Research Lecture: Janet Vertesi

Friday, June 2, 2017 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm


Open to the Public


Phelps 1410


Janet Vertesi, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Princeton University

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Title: Organized Science: Social Organization and Technoscientific Work on NASA’s Robotic Spacecraft Teams

Abstract: How does social organization affect the conduct and practice of science? To explore this question, I present empirical data from a comparative ethnographic study of work on two NASA robotic spacecraft mission teams. While the robots appear to be singular entities operating autonomously in the frontiers of space, decisions about what the robots should do and how they accomplish their science are made on an iterative basis by a large, distributed team of scientists and engineers on Earth. As spacecraft team members negotiate among themselves for robotic time and resources, their sociotechnical organization is paramount to understanding how decisions are made, which scientific data are acquired, and how the team relates to their robot. Describing the contrasting organizational practices, interaction rituals, and forms of talk by means of which decisions are made and consensus is achieved on both missions, I explore how sociotechnical organization presents implications for team solidarity, data sharing, and scientific results.

Speaker's Biography: Janet Vertesi is a sociologist of science and technology at Princeton University. She has worked with NASA's robotic space missions as an ethnographer for over eight years, including the Mars Exploration Rover mission, the Cassini mission to Saturn, and a planned mission to Europa. Author of the forthcoming "Seeing Like a Rover: How Robots, Teams and Images Craft Knowledge of Mars" (University of Chicago Press, 2015), she is also an active member of the Human-Computer Interaction community, with publications at ACM CHI, Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, and Ubiquitous Computing. Vertesi is a Fellow of the Center for Information Technology Policy and an advisory board member of the Center for Data & Society.


The Technology Management Program Dean’s Research Lecture Series is the premier event that brings accomplished and inspiring professors to campus to explore topics related to the field of technology management and organizations. The lecture series provide a forum for the academic community to learn from and engage in conversations with outstanding scholars on cutting-edge research findings.

Each quarter will feature several preeminent speakers. Lectures will last approximately one hour starting at 12:00pm and take place in the TMP Executive Learning Center, Phelps Hall 1410. Lunch is provided for all guests who RSVP.

Attendees are required to register prior to the event for lunch and space reservation. For more information, contact Amanda Higham via email or by phone at 805-893-7577. 


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