© 2016 - IMPRINT
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
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      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.
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      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.
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      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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Lizzie Stark 2016

Larp as Technology

What does it mean to share or feel another's embodied experience? Experience designer Lizzie Stark explores this idea through an anthropotechnic of “live action role-play” (larp) – a gaming format that allows one to improvise different roles in various scenarios as a means to better understand the situation of others and themselves.
Here’s the beauty of larp as a technology: it lets you quickly prototype worlds and relationships, and gives participants a first-person perspective. In the past few years, I’ve been a gay man at the height of the AIDS epidemic, a deaf Nicaraguan child, the democratically elected dictator-for-life of a fractious space colony, a death metal poet, and the embodied drive of creative destruction. Perhaps “I’ve been” isn’t exactly the right phrase here—we can only be ourselves, really—but when I played these characters in various larps—picture an improvised play performed without a script—I certainly identified with their hopes, dreams, and struggles. It felt real, even though it wasn’t. A larp cannot give me complete understanding of say, death metal poetics, being deaf, or surviving an AIDS epidemic, but the roles I played gave me a more nuanced understanding and deeper level of empathy for my fellow humans. Larps do this by tapping into each player’s fundamental personal essence and funneling it into a slightly different format. Larp empowers players to reach outside themselves to play different roles. By seeing myself through multiple lenses, I’ve learned more about who I am. At the same time, in order to play parts different from myself, I have had to recognize some similarity to myself in a character—seeing that fundamental humanity enables me to take on that role. I’m not a gay man living through the AIDS crisis, but like most of us, I fear disease and death. I’m not a deaf child living in isolation, but I want to communicate and connect with other humans. I’m not a dictator-for-life, but at times, I’m self-interested and even narcissistic
What is larp?
The word “larp” originated as an acronym for “live action role-play.Many other art forms have influenced larp, including improv theater, Theater of the Oppressed, psychodrama, tabletop role-playing, historical reenactment, and happenings. The historical roots of the hobby extend back to Elizabethan pageantry, commedia dell’arte, and Roman mock naval battles.
Think of a larp like an improvised play performed without an audience. Participants meet up, assume characters, and play out the choices of those characters over time. As a storytelling medium, larp is incredibly diverse—discussing the “typical larp” is a little like trying to define the typical novel or film. There are nanolarps that last for fifteen minutes, and maximal larps in which participants stay in character for days, even weeks. Some larps require only a nondescript classroom and your ordinary clothing, while others might involve renting out a castle and designing a perfect period costume. At core, larping is a participatory form of entertainment that takes place in real time and space, unmediated by a screen. There is no audience, only yourself and your co-players. Participants take on characters in an agreed upon time and setting, and use techniques—often called mechanics—to help further the story. Mechanics can do many jobs. Sometimes they represent things that would be cumbersome, unsafe, uncomfortable, or impossible to do in a larp—magic spells, torture, sex, violence—and sometimes they are narrative tools of convenience that allow players to skip forward or backward in time or deliver internal monologues. The game designer fits the mechanics to the format and narrative. The players bring their imaginations to the table, co-creating the reality, and pushing the action of the game accordingly.
Larp as technology
If anything, larp design is a hacker’s toolbox. Larpwrights hack reality to get players out of the roles they play in real life. They hack social interactions to create deep community bonds very quickly, bonds that can cut across race, class, gender, and national borders. These tools work by changing up the architecture of identity and physical space. Every good larp designer knows: put fewer chairs in a room than people, so that the players are forced to move around and talk to each other; write characters with flaws because flaws are interesting; give every player the chance to be the hero of their own story. Larp designers learn and prototype quickly. As legendary Norwegian larpwright Eirik Fatland put it in a speech at the Knutpunkt Conference in 2014, larp designers “make temporary realities.” As he put it, “Nobody else does this. No other branch of knowledge or practice can build a religion, test out for five days how it feels to be a believer, how belief affects action, and then use that experience to build another religion next year.” Larp is a real-life laboratory for the thought experiments that philosophers are so fond of. Larpers have imagined themselves into worlds without language, worlds with four genders and no genders, where bisexual promiscuity is the norm, and where patriarchal norms are rigorously enforced. Larp brings imagined realities to life.
Anthropoetics and the Technosphere
Larp has a complex relationship to technology. Some productions use fancy technology as part of the larp, but the vast majority do not. Larp is profoundly analog. It requires traveling to a particular location and interacting with other human bodies, physically and verbally. As a pastime, it fulfills the deep-seated human need for community. And yet, in its own way it is also part of the technosphere. It is a reaction to the ubiquity of glass screens, and the ways these isolate us from one another. It is also its own technology. It uses social engineering tools that can be appropriated, hacked, and applied to other spaces, including office dynamics, museum exhibits, theater, education, and all forms of event design. Because it rapidly prototypes different realities, it is also a useful tool for examining how humans and machines interact or how they might fit together in the future. A few ideas for play accompany this piece. They are just a starting point. The more such realities we try on, the better we’ll be able to know how to steer the uncertain ship of the present into waters that don’t end in dystopia.
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Documentation of the game Hinterland (2015) where refugees are tending to the dying. Sebastian Utbult 2015. Source: Flickr

Nanolarp Triptych

Three tips for playing nanolarps like this:
  1. You don’t have to talk in a funny voice.
  2. Don’t block—say “yes and . . . ,” as this is a basic rule of improvisation that helps participants build interesting fiction together. If I say, “It’s raining,” and you say “no it’s not,” then it’s hard to know where to go next in the scene. If you say, “yes, and it reminds me of the time we buried Greg . . .” then the scene has a place to go.
  3. Consent is the cornerstone of a good experience. Aim for enthusiastic consent in the games you play, and if it wanes during the game, feel free to stop early. Budget five–plus minutes after each game to discuss your experience with your co-players.

Big Brother Is Watching You (15-45 minutes) For 3-4 players with internet-enabled smartphones

  1. Look through the last ten emails you have sent. Select one that is typical of you and that you would feel comfortable reading aloud to the group.
  2. Select someone to be the first Consumer. Everyone else will play a Marketer. The Consumer will read their email—including the subject line—aloud to the group. The Marketers will use this email as inspiration. Perhaps it communicates something about the Consumer’s demographic. Perhaps it suggests a particular product or service that might benefit them. The Marketers will discuss these matters briefly (1 to 3 minutes) as if making a marketing pitch. They should consider which product or products they might sell to the Consumer, and what marketing methods would be most useful. It’s OK to be silly here . Some of the emails might be content-less, so it’s OK to parse them down to “depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” levels of absurdity.
  3. Repeat until everyone has been the Consumer.
  4. During the next rounds, you may use the same emails, or choose new ones.
Round 2: Instead of Consumer and Marketer, now you will be the Beloved and the Voices of Jealousy that exist in the head of their suspicious partner. The Beloved reads the email aloud, and the Voices of Jealousy debate the ways in which this email shows all the ways in which the Beloved has let them down. Continue until all have played the Beloved. Round 3: Now you are Suspected Terrorist and National Security Agents. The Suspected Terrorist reads their email aloud. The Agents discuss the national security implications of this email, along with which part of the email seems most suspicious. *If you selected an encrypted email, you win!

What Does That Mean? (15 minutes) 3-5 players with internet-enabled smartphones, a dictionary, or the Tough Words handout

  1. Using the methods below, choose a difficult word, one you think the others will not know. Do not share your word or its meaning with the others in the group. If you have an internet connection on your phone: Visit http://phrontistery.info/ihlstart.html and click on the letter that begins your first name to choose a word. If you’re fresh out of internet: Use a paper dictionary or the tough word handout that follows this text.
  2. In this game, you will play a group of best friends out for a cocktail for the first time in a long time. Choose one word from each of the following lists to develop your character: A profession: carpenter, artist, scientist, business person, driver A personality: thoughtful, brave, fun-loving, sarcastic, bitter A relationship status: married, single, dating A sexual orientation: straight, gay, bi, pansexual, asexual How much ease do they feel with technology? A lot? A little?
  3. Briefly introduce your characters to one another. Decide how they all know one another and why they are best friends.
  4. You will play the scene out for drinks twice. Each scene will last exactly five minutes—set a timer. The first time, find a way to work your vocabulary word into the conversation. When you hear a word you don’t know the meaning of, try to figure it out from context and continue the conversation. At the end of five minutes, choose new words and play the scene again. Set the timer. When you hear a word you don’t know the meaning of, whip out your phone and look it up.
  5. Discuss your experience with your co-players. Did anything change?

A Meditation on the Perfect Partner (10 minutes) One or more players, plus a facilitator A quiet room with chairs or a clean floor

  • This scenario is a guided meditation. The best space to play it is somewhere with a closeable door and comfortable chairs for sitting or a clean floor for lying on. The facilitator should dim the lights and make it as quiet as possible. Participants should get comfortable and close their eyes. Sometimes people respond very intensely to guided meditation. You can lessen the intensity at any time by opening your eyes. Tell the participants this. When everyone is comfortable, and the lights are low, read the game text slowly, pausing often to give the participants the mental space to see whatever they see in their mind’s eye. What if, in the far future, instead of competing against an impossible beauty standard, people had to compete against perfect sex-robots? I think cybernetic implants—robot parts enhancing one’s appearance and sexual performance—would become very popular. This scenario riffs on the question of what would happen to the rest of us if we were forced to compete with mechanical perfection.
Game Text Relax your body. Shake your head gently from side to side and relax your neck. Feel the heaviness of your arms and let go of the tension in them. Loosen your hips and feel your legs relax and become rubbery. You are walking on an ordinary paved road in a large city. Around you, gleaming billboards sparkle. They are showcasing the ideal partner. Pause and look at one carefully. You see a gleaming image of yourself—the best possible version of you—in them. Notice how this best possible version is different from the self you are now. Notice how far you are from this version of yourself physically. You have recently come into some money, so finally you will be able to change this. Walk through the main square of the city and down a well-lit street to an enormous boutique, the one with a well-known purple sign. The store is large, well-lit, and full of other faceless people. This is a store where you can purchase mechanized implants. There is a section for veneers—teeth whiteners, poreless and gleaming skin, silvery hair styled to permanent perfection. You walk by the section for mechanized body parts—jaws that can open wider, motorized hands, tongues . . . and other parts that could go all night without getting tired. Consider your options for a moment. Decide what you will add on to yourself to make you the very best version of you. Use the credit chip in your wrist to pay. The procedure won’t take too long. An hour later you are walking down the street as your new self. Pay attention to how your body feels different now, even just in this moment as the air rushes past it. You walk by slender skyscrapers, feeling different among the new people of this city. You are walking straight to see someone, to see your partner of many years. Picture their face and feel a moment of love or lust for them. Open their front door. Move to them. Kiss them. Let things proceed until you are having a very good time. Notice how they are responding to your new part. Perhaps they are stroking or admiring it. Notice how you feel about your new part, and whether you can feel the touch of their hands on your skin. Perhaps you are enjoying yourself immensely, or perhaps most of your pleasure comes from the pleasure your partner is taking in the new you. And just as a wave of joy begins to sweep you away, something changes. It’s subtle at first, but the more you try to continue your tryst, the more difficult it becomes. It’s your new part. It has stopped working. How does your partner handle this? Notice the look in their eye, the feeling in your heart. When you are ready, take a deep breath and open your eyes. <pause for people to wake up> If you have played with others, consider whether you’d like to share what you picked with one another.