Researching the Human Sciences
Method, Technology, Data Collection
I research and write about topics ranging from the birth of human technologies in the modern social sciences to the prehistory of Big Data to experiments in stockpiling dreams and other subjective materials in large amounts. I'm interested in the design of subjective space, and how this has been attempted through science and technology.
My dissertation, "The Laboratory Imagination: Experiments in Human and Social Engineering, 1929-1956," was completed in the Department of Anthropology, U.C. Berkeley (2000), under the supervision of Paul Rabinow. Since then I've published two books: World as Laboratory: Experiments with Mice, Mazes, and Men (Hill and Wang, 2005), and Database of Dreams: The Lost Quest to Catalog Humanity (Yale Univ. Press, 2015). In addition, I was one of six co-authors in the collaborative volume, How Reason Almost Lost its Mind: The Strange Career of Rationality in the Cold War (University of Chicago, 2011).
Since 2006, I've been part of the Department of the History of Science, Harvard, first as a post-doctoral fellow in STS, then as an assistant and (currently) associate professor. In addition, I've spent two years as a Visiting Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) in Berlin, Germany, as part of four Working Groups, which focused on topics including Historicizing Big Data, Science of the Archives, Endangerment, and Cold War Rationality.
Projection & the Modern Self
One of my research areas is the growth of projective testing as a way of creating a more scientific way of understanding the self. Tests such as the Rorschach and TAT then spread around the world through anthropological research --
My recent essays and book, Database of Dreams, detail how these psycho-technologies spread globally and changed as they encountered new situations.