Christy Spackman has a doctorate in Food Studies from New York University. She is the 2015-2018 Hixon-Riggs Early Career Fellow in Science, Technology, and Society at Harvey Mudd College (Claremont, CA).
Her academic work focuses on how the sensory experiences of making, consuming, and disposing of food influence and are influenced by “technologies of taste,” her term for the oft-overlooked technologies and practices used to manage the sensory aspects of foods during production.
Her current bookproject uses this framework to examine how scientific and technological innovation have changed the taste of bottled and municipal water throughout the twentieth-century in the United States and France. Using a historical and anthropological approach, she shows that these technologies of taste have not only changed the molecular makeup, and by extension the taste of water, they have also changed how consumers and regulators across multiple cultural landscapes evaluate the potability of water.
Finding taste is a difficult thing. It does not leave obvious traceable trails in archives, nor does it leave tangible artifacts. To get at taste, she trawls through government documents, letters between producers and regulators, scientific papers, advertising ephemera, and oral histories to get at the moments where taste is shaped and changed. She talks with scientists and communications teams to learn how they manipulate and manage the minerals and molecules that give flavor and odor to the things we interact with.
Additional training in molecular biology, food chemistry, and the culinary arts has allowed her to bridge disciplinary divides in both teaching and research as she examines the relationships between food science and technology, government regulations, public understandings of science, and taste.