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Dossiers
Authors
  • Lawrence Abu Hamdan
  • Babak Afrassiabi
    • Babak Afrassiabi is an artist who works both in Iran and the Netherlands. Since 2004, he has collaborated with Nasrin Tabatabai on various joint projects and the publication of the bilingual magazine Pages (Farsi and English). Their work seeks to articulate the undecidable space between art and its historical conditions, including the recurring question of the place of the archive in defining the juncture between politics, history, and the practice of art. The artists’ work has been presented internationally in various solo and group exhibitions and they have been tutors at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht (2008–13), and Erg, école supérieure des arts, Brussels (2015–).
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      published contributions
  • S. Ayesha Hameed
    • Dr. S. Ayesha Hameed is a Lecturer in Visual Cultures and the Joint Programme Leader in Fine Art and History of Art Research Fellow in Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, London. She received her PhD in Social and Political Thought at York University, Canada in 2008
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      published contributions
  • Sammy Baloji
  • On Barak
    • On Barak is a social and cultural historian of science and technology in non-Western settings. He has been a senior lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University since 2012. Prior to this, he was a member of the Princeton Society of Fellows. In 2009, Barak received a joint PhD in History and Middle Eastern Studies from New York University. His most recent book is On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt (University of California Press, 2013), and his current publication project, Coalonialism: Energy and Empire before the Age of Oil, is funded by a European Union Marie Curie Award and an Israel Science Foundation Grant.
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      published contributions
  • Anil Bawa-Cavia
    • Anil Bawa-Cavia is a computer scientist with a background in machine learning. He runs STDIO, a speculative software studio. His practice engages with algorithms, protocols, encodings, and other software artifacts and his doctoral research at the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London was on complex networks in urbanism. He is a founding member of Call & Response, a sonic arts collective and gallery space in London, and a member of the New Centre for Research & Practice.
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      published contributions
  • Etienne Benson
  • Josh Berson
  • Jeremy Bolen
  • Axel Braun
    • Axel Braun studied photography at the Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, and fine arts at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. His artistic research deals with controversial infrastructure projects, tautology as an attempt to understand reality, and failed utopias in art and architecture. Currently, he is pursuing the long-term project Towards an Understanding of Anthropocene Landscapes. Recently exhibited works include Some Kind of Opposition (2016) at Galeria Centralis, Budapest, and Dragonflies drift downstream on a river (2015) at Kunstmuseum Bochum.
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      published contributions
  • Keith Breckenridge
  • François Bucher
    • s, focusing on ethical and aesthetic problems of cinema and television, and more recently on the image as an interdimensional field. His work has been exhibited at
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      published contributions
  • Lino Camprubí
  • Zachary Caple
  • Ele Carpenter
    • Dr. Ele Carpenter is a senior lecturer in curating at Goldsmiths, London. Her curatorial practice responds to interdisciplinary socio-political contexts such as the nuclear economy and the relationship between craft and code.
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      published contributions
  • Andrew Chubb
    • Andrew Chubb is a PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia conducting research on the relationship between Chinese public opinion and government policy in the South China Sea. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Contemporary China, Pacific Affairs, East Asia Forum, and Information, Communication & Society. His blog, South Sea Conversations (southseaconversations.wordpress.com), provides translations and analysis of Chinese discourse on the South and East China Sea issues.
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      published contributions
  • Louis Chude-Sokei
    • Louis Chude-Sokei is a writer and scholar currently teaching in the English Department at the University of Washington, Seattle. His academic interests range from West African, Caribbean, and American literary and cultural studies to a particular focus on sound, technology, and performance. His literary and public work focuses on immigration and black-on-black cultural contacts, conflicts, and exchanges. Chude-Sokei is the author of the award-winning book The Last “Darky”: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (2006) and The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics (2016).
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      published contributions
  • Claire Colebrook
    • Claire Colebrook is a professor of English at Penn State University. Her areas of specialization are contemporary literature, visual culture, and theory and cultural studies. She has written articles on poetry, literary theory, queer theory, and contemporary culture. Colebrook is the co-editor of the series Critical Climate Change, published by Open Humanities Press, and a member of the advisory board of the Institute for Critical Climate Change. She recently completed two books on extinction for Open Humanities Press, Death of the PostHuman and Sex after Life (both 2014), and with Tom Cohen and J. Hillis Miller co-authored Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols (2016).
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      published contributions
  • Rana Dasgupta
  • Filip De Boeck
    • Filip De Boeck is actively involved in teaching, promoting, coordinating and supervising research in and on Africa at the Institute for Anthropological research in Africa at the U
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Seth Denizen
    • Seth Denizen is a researcher and design practitioner trained in landscape architecture and evolutionary biology. Since completing research on the sexual behavior and evolutionary ecology of small Trinidadian fish, his work has focused on the aesthetics of scientific representation, madness, and public parks, the design of t
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      published contributions
  • Jonathan Donges
    • Jonathan Donges is a postdoctoral researcher who holds a joint position at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (as Stordalen Scholar) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He studies planetary boundaries and social dynamics in the Earth system from a complex dynamical system perspective. At Potsdam, he is Co-head of the flagship COPAN (Coevolutionary Pathways) project (www.pik-potsdam.de/copan). His published research includes work on complex network theory, dynamical systems theory, and time series analysis, with a focus on their application to our understanding of past and present climate variability and its interactions with humankind on planet Earth.
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      published contributions
  • Keller Easterling
  • David Edgerton
    • David Edgerton is Hans Rausing Professor of the History of Science and Technology and a professor of modern British history at King’s College London. After teaching at the University of Manchester, he became the founding director of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at Imperial College London (1993–2003), and moved along with the centre to King’s College London in August 2013. He is the author of many works, including The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 (2007), which argues for and exemplifies new ways of thinking about the material constitution of modernity.
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      published contributions
  • Technosphere Editorial
  • Sasha Engelmann
  • Eberhard Faust
  • Jennifer Gabrys
    • Jennifer Gabrys is Reader in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Principal Investigator on the ERC-funded project, "Citizen Sense." Her publications include Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (University of Michigan Press, 2011); and Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming).
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      published contributions
  • Oliver Gantner
  • Florian Goldmann
    • Florian Goldmann is a Berlin-based artist and a PhD candidate at the DFG Research Training Center Visibility and Visualisation – Hybrid Forms of Pictorial Knowledge as well as at the Brandenburg Center for Media Studies, both Potsdam University. His research focus is the utilization of models as a means of both commemorating and predicting catastrophe. In 2015, he took part in the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Sendai, Japan. Goldmann is one of the founders of the research collective STRATAGRIDS and the author of Flexible Signposts to Coded Territories (2012), an analysis of football hooligan graffiti in Athens as a system of fluid signage.
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      published contributions
  • Johan Gärdebo
    • Johan Gärdebo is a PhD candidate at the Royal Institute of Technology affiliated to the Environmental Humanities Laboratory (EHL). H
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      published contributions
  • Orit Halpern
    • Orit Halpern is a Strategic Hire in Interactive Design and an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal. Her work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design and art practice. She is also a co-director of the Speculative Life Research Cluster, Montreal, a laboratory situated at the intersection of art and life sciences, architecture and design, and computational media (www.speculativelife.com). Her recent monograph, Beautiful Data (2015), is a history of interactivity, data visualization, and ubiquitous computing. www.orithalpern.net
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      published contributions
  • Carola Hein
    • Carola Hein is a professor of the history of architecture and urban planning in the Architecture Department at Delft University of Technology. She has published widely on topics in contemporary and historical architectural and urban planning, notably that of Europe and Japan. Her current research interests include transmission of architectural and urban ideas along international networks, focusing specifically on port cities, and the global architecture of oil. Her books include Port Cities: Dynamic Landscapes and Global Networks (2011), Cities, Autonomy, and Decentralization in Japan (2006), and The Capital of Europe: Architecture and Urban Planning for the European Union (2004).
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      published contributions
  • Julian Henriques
    • Julian Henriques is the convener of the MA in Script Writing and Director of the Topology Research Unit in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. Prior to this, he ran the film and television department at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at the University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica. His credits as a writer and director include the reggae musical feature film Babymother (1998) and as a sound artist, Knots & Donuts, exhibited at Tate Modern in 2011. Henriques researches street cultures and technologies and his publications include Changing the Subject: Psychology, Social Regulation, and Subjectivity (1998), Sonic Bodies: Reggae Sound Systems, Performance Techniques, and Ways of Knowing (2011), and Sonic Media (forthcoming).
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      published contributions
  • Hanna Husberg
    • Hanna Husberg is a Stockholm-based artist. She graduated from ENSB-A in Paris in 2007 and is currently a PhD in Practice candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.
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      published contributions
  • Erich Hörl
  • Timothy Johnson
  • Peter K. Haff
  • Laleh Khalili
  • Alexander Klose
    • Dr. Alexander Klose studied History, Law, Philosophy, Art, and Cultural Studies. From 2005-07 he held a scholarship at Bauhaus Universität Weimar for his PhD project on standardized containers used in transport as one of the leading material media in the 20th century. Between 2009 and 2014 he worked as a research associate and programme developer at Kulturstiftung des Bundes. In 2015 in the forefront of COP 21, he co-curated Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge No. 18 – On Becoming Earthlings: 150 dialogues and exercises in shrinking and expanding the Human at Musée de l'Homme, Paris. His latest publication is: The Container Principle. How a box changes the way we think (2015).
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      published contributions
  • Karin Knorr Cetina
  • Scott Knowles
  • Nile Koetting
  • Nicole Koltick
    • Nicole Koltick is an assistant professor in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University, Philadelphia. She is Founding Director of the Design Futures Lab at Westphal College, which is currently pursuing design research to stimulate debate on the potential implications of emerging technological and scientific developments within society. Koltick’s practice spans art, science, technology, design, and philosophy, and current work focuses on the philosophical, material, and relational implications of aesthetics as they intersect with emerging developments in computational creativity, artificially intelligent autonomous systems, robotics, and synthetic biological hybrids.
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      published contributions
  • Nik Kosmas
  • Matthijs Kouw
    • Matthijs Kouw joined the Rathenau Instituut, The Hague, in March 2016. He holds an MA in Philosophy and an MSc in Science and Technology Studies from the University of Amsterdam as well as a PhD from Maastricht University. In his PhD thesis, Kouw describes how and to what extent reliance on models can introduce vulnerabilities through the assumptions, uncertainties, and blind spots concomitant with modeling practice. He was employed as a postdoctoral researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), during which time he acted as a member of the Dutch delegation for plenary sessions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
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      published contributions
  • Lars Kulik
    • Lars Kulik studied biology at the Humboldt University of Berlin. He received his doctorate on the development of social behavior of rhesus monkeys at the University of Leipzig and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. He lives with his family in Berlin.
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      published contributions
  • Richard L. Hindle
    • Richard L. Hindle is an assistant professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning at the University of California, Berkeley. His current research focuses on patent innovation in landscape related technologies, from large-scale mappings of riverine and coastal systems to detailed historical studies on the antecedents of vegetated architecture. His work explores the potential of new technological narratives and material processes to reframe theory, practice, and the production of landscape. Recent works include the articles “Levees That Might Have Been” (2015), and “Infrastructures of Innovation” in Scaling Infrastructure (MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism, 2016), and the exhibition Geographies of Innovation at UC Berkeley (2015).
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      published contributions
  • Brian Larkin
  • John Law
    • hn Law was a professor of sociology at Keele University, Lancaster, and the Open University, Milton Keynes, and a co-director of the Economic and Social Researc
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      published contributions
  • S. Løchlann Jain
  • Donald MacKenzie
  • Laura McLean
    • Laura McLean is a curator, artist, and writer based in London. She is a graduate of Goldsmiths College and Sydney College of the Arts, where she later lectured. She has also studied at Alberta College of Art and Design, and the Universität der Künste Berlin.
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      published contributions
  • Eden Medina
    • Eden Medina is an associate professor of informatics and computing, affiliated associate professor of law, and adjunct associate professor of history at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research and teaching address the social, historical, and legal dimensions of our increasingly data-driven world, including the relationship of technology to human rights and free expression, the relationship between political innovation and technological innovation, and the ways that human and political values shape technological design. Medina’s writings also use science and technology as a way to broaden understandings of Latin American history and the geography of innovation. She is the author of Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende's Chile (2011) and the co-editor of Beyond Imported Magic: Essays on Science, Technology, and Society in Latin America (2014).
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      published contributions
  • Anne-Sophie Milon
    • Anne-Sophie Milon is an artist and a freelance illustrator and animator working and living in Bristol, UK. After completing two Masters in Art, she has recently concluded the program of experimentation in Art and Politics at SciencesPo (SPEAP) in Paris.
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      published contributions
  • Gerald Nestler
    • Gerald Nestler is an artist and writer who combines theory and post-disciplinary conversation with video, installation, performance, text, code, graphics, sound, and speech. He explores what he calls the derivative condition of contemporary social relations and its paradigmatic financial models, operations, processes, narratives, and fictions. He is currently working on an “aesthetics of resolution” that maps counterfictions and counterimaginations for “renegade activism,” which revolves around the demonstration as a combined artistic, technological, social, and political practice. Nestler holds a practice-based PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London.
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      published contributions
  • James P. M. Syvitski
    • James P. M. Syvitski is Executive Director of the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS) at the University of Colorado Boulder. From 2011 to 2016, he chaired the International Council for Science’s International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), which provides essential scientific leadership and knowledge of the Earth system to help guide society toward a sustainable pathway during rapid global change. His specialty is the global flux of water and sediment (river and ocean borne) and its trends in the Anthropocene. He works at the forefront of computational geosciences, including sediment transport, land-ocean interactions, and Earth-surface dynamics.
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      published contributions
  • Luciana Parisi
    • Luciana Parisi is Reader in Cultural Theory, Chair of the PhD program in Cultural Studies, and Co-director of the Digital Culture Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research focuses on cybernetics, information theory and computation, complexity and evolutionary theories, and the technocapitalist investment in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. Her books include Abstract Sex: Philosophy, Biotechnology and the Mutations of Desire (2004) and Contagious Architecture: Computation, Aesthetics, and Space (2013). She is currently researching the history of automation and the philosophical consequences of logical thinking in machines.
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      published contributions
  • Lisa Parks
  • Matteo Pasquinelli
  • Arno Rosemarin
  • Dorion Sagan
  • Birgit Schneider
  • Lizzie Stark
    • Lizzie Stark is an author, journalist, and experience designer. She is the author of two books, Pandora’s DNA (2014), exploring so-called ‘breast cancer genes’ and her first book, Leaving Mundania (2012), which investigates the subculture of live action role play, or larp. Her journalism and essays have appeared in The Washington Post, the Daily Beast, The Today Show Website, io9, Fusion, the Philadelphia Inquirer and elsewhere. She holds an MS from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has organized numerous conventions and experiences across the US. Her most recent work is as a programming coordinator for Living Games Austin, and as co-editor and contributor for the #Feminism anthology, which collects 34 nano-games written by feminists from eleven countries.
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      published contributions
  • Lucy Suchman
    • ology of Science and Technology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Lancaster, UK. Her research interests within the field of feminist science and technology studies are focused on technological imaginaries and material practices
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Jenna Sutela
    • Jenna Sutela’s installations, texts, and sound performances seek to identify and react to precarious social and material moments, often in relation to technology. Most recently, she has been exploring exceedingly complex biological and computational systems, ultimately unknowable and always becoming something new. Her work has been presented, among other places, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; and the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo and her writing has been published by Fiktion, Harvard Design Magazine, and Sternberg Press.
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      published contributions
  • Bronislaw Szerszynski
    • Bronislaw Szerszynski is a Reader in Sociology at Lancaster University in the UK. Szerszynski’s work has developed across several themes, including the role of Western religious history in shaping contemporary understandings of technology and the environment—typified by his book Nature, Technology and the Sacred (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005).
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      published contributions
  • Elisa T. Bertuzzo
    • Elisa T. Bertuzzo studied comparative literature, sociology, communication, and media studies and holds a PhD in urban studies. She was a curator and project leader with Habitat Forum Berlin, including for the project Paradigmising Karail Basti (2010–16). Bridging discourses from the fields of cultural and urban studies, her research focuses on the everyday life facets of urbanization and settlement in South Asia. On that topic, she published Fragmented Dhaka: Analysing Everyday Life with Henri Lefebvre’s Theory of Production of Space (2009) and runs her multimedia project Archives of Movement (since 2012), which deals with the everyday life of temporary labor migrants in Bangladesh and India.
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      published contributions
  • Gregory T. Cushman
    • Gregory T. Cushman is Associate Professor of International Environmental History at the University of Kansas.
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Nasrin Tabatabai
    • Nasrin Tabatabai is an artist who works both in Iran and the Netherlands. Since 2004, she has collaborated with Babak Afrassiabi on various joint projects and the publication of the bilingual magazine Pages (Farsi and English). Their work seeks to articulate the undecidable space between art and its historical conditions, including the recurring question of the place of the archive in defining the juncture between politics, history, and the practice of art. The artists’ work has been presented internationally in various solo and group exhibitions and they have been tutors at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht (2008–13), and Erg, école supérieure des arts, Brussels (2015–).
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      published contributions
  • Katerina Teaiwa
    • Dr. Katerina Teaiwa is Associate Professor at the Department of Gender, Media and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History & Language and the president of the Australian Association for Pacific Studies. Her main area of research looks at the histories of phosphate mining in the central Pacific. Her work does not only span academic research, publications, and lectures, but also manifests itself in other formats within the arts and popular culture. Her work has inspired a permanent exhibition at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, which tells the story of Pacific phosphate mining through Banaban dance. In 2015, she published „Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba“, Indiana University Press. She is currently working with visual artist Yuki Kihara on a multimedia exhibition for Carriageworks in Sydney.
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      published contributions
  • Jol Thomson
  • Claire Tolan
  • John Tresch
  • Etienne Turpin
    • Etienne Turpin is a philosopher, Founding Director of anexact office, and a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, where he coordinates the Humanitarian Infrastructures Group and co-directs the PetaBencana.id disaster mapping project for the Urban Risk Lab. He is the editor of Architecture in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Design, Deep Tim
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      published contributions
  • Asonseh Ukah
    • Asonzeh Ukah is a sociologist and historian of religion. He joined the University of Cape Town in 2013 and previously taught at the University of Bayreuth (2005–13), where he also earned a doctorate and habilitation in history of religions. His research interests include religious urbanism, the sociology of Pentecostalism, and religion and media. He is Director of the Research Institute on Christianity and Society in Africa (RICSA), University of Cape Town, and Affiliated Senior Fellow of Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS), University of Bayreuth. He is the author of A New Paradigm of Pentecostal Power (2008) and Bourdieu in Africa (edited with Magnus Echtler, 2016).
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      published contributions
  • Underworlds
  • Sebastian Vehlken
    • Sebastian Vehlken is a media theorist and cultural historian at Leuphana University Lüneburg and Permanent Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (MECS). From 2013 to 2017, he worked as MECS Junior Director, and in 2015–16, he was a visiting professor at Humboldt-Universität Berlin, the University of Vienna, and Leuphana. His areas of interest include the theory and history of computer simulation and digital media, the media history of swarm intelligence, and the epistemology of think tanks. His current research project, Plutonium Worlds, explores the application of computer simulations in West German fast breeder reactor programs.
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      published contributions
  • Vladimir Vernadsky
  • Davor Vidas
    • Davor Vidas is a research professor in international law and Director of the Law of the Sea Programme at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Lysaker, Norway. He is Chair of the Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise and a member of the Anthropocene Working Group. Vidas has been involved in international law research for over thirty years, focusing since 2009 on implications of the Anthropocene for the development of international law. Among his books are The World Ocean in Globalisation (2011) and Law, Technology and Science for Oceans in Globalisation (2010). He is the editor-in-chief of the book series Anthropocene (Skolska knjiga, Zagreb), launched in 2017.
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      published contributions
  • Hannes Wiedemann
    • Hannes Wiedemann is a Berlin-based photographer. He studied at the Ostkreuz School of Photography, Berlin. For his project Grinders (2015–16), he followed the American bodyhacking community, a small group of people across the United States working out of garages and basements to become real cyborgs. Recent exhibitions include NEW PHOTOGRAPHY II (2017) at Gallery ALAN, Istanbul, and HUMAN UPGRADE, with Susanna Hertrich (2016), at Schader-Stiftung Gallery, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt. www.hanneswiedemann.com
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      published contributions
  • Cary Wolfe
    • Cary Wolfe is Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Professor of English and Founding Director of 3CT: Center for Critical and Cultural Theory at Rice University, Houston. He is the author of What Is Posthumanism? (2010), a book that weaves together principal concerns of his work: animal studies, system theory, pragmatism, and post-structuralism. It is part of the series Posthumanities, for which he serves as Founding Editor at the University of Minnesota Press. His most recent publication is Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in Biopolitical Frame (2013) and earlier books and edited collections include Animal Rites: American Culture, The Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory (2003) and Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal (2003).
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      published contributions
  • Andrew Yang
  • Jan Zalasiewicz
    • Dr. Jan Zalasiewicz is Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Leicester and Chair of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy. A field geologist, paleontologist, and stratigrapher, he teaches and publishes on geology and earth history, in particular on fossil ecosystems and environments that span over half a billion years of geological time.
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Anna Zett
  • Liv Østmo
    • Liv Østmo is one of the founders and current Dean of the Sámi University of Applied Sciences, Kautokeino, Norway, where she researches and lectures on the subject of multicultural understanding. For the last eight years, Østmo has worked with traditional Sámi knowledge and she is currently working on putting the finishing touches on a methodology book about the documentation of this knowledge.
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      published contributions
Aaron Jacobs 2008. Source: Wiki Commons

Container Love, and Fear

The universal standardization of materials, sizes and processes have enabled the technosphere to scale to its present scope, building intermodal infrastructures, logistics and protocols that contour the globe. Journalist and cultural scientist Alexander Klose portends how the blackboxing of global goods and data also opened up a Pandora's box of psychic fears and anxieties.
“. . . All either forty or twenty. Standardization. Containers full of merchandise. Packets full of information. No breakbulk.” / “No what?” / “Breakbulk. Noncontainerized freight. Old-fashioned shipping. Crates, bundles. What shipping used to be. I’ve thought that in terms of information, the most interesting items, for me, usually amount to breakbulk. Traditional human intelligence. Someone knowing something. As opposed to data mining and the rest of it.” -William GibsonFrom a novel by William Gibson, Spook Country. London: Penguin, 2008, p. 201.
To be modern is to live within and by means of infrastructures. -Paul EdwardsPaul Edwards, “Infrastructure and Modernity: Force, time, and social organization in the history of sociotechnical systems,” in Thomas J. Misa, Philip Brey and Andrew Feenberg (eds), Modernity and Technology. Cambridge, MA and London, 2003, pp. 185‒225, quote from p. 186.
I. RIDING THE DRAGON
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Still from Container Paranoia, Video, Alex Close, 2001

"On deck late in the evening on the Atlantic. It was quite warm but extremely vaporous. I got fairly paranoid. First a Shakespearean scenery of grey-in-grey in the fog, on the foredeck. Apparitional installations, the borders between ship, sea, and sky almost undistinguishable. Any moment, I expected witches and dead seamen to appear with putrid remnants of flesh hanging off their skeletons. Images of homicides from former days’ sea travels. Then, on my way back, on the small track between railing and container zone, a succession of creeking and squeeking sounds grew ever more suspect. I ventured to the inside to explore where these sounds were coming from. In order to do that, I had to climb a ladder and then walk a runway between rows of containers to the middle of the ship. The crunching and grating got ever louder. Two thick steel panels were erected left and right of the runway, forming a tunnel through which I had to pass. Inside, the noises grew even more intense. As if it was a gateway to another industrial plane. In the middle of the ship there was a container clearing. Yellow digits and metal inserts in signal-red distributed at regular intervals on the grey metal flooring. The moment I entered the clearing, a fan or a cooling system or something of the like started to roar from the back corner. It cost me quite an effort not to flee in panic, but to explore the origin of the different noises instead, recording their sounds with my minidisc-recorder."
The passage just quoted is from my “logbook,” kept while on a twenty-six-day journey on a containership from Hamburg to Hong Kong in July and August 2001. This journey has marked the beginning of my ongoing preoccupation with the global container system, the process of containerization and how standardized containers have become crucial elements in the formation of the logistical structure of today’s world. Onboard I found myself in an industrial landscape shaped by serial, standardized, rectangular steel elements. It looked a lot like an open-air storage space with a functional, modern eight-story high-rise building sticking out of the container cluster about two-thirds along the way from the rear (stern) to the front (bow) of the vessel. Although floating in the middle of the ocean, the scenery looked much like the corresponding spatial elements on land: the territories formerly known as harbors, though now called container terminals. These are not necessarily located on the coastline anymore, but also inland, along highways or train tracks. As I learned before starting the containership journey, land transportation routes have turned into canals as an effect of the expansion of the container system.A number of publications covering the history, technology, and economics of containerization have appeared over the course of the last ten years. Here are some I recommend (in alphabetical order): Edna Bonacich and Jake B. Wilson, Getting the Goods: Ports, labor, and the logistics revolution. Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 2008; Arthur Donovan and Joseph Bonney, The Box That Changed The World: Fifty years of container shipping – an illustrated history. East Windsor, NJ: Commonwealth Business Media, 2006; Alexander Klose, The Container Principle: How a box changes the way we think. Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT Press, 2015; and Marc Levinson, The Box: How the shipping container made the world smaller and the world economy bigger. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.
A development that had begun in the 1950s and 1960s was coming into full force by the 1980s and bringing the liquifying dynamic of capitalism into a new, material quality. And vice versa: the legendary and dignified shipping routes of old like the Northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific or the Monsoon passage crossing the Indian Ocean had become “Motorways of the Sea.” The fundamental differences between land and sea leveled out, producing a seamless land‒water network of transport and mobile storage with intermodal standardized steel containers. It was as if the conveyor belts of the Ford Motor factories had extended outside the factory walls, and connected, to form a global production network, the so-called supply chains.
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Graphic elements from ad for Sea Land Container Shipping, from a German trade journal, late 1960s.

Re-reading notes from my logbook, I start wondering about the psychic and bodily reactions provoked by my experimental field research into the technological realm. The container system forms a hermetic technosphere to which all of us, indirectly at least, are attached all of the time: almost every commodity we deal with in our everyday life is processed, assembled, and distributed through it. But usually we are not aware of this – the fact that most things have been containerized goes by largely unnoticed. So, what kinds of reactions, and which type of questions should be asked after direct confrontation with the basic material elements of the container world? Do they resonate in the more general framework of the theoretical analysis of the container system, the environments, or the forms of subjectivity brought forward by it?
II. YES, BUT WHAT'S IN IT?
Full of desire, the young woman’s hands caress the surface of the massive suitcase standing on a table in front of her. "What's in the box?" – "Curiosity killed the cat," answers the elderly man, a federal agent, from the back of the room, "and it certainly would have you, if you'd followed your impulse to open it. You did very well to call me when you did." She moves around the table, nervously. "Yes, I know, but what’s in it?!" Pulling some papers together and packing them and some files, the man says "You have been misnamed, Gabrielle. You should have been called Pandora. She had a curiosity about a box and opened it and let loose all the evil in the world."
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Still from Kiss Me Deadly, motion picture, USA 1955

The woman starts to lose patience. "Never mind about the evil, what’s in it?!" But the all-knowing detective in the showdown sequence of Kiss Me Deadly – a film noir classic from 1955A film produced and directed by Robert Aldrich, Kiss Me Deadly. USA: United Artists, 1955.
– continues to refuse to tell the woman about the suitcase’s secret or even to open it. Instead he continues to take refuge in mythology: "The head of the Medusa, that’s what’s in the box. ‘And whoever looks on her will be changed not into stone but into brimstone and ashes.’" We, the spectators of the movie, know why: a very dangerous, radioactive substance is inside it. The content of the secret load doesn’t play any significant role in the film, though, which is more about the thrills of crime and sex than about a nuclear threat or the Cold War. Lost in thought, the young woman says "whatever it is in that box, it must be very precious. So many people have died for it." "Yes, it is very precious," answers the man. Standing up, walking toward the suitcase again and putting her hands around it, she claims, "I want half!" "I agree with you. You should have at least half. You deserve it [. . .] for all the creature comforts you’ve given me." The man looks at her with that slight air of arrogance that he’d worn throughout the dialogue. Then he removes the suitcase from her hands and carries it to the table in the middle of the room. "But unfortunately the object in this box cannot be divided." According to film historians, Kiss Me Deadly operates through the dramaturgical use of a “MacGuffin,” a concept immortalized by Alfred Hitchcock (and used regularly in his films); a “great whatsit” whose primary function was to drive the plot but whose concrete materiality was marginal.Other famous examples from film history are the falcon statue in John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon (USA, 1941); the suitcase with its glowing content in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (UK, 1994) (with a direct reference to the suitcase in Kiss Me Deadly); or the thirty-nine steps in Alfred Hitchcocks The 39 Steps (UK, 1935). For a classical definition of the MacGuffin, see: François Truffaut, Hitchcock: A definitive study of Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983.
Ultimately, the young woman shoots the old detective with his own pistol, which was lying on a cupboard: "Then I'll take it all!" The man, dying, tries to warn her one last time. "Gabrielle, listen to me as if I was Cerberus, barking with all his heads at the gates of hell. I will tell you where to take it, but don’t [. . .] He shakes his head, Don't open [. . .] the box." This warning, of course, is in vain, for Pandora must fulfill her dramaturgical role. The center of excitement of this scene, though, at least for us, is not the beautiful woman but the promising box, the MacGuffin: a closed container onto which we project all our imagination and fear. “There will always be more things in a closed, than in an open box,” the French phenomenologist and philosopher of science Gaston Bachelard noted in his wonderful study on the poetics of space.Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas. Boston, MA: Beacon, 1994, p. 88.
The unopened container stages possibility and calls for the invention of content. Its imaginary stowage becomes desirable exactly because it is out of our reach. This, or it is used as a screen for the projection of fear and paranoia: such as the Container Security Initiative (CSI), launched by the United States government as a reaction to the terror attacks of 9/11. The core aim of this program was to gain information and regain control over the vast streams of transported goods coming into the US via containerships. Imagine / if a weapon of mass destruction / sitting in a container within the sea cargo environment / were detonated. / This program helps keep that from happening. So read the captions in a public PowerPoint information presentation about the CSI, published by the US Customs and Border Protection websiteUnited States Customs and Border Protection, Container Security Initiative – 2006‒2011 Strategic Plan [online](http://www.cbp.gov/linkhandler/cgov/border_security/international_activities/csi/csi_strategic_plan.ctt/csi_strategic_plan.pdf), accessed August 12, 2008.
in 2006. The security of the (Western) world, as the image of smuggled weapons-of-mass destruction suggests, was threatened by precisely the ubiquitous transport medium that has played a crucial role in enabling the economic growth and welfare of the postwar era. The “black boxes of globalization” had turned into Pandora’s boxes.
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Still from a TV campaign clip attacking Wal-Mart's opposition to the U.S. government's initiative for 100% scanning of all inbound containers, commissioned by Wake-Up Walmart, a U.S. wide network of employee rights activists, broadcasted nationwide on TV in 2006.

One of the largest economic and techno-utopian enterprises of the twentieth century – the idea of an intermodal global system of transport, spanning oceans and continents, and reducing transportation costs per item to almost zero – seemed to have received a severe blow. It had made possible distributed production processes and largely unrestricted movement, not only of capital, but also of materials and production facilities, paving the way for a new, logistics-based economy. Now its core principle was in danger – the boxes were left unopened. They were treated as black boxes (as in the corresponding cybernetic principle) on an organizational, administrative, as well as at a physical level. The principle of the black box in the second half of the twentieth century was of central importance in the organization of data, for example, through internet protocols or in object-oriented programming languages, as well as in the organization of physical processes, such as serial production in the factory or transport logistics. The superior efficiency and speed of the container-freight system relative to the methods of traditional cargo transport is largely an effect of applying the principles of blackboxing to both the physical and organizational levels of transport. Technical processing can be restricted to the standardized, procedural handling of one class of objects with similar specifications. The characteristics of loaded goods, ideally, are only of concern at the beginning and the end of the transport process. The same is true for the organization of data through the introduction of standardized loading documents and query protocols.For a more thorough discussion of the principle of blackboxing with regard to container shipping, see Klose, The Container Principle, p. 216ff.
Through the CSI, US government agents claimed to be able to procure knowledge about the content of containers and their data throughout the transportation process, or even prior to the start of its journey. As a result, all international ports with ships bound for the US had to implement certain security procedures, including allowing US government officials to carry out screenings both in harbor and out at sea. In 2007, the US Congress passed a law requiring 100 percent of US-bound vessels to be screened,Jim Abrams, “Law requiring 100 percent cargo screening sets tough standards,” Associated Press, August 22, 2007), US Department of Homeland Security.
leading to protests and resistance by both domestic and international businesses. What quickly became apparent was that it was not possible to fully enforce the rules of the new security regiment. Nobody was willing to incur the costs required for investment in new technology, changes to procedures, and the severe handling delays caused by the changes. As a consequence, everybody had to compromise: some technological innovations were implemented while the overall operating mode remained untouched. Thus, the Pandora view won on a number of legs but not in terms of the entire race. Containers still function as black boxes of globalization as the size of container ships has been increasing as have the number of containers being shipped globally. But the Pandora aspect cannot be forgotten: drugs, weapons, hazardous materials, refugees, terrorists, bombs . . . everything that is considered bad or scary – or in any other way problematic – about globalization, has been semantically attached to them.
III. INFRASTRUCTURALIZATION
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Schwanseebad Weimar, phone pic, Alex Close 2008

"Microwaves bounce between billions of cell phones. Computers synchronize. Shipping containers stack, lock, and calibrate the global transportation and production of goods. Credit cards, all sized 0.76mm, slip through the slots in cash machines anywhere in the world. All of these ubiquitous and seemingly innocuous features of our world are evidence of global infrastructure."Keller Easterling, “Introduction,” Extrastatecraft: The power of infrastructure space. London and New York: Verso, 2014.
Far from being either historical novelty or recent development, the fundamental importance of infrastructures dates far back. Roads, aqueducts, canals, sewers, shipping lines, or messenger services were all crucial to the success of cultures, cities, states, and empires from antiquity through to the modern era. Furthermore, the innovations of the nineteenth- and the early twentieth century – the construction of vast networks of railroads, power, telegraph, and telephone systems, followed by the highways and oil pipelines of the petro-cultural eraThe term petro-culture was coined by a group of US‒Canadian scholars who began systematically researching how mineral- and oil-based technologies and materials have formed cultures, politics, and societies over the last hundred years. For an introduction, see Ross Barrett and Daniel Worden (eds), Oil Culture. London and Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.
a little later – still ought to be seen as the heroic, formative years of our contemporary world of ubiquitous infrastructures as described by Keller Easterling in the quote that opens this section. Up to today, an increasing number of large technological systems have become naturalized, largely shaping the environments we all live in today and treat as “second nature.“(M)ature technological systems – cars, roads, municipal water supplies, sewers, telephones, railroads, weather forecasting, buildings, even computers in the majority of their uses – reside in a naturalized background, as ordinary and unremarkable to us as trees, daylight, and dirt. [. . .] In short, these systems have become infrastructures.” See Paul Edwards, “Infrastructure and Modernity: Force, time, and social organization in the history of sociotechnical systems,” in Misa, Brey, and Feenberg (eds), Modernity and Technology, pp. 185‒225, quote on p. 185.
Yet, another decisive conceptual shift has been happening: this began in around the 1950s and had close links to cybernetic thinking and the invention of computers. Initially, what had started at state level –more specifically at the military and then corporate levels, then dispersed. The introduction of the Personal Computer and the emergence of a worldwide computer network (beginning in the 1980s) drew in the individual citizen, the worker, the employee, and all consumers. This development then accelerated, so that by 2000 mobile communication and computing had dispersed to the extent that just about everything that could be digitized is digitized, transforming daily routines into high-speed actions. Today, digital technology has brought the infrastructure closer, to everybody’s life – to people’s bodies and brains – than probably ever before. We have become infrastructured subjects not only when we are using (or are connected to) large technical systems like public transportation or electricity,For the concept of subjectification through infrastructures in general and for infrastructuring through public transport systems in particular, see: Stefan Höhne, “The birth of the urban passenger: Infrastructural subjectivity and the opening of the New York City subway,” City 19, nos 2‒3 (2015): pp. 313‒21 [online](http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13604813.2015.1015276); for more on the comparison between the development of the internet and the power networks as infrastructures, see Nicholas Carr, The Big Switch. Rewiring the world, from Edison to Google. London and New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2009.
but also as we are navigating through (and are navigated by) infrastructured space which is almost everywhere. One aspect of the culmination of the emergent digital sphere – hovering like a gas between and around everything and everybody – is the “internet of things.” Here, the two ubiquitous networks that have been in the process of transforming the world since the second half of the twentieth century and their corresponding processes of digitization and containerization – the operationalization of the cognitive and of the physical world – are coming together conspicuously and inseparably. Logistical systems operate the network of things both at the informational and at the physical level. This interpenetration of computerization and containerization reaches back to the early years of both technologies. The calculating power of computers played a critical role in the development of some of the key elements of the container system. Beginning in the 1960s, it became evident that it was not possible to manage the increasing complexity of container-logistical processes without the help of computers.For detailed historical analysis of the US transportation business, see James W. Cortada, The Digital Hand: How computers changed the work of American manufacturing, transportation, and retail industries. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
On the other hand, the logistical principles that organize the space and processes inside computers and connect their networks are taken from (or at least inspired by) the physical world of transport. It began with the basic (von Neumann) computer architecture with its busses, hubs, and ports; then continued with the leading metaphors for the organization of file systems, desktops, or programs. Then came the container-formats, take a .pdf, .flv, .mpeg or .wave file-format, which allows the mix of text/image, audio, and video content that accounts for the vast amount of today’s data traffic via the internet. Where the digital sphere touches the material world, therefore, one could suggest that most often it comes in containerized form.For analysis of the nexus between containerization and computerization processes, see Klose, “Computing with Containers,” in Klose, The Container Principle, pp. 199ff.
The container system ushered in computerization of the world and the corresponding processes of virtualization on many levels, which later became the logistical-epistemic order in which we live today. Containers are the main physical and conceptual agents in the diffusion of the economic system we have come to call globalization. In performing both conceptual and physical work, the container forms an infrastructural triangle with the principle of money and the function of computers. Exploring the physical spaces of container transport, therefore, is not only an encounter with the vast dimensions and materialities of one of the most powerful infrastructures of today, but evokes the feeling of paying a visit to the micro-worlds of computing itself as well.