A Symposium on ‘Plasticity’: Neuroscience, Development Biology, Philosophy

Speakers: Greg Appelbaum (Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University)
L. Ryan Baugh (Biology, Duke University)
Mark Hansen (Literature)
Rob Mitchell (English)
Moderator: James Hodge (English, University of Chicago)

When: April 20, 2011, 3-5 pm
Where: Franklin Humanities Institute “Garage” (C105, Bay4, 1st Floor, Smith

Optional Readings:

As French philosopher Catherine Malabou has noted, the term “plasticity” has long held an important place in the humanities–art theorists and historians have discussed the “plastic arts,” for example, and plasticity was a central concept in G.W.F. Hegel’s philosophy–but the term has also come to prominence in several contemporary scientific fields, including neuroscience and developmental biology. This symposium seeks to map contemporary use of the term plasticity by bringing together speakers from the sciences and the humanities. Each of the four speakers will provide a short (10-15 min) overview of how the term plasticity is used in his field (focusing, when possible, on how the term helps guide experimental practice). The symposium will then be opened up for general discussion.

This symposium will also serve as a kickoff event for the 2011-2012 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar on “Phenomenology between Mind and Media,” convened by Mark Hansen and Robert Mitchell. For a description of the “Phenomenology between Mind and Media” Sawyer Seminar, please see our description at https://phenomenologymindsmedia.wordpress.com/.

This symposium is open to all, and oriented toward a general, lay audience. Light fare will be provided. For more information about this event, please contact Abe Geil at abegeil@gmail.com.

Greg Appelbaum is a postdoctoral fellow in the Woldorff Laboratory
in the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University. His research interests primarily concern the
characterization of brain mechanisms underlying visual perception and
attention. In this work he combines psychophysical measures of behavioral
performance with Electroencephalography (EEG) and Functional Magnetic
Resonance Imaging (fMRI).
L. Ryan Baugh is an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Duke University and an affiliate of the IGSP Center for Systems Biology. His research concerns animal developmental genetics and genomics. Currently, his lab at Duke studies the nutritional control of development in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Dr. Baugh and his researchers are interested in the signaling pathways and gene regulatory mechanisms that enable this nematode to reversibly arrest development and resist stress in response to starvation.
Mark Hansen is Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Literature, and Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies and Arts of the Moving Image at Duke University. Ranging across a host of disciplines, including literary studies, film and media, philosophy (particularly phenomenology), science studies, and cognitive neuroscience, his work seeks to theorize the role played by technology in human agency and social life. His research has paid particular attention to the role played by visual art and literature in brokering cultural adaptation to technology from the industrial revolution to the digital revolution.
Robert Mitchell is Associate Professor of English, Faculty in the Institute of Genome Sciences and Policy and Affiliated Faculty in Women’s Studies at Duke University. His research concerns the relationships between the sciences and prose and poetry of the Romantic era, as well as the role of theories of emotional communication (for example, sympathy and identification) in eighteenth-century and Romantic-era philosophy and literature. He also works extensively on contemporary intersections between information technologies, genetics, and commerce, especially as these have been played out in the legal, literary, and artistic spheres.


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