‘Escaping the Anthropocene’, Stiegler on the Anthropocene

Following on from the various discussions and reflections on geography’s disciplinary mobilisation of the idea/concept of ‘the anthropocene’ I thought I’d just link to a bunch of things Bernard Stiegler has written about/in response to the concept.

I cannot pretend to be totally on top of this work. Likewise, I am not totally sure I can buy into the argument Stiegler presents in these works but it is relatively interesting nonetheless…

These are all translated and made available by the inimitable Daniel Ross:

The Anthropocene and Neganthropology“, lecture by Bernard Stiegler at Canterbury, 2014.

Escaping the Anthropocene“, lecture by Bernard Stiegler at the University of Durham, January 2015.

Automatic Society 1: The Future of Work – Introduction“, the Introduction to Stiegler’s latest(?) book Automatic Society 1: The Future of Work (another series apparently!). This has been published in the new journal La Deleuziana.


Bibliography on non-representational theory by @psimpy

Paul Simpson has created an annotated bibliography for those interested in non-representational theory, which is up on Oxford Bibliographies and is definitely worth checking out:

Non-representational Theory

Paul Simpson

Non-representational theory refers to a diverse body of work that emerged during the mid- to late 1990s in the United Kingdom as an alternative approach to the conception, practice, and production of geographic knowledge. Initially proposed by Nigel Thrift in a series of calls during that time, non-representational theory has sought to reorientate geographic analyses beyond a perceived overemphasis on representations (in a variety of forms), and a form of representationalism (whereby meaning is something formed in the mind and that acts as a precondition for action), toward an emphasis on practice, embodiment, materiality, and process. This call has been taken up by a range of geographers and has evolved in multiple, at times potentially conflicting, directions. This highlights a key feature of non-representational theory. It is not, in fact, a singular theory. Rather, non-representational theory marks a disposition based upon a range of styles of thinking that value practice and the processual. It is more easily understood in the plural–in terms of “non-representational theories.” Furthermore, the usefulness of the word non-representational has been questioned, both in critiques of this work and in responses to them. While this “non” suggests dispatching with concerns for representations in general, something many geographers have been troubled by, it is intended more to reflect a different approach to their consideration: a movement away from a focus on the interpretation of their meaning toward a consideration of what they “do” in the unfolding of the social world. The reception of non-representational theory in geography has been mixed. It is evident that a range of work has been inspired on the subject, particularly in terms of certain off-shoots, such as work on affect and materiality. It is clear also that non-representational theory has challenged geographers and encouraged reflection on the epistemological boundaries of the discipline. That said, it is clear also that it has led to the reassertion of certain core concerns for geography and critiques of non-representational theory’s potential devaluation of them. In light of such concerns and debates, non-representational theory has also come to be known by the alternative moniker of “more-than representational theory.” This title has sought to take a “softer” approach to the confrontational edge of the “non” and to suggest that the ideas proposed by non-representational theories can act as an animating supplement to existing approaches to geographic knowledge production.

Read the whole thing here.

Reblog> “Beach body ready”: Fitness holidays and the ‘natural’ body

Over on Geography Directions, a recent post by Kate Whiston features research by my colleague Jo Little, in particular a recent article in The Geographical Journal entitled ‘Nature, wellbeing and the transformational self‘. Both the post and the article are well worth reading!

‘Beach body ready’: Fitness holidays and the ‘natural’ body

Source: Wikimedia Commons

It’s that time of year again; the holiday season is in full swing and many of us will be taking some much-needed time off for rest and recuperation during the summer. But instead of lazing about on the beach, drinking cocktails, and eating ice cream, increasing numbers of Brits will, in fact, embark on ‘fitness holidays’. Instead of crash-dieting in order to get ‘beach body ready’ pre-holiday, fitness holidays aim to have you ‘beach body ready’ post-holiday, having made some lasting changes to your habits and mind-set. Little’s (2015) paper in The Geographical Journal approaches this relatively new phenomenon from a geographical point of view, considering the intrinsic links to nature and the body.

Read the whole post.

Reblog> Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of Information: An Interview with Jean-Hugues Barthélémy

Andrew Iliadis blogs that an interview he conducted with Jean-Hughes Barthélémy has been published. This is a really valuable contribution to anglophone scholarship on the work of Simondon and Andrew should be congratulated (well I do anyway!). This is well worth a look if you are interested in the philosophy of technology or in how we understand the idea of ‘information’.


homeHeaderTitleImage_en_USThe new issue of Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy is out. It includes an interview that I conducted with Jean-Hugues Barthélémy entitled “Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of Information.” For those of you who don’t know, Barthélémy is a leading expert on Simondon as well as director of Centre international des études simondoniennes.

LINK: http://jffp.org/ojs/index.php/jffp/article/view/679/679

Reblog> Why Africa is the new home of science fiction

Interesting stuff detailed by the inimitable James Bridle. Lots to explore here…

Why Africa is the new home of science fiction

Wordsmack, a speculative fiction publisher dedicated to digital platforms, is the latest project to join the African SF boom

Lauren Beukes

Anthology series Something Wicked features the likes of Lauren Beukes, above, in its archives. Photograph: Ulrich Knoblauch

A few years ago, I got very excited about Afrocyberpunk, a blog by Jonathan Dotse out of Accra, Ghana. The stories he posted suggested a strange and an exciting future for science fiction, proposing “not the science fiction of your grandfather or the Foundation of your Asimov” but “the dystopian gloom of failed states, the iron rule of corruption, cartels snaking cold fingers into the upper echelons of government, and hi-tech gangs of disillusioned youth”. While Dotse’s own novel has yet to see the light of day, he and others have been active in a number of ventures, online and off, to make this vision a reality.

One of these is Jungle Jim, an African pulp fiction magazine, which, despite only being available as a beautifully designed print edition, provides a great jumping-off point for exploring multiple genres. Jungle Jim‘s writers include Nnedi Okorafor, whose story “The Go-Slow”, published at Tor.com, blends magical fantasy into downtown Lagos traffic jams; Diriye Osman, who chronicles the lives of African LGBT kids in Somalia and London in stories such as “Earthling”; and Dzekashu MacViban, editor of Cameroon’s Bakwa magazine. Another is Something Wicked, South Africa’s first SF and horror magazine turned anthology series whose archives include short works by Sarah Lotz and Lauren Beukes, two South African authors who have found fame with dystopian future-fiction works in The Three and Moxyland respectively.

The most recent addition to the club is Wordsmack, a speculative fiction publisher dedicated to digital platforms. Publishing across Kindle, Kobo and iBooks, Wordsmack’s titles include young adult fantasy and techno-thrillers. A recent event, A Future Jozi, brought together three of their authors – Abi Godsell, Mico Pisanti, and Jason Werbeloff – to discuss why “Johannesburg is the best city in which to base the stories of our sci-fi rebels, our mutant karp”. Plenty of writers seem to agree with them.

Stuart Elden on ‘theory and other languages’

Stuart Elden has written an interesting piece for E-International Relations concerning the negotiation of language when using the work of theorists – making the case (from his own experience) for reading both the original and translations (where available).

I think value of the piece is Stuart’s discussion of the way he has developed his approach and what it has enabled him to accomplish. Not for everyone though(!), I’m sure…

Read the whole article online.


Greenfield on the politics of Uber as ‘socially corrosive mobility’

On his occasional blog Speedbird, Adam Greenfield has written an entertaining and incisive blogpost about the ‘mobility brokers’ Uber – the software-sorted unlicensed alt-taxi providers.

The post is worth a read for the trenchant dissection of how Uber is a kind of sigil of some of the questionable politics arising from the so-called ‘smart city’. For example:

– Interpersonal exchanges are more appropriately mediated by algorithms than by one’s own competence.
This conception of good experience is not the only thing suggesting that Uber, its ridership or both are somewhat afraid of actual, unfiltered urbanity. Among the most vexing challenges residents and other users of any large urban place ever confront is that of trust: absent familiarity, or the prospect of developing it over a pattern of repeated interactions, how are people placed (however temporarily) in a position of vulnerability expected to determine who is reliable?

Like other contemporary services, Uber outsources judgments of this type to a trust mechanic: at the conclusion of every trip, passengers are asked to explicitly rate their driver. These ratings are averaged into a score that is made visible to users in the application interface: “John (4.9 stars) will pick you up in 2 minutes.” The implicit belief is that reputation can be quantified and distilled to a single salient metric, and that this metric can be acted upon objectively.

Drivers are, essentially, graded on a curve: their rolling tally, aggregated over the previous 500 passenger engagements, must remain above average not in absolute terms, but against the competitive set. Drivers whose scores drop beneath this threshold may not receive ride requests, and it therefore functions as an effective disciplinary mechanism. Judging from conversations among drivers, further, the criteria on which this all-important performance metric is assessed are subjective and highly variable, meaning that the driver has no choice but to model what they believe riders are looking for in the proverbial “good driver,” internalize that model and adjust their behavior accordingly.

What riders are not told by Uber – though, in this age of ubiquitous peer-to- peer media, it is becoming evident to many that this has in fact been the case for some time – is that they too are rated by drivers, on a similar five-point scale. This rating, too, is not without consequence. Drivers have a certain degree of discretion in choosing to accept or deny ride requests, and to judge from publicly-accessible online conversations, many simply refuse to pick up riders with scores below a certain threshold, typically in the high 3’s.
This is strongly reminiscent of the process that I have elsewhere called “differential permissioning,” in which physical access to everyday spaces and functions becomes ever-more widely apportioned on the basis of such computational scores, by direct analogy with the access control paradigm prevalent in the information security community. Such determinations are opaque to those affected, while those denied access are offered few or no effective means of recourse. For prospective Uber patrons, differential permissioning means that they can be blackballed, and never know why.

Uber certainly has this feature in comment with algorithmic reputation-scoring services like Klout. But all such measures stumble in their bizarre insistence that trust can be distilled to a unitary value. This belies the common-sense understanding that reputation is a contingent and relational thing – that actions a given audience may regard as markers of reliability are unlikely to read that way to all potential audiences. More broadly, it also means that Uber constructs the development of trust between driver and passenger as a circumstance in which algorithmic determinations should supplant rather than rely upon (let alone strengthen) our existing competences for situational awareness, negotiation and the detection of verbal and nonverbal social cues.

Interestingly, despite its deployment of mechanisms intended to assess driver and passenger reliability, the company goes to unusual lengths to prevent itself from being brought to accountability. Following the December 2014 Delhi rape incident, police investigators were stunned to realize that while Uber had been operating in India for some time, neither the .in website nor any other document they had access to listed a local office. They were forced to register for the app themselves (as well as download a third-party payment application) simply so they could hire an Uber car and have the driver bring them to the place where he believed his employers worked. Here we see William Gibson’s science-fictional characterization of 21st-century enterprise (“small, fast, ruthless. An atavism”¦all edge”) brought to pungent life.

Read the whole article.

Reblog > Companion animals (and belonging)

Over on the excellent More-Than-Human Lab blog Anne Galloway discusses her prep for the RGS-IBG annual conference in <plug>Exeter</plug> and beautifully and evocatively opens out her experience of living with other (non-human) animals.

I feel like I know Anne’s cat Enid Coleslaw, I have seen lots of pictures through blogposts and social media and her stories about her life, I somewhat share in the experience of moving (nowhere near as far!!) with cats and watching them change and live their lives in new and perhaps surprising ways with us.

Read Anne’s blogpost and look at her photos. They are a joy.

I’ve started pulling together my paper for the Losing Ground – Gaining Ground session at the RGS Conference in Exeter in September, where I’ll be presenting on what it means to belong in the valley in which I live.Part of this involves sorting [Edit: casual (iPhone)] photos I’ve taken of the plants, animals and elements around us, and thinking about how I’ve learned the differences between native and endemic, abundant and protected, introduced and invasive species.

I started by choosing a set of representative images I’ve taken since moving here in mid-September last year. I didn’t select them to represent a linear progression of time, but sorted them by type of animal–cat, sheep, bird, insect, other–and selected my favourite ones.

Continue reading on More-Than-Human Lab.

Gillian Rose previews the 4th Ed. of Visual Methods

Over on her blog Visual/Method/Culture, Prof. Gillian Rose has offered a preview of the changes and additions to the fourth edition of her essential Visual Methodologies book. Gillian lists seven things, here’s an excerpt:

I’ve been working on the fourth edition of Visual Methodologies on and off since January, squeezing it in the gaps between way too many other projects. As a result, it’s rather hard to have an overview of the beast (also because I seem to find it impossible to delete any more than a few sentences and a handful of references from each new edition). But I’m now facing the final run-through of the whole thing, when of course it will be lovingly burnished into a seamless whole, cough cough.

1) one big change (for me at least) is that I’ve added a fourth site to the framework that structures the book. Editions one, two and three were based on the idea that there are three sites at which the meaning/affects of images are made: the site of the production of the image, the image itself, and its audiencing. The fourth edition adds the site – or, better, routes – of an image’s circulation to that list. This was so discussion could focus on how different methods might approach the online platforms that now host and distribute so many images, and through which so much of social life is mediated and performed.

2) adding the site of circulation to the book also gives a framework for introducing debates about ‘convergence culture’ and whether it deals with questions of power adequately or not. It seems to me that one way that ‘power’ in a largely digital visual culture can be thought through is by asking about the ‘power geometries’ that structure its circulations: what sorts of patterns are there in those circulations and how to they structure certain forms of agency while mitigating against others? The Guardian’s recent report on the languages of the Internet is a great example of mapping those circulations to show their situatedness and partiality.

I recommend reading the whole post!