EMAC Professor Kim Knight to Kick Off ‘Viruses, Vectors and Values’ Lecture Series

Inspired in part by the notable, viral outbreaks of 2014, the Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology will explore “Viruses, Vectors and Values” in its upcoming lecture series.

Dr. Matthew Brown, associate professor of philosophy and the director of the Center for Values, said the theme for this year’s series was inspired in part by widely reported epidemics in the United States, namely Ebola and measles.

Dr. Kim Knight

Dr. Kim Knight

“This year’s lecture series will explore the social values and cultural meanings associated with viruses, disease, epidemics, vaccinations and public health,” Brown said. “Our annual lecture series serves to foster recognition of the various, complex ways that ethics, values and culture interact with science, technology and medicine by bringing world-class scholars to UT Dallas to share their research and ideas in these areas with faculty, students and the members of the general public.”

Dr. Kim Knight, assistant professor in the emerging media and communication program, will start the series today with a talk titled “Viral Anxieties in Art and Antiviral Technology.” She’ll explore the connections between the viral in human bodies and computers.

“If we abstract their characteristics, biological and computer viruses share many traits,” she said. “They are largely invisible to the average person, they circulate despite attempts to control them, and they self-replicate. They are also connected in the kinds of anxieties they evoke among people.”

Our annual lecture series serves to foster recognition of the various, complex ways that ethics, values and culture interact with science, technology and medicine by bringing world-class scholars to UT Dallas to share their research and ideas in these areas with faculty, students and the members of the general public.

Dr. Matthew Brown,
associate professor of philosophy and the director of the Center for Values

Knight will give a reading of a 2003 installation piece by Sneha Solanki titled “The Lovers” and will connect the media project to contemporary antiviral technologies.

Influenced by the “ILoveYou” computer virus of 2000, Solanki’s piece consisted of two computers networked with only each other. At the beginning of the installation, one of the computers is infected with a virus, and each monitor begins to display text from love poems.

“The virus itself is quite interesting because it exploits a computer weakness, but it also exploits the human need for connection,” Knight said. “Of the various works in this exhibition, I found Solanki’s installation quite provocative in the way it combines Romantic-era poetry with the virus. Human and machine language work together in ‘The Lovers’ to achieve the work’s impact.”

She said the talk will draw a parallel between the functions of antiviral computer software and crowdsourced health reporting applications and how these technologies premediate anxiety to encourage adoption.

The lecture will take place in the Jonsson Performance Hall at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.