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The Social Epistemology Working Group presents:
A SEWing Circle Workshop
The Concept of Affective Polarization and the Ways to Measure It
December 15, 2022, 2:00pm Homer Babbidge Library, Humanities Institute Conference Room
Affective polarization is usually defined as a tendency to dislike those from other party/parties while holding positive feelings toward the in-group, and it is usually measured by asking citizens if they have cold or warm feelings toward certain political leaders, political topics, or political parties. Thus, the claim “many contemporary democracies have become affectively polarized” usually means that their citizens have become more negative in their feelings toward the other party, moving from moderate levels of sympathy toward increasingly strong dislike. Here I will argue that feelings are just an element—possibly not the most relevant one—of the complex, multidimensional concept of affective polarization. I also review the main challenges the techniques to measure affective polarization face, and discuss the possible benefits of focusing on other dimensions of the concept in order to detect it at an early stage.
Manuel Almagro is a “Margarita Salas” postdoctoral fellow at the University of Granada (Spain), currently visiting the Humanities Institute at the University of Connecticut and working with Professor Michael P. Lynch. He will join the University of Valencia (Spain) in the summer of 2023 as a “Juan de la Cierva” postdoctoral fellow. He works on political epistemology, philosophy of language, and experimental philosophy. Most of his current research is focused on affective polarization and disagreement.
Join this panel discussion on truth, democracy, and climate change, part of the UConn Reads program which focuses on The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (University of Chicago, 2016) by Amitav Ghosh.
The climate crisis facing our society isn’t only an environmental crisis; it is also an urgent political and epistemological problem.
For decades, climate scientists have been warning that greenhouse gas emissions are changing the climate, destroying biodiversity, and threatening human health. By this point, the evidence is overwhelming and the scientific consensus well-documented.
Still, significant segments of the public (especially in Anglophone countries) remain unconvinced, with positions on climate change polarized along partisan lines. Denialism – usually defined as the employment of rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of legitimate debate about a question the relevant community of experts regards as settled – persists in many quarters and effectively dominates one of two major American political parties. Evidently, warning the public about climate change is one thing; getting people to accept it is another; and translating popular acceptance into effective government policy a further matter still.
Why do so many people, in the face of so much scientific evidence and expert consensus, remain so staunchly unconvinced? How can science advocates persuade skeptics to take action? What should liberal democratic societies do about polarization and anti-science propaganda? And what is the proper role for science in a democratic society?
Join us for a discussion of the political and epistemological dimensions of science denial with eminent scholars.
The panel is organized by Thomas Bontly (Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Connecticut), who’ll be moderating. Bontly’s research centers on several interrelated issues: the nature of mind, the basis of meaning, and the multifarious relations between both of these and the physical. His research interests also include various topics in metaphysics (especially the nature of causation), epistemology, metaphilosophy, the philosophy of biology, and environmental ethics.
Elizabeth Anderson is John Dewey Distinguished University Professor, John Rawls Collegiate Professor, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Value in Ethics and Economics, The Imperative of Integration, and, most recently, Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (And Why We Don’t Talk About It), as well as articles on value theory, the ethical limitations of markets, facts and values in social scientific research, feminist and social epistemology, racial integration and affirmative action, rational choice and social norms, democratic theory, egalitarianism, and the history of ethics (focusing on Kant, Mill, and Dewey).
Kent Holsinger is Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor, Vice Provost for Graduate Education, and Dean of The Graduate School at the University of Connecticut. His research focuses on the evolution and genetics of plants. He has studied the evolution of plant mating systems; explored how basic principles of ecology, evolutionary biology, and systematics should influence conservation decisions; and developed statistical methods for analyzing genetic diversity in spatially structured populations.
Lee McIntyre is a Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and a Lecturer in Ethics at Harvard Extension School. He is the author of Post-Truth (MIT Press, 2018), The Scientific Attitude (MIT Press, 2019), and many other books, as well as numerous popular essays that have appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Scientific American, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New Statesman, and The Times Higher Education Supplement. His new book How to Talk to a Science Denier—which is based on first-hand conversations with Flat Earthers, climate deniers, and others—will be published by MIT Press this summer.
Thanks to the generous support of the University of Connecticut Provost’s Office, Graduate School, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and UConn Foundation, as well as our own grants, we have had quite a productive year so far. We have been able to fund 13 residential fellowships this year, including three visiting fellows, six UConn faculties, and four UConn graduate dissertation fellows. We funded and co-sponsored various events and programs, including a lecture and book signing by celebrated author, Colson Whitehead, presentations by award-winning and celebrated scholars and activities, Annette Vee, Rebecca Traister, and Aruna D’Souza, and the rare chance to see a performance by distinguished flamenco guitar player, Oscar Herrero.
We also welcomed World Poetry Books, the only publisher in the United States dedicated solely to publishing books of international poetry in English Translation, and we kicked off our The Future of Truth initiative with a 275,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. We work hard to cultivate creativity among scholars of the arts and humanities at UConn, but we also find inspiration in the achievements and successes of our fellows, long after they leave UCHI.
Here is a snapshot of what we have achieved in just a few short months:
People have been socializing on the internet for nearly fifty years. In recent years, online social life has become increasingly concentrated in a relatively small number of commercial platforms. How can we make sense of the impacts they are having on our relational lives? How can we theorize platforms when they are constantly changing and used in so many different ways? In this talk, Nancy Baym draws on a range of her recent research on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to articulate a model for understanding platforms as the dynamic, unstable entities they are, and to explore their roles in shaping, constraining and opening up new possibilities for relationships in contexts ranging from close romantic bonds to online communities and the ties that connect musicians to their audiences. The talk further considers how these platforms commodify the relational interactions that take place through them, and how their design choices have fostered environments in which relationships become tools for profit.
Join us on Wednesday, February 5 2020, at 4PM at the UCHI Conference Room, Babbidge Library, Fourth Floor.
Through the generous gift of her honorarium, Nancy K. Baym is supporting the Humanities Institute’s Digital Toolbox Working Group for the 2019–20 academic year.
Senior Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research New England Research Affiliate, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, MIT
Nancy Baym is a Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research New England, where she conducts basic research into how people understand and act with new communication technologies in their relationships. A pioneer in the field of internet research, Baym wrote some of the first articles about online community in the early 1990s. With Jean Burgess, she is the author of Twitter: A Biography (forthcoming 2020, NYU). Other books include Playing to the Crowd: Musicians, Audiences, and the Intimate Work of Connection(2018, NYU), Personal Connections in the Digital Age (2010, Second Edition 2014, Polity), Internet Inquiry: Conversations About Method (co-edited with Annette Markham, 2010, Sage), and Tune In, Log On: Soaps, Fandom and Online Community (2000, Sage). She was a co-founder of the Association of Internet Researchers and served as its second president. She has been recognized with the Frederick Williams Prize for Contributions to the Study of Communication and Technology awarded by the International Communication Association, the naming of the Nancy Baym Book Award by the Association of Internet Researchers, and an Honorary Doctorate from the Faculty of Information Technology at the University of Gothenburg. Most of her papers and more information are available at nancybaym.com.
On Tuesday, Nov. 5, the Science of Learning & Art of Communication program (SLAC) and the UConn Humanities Institute’s The Future of Truth Initiative (UCHI-TFoT) invite you to three special events. Please register for any you are interested in so that we can provide appropriate refreshments.
(1) SCIENCE AND IMAGINATION WORKSHOP
3-6pm, UConn Humanities Institute Conference Room, 4th Floor, Babbidge Library
Featuring Michael Lynch, Tim Miller, and Susan Schneider from UConn, and Julie Sedivy (U. Calgary) and Mike Tanenhaus (U. Rochester)
This is an interactive session for scientists who are interested in writing for general audiences, whether in the form of blogs, articles, books, or other media. We will discuss some of the practical aspects of learning to write for a nonacademic audience and of accessing channels for disseminating your writing more broadly. We will also address some of the obstacles experienced by scientists who would like to invest time and energy into science communication. We’ll explore the supports that scientists need from inside and outside their institutions and the potential payoffs of such investments for individual scientists and their institutions.
Participants should read the report ‘Science — the Endless Frontier‘ (which led to the founding of the National Science Foundation), in advance of the meeting. Mike’s talk at the Science and Imagination afternoon event focuses on this report (see his abstract here). Our working lunch will give you an opportunity to do a “deep dive” into this report with Mike. If time permits, we will talk about ways we can impact public support for science locally, nationally, and globally.
UCHI Fellow Richard Ashby Wilson (Law and Anthropology, UConn) will give a talk entitled “Historical Consciousness, Racial Violence, and the Law,” with a response by Birgit Brander Rasmussen (English, Binghamton University SUNY).