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Making Knowledge about Risk: Mitigation Strategies and Extreme Weather Events

Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 12:15pm to 1:15pm

Mann Library, Seminar Hall 100 Mann Library 237 Mann Drive Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14853

Stephen Hilgartner, Professor at the Department of Science & Technology Studies will lead a roundtable discussion on strategies for mitigating the physical and financial risks of damage to low-rise buildings from “extreme weather events,” such as hurricanes, hailstorms, and wildfires. More abstractly, this talk analyzes the efforts of sociotechnical vanguards who self-consciously seek to make knowledge about risk in ways that will transform public policy, markets, and on-the-ground practices. The presentation examines an institute, funded by property and casualty insurance companies, that seeks to “do for buildings what the crash test people did for cars.” Its innovative research program uses a gigantic wind tunnel to subject full-scale buildings to hurricane-force winds with the goal of designing and testing strategies for mitigating damage from extreme weather. Drawing on ethnographic and interview data, Professor Hilgartner describes the institute’s vision of sociotechnical change and its efforts to promote resilient building practices. The analysis highlights the work done to produce credible predictions, the staging of visual displays, the interplay of past experience and future prediction, and the strategies used to inspire uptake, transform extant conceptions of risk, and alter practices.

Stephen Hilgartner studies the social dimensions and politics of contemporary and emerging science and technology, especially in the life sciences. His research focuses on situations in which scientific knowledge is implicated in establishing, contesting, and maintaining social order -- a theme he has examined in studies of expertise, property formation, risk disputes, and biotechnology. His book on science advice, Science on Stage: Expert Advice as Public Drama, won the 2002 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for Social Studies of Science. His most recent book, Reordering Life: Knowledge and Control in the Genomics Revolution (MIT Press, 2017), examines how new knowledge and new regimes of control were coproduced during the Human Genome Project.

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Event Type



Human Ecology Policy Analysis and Management, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Science and Technology Studies, City and Regional Planning

Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Rhea Lopes

Contact Phone

607 216 2390


Stephen Hilgartner

Speaker Affiliation

Department of Science & Technology Studies, Cornell University

Dept. Web Site

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