ISR Distinguished Speaker

Geoffrey C. Bowker

Executive Director, Regis and Dianne McKenna Chair for the Center for Science, Technology and Society
“Cyberinfrastructures for the Ages”
Monday, February 28, 2005 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Faculty Host: 

Email RSVP required to Nancy Myers at by Monday, January 24.

McDonnell Douglas Auditorium (building #311)

No cost to attend.


Click here for directions and parking information.


Lev Manovich has argued that the database is the central symbolic form of our times. In this paper, I take a long history of databases and databasing technologies over the past two hundred years, discussing the organizational and social dimensions of working with a new information infrastructure. At the same time, I explore the consequences of this change for the kinds of stories that scientists get to tell about the past - be this of human history, the history of our species or the history of our planet. Finally, I discuss how the proclaimed development of a new global cyberinfrastructure for science both inflects and is affected by current work practice.

About the Speaker: 

Geoffrey C. Bowker is Executive Director, Regis and Dianne McKenna Chair for the Center for Science, Technology and Society, Santa Clara University. He was previously Professor in and Chair of the Department of Communication, University of California, San Diego. His PhD is in History and Philosophy of Science at Melbourne University. He studies social and organizational aspects of the development of very large scale information infrastructures. His first book (Science on the Run, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) discussed the development of information practices in the oil industry. He has recently completed with Leigh Star a book on the history and sociology of medical classifications (Sorting Things Out: Classification and Practice - published by MIT Press in September 1999). This book looks at the classification of nursing work, diseases, viruses and race. He has co-edited a volume on Computer Support Cooperative Work (Social Science, Technical Systems and Cooperative Work: Beyond the Great Divide, LEA Press, 1997). He has, since his invitation to join the biodiversity subcommittee of the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology been working in the field of biodiversity and environmental informatics. He has just completed a digital government funded project on long term databases in environmental science ( His next book, entitled Memory Practices in the Sciences about formal and informal recordkeeping in science over the past two hundred years; which includes extensive discussion of biodiversity informatics will be published by MIT Press. He was 2002-2003 member of an OECD working group on international data sharing in science ( – the report can be found at this address. He is working on projects at the San Diego Computer Center and in the Long Term Ecological Research Network on the formative evaluation of scientific cyber infrastructures.