Looking for Japanese Not-Weed

AstroDime member sam smiley is working on her dissertation and this documents a visit to the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Poetic Inquiry (Discard and Replace)

AstroDime is occasionally asked to do arts based qualitative analysis. The work below was for a questionnaire an outside investigator sent to adjunct faculty to one private North American college in 2014,  initially to assess the adjunct faculty needs at that institution. AstroDime noticed the survey was mostly quantitative in nature, and advised the outside investigator who was doing this survey to add an “essay response” in one of their sections. They don’t usually do that because it’s hard for them to analyze. But they took a chance with this.

We used a qualitative coding method called “in-vivo” coding to analyze the response. From that we made a poem. AstroDime recommends poetic inquiry as one means of analyzing these texts. The result of the analysis carries the evocative (Leavy 2008) qualities of QABR (or qualitative arts based research) into the public and outside the ivory tower.

The prompt question we used to code from was this:
What is your primary motivation for supporting a union at [name of university not posted here for confidentiality]

here’s the process and poem below.


After 10 years I remain a non-entity.
I do a lot of unpaid work in this position.

Nobody has ever set foot in my class to observe my teaching.

I think that adjunct like all faculty deserve a living wage and respect for what we deliver.

I want to be treated like something other than a person to discard and replace at the whim of deans and administration.

I think the exploitation is unconscionable and must be stopped.

I am tired of being treated as an interchangable part.

We are treated like servants.

We are not just cheap labor.

We are training teachers, not babysitters!

We are permanent, not just additional positions.

I would simply like an ounce of security implied in the position despite the fact that I am only an adjunct.

I want pay for teaching.

I want to sense more inclusion and respect from the full time faculty.

I want to be treated as a knowledgeable and respected colleague.

I want inclusion in the community.

I want a greater voice in my department.

I want to see that generations of professors after me are treated with respect and justice.

I do not want to be invisible.

Compiled and coded by AstroDime Transit Authority
DATA POEM TITLE: Discard and Replace
Source: Private College in North America. Third Party questionnaire surveys to adjunct faculty. 115 questionnaires received by the date of the coding process.
Coding Category: “Respect for Adjuncts”
Coding Strategy: We highlighted phrases which to me resonated with the ideas of respect for the teaching profession.
Technical Stuff: Another party uploaded all the data from the survey into SaturateApp (http://saturateapp.com). AstroDime created the codes. There are many more codes, more nuts and bolts, but from a poetic perspective, this turned out to be the most compelling to draw out for us. We are not including raw data out of respect and privacy of the participants.


support/on campus
support/professional development

Course models
models/face to face

respect for adjuncts
Intellectual property
job security

compensation/supplies for class
compensation/health insurance

Hungry Hungry HIPPOs

If you are in my generation (this is sam writing)..ahem..you might remember this game:

Hungry Hungry Hippos


Well, although the above is technically off topic, ASTRODIME’s current research is on invasive species, weeds, and climate change. In the spirit of that, we will share a picture of a hippopotums eating water hyacinth.


The above link is from Scott Macaskill, a photographer and blogger who posts images of wildlife in Africa. Check his facebook page out for more info: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wildlife-Pictures-Online/

One thing about water hyacinth:

It is considered one of the world’s most invasive plants, according to the Global Invasive Species Database. (Provenance of that web site still unclear, but it does have handy info)


It is the topic of my dissertation, water hyacinth. (Me being sam smiley)  In the next few years, one of the long research arms of AstroDime may extend into this inquiry..

In general, AstroDime is currently concerned with our usual topics of communication and transportation, but we are also researching climate change in the Anthropocene era. Yes the era in which human activities CHANGE global climate conditions. Yikes.


In closing, I would highly like to recommend this book which made me both laugh and cry at the same time at human attempts to regulate water ecologies in the early 1900’s. LIFE, I say, is ALWAYS stranger than fiction.


-sam smiley

Art, critical thinking, ethnography, and STS

Here’s an AstroDime Special Report on the 4S conference (http://4sonline.org) held in San Diego October 9-12, given by AstroDimer sam smiley

My concentration here will be on art and ethnography. I’m not necessarily looking at the big “art and science” question because there are value sets in both the visual arts and in science and technology that are too large for me to break down, and to start by deconstructing those would mean that I would never get down to my personal arts, ethnography and STS detective work.

One session that proved to be important to me was the following:

The work I enjoyed from this panel was Anne Galloway’s ethnographic work with sheep farms, sheep, farmers in New Zealand..and the artwork that has come out of it. It’s truly “situated artwork” and speculative fiction. Her talk was titled “Speculating the Multispecies Internet”.

Her current links for the project are here:


and you can follow her research blog here.


Another talk from this “Critical Making” panel was on the materiality of data, and making data narratives (Yanni Loukissas and Laura Forlano). I actually found this work (a form of performing data collection in the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, massachusetts) really useful both for STS connections and Qualitative Arts Based Research. They are intersted in “codesigning technoscience” and “hands on ethnography” and do ethnographic scavenger hunts and co-designing workshops. Here is a web site from their recent work in the Arnold Arboretum completed this past June of 2013


A note about the organizers of the Critical making panels: The Critical Making movement originates out of the Critical Making Lab in University of Toronto


They put out a great ‘zine called Critical Making


The first issue had an insert and parody on MAKE magazine (a sort of commodified DIY guide published by O’Reilly)

I found the concept of critical making really really interesting because it had some of the same critiques of DIY ish “Maker” culture in the U.S that I have thought about..overwhelmingly white, male, and uncritically “making”. The Critical Making group also involves craft in the concept of their work, which I appreciated.  Because when I had followed and read the original MAKE magazines, I noticed that O’Reilly split the concept of craft off from the “maker” concept..(in another magazine called “CRAFT”) effectively reinscribing the gender divide that the “democratizing” MAKEr movement was supposed to bridge. But enough of my ranting..

Back to 4S..another talk that combined the arts and STS for me was actually on another panel..but had a lot in common with the previous aforementioned presentations. It was in the “In Search of ‘lines of flights’  in/to/for/by Latin America and Elsewhere” organized by Ivan da Costa Marques.

Within the first session was a presentation by Wendy Cano (researcher) that involved a collaboration with her sister Frida Cano (artist) in looking at corn as culture, and the uses of trangenic corn.This blog site has really great documentation of the project..an artistic cross cultural exchange on the meaning of corn that took place in Schöppingen, Germany in the spring of 2012. There is a great art book with Wendy’s writing, and also documentation of recipes from that experience. You can find examples in this blog entry: http://fridacano.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/vitamina-t/

My summary from these small samples are this: that the arts in STS can have a few models.. but the most effective models seem to work well with a collaboration of STS methods of research, and artists interested in ethnographic field work.

one model is using art to “co-design” field research such as with the work of Yanni Loukissas and Laura Forlano,

one model is doing critical public art with STS themes such as the work with Wendy and Frida Cano,

one model is somewhat like Anne Galloway’s art and ethnography work.. to create “artifacts” or fictions that result from the research and from collaboration with other artists.

I will close with a totally unrelated post. I was lucky enough to see Donna Haraway present a book Insectopedia by Hugh Raffle. First, I love the book. and I’m not really into bugs.  It has exactly the kind of esoteric bits and pieces I love to follow and file somewhere. Also Haraway’s description of a “tangled coexistence” with insects is totally creepy but real. Donna Haraway talked about digging ticks out of her skin. But somehow it was a lot more poetic.

SLSA 2013 roundup (Postnatural)

Astrodime member sam smiley attended the SLSA conference (Society for Literature, Arts and Sciences) in South Bend Indiana, October 3-6, 2013.  The theme was Postnatural. http://litsciarts.org/slsa13/

What follows is a incomplete summary:

AstroDime is hard at work on finishing INtransit V.7: Invaders!, and we are starting research on INtransit V.8 (most likely weeds). My presentation was on weeds as boundary objects. So this conference (as well as the follow STS conference) was very valuable for the development of these ideas. I also would like to mention there was a great accompanying art exhibit too at this conference.

Since I am actually teaching a class on gaming using a program called Scratch, I  paid attention especially to the gaming tracks:

Digital humanities theorist N. Katherine Hayles worked with a team of  collaborators at Duke University (at the Greater Than Games Lab http://www.fhi.duke.edu/labs/greaterthangames to create an alternate reality game (ARG in the lingo) based on economics and the financial crash in the U.S. in 2008.  It is called http://speculat1on.net (that’s a number 1 for the name)

There was a great talk on Queer Videogame Ecologies..Edmond Chang spoke about queer subtexts in the film Wreck it Ralph. And I got myself online with Minecraft, thanks to Amanda Phillips. I think I also got a lead on another queer game artist:  Electronic Game art by Merrit Kopas

I went to the first panel of Object Oriented Feminism. (some of my notes)

And a not-to be missed panel with artists Praba Pilar and Adam Zaretsky

Thoughts I left with..and took into the following 4S conference:
If an artist gets trained in social science or visual anthropology..at some point (I did anyway) I became very self conscious about the ethics of representation..I was able to surmount this but..is this…


Weed Science Society of America

Astrodime Transit Authority is working on a video about weeds.

In February 2011, AstroDime Transit Authority got a press pass to visit the Weed Science Society of America’s conference in Portland Oregon. Astrodimer Lena Munday asked members of the society “What is a weed?”

After two years of sitting on the editing room shelves, sam smiley is editing these series of interviews. Combining audio interviews, images from the conference program, and images from a book about plants written in the 1500’s, this promises to be a meditation on the nature of weeds and weediness.

So what is a weed? STS theorist Susan Leigh Starr might call it  “boundary object”, something that has different meanings to different groups of people.

I’m stumbling across all kinds of great sources, including an online library of public domain botanical books.


I’m also looking at Asa Gray’s article “The Pertinacity and predominance of weeds” written in 1879


and Gerard’s original text and images from his plant book written in 1633 titled The Herball, or, Generall Historie of Plantes


Beyond Yosemite

Astrodime members sam smiley, Bebe Beard, and KumaLisa attended a talk of a group who shares the same spirit as AstroDime with respect to their performances and research. It was part of an MIT Seminar on Environmental and Agricultural History. The talk was called “Beyond Yosemite! A Three-part Guide to Reimagining the American Landscape” Jenny Price, of the “Los Angeles Urban Rangers” and a research scholar at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women posed these questions:

“How are artists reimagining widespread and historically powerful iconic American landscape images? How do they challenge these images to envision nature not as an unpeopled refuge but as places we inhabit? I look at three kinds of art works: paintings and photographs that comment on well-known images; participatory public art events that act out new understandings of landscape; and a project, on the L.A. River (think Grease, Terminator 2), that reimagines a landscape by literally remaking it.”

Here is their truly awesome web site.:

In search of kudzu..travel tales in Georgia and Florida

our wheels. long story.

our digs in Panama City Beach

The first week in January,  AstroDimers sam smiley and Lisa Lunskaya Gordon went on a 3 day road trip beginning in Panama City Florida January 3, 2011 and ending in Tifton, Georgia on January 6, 2011.

We went first to Panama City to talk to Betty Pleas Taylor, the great great grandniece of Charles Earl and Lillie Pleas. C.E. Pleas was a botanist, photographer, and did many other artistic and scientific endeavors, and Lillie was a painter and taxidermist. This couple introduced Kudzu to many parts of the U.S. through their plant nursery in the early 1900’s.  You can link to a wonderful accounting of this by Lynne Mayhew on this blog:


Betty and John Taylor

Eden Gardens State Park where we talked

Kudzu letterhead from early 1900's

The next day, we had a really long drive through torrential rains, but arrived safely and well fed in Pensacola around noon, thanks to the largess of our car, and the proximity of Waffle House.

much needed waffles after long drive

After that we went to the University of  West Florida, in Pensacola, Special Collections Library and talked to Dean Debolt, the curator of the Special Collections in the Pace Library. There we saw a lot of great photographic plates from the Pleas photography business..and more of C.E. Pleas’s photo experiments. The web site for the library is here: http://library.uwf.edu/About/SpecialCollections/index.cfm

Dean DeBolt, Curator of Special Collections

Kuma Lisa in archives

Our last leg of our journey took us on a drive to Tifton, Georgia.

There we went to the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. We talked to Karan Rawlins, Invasive Species Coordinator, and Joe LaForest, IPM and Forest Health coordinator. Karan took us to see all kinds of invasive species right outside the door, and we got to hide out in a kudzu stand. The web site (one of them) that they maintain is, amongst other things, a tremendous resource of images of all kinds of different species..images that people send in, images they create. This is in a public database open to research at http://www.bugwood.org.

Karan Rawlins

Karan and Kuma Lisa in dead Kudzu pile

sam gets eaten by Kudzu

Joe LaForest, IPM and Forest Health Specialist

Currently, I am exhausted but happy, and collecting all my videos and photographs.  Lisa picked up her rentacar at Michael Moore’s Auto Body and Paint Shop, and then drove to Atlanta. I’m off to Savannah to do some teaching, and then back to Boston to edit! More to come later…-sam smiley

No not THAT Michael Moore!

Looking for Kudzu

As AstroDime searches for our new themes within the subtheme of “Ecology/Ecología”, we’ve come up with some good leads so far. If you are reading this and know of anyone who has work that works into these themes, please let sam know at rocketscience(at)astrodime.org by January 15, 2011.

Here are our themes..

Kudzu (science, social, cultural)

-street art/ecologia de callejera

-gulf of mexico (oil spill)

-indigenous perspectives on ecology in the americas.

I’m sure there will be other themes as they develop.

-sam smiley

Facebook Sux

Usually I don’t go off topic and rant like this, but rant I shall, if you don’t mind granting me my soapbox.

I have (had) a facebook account that had an odd name.  Actually it was “Basta ya”. This was because originally it was going to be for my band, but time went by and it turned into a family account.

I went to it one day and saw the following:

Of course, people always wonder why you might get banned..

? could it be…i never declared my gender. For a while on facebook you could get away with not doing that.  Now you have to..your choice is male or female.

? could it be..I just recently put a picture of the top of my head as my icon. As you can see, this is not my face.

Well obviously i had concerns and questions so I pushed the next button and came to this:

Well..sounds good on the surface. But most names can’t be proven to be “real”. People register with fake names all the time. I know Basta Ya isn’t a “real” name but either are many facebook identities. (It’s a creative process of roleplaying called making your AVATAR)

So I went to the next link to get my account back and make up another name.

I clicked on the above link and this is what i got..

All this brings up a lot of questions. Of course I am under NO illusions that Facebook represents in any way a democracy. I signed a terms of service, Facebook is a corporation..but the rub is..Facebook has the rights of “personhood”

Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010). In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Austin and a century of federal legislative precedent to proclaim broad electioneering rights for corporations.

So here’s the new version of social networking. People can get “disappeared” by a so called “bot” with an eye for …some algorhythm of transgression beknowst only to facebook. what is that algorythm anyway?

. so where do we live now with our new “cloud computing” and “social networking” ? are we living a corporate bureacracy? a kafka-esque situation in which which nothing is changed unless it goes “viral”?

Being the persistant person i am, i made a brand new facebook page. so “like” it please! it’s called Faceless Book.


thanks for hanging out at my soapbox

-sam smiley, Think Tank Operator, AstroDime Transit Authority