MIT: Independent Activities Period: IAP

IAP 2018 Activities by Category - Politics and Social Sciences

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Advocacy 101: How to Influence Your Government

Peter Su, Chair of GSC External Affairs Board

Enrollment: Limited: First come, first served (no advance sign-up)
Limited to 25 participants
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions
Prereq: none

Tuition waiver tax… Net-neutrality... Travel Bans…

Does the current political climate leave you feeling powerless? Learn how to make change through the GSC’s External Affairs Board (EAB) advocacy workshop!

The External Affairs Board has extensive experience advocating on behalf of graduate students on both state and federal levels. The Board also organized the GSC’s response to the recent tax reform bill and worked with the administration and local Cambridge government on graduate housing.

This three-workshop course will give you the basic skills to effectively advocate for your opinions at the federal, state, and local levels.

Workshop 1 on Jan 18: Overview of legislative structure and procedure. You will be supplied with resources to contact your representatives and track issues and policies that impact you. We will review approaches the MIT GSC has taken to advocacy.

Workshop 2 on Jan 25: Preparing materials for meetings or calls with political offices, and what to expect during a meeting.

Workshop 3 on Feb 1: Advice from a panel of policy-makers and staff.

Participants of all three course will have the chance to apply what they’ve learned with the EAB at a Massachusetts Statehouse or Washington DC visit later this semester.

If you’re interested, please indicate which workshops you’ll be coming to by filling out this RSVP form:

Contact: Skylar Deckoff-Jones, 13-4153, (505) 795-4382, SDECKOFF@MIT.EDU

Legislative Structure and Procedure

Add to Calendar Jan/18 Thu 05:00PM-07:00PM 50-220

Advocacy Documents and Meetings

Add to Calendar Jan/25 Thu 05:00PM-07:00PM 50-220

Panel of Policy-makers

Add to Calendar Feb/01 Thu 05:00PM-07:00PM 50-220

Contemporary Military Topics (series)

Joli Saraf

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions

Contemporary Military Topics (series of three sessions)

Sponsor(s): Center for International Studies, MIT Security Studies Program
Contact: Elina Hamilton,

Of Starships and Tallships...

Add to Calendar Jan/23 Tue 01:30PM-03:30PM E40-496, Lucian Pye Conf Rm

Of Starships & Tallships: Human Spaceflight Exploration in US Grand Strategy: The history of the military's role in human spaceflight sheds great insight on how spaceflight features in attainment of state grand strategy goals. US, Russian & Chinese spaceflight cases offer lessons of conquest & military power. We'll explore the basis of a viable US spacepower strategy that leverages today¿s human spaceflight industry.


LTC Randy Gordon, USAF - PhD

The Implications of Future Warfare

Add to Calendar Jan/25 Thu 01:00PM-03:00PM E40-496, Lucian Pye Conf Rm

Recent actions by U.S. competitors, the proliferation of advanced technology once only available to the U.S. military, and the changing character of the future operating environment imply that the U.S. Army must adapt to anticipate the demands of future armed conflict. This seminar will discuss anticipated changes to future warfare and implications for U.S. Army doctrinal, operational and technological innovation.      


LTC Warren Sponsler, USA, LTC Doug Copeland, USA

Future Fleet Design in 2045

Add to Calendar Feb/01 Thu 01:00PM-03:00PM E40-496, Lucian Pye Conf Rm.

The Navy and Marine Corps need a strategic view of the future operating environment to guide future fleet design & architecture for US maritime superiority thru 2045.  The future fleet will include new ship, submarine & aircraft design, manned & unmanned systems, & use of AI.  Other areas for ethics & policy-related discussion include the use of synthetic biology, CRISPR technology & tech-enhanced humans in defense.




Lt. Col. Shannon Brown USMC, Captain Peter T. Mirisola, USN

Defense R&D and the Military-Industrial Complex: Science and National Priorities

Subrata Ghoshroy, Research Affiliate

Add to Calendar Jan/16 Tue 04:30PM-06:00PM 2-105
Add to Calendar Jan/23 Tue 04:30PM-06:00PM 2-105
Add to Calendar Jan/30 Tue 04:30PM-06:00PM 2-105
Add to Calendar Feb/02 Fri 04:30PM-06:00PM 2-105

Enrollment: Pre-registration recommended but not required. Email
Limited to 30 participants
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions
Prereq: Pre-requisites, an interest in science and defense policy

After the end of World War II, U.S. embarked upon a policy to spend large sums of money for defense. The rationale was two-fold. One was to fight the growing threat of communism and the other was to spur the post-war economy. A big part of the defense budget was for R&D in science and technology for weapons in order to have a technology-edge over the USSR. The dual Cold War rationale - prosperity at home and fighting wars abroad - to contain "communist aggression" continues 25 years after the collapse of the USSR. Today, the U.S. defense budget is about $600 billion, which includes more than $80 billion for R&D. An unfathomable $1-trillion  will be spent on nuclear weapons over the next 30 years, shortchanging the research on climate change, e.g. During the second world war, academics participated in the Manhattan project to build the atom bomb, and in the development of the radar, missile guidance systems, etc. Today's subjects are artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and cyber defense, among others. The Pentagon also funds research in social sciences like political science, anthropology, and psychology. President Eisenhower's warning in his 1961 farewell address of the danger of a "military-industrial complex" (MIC) has come true. 

There will be four sessions as follows:

  1. Defense spending, Congress, and the MIC
  2. The universities and the Pentagon
  3. Defense R&D: Are we getting the bang for our buck?
  4. Showing of the award-winning documentary Why We Fight? (Optional)


Sponsor(s): Science, Technology, and Society
Contact: Subrata Ghoshroy, E51-296, 617 253-3846, GHOSHROY@MIT.EDU

Fundamentals of Science and Technology Public Policy Making: MIT Sci/Tech Policy Bootcamp

William Bonvillian, Director, MIT DC Office

Enrollment: Limited: Advance sign-up required
Sign-up by 12/11
Limited to 30 participants
Attendance: Participants should attend all sessions but it is not mandatory

Examines the public policy behind, & the government's role in science and technology-based innovation system. Emphasis placed on US S&T system, but international examples discussed. Seminar aims to equip those planning careers in and around science and technology with basic background for involvement in science policymaking.
Issues: 1) drivers behind S&T support: growth economics, direct, indirect innovation factors, innovation systems theory, the "valley of death" between R&D and public-private partnership models; 2) organizing framework behind US science agencies, and the DARPA model as an alternative; 3) how innovation is organized when it's face-to-face; 4) barriers and challenges to health science advance; 5) the energy technology challenge - how the science/tech innovation system needs to be organized to meet it within an existing and established complex economic sector; and 6) upcoming competitiveness challenge in advanced manufacturing.

Undergraduate and graduate students from all schools are welcome
Enrollment is limited. Accepted students MUST commit to attend all sessions to earn a spot in the class

Please fill out this web form by December 11 to participate in activity:


Sponsor(s): Political Science, MIT Science Policy Initiative
Contact: Quantum Wei,

Session 1

Add to Calendar Jan/22 Mon 09:00AM-03:00PM 56-114

Session 2

Add to Calendar Jan/23 Tue 09:00AM-03:00PM 56-114

Session 3

Add to Calendar Jan/24 Wed 09:00AM-03:00PM 56-114

Session 4

Add to Calendar Jan/25 Thu 09:00AM-03:00PM 56-114

Session 5

Add to Calendar Jan/26 Fri 09:00AM-12:00PM 56-114

Modern Irish History & Culture: From Molly Malone to Nobel Laureates

Christopher LaRoche, User Experience Consultant

Add to Calendar Jan/19 Fri 12:00PM-01:30PM 4-145

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up
Prereq: None

Discusses and investigates aspect of modern Irish history. Specifically, a discussion of how the images and concepts of Ireland and the Irish have evolved over the last several hundred years in the eyes of the greater world.
In this talk, we will discuss and investigate the history and culture of Ireland from the eighteenth century to the present. We'll pay particular attention to issues and topics such as Saint Patrick, the repression of Catholicism, the Famine of the 1840s, the 1916 Easter Uprising, the Anglo-Irish War of 1920-1921, the Irish Civil War, and Ireland since the declaration of an Irish republic in 1948.
Finally the lecture will focus on and discuss the idea of mythology and stereotype used in lieu of history and how that has shaped many opinions about Ireland: and how that has recently evolved from Ireland as a caricature to respectability within the wider world view.

Sponsor(s): Office of Undergrad. Advising/Academic Programming
Contact: Christopher Laroche, 7-143, 617 324-9016, LAROCHE@MIT.EDU

Planners Read Plato's "Gorgias"

Ezra Glenn

Add to Calendar Jan/24 Wed 02:00PM-04:30PM 9-217

Enrollment: DUSP Students Only
Sign-up by 01/10

What is the role of oratory and power in a democratic society? Is it worse to do wrong or to be wronged? What is the difference between knowledge and true belief? Why is it important for both the accused and their judges to meet naked in court? (And what do all of these questions have to do with becoming an urban planner?) Come explore these themes with us in a participatory -- possibly dramatic -- reading of Plato's "Gorgias," a Socratic dialog written in 380 BC that is as relevant today as when it was written. Books provided; Greek food included; togas optional. 

Note: this is mostly an opportunity to actually read this wonderful and thought-provoking book with others, not a lecture; come prepared to read and take part, and we'll see how far we get.

Sponsor(s): Urban Studies and Planning
Contact: Ezra Glenn, 7-337, x3-2024,

Reading the Collective Mind - Deep Learning By Social Signals

Peter Gloor, Qi Wen

Enrollment: Limited: Advance sign-up required
Sign-up by 01/09
Limited to 30 participants
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions
Prereq: none

Find out who and what makes you happy

Find out who likes you best and who is your most creative collaborator

Find out what will be the next big thing on social media

In this course we will try to predict what small teams and entire populations are thinking based on analyzing their communication archives. Using the Condor and Happimeter software developed by the presenters and their team members we will use latest algorithms from machine learning and dynamic semantic social network analysis to read their collective mind.

Using the Happimeter smartwatch software will allow you to automatically measure how happy you are, how much you like others around you, how stressed you are, your fairness, and how much you trust and are trusted by tracking your body signals through the sensors of the smartwatch.

Applying the Condor analysis tool to your own e-mail (or slack, WhatsApp, or Skype log) will show your social network in a virtual mirror, and tell who respects you most, how passionate you and others are, and who your role models and influencers are.

Doing dynamic semantic social network analysis with Condor on Twitter and other global social media data will allow you to automatically measure the influencers and virtual tribes behind fake news, and to decide in which virtual currency to invest.


Sponsor(s): Sloan School of Management
Contact: Peter Gloor, E94-1504D, 617 253-7018, PGLOOR@MIT.EDU

Reading the personal collective mind

Add to Calendar Jan/11 Thu 02:00PM-05:00PM E62-446, Bring your laptop

Introduction to Swarm Creativity and COINs (Collaborative Innovation Networks)

Creating a Virtual Mirror of your own mailbox with Condor 

Measuring personal happiness and trust with the happimeter

Peter Gloor, Qi Wen

Reading the global collective mind

Add to Calendar Jan/12 Fri 02:00PM-05:00PM E62-446, Bring your laptop

Coolhunting on Social Media with Condor to find trends and trendsetters

Finding fake news and measuring virtual currencies

Measuring altruism with the happimeter

Peter Gloor, Qi Wen

Research and Innovation in EdTech: Assessing the Evidence and Addressing Inequality

Vincent Quan, Policy Manager (J-PAL North America), Sophie Shank, Policy Associate (J-PAL North America)

Add to Calendar Jan/23 Tue 04:30PM-05:30PM E51-395

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up

Technology has the potential to help overcome challenges long considered intractable in education. The U.S. education technology—or “edtech”—industry is projected to be worth $21 billion by 2020. Yet the growth in edtech has far outpaced rigorous research on which uses of technology truly help students learn. Should schools invest in giving a laptop to every student? What types of educational software have been shown to support learning, especially for students who struggle with traditional instruction? Can low-cost text-message reminders increase college enrollment? Can online courses increase access to education among non-traditional learners? Existing educational inequality raise the stakes behind these questions—without clear evidence, policymakers may struggle to identify or scale up uses of technology that close gaps in educational achievement.

Researchers at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), based at the MIT Department of Economics, reviewed more than 100 studies to assess what we know about the impacts of different uses of education technology. Come hear what rigorous research says about the most promising uses of technology in education and how ed-tech can be leveraged to address persistent inequality. 

Sponsor(s): Economics
Contact: Todd Hall,

Russian Revolution: 100 years on.

Felix Kreisel

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions
Prereq: Read the WSWS.ORG

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution. We shall examine the context of this revolution and its impact on the world. What were the roots of the revolution, both in Russia, and the rest of the world? How did the world receive this event? What were its consequences, both immediate and long-term?

We suggest these readings:, the Marxist daily newspaper; Leon Trotsky's books: "History of the Russian revolution" and "Revolution Betrayed".

Contact: Felix Kreisel, NW21-109, 617 497-1783, FJK@MIT.EDU

Tzarist Russia and the revolution.

Add to Calendar Jan/09 Tue 02:00PM-04:00PM 8-119

We shall examine the prehistory of 1917 and the contending social forces in the Russian Revolution. Was it a coup by the secretive Bolsheviks or a mighty popular movement driven by the war and the bankruptcy of the regime?

Suggested reading: Leon Trotsky's "The Russian Revolution".

Felix Kreisel

From Tsar to Lenin

Add to Calendar Jan/16 Tue 02:00PM-04:00PM 8-119

We shall introduce and view a documentary film "From Tsar to Lenin", with original footage from the Russian Revolution. The preview can be seen here: The film will be followed by discussion. Suggested reading: Trotsky's "History of the Russian Revolution".

Felix Kreisel

Bolshevik Russia, the early years

Add to Calendar Jan/23 Tue 02:00PM-04:00PM 8-119

Bolsheviks took power in a country devastated by World war and Civil war. Early achievements and problems of backwardness and isolation. Why did Stalin win?

Suggested reading: Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed.

Felix Kreisel

Soviet Union and its dilemma

Add to Calendar Jan/30 Tue 02:00PM-04:00PM 8-119

A socialist regime in imperialist encirclement; World War II and the emergence of a "socialist" superpower. The Cold War and the zigzags of de-stalinization. The rich and the poor in a "socialist" society. The Soviet bureaucracy and how it collapsed the Soviet Union and restored capitalism.

Vladimir Volkov

Starr Forum Film: "The Uncondemned"

John Tirman, Executive Director, CIS

Add to Calendar Jan/23 Tue 02:00PM-04:00PM 6-120

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up

"The Uncondemned" tells the gripping and world-changing story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to make rape a crime of war, and the Rwandan women who came forward to testify and win justice where there had been none. Up until this point, rape had not been prosecuted as a war crime and was committed with impunity. A courtroom thriller and personal human drama, "The Uncondemned" beautifully interweaves the stories of the characters in this odyssey, leading to the trial at an international criminal court--and the results that changed the world of criminal justice forever.

Film screening followed by discussion and audience Q&A

Free & Open to the public

Refreshments will be served

Sponsor(s): Center for International Studies
Contact: Michelle English,

The Future of Climate Policy: Experts Discuss Carbon Pricing in Massachusetts

Wilbur Li, Claire Halloran

Add to Calendar Jan/25 Thu 04:00PM-06:00PM 32-123

Enrollment: Unlimited: Advance sign-up required
Sign-up by 01/25


Did you know Massachusetts is at the forefront of climate policy, with a chance to lead the nation in implementing carbon pricing legislation?

Experts across the political spectrum agree that putting a fee on carbon pollution is the most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, incentivizing a flexible shift toward clean energy. Right now, two bills moving through the Massachusetts state legislature could bring carbon pricing to our state.

Come join MIT Climate Action for a panel discussion on climate policy and carbon pricing in Massachusetts, featuring leading voices on the issue from politics and academia. Bertucci's pizza will be served at a reception following the talk. Our panelists are:

* Sen. Michael Barrett, author of MA carbon pricing bill
* Rep. Jennifer Benson, author of MA carbon pricing bill
* Prof. John Reilly, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research
* Prof. Christopher Knittel, MIT Sloan economics
* Dr. Marc Breslow, research and policy director for Climate XChange
* Prof. Janelle Knox-Hayes, MIT urban studies and planning

See you there!

Contact: Ben Harpt,

The Holy Land: A Christian and Israeli Perspective

Stephen Steadman, Research Affiliate, Senior Research Scientist (ret.), Shalev Gilad, Principal Research Scientist

Add to Calendar Jan/19 Fri 03:00PM-04:00PM 26-414

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up

Both of the presenters are senior research staff within the Lab for Nuclear Science. One of us (Steve Steadman), who has visited Israel several times over 40 years, recently returned from a two-week pilgrimage to Christian churches and holy sites in Israel and the West Bank as part of a group sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and led by its suffragan bishop the Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris.  The other (Shalev Gilad) grew up in Israel, came to MIT, but has continued a long relationship with Israel through strong family and scientific ties. Steve Steadman will share some highlights of his pilgrimage, and each will share their perspective of what they have learned and how they see the future of these two peoples in this contested land. This will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

Sponsor(s): Lab for Nuclear Science
Contact: Stephen Steadman, 26-443, 617 258-8678, STEADMAN@MIT.EDU

Unleashing Alternative Futures: Constructing New Worlds through Imagination, Narrative, and Radical Hope

Lawrence Barriner II, Program Director, Community Media, Grant Tank Williams

Enrollment: Limited: Advance sign-up required
Attendance: Participants must attend all sessions

“I learned in school how to deconstruct—but how do we move beyond our beautiful deconstruction? Who teaches us to reconstruct? How do we cultivate the muscle of radical imagination needed to dream together beyond fear?” - Adrienne Maree Brown

It’s 2018 and something isn’t right. Or maybe more accurately, almost everything is wrong. The joint powers of imagination and fear have established a seemingly untouchable demagogue as the elected leader of the world’s most powerful empire. He carries out the wishes of the elite while destroying the dreams, realities, and futures of everyone and everything else, including the planet herself.

Standard tactics are proving ineffective. Fact-checking has been rendered useless. Reason, unreasonable. Imagination, myth-making, and stories reign (see alternative facts). The future of America, and perhaps the world, is in the hands of the best storytellers.

The Resistance is evolving to meet the challenge. How do we build past, even through fear, to something more powerful? To… radical hope? We are one faction of many fighting for the futurewe are writers, thinkers, and artists using our powers to fight imagination with imagination. In this 3-day workshop in January, 2018 we will: learn from the rich ancestry of speculative fiction, exercise collaborative ideation and world-building, and create stories and art that may unleash new futures to topple the hegemonic order. Come, join our schemes.

Click here for more Info/sign-up.

Sponsor(s): Urban Studies and Planning, Comparative Media Studies/Writing
Contact: Lawrence Barriner II,

Add to Calendar Jan/24 Wed 06:00PM-09:00PM 9-217

Lawrence Barriner II - Program Director, Community Media

Add to Calendar Jan/26 Fri 06:00PM-09:00PM 9-217

Lawrence Barriner II - Program Director, Community Media

Add to Calendar Jan/31 Wed 06:00PM-09:00PM 9-217

Lawrence Barriner II - Program Director, Community Media

Urban Planning Film Series: Imagination and Place / Spotlight on the 1960s

Ezra Glenn

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions

For IAP, the department's ongoing Urban Planning Film Series continues with three lesser-known films from the 1960s exploring the connections between people, the meaning of places, and the role of imagination in the worlds we perceive and create. 

 All films start following brief remarks at 7:00PM, MIT Room 3-133; everyone welcome.  Come to one or come to all!

Sponsor(s): Urban Studies and Planning
Contact: Ezra Glenn, 7-337, 617 253-2024, EGLENN@MIT.EDU

The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

Add to Calendar Jan/15 Mon 07:00PM-09:30PM 3-133

Harry Belafonte plays a coal miner who finds himself a lonely survivor of the collapse of civilization in this lost sci-fi gem from 1959. Seeking other survivors in the big city, he finds companionship, love--and trouble. Loosly based on a 1902 novel, but steeped in early civil-rights-era poignancy, the film explores race relations, sexual tension, and human drama on the depopulated streets of post-apocalyptic New York.

Ezra Glenn

(Canceled) The Swimmer

Jan/22 Mon 07:00PM-09:30PM 3-133

Long before "Mad Men," there were the stories of John Cheever, perfectly crystalized elegies to American suburbia.  One of the most quietly profound, allegorically meditative, and deeply melancholy was "The Swimmer," brought to the silver screen in 1968 by Frank and Eleanor Perry.  Burt Lancaster stars as Ned Merrill, a New York ad-man who sets out one morning to swim across his entire neighborhood, one pool at a time.

Ezra Glenn


Add to Calendar Jan/29 Mon 07:00PM-09:30PM 3-133

A cockeyed fusion of science fiction, pulp characters, and surrealist poetry from 1965, Jean-Luc Godard's irreverent journey to the mysterious Alphaville remains one of the least conventional films of all time. Eddie Constantine stars as intergalactic hero Lemmy Caution, on a mission to kill the inventor of fascist computer Alpha 60.

Ezra Glenn

Why the Electoral College, which has succeeded so well, including in 1888 and 2000, failed in 2016.

Alan Natapoff, Research Scientist

Add to Calendar Jan/17 Wed 04:00PM-05:30PM 37-212

Enrollment: Limited: First come, first served (no advance sign-up)
Prereq: none

A democratic voting system must deliver unanimous consent, of both majority and minority, to its outcome. It achieves it by assuring each voter large fair voting power.  Simple majority voting (SMV) can deliver that large power in a small, but not in any large realistic election.  The Constitutional majority-of-majorities (MoM) Electoral College system has succeeded for 180 years at large scale, despite its imperfections.  In 1888 and 2000 it elected the candidate with fewer popular votes which was, as baseball's season-scoring system is, consistent with its large goal.  It did the same in 2016, but without achieving unanimous consent.  The cure is to give all voters more power (especially in poorly-contested states) than they have now.   This can be done by drawing districts that are smaller and better-contested than states, and giving them national weight equal to the total number of votes actually cast in them.  We  survey, briefly, the debate over presidential voting systems and the mathematics of voting power.

Contact: Alan Natapoff, 37-147, 617 253-7757, NATAPOFF@MIT.EDU