Reblog> We need to tell better stories about our surveilled future[s]

Via Cyborgology.

“We need to tell more diverse and realistic stories about AI,” Sara Watson writes, “if we want to understand how these technologies fit into our society today, and in the future.”

Watson’s point that popular narratives inform our understandings of and responses to AI feels timely and timeless. As the same handful of AI narratives circulate, repeating themselves like a befuddled Siri, their utopian and dystopian plots prejudice seemingly every discussion about AI. And like the Terminator itself, these paranoid, fatalistic stories now feel inevitable and unstoppable. As Watson warns, “If we continue to rely on these sci-fi extremes, we miss the realities of the current state of AI, and distract our attention from real and present concerns.”

Watson’s criticism is focused on AI narratives, but the argument lends itself to society’s narratives about other contemporary worries, from global warming to selfies and surveillance. On surveillance, Zeynep Tufekçi made a similar point in 2014 about our continued reliance on outdated Orwellian analogies (hi 1984) and panoptic metaphors.

Resistance and surveillance: The design of today’s digital tools makes the two inseparable. And how to think about this is a real challenge. It’s said that generals always fight the last war. If so, we’re like those generals. Our understanding of the dangers of surveillance is filtered by our thinking about previous threats to our freedoms. But today’s war is different. We’re in a new kind of environment, one that requires a new kind of understanding. [“¦]

To make sense of the surveillance states that we live in, we need to do better than allegories [1984] and thought experiments [the Panopticon], especially those that derive from a very different system of control. We need to consider how the power of surveillance is being imagined and used, right now, by governments and corporations.

We need to update our nightmares.

Read the whole post.

Elemental machines – the becoming environmental of tech

Via dmf.

With: Andreas Broeckmann, Esther Leslie, Sascha Pohflepp
Moderated by Yvonne Volkart

“The concept of machines generally describes an assemblage of parts assigned to an overall function, designed by a human. Yet, the entwined histories of science, technology, and art are filled with ideas about nature functioning like machines, and of visions where machines become “natural” and organic. These two paths seem to merge as machines increasingly communicate autonomously and operate in fields beyond human perception and influence. Can we devise new perspectives for understanding the elemental machines that now seem to operate contingently within hybrid techno-ecologies like the forces of nature? What are the new aesthetic and political affordances or subjectivities involved in the process of technology becoming environmental?”

Material carriers of thought

In a recent article on the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective, Lyudmila A. Markova discusses the material supports for human communication, what Stiegler would call the processes of exteriorisation and thus materialisation of memory/thought:

Even the most common type of communication is not possible without a material carrier. For example, at a minimum stone, papyrus or paper is required for written communication. Their production processes obey the laws of engineering sciences, which are completely independent from the content of the information they convey. Even if the information is transmitted orally, with a voice, a material carrier is present. The sound is produced in a person’s larynx and is uttered through the mouth as language. Furthermore, the air movement, which is born inevitably during the conversation, obeys the laws of physics.

There’s some really interesting discussion of the various ways those involved in studies of social epistemology, and most notably in the essay it’s Steve Fuller’s work set in relation to Kuhn, have attempted to reconcile the passage to knowledge. It’s also curious to see how David Berry’s work ends up in there too, I suspect there’s more than a hint of Stiegler shining through there (but I haven’t read the work so should probably do so…) and it’s a shame Markova doesn’t make that connection. Might be interesting to pursue that angle…

Alexander Galloway on the nonhuman: apophatic or cataphatic?

On his blog, Alexander Galloway addresses some recent discussion he has had as part of a public seminar series on the nonhuman in relation to various ways in which we might reason-ably determine what counts as ‘nonhuman’. Here he uses two forms or categories of reason: the ‘apophatic’ and the ‘cataphatic’:

The cataphatic “tries to obtain the nonhuman through a method of affirmation, that is, affirmation of already knowable traits of whatever kind, human or otherwise. This is a method of affirmative or inflationary reason… Cataphatic nonhumanism does something similar: we are sentient, thus forests are probably sentient too. People form parliaments, so it makes sense to assemble a parliament of things. Humans have rights, so why not chimps as well? This approach to nonhumanism claims, in essence, that “humans seem to operate in such and such a way, thus we affirm the same quality in other worldly entities.””

The apophatic stems from “theological rationalism is a conception of the nonhuman obtained via negation or subtraction (of already knowable worldly traits of whatever kind). This is a method of negative or deflationary reason… Here the nonhuman is no longer a form of superlative nature as it was with cataphaticism — the nonhuman as “the All“ — but instead the nonhuman is the absence of nature; the nonhuman, literally, is not. (In other words, it is “the Not.”)”

I’m not up on contemporary debates about the nonhuman in geography (or anywhere, frankly) but this seems like an interesting critical device to consider in relation to some of the arguments about ‘nonhuman’ and ‘more-than-human’ geographies…

Read the full blogpost here.

Planetary technics? “Technosphere”, HKW

Via: EnemyIndustry

The always interesting HKW and a project relevant to lots of geographers…

Technosphere

Research Project 2015–2018

The twentieth-century celebrated technology as a way to achieve planetary unity and control. Yet today technics, nature, and human activity seem to combine in increasingly disorienting, uncontrolled compositions in which once-reliable distinctions lose their stability. How did we end up in this world of technological vertigo, this Mobius strip of world and planetary technics, wherein cause and effect, local and global factors, human and non-human agency, perpetually confuse and confound one another’s borders? What governs this constitution (or collision) of forces? And what are the contingent, strategic, or historical events and networks that form durable apparatuses among them?

This dilemma of global technology and its identity will be the main theme of Technosphere (2015-18), a research project investigating origins and future itineraries of this technical world within a larger series of international events, performances, seminars, and conferences that will take place at HKW over the next four years.

Scientists and thinkers have introduced the term technosphere to describe the mobilization and hybridization of energy, material, and environments into a planetary system on par with other spheres such as the atmosphere or biosphere. The term emphasizes the leading role of the technological within this global system. At the same time this term encompasses the enclosure of human populations, forests, cities, seas, and other traditionally non-technical entities within systems of technical management and productivity. But where is that ominous technosphere to be found? How does it impact the everyday passions and experiences of humans, animals, a nation, or an ecosphere?

The coining of the term technosphere announces a conceptual innovation as well as a political challenge. As a conceptual innovation, the notion of the technosphere invites us to recognize and confront the reality of technical systems whose unintended consequences and internal dynamics have accumulated into a quasi-autonomous global force in the world today. Moreover, the very naming of these forces constitutes the posing of new political and social challenges that, though already widely felt, remain largely misunderstood. Their description and study will entail inquiries into physical and political science, but also topics as diverse as aesthetics, waste management, international law, social media, financial markets, animal studies, immigration, and colonialism.

From 2015 to 2018 the Technosphere project will host public events and seminars that explore the potential of this concept to coordinate conversations among scientists, artists, and the general public. It will explore the events, structures, and mechanisms by which the twentieth-century dreams of global unity and human hegemony morphed into disorienting compositions of technics and nature, of human and non-human actors. These investigative and experimental exchanges will ask how the technosphere operates today and endeavor to imagine alternative futures. The result will be a tentative vision of communities and understanding equal to the challenges of our world today.

Under the title The Technosphere, Now a daylong series of conversations and presentations that reveal the infrastructures and operations today will inaugurate the project on Friday, 2 October. Interwoven streams will address the infrastructural exploitation of earthly resources, how data monitors technical and social systems, and how the trauma maps out the dynamics of the technosphere on individual human bodies. The event is part of Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s opening weekend of 100 Years of Now, taking place from September 30th to October 4th 2015.

Concept and Realisation: Katrin Klingan, Bernard Geoghegan, Christoph Rosol, and Janek Müller

“Technosphere” takes place as part of the HKW series 100 Years of Now.

CFP> Science, Technology & the Politics of Knowledge in Global Affairs

via dmf.

CfP: Science, Technology, and the Politics of Knowledge in Global Affairs

CALL FOR PAPERS

Science, Technology, and the Politics of Knowledge in Global Affairs

An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference at the Buffett Institute for Global Studies

Northwestern University, Evanston IL 

March 30-31, 2017

Keynote: Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard Kennedy School

Organizing Committee: Kevin Baker, Savina Balasubramanian, and Omri Tubi

Scientists, state actors, international institutions, and lay activists vie for credibility and legitimacy to both frame and control global issues. Science and technology are routinely cast into a supporting role to bolster their claims. From nuclear energy in the battle against climate change to the politicization of “big data;” from new information technologies in emerging regimes of global surveillance to the use of randomized controlled trials in international development research – scientific and technological expertise operate as instruments of power and authority, which can serve to legitimate or contest new forms of global governance and intervention.

The Buffett Institute’s second annual graduate student conference will investigate expert knowledge in contemporary global affairs, looking at the ways this knowledge is created, invoked, circulated, and contested in the international political arena. We invite graduate students to present work that explores questions such as: How do various international actors attempt to position themselves as credible participants in global politics? Under what conditions does expert knowledge come to be seen as legitimate on the global stage? How and why do global issues become understood as primarily technical, rather than political? In what ways do international actors frame these issues and what must be done about them? How is scientific and technological expertise marshaled or ignored in processes of claims making and action to structure interventions into global “problems?” And, finally, how do these practices organize, sustain, or challenge structures of global inequality and power?

 

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • The politics of climate change, climate science, and environmental security
  • The rise of actuarial and genetic approaches to global crime
  • Biosecurity, global health, and the regulation of infectious disease
  • Globalized technologies of risk and quantification
  • The technologization of global finance and economic markets
  • The politicization of social and computational science in an age of “big data”
  • New regimes of information and global surveillance
  • The changing nature of international development interventions
  • The constitution of transnational lay expertise in global social movements

We invite graduate students across the humanities and social sciences to submit abstracts of no more than 250 words by December 15, 2016using the submission link on the conference webpagehttp://buffett.northwestern.edu/programs/grad-conference/. There will be no deadline extensions. Accepted presenters will be notified by January 5 and papers are due to faculty discussants by March 7. The Buffett Institute will provide hotel accommodations and will subsidize travel costs (fully for US-based graduate students and partially for international students). Please direct all queries to the Graduate Organizing Committee at: buffettgradconference@northwestern.edu.

“Reality Chunking” – David Roden reviews DeLanda’s Philosophy and Simulation

I found this via Deterritorial Investigations Unit (naturally 😉

David Roden has blogged an interesting, fairly lengthy, review of DeLanda’s Philosophy and Simulation. Roden offers some interesting observations, setting his discussion in wider debates within (continental) philosophy, i.e. exotic flavours of realism and their politics. The aspect of the discussion I particularly find interesting is the discussion of DeLanda’s logical fudging of ontological ‘flatness’, when, in fact, in his philosophy of simulation there is quite a bit of hierarchical structure. I hadn’t really given this any thought before now but Roden’s reading together of Philosophy and Simulation  and A New Philosophy of Society is informative.

I encourage those interested in philosophy in the wake of Deleuze and those interested in ‘assemblage theory’ to take a look at this review.

Reblog> In praise of muddling – great post from Anne Galloway

Over on the More-Than-Human Lab blog Anne Galloway offers some wise words on the ways we might understand care: for learning and knowledge, for one another and for ourselves.

The full post is well worth a read, but here’s a couple of the many aspects I liked…

As a human being, and as a researcher, I feel a real duty to be with the world, not against the world. This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in right and wrong, but it does mean that I think that right and wrong only ever exist as specific, local solutions to particular problems. This position is contrary to one which holds that there are objective morals that can be applied to all circumstances, and it is contrary to the position that we can, or should, ‘hate the sin, but not the sinner.’ (I can’t hate either.) Put a bit differently, I believe in allowing myself and others to muddle along, because in the end she’ll be right. (That last bit’s a wee joke, btw. Feel free not to laugh.)

Today I would call on María Puig de la Bellacasa’s reminder that: “[C]are can also extinguish the subtleties of attending to the needs of an ‘other’ required for careful relationality. All too easily it can lead to appropriating the recipients of ‘our’ care, instead of relating ourselves to them [“¦] Appropriating the experience of another precludes us from creating significant otherness, that is, from affirmingthose with whom we build a relation. How to care for the ‘oppressed’ is far from being self-evident (2012, p. 209).”

I bring this up because I want to distinguish care (which I loosely associate with compassion) from justice (which I loosely associate with passion). And here I would ally myself with Mol, Moser and Pols’ practices of care, which “may involve ‘justice’ but other norms (fairness, kindness, compassion, generosity) may be equally or more, important – and not in a foundational way, but as orientations among others (2010, p. 13).

Read the full post here.

 

Critical and Creative Ethnography After Human Exceptionalism. Brilliant new publication from @annegalloway

Amidst the slog of marking a shining jewel-like piece of inspiration appeared in my inbox – one of my academic heroes Anne Galloway shared a draft of what is a fantastic chapter for a brilliant book, which is set to be published later this year (what a great editorial team too!). Anne has posted about this on her lab’s blog, so I am reposting some of that post… however, go and read it on the More-than-human Lab blog!

I’m pleased to announce that The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography, edited by Larissa Hjorth, Heather Horst, myself & Genevieve Bell, will be published later this year.

For the companion I also contributed a chapter called “More-Than-Human Lab: Critical and Creative Ethnography After Human Exceptionalism.”

Anne shares the introductory paragraph, which I think wonderfully performs precisely the ethos of praxis she explores in the chapter:

Haere mai. Welcome. This story starts with an introduction so that the reader can know who I am, and how I have come to know what I know. My name is Anne Galloway. My mother’s family is Canadian and my father’s family is British. Born and raised outside both places, for the past seven years I have been tauiwi, or non-Māori, a settler in Aotearoa-New Zealand. I have always lived between cultures and have had to forge my own sense of belonging. Today I am in my home, on a small rural block in the Akatarawa Valley of the Tararua ranges, at the headwaters of the Waikanae River, on the ancestral lands of MuaÅ«poko (Ngāi Tara) & Ngāti Toa, with my partner, a cat, seven ducks, five sheep–four of whom I hope are pregnant–and a multitude of extraordinary wildlife. The only way I know how to understand myself is in relation to others, and my academic career has been dedicated to understanding vital relationships between things in the world. Most recently, I founded and lead the More-Than-Human Lab, an experimental research initiative at Victoria University of Wellington. Everything I have done has led me to this point, but for the purposes of this chapter I want to pull on a single thread. This is a love story for an injured world, and it begins with broken bones”¦

Anne offers more excerpts and explanation in her blogpost and her full reference list (so please do read it!).

I did however want to share a brief snippet of one of the many bits I love from the chapter:

As more technological devices connect people to things in the world, and as more data are collected about people and things, digital ethnography stands to make an important contribution to our understanding of constantly shifting relations. When combined with speculative design that translates realist narratives into fantastic stories, I also believe we can inject hope into spaces, times and relations where it seems most unlikely.

For me,  Anne’s reading of a feminist ethics of care: for knowledge for our ‘selves’ and for our decentred place in the vital soup of our (transindividuated) becoming, as a part of contemporary ethnographic praxis is really valuable and we would all do well to involve ourselves in the conversation which Anne invites.

The image at the top comes from Anne’s twitter feed, it’s one of her own sheep:

The Museum of Contemporary Commodities in EXETER

The Museum of Contemporary Commodities

Just a quick note to let you know that the brilliant Paula Crutchlow has brought “The Museum of Contemporary Commodities” (MoCC) to Exeter for the majority of May.

There’s lots going on, much of it creative and interesting – so if you’re in Exeter or nearby: come and visit!

Two immediate things this week:

RIGHT NOW!: help re-create the internet in paper with Artist Louise Ashcroft from 11 -2 in the Exeter University Forum.

TOMORROW: sign up to do a data walkshop with Alison Powell from the LSE on Saturday from 10-1. Places have to be booked, and the Eventbrite page is here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mocc-data-walkshop-tickets-24464719635

Please do visit the MoCC website for lots more events and activities taking place this month and visit the shop:

87 Fore St,
Exeter
EX46RT

Open 10:00-18:00pm Weds-Sat, 4th-21st May.