economics The politics of ugly buildings http://news.mit.edu/2019/ugliness-judgment-architecture-0524 In new book, MIT’s Timothy Hyde looks at the architectural controversies that have helped shape Britain. Fri, 24 May 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/ugliness-judgment-architecture-0524 <p>In 1984, when the British government was planning to build a flashy modernist addition to the National Gallery in London, Prince Charles offered a dissenting view. The proposed extension, he said, resembled “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.” A public controversy ensued, and eventually a more subtle addition was built.</p> <p>There is more to the story, however. Prince Charles’ public interventions into architecture fell into a legal gray area. Was he improperly trying use the influence of the British monarchy — now meant to be nonpolitical — to affect government policy?</p> <p>“It’s not quite clear whether Prince Charles was speaking as a private citizen or as a future monarch,” says Timothy Hyde, the Clarence H. Blackall Career Development Associate Professor in MIT’s Department of Architecture. He adds: “Because of his architectural pronouncements, a series of constitutional debates has emerged about how such opinions should be regulated, or if they should be regulated at all.”</p> <p>Indeed, Prince Charles’ public tussles over architecture have led to legal battles. In 2015, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that 27 advocacy memos Prince Charles had written to various officials — on architecture, the environment, and other subjects — could not be kept private, meaning the public could scrutinize his activities. And more recently, Prince Charles has vowed not to make similar policy interventions should he become king.</p> <p>So for Prince Charles, debates over architecture have spilled into questions of political power. But as Hyde explores in a new book, “Ugliness and Judgment: On Architecture in the Public Eye,” published by Princeton University Press, this is hardly unique. In Britain alone, Hyde notes, controversies specifically over the “ugliness” of buildings have shaped matters from libel law to environmental policy.</p> <p>“Aesthetic arguments about ugliness have often served to tie architectural thinking to other kinds of debates and questions in parallel spheres of social and cultural production — things like science, law, professionalism,” Hyde says. “Debates about ugliness are very easily legible as debates about politics.”</p> <p><strong>Clearing the air</strong></p> <p>The impetus for the book, says Hyde, an architectural historian, came partly from the sheer number of people who have commented about “ugly” buildings to him.&nbsp;</p> <p>“It’s the frequency of that phrase, ‘What an ugly building,’ that really piqued my curiosity about ugliness,” Hyde says.</p> <p>“Ugliness is an undertheorized dimension of architecture, given how common that critique is,” he adds. “People always think buildings are ugly. Particularly as a historian of modern architecture, I encounter any number of people who say ‘Oh, you’re a modern architectural historian, can you explain, why would an architect ever think to do a building like that?’”</p> <p>Hyde’s book, however, is not simply about aesthetics. Instead, as he soon noticed, disputes centered around “ugly” buildings have a way of leaping into other domains of life. Consider libel laws. In the first decades of the 19th century, the prominent architect Sir John Soane filed a long series of libel cases against critics, which led to the larger evolution of the law.</p> <p>“There was a prevailing assumption at the time that a work of architecture, a work of art, a work of literature, was an embodiment of its creator,” Hyde says. A critique of a building, then, could be seen a personal attack on an individual. But as Soane filed one libel cases after another — against people who used terms like “a ridiculous piece of architecture” and “a palpable eyesore” — he lost again and again. A bad review, the legal community decided, was simply that.&nbsp;</p> <p>“In the cases that John Soane brought for libel, all of which he lost … the modern conception that we have within libel law, of art criticism being a special case, emerged,” Hyde says. “Now what we take for granted, this modern idea that one can criticize a work of architecture or book, without necessarily saying its creator is a bad or immoral person, begins to emerge as a legal concept.”</p> <p>Or take environmental policy, which gained traction in Britain due to concerns about the aesthetics of the Houses of Parliament. As Hyde details, the 19th century reconstruction of Britain’s Parliament — the old one burned in 1834 — soon became derailed, in the 1840s, by concerns that its limestone was already decaying and becoming ugly.</p> <p>A formal inquiry by the end of the 1850s concluded that the sulphuric “acid rain” from London’s sooty atmosphere was corroding the city’s buildings — an important step for the incorporation of science into 19th-century policymaking, and a finding that helped usher in Britain’s 1875 Public Health Act, which directly addressed such pollution.</p> <p><strong>The levers of power</strong></p> <p>“Ugliness and Judgment” has received praise from other architectural historians. Daniel M. Abramson, a professor of architecture at Boston University, calls it “a superb piece of scholarship, opening up new ways, through the lens of ugliness, to understand and connect a whole range of canonical figures, buildings, and themes.”</p> <p>To be sure, as Hyde readily notes, the geographic scope of “Ugliness and Judgement” is limited to Britain, and almost exclusively on London architecture. It could well be worthwhile, he notes, to look at controversies over architecture, ugliness, and power in other settings, which might have their own distinctive elements.</p> <p>Still, he notes, studying Britain alone uncovers a rich history stemming from the notion of “ugliness” by itself.</p> <p>“Disagreements over questions of ugliness are much more volatile than disagreements over questions of beauty,” Hyde says. When it comes to politics and the law, he observes, “In some sense, beauty doesn’t matter as much. ... The stakes are different.” Few people try to prevent buildings from being built, he notes, if they are merely a bit less beautiful than onlookers had hoped.</p> <p>Perceptions of ugliness, however, precipitate civic battles.</p> <p>“It’s a way to look for the levers of power,” Hyde says. &nbsp;</p> Timothy Hyde and his new book, “Ugliness and Judgment.”Photo: Tom Gearty/School of Architecture and PlanningSchool of Architecture and Planning, Architecture, Arts, History, Books and authors, Faculty, Research In cancer research, a winding road to discovery http://news.mit.edu/2019/cancer-a-contagious-cause-book-0514 Book by MIT professor examines the circuitous history behind the investigation of cancer as a contagious illness. Tue, 14 May 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/cancer-a-contagious-cause-book-0514 <p>In 1961, people in the suburb of Niles, Illinois, experienced what they termed a “cancer epidemic.” Over a dozen children in the town were diagnosed with leukemia within a short time. Fears quickly spread that the illness could be contagious, carried by some type of “cancer virus.” News coverage soon identified several other towns with apparent “cancer clusters,” as well. Belief that cancer was a simple contagion, like polio or the flu, kept bubbling up.</p> <p>“People wrote [to medical authorities] well into the 1960s asking, ‘I lived in a house where somebody had cancer. Am I going to catch cancer?’” says Robin Scheffler, the Leo Marx CD Assistant Professor in the History and Culture of Science and Technology at MIT.</p> <p>Those fears were taken seriously. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) created the Special Virus Leukemia Program in 1964 and over the next 15 years spent more than $6.5 billion (in 2017 dollars) on cancer virus research intended to develop a vaccine. That’s more than the funding for the subsequent Human Genome Project, as Scheffler points out.</p> <p>The results of that funding were complex, unanticipated — and significant, as Scheffler details in his new book, “A Contagious Cause: The American Hunt for Cancer Viruses and the Rise of Molecular Medicine,” published this week by the University of Chicago Press.</p> <p>In the process, scientists did not find — and never have — a single viral cause of cancer. On the other hand, as a direct result of the NCI’s funding project, scientists did find oncogenes, the type of gene which, when activated, can cause many forms of cancer.</p> <p>“That investment helped drive the field of modern molecular biology,” Scheffler says. “It didn’t find the human cancer virus. But instead of closing down, it invented a new idea of how cancer is caused, which is the oncogene theory.”</p> <p>As research has continued, scientists today have identified hundreds of types of cancer, and about one out of every six cases has viral origins. While there is not one “cancer virus,” some vaccinations reduce susceptibility to certain kinds of cancer. In short, our understanding of cancer has become more sophisticated, specific, and effective — but the path of progress has had many twists and turns.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Less insurance, more research</strong></p> <p>As Scheffler details in his book, fears that cancer was a simple contagion can be traced back at least to the 18th century. They appear to have gained significant ground in the early 20th-century U.S., however, influencing medical research and even hospital design.</p> <p>The rise of massive funding for cancer research is mostly a post-World War II phenomenon; like much of Scheffler’s narrative, its story contains developments that would have been very hard to predict.</p> <p>For instance, as Scheffler chronicles, one of the key figures in the growth of cancer research was the midcentury health care activist Mary Lasker, who with her husband had founded the Lasker Foundation in 1942, and over time helped transform the American Cancer Society.</p> <p>During the presidency of Harry S. Truman, however, Lasker’s main goal was the creation of universal health insurance for Americans — an idea that seemed realistic for a time but was eventually shot down in Washington. That was a major setback for Lasker. In response, though, she became a powerful advocate for federal funding of medical research — especially through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the NCI, one of the NIH’s arms.</p> <p>Scheffler calls this tradeoff — less government health insurance, but more biomedical research — the “biomedical settlement,” and notes that it was unique to the U.S. at the time. By contrast, in grappling with cancer through the 1960s, Britain and France, for example, put more relative emphasis on treatment, and Germany looked more extensively at environmental issues. Since the 1970s, there has been more convergence in the approaches of many countries.</p> <p>“The term ‘biomedical settlement’ is a phrase I created to describe an idea that seems commonplace in the United States but is actually very extraordinary in the context of other industrial nations — which is, we will not federalize health care, but we will federalize health research,” Scheffler says. “It’s remarkable to keep the government out of one but invite it into the other.”</p> <p>And while observers of the U.S. scientific establishment today know the NIH as a singular research force, they probably don’t think of it as compensation, in a sense, for the failed policy aims of Lasker and her allies.</p> <p>“Someone like Mary Lasker is one of the architects of the settlement out of her conviction there were ways to involve the federal government even if they couldn’t provide medical care,” Scheffler adds.</p> <p><strong>Fighting through frustration</strong></p> <p>The core of “A Contagious Cause” chronicles critical research developments in the 1960s and 1970s, as biologists made headway in understanding many forms of cancer. But beyond its rich narrative about the search for a single cancer virus, “A Contagious Cause” also contains plenty of material that underscores the highly contingent, unpredictable nature of scientific discovery.</p> <p>From stymied scientists to angry activists, many key figures in the book seemed to have reached dead ends before making the advances we now recognize. Yes, science needs funding, new instrumentation, and rich theories to advance. But it can also be fueled by frustration.</p> <p>“The thing I find interesting is that there are a lot of moments of frustration,” Scheffler says. “Things don’t go the way people want, and they have to decide what they’re going to do next. I think often the history of science focuses on moments of discovery, or highlights great innovations and their successes. But talking about frustration and failure is also a very important topic to highlight in terms of how we understand the history of science.”</p> <p>“A Contagious Cause” has received praise from other scholars. Angela Creager, a historian of science at Princeton University, has called it “powerfully argued” and “vital reading for historians of science and political historians alike.”</p> <p>For his part, Scheffler says he hopes his book will both illuminate the history of cancer research in the U.S. and underscore the need for policymakers to apply a broad set of tools as they guide our ongoing efforts to combat cancer.</p> <p>“Cancer is a molecular disease, but it’s also an environmental disease and a social disease. We need to understand the problem at all those levels to come up with a policy that best confronts it,” Scheffler says.</p> Robin Scheffler and his new book, “A Contagious Cause: The American Hunt for Cancer Viruses and the Rise of Molecular Medicine.”Image: Jon Sachs/SHASS CommunicationsBooks and authors, Program in STS, History, Faculty, Biology, Disease, Funding, History of science, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences From science class to the stock exchange http://news.mit.edu/2019/student-stephon-henry-rerrie-0501 “I’m all about finding connections,” says senior Stephon Henry-Rerrie about his path from engineering to the financial sector. Tue, 30 Apr 2019 23:59:59 -0400 Gina Vitale | MIT News correspondent http://news.mit.edu/2019/student-stephon-henry-rerrie-0501 <p>Stephon Henry-Rerrie grew up in Brooklyn as the oldest of five siblings. He loved math puzzles from a young age and chose a premed track in his specialized high school. He never thought he’d study at MIT, but after being accepted to MIT’s Weekend Immersion in Science and Engineering (WISE), a program for high school seniors from underrepresented communities to learn about the MIT experience, he changed his mind.</p> <p>Before visiting MIT, “I could never see myself here, because it was just this ivory-tower looking place,” he says. “Whereas when I was here, and I was talking with people, I was like, ‘Oh, wow I can hang.’ Maybe I do belong here.”</p> <p>Henry-Rerrie, now a senior, has discovered many passions during his time at the Institute. He realized early on that he didn’t want to pursue medicine, and chose to major in chemical engineering. Then, after realizing how versatile physics could be, he picked that up as a second major. In four years, he has helped create particle simulations, worked on a trading floor, conducted research in the chemical engineering industry, and mentored younger MIT students. He would never have predicted ending up where he is now — but he wouldn’t trade it.</p> <p>“I have a very weird, nonlinear trajectory that I’ve taken,” he says. “But along the way I’ve learned lots of things about myself and about the world.”</p> <p><strong>In the market for growth</strong></p> <p>When Henry-Rerrie accepted an internship at Morgan Stanley the summer after his first year, he had no idea that he’d be working on the trading floor. Some similarities to the movie “Wall Street” were uncanny, he says — he was surrounded by bond traders, and his mentor underwrote municipal bonds. He says the experience of working in finance fundamentally changed his life. Not only did he learn to speak up among many powerful voices, he also realized that science and engineering are directly tied into economics. Research doesn’t happen in a vacuum — when scientists make discoveries, that impacts the economy.</p> <p>“I think I needed that exposure,” he says. “Because if I hadn’t, I feel like I wouldn’t have the perspective that I have now on, what does this all mean? What is going on? What’s this larger system that we exist in?”</p> <p>He really enjoyed working within the financial sector. And, after meeting a number of former physicists (and chemical engineers) now working in financial roles at Morgan Stanley, he realized that studying physics rather than economics wouldn’t hurt his chances of getting a job in finance — so he took on a double major and was thrilled to study another area he’s always been fascinated by.</p> <p>In his sophomore year, he worked in the lab of Assistant Professor James Swan, creating particle simulations with PhD student Zachary Sherman. The pair looked at how varying two different kinds of interactions between nanoparticles in solution affected those nanoparticles. Henry-Rerrie likens it to having a bunch of people (representing the particles) in a room where temperature and wind are controlled by two knobs. As you turn up the temperature knob, or the wind knob, or both knobs in varying amounts, the people will react.</p> <p>“What will those people be feeling? What will they do? ... I can turn those knobs and record, what did those people do at each specific value? And then after that, can we see a trend in how people will react?”</p> <p>The following summer, Henry-Rerrie took an internship at chemical engineering company Praxair. The people there were great, he says, but as he considered his options for the future, he found his heart was with financial markets. The following summer, he took a job at investment management company BlackRock.</p> <p>“I also found that finance touches everything, everybody’s life, in a very real way that you can’t get away from, at least now,” he says.</p> <p>For him, BlackRock was the perfect compromise between chemical engineering and finance. As much of his role involved risk and quantitative analysis, he was able to practice many of the techniques he learned in engineering, as well as do real work in the finance sector.</p> <p>“At my internship at BlackRock, I was able to apply everything that I learned,” he says. “Not necessarily the technical stuff, but the way of problem solving, of thinking.”</p> <p><strong>Chocolate City</strong></p> <p>When Henry-Rerrie was first visiting MIT, he was introduced to a living group called Chocolate City, in New House. The group consisted of black and Latino men supporting each other socially, academically, and professionally.</p> <p>“When I saw that, that was the signal to me that MIT is just a special place,” he says.</p> <p>He was accepted to live in Chocolate City his first year and has been there ever since. He has served in a variety of roles, including athletics chair, social chair, co-chair, and now resident peer mentor. He describes himself as the big brother of the house, working to get people to socialize and bond with each other. Living in the group has had its challenges, as its members come from diverse backgrounds and often have conflicting opinions. But that’s all part of the learning experience that makes it so valuable, he says.</p> <p>“Being in that ecosystem has, I think, developed me into the person I am now, and helped me to feel like I can take on, I can take on anything after I graduate here.”</p> <p>Henry-Rerrie loves being part of Chocolate City, and is grateful for how much it has developed him as a person. That’s why he’s chosen to give back to the other residents this year as the resident peer mentor, and why he plans to continue to help out as an alumnus. To him, Chocolate City is much more than a place to sleep and study.</p> <p>“I feel like I’m home,” he says of being a part of the living group. “I don’t feel like I’m at a dorm; I feel like I’m home.”</p> <p><strong>Science in context</strong></p> <p>Henry-Rerrie is grateful for the context that his humanities, arts, and social sciences (HASS) classes have given him in his scientific pursuits. He recalls one class, STS.042 / 8.225 (Physics in the Twentieth Century), that introduced him to an entire world of physics history. He learned everything from the politics underlying physics to the fact that Erwin Schrödinger himself was skeptical of quantum theory — he only made the cat analogy to show how crazy it was.</p> <p>“A lot of ways that we evaluate people and what they’ve done can be super muddled if we don’t understand the history of how things came about,” he says.</p> <p>It’s that kind of learning, bridging concepts that he never assumed were related, that Henry-Rerrie really enjoys. The applications to engineering and broader society are what drew him to finance; his research and economic work at BlackRock was so fulfilling that he’s accepted an offer to return after graduation full-time.</p> <p>Longer term, Henry-Rerrie isn’t sure where exactly he’ll end up. He’s considering business school in his five-year plan and would love to end up back at MIT for that. His broader goal, at least right now, is to figure out where his skills can be put to the greatest use.</p> <p>“I’m all about finding connections. Between, I guess, very weird things. Things that don’t seem that related,” he says.</p> Stephon Henry-Rerrie Image: Jake BelcherStudents, Undergraduate, Profile, Chemical engineering, Physics, Mentoring, Student life, Business and management, Diversity and inclusion, History, History of science, School of Engineering, School of Science, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences The quest to understand human society scientifically http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-quest-to-understand-human-society-scientifically-quantifying-people-0430 In STS.047 (Quantifying People), MIT students explore the history of science from the 17th century to the present, through the eyes of statisticians and sociologists. Tue, 30 Apr 2019 13:05:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-quest-to-understand-human-society-scientifically-quantifying-people-0430 <p>Is it appropriate to evaluate the causes of suicide but dismiss mental illness as a contributing factor? What happens when you talk about war deaths as colored wedges on a chart? Does that change the conversation in important ways?<br /> <br /> MIT students grappled with these and similar questions this spring in STS.047 (Quantifying People), a new subject focused on the history of the quest to understand human society scientifically. William Deringer, the Leo Marx Career Development Assistant Professor of Science, Technology, and Society, says he developed the class to enable students to explore the questions that motivate much of his own research: “Why do we invest so much trust in numbers, and what are the consequences for who we are?”<br /> <br /> Deringer has written a book on the subject, "<a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674971875" target="_blank">Calculated Values: Finance, Politics, and the Quantitative Age</a>" (Harvard University Press, 2018), in which he examines the history of human efforts to use statistics to influence opinions and shape policy. “Many MIT students will likely be practitioners in the data field, so I want to encourage them to think about these issues,” he says.<br /> <br /> The class has certainly gotten Jordan Browne thinking. “There’s this idea that by working with numbers people aren’t making moral judgments, but that’s a really dangerous assumption,” says Browne, a senior in the class who is majoring in mathematical economics. “This should be a required class.”<br /> <br /> In fact, STS.047 will be one of several courses featured in a new MIT undergraduate HASS concentration focused on Computational Cultures, which "brings together perspectives from the humanities and social sciences for students to understand and improve the social, cultural, and political impact of the computing tools and digital devices that shape our lives."</p> <p><strong>Are numbers neutral?</strong><br /> <br /> STS.047 covers the history of science from the 17th century to the present as seen through the eyes of early statisticians and sociologists — people who were building new fields by attempting to understand social life through quantification.<br /> <br /> One goal of the class, Deringer says, is to prompt students to consider the ways in which the tools we use to understand issues today can themselves reflect biases. “Thinking about old projects of quantification — the ways things look weird, wrong, or biased — helps you see how subjective elements might play out in current practice,” he says.<br /> <br /> In the late 1850s, for example, British nurse, social reformer, and statistician Florence Nightingale gathered mortality data from the Crimean War and created visualizations to show that wounded soldiers were dying from disease due to poor sanitation in military hospitals. Those deaths were represented as blue wedges on a diagram, prompting Nightingale to make this impassioned plea to save lives: “Expunge the blue wedges.”<br /> <br /> “That really struck me,” Deringer says. “There is some sort of strange transmutation that happens when you take data, turn it into something visual, then that is what you act on. That’s an interesting way of interacting with the world.”<br /> <br /> Students discussing the work during one class session this spring wondered if Nightingale had abstracted the problem to make it seem easier to solve, although some found it odd that she had effectively dehumanized those who had died.<br /> <br /> The students in class that day also discussed the work of 19th century French sociologist Emile Durkheim, who studied the correlation of suicide to such social circumstances as religion, marital status, and economic class. While Nightingale was using statistics in an attempt to change policy and save lives, Durkheim took an abstract approach that was less focused on solutions — and many students were unsettled by his dry assessment of the suicide data.<br /> <br /> “They’re not just statistics, they’re people too,” says Yiran He.</p> <p><strong>The complicated history of quantitative methods</strong><br /> <br /> A junior in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, He says she signed up for STS.047 to gain insight into today’s data-driven society. “Numbers rule everything I see in the rest of my life: measurements and results in academia in science and engineering, statistics in politics and policy decisions, models in economic decisions, and everything between and beyond,” she says. “I felt it was important to understand the origins of the statistics we use.”<br /> <br /> For example, students in STS.047 learned that many tools in use today — including regression analysis — were developed through eugenics research. “These tools that every student here uses have this really insidious beginning,” Browne says.<br /> <br /> This supports a point Deringer makes right in the syllabus for STS.047. “Social science and quantitative methods have a complicated history. There is much to celebrate and also much to criticize.”<br /> <br /> This complex interplay of science and society is precisely what attracted Rhea Lin to the subject. “I wanted to take a humanities course that would give me the opportunity to reflect on how society has been impacted by science in the past and how my work as an engineer might affect people in the future,” says Lin, a senior majoring in electrical engineering and computer science.<br /> <br /> “From this class, I have learned that technology and science are not always the answer to our problems. We've studied social scientists who have thrown statistics and theories at society in questionable ways, and I think it's important to remember that science is not effective if not used correctly,” Lin says.</p> <h5>&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand<br /> Senior Writer: Kathryn O'Neill</em></h5> Will Deringer examines the history of human efforts to use statistics to influence opinions and shape policy. “Many MIT students will likely be practitioners in the data field,” the assistant professor says, “so I want to encourage them to think about issues, such as: Why do we invest so much trust in numbers, and what are the consequences for who we are?”Photo: Jon Sachs/SHASS Communications School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Data, Ethics, History of science, Statistics, Classes and programs, History, Data visualization 3 Questions: Why are student-athletes amateurs? http://news.mit.edu/2019/jennifer-light-student-athletes-0325 MIT Professor Jennifer Light digs into the history of the idea that students aren’t part of the labor force. Sun, 24 Mar 2019 23:59:59 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/jennifer-light-student-athletes-0325 <p><em>Debate about the unpaid status of NCAA athletes has surged in the last decade — and did so again last month when the best player in men’s college basketball, Zion Williamson, got injured in a high-profile game. Meanwhile, graduate student unionization drives frequently raise the same question: Aren’t some students also workers creating value for universities? And how did we come to regard student-athletes, say, as amateurs in the first place? </em></p> <p><em>Jennifer Light, the Bern Dibner Professor in the History of Science and Technology and a professor of urban studies and planning, has just published an article in the </em>Harvard Educational Review <em>on the history of this idea that students are not part of the labor force. She places its origins in the 1890-1930 movement to expand public schooling, which promoted schools as alternatives to child labor and put them forth as “protected” places for young people to focus on future-oriented training. </em>MIT News<em> talked to Light about her research. This interview has been edited for length.</em></p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> How did you become interested in the topic of value-producing students, and the question of whether or not they’re fairly compensated?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Previously, I taught at Northwestern University, where I encountered many student-athletes because two of my classes covered some sports history. On more than one occasion, someone raised the question, “Why are we not getting compensated when we bring in so much money [for the university]?” Or I’d hear anecdotally about how a video game company came to scan their bodies for a game that was “cool,” but also not something they got paid for.</p> <p>That got me thinking about unpaid labor. Of course, student-athletes receive scholarships, but those are quite limited when compared with the compensation they’d get playing outside of school. So I went looking for the origins of the idea that students are not part of the labor force. As it turns out, this idea dates to the emergence of mass schooling in the United States. As it also turns out, there is a long history of schools profiting from student activities — and not just sports.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> The “alternative history” of students you describe primarily occurs from about 1890 to 1930, with the movement to make public education available for everyone. What happened in this time period that was so important, in this regard?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Public education became popular, along with compulsory-schooling legislation, largely because of the industrial economy. The spread of schools was part of a national effort to train children for future industrial jobs and reduce child labor. And at some level, yes, when kids went to school, they were protected from going into factories or coal mines.</p> <p>On the other hand, because so many public schools needed to get off the ground at the same time and local governments did not have adequate resources, educators assigned pupils to build and operate their schools: making desks and lockers, building playground equipment and gyms, keeping financial records, running the lunch room, everything from ordering supplies to cooking and serving the meal. Kids repaired school plumbing and heating systems, did health inspections, and tracked down truants.</p> <p>This was celebrated as the cutting-edge curriculum, the "new education" for the industrial age. John Dewey said when you bring the school close to life, that motivates students’ learning. Because these things were done for educational purposes and no money exchanged hands, they were not considered "work." Of course, if kids did the same tasks in the “real world,” they would be paid. We still use this language of school versus the real world today. So this mindset originated in public schools and only later carried over into education for older adolescents, which was less common, particularly before World War II.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> How and when did the idea of the “protected” student make the leap from public schools to universities?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> In the American mindset, until about 1930, you were a kid until you were between about 14 and 16, because in most places high school was not compulsory; education was compulsory until the eighth grade. And people were fighting to change this, but there were plenty of late teenagers in the work force.</p> <p>Mass unemployment during the Great Depression was a catalyst for extending this protective period to older adolescents, through their early 20s. [The thinking was] that adults should be top priority for available jobs. So although increasingly specialized jobs were a contributing factor, the desire not to compete with adults was a major force behind the expansion of training for this age group — in high schools, community colleges, universities, and specialized programs such as those sponsored by the National Youth Administration. As with the curriculum for younger pupils, institutional maintenance was a feature of these programs.&nbsp;</p> <p>In recent years this sort of routine economic activity inside schools has declined but not disappeared. Today's controversies around student-athletes and teaching assistants stem in part from the century-old assumption that students by definition are cultivating their human capital and defering economic participation until they graduate to the “real world.” What I’m trying to show is, that’s always been a fantasy. Of course when students go to school, they get an education. But they could also be producing value for their institutions.&nbsp;</p> Jennifer LightImage: M. Scott BrauerSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Technology and society, Program in STS, education, Education, teaching, academics, History, Social sciences, 3 Questions, Urban studies and planning, School of Architecture and Planning Learning to study a painful past http://news.mit.edu/2019/faculty-lerna-ekmekcioglu-0307 Lerna Ekmekçioğlu studies pioneering Armenian women of the 19th and 20th centuries — and helps other scholars enter her field. Thu, 07 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0500 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/faculty-lerna-ekmekcioglu-0307 <p>If you ask MIT Associate Professor Lerna Ekmekçioğlu how she wound up in academia, she has a straightforward answer.</p> <p>“I was born a historian,” Ekmekçioğlu says. “It was my destiny.”</p> <p>That natural affinity for history has propelled her through the ranks of academia, as a pioneering scholar of Armenians in Turkey, including Armenian women. Her specialty is a complex topic involving a historical catastrophe: the role of women in society after the 1915 Armenian genocide.</p> <p>More specifically, Ekmekçioğlu studies how Armenian women helped keep their community intact, even while transforming it by introducing feminist ideas. Her best-known book, “Recovering Armenia: The Limits of Belonging in Post-Genocide Turkey,” published in 2016 by Stanford University Press, reconstructs the life of the community of survivors, including its feminist voices, in the first decades after World War I.</p> <p>Ekmekçioğlu’s basic interest in this subject is not hard to account for. She grew up in Istanbul, Turkey, as part of the small Armenian community remaining there over the decades. In this sense, Ekmekçioğlu really was born to be an Armenian historian. Understanding the world she grew up in meant understanding its past.</p> <p>“I always had a curiosity about Armenian history,” Ekmekçioğlu notes. Still, it is a big leap from personal curiosity to a sustained career. And, as she recounts it, “I did not have any role models, really,” in academia, because there was so little work about what she wanted to study.</p> <p>For this reason, Ekmekçioğlu’s career has two layers. One is her research and teaching — for which Ekmekçioğlu was awarded tenure at MIT last year.</p> <p>The other is the extensive effort she has made to disseminate Armenian history to other students. Ekmekçioğlu is currently working on multiple projects at MIT to make Armenian historical materials widely available, and thus to create conditions in which today’s students and future researchers and historians can readily study the subject.</p> <p>“I almost feel it as a responsibility,” Ekmekçioğlu says. “I see this as a public service.”</p> <p>To see why this matters to Ekmekçioğlu, consider the circumstances in which she first started studying Armenian history and Armenian feminism, as an undergraduate at Bogazici University in Istanbul. The basic problem Ekmekçioğlu encountered: There weren’t established courses about Armenians, let alone Armenian women, at the university. Teaching Armenian history, to this day, remains a punishable crime in Turkey.</p> <p>So Ekmekçioğlu and a few other students founded reading groups to study Armenian history and share information about written sources and materials that pertained to Armenian women. Together, a few of them entered a research paper competition, for all fields of history‚ and finished third.</p> <p>That was enough to help Ekmekçioğlu and her friends gain more support from professors, who encouraged them to keep pursuing the subject. And they have: One of Ekmekçioğlu’s undergraduate friends was Melissa Bilal, now a faculty member at the American University of Armenia, in Yerevan, Armenia, with whom Ekmekçioğlu still collaborates on research and pedagogical projects.</p> <p>As an undergraduate, Ekmekçioğlu also spent a year abroad at the University of Athens before graduating from Bogazici University in 2002. She then attended New York University as a graduate student, receiving her MA in 2004 and her PhD in 2010. After a year as a postdoc at the University of Michigan, Ekmekçioğlu joined the MIT faculty in 2011. Today she is the McMillan-Stewart Associate Professor of History at the Institute, and is affiliated with MIT’s Women’s and Gender Studies program and the Center for International Studies.</p> <p>Ekmekçioğlu’s work examines a psychological and social strain at the heart of the lives of many Armenian women. After a shocking, traumatic human catastrophe, they were simultaneously trying to push their society forward, by developing new norms and rights for women, while also trying to hold their fractured community together by maintaining the cultural traditions of the past.</p> <p>“By definition, they had to change,” Ekmekçioğlu says. “But that goal is in tension with maintaining Armenian tradition.”</p> <p>In her book, Ekmekçioğlu’s work cleverly draws on written sources, such as an overlooked Armenian magazine called <em>Hay Gin</em>, to draw out the thoughts of the women she studies. More broadly, she has collaborated with Bilal to both publish and analyze an array of original-source documents about Armenian women, ranging in time from the 1860s to the 1960s.</p> <p>When Ekmekçioğlu was still in graduate school, she and Bilal co-edited the first such volume on the subject, published in Istanbul in 2006 and translated as, “A Cry for Justice: Five Armenian Feminist Writers from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic.” Today, she and Bilal are working on a more comprehensive volume for publication, to be published in English as well as the original languages, with the working project title, “Feminism in Armenian: An Interpretive Anthology and Digital Archive.”</p> <p>One component of this will be a volume combining original primary-source writings and scholarly essays, meant to make the ideas of Armenians a more easily accessible part of mainstream women’s history, and intended for classroom use.</p> <p>Moreover, as the title suggests, Ekmekçioğlu and Bilal are working on a digital component of the project, which is intended to be the most comprehensive set of source materials on the subject yet in existence. She credits MIT as one of the institutions that has made this kind of project possible; she also recently received a Mellon Faculty Grant of the Center for Art, Science, and Technology, for a related public exhibition on the subject.</p> <p>“There is a lot of curation involved in this,” Ekmekciouglu says. “I’ve had a lot of support at MIT.”</p> <p>While Ekmekçioğlu is a leading historian of the early Turkish Republic in general, &nbsp;most of her work has come with the clear purpose of calling attention to overlooked women who, in exceedingly difficult times, sought to keep their society alive.</p> <p>“It’s only fair to those women who worked so hard, to do that,” Ekemkcioglu says.</p> Lerna EkmekciogluImage: Scott BrauerSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, History, Humanities, Center for International Studies, Profile, Faculty, Women, Books and authors Chernobyl: How bad was it? http://news.mit.edu/2019/chernobyl-manual-for-survival-book-0306 A scholar’s book uncovers new material about the effects of the infamous nuclear meltdown. Tue, 05 Mar 2019 23:59:59 -0500 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/chernobyl-manual-for-survival-book-0306 <p>Not long after midnight on April 26, 1986, the world’s worst nuclear power accident began. Workers were conducting a test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine when their operations spun out of control. Unthinkably, the core of the plant’s reactor No. 4 exploded, first blowing off its giant concrete lid, then letting a massive stream of radiation into the air.</p> <p>Notoriously, the Soviet Union kept news of the disaster quiet for a couple of days. By the time the outside world knew about it, 148 men who had been on the Chernobyl site — firefighters and other workers — were already being treated in the special radiation unit of a Moscow hospital. And that was just one sliver of the population that wound up seeking medical care after Chernobyl.&nbsp;</p> <p>By the end of the summer of 1986, Moscow hospitals alone had treated about 15,000 people exposed to Chernobyl radiation. The Soviet republics of Ukraine and Belarus combined to treat about 40,000 patients in hospitals due to radiation exposure in the same period of time; in Belarus, about half were children.</p> <p>And while 120,000 residents were hastily evacuated from the “Zone of Alienation” around Chernobyl, about 600,000 emergency workers eventually went into the area, trying to seal the reactor and make the area safe again. About 31,000 soldiers camped out near the reactor, where radioactivity reached about 1,000 times the normal levels within a week, and contaminated the drinking water.</p> <p>Which leads to the question: How bad was Chernobyl? A 2006 United Nations report contends Chernobyl caused 54 deaths. But MIT Professor Kate Brown, for one, is skeptical about that figure. As a historian of science who has written extensively about both the Soviet Union and nuclear technology, she decided to explore the issue at length.</p> <p>The result is her new book, “Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future,” published this month by W.W. Norton and Co. In it, Brown brings new research to bear on the issue: She is the first historian to examine certain regional archives where the medical response to Chernobyl was most extensively chronicled, and has found reports and documents casting new light on the story.</p> <p>Brown does not pinpoint a death-toll number herself. Instead, through her archival research and on-the-ground reporting, she examines the full range of ways radiation has affected residents throughout the region, while explaining how Soviet politics helped limit our knowledge of the incident.</p> <p>“I wrote this book so it’s something we take a look at more seriously,” says Brown, a professor in MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society.</p> <p><strong>Lying to themselves </strong></p> <p>To see how the effects of Chernobyl could be much more widespread than previously acknowledged, consider a pattern Brown observed from her archival work: Scientists and officials at the local and regional levels examined the effects of Chernobyl on people quite extensively, even performing controlled studies and other robust techniques, but other Soviet officials minimized the evidence of major health consequences.</p> <p>“Part of the problem is the Soviets lied to themselves,” says Brown. “On the ground it [the impact] was very clear, but at higher levels, there were ministers whose job was to report good health.” Soviet officials, Brown adds, would “massage the numbers” as the data ascended in the state bureaucracy.</p> <p>“Everybody was making the record look better by the time it go to Moscow,” Brown says. “And I can show that.”</p> <p>Then too, the effects of Chernobyl’s radiation have been diffuse. As Brown discovered, 298 workers at a wool factory in the city of Chernihiv, about 50 miles from Chernobyl, were given “liquidator status” due to their health problems. This is the same designation applied to emergency personnel working at the Chernobyl site itself.</p> <p>Why were the wool workers so exposed to radiation? As Brown found after investigating the Chernihiv wool factory itself, Soviet authorities had workers kill livestock from the Zone of Alienation — and then send their useable parts for processing. The wool factory workers had become sick because they were dealing with wool from highly contaminated sheep. Such scenarios may have been significantly overlooked in some Chernobyl assessments.</p> <p>A significant section of “Manual for Survival” — the title comes from some safety instructions written for local residents — also explores the accident’s effects on the region’s agricultural economy. In Belarus, one-third of milk and one-fifth of meat was too contaminated to use in 1987, according to the official in charge of food production in the state, and levels became worse the following year. At the same time, in the Ukraine, between 30 and 90 percent of milk in “clean” areas was judged too contaminated to drink.</p> <p>As part of her efforts to study Chernobyl’s effects in person, Brown also ventured into the forests and marshes near Chernobyl, accompanying American and Finnish scientists &nbsp;— who are among the few to have extensively studied the area’s wildlife in the field. They have found, among other things, the decimation of parts of the ecosystem, including dramatically fewer pollinators (such as bees) in higher-radiation places, and thus radically reduced numbers of fruit trees and shrubs. Brown also directly addresses scientific disagreements over such findings, while noting that some of the most negative conclusions about the regional ecosystems have stemmed from extensive on-the-ground investigations of it.</p> <p>Additionally, disputes over the effects of Chernobyl also rumble on because, as Brown acknowledges, it is “easy to deny” that any one occurence of cancer is due to radiation exposure. As Brown notes in the book, “a correlation does not prove a connection,” despite increased rates of cancer and other illnesses in the region.</p> <p>Still, in “Manual for Survival,” Brown does suggest that the higher end of existing death estimates seems plausible. The Ukrainian state pays benefits to about 35,000 people whose spouses apparently died from Chernobyl-caused illnesses. Some scientists have told her they think 150,000 deaths is a more likely baseline for the Ukraine alone. (There are no official or unofficial counts for Belarus and western Russia.)</p> <p><strong>Chernobyl: This past isn’t even past</strong></p> <p>Due to the long-term nature of some forms of radiation, Chernobyl’s effects continue today — to an extent that is also under-studied. In the book’s epilogue, Brown visits a forest in the Ukraine where people pick blueberries for export, with each batch being tested for radiation. However, Brown observed, bundles of blueberries over the accepted radiation limit are not necessarily discarded. Instead, berries from those lots are mixed in with cleaner blueberries, so each remixed batch as a whole falls under the regulatory limit. People outside the Ukraine, she writes, “may wake to a breakfast of Chernobyl blueberries” without knowing it. &nbsp;</p> <p>Brown emphasizes that her goal is not primarily to alarm readers, but to push research forward. She says she would like her audience — general readers, undergraduates, scientists — to think deeply about how apparently settled science may sometimes rely on contingent conclusions developed in particular political circumstances.</p> <p>“I would like scientists to know a bit more about the history behind the science,” Brown says.</p> <p>Other scholars say “Manual for Survival” is an important contribution to our understanding of Chernobyl. J.R. McNeill, a historian at Georgetown University, says Brown has shed new light on Chernobyl by illuminating “decades of official efforts to suppress its grim truths.” Alison MacFarlane, director of the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University, and Former director of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says the book effectively “uncovers the devastating effects” of Chernobyl.</p> <p>For her part, Brown says one additional aim in writing the book was to help us remind ourselves that our inventions and devices are fallible. We need to be vigilant to avoid future disasters along the lines of Chernobyl.</p> <p>“I think it could be a guide to the future if we’re not a little bit more thoughtful, and a little more transparent” than the Soviet officials were, Brown says.</p> Kate Brown, author of “Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future.”Courtesy of Kate BrownHistory, Faculty, Research, Books and authors, Energy, Technology and society, Program in STS, Nuclear power and reactors, History of science, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Twenty-five ways in which MIT has transformed computing http://news.mit.edu/2019/25-ways-mit-has-transformed-computing-0225 From digital circuits to ingestible robots, the Institute has helped spearhead key innovations in the technology revolution. Mon, 25 Feb 2019 14:40:01 -0500 Adam Conner-Simons | Rachel Gordon | MIT CSAIL http://news.mit.edu/2019/25-ways-mit-has-transformed-computing-0225 <p>This month MIT is celebrating the launch of the new $1 billion MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing. To help commemorate the event, here’s a list of 25 ways in which MIT has already transformed the world of computing technology.</p> <p><strong>1937: Digital circuits</strong></p> <p>Master’s student Claude Shannon showed that the principles of true/false logic could be used to represent the on-off states of electric switches — a concept that served as the foundation of the field of digital circuits, and, therefore, the entire industry of digital computing itself.</p> <p><strong>1944: The digital computer </strong></p> <p>The first digital computer that could operate in real-time came out of Project Whirlwind, a initiative during World War II in which <a href="http://bit.ly/1jeNQLX" target="_blank">MIT worked with the U.S. Navy</a> to develop a universal flight simulator. The device’s success led to the creation of MIT Lincoln Laboratory in 1951.</p> <p><strong>1945: Memex</strong></p> <p>Professor Vannevar Bush proposed a data system called a “Memex” that would allow a user to “<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1945/07/as-we-may-think/303881/" target="_blank">store all his books, records, and communications</a>” and retrieve them at will — a concept that inspired the early hypertext systems that led, decades later, to the World Wide Web.</p> <p><strong>1958: Functional programming</strong></p> <p>The first functional programming language was invented at MIT by Professor John McCarthy. Before LISP, programming had difficulty juggling multiple processes at once because it was “procedural” (like cooking a recipe). Functional languages let you describe required behaviors more simply, allowing work on much bigger problems than ever before.</p> <p><strong>1959: The fax </strong></p> <p>In trying to understand the words of a strongly-accented colleague over the phone, MIT student Sam Asano was frustrated that they couldn’t just draw pictures and instantly send them to each other — so he created <a href="http://bo.st/1nxK3tW%20">a technology to transmit scanned material</a> through phone lines. His fax machine was licensed to a Japanese telecom company before becoming a worldwide phenomenon.</p> <p><strong>1962: The multiplayer video game</strong></p> <p>When a PDP-1 computer arrived at MIT’s Electrical Engineering Department, a group of crafty students — including Steven “Slug” Russell from Marvin Minsky’s artificial intelligence group — went to work creating “<a href="http://nyti.ms/1lQ54nn">SpaceWar!</a>,” a space-combat video game that became very popular among early programmers and is considered the world’s first multiplayer game. (Play it <a href="http://www.masswerk.at/spacewar/">here</a>.)</p> <p><strong>1963: The password</strong></p> <p>The average person has <a href="https://securingtomorrow.mcafee.com/consumer/consumer-threat-notices/security-world-password-day/" target="_blank">13 passwords</a> — and for that you can thank MIT’s Compatible Time-Sharing System, which by most accounts established the first computer password. “We were setting up multiple terminals which were to be used by multiple persons but with each person having his own private set of files,” Professor Corby Corbato <a href="http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/01/computer-password/">told WIRED</a>. “Putting a password on for each individual user as a lock seemed like a very straightforward solution.”</p> <p><strong>1963: Graphical user interfaces</strong></p> <p>Nearly 50 years before the iPad, an MIT PhD student had already come up with the idea of <a href="http://bit.ly/MPgmZD">directly interfacing with a computer screen</a>. The “Sketchpad” developed by&nbsp;Ivan Sutherland PhD ’63 allowed users to draw geometric shapes with a touch-pen, pioneering the practice of “computer-assisted drafting” — which has proven vital for architects, planners, and <a href="http://mashable.com/2011/10/13/baby-magazine-ipad/">even toddlers</a>.</p> <p><strong>1964: Multics</strong></p> <p>MIT spearheaded the time-sharing system that inspired UNIX and <a href="http://www.cbi.umn.edu/iterations/haigh.html">laid the groundwork</a> for many aspects of modern computing, from hierarchical file systems to buffer-overflow security. Multics furthered the idea of the computer as a “utility” to be used at any time, like water or electricity.</p> <p><strong>1969: Moon code</strong></p> <p>Margaret Hamilton led the MIT team that coded <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/feature/margaret-hamilton-apollo-software-engineer-awarded-presidential-medal-of-freedom">the Apollo 11 navigation system</a>, which landed astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin&nbsp;ScD ’63 on the moon. The robust software overrode a command to switch the flight computer’s priority system to a radar system, and no software bugs were found on any crewed Apollo missions.</p> <p><strong>1971: Email</strong></p> <p>The first email to ever travel across a computer network was sent to <a href="http://openmap.bbn.com/~tomlinso/ray/ka10.html">two computers that were right next to each other</a> — and it came from MIT alumnus Ray Tomlinson '65 when he was working at spinoff BBN Technologies. (He’s the one you can credit, or blame, for <a href="http://wrd.cm/1bsY3VV%20" target="_blank">the @ symbol</a>.)</p> <p><strong>1973: The PC</strong></p> <p><a href="http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2014/mit-professor-made-much-of-our-world-possible-0218.html">MIT Professor Butler Lampson</a> founded Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), where his work earned him the title of “father of the modern PC.” The Xerox Alto platform was used to create the first graphical user interface (GUI), the first bitmapped display, and the first “What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get” (WYSIWYG) editor.</p> <p><strong>1977: Data encryption</strong></p> <p>E-commerce was first made possible by the MIT team behind the RSA algorithm, a method of data encryption based on the concept of <a href="http://slate.me/1bQ4w7T">how difficult it is to factor huge prime numbers</a>. Who knew that math would be why you can get your last-minute holiday shopping done?</p> <p><strong>1979: The spreadsheet</strong></p> <p>In 1979, Bob Frankston '70 and Dan Bricklin '73 worked late into the night on an MIT mainframe to create VisiCalc, <a href="http://bo.st/1eXXpif%20">the first electronic spreadsheet</a>, which sold more than 100,000 copies in its first year. Three years later, Microsoft got into the game with “Multiplan,” a program that later became Excel.</p> <p><strong>1980: Ethernet</strong></p> <p>Before there was Wi-Fi, there was Ethernet — the networking technology that lets you get online with a simple cable plug-in. Co-invented by <a href="http://www.networkworld.com/supp/2011/25thanniversary/050911-anniversary-metcalfe.html">MIT alumnus Bob Metcalfe</a> '69, who was <a href="http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/metcalfe.html">part of MIT’s Project MAC team</a> and later went on to found 3Com, Ethernet <a href="http://www.networkworld.com/news/2012/100412-what-if-ethernet-failed-262965.html">helped make the Internet</a> the fast, convenient platform that it is today.</p> <p><strong>1980: The optical mouse</strong></p> <p>Undergrad Steve Kirsch '80 was the first to patent <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBhA25qjL8Q">an optical computer mouse</a> — he had wanted to make a “pointing device” with a minimum of precision moving parts — and went on to found Mouse Systems Corp. (He also <a href="https://spectrum.ieee.org/geek-life/profiles/steve-kirsch">patented the method of tracking online ad impressions</a> through click-counting.)</p> <p><strong>1983: The growth of freeware</strong></p> <p>Early AI Lab programmer Richard Stallman was a major pioneer in hacker culture and the free-software movement through his <a href="http://www.gnu.org/gnu/the-gnu-project.html">GNU Project</a>, which set out to develop a free alternative to the Unix OS, and laid the groundwork for Linux and other important computing innovations.</p> <p><strong>1985: Spanning tree algorithm </strong></p> <p>Radia Perlman '73, SM '76, PhD '88 hates when people call her “the mother of the Internet,” but her work developing the Spanning Tree Protocol <a href="https://hackaday.com/2018/05/29/spanning-the-tree-dr-radia-perlman-untangling-networks/">was vital</a> for being able to route data across global computer networks. (She also created LOGO, the first programming language geared toward children.)</p> <p><strong>1994: The World Wide Web consortium (W3C)</strong></p> <p>After inventing the web, Tim Berners-Lee joined MIT and launched a consortium devoted to setting global standards for building websites, browsers, and devices. Among other things, W3C standards ensure that sites are accessible, secure, and easily “crawled” for SEO.</p> <p><strong>1999: The birth of blockchain</strong></p> <p>MIT Institute Professor Barbara Liskov’s <a href="http://pmg.csail.mit.edu/papers/osdi99.pdf">paper on Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance</a> helped kickstart the field of blockchain, a widely used cryptography system. Her team’s protocol could handle high-transaction throughputs and used concepts that are vital for many of today’s blockchain platforms.</p> <p><strong>2002: Roomba</strong></p> <p>While we don’t yet have robots running errands for us, we do have robo-vacuums — and for that, we can thank MIT spinoff iRobot. The company has sold more than 20 million of its Roombas and spawned an entire industry of automated cleaning products.</p> <p><strong>2007: The mobile personal assistant</strong></p> <p>Before Siri and Alexa, there was MIT Professor Boris Katz’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqOKqXaUWOw">StartMobile</a>, an app that allowed users to schedule appointments, get information, and do other tasks using natural language.</p> <p><strong>2012: EdX</strong></p> <p>Led by former CSAIL director Anant Agarwal, MIT’s not-for-profit online platform with Harvard University offers free courses that have drawn <a href="https://www.class-central.com/report/edx-2018-review/">more than 18 million learners around the globe</a>, all while being open-source and nonprofit.</p> <p><strong>2013: Boston Dynamics</strong></p> <p>Professor Marc Raibert’s spinoff Boston Dynamics <a href="http://bit.ly/1orqKpn">builds bots like “Big Dog” and “Spot Mini” </a>that can climb, run, jump and even do back-flips. Their humanoid robot Atlas was used in the DARPA Robotics Challenge aimed at developing robots for disaster relief sites.</p> <p><strong>2016: Robots you can swallow </strong></p> <p>CSAIL Director Daniela Rus’ <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2016/ingestible-origami-robot-0512">ingestible origami robot</a> can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule. Using an external magnetic field, it could one day crawl across your stomach wall to remove swallowed batteries or patch wounds.</p> Whirlwind I, the first digital computer capable of real-time computationPhoto: Daderot/Wikimedia CommonsHistory, History of science, Computer science and technology, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Robotics, Data, Algorithms, Invention, Research, History of MIT, Alumni/ae, Faculty, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, Internet, Mathematics, Cryptography, online learning, EdX, Startups, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), School of Engineering, Sloan School of Management, MIT Schwarzman College of Computing MLK Luncheon: America’s bank of justice is overdrawn but not bankrupt http://news.mit.edu/2019/mlk-luncheon-american-bank-of-justice-overdrawn-not-bankrupt-0215 Rahsaan Hall of the ACLU’s Massachusetts branch delivers keynote at annual MIT event. Fri, 15 Feb 2019 10:40:12 -0500 David L. Chandler | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/mlk-luncheon-american-bank-of-justice-overdrawn-not-bankrupt-0215 <p>In one of the less-remembered passages of Martin Luther King Jr.’s celebrated “I have a dream” speech in 1963, he spoke eloquently about the large debt owed by this country to its black citizens after centuries of oppression — which he described as a bad check that was being returned from the bank of justice, marked “insufficient funds.”</p> <p>That passage formed the theme for this year’s 45th annual MIT Martin Luther King Jr. celebration luncheon, which featured a keynote address by Rahsaan Hall, director of the Racial Justice Program for the Massachusetts branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. “We refuse to believe the bank of justice is bankrupt,” the event’s program proclaimed.</p> <p>MIT President L. Rafael Reif, referring to King’s words, said that “he spoke at a moment when the nation was rocked by painful inequality and violent suppression. Yet somehow, even in the face of so much turmoil, he was hopeful.”</p> <p>Reif continued, “He made it clear that, to remain true to its ideals, America’s ‘bank of justice’ owes everyone the same essential guarantee of freedom and equality. Today, we obviously have not conquered discrimination, inequality, and violence. But I believe we can see some signs that the story is changing. And we can certainly see opportunities for each of us to help accelerate that change.”</p> <p>As one clear example of that progress, he said, “Let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that the U.S. Congress is now the most diverse in our nation’s history!” And, he said, despite the disturbing stories about political leaders in Virginia who were found to have worn blackface, “even in this discouraging story, I believe there is an important thread of hope.” In King’s time, he said, such activities would have been considered routine, but that’s no longer true. “Today — fortunately, finally! — it is a public outrage.”</p> <p>In introducing Hall, Reif cited some of his achievements working with the ACLU: “Through a strategic combination of advocating on Beacon Hill, pursuing targeted lawsuits, and engaging people in their neighborhoods, Rahsaan works to advance racial justice in communities across the state,” he said.</p> <p>Hall also reflected on King’s famous speech, pointing out that while his uplifting words of hope are well-remembered, and the speech “touches us in a very special way,” sometimes people gloss over the tough critique of American society that he also expressed. King referred to the lives of African-Americans as “a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity,” and he went on to say that “it’s obvious today that America has defaulted on its promissory note … instead of honoring its sacred obligations, it has given its Negro citizens a bad check.”</p> <p>He added that King said “he refused to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. He refused to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check, that will give us on demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.”</p> <p>Hall pointed out that while King spoke of the lofty vision embodied in the U.S. Constitution, its drafters never really imagined that it would apply to all of humanity, including black people, native Americans, and women. “Even though King’s vision was one of hope and of high ideals, the reality is that this [Constitution] is a document that is rooted in a history of white supremacy. Not white supremacy as people think of skinheads and neo-Nazis and alt-right, but white supremacy as a system or structure of beliefs that center and prioritize and lift up and normalize white lives, white values, white beliefs, at the expense of the lives, values, property, behavior, and cultures of people of color.”</p> <p>He described in detail some of the laws and policies after emancipation that codified a deep level of discrimination and disempowerment, including laws that criminalized not having a job or a permanent residence, and that he said amounted to a new form of state-sanctioned slavery. Discrimination continued to be formalized well into the 20th century, through “separate but equal” policies that enforced segregated housing and education. “Jim Crow did not operate alone. He had an Uncle, and his name was Sam,” Hall said.</p> <p>Even though there has been much progress, Hall said, recent research has shown a mixed picture, with both advances and setbacks since the Kerner Commission report in the 1960s that found systematic discrimination throughout American society. “I say to you that the bank of justice is not actually bankrupt,” he concluded, “but rather America’s account is overdrawn. There is too much justice for a small segment of society, at the expense of too many others.”</p> <p>The annual luncheon, as always, included musical selections as well as tributes to this year’s recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award and to visiting professors and scholars, as well as talks by selected graduate and undergraduate students.</p> <p>Dasjon Jordan, a graduate student in the Department of Urban Studies, said that the promissory note King spoke of “was not just about racial harmony and handholding. But Dr. King’s address was explicitly about racial and economic justice. It was about people of color having their rights as Americans activated and being able to access fair employment opportunities, housing, education, and to simply provide quality lives for their families.”</p> <p>Jordan asked, “What are we doing as a body to not only make sure that classrooms aren’t just diverse and inclusive by the number of skin tones we count, but by the content of our curriculum and our actions to prioritize equity and racial justice? We must remember that diversity and inclusion are not substitutes for justice and equity. Justice and equity should not be a suggestion here, but our collective mission.</p> <p>“The world is watching not only what we produce, but the values we championand processes we take to get there,” he said. “These values and processes become the checks we deposit to America’s bank as we work. … Our engagement should bring problems of racial, economic, and social injustice to the heart of our institution and our daily actions. We must all ask ourselves the hard questions and hold ourselves accountable to solving them with fierce urgency.”</p> <p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2019/student-nikayah-etienne-0123">Nikayah Etienne</a>, a senior in mechanical engineering, described growing up in a predominantly black, immigrant community and school, and finding that she first really experienced being a racial minority when she began her studies at MIT. She realized that while this made her highly visible, it also made her often overlooked. But she soon found groups of black students and faculty in which she felt included and respected.</p> <p>“I’m leaving here with significant lessons and experiences,” she said. “I leave here knowing that I have grown as an activist. I leave here knowing that I want to continue to touch the lives of young boys and girls who have come from similar backgrounds to me, reminding them that systematic racism and stereotyping do not define their potential.”</p> <p>She added, “I challenge everyone sitting here, and all the members of the MIT community, to start making it a vision and a priority of yours, to aid students of color in cashing their own checks. I challenge you to take the necessary action to move MIT toward a more equitable community. Let our voices be heard.”</p> Rahsaan Hall, director of racial justice at the Massachusetts ACLU, delivered the keynote address at the annual MIT Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon.Image: Joseph LeeSpecial events and guest speakers, Diversity and inclusion, Community, Faculty, Staff, Students, Administration, MLK visiting scholars, Law, History, President L. Rafael Reif How writing technology shaped classical thinking http://news.mit.edu/2019/empire-letters-writing-technology-stephanie-frampton-0108 Stephanie Frampton’s new book explores the written word in the Roman world. Tue, 08 Jan 2019 00:00:00 -0500 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/empire-letters-writing-technology-stephanie-frampton-0108 <p>The Roman poet Lucretius’ epic work “De rerum natura,” or “On the Nature of Things,” is the oldest surviving scientific treatise written in Latin. Composed around 55 B.C.E., the text is a lengthy piece of contrarianism. Lucreutius was in the Epicurean school of philosophy: He wanted an account of the world rooted in earthly matter, rather than explanations based on the Gods and religion.</p> <p>Among other things, Lucretius believed in atomism, the idea that the world and cosmos consisted of minute pieces of matter, rather than four essential elements. To explain this point, Lucretius asked readers to think of bits of matter as being like letters of the alphabet. Indeed, both atoms and letters are called “elementa” in Latin — probably derived from the grouping of L,M, and N in the alphabet.</p> <p>To learn these elements of writing, students would copy out tables of letters and syllables, which Lucretius thought also served as a model for understanding the world, since matter and letters could be rearranged in parallel ways. For instance, Lucretius wrote, wood could be turned into fire by adding a little heat, while the word for wood, “lignum,” could be turned into the world for fire, “ignes,” by altering a few letters.&nbsp;</p> <p>Students taking this analogy to heart would thus learn “the combinatory potential of nature and language,” says Stephanie Frampton, an associate professor of literature at MIT, in a new book on writing in the Roman world.</p> <p>Moreover, Frampton emphasizes, the fact that students were learning all this specifically through writing exercises is a significant and underappreciated point in our understanding of ancient Rome: Writing, and the tools of writing, helped shape the Roman world.</p> <p>“Everyone says the ancients are really into spoken and performed poetry, and don’t care about the written word,” Frampton says. “But look at Lucretius, who’s the first person writing a scientific text in Latin — the way that he explains his scientific insight is through this metaphor founded upon the written word.”</p> <p>Frampton explores this and other connections between writing and Roman society in her new work, “Empire of Letters,” published last week by Oxford University Press.</p> <p>The book is a history of technology itself, as Frampton examines the particulars of Roman books — which often existed as scrolls back then — and their evolution over time. But a central focus of the work is how those technologies influenced how the Romans “thought about thought,” as she says.</p> <p>Moreover, as Frampton notes, she is studying the history of Romans as “literate creatures,” which means studying the tools of writing used not just in completed works, but in education, too. The letter tables detailed by Lucretius are just one example of this. Romans also learned to read and write using wax tablets that they could wipe clean after exercises.</p> <p>The need to wipe such tablets clean drove the Roman emphasis on learning the art of memory — including the “memory palace” method, which uses visualized locations for items to remember them, and which is still around today. For this reason Cicero, among other Roman writers, called memory and writing “most similar, though in a different medium.”</p> <p>As Frampton writes in the book, such tablets also produced “an intimate and complex relationship with memory” in the Roman world, and meant that “memory was a fundamental part of literary composition.” &nbsp;</p> <p>Tablets also became a common Roman metaphor for how our brains work: They thought “the mind is like a wax tablet where you can write and erase and rewrite,” Frampton says. Understanding this kind of relationship between technology and the intellect, she thinks, helps us get that much closer to life as the Romans lived it.</p> <p>“I think it’s analagous to early computing,” Frampton says. “The way we talk about the mind now is that it’s a computer. … We think about the computer in the same way that [intellectuals] in Rome were thinking about writing on wax tablets.”</p> <p>As Frampton discusses in the book, she believes the Romans did produce a number of physical innovations to the typical scroll-based back of the classic world, including changes in layout, format, coloring pigments, and possibly even book covers and the materials used as scroll handles, including ivory.</p> <p>“The Romans were engineers, that’s [one thing] they were famous for,” Frampton says. “They are quite interesting and innovative in material culture.”</p> <p>Looking beyond “Empire of Letters” itself, Frampton will co-teach an MIT undergraduate course in 2019, “Making Books,” that looks at the history of the book and gets students to use old technologies to produce books as they were once made. While that course has previously focused on printing-press technology, Frampton will help students go back even further in time, to the days of the scroll and codex, if they wish. All these reading devices, after all, were important innovations in their day.</p> <p>“I’m working on old media,” Frampton says, “But those old media were once new.”</p> Stephanie Frampton, author of “Empire of Letters.”Image: Catie NewellBooks and authors, Faculty, Literature, languages and writing, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, History, Research Populism: a case-by-case study http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-cis-starr-forum-populism-case-studies-1129 MIT Starr Forum panel discusses extreme forms of populism that have endangered basic civil liberties and spawned intolerant rhetoric. Thu, 29 Nov 2018 12:25:00 -0500 Una Hajdari | Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-cis-starr-forum-populism-case-studies-1129 <p>Discussions about populism have been front and center in recent societal debates — online, in the news, and in social settings. The subject has also drawn intense interest from academics and brought attention to those who have studied the phenomenon over the years.</p> <p>While many people&nbsp;associate the populist wave&nbsp;with current political leaders, such as Donald Trump in the United States, Nigel Farage in the U.K., and Marine Le Pen in France, its current&nbsp;manifestation has roots in movements, beliefs, and&nbsp;deficiencies in the liberal democratic order that predate these leaders' rise to power.</p> <p>For many countries experiencing an increase in support for populist ideas —&nbsp;or in the more extreme cases, whose current leader or leading party is of the populist mold —&nbsp;it represents a very acute risk, one that has endangered basic civil liberties and&nbsp;societal harmony, and has seen hateful and intolerant rhetoric permeate the public sphere.</p> <p>At its latest Starr Forum, MIT’s Center for International Studies brought together a panel of academics whose work has focused on some of the most extreme forms of populism seen in the past years, and whose leaders have become synonymous on a global level with the state capture&nbsp;that is part and parcel of governments led by populists.</p> <p>The three countries —&nbsp;Brazil, India, and&nbsp;Turkey — share certain characteristics. All of them are very influential in their part of the world, both in size and political clout. They are all emerging economic powerhouses, and they all boast ethnically diverse populations. In their presentations in front of the MIT public, the speakers, all academics who are either from these countries or have studied them over a long period of time,&nbsp;highlighted the way in which the current populist governments slowly accumulated power&nbsp;and made use of the deficiencies in their societies to amass wide voter support.</p> <p><strong>General overview</strong></p> <p>Pippa Norris, the Paul F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, explained&nbsp;the rise in support for populist parties as a result of what she called&nbsp;a “cultural backlash” leveled at the mainstreaming of progressive and liberal values. According to Norris’ research with Ronald Inglehart, to be published soon in a book titled “Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism,” this wave of populist support is buttressed by social conservatives who are uncomfortable with cosmopolitan lifestyles that encourage diverse sexual and gender identities, as well as other markers of progressive thinking.</p> <p>This group supports authoritarian populists and strongmen, she said, because they offer&nbsp;forms of “tribal protection” against “perceived risks of instability and disorder,” and feed into their insecurities by promoting a hostile approach towards “outsiders” such as immigrants, people of religious or ethnic backgrounds different from their own. These parties and leaders react to perceptions of cultural threat, and they in turn offer the leaders their loyalty in the voting booths.</p> <p>Norris explained&nbsp;that this is the main reason for an increase in populist support for leaders like Trump, Farage, and Le Pen.</p> <p><strong>Brazil: a sharp turn to the far right</strong></p> <p>“Brazil’s perfect storm of negative trends began in the late 2000s, which led to the ascension of the radical right,” explained Elizabeth Leeds, a research affiliate of the Center for International Studies, is a leading expert on police reform and issues of citizen security in Brazil.&nbsp;Leeds has conducted research on these topics over the last four decades. “The economic downturn and the subsequent recession starting around 2013 due in part to the worldwide drop in petroleum prices —&nbsp;petroleum is one of the engines of the Brazilian economy —&nbsp;and China’s economic retrenchment which caused drops in Brazilian exports to China, led to a sense of hopelessness and unemployment, especially amongst the Brazilian youth that had recently graduated from college.”</p> <p>In the mid-20th century, Brazil emerged from a military coup and subsequent military dictatorship as a country that largely voted for left-wing or left-leaning parties. The progressive spirit of these parties embraced its rich cultural composition and included many welfare programs to pull its most disenfranchised segments of society out of poverty. The deficiencies of these policies —&nbsp;lack of equal distribution of resources — proved to be its undoing.</p> <p>“The Workers Party, what it had become famous for and praised in its first eight years, its redistributor policies, its poverty alleviation programs, the Bolsa Familia, racial justice, gender equality, LGBT rights, gay marriage —&nbsp;all of these policies became fodder for those who were not benefitting from economic redistribution and were resentful at the attempt for racial justice,” Leeds said.</p> <p>The founder of Brazil’s previous ruling party, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva or “Lula”, and the creator of its landmark social welfare programs, was found to have been part of a massive corruption scandal and initially wanted to run his campaign from prison, where he is currently serving a sentence.</p> <p>“The massive corruption scandal that occurred on the Worker Party’s watch and involved all parties [severely damaged their electoral success],”&nbsp;Leeds explained.&nbsp;“This provided further pretext for attacking the Worker’s Party and its redistributor policies.”</p> <p>“The increase in violent crime, prison rebellions and the spread of organized criminal activity in the country, led people to search for a savior,” she said.</p> <p>In this chaos, Jair Bolsonaro, the head of the Social Liberal party and a former military officer, provided an appealing contrast to everything the Worker’s Party represented. Fernando Haddad was put forward as the candidate of the Worker’s Party. While having a clean slate, he did not offer the appeal of “Lulism” and did not offer strong opposition to Bolsonaro.</p> <p>The news that Bolsonaro won the October presidential elections with 55&nbsp;percent of the vote was met with shock in intellectual and political circles around the world and led to headlines claiming that Brazil had “elected a fascist” to office. Bolsonaro&nbsp;has openly praised Donald Trump’s foreign policies, has said that women and men should not be paid the same salaries, and is thought to be against progressive policies towards the LGBT community in the country.</p> <p>Of the things he is expected to reverse, Leeds explains that his lack of commitment to the Amazon and wildlife reserves in the country is causing the most outrage.</p> <p>“The most acute issues that people are aware of and afraid of are reversal in economic regulations especially in the Amazon. He is planning to reverse may of the indigenous reserves to expand agricultural development and mining,” Leeds said.</p> <p>He also wants to quash dissent, by “criminalizing social movements,” she&nbsp;said.</p> <p>“The well-known MST or Landless Workers Movement may be prosecuted under the anti-terrorism laws,” said Leeds, who believes Bolsonaro also wants to quash the liberal ideas that seem as if they support his predecessor’s beliefs.&nbsp;“He has attempted to constrain academic expression or ideological expression labelled communist, he has asked students to report professors for spreading objectionable or ideological speech. The protection of minority rights, gender rights, is in jeopardy.”</p> <p><strong>India:&nbsp;a&nbsp;reversal of diversity</strong></p> <p>Sana Aiyar, an associate professor of history at MIT, explored the ways in which populist nationalism has reversed the progressive and inclusive policies of post-independence India, and the way it clashes with the beliefs of the post-colonial secular and supra-ethnic state.</p> <p>India’s current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, of the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, is a proponent of the belief that India should be ruled by its Hindu-centered party and that ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Muslim population, should not have a central role in the government.</p> <p>“Modi turned his back on India’s spirit of tolerance, its inclusive pluralism,” said&nbsp;Aiyar of Modi’s beliefs. “When India declared independence in 1947 ...&nbsp;the nationhood of India was defined by its equality and diversity.”</p> <p>India’s first post-independence Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru of the Indian National Congress, insisted on an Indian identity that was secular —&nbsp;thus eradicating, at least in the political sphere, the ethnic differences between the various religious groups in the country. However, in a large country with many states composed of different groups, this status quo was difficult to maintain.&nbsp;</p> <p>“The Indian National Congress (INC), the party that ruled India in its post-independence period began to decline in the 1960s and 1970s as regional populist parties began to form,” explained Aiyar.&nbsp;“Through the 1990s and 2000s two major changes took place.&nbsp;First the Congress itself began to decline, primarily in the states where regional parties began emerging at the state level, and eventually at the national level.”&nbsp;</p> <p>From the late 1990s onwards, there was a change and a shift towards coalition governments. The INC and the BJP would form alliances with these regional parties that had been emerging over the years. In 1991, India shifted&nbsp;from a socialist to a neoliberal country through economic reforms, and the Indian middle class began expanding.</p> <p>One of the promises of these reforms, Aiyar said, is “that the economy will be depoliticized. That the institutions will be the mediators between the public and the state.”</p> <p>“As this unravels in the 2000s, growth falls from around 7 percent at the turn of the century, there is rising inequality, and there is a sense that aspirations were not fulfilled,” sais&nbsp;Aiyar, explaining the spread of disenchantment across the country.&nbsp;“The institutions begin being seen, at best, as ineffective and at worst as incredibly corrupt,&nbsp;the INC blames this on coalition politics and regional parties.”</p> <p>“The one state that began defying this all-India trend of inefficiency, corruption and lack of development is Gujarat, where Narendra Modi had been the Chief Minister since 2001. He builds up a reputation as being pro-business, as being an extremely effective leader, attracting huge foreign investments,” Aiyar continued.</p> <p>“Modi, with his strong record, transforms his anti-corruption movement into an anti-Congress one. He cast the Congress leaders as being very out of touch with the nation,” he said. “The Congress was cast as corrupt, out of touch with the pulse of the nation, its leaders as elites. Congress beliefs, such as socialism,&nbsp;secularism, and the focus on diversity were depicted as being Western&nbsp;or English&nbsp;notions of the nation.”</p> <p>Modi was part of a group of politicians in India at the time who were offering various definitions of populism. The approaches attempted to define Indian nationhood, and his belief centred around the fact that India should be dominated by its majority ethnic and religious group.</p> <p>Modi supported “the idea that a nation’s political destiny is [should] be determined by its religious and ethnic majority,” Aiyar said.</p> <p>“Majoritarianism has two components that one should keep in mind. It differentiates between citizens – those who are seen as having the majority faith are seen as being true citizens, the sons of the soil. The rest are minorities or courtesy citizens,”&nbsp;he said.&nbsp;“For the first years after independence, by defining India as secular rather than Hindu, Nehru manages not to commit India to the decolonization’s original sin. India defines herself not as majoritarian — not because these tendencies didn’t exist but precisely because there were these notions that had existed from the 1920s onwards.”</p> <p>In many countries around the world, populist politicians attempt to instill the fear amongst the majority populations or ethnic groups — those they rely on for electoral victories — that they are being threatened by a minority or that they have to “appease” to them rather than assert their dominance, Aiyar said.&nbsp;In many of these countries, the minority populations can be first-generation immigrants; religious, ethnic or linguistic minorities that have always been present in the country or those who plan to move there in larger numbers for academic or work opportunities.</p> <p>For Modi, promoting the idea that only Hindus were truly autochthonous in India since it was the birthplace of Hinduism helped him secure a win in 2014 and continues to be a hallmark of his mandate as prime minister. Aiyar described&nbsp;the ideology as emphasizing “a common fatherland, and a common holy land. This meant that all Hindus are Indians and that minorities, for whom the holy land lays in the west, are seen as somewhat suspect.”</p> <p><strong>Turkey: a blueprint for populism</strong></p> <p>Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been making headlines in the past couple of years as his authoritarian grasp on the country grows stronger. His Justice and Development Party, or AKP in Turkish, has become the largest party in the country and promotes a conservative platform that insists on an Islamic identity for Turkey and fondly looks back at the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey that controlled vast territories in the Balkans and the Middle East.</p> <p>Intially seen as a reformer when he started making gains on the political scene in the early 2000s, Erdogan has asserted his dominance by weakening Turkey’s strong military, which&nbsp;promoted the country’s secularism in the 20th century, and by expanding the powers and mandate of the president in a referendum held last year.</p> <p>His mandate has seen a crackdown on critical journalists, NGOs, and academics, and he has persecuted opponents both within the country and abroad. Aysen Candas, an associate professor at Bogazici University and a visiting associate professor at Yale University, explained what she called&nbsp;the core components of “a successful populist takeover.”</p> <p>According to Candas, the populist checklist includes certain key components. “Desecularization, no matter what religion the country is based on, is detrimental for the constitutional order of the country,” she said. For populists, constitutions are not binding. “When movements that rely on a majority’s identitarian claims monopolize power, they acquire the ability to reverse the accomplishments of constitutional democracies, no matter how weak or strong these accomplishments may be.”</p> <p>Another component is that populism is only a transitional phase. “Turkey’s experience with unhinged advanced populism proves that populism is a temporary phase, a snapshot, within the [counter]revolutionary transformation process of constitutional states, into right-leaning totalitarianisms,” she said. “The only remedy against it is forging a common front.”</p> <p>Candas explains that populism comes from a feeling of insecurity, where people feel that opportunities they are given in life are becoming constrained.</p> <p>“They respond to the shrinking or uncertainty of the economic pie, and the associated crisis of solidarity in the most regressive manner,”&nbsp;she said.&nbsp;“Populism's political proposal consists of a counterrevolution, against egalitarian, liberal democratic sources of political legitimacy to reinstall status hierarchies.”</p> <p>Candas said&nbsp;populist ideologies and influences should not be taken lightly. “The ideology of populists must be taken very seriously, as they do fulfil their campaign promises and they are not short-termers but marathon runners.”</p> <p>The Turkey of the 20th century&nbsp;was a modern, secular country that consciously split from its Islamic identity following the fall of the Ottoman Empire. “A Pew Research study, repeated every year, shows that only 12 percent of the people in Turkey want to live under Islamic rule. The rest, the majority, want to live in a secular society. How could it then be that political Islamists monopolized power in Turkey? The short answer to that question is that the majority failed to forge a common front.”</p> <p>The two main fault lines along which the country is divided include the religion issue, but also the question of the large Kurdish minority, consisting of 20 percent&nbsp;of the population. “Since the 1980s there is an ongoing kulturkampf on two major fault lines in Turkey. The first one is on the Kurdish issue,”&nbsp;she said. "Recognition of Kurdish identity, some form of regional autonomy, equal representation, and the unsurmountable 10 percent&nbsp;threshold that was put into practice in 1983 to prevent Kurdish parties from entering the parliament.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“This threshold grossly skewed every election result, so much so that in 2002 AKP came to power with 34&nbsp;percent of the vote, which translated into 66 seats in the parliament,” Candas explained. “The electoral threshold designed by the military&nbsp;in the 1990s, that was designed to keep Kurds out, let Islamists in.”</p> <p>“The second question is that of the secular republic or Sharia-based monarchy. These two fault lines cross-cut each other, in the sense that many Turkish secularists, who are for example gender and LGBTQ egalitarians turn into illiberal authoritarians on the Kurdish issue because they suspect that granting Kurds cultural rights and autonomy will lead to the partition of the country.”</p> <p>“Similarly, the intensely religious portion of the Kurds supported and still support the Islamist party even when repressive policies remain in place,” she said.</p> In a recent Starr Forum, Sana Aiyar, an associate professor of history at MIT, explored ways in which populist nationalism has reversed the progressive and inclusive policies of post-independence India.Photo: Laura Kerwin/MIT Center for International StudiesSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Science, Center for International Studies, Special events and guest speakers, Policy, Government, History When Japan met the world http://news.mit.edu/2018/faculty-hiromu-nagahara-japan-history-1121 Inspired by a family background with extensive U.S-Japan ties, historian Hiromu Nagahara explores Japan’s cultural links to other societies. Tue, 20 Nov 2018 23:59:59 -0500 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2018/faculty-hiromu-nagahara-japan-history-1121 <p>For centuries, until the late 1800s, Japan was famously closed off to the outside world. MIT historian Hiromu Nagahara studies what happened when the country finally opened up.</p> <p>More specifically, Nagahara is a scholar who looks at the global cultural exchange that occurred once Japan became more engaged with other countries. On the one hand, Japan began importing culture. Nagahara’s first book, “Tokyo Boogie-Woogie: Japan’s Pop Era and Its Discontents,” published in 2015, detailed how, starting in the 1920s, Japanese popular music helped create a mass consumer culture that defined the country’s middle class.</p> <p>On the other hand, people started venturing abroad from Japan, too. Nagahara’s current book project, with the working title, “After the Masquerade Balls,” looks at privileged Japanese families who began living overseas, especially in the 1920s, often as diplomats, and who gained entrée into the transnational elite society of the time, often through their interest in arts and culture.</p> <p>In general, Nagahara says, looking at cross-cultural currents “is a kind of classic question in Japanese history, whether this is westernization or modernization.” At the same time, he says, cultural history teaches us about people — and their willingness to embrace art and other cultures as a way of life.</p> <p>“What always fascinated me about all of these histories was the story of art and culture,” Nagahara says, “including musicians and other cultural practitioners in everyday life. And, more broadly, why do people become enamored with foreign culture during the course of modern Japanese history?”</p> <p><strong>Family ties</strong></p> <p>As it happens, Nagahara’s own family history involves unusually extensive Japan-U.S. ties that go back generations — a history that has shaped his own education and career, and, to some degree, contributed to his own trajectory as a Japan scholar who now lives in the U.S.</p> <p>“There were elements of my family’s history that made me keep modern Japanese history at arm’s length, and then as I became more interested in Japan, they became more of a motivator,” he says.</p> <p>On his mother’s side of the family, Nagahara’s story goes back to a great-grandfather who was born into a samurai family in 1880, just as Japan’s feudal order was being overturned. Needing to make his own way in life, Nagahara’s great-grandfather sailed from Yokohama to San Francisco as a teenager, and — perhaps uniquely for a Japanese citizen of his era and class — wound up as a Presbyterian minister in New York City.</p> <p>When Nagahara’s great-grandfather died in 1931, the family moved back to Japan. But one of his grandmother’s brothers returned to the U.S., fought in the Korean War as a U.S. Army soldier, graduated from the University of Michigan, spent his postwar career working in Japan as a U.S. civilian, and today is a retiree in Southern California.</p> <p>“On my mom’s side, I had this story of this very long-standing connection with the United States, in these pivotal moments of both Japanese and American history in the 20th century,” Nagahara says. “Literally, my family travels back and forth.”</p> <p>That’s just the half of it. On his father’s side, Nagahara had a great-grandfather whose family served the samurai lords of Hiroshima, and, again seeking a new profession in postfeudal Japan, became a professor of English-language instruction at the Hiroshima Higher Normal School, a predecessor to the present-day Hiroshima University.</p> <p>That great-grandfather, along with some other family members, was killed in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, on Aug. 6, 1945. But Nagahara’s paternal grandfather, then 15, survived the blast, along with a sister, and a brother who became one of Japan’s first Mark Twain scholars.</p> <p>“There is a peace museum in Kyoto, where they have a display of his belt buckle, which is the only thing that identified him,” Nagahara says about his great-grandfather. He adds: “My grandfather on that side certainly never spoke about experience of the atomic bombing itself. I’ve heard a lot of it through other family members. My great uncle was more vocal; he was a left-wing intellectual and part of antinuclear movements after the war, and he was involved with creating that peace museum, and collecting the memory of his father and other members of the bombing.”</p> <p>Despite the deep family trauma, those anglophone connections survived the war and influenced Nagahara as he looked for a vocation to pursue.</p> <p>“On the one hand, growing up, I felt this is all very intense, this is overwhelming. But I think as I began to be more interested in Japan, once I was outside of Japan, these stories motivated me to think about myself, my family’s history, but then also the story of modern Japan and the United States, how that’s intertwined,” Nagahara says.</p> <p><strong>Transforming themselves</strong></p> <p>The Anglophone tradition in the family certainly continued on to Nagahara’s generation. Nagahara attended English-language schools while growing up outside of Tokyo, then earned his undergraduate degree from <a href="https://www.gordon.edu/">Gordon College</a> in Massachusetts, before receiving his PhD in history from Harvard University in 2011.</p> <p>“What I encountered at Harvard were historians who were more than receptive to my interest in cultural history,” Nagahara says.</p> <p>That interest is fueling Nagahara’s current book, centered around the lives of a few well-traveled individuals — diplomats, political figures, and others — who in the 1920s and 1930s, he notes, were “transforming themselves from inhabitants of a far eastern island to members of a global elite.”</p> <p>Many of them — even the diplomats — did so through an interest in the arts and collecting, furthering a modern tradition in which Japanese elites sought to distinguish themselves from other classes by their interest in Western culture.</p> <p>“In some ways the period I’m looking at is the last gasp of a kind of old European culture, where there’s a real overlap between aristocracy and diplomacy,” Nagahara says. “It’s frivolous, it’s play, it’s entertainment, but this is also the glue that holds together not only international elites, but these people’s identities.”</p> MIT historian Hiromu Nagahara.Image: Bryce VickmarkSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, History, Japan, International relations, Humanities, Arts, Faculty, Profile Times Higher Education ranks MIT No.1 in business and economics, No.2 in arts and humanities http://news.mit.edu/2018/times-higher-education-ranks-mit-1-business-economics-2-arts-humanities-1115 Worldwide honors for 2019 span three MIT schools. Thu, 15 Nov 2018 13:25:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2018/times-higher-education-ranks-mit-1-business-economics-2-arts-humanities-1115 <p>MIT has taken the top spot in the Business and Economics subject category in the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings and, for the second year in a row, the No. 2 spot worldwide for Arts and Humanities.<br /> <br /> The Times Higher Education World University Rankings is an annual publication of university rankings by&nbsp;<em>Times Higher Education,</em> a leading British education magazine. The rankings use a set of 13 rigorous performance indicators to evaluate schools both overall and within individual fields. Criteria include teaching and learning environment, research volume and influence, and international outlook.</p> <p><strong>Business and Economics</strong></p> <p>The No. 1 ranking for Business and Economics is based on an evaluation of both the MIT Department of Economics — housed in the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences — and of the MIT Sloan School of Management.</p> <p>“We are always delighted when the high quality of work going on in our school and across MIT is recognized, and warmly congratulate our colleagues in MIT Sloan with whom we share this honor,” said Melissa Nobles, the Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS).</p> <p>The Business and Economics ranking evaluated 585 universities for their excellence in business, management, accounting, finance, economics, and econometrics subjects. In this category, MIT was followed by Stanford University and Oxford University.</p> <p>“Being recognized as first in business and management is gratifying and we are thrilled to share the honors with our colleagues in the MIT Department of Economics and MIT SHASS,” said David Schmittlein, dean of MIT Sloan.</p> <p>MIT has long been a powerhouse in economics. For over a century, the Department of Economics at MIT has played a leading role in economics education, research, and public service and the department’s faculty have won a total of nine Nobel Prizes over the years. MIT Sloan faculty have also won two Nobels, and the school is known as a driving force behind MIT’s entrepreneurial ecosystem: Companies started by MIT alumni have created millions of jobs and generate nearly $2 trillion a year in revenue.</p> <p><strong>Arts and Humanities</strong></p> <p>The Arts and Humanities ranking evaluated 506 universities that lead in art, performing arts, design, languages, literature, linguistics, history, philosophy, theology, architecture, and archaeology subjects. MIT was rated just below Stanford and above Harvard University in this category. MIT’s high ranking reflects the strength of both the humanities disciplines and performing arts located in MIT SHASS and the design fields and humanistic work located in MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P).</p> <p>At MIT, outstanding humanities and arts programs in SHASS — including literature; history; music and theater arts; linguistics; philosophy; comparative media studies; writing; languages; science, technology and society; and women’s and gender studies — sit alongside equally strong initiatives within SA+P in the arts; architecture; design; urbanism; and history, theory, and criticism. SA+P is also home to the Media Lab, which focuses on unconventional research in technology, media, science, art, and design.</p> <p>“The recognition from <em>Times Higher Education</em> confirms the importance of creativity and human values in the advancement of science and technology,” said Hashim Sarkis, dean of SA+P. “It also rewards MIT’s longstanding commitment to “The Arts” — words that are carved in the Lobby 7 dome signifying one of the main areas for the application of technology.”</p> <p>Receiving awards in multiple categories and in categories that span multiple schools at MIT is a recognition of the success MIT has had in fostering cross-disciplinary thinking, said Dean Nobles.</p> <p>“It’s a testament to the strength of MIT’s model that these areas of scholarship and pedagogy are deeply seeded in multiple administrative areas,” Nobles said. “At MIT, we know that solving challenging problems requires the combined insight and knowledge from many fields. The world’s complex issues are not only scientific and technological problems; they are as much human and ethical problems.”</p> “At MIT, we know that solving challenging problems requires the combined knowledge and insight from many fields. The world’s complex issues are not only scientific and technological problems; they are as much human and ethical problems,” says Melissa Nobles, the Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.Photo: Madcoverboy/Wikimedia CommonsAwards, honors and fellowships, Arts, Architecture, Business and management, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Economics, Global Studies and Languages, Humanities, History, Literature, Linguistics, Management, Music, Philosophy, Theater, Urban studies and planning, Rankings, Media Lab, School of Architecture and Planning, Sloan School of Management, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences “Schoenberg in Hollywood,” the opera http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-schoenberg-hollywood-new-opera-examines-ideas-heritage-politics-and-artistic-integrity-1114 New work by Tod Machover of the Media Lab&#039;s Opera of the Future group examines ideas of heritage, politics, and artistic integrity. Wed, 14 Nov 2018 16:50:00 -0500 Janine Liberty | MIT Media Lab http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-schoenberg-hollywood-new-opera-examines-ideas-heritage-politics-and-artistic-integrity-1114 <p>Today the Boston Lyric Opera presents the world premiere of “<a href="http://schoenberg.media.mit.edu/" target="_blank">Schoenberg in Hollywood</a>,” a new opera by Tod Machover, the Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media and director of the MIT Media Lab's Opera of the Future group. Performances will run through Nov.&nbsp;18.</p> <p>“Schoenberg in Hollywood” is inspired by the life of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg after he fled Hitler’s Europe in the 1930s. After moving first to Boston and then to Los Angeles, Schoenberg sought connection with his new culture through music. He forged a friendship with famous comedian Harpo Marx, who introduced him to MGM’s Irving Thalberg, who in turn offered him the opportunity to compose a score for the film “The Good Earth.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Schoenberg ultimately turned down the commission, rejecting the lure of more money and greater fame in favor of his artistic integrity (and after proposing highly unrealistic artistic and financial terms). In doing so, Schoenberg chose a path of fidelity to his heritage and his musical identity — a decision that pitted change against tradition, art against entertainment, and personal struggle against public action.</p> <p>Machover’s opera is bookended by the Thalberg meeting, after which the fictional Schoenberg goes off to make a film about his own life. This imagined creation follows the narrative of Schoenberg’s historical journey up to a point, then diverges in a wild fantasy to imagine a different path had Schoenberg been able to reconcile opposing forces. Drawing on inspirations ranging from Jewish liturgical music to Bach and a World War I soundscape to contemporary 20th century music, Machover illustrates Schoenberg’s personal evolution through a synthesis of shifting influences.</p> <p>“I immersed myself in Schoenberg’s world through his extensive — and incredible — writings, his music, his paintings, through visiting his amazing archives in Vienna, and by speaking with many people who knew him,” Machover explains. “But I grew up with Schoenberg’s music, so have been thinking about this for a very long time. It is part of me.”</p> <p>Machover also drew on his own experience as a composer in a rapidly changing world to inform his interpretation of Schoenberg’s musical and personal journey.</p> <p>“The work explores one man's journey to move millions to social and political action while remaining deeply thoughtful and thoroughly ethical,” Machover says. “The underlying artistic, activist, and ethical questions raised in this opera are ones that we ask every day at the Media Lab.”</p> <p>The opera is also uniquely informed by Machover’s dual roles as artist and technologist. The opera blends reality and fantasy, combining live singers and actors with diverse media, and acoustic sound, with complex electronics spread throughout the theater, while incorporating physical stage effects that modify perspective and perception in unusual ways.</p> <p>“The Media Lab is the only environment I know where the forms and technologies of this opera could have been imagined and developed,” Machover says.</p> <p>A polymath and inventor, Schoenberg never earned a degree from any academic or musical institution, but became the top composition professor at the renowned Berlin Conservatory of Music (before being expelled immediately upon Hitler’s rise to power). His depth of knowledge informed but never limited his own musical explorations. His invention of 12-tone technique, which Schoenberg described as “a method of composing with 12 tones which are related only with one another," changed the face of Western music in the 20th century and beyond.</p> <p>“He invented not only music but all kinds of unusual things, like a new notation system for tennis games (designed to annotate his son’s expert playing), contraptions to draw his own customized music manuscript paper, a curriculum to train movie composers in a purely sonic art, a painting technique to allow him to depict his inner mental state rather than outside physical features in a series of self-portraits,” says Machover. “As an intellect and creator, Schoenberg would have fit right into the Media Lab.”</p> <p>In celebration not only of the opera’s premiere but also of the Media Lab’s informal adoption of Schoenberg, the lab is now hosting an <a href="http://www.media.mit.edu/events/schoenberg-in-hollywood/" target="_blank">exhibition</a> on “Schoenberg in Hollywood” in the lobby gallery of Building E14. Videos and archival materials trace Schoenberg’s journey, including materials on loan from the Schoenberg Center in Vienna, most of which have never before been shown in the Boston area. The exhibition also serves as a companion to the opera, offering a listening station, a video trailer of one of the opera’s climactic moments, some of Machover’s own musical sketches, and an illustrated timeline juxtaposing events in Schoenberg’s life with scenes and sounds from Machover’s opera.</p> <p>“The exhibition is a resonant companion to the opera, useful whether experienced before or after a performance,” explains Machover. “But is also meant to stand alone to introduce the art and life of this remarkable creator to the MIT community and beyond, and to tell at least a bit of the story about why this unusual new opera grew out of inspiration from Arnold Schoenberg ... and the MIT Media Lab itself.”</p> <p>“Schoenberg in Hollywood”<em> </em>runs Nov.&nbsp;14-18 at the Emerson Paramount Theater in Boston. The Media Lab’s exhibition is currently open to the public and will run through April 30.</p> Singer Omar Ebrahim as Arnold Schoenberg as Humphrey Bogart, from "Schoenberg in Hollywood"Photo: Peter TorpeyMusic, School of Architecture and Planning, Media Lab, History, Theater, Arts, Technology and society 3 Questions: Stephen Van Evera revisits World War I http://news.mit.edu/2018/3-questions-stephen-van-evera-revisits-world-war-i-100-years-after-bitter-end-1108 A century after its bitter end, the political science professor calls the Great War a wellspring of the 20th century&#039;s horrors and tragedies. Thu, 08 Nov 2018 17:00:00 -0500 Michelle English | Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2018/3-questions-stephen-van-evera-revisits-world-war-i-100-years-after-bitter-end-1108 <p><em>One hundred years ago on Nov. 11, 1918, the Allied Powers and Germany signed an armistice bringing to an end World War I. That bloody conflict decimated Europe and destroyed three major empires (Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman). Its aftershocks still echo in our own times.</em></p> <p><em>As this day of remembrance approaches — commemorated throughout Europe as Armistice Day, and in the U.S. as Veterans Day — it is a reminder of Machiavelli's tenet that ‘</em>‘whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past."&nbsp;<em><a href="http://polisci.mit.edu/people/stephen-van-evera">Stephen Van Evera</a>, the Ford International Professor of Political Science and an expert on the causes of war, revisits the Great War and discusses key insights for today a full century after its bitter end.&nbsp;</em></p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> Who caused the war? Do historians agree or not? Where does the debate stand?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong>&nbsp;My answer is: The Germans caused the war.&nbsp;They wanted a general European war in 1914 and deliberately brought it about. Their deed was the crime of the century. But others disagree. A hundred years later scholars still dispute which state was most responsible. Views have evolved a lot, but there is no consensus.</p> <p>During 1919 to 45 most German historians blamed Russia, or Britain, or France, while deeming Germany largely innocent. Historians outside Germany generally viewed the war as an accident, for which all the European powers deserved blame.&nbsp; Few put primary responsibility on Germany.</p> <p>Then in 1961 and 1969 German historian Fritz Fischer published books that put greatest blame on Germany. His books stirred one of the most intense historical debates we've ever seen. The firestorm was covered in the German popular press, debated at public forums attended by thousands, and discussed in the German parliament, as though the soul of Germany was at stake — which in a way it was.&nbsp;</p> <p>Fischer and most Fischer followers argued that Germany instigated the 1914 July crisis in order to ignite a local Balkan war that would improve Germany’s power position in Europe. German leaders did not want a general European war, but they deliberately risked such a war, and lost control of events. Some Fischerites went further, arguing that Germany instigated the 1914 July crisis in order to cause a general European war, which they wanted for “preventive” reasons — they hoped to cut Russian power down to size before Russia’s military power outgrew German power — and to position Germany to seize a wider empire in Europe and Africa. Both Fischer variants assign Germany prime responsibility.</p> <p>Within Germany the Fischer view holds sway today.&nbsp; Germans broadly take responsibility for the war. But several recent works by non-Germans reject the Fischer view, assigning Germany less responsibility than Fischer while blaming others. So the Fischer school's views predominate in Germany but elsewhere the debate continues.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>Why is it important for scholars to assign responsibility for World War I, or for other wars?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong>&nbsp;When responsibility for past war is left unassigned, chauvinist mythmakers on one or both sides will over-blame the other for causing the war while whitewashing their own responsibility.&nbsp;Both sides will then be angered when the other refuses to admit responsibility and apologize for violence they believe the other caused, and be further angered that the other has the gall to blame them for this violence.&nbsp;They may also infer that the other may resort to violence again, as its non-apology shows that it sees nothing wrong with its past violence.</p> <p>The German government infused German society with self-whitewashing, other-maligning myths of this kind about World War I origins during the interwar years.&nbsp;These myths played a key role in fueling Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in 1933.&nbsp;They were devised and spread by the Kriegsschuldreferat (War Guilt Office), a secret unit in the German foreign ministry.&nbsp;The Kriegsschuldreferat sponsored twisted accounts of the war’s origins by nationalist German historians,&nbsp;underwrote mass propaganda on the war’s origins, selectively edited document collections, and worked to corrupt historical understanding abroad by exporting this propaganda to Britain, France, and the U.S.&nbsp;This innocence propaganda persuaded the German public that Germany had little or no responsibility for causing the war.&nbsp;Germans&nbsp;were taught instead that Britain instigated the war; then outrageously blamed Germany for the war in the Versailles treaty’s War Guilt&nbsp;clause; and then forced Germany to pay reparations for a war Britain itself began.</p> <p>An enraging narrative for Germans who believed it.&nbsp;And many Germans did. Hitler’s rise to power was fueled in part by the wave of German public fear and fury that this false narrative fostered. Hitler told Germans that Germany’s neighbors had attacked Germany in 1914 without reason, and then falsely denied their crime while falsely blaming Germany.&nbsp;States so malicious could well attack Germany again. Germany therefore had to recover its power and strike its neighbors before they struck Germany.</p> <p>After 1945 international politics in Western Europe was miraculously transformed.&nbsp;War became unthinkable in a region where rivers of blood had flowed for centuries.&nbsp;This political transformation stemmed in important part from a transformation in the teaching of international history in European schools and universities.&nbsp;The international history of Europe was commonized.&nbsp;Europeans everywhere now learned largely the same history instead of imbibing their own national myths.&nbsp;An important cause of war, chauvinist nationalist mythmaking, was erased.&nbsp;Greatest credit for this achievement goes to truthtelling German historians — including the Fischer school — and schoolteachers&nbsp;who documented German responsibility for World War I, World War II, and the Holocaust and explained it to the German people.&nbsp;By enabling a rough consensus among former belligerents on who was responsible for past violence these historians&nbsp;and schoolteachers&nbsp;played a large role in healing the wounds of the world wars and making another round of war impossible.</p> <p>Nationalist/chauvinist historical mythmaking declined worldwide after World War II but it never disappeared.&nbsp;It still infects many places.&nbsp;If, like the Germans, the people of these still-infected places&nbsp;faced&nbsp;their past truthfully they would downsize their sense of victimhood to better fit the facts. Their sense of grievance and entitlement would diminish accordingly.&nbsp;They would be quicker to see the justice in others' claims and to grant what others deserve.&nbsp;Peace with their neighbors would be easier to reach and sustain.&nbsp;War would be easier to avoid.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>What consequences — past and present —&nbsp;arose from the impact of the Great War?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong>&nbsp;Like a boulder that triggers a landslide as it tumbles downhill, World War I unleashed forces that later caused even greater violence.</p> <p>Without World War I there would have been no Hitler, as he rose to power on trumped up&nbsp;grievances that stemmed from World War I.&nbsp;Hence without World War I, there would have been no World War II.&nbsp;There also would have been no Holocaust, as the Holocaust was a particular project of the Nazi elite that other German elites would not have pursued had they ruled instead of Hitler.</p> <p>Without World War I there would have been no Russian revolution; hence no Leninism or Stalinism; hence no vast massacres by Stalin — approximately 30 million murdered —&nbsp;and no Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West during 1947 to 1989; hence no peripheral wars in Korea, Indochina, Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Cambodia, killing millions.&nbsp;</p> <p>The moral of story is: War can be self-feeding, self-perpetuating, and self-expanding.&nbsp;It has fire-like properties that cause it to continue once it begins.&nbsp;It is hard to extinguish because, like fire, it sustains itself by generating its own heat.&nbsp;In this case the “heat” is mutual fear and mutual hatred born of wartime violence, and&nbsp;war-generated&nbsp;combat political ideologies, like Bolshevism, Naziism, and extremist Sunni jihadism, that see human affairs as a Darwinistic struggle that compels groups to destroy others or be destroyed themselves.</p> One hundred years ago on Nov. 11, 1918, the Allied Powers and Germany signed an armistice bringing to an end World War I. Images courtesy of the Center for International Studies and Wikipedia CommonsSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Science, Political science, Security studies and military, History, Faculty, Policy Unraveling the complex histories of Palestinian artwork http://news.mit.edu/2018/nisa-ari-palestinian-artwork-1023 “My job is to be critical and deep as an art historian, and not as a politician,” says PhD student Nisa Ari. Mon, 22 Oct 2018 23:59:59 -0400 Fatima Husain | MIT News correspondent http://news.mit.edu/2018/nisa-ari-palestinian-artwork-1023 <p>Before she was a PhD student searching through art history archives around the world, a young Nisa Ari attended museums with her family and tried to discern the histories behind the artwork and artifacts she saw. “It always had the appeal of detective work,” Ari says. Sometimes, when she’d walk into a new gallery, she’d challenge herself to identify artists from paintings at a distance: “That’s a Cézanne, that’s a Picasso, that’s a Léger.”</p> <p>When visiting her father’s family in Istanbul, the Colorado native would sit and sketch on the porch with her grandfather, an artist. Ari’s interests included the performing arts as well. “I was a singer,” Ari says. “That was my life, but I was really academically minded, too. So when it came time to go to college, I applied to music conservatories as well as [universities].” Ari decided to attend Stanford University — with the intention to move to New York City and live as a performer after completing her undergraduate degree.</p> <p>She enrolled in an art history class at Stanford during her first year — a decision which led her to major in art history. Following graduation, Ari spent five years auditioning for roles and performing in musical theater productions around the country. But she had a longing to return to the art world, and worked as an assistant director at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York City. “That experience was good — it made me realize that I was not willing to totally commit myself to a life of performing,” Ari says. “There was a moment when I thought, it’s time to do a PhD.”</p> <p>Now, Ari is a doctoral candidate in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art program at MIT, and studies the development of arts and crafts in Palestine from 1876 to 1948. Her transition back into academia was “relatively painless,” she says — and she still takes cues from her training as a performer to work though her dissertation. “I like to say I tap dance through grad school — I feel like I use the skills [gained in New York] all the time in what I do now.”</p> <p><strong>Seeking insight </strong></p> <p>Ari was drawn to the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art program because of its strength in modern Middle Eastern art history. Her early research was rooted in the 1990s — a period when prominent nonprofits that supported the arts arrived in the Middle East. With guidance from co-advisors Nasser Rabbat, the director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT, and Caroline Jones, a professor of art history, Ari zeroed in on the idea of studying the development of Palestinian art during the 19th and 20th centuries. But it was a challenge: Three other students interested in Palestine had been stymied by a lack of access to artwork, the lack of a record of Palestinian artwork in archives, and the difficulties of working across the politics of the region. But Ari, who studied Arabic at Harvard University while enrolled at MIT and took summer research trips to Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan through MISTI, was determined to follow through.</p> <p>Ari’s fieldwork is “more comparable to that of an anthropologist or sociologist” and involves travel to Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, England, and Jordan. She looks through a plethora of documents that record the development of art by artists and social commentators alike: files, letters, photographs, postcards. Not all records are public — Ari often works to track down private collections as well. “There are several private Palestinian [art] collectors who live in Beirut, Lebanon. Those collections are more personal,” Ari says. While most of the artists Ari studies are now deceased, she sometimes comes across their descendants and listens to their stories.</p> <p>“I’m very interested in social relationships and social networks in terms of how they affect artistic production,” Ari says. “For me, the proof is always in the pudding. I always have to be able to still see it in the artwork to understand those relationships.”</p> <p>Between the end of the Ottoman empire in the early 20th century and the close of the British Mandate in 1948, Palestine underwent widespread political and social changes. Ari focuses on notable shifts in the region’s artwork and how art was used, from religious purposes to commercial and political ones. “I’m trying to understand how changes in art happened in Palestine as a result of this major political and social upheaval,” she says.</p> <p><strong>Informing research methods</strong></p> <p>Ari is also well aware of the political and social tensions stemming from the Arab-Israeli conflict in the countries she visits to perform her research. “It’s tough because it’s such an active situation, and people’s lives really are at stake,” Ari says. “There’s a kind of emotional labor involved in that there’s a lot of code switching that I have to do when I’m talking to an Israeli at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem versus when I’m meeting with a Palestinian art collector in Bethlehem. While my project stays the same, my approach has to change.”</p> <p>In some cases, Ari has to meet with curators and archivists multiple times before gaining access to archives: “Understandably, for some there’s a real fear about how you’re going to use the material.”</p> <p>“I’ve found that honesty is the best policy and just to present myself as best I can, because the whole purpose of the project is to preserve nuance where so much of it has been lost because of contemporary politics,” Ari says. “I think it really helps that I did not start from a place of politics for this particular project.”</p> <p>Ari cites her own heritage — her father’s family is orthodox Muslim and her mother’s is orthodox Jewish. “Having some background in both of these religious cultures has helped me to recognize the nuances of the situation. … My job is to be critical and deep as an art historian and not as a politician.”</p> <p>“I remind myself that I’m making a choice to do this every day when I’m crossing the border [between Israel and the Palestinian territories] — other people who are there with me don’t have that choice,” Ari says.</p> <p>Ari has also been co-editor of <em>Thresholds</em>, the MIT architecture department’s peer-reviewed journal; a dissertation fellow with the Mellon Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies; a research fellow with the Palestinian American Research Center; a dissertation fellow at Darat al Funun in Amman, Jordan; and the recipient of an international research grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art. She also received the Rhonda A. Saad Prize for Best Paper in Modern and Contemporary Art for a section from her dissertation, which was recently published in <em>Arab Studies Journal</em>.</p> <p>After MIT, Ari hopes to apply for postdoctoral fellowships and teaching positions and turn her dissertation into a book, with the long-term intention of teaching. “I intended to teach from the start,” she says.</p> Nisa Ari is a doctoral candidate in MIT's History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art program.Courtesy of Nisa AriHistory, Humanities, Middle East, MISTI, Profile, Students, School of Architecture and Planning, Graduate, postdoctoral, Arts, Architecture, Program in HTC An assault on American intelligence http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-hosts-general-michael-hayden-assault-on-american-intelligence-1003 In MIT visit, former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden describes current difficulties faced by society and U.S. intelligence services. Wed, 03 Oct 2018 16:00:00 -0400 Una Hajdari | Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-hosts-general-michael-hayden-assault-on-american-intelligence-1003 <p>“Oh come on, how many of you think Barack Obama wiretapped the Trump Tower? All their hands went up. Almost unanimous,” said&nbsp;retired four-star general <a href="https://twitter.com/GenMhayden" target="_blank">Michael Hayden</a>.</p> <p>Hayden, a former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2009) and the National Security Agency (1999-2005) was retelling an incident from his recently released book, “The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies” in front of an audience that filled MIT’s 425-seat Huntington Hall (Room 10-250). Hayden was describing a scene at a local bar in his native Pittsburgh where he met with people who he might have known growing up there or was related to, but who now hold sharply divergent views.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I used to run the NSA. I kinda know how this works. Number one, they wouldn’t do it. Number two, the plumbing doesn’t work that way. They almost certainly couldn’t do it,” he said. When asked, “What evidence do you have?” the bargoers said, simply, “Obama.” When asked, “Where do you get your news?” the answer was invariably, “Facebook.”</p> <p>The anecdote aptly explains the dilemmas Hayden attempts to tackle in his book, which deals with the ways in which the basic adherence to truth and facts has been eroded since Donald Trump announced he was running for president, and what the consequences are for what he calls&nbsp;“fact-based institutions.”&nbsp;The judiciary, the media, the intelligence community, and others are suffering in an era when everyone’s version of the truth is up for grabs, Hayden explains — especially when the intelligence community he knows so well is being attacked. While he does not predict societal collapse or civil war in North America, he said he is worried about the “assault on truth” that is currently taking place.</p> <p>“The veneer of civilization is something that is quite thin,” he said.&nbsp;“It has to be protected and nurtured.”</p> <p>While most of the younger generations might not be aware of this —&nbsp;including some of the younger generations at MIT —&nbsp;he said “civilization as we know it” is not a given.</p> <p>While this phenomenon can be witnessed all over the world, Hayden stressed&nbsp;that it presents a particular problem for U.S. society.</p> <p>“America was a concept under which we built a nation. If you remove the concept you remove the basic fundamental character.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The United States was formed on the basis of the ideas of the Enlightenment, with adaptations and improvements being made as societies and “civilization” developed. Since then, those who rejected these ideas represented the negative phenomena in society and were often overpowered by the progressive or forward-thinking mainstream. Now, those who represent the negative segments of society are threatening to become mainstream.</p> <p>“This is a rejection of the way of thinking that developed in the 16th and 17th centuries in the Enlightenment. I don’t want to overemphasize this but the Western man, after that period, was generally pragmatic. Our definition of truth was the best working theory we could develop at the moment of objective reality. That dynamic is what I think is under threat,” Hayden explained.</p> <p>Hayden described&nbsp;the predicament that our society currently finds itself as a three-layer cake with each layer representing&nbsp;the major “players.”</p> <p>“The basic layer and therefore the most important one is us,” he said.&nbsp;“It is the American population where our political culture is moving in the direction of a post-truth reality.”</p> <p>This is where the group from the anecdote fits in, as well as everyone else. Although Hayden places all of American society in the biggest layer at the bottom, he says that people who compose the third layer are very different. “The winds of globalization have been at my back for 50 years. The people I grew up with, the winds of globalization have largely been in their face and the uneven effects of globalization have created grievances,” he said.</p> <p>The grievances are more cultural rather than economic, but it creates the conditions for people with seemingly “simple” answers to appeal to their grievances and “tribe loyalties” and actually make their case to them. Also like the group in the opening anecdote, this group relies on social media outlets for their news —&nbsp;as well as their facts.</p> <p>“Social media knows you as well as you know yourself. The business model for social media is to keep you there, keep you on the site, so it gives you something that’s pleasing to you,” Hayden continued. “But the longer you’re there the more you want [it]. The core algorithm keeps giving you [that]. Which in this version are more extreme versions of the views you had when you entered the enterprise in the first place.”</p> <p>He also emphasized&nbsp;the fact that working-class communities are those who are particularly susceptible to the divisions.</p> <p>“It is the elites of the world who are uniting,” he said.&nbsp;“And it’s the workers of the world who are reaching for their national flags.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The second layer of the cake is the Trump administration. “Objective reality is not the distinctive departure point for what Trump says or does,” he said.</p> <p>He offered&nbsp;another anecdote, a conversation he had with a retired PDB briefer — someone who delivers the president’s daily highly confidential briefings. They compared what sort of president Trump was.&nbsp;</p> <p>“He said, Mike we have had presidents who have argued with us —&nbsp;that was my experience with George W. Bush.&nbsp;We’ve had presidents who simply lie; the Nixonian image comes to mind. They don’t argue about objective reality, they just lie about it. He offered the view that Trump isn’t either of those.”</p> <p>Trump, the retired briefer argued, was someone who “fully believed his version of events,” Hayden said.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Does the thought process there make a distinction between the past I need and the past that happened? And the answer is maybe not, which is a little bit different than lying.”</p> <p>According to the briefer, the only proof of veracity that the president seems to need is “a lot of people saying they agree with him and if he can make it trending.”</p> <p>The third layer are the Russians, but according to Hayden they are “the least of our problems.” Unlike layers three and two, which actively participate in questioning the truth, those in Russia who want to affect U.S. society base their interference on “existing divisions” —&nbsp;divisions that were created by layer one and layer two. He doesn’t doubt that the Russians were involved in trying to influence the 2016 elections, but whether anyone in the U.S. was involved depends on the results of the ongoing Mueller probe. Whether or not they influenced the votes is “unknowable and unmeasurable,” he said.</p> <p>“What the Russians did we would call a covert influence campaign. The specifics of a covert influence campaign are clear: You never create a division in a society,” he said.&nbsp;“You identify pre-existing divisions and you exploit and worsen the pre-existing divisions.”</p> <p>Their motives, he said, were to “mess with our heads,”&nbsp;punish Hillary Clinton, and delegitimize her as the inevitable winner, as well as hope to push votes in Trump’s direction.</p> <p>The event was sponsored by the MIT Center for International Studies as part of its flagship public event series, the MIT Starr Forum. The forum brings to campus leading authorities to discuss pressing issues in the world of international relations and U.S. foreign policy.</p> General Michael Hayden took questions from the audience and from Joel Brenner (right), who was a former senior counsel at the NSA and head of US counterintelligence under the director of National Intelligence. Brenner is a research affiliate of the MIT Center for International Studies and CSAIL’s Internet Policy Research Initiative.Photo: Laura Kerwin/Center for International StudiesBooks and authors, Political science, Policy, Security studies and military, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Special events and guest speakers, Center for International Studies, Government, History, Politics, International relations, Voting and elections, Social media, Technology and society