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Janet Vertesi

Department of Sociology
122 Wallace Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544

How do science, technology and society influence each other?

As a sociologist and historian of science and technology, I am interested in many facets of the interrelation between science, technology and society.  How and why do we know what we know? What institutions and flows of people are required to craft scientific knowledge? How do social norms influence the development of technology, and what happens when those technologies move or those norms change? My research addresses these questions through many different projects. In my Ph.D. dissertation, I conducted an ethnography of the Mars Exploration Rover mission to understand how scientists worked with digital images to pursue scientific investigations on another planet. My current research project involves a follow-up, comparative study with the Cassini mission to Saturn, where I'm interested in the relationship between the social organization of spacecraft teams, their decision-making processes, and the scientific work that they accomplish. I have also published projects on subway maps and representations of urban space; on technology in transnational and postcolonial contexts; on GPS tracking of sex offenders; and on early modern astronomy. My work is mostly ethnographic, although I am also trained in ethnomethodology, and I especially enjoy applying my sociological insights to technology development through the field of Human-Computer Interaction.  As more and more technologies become part of our everyday lives, and as science occupies an increasingly important role in global policy debates, now more than ever it's important to understand how these tools and processes shape our contemporary experience, and to consider how we want to integrate them into our social worlds.

Selected Publications: 

Seeing Like a Rover: Images in Interaction on the Mars Exploration Rover Mission. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2014)

with Cateljine Coopmans, Michael Lynch, and Steve Woolgar (editors). Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014).

"'Seeing like a Rover': Visualization, Embodiment and Interaction on the Mars Exploration Rover Mission," Social Studies of Science 42.3 (2011): 393-414.

with Paul Dourish. "The Value of Data: Considering the Context of Production in Data Economies," Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work 2011, 533-542.

"‘Mind the Gap:’ The London Underground Map and Users’ Representations of Urban Space,” Social Studies of Science 38.1 (2008): 1-32.