Presentation on theme: "Writing as a Technology In Science and Medicine Heather Graves English and Film Studies Office of Interdisciplinary Studies."— Presentation transcript:
Writing as a Technology In Science and Medicine Heather Graves English and Film Studies Office of Interdisciplinary Studies
Who I Am and What I Do English and Film Studies is my home department, but I teach writing for the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies Academic writing (writing in science and other disciplines), Technical and Professional Communication, Rhetoric January to May 2011, Scholar in Residence for Arts Research in Nanotechnology at National Institute for Nanotechnology
How I Ended Up Giving this Lecture in “Technology and the Future of Medicine” Scholar in Residence project examined the interdisciplinary discourse of nanotechnology How the various disciplines that comprise nanotechnology collaborate to create a new discourse that draws on the (sometimes contradictory) assumptions and practices of these disciplines
Overview of this presentation A Brief History of writing as a technology Historical link between writing and medicine Writing in medicine and ideology Writing’s role in creating a “disorder” Writing as a technology to signal membership in science Writing’s role in interdiscipline of nanotechnology Can machines take over writing for us?
Writing as Technology Writing is a technology? Isn’t it more a transparent medium for thought? Scientist: do an experiment: “write up” the results? “Write up” a patient’s medical history or chart? Is writing just an adjunct follow-up to “real” work? This “Sample Write-up” by the Mineral of the Month Club is 10 pages long. Mineralofthemonthclub.org
Pre-Alphabetic Syllabic Writing Systems Pre-alphabetic syllabic writing systems represented the physically heard syllables of language Ambiguity of these writing systems were not well suited to developing unique ideas Only specialists could read them Cunieform Source: ourdigitalform.pbworks.com
Alphabetic Writing Systems Greek technological innovation was to use written symbols to represent an abstract unit of phonological structure—the phoneme Phonemes (b, p, d, t, g, and k) exist in the abstract (to pronounce them, you need an accompanying vowel) Writing system represented abstract phonological structure (not real speech), enabled the recording and reading of original text (i.e., literacy) Evolution of the Alphabet Source: lucian.uchicago.edu
Writing as a Tool for Education in Medicine Many world cultures preserved medical knowledge, treatments, prescriptions in medical texts Egypt, Hebrew, Ancient India, Greece, Rome, Islamic cultures, etc., all produced written texts documenting and preserving their culture’s medical knowledge Source: historical.hsl.virginia.edu
Medicine: Part of the Quadrivium in Medieval European universities University graduates learned medicine from studying Greek and Islamic texts translated into Latin: Hippocrates, Galen, Avicenna, Haly Abbas, ar-Razi, Albucasis Medicine was taught through lecture and disputation, supplemented with practice, apprenticeship, and dissection (guided by the same texts) Not all faculties of medicine included surgery as part of the training Galen’s image of the heart c 1547 Source: scientopia.org
Tradition, Writing, Observations, and the “Facts”: Vesalius 1560 Based on dissection of nine women “Vessel feeding the left ovary (e) originates in the renal artery (v) that carries uncleansed blood, while the right ovary is fed from the cleansed blood of the dorsal artery (d)” Belief: Female infants came from uncleansed blood of left ovary; males from the purer blood of the right ovary Scientific theory demanded Vesalius observe this “fact” of female anatomy (From Nancy Tuana, The Less Noble Sex: Scientific, Religious, and Philosophical Conceptions of Woman’s Nature, [Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1993], p. 140.) e d v
Writing creates Ideology Writing codifies ideas so they become knowledge Permanent records of ideas (knowledge) can be correct or incorrect, but writing transmits them either way Culture, history, tradition, and convention can ossify ideas so that even reality cannot dislodge them Aristotle’s “science” or ideology of human anatomy was not discredited for nearly 2000 years
Patty Kelly, “A Rhetorical Analysis of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) in Canadian Newspapers.” Analysis of newspaper coverage of PMDD in Canada 1986 – 2007 “The creation of new mental disorders occurs in social and political contexts and medical classification carry tremendous rhetorical force” (83) Examined 64 articles in 20 different newspapers over 21 years Coverage began 1986 with proposed inclusion of PMDD in DSM-III-R (APA’s diagnostic tool and classification system for mental health professionals).
Implications of Inclusion in DSM Kelly traces the controversial placement of PMDD in the DSM appendix in 1987 and its eventual movement into the manual itself as a full-fledged mental illness In 1994 PMDD appeared in Appendix B and in the main body of the text under Depressive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (with insurance code). Dual placement occurred despite the PMDD subcommittee’s conclusion that “very little empirical evidence existed to support inclusion in DSM-IV” (86) at all. Source: qlinks.ca
Kelly’s Focus How is the mental illness PMDD constructed for newspaper audiences? How does the newspaper accommodations of expert language affect the representations of women diagnosed with PMDD?
Role of DSM and Newspaper Accounts DSM emphasis on classifications based on empirical observations and scientific evidence establish it as “authoritative within psychiatry” (87). “medical texts [such as the DSM] enact the values of biomedicine and facilitate the classification of persons” (87). Kelly traces how discussions of PMDD become linked to discussions of PMS in newspaper accounts In those accounts premenstrual symptoms eventually become “indicative of a pathological state” and women with premenstrual symptoms become “mentally disordered” (98).
Kelly’s conclusion to case study Of her case study of PMDD, Kelly concludes that “the DSM standardized diagnostic criteria become persuasive not only for the professional audience for whom it was originally intended, but... the DSM [also]becomes persuasive for public audiences” (98).
Writing and Kelly’s argument The act of recording symptoms is an essential part of a psychiatrist or physician’s work A critical mass of recorded symptoms describing similar experiences in many people can transform the experience into a disorder or illness (of course, I simplify)
Writing as a Technology in Science Writing establishes precedence for discoveries Date for submission and acceptance appears on first page “If you do the work but you don’t publish it, you might as well not have done the work.” –Researcher at NINT Whoever publishes it first gets credit for doing it
Challenges of Publishing in Science Written language must demonstrate writer’s membership in the discourse community Genres, methodology, technical language, and shared background Essential to use language and genres properly to signal membership Each discipline is its own “community of practice”
Interdiscipline of Nanotechnology Field that brings together physicists, chemists, biologists, engineers, medicine, etc. Varying assumptions about – what constitutes research, – how to structure an experiment, – what types of methods to use, – what constitutes a good/publishable result Metadisciplines: Problem-solving Empirical Inquiry Research from Sources Performance- based M. Carter, “Ways of Knowing, Doing, and Writing in the Disciplines,” CCC 58.3 (2007):
Boundary Crossing Professionals: Nanotechnology Physicist studies biology topics and applies for grant funding to studying protein misfolding phenomena using physics methods Biologists develop a method for counting photons in 2-D and publish in chemistry- physics journal Physicist uses chemistry methods to develop 3 rd generation solar cell technology and publishes in chemistry journals
Many reviewers are members of one discipline Genres change across disciplines, as do ways of arguing Accepted methods of conducting research as well as the nature of good evidence (convincing results) change across disciplines Perils of disciplinary members judging and ruling on interdisciplinary research for grant awards and publications
Disciplines & Interdisciplines Physicists working with chemists and biologists learn to broaden their world views and adopt new methods They learn strategies to present their work in the terms that disciplinary specialists expect and understand What doesn’t change is their original disciplinary orientations: these shape their contributions to the research
Writing and Interdisciplines Evidence used to support claims, methods, research questions are all interdisciplinary The organization and argumentative structures grow out of the disciplines New, hybrid article arises from interdisciplinary content & disciplinary structure
What about disciplinary structure? Nanotechnology is clearly interdisciplinary, but what about physics? Chemistry? Engineering? Technician: “Fifteen years ago you could do classical research in a discipline, but now many scientists do interdisciplinary work. For example, to create a device, you work from chemistry (using specific materials) through physics (characterizing these materials) to engineering (assembling the components around the device.” Many scientists cross disciplines to answer their research questions They often maintain original disciplinary perspective which shapes their response to interdisciplinary work
Writing Writing is a technology that AI and other types of technologies are not going to be able to encompass any time soon
Not that they aren’t trying: Narrative Science Computer-written sports stories posted seconds after a game ends (Big Ten): “Wisconsin jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in a win over UNLV on Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers scored 20 points in the first quarter on a Russell Wilson touchdown pass, a Montee Ball touchdown run and a James White touchdown run. Wisconsin’s offense dominated the Rebels’ defense. The Badgers racked up 499 total yards in the game including 258 yards passing and 251 yards on the ground. Ball ran for 63 yards and three touchdowns for the Badgers. He also caught two passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. Wilson completed 10-of-13 passes for 255 for Wisconsin. He threw two touchdowns and no interceptions. Caleb Herring threw for 146 yards on 18-of-27 passing. Herring tossed two touchdowns and no interceptions. UNLV had 292 total yards. In addition to Herring’s efforts through the air, the running game also contributed 146 yards for the Rebels.” (first paragraph)
Written by a computer Wisconsin jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in a win over UNLV on Thursday at Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers scored 20 points in the first quarter on a Russell Wilson touchdown pass, a Montee Ball touchdown run and a James White touchdown run. Wisconsin’s offense dominated the Rebels’ defense. The Badgers racked up 499 total yards in the game including 258 yards passing and 251 yards on the ground. Ball ran for 63 yards and three touchdowns for the Badgers. He also caught two passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. Wilson completed 10-of-13 passes for 255 for Wisconsin. He threw two touchdowns and no interceptions. Caleb Herring threw for 146 yards on 18-of-27 passing. Herring tossed two touchdowns and no interceptions. Written by a person (Steve Lohr, NYT) “WISCONSIN appears to be in the driver’s seat en route to a win, as it leads after the third quarter. Wisconsin added to its lead when Russell Wilson found Jacob Pedersen for an eight-yard touchdown to make the score ” Those words began a news brief written within 60 seconds of the end of the third quarter of the Wisconsin-U.N.L.V. football game earlier this month. They may not seem like much — but they were written by a computer.a news brief The clever code is the handiwork of Narrative Science, a start-up in Evanston, Ill., that offers proof of the progress of artificial intelligence — the ability of computers to mimic human reasoning.Narrative Science The company’s software takes data, like that from sports statistics, company financial reports and housing starts and sales, and turns it into articles. For years, programmers have experimented with software that wrote such articles, typically for sports events, but these efforts had a formulaic, fill-in-the-blank style. They read as if a machine wrote them. But Narrative Science is based on more than a decade of research, led by two of the company’s founders, Kris Hammond and Larry Birnbaum, co-directors of the Intelligent Information Laboratory at Northwestern University, which holds a stake in the company. And the articles produced by Narrative Science are different.Intelligent Information Laboratory at Northwestern University “I thought it was magic,” says Roger Lee, a general partner of Battery Ventures, which led a $6 million investment in the company earlier this year. “It’s as if a human wrote it.”Battery Ventures,
My Contention Computers/robots may assist humans with doing various tasks well suited to their abilities (such as writing instantaneous reports of sports games) but they aren’t likely to take over our complex writing tasks in the near future (interviewing athletes for a feature story)