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Harvard Conference April 28, 2008

Posted by Will Thomas in Uncategorized.
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It’s been almost a week since the last entry, because I’ve been back up in my Cambridge, Mass. stomping grounds at a highly interdisciplinary conference on “Instability and Decomposition” put together by my friend, collaborator, and former colleague Lambert Williams. There were a lot of pretty sharp presentations on a really diverse array of topics. I gave a revised version of my Air and Space Museum talk (with even more diagrams, which seem to be going over well). This talk sets itself up in opposition to arguments where the big story is how patronage and politics shape the scientific policy advice being received. I don’t say this isn’t the case, but try and bring the analysis in new directions by reframing the motivation of policy scientists as being the improvement of policy (rather than dictation) through analysis, and by recasting policymakers as intellectual participants in the policy science process.

The only thing I want to talk about with respect to the conference is that only a couple of the talks really set up any sort of argument with the literature. There was an interesting friction between two papers, one of which framed itself using Homi Bhabha’s postcolonial critique, and another that set itself up in opposition to it (in a way that had some odd resonances with my paper, actually). Now, I don’t know the first thing about Bhabha’s critique, but it still gave the papers a little spice, a sense that something was being achieved. I find it strange that most papers don’t try and throw out a few sparks.

Anyway, Jenny wanted me to offer a few opinions on her summary of our debate last week before she posts, so I’ll do that at first opportunity, so we can get that up. And I swear I’ll get back to my string on Holmes, as well as maybe talk about R&D.

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