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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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  • 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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      published contributions
U.S. Army - White Sands Missile Range/Applied Physics Laboratory 1946

Technosphere Verticality

With satellites and their debris now orbiting the planet, it serves to explore this beyond-stratosphere infrastructure and how it monitors the technosphere’s more terrestrial happenings. Environmental historian Johan Gärdebo introduces us to this outermost layer of the technosphere and discusses the consequences of such verticality in “environing” the Earth.
Since Sputnik, thousands of satellites have circled the Earth in ninety-minute orbits. Their electromagnetic waves now envelop the globe in a second atmosphere, a technosphere [my italics]. The dense network of data gleaned from satellite observations, and the heavy computer infrastructure enabling this to be processed, are both part of the solution [. . .] and part of the problem.Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth, history and us, trans. David Fernbach. New York: Verso, 2016, p. 61.
The technosphere is a term conceptualized by Peter Haff as the systemic proliferation and perpetuation of technology. “Systemic” refers both to the set of rules by which humans are incorporated as subcomponents in the expansion of the technosphere and how, subsequently, technologies are interconnected with other technologies – and these human subcomponents – in a horizontal movement of energy and matter across the Earth’s surface.Peter Haff, “Humans and technology in the Anthropocene: Six rules,” The Anthropocene Review 1, no. 2 (2014): pp. 126‒36.
Barry Commoner has also offered a similar conceptualization of the technosphere as the consumption by man-made processes across the planet’s natural environment. The power of technology was “painfully self-evident” in nuclear power plants, synthetic plastics, and chemicals for fast-growing crops that fuel overpopulation. The technospheric flow of energy and matter do not alleviate; they perpetuate societal needs on the natural system while at the same time deteriorate the habitat on which human life depends.Commoner’s concept of “environment” divides nature into a natural ecosphere and a man-made technosphere that require a more rational and just use of both environments, cf. Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle: Nature, man and technology. New York: Knopf, 1971, p. 293; Commoner later developed the concept, arguing that the technosphere has become “sufficiently large and intense to alter the natural processes that govern the ecosphere. And in turn, the altered ecosphere threatens to flood our great cities, dry up our bountiful farms, contaminate our food and water, and poison our bodies [. . .] diminishing our ability to provide for basic human needs.” See Barry Commoner, Making Peace with the Planet. New York: Pantheon, 1990, p. 7.
The quote above by Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz serves, however, to shift the basis of the technosphere’s horizontal emphasis toward the orbital layer of satellites and debris that constitutes the technosphere’s vertical expansion ‒ the vertical expansion through an orbital layer of satellites. Below, I will describe why satellite observation of Earth is a technology that represents the technosphere while at the same time it is a technology that makes representation of the technosphere possible. Firstly, the technosphere has expanded vertically into outer space where it currently constitutes an orbital layer of satellites and debris. Secondly, the satellites of the orbital layer collect data about the Earth’s surface, which over time form the digital layers of present and the past shape of the planet. The data is vertical in the sense that users can reach down in time to see what the Earth’s environment used to be. And thirdly, satellite data and debris together illustrate how the knowledge of the technosphere is a consequence of its own physical expansion.
SPATIAL VERTICALITY
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Stratagrids (Max Stocklosa and Daniel Wolters) 2016

Illustrating the technosphere’s expansion requires that technology be considered through representations of the technosphere as an infrastructural or networked whole. Examples of these are gas pipelines, intercontinental food freighting, and instant communication using an Internet connection. If the technology is networked into a flow of energy and matter, it is not only a thing unto itself but also represents a systemic component of the technosphere.Peter Haff, “Technology as a Geological Phenomenon: Implications for human well-being,” in Colin N. Waters, Jan Zalasiewicz, and Mark Williams et al. (eds), A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene. London: Geological Society, Special Publication 395, 2013, p. 2.
The horizontal movement of technology across the Earth’s surface demonstrates both the magnitude of systemic interconnections and, correspondingly, the difficulty of distinguishing human agency in the extraction of energy and matter when the expansion spans great distances with effects on several environments. Humans are users of interconnected technologies, but even more so they are dependants within this interconnection. One may be aware that transportation, heating, and consumption contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. And one may be aware that the nutrients and residue of food does not return to where these were first harvested. But can usage, agency, or accountability of these systems be attributed to any single group of people, a company, or a country? Previous efforts to distinguish agency have done so by analyzing one particular component, like cell phones for example, that then rise above the rest of the flows with which they are entangled across the Earth’s surface. Continuing the cell phone example, one could follow the devices through the mining of their minerals, assembly in factories, dissemination by transnational retailers, and eventual disposal in junkyards.A cradle-to-grave approach has been used to study flows of energy and matter vertically in the mining, production, and dissemination of digital data and debris on the surface of the Earth. Cf. Jennifer Gabrys, Digital Rubbish: A natural history of electronics. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2011; Armin Reller, Materials Critical to the Energy Industry. An introduction, Augsburg: University of Augsburg, 2012; Volker Zepf, Rare Earth Elements. A new approach to the nexus of supply, demand and use: Exemplified along the use of neodymium in permanent magnets. Berlin et al.: Springer, 2013.
Analyzing these components is important for demonstrating the agencies involved in creating the layers and sediments of the technosphere. I propose that understanding artificial satellites in a similar mode provides a clear illustration of both the agency involved in the technosphere and its vertical expansion, not only into the depths of the Earth but toward the orbital space above the Earth’s surface. The Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik-1 in 1957 was the first addition to an orbital layer. The number of satellites increased rapidly thereafter, initially as part of the Cold War arms struggle as it extended into outer space and then later becoming an operational system that linked the various satellites for the collection of data about the Earth’s surface. By 2015, nearly sixty years after the launch of the first satellites, there were more than 17,000 space objects, of over ten centimeters in size, in orbit around Earth. The vast majority of these objects are exploded rocket stages, droplets of coolants, and components of no longer functional satellites as a result of disintegration and collisions. Of the 4,060 satellites in orbit some 1,400 are operational.Sven Grahn and Kristina Pålsson, Lärobok I Militärteknik, Vol. 7: Rymdteknik [Curriculum I. Military technology: Space technology]. Stockholm: Försvarsmakten (Swedish Armed Forces), 2007. Heiner Klinkrad, Space Debris: Models and risk analysis. Berlin et al.: Springer, 2006.
The United States, Russia, and the People’s Republic of China launched most of these satellites. While over fifty countries have built satellites, only eleven nation-states own the necessary facilities to launch them. Nation-states that use satellites expanded their numbers based on political priorities that have preserved asymmetrical power relations in terms of who can utilize outer space.Lisa Parks and James Schwoch (eds), Down to Earth. Satellite technology, industries and cultures. Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2012, pp. 3, 222.
These orbital asymmetries have their corollaries in the horizontal establishment of satellite systems on the Earth’s surface; such as launching sites and receiving stations for satellite data. The nation-states of France and Sweden established satellite facilities in regions peripheral to their political centers. France used the former slave colony of French Guiana in northeastern South America as a launching pad for French, European, and later international commercial use.Peter Redfield, Space in the Tropics: From convicts to rockets in French Guiana. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.
Since the mid-twentieth century, Sweden has established a rocket facility within the indigenous Sami people’s pasturelands in the north of the country; a site that was later expanded for the commercial downlinking of data from satellites whose orbits converge near the poles of the Earth.Fredrick Backman, Making Place for Space. A history of “Space Town” Kiruna 1943‒2000. Umeå: Umeå University, 2015.
The installations mentioned here constitute only a portion of the growing satellite infrastructure. Here they serve to illustrate how outer space is utilized as part of industrial and political collaborations in sectors of society other than those with which the technological systems are involved.John Krige, American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006; John Krige, Arturo Russo, and Lorenza Sebesta, A History of the European Space Agency 1958‒1987. Vol. II: The Story of ESA, 1973‒1987. Noordwijk: ESA Publications Division, 2000.
As orbital space is increasingly littered with satellite debris, we face similar questions to those surrounding the horizontal flows of energy and matter of agency – who is accountable for the debris? Orbital debris differs from their grounded counterparts since ‒ given the scale and cost of implementing them ‒ one can inquire into who assembled, launched, and used the satellites. The agency involved in the technosphere is thereby identifiable to specific peoples, companies, and countries whose actions vertically expanded an otherwise horizontal technosphere. And as outer space is increasingly filled with things from the horizontal technosphere below, one may know the system as a whole by observing its orbital parts.
TEMPORAL VERTICALITY
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One could have envisioned most of the Earth’s orbital space as a void of things had humans not begun launching artificial satellites. But on a corresponding note, it would be hard to envision the technosphere as a concept without readily available data from the satellites orbiting Earth. Satellites, like the technologies with which they are interconnected, represent the technosphere as a whole – pars pro toto. Following a satellite’s assembly and disposal as debris is a means by which to consider the agency of an entire infrastructure. But the spatial verticality that represents the technosphere also has a temporal verticality that provides the technosphere as a representation. Satellite observation is a representation technology; satellites collect data necessary for systemic depictions of Earth from above. As satellites collect layer upon layer of data, a temporal verticality develops whereby one can sense both present and past surfaces of the Earth. Paul Edwards has demonstrated that a global world-view can be interacted with operationally once a knowledge infrastructure is established, of which sensing, processing, and dissemination of satellite data is one of the more recent forms. The knowledge infrastructure includes, here naming a few, technicians, policy-makers, and authorities who develop procedures, productions, and practices for society’s interpretation of the world. Grasping the idea of an Earth system, Edwards argues, is a functional effect of that vast infrastructure which, in its flows of energy and matter, has global reach. We know about environmental changes in that global system because there is accessible data that demonstrates how it used to be as compared to the current state. It is when you descend vertically into previous layers of data that you are able to perceive of the Earth’s global environment, providing scientific analysis and formulating ethics for its use.Paul N. Edwards, A Vast Machine: Computer models, climate data, and the politics of global warming. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010, pp. 6‒9, 22‒3 ; cf. Jennifer Gabrys. Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet. Electronic Mediations 49. University of Minnesota Press, 2016.
In order for satellite observation to represent the Earth’s global environment, the data developed from the technically possible into the politically probable and, lastly, into the institutionally practical. Regarding that which was technically possible, Sebastian Grevsmühl illustrates how satellite observation acquired an environmental rationale as a serendipitous outcome of surveillance. By the late 1960s, satellites produced a “surplus” of electro-optical data far exceeding what could be used for military purposes. Among the surplus of data were observations of regional deforestation, receding glaciers, and advancing droughts. Satellite observation was used to monitor the environment from the late twentieth century onwards because that was when it was technically possible.Sebastian Grevsmühl, “Serendipitous Outcomes in Space History: From space photography to environmental surveillance,” in Simone Turchetti and Peder Roberts (eds), The Surveillance Imperative. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp. 171‒2, 186; Sebastian Grevsmühl, La Terre vue d’en haut. L’invention de l’environnement global. Paris, Le Seuil, 2014.
However, in order to make satellite observation politically probable, as Jason Beery demonstrates, the United States and other satellite-launching nation-states negotiated within the United Nations about the use of outer space for earthly environmental concerns. Western countries framed satellite sensing as a sensible thing for the preservation of ecosystem services, which several developing countries, the Soviet Union, and the non-aligned states, opposed on the grounds that satellite sensing was also a means to survey and exploit those ecosystems.Jason D. Beery, Constellations of Power: States, capitals and natures in the co-production of outer space. The University of Manchester, 2011; Jason Beery, “Unearthing Global Natures: Outer space and scalar politics,” in Political Geography. Forthcoming, 2016; cf. James Ormrod and Peter Dickens (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Society, Culture and Outer Space. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Satellite observation according to Michel Avignon and co-authors became institutionally practical in the 1980s when United States and European efforts to commercialize data processing increased training and equipment that users could interact with and which make global data sets operational. The layer upon layer of data could be treated as part of the Earth’s environment once that global world-view was institutionally practical.cf. Michel Avignon, Cathy Dubois, and Philippe Escudier (eds), Observing the Earth from space. Malakoff: Dunod, 2014, p. 224.
Timothy Luke argues that the increasing number of references to the “environment” from the 1970s onward corresponds with the growing number of technologies that provided global world viewing, or world watching. The etymology of “environment,” Luke suggests is an English term borrowed from the Old French where the word environment is the product of a verb, “to environ.” Environing is a strategic action to physically encircle something, for example, by stationing guards around or watching over a person or place.Timothy Luke, “On environmentality: Geo-power and eco-knowledge in the discourses of contemporary environmentalism,” Cultural Critique 31 (Fall, 1995): pp. 57‒81; see also the previous version of this argument in Timothy Luke, “Beyond Leviathan, beneath Lilliput: Geopolitics and glocalization,” a Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Atlanta, GA, April 7‒9, 1993.
According to Sverker Sörlin and Paul Warde, environing links social action with frequently used separations of nature and society.Sverker Sörlin and Paul Warde, “Making the Environment Historical ‒ An Introduction,” in Sörlin and Warde (eds), Nature’s End: History and the environment. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, p. 21.
Environing refers, in this case, to a practice that co-produces nature along with society. Human agency operates within and makes the environment through everyday practices, and awareness about these practices involves many other things beyond their environmental implications. Joachim Radkau suggests that environmental awareness, for this very reason, should be analyzed in relation to other ongoing motivations; the environment happened while one was doing other things.Joachim Radkau, Nature and Power: A global history of the environment. London and Cambridge: German Historical Institute in London and Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 323.
This is a co-production that flows from nature outside humans to nature within humans as well as across several landscapes.Joseph Masco, “Bad Weather: On planetary crisis,” Social Studies of Science 40, no. 1 (2010): pp. 7‒40; James Fleming, Fixing the Climate. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.
But as demonstrated earlier in the discussion about how satellites and debris constitute the spatial verticality of the technosphere, the satellite data is a co-production that emphasizes human agency in the temporal verticality of the technosphere. The temporal verticality is important since it allows interaction with the system whose aesthetic scale provides a planetary view. Whereas the matter of the technosphere is at a scale so great humans cannot be distinguished on it, the flow of data is where humans make the technosphere knowable. At the operative scale of an interface whereby satellite observations are used to understand the technosphere, humans and the planetary system do then share size.
VERTICALITY EMPHASIzES THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMANS AND THE TECHNOSPHERE
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Hanna Arendt wrote shortly after the launch of the first satellites that the conquest of space would make the triumph of scientific man short-lived. Seeing humans as but one of several components of Earth erases the species’ exceptionalism once humans are equated with what used to be their surroundings. Now humans were a part of the environment. And observing Earth from outer space, Arendt argues, is a choice dictated by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle whereby human observation determines one aspect of nature while blurring or altering another.Hanna Arendt, “The Conquest of Space and the Stature of Man” (1963), reprinted in The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society (2007), p. 52.
The argument so far is that a vertical expansion of the technosphere constitutes data collected in order to provide a world-view of a global environment or Earth system and that this systemic knowledge, in turn, produces debris throughout the environment that is orbital space. The environing activities whereby the technosphere is envisioned, also enlarges it, eliciting the question of how the sensing and shaping of the technosphere are connected and how this allows us to interact with both its data and debris. But why is the view from above different from how humans have otherwise perceived, or not, the world as a system and a global environment? There are several counterarguments to be made based on previous vertical efforts, depictions, and intuitions of the world. First, a world-view from above is not confined to satellites or indeed any vertical medium as such. William Fox argues that an aerial view of reality, “aereality,” has been fundamental to human survival. In extreme or arid landscapes, where points of reference are few, the grounded view of human sight is to produce an operative sense of place from above, an aereality. Artists and cartographers producing maps were adapting more than they were constructing aereality, which is something that humans have been making use of long before technoscientific enterprise or the military-industrial complex funded and made prominent a world-view from above.William L. Fox, Aereality: Essays on the World from above. Berkeley, CA: Publishers Group West, 2009, pp. 3, 10, 223.
As for the conceptualization of Earth from above, Kerry Magruder attributes the circulation of a global imagery to the proliferation of new mediums in the 1700s, most notably cheaper printing techniques for books. Illustrations of Earth allowed several disciplines to converge and correspond as to how to depict a planetary reality and form subsequent debates about science and ethics for life in a global world.Kerry Magruder, “Global visions and the establishment of theories of the Earth,” Centaurus 48, no. 4 (2006): pp. 253‒4.
Both Magruder and Fox rely on Denis Cosgrove’s scholarship of how Western states and scientists in particular asserted authority over and through aerial views.Denis Cosgrove, Apollo’s Eye: A cartographic genealogy of the Earth in the Western imagination. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
In the work of Fox, Magruder, and Cosgrove there is nothing to suggest that satellites would shift human perception of Earth, nor one’s place within that global environment or system. Satellites could be considered just another medium to adapt human aereality in a longer tradition of technoscientific military enterprise. There is also the prospect that the environing of Earth is cultural. Lisa Parks argues that the Western use of outer space simulated the global Earth before there was technical capacity to produce any global data sets. Television series like the 1960s international Our World constructed a live-broadcast feel that, via satellites, could switch between different locations around the world. Parks concluded that programs in the same vein as Our World asserted fantasies of Western culture in order to later acquire a synoptic view and presence in outer space before this was technically possible.Lisa Parks, Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the televisual. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.
Each of these points of criticism deserves further study on how humans perceive the environment, but the technosphere’s verticality, its data and debris, offer a historically novel approach to how humans interact with a global environment regardless. Here it is as well to remember Yi-Fu Tuan’s account of how physical science, aesthetics, and architecture and, thereby their perceptions of environment throughout various cultures, began by the late 1700s to shift from vertical to horizontal expressions. Vertical landscape elements evoked a sense of striving, a defiance of gravity, while the horizontal elements were easier to incorporate into planning and rest. One example is the European horizontal organization of nature into spheres that unfold across the Earth’s surface of which the hydrologic cycle became widely circulated to explain transportation of matter and energy from land and sea.Yi-Fu Tuan, Topophilia: A study of environmental perception, attitudes, and values. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1974, pp. 28, 134.
The previous vertical model from Aristotle’s Meteorologica is a cosmos where water transforms into other elements; a model that sought to pedagogically translate the transcendental relationship existing between the human soul and God, where the soul is a water droplet seeking absorption into heaven or, in other cases, God as the rain that brings back sustenance to the souls of a parched Earth. As the hydrologic cycle acquired its horizontal dimension it became a physical process that did not retain previous metaphoric powers or symbolic overtones.Yi-Fu Tuan, The Hydrologic Cycle and the Wisdom of God, Department of Geography Research Publication No. 1. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968.
As a physical environment is expanded and manageable horizontally, there are no indwelling spirits of that nature mirrored in a vertical cosmos transcending the immediate landscape.Tuan, Topophilia, pp. 148, 245.
In this open horizontal space, the technosphere will always be larger than any human interacting with it. Human agency in a physical environment is also hard to perceive, because the horizontal notion assumes that the environment as something apart from the humans within it. But it has already been illustrated how humans contribute to the spatial verticality of the technosphere through the launch of satellites and debris into outer space. And it has already been suggested how data from satellites provides knowledge of a global environment with which humans can interact and know the technosphere. As a horizontal concept, the technosphere is a rich description of energy flows. But with inference from Tuan’s analysis, the technosphere requires more sophisticated formulation of its vertical elements in order to serve as a metaphor ‒ both transcendental and symbolic – for human meaning, agency, and activity. In order to know oneself, humans in the technosphere need to gaze up to the vertical life into which the technosphere has expanded, and from which humankind made a view of the technosphere possible, probable, and practical.