NBA History of Science Seminar


Cathryn Carson, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of California at Berkeley

Cathryn Carson, "Computation and the Sciences: Perspectives on an Interdisciplinary Vector of Change"

From the earliest days of digital computers, scientific uses of computation have woven in and out of the histories of multiple disciplines. Starting from distinctly disciplinary problems in the physical sciences, over the decades the reach of computation has stretched across a broad range of scientific areas that have transformed its significance along the way. In some cases, computing capacity has been instrumental in advancing existing lines of research. In others, it has introduced significant methodological or theoretical novelty, sometimes in ways that have promoted unexpected convergences between seemingly free-standing disciplines. At present, a new set of interdisciplinary practices and challenges are emerging around computation in the shape of "data science." This seminar gives a synoptic overview of some of the key historical strands entwining computation into the sciences, viewed with an eye to the present moment and its openings to novelty. To complement its historical perspective, the seminar brings to bear contemporary ethnographic participant-observation in this new interdisciplinary area of "data science."