The STS center emphasizes three interrelated areas:
Environment and Sustainability
Cities and regions around the world are looking for ways to increase energy independence and create built environments that support human and animal life. We are also investigating solutions to the ways climate change will affect critical interdependent urban infrastructure, and how to mitigate risks to our communities by redesigning these systems for sustainability and resilience. Cultural contexts add a layer of complexity to how we think about and react to issues such as climate risks, debates about new and old energy technologies, disasters and questions about biodiversity and pollution. One's community and networks can influence the way members prepare for disasters. For example, national political ideologies can slow or speed investment in “green” technologies. Faculty affiliated with the STS center research topics such as food access, the use of science and technology in disaster response, the relationship between new modes of transportation and the environment, the transnational production of citrus fruits, the social dimensions of new energy sources, and ways to address the effects of climate change.
Health and Medicine
Medicine is central to people's lived experience. People interact with medicine in a range of roles: as patients, as caregivers, as clinicians, as regulators, as insurers, as participants in human-subjects medical research, as consumers, and more. Moreover, medical technologies from bioinformatics to pharmaceuticals are crucial to the social shaping of health and illness. An STS approach to health and medicine investigates issues such as when and why certain priorities in medical research and service delivery are favored over others; who and what drives ongoing policy debates in nations whose health system stakeholders grapple with issues like cost, accessibility and professional training; the cultural contexts that shape participation in health care professions and systems; the role marketing plays in medicine; and how definitions of disease and diagnostic categories change over time. Faculty affiliated with the STS center research topics such as the rise of self-diagnosis questionnaires and their impact on healthcare, ideas about the use of MRI technology, the ethics and history of public health, the use of animals in health research, and how and why the Buteyko method is being implemented in asthma care.
Information, Identity, and Networks
Computing technology reaches into nearly every corner of life. Realms of human experience like security, privacy, health and wellness, assembling information and sharing knowledge, creativity, commerce and mobility are just a few examples of how human life intersects daily with information and computing technologies. The large-scale systems that infuse everyday life in cities—utility infrastructure, traffic regulation, emergency services—are a web of interdependencies whose operations rely on highly complex and sometimes vulnerable information structures. Moreover, classification schemes, categorical infrastructures and taxonomies are social products that require critical analysis. Faculty affiliated with the STS center research topics such as the ethics of big data and algorithms, the relation between nanotechnology and a changing workforce, the relation between computers and the construction of identity, and policies that promote civic engagement with computing technologies.