Janet Vertesi

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Janet Vertesi is an assistant professor of Sociology and Jacob Viner University Preceptor. As a sociologist and historian of science and technology, Janet is interested in many facets of the interrelation between science, technology and society. How and why do we know what we know? What institutions and flows of people are required to craft scientific knowledge? How do social norms influence the development of technology, and what happens when those technologies move or those norms change? Janet's research addresses these questions through many different projects. In her Ph.D. dissertation, she conducted an ethnography of the Mars Exploration Rover mission to understand how scientists worked with digital images to pursue scientific investigations on another planet. Her current research project involves a follow-up, comparative study with the Cassini mission to Saturn, where she is interested in the relationship between the social organization of spacecraft teams, their decision-making processes, and the scientific work that they accomplish. She has also published projects on subway maps and representations of urban space; on technology in transnational and postcolonial contexts; on GPS tracking of sex offenders; and on early modern astronomy. Her work is mostly ethnographic, although she is also trained in ethnomethodology, and she especially enjoy applying her sociological insights to technology development through the field of Human-Computer Interaction. As more and more technologies become part of our everyday lives, and as science occupies an increasingly important role in global policy debates, now more than ever it's important to understand how these tools and processes shape our contemporary experience, and to consider how we want to integrate them into our social worlds.