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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
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      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
  • 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
    • 1
      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
    • Rico, in the 1960s. She finished her education in Paris and London. Knorr has taught, exhibited, and lectured internationally, including at Tate Britain, Tate Modern, the University of Westminster, and Goldsmiths in London, as well as Harvard Univ
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      published contributions
  • 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.
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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–).
    • 1
      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
Source: Wellcome Images
Ambroise Pare: prosthetics, mechanical hand.

The Alien Hand of the Technosphere. Kurt Goldstein and the Trauma of Intelligent Machines

Philosopher Matteo Pasquinelli investigates the curious history of the phantom limb syndrome and how it chronicles the confluence of war trauma research, neurology, cybernetics and the philosophy of mind. Is there a way by which all of that translates and extends to today’s planetary technosphere, being a prosthesis and a fear of amputation at the same time?
THE PARTIAL OBJECT OF TRAUMA
How to define trauma? Which models of trauma are unconsciously employed when we record the violence of man against man or the catastrophes triggered by the planetary technosphere against nature? How to explain the often traumatic event of the social implantation of new technologies? Is there an Object, maybe a technical Object, which may illuminate our idea of trauma and its psychic structure, rather than narrating one of its historical incidents? Can trauma really be represented by a concrete object, or rather always indicated by a broken object, an amputated body, an invisible wound, a missing dear friend, an abstract process in absentia? More importantly, will we ever be able to see trauma beyond the ideas of lack, amputation, and victimization, and to frame it as positive and pre-emptive endeavor? We could start from these questions and wonder to what degree psychic and technological traumas are a healing process, whose nature is that of being a fragment of a failed unity and the figure of a complex assemblage yet to be. The present contribution attempts to illuminate the (symbolic) form of trauma by looking at German neurology in the Weimar era, as studies on brain traumas around the time of the First World War happened to influence the development of cybernetics and machine intelligence after the Second World War. In fact, at the beginning of cybernetics a notion of trauma was not at all alien to the design of intelligent machines, and this lineage of thought had a surprising influence on French philosophy as well. Rediscovering the genealogies of trauma across twentieth-century neurology, cybernetics, and philosophy hopefully will be of benefit to the debate on the technosphere of the Anthropocene.
THE PHANTOM LIMB
One vivid way to objectify trauma in the field of neurology is to consider the accident of an amputated limb and to study the emotional and cognitive consequences of such an amputation, as in the famous phantom limb syndrome. Phantom limb syndrome is a neurological condition in which the presence of a hand, arm, or leg is still perceived to exist even after amputation, with the amputee suffering pain associated with the limb as if it were not missing. Phantom limb syndrome is a clear example of the deep and unresolved tension (for both philosophy and neurology) between the modern categories of body and mind. The artist Alexa Wright has worked with neurologists and patients to reconstruct, in fictional photographs, the exact spatial position in which amputees perceive their phantom limbs (suggesting that physical traumas are, in the end, always of a cognitive nature).
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Alexa Wright, After Image series, 1997.

The neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran famously conceived a simple therapy to cure the pain of phantom limb syndrome: the mirror box.Vilayanur Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee, Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the mysteries of the human mind. New York: William Morrow, 1998.
The image of the right hand in a mirror that is perpendicular to the torso can produce, for instance, the illusion of the presence of an amputated left hand.
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Mirror box illusion. Source: Ramachandran, Vilayanur S., and Eric L. Altschuler. "The use of visual feedback, in particular mirror visual feedback, in restoring brain function." Brain (2009)

"The box is made by placing a vertical mirror inside a cardboard box with the roof of the box removed. The front of the box has two holes in it, through which the patient inserts his good arm and his phantom arm. The patient is then asked to view the reflection of his normal hand in the mirror, thus creating the illusion of two hands, when in fact [he] is only seeing the mirror reflection of the intact hand. If he now sends motor commands to both arms to make mirror-symmetric movements, he will have the illusion of seeing his phantom hand resurrected and obeying his commands, i.e. he receives positive visual feedback informing his brain that his phantom arm is moving correctly."Vilayanur Ramachandran and William Hirstein, “The perception of phantom limbs,” Brain 121, no. 9 (1998): 1620.
Such a machination can fool the brain’s perception of the body: it intervenes at the level of the body schema that is projected by vision, and it constructs a temporary cognitive map of the amputated hand and thus alleviates the neurological distress. Phantom limbs may hold abnormal dimensions. Robert and Suzanne Mays made a drawing of the apparent “field of sensation” around the physical left hand of a patient known as MG; in the body schema of this patient, the fingers extended far outside the space of the hand that had been amputated. Phantom limbs that grow out of proportion are called “mind limbs,” as the brain projects a cognitive map beyond the coordinates of the previous body schema. If the projection of this hand looks abnormal, it is nevertheless the projection of a form of life trying to occupy the surrounding void and fight for its place in the surrounding environment. The brain attempts desperately to cast off its old body image, but something slips off and falls into the infinite.
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Robert and Suzanne Mays, Drawing of the apparent “field of sensation” around M.G.’s physical left hand, 2007.

THE ALIEN HAND, OR THE HAND THAT THINKS
More uncanny still in the cabinet of neurological traumas is the syndrome known as the alien hand, which was first described by the German-Jewish neurologist Kurt Goldstein in 1908.Kurt Goldstein, “Zur Lehre von der motorischen Apraxie” [On the doctrine of the motor apraxia], Journal für Psychologie und Neurologie 11, nos 4/5 (1908): 169‒87.
In this syndrome, after a brain injury, or in the case of diseases like Alzheimer’s, one hand starts to move autonomously like it has a will of its own. In the first clinical case registered by Goldstein, the alien hand was trying to strangle a fifty-seven-year-old woman while she slept. In another instance, the right hand was buttoning up a shirt, while the left hand happened to unbutton it at the same time. A famous cinematographic reference of such a syndrome is seen in Stanley Kubrick’s movie Dr. Strangelove in which a megalomaniac American scientist is fighting against the Nazi drives of his own hand (clearly a reference to the Nazi military that was passed to the United States after the end of the Second World War).
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Screenshot from Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1964

Patients often describe this phenomenon as having their hand possessed by a demon or a spirit.Alien hand syndrome should not be confused with anarchic hand syndrome, where in the latter the hand moves independently but is still recognized as part of the body. See Thomas Metzinger, Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of subjectivity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003, p. 424.
In comparison to the phantom limb, this is a different and complementary case: if phantom limb syndrome is about the virtual projection of an absent limb, alien hand syndrome is where an existing hand is no longer perceived as part of the body and acquires a will of its own. Whereas in the case of the phantom limb the body has lost one component yet the brain keeps on projecting the same body schema, in the alien hand case the body remains undivided, yet the body schema seems to be divided into two parts. Interestingly for both neurologists and patients, the alien hand appears to have developed a “mind of its own.” As the American neurologist Norman Geschwind acknowledges, Goldstein was perhaps the first to stress “the nonentity of personality” in patients with trauma of the corpus callosum, the conurbation of nerves connecting the right- and left brain hemispheres.Norman Geschwind, Selected Papers on Language and the Brain. Boston: Reidel, 1974, p. 225.
Goldstein is renowned for having developed a holistic theory of the brain, but with the alien hand case he showed that our mind is separable in autonomous circuitries—circuitries that appear to reorganize themselves after a trauma and provoke not just cognitive dissonance, but the split of cognition itself. Goldstein’s description of the alien hand was one of the first accounts (together with English neurologist Henry Head)Stefanos Geroulanos and Todd Meyers, “Integrations, Vigilance, Catastrophe: The neuropsychiatry of aphasia in Henry Head and Kurt Goldstein,” in David Bates and Nima Bassiri (eds), Plasticity and Pathology: On the formation of the neural subject. New York: Fordham University Press, 2015.
to recognize that the brain produces a map of the body that is continuously and unconsciously readjusted: a theory neurophilosopher Thomas Metzinger recently expanded upon with his idea of the Phenomenal Self-Model.See Thomas Metzinger, The Ego Tunnel: The science of the mind and the myth of the self. New York: Basic Books, 2009.
Goldstein is a forgotten influential figure of Weimar-era Berlin: he left as crucial a mark on French philosophy as he did on American cybernetics thanks to his sophisticated idea of brain trauma and cognitive catastrophe. Before clarifying this, it is worth remembering his biography. Born in Katowice, Poland (and cousin of philosopher Ernst Cassirer with whom he maintained close relations all his life), Goldstein became the head of the neurology department at Berlin Moabit hospital after studying the brain injuries of Second World War soldiers in Frankfurt. Being of Jewish lineage and also a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), Goldstein was arrested and tortured by the Nazis in 1933 and released only after the intervention of a psychoanalyst who was in contact with Hermann Göring; yet attached to his freedom was the strict order to leave Germany forever. In 1934, in Amsterdam, he dictated his seminal book Der Aufbau des Organismus “almost nonstop, over a period of five weeks, leaving himself (and his typist) in a state of prostration,” as Oliver Sacks reminds us in his introduction to the English edition of the book.Kurt Goldstein, Der Aufbau des Organismus. Einführung in die Biologie unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Erfahrungen am kranken Menschen. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1934; published in English, The Organism: A holistic approach to biology derived from pathological data in man. Salt Lack City, UT: American Book Company, 1939; New York: Zone Books, 1995.
In 1935, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, Goldstein arrived in New York where he died in September 1965, after working in prominent universities such as Columbia and Harvard and also teaching at the New School. Der Aufbau des Organismus was not a work of philosophy, but it is probably the neurology text that has had the greatest impact on the philosophy and technology of the twentieth century. As Anne Harrington stated once, the story of Goldstein was a true Weimar story, something to rediscover a long century after his birth and exactly fifty years after his death in New York.Anne Harrington, Reenchanted Science: Holism in German culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler. Princeton University Press, 1999.
KURT GOLDSTEIN AND THE CATASTROPHIC BRAIN
Why rediscover Goldstein’s work on brain trauma, shock, and catastrophic reactions? Goldstein introduced a proactive definition of these notions rather than a passive one. For Goldstein the brain is constantly in a state of active shock and even arranges “slight catastrophic reactions” in the act of coming to terms with the world.Goldstein, The Organism, p. 227.
It is worth noting that in the same years, around 1920, Sigmund Freud was developing the theory of the death drive, in which a biological primacy is granted to inorganic matter, and trauma is defined negatively as the inability to restore a previous state.Sigmund Freud, Jenseits des Lustprinzips. Leipzig, Vienna, Zurich: Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, 1920.
Goldstein was influenced by the holistic tradition of the German Naturphilosophie (the “philosophy of nature,” rather than hard sciences like Freud), nevertheless he expanded on Immanuel Kant’s notion of organic unity, and recognized the abnormal and pathological state as the modus operandi of the mind. For Goldstein, both normal and abnormal behaviors are the result of the brain’s antagonism with the environment: abnormal states of mind are an expression of adaptation as much as the normal states are.Goldstein was contemporary with German Expressionism and it would not be too surreal to record its echoes throughout the Berlin circles of neurology.
Symptoms of illness are not secondary effects, but a sign of a positive endeavor toward a new condition, a sign that the organism is struggling to find a new equilibrium. The truly sick organism, according to Goldstein, is that which doesn’t deviate from the norm, the one that cannot invent new norms. The organism that never falls sick is the truly sick one. This intuition will have a profound influence on French philosophy, on the way, for instance, Georges Canguilhem and Michel Foucault will define the abnormal. Many forget that Foucault opens his first book Maladie mentale et personnalité with a critique of Goldstein.Michel Foucault, Maladie mentale et personnalité. Paris: PUF, 1954.
And Canguilhem himself echoes Goldstein in his famous statement: “The abnormal, while logically second, is existentially first.Georges Canguilhem, The Normal and the Pathological, with an Introduction by Michel Foucault. New York: Zone Books, 2007, p. 243.
Furthermore, Goldstein established and investigated the link between abnormality and abstraction. Antagonism with the environment, the struggle for adaptation, always proceeds by the invention of new equilibria, habits, norms, and categories. Adaptation always happens via the production of new abstractions. How does trauma affect the ability to produce new abstractions? Goldstein offers the example of one of his patients who refuses to repeat a false sentence such as “the snow is black.” The patient could agree to repeat each single word but the not the whole sentence; he would only agree to repeat the correct sentence “the snow is white.Kurt Goldstein, Human Nature in the Light of Psychopathology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1940, p. 55.
This behavior was not the refusal to lie, but the inability to suspend the rules of common sense just for a moment, as sense of humor, speculation, or linguistic exercises may require. In this case the brain trauma provokes the incapacity to abstract from the concrete behavior of the everyday. Indeed, a clear symptom of trauma for Goldstein was not necessarily disordered behavior, but for instance, an excessive attention to order. Goldstein noticed that a few postwar soldiers with severe brain injuries were keeping their hospital rooms perfectly in order. Everyday, they were cleaning and sorting the things in their room in a maniacal way. A sudden change in the disposition of objects, or the event of an unexpected visitor, could provoke discomfort and panic. These patients could not tolerate the minimum degree of disorder in their Umwelt, their surroundings, in which case order was a symptom of trauma. Goldstein thought that spatial order was not a necessary condition of an adaptive brain: the disposition and function of objects can be mentally manipulated independently by their physical disposition. He believed that brain trauma may affect the brain’s power of abstraction, that is, the ability to recognize complex shapes in unusual contexts and the ability to live within a space of chaotic disposition of objects and people.
In general, the power of abstraction for Goldstein is the power “to plan something in the future,” “to construct hierarchies of value,” “to perform symbolically,” “to detach our ego from the outer world or inner experience.Kurt Goldstein and Martin Scheerer, “Abstract and concrete behavior an experimental study with special tests,” Psychological monographs 53, no. 2 (1941).
The power of abstraction is the power to alienate from the ground of nature itself. The work of his cousin Ernst Cassirer would push Goldstein to translate his conclusions to the social and cultural sphere. Symbolic forms in general, such as education, art, and science are necessary “to come to terms with the world.Goldstein, Human Nature, p. 244.
For Goldstein, the brain is in a continuous process of self-actualisation, and after a (psychic or physical) trauma it keeps on inventing new norms and behaviors in a multitude of unexpected ways. Goldstein’s model is helpful to clarify both the phantom hand and alien hand syndromes, but the manual of neurology should expand their taxonomies to also include the new syndromes of cognition in the age of intelligent machines.
ATOMIC TRAUMAS AND THE BIRTH OF CYBERPHILOSOPHY
The emergence of the digital computer was also the consequence of a war trauma, this time the shockwave of the first nuclear experiments during the Second World War. The magnitude of the mathematical operations required to calculate and control the out-of-scale detonation of the atomic bomb pushed forward development of the first mainframe computers at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies.George Dyson. Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe. New York: Vintage, 2012.
The Big Bang of the Turing universe ran along Albert Einstein’s equation of matter and energy, which was behind the measurement of the potential of nuclear binding in the radioactive kernel. Cybernetics was sponsored by generous grants from the US Defense Department, but as the science historian Andrew Pickering has shown, early cybernetics, in fact, was more deeply influenced by biology and neurology than by information theory.Andrew Pickering. The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 2010.
We should not forget that Norbert Wiener dedicated a chapter of his 1948 classic to “Cybernetics and Psychopathology” and discussing memory loss as the root of neurosis, Wiener states that: “Pathological processes of a somewhat similar nature are not unknown in the case of mechanical or electrical computing machines.Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics: Or, Communication and Control in the Animal and Machine. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1948, p. 172.
The epistemologist David Bates has traced back the role of error, abnormality, and catastrophe in the design of the early cybernetic systems following the influence of Goldstein. Bates traces Goldstein’s idea of “slight catastrophic reactions” to demonstrate that many theorists of the cybernetic era were interested in machines as well, which could show properties of self-repair after a catastrophic or traumatic accident.David Bates, “Unity, Plasticity, Catastrophe: Order and Pathology in the Cybernetic Era,” in: Catastrophe: History and Theory of an Operative Concept, eds. Andreas Killen and Nitzan Lebovic. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014.
This early stage of cybernetics is often forgotten, but it is curious how the paradigms of “brain damage” and “self-repair” are emerging once again in recent developments of machine intelligence. Neural networks are in fact machines that learn by error and sometimes networks are intentionally designed to fail in order to learn and adapt. Machine intelligence research has acquired, for instance, the idea of optimal brain damage (also known as “pruning”), which is a trick to improve the computational power of neural networks by weakening the strength and number of connections, rather than multiplying them, as one might expect.Yann LeCun, John S. Denker, and Sara A. Solla, “Optimal brain damage,” Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) 2 (1989).
The idea of neural networks and the whole business of machine learning run by error, by breaking up, is a strange nemesis for Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s idea of desiring machines, machines of the productive unconscious “that continually break down as they run, and in fact run only when they are not functioning properly,” as the famous quote goes.Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, vol. 1. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1983, p. 34.
Deleuze and Guattari’s idea was also a reference to Canguilhem’s 1947 lecture “Machine and organism,Georges Canguilhem, “Machine and Organism” (lecture given in 1947), in Paola Marrati and Todd Meyers (eds), Knowledge of Life: Georges Canguilhem. New York: Fordham University, 2008.
which may have also inspired Donna Haraway’s figure of the cyborg during her period in Paris.Ian Hacking, “Canguilhem amid the cyborgs,” Economy and Society 27, nos 2/3 (1998): 202‒16.
The parallel evolution of French philosophy and Anglo-American cybernetics is particularly striking: with French philosophy devoted to the history and liberation of madness, mental illness, sexual abnormality, and schizophrenia, and Anglo-American cybernetics obsessed with intelligent machines and the mechanization of the mind.Matteo Pasquinelli, “Abnormal Encephalization in the Age of Machine Learning,” e-flux 75 (September 2016).
Looking attentively, the two lineages share a common root in the positive definition of cognitive trauma and catastrophic reaction that has since been forgotten. In 1955 the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan dedicated one of his seminars to cybernetics and the new calculating machines.Jacques Lacan, “Psychoanalysis and cybernetics, or on the nature of language.” The seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book 2. Edited by Jacques-Alain Miller. Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Lacan positively registered the new regime of cybernetics as a further stage in the decentralization of the human subject.See: Céline Lafontaine, “The Cybernetic Matrix of French Theory”, Theory Culture Society 2007, 27-46.
The German media scholar Friedrich Kittler has stressed the influence of cybernetics on Lacan and French thought, specifically on their new account of subjectivity that would be influenced, according to Kittler, by new acephalous machines that were able, for the first time, to talk and think automatically.Friedrich Kittler, “The World of the Symbolic—A World of the Machine,” in Literature, Media, Information Systems. Amsterdam: G+B Arts International, 1997.
The history of early cybernetics shows how much of the original definition of brain trauma and abnormality has been absorbed, reinforcing the supremacy of the paradigm of machine intelligence against other epistemologies. Yet the old question of French post-structuralism is still relevant, and today it can be reformulated as follows: What are the rights of the abnormal mind in the age of Artificial Intelligence and its corporate dreams?
TECHNOLOGICAL PHANTOM LIMBS
The clumsy imbrication of res cogitans and res extensa that has haunted modern philosophers continues in the age of machine intelligence under unexpected metamorphoses. Biomechatronics has conceived, for instance, a new generation of prostheses that are installed thanks to a dynamic socket that maps nerve and muscle movements in the amputee’s body. The prototypes of biophysicist Hugh Herr at MIT Media Lab show that patients can begin walking with these artificial limbs without training.See the website of MIT Media Lab (http://biomech.media.mit.edu), accessed October 22, 2016.
A new “cognitive map” of body movements is produced by machine-learning algorithms which operate the artificial limbs in real time as a sort of external motor cortex, matching human and machinic body schemata. These prostheses are extensions of the body as much as of the mind, as the latter has to dock a newly extended body with computational ability. As known, artificial limbs can outperform the strength of natural ones, and in doing so they establish new norms for human nature. Conversely, Virtual Reality and new immersive technologies are being used to treat psychic and physical trauma. Ramachandran’s mirror box illusion, used in the treatment of phantom limb pain, can now be expanded with a VR headset through which the amputee sees the missing arm movements in a very realistic way. Also, as documented by filmmaker Harun Farocki in his installation Serious Games (2009), 3D simulations of war scenarios are used in the therapeutic treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in which the patient repeatedly enacts the very moment of the traumatic event. Immersive technologies further explore the imbrication of digital simulations with body schemata, and can be used to warp body perception for non-medical purposes as well. Given a new technosphere of cognitive and physical prostheses, new types of phantom limb and alien hand syndromes can be recognized (and the failure or success of their cognitive imbrication can illuminate the rise of new abnormal minds). Technological phantom limb could be described as media prosthesis that leave a disoriented and fragmented cognitive map once they disappear. Everybody is familiar with this type of disorientation and distress: it happens anytime we are cut off from technological extensions such as mobile phones, email, and social media. Consider the reaction of the brain to that disorientation and the way the brain tries to “rewire” differently with the environment. On the other hand, technological alien hands may be robotic structures, intelligent systems, and large infrastructures that appear to behave on their own against human will, after a major failure of extended cognition. We already live in a world in which independent intelligent infrastructures make decisions by themselves or on behalf of humans (what the French philosopher Bruno Latour calls actants).Algorithmic agency is already producing new legal problems for corporations and military institutions. See Susan Schuppli, “Deadly Algorithms: Can legal codes hold software accountable for code that kills?”, Radical Philosophy 187 (2014): 1‒8.
The 2010 Flash Crash of the US stock markets, provoked by out-of-control High Frequency Trading algorithms, is a good example of endogenous catastrophe in the age of machine intelligence. The thought experiment of imagining the amputation of large parts of the technosphere and the disruption of the computation power that control society maintained was proposed for the first time a long time ago. In his 1948 classic Cybernetics, Wiener already asked if it were really conceivable to stop the domain of cybernetic machines without a catastrophic effect on society. Today, what is the degree of autonomy of humankind against megamachines of computation such as Google, for instance?
CATASTROPHE THEORY WITHOUT CATASTROPHISM
Goldstein had the intuition to reverse the relationship between trauma and cognition: his work seems to suggest that we should consider trauma as the modus operandi of cognition in general, rather than see cognition as a way to elaborate and overcome specific traumas. The idea that the human brain simulates and self-organizes small cognitive catastrophes could be extended, metaphorically, to the global brain of the technosphere. The computing apparatuses of the technosphere (what others would call the infosphere or, after Vladimir Vernadsky, the noosphere) are perhaps just another extension of our pre-traumatic adaptors or, more precisely, of our pro-traumatic predictors, that simulate potential catastrophes in order to solve planetary troubles. Considering also the scale of its framework, the Anthropocene paradigm is possibly one of these pro-traumatic predictors. Consistently, catastrophism is defined as the paranoid and monotonic repetition of the cognitive faculty of catastrophe simulation, indeed as the problem of seeing a catastrophe where there is none. A question by way of a conclusion: do we possess a robust paradigm of trauma at the same level and scale as planetary computation? After his introductory speech for the 2014 Anthropocene Campus at the HKW, historian of science Jürgen Renn reminded the audience that even if nuclear power were discontinued as a source of energy, the knowledge around nuclear power and infrastructure had to be maintained and cultivated. Nuclear power is a fitting case study to compare and assess trauma studies and catastrophe theories. The 1978 book Catastrophe Theory offers a diagram (inspired by the work on topology by the French mathematician René Thom) that attempts to describe the unfolding of a political crisis in relation to nuclear power.Alexander E. R. Woodcock and Monte Davis, Catastrophe Theory. New York: Dutton, 1978.
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Alexander Woodcock et al. Catastrophe Theory. New York: Dutton, 1978, fig. 35.

Thom admitted that his research on the topology of catastrophe was actually inspired by Goldstein’s idea of the catastrophic reaction of the brain, which he wanted to expand outside the domain of the psyche. Thom’s model aimed to describe biological morphogenesis, like the growth of a cell or a plant, but in fact it is very close to a description of a dynamic form of trauma. The idea behind catastrophe theory and its application to different scales and domains seems to also be an attempt to elaborate an expanded body schema for the planetary technosphere. What is common to both Goldstein and Thom is faith in the invention of higher forms of knowledge and abstraction, through which it could be possible to regain control of the technosphere when it runs out of control—and before it may strangle us like an alien hand.
The author would like to thank Nina Franz for her comments.