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

When the Sea Begins to Dominate the Land

What happens to the baselines under the international law of the sea when coastlines are no longer stable? In this interview, legal scholar Davor Vidas presents a wide horizon of connections between the exploitation of submarine resources and the zoning of maritime and territorial space and discusses how rising sea levels and offshore artificial structures are creating a host of challenges for the future of the Law of the Sea.
Technosphere Magazine: International law rests on the permanency or stability of the division between land and sea. The coast serves as a sort of baseline for not only mapping but also thinking territory, the law of nations and sovereignty. But with sea levels rising, with the creation of artificial islands, beach theft and seashore dredging, the world’s coasts are no longer a permanent feature. How can we reconcile this shifting of the baselines with our codified architecture of international law?
Davor Vidas: That question involves several layers, three at least. Each of these relates to a different fundamental consideration of international law as we know it today and as it applies to the seas and oceans—that is, the international law of the sea. The first consideration concerns the clear distinction between the land and the sea on which the law of the sea is based, and hence also its difference from the law applicable to land areas. The second is that of permanency or stability—and here let me stress that this is a matter of relative or general stability, based on experience so far, and not absolute stability (think of the changing conditions of, for instance, northern Denmark coast of Jutland or Ganges/Brahmaputra River delta and the coast of Bangladesh). It is that understanding of general stability of the land versus the sea that underlies the concept of a baseline from which various maritime zones of either full sovereignty or only some sovereign rights and exclusive jurisdiction are determined. And the third consideration is that of the rights that might be derived from artificial structures, be these various coastal installations or sea platforms—in other words, our interventions involving technical or technological solutions to either maintain or adjust the land/sea ratio or respond to the increasing instability of natural conditions. (This, by the way, must be distinguished from attempts to create new rights over the sea, by artificial islands or the like.) Here we must recall the emergence of a new and overall context. That is a thoroughly unique context, as far as human civilization is concerned: the context of a change of epochs in the history of the Earth. We are leaving, or have probably already left, the conditions of the Holocene—which was characterized, especially in its later stage, by the longest generally stable interval of temperate conditions of the Earth system since the appearance of Homo sapiens. What we are already witnessing is the initial onset of the new, different conditions of the Anthropocene, marked by increasing pace of change, instability and unpredictability in the behavior of the Earth system. That overall context is highly relevant for international law in general, and for each of the three fundamental considerations of the law of the sea which I mentioned.
Technosphere Magazine: Could you elaborate a little more on those aspects, or three fundamental considerations as you introduced them, also in respect of the changes we are witnessing in the Anthropocene?
Davor Vidas: First, the distinction between the land and the sea is clearly stated in the basic axiom of the law of the sea: “The land dominates the sea.” This means that rights over different areas of the sea, or distinct maritime zones such as a 12-mile territorial sea or a 200-mile exclusive economic zone, are based on the sovereignty that a coastal state has over the land. Moreover, that maritime boundaries between states are determined with reference to their coastal features.
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Source: TALOS Manual (5th edition, 2014)

Second, there is the continuation of the axiom “the land dominates the sea“—specifying that the land dominates the sea “by the intermediary of the coastal front.“ In essence, that “intermediary“ is what, in the law of the sea, is termed—the baseline. That is a line, marked on an official chart, which either follows the configuration of the coast (a “normal“ baseline) or is composed of straight lines connecting certain basepoints of deeply indented or highly developed coasts, as with the coasts of Norway or Croatia (a “straight“ baseline). All maritime zones of coastal states are determined by measuring the legally defined distances from the baselines.
Third, the development of the law of the sea, especially as related to the continental shelf, has led to various artificial structures at sea, for instance oil and gas platforms. But the law of the sea is explicit on the status of such artificial islands or installations: they do not possess the legal status of (natural) islands and have no territorial sea of their own, and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the maritime zones such as the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf. All this is codified in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea—the “Constitution for the Oceans,” as it is often called—which entered into force in 1994, and is today legally binding on 167 states and the European Union. The Convention is almost universally applied, also by non-parties. The problem looming on the horizon, however, concerns the increasing changes in natural conditions, such as sea levels, which had remained remarkably stable for the past six to seven thousand years. That is, ultimately, what made possible the axiom that “the land dominates the sea—by the intermediary of the coastal front.” This presupposes the general stability of the sea-level and, accordingly, of the coastal baselines. A significant change in those conditions, as predicted by the latest IPCC report as well as by even more recent scientific findings, could call into question the cornerstone of the architecture of today's law of the sea.
It is one thing when the “land dominates the sea”, as couched in legal formulas conceived in a situation of relatively stable natural conditions, like those of the late Holocene. A quite different situation is when the sea starts to dominate the land, in consequence of natural rather than political changes. That is the horizon of the Anthropocene.
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And here the question of “artificial structures”—the role of the technosphere—might re-emerge in a new light, once we begin looking for solutions.
Technosphere Magazine: Your work in the law of the sea touches upon a geological feature that is basically submerged from our usual attention: the continental shelf. Please explain why this stretch of seabed is so pivotal in conceptualizing international rights and delimitations.
Davor Vidas: The main development of the law of the sea, initiated in the aftermath of World War II, drew on a geological basis: viewing the continental shelf as a submarine prolongation of the land territory of coastal states. The key argument here was that mineral (fossil) resources of that submarine area belong geologically to the same pool as those resources found on the land which forms part of the same continental mass. Out of the World War II came also various new technologies, many of them concerning new applications for fossil fuels, and a commitment by the governments of several industrially advanced countries to subsidized research and development. The continental shelf as a concept of international law was initially articulated shortly after the end of the war: in September 1945 by a Proclamation issued by the US President Truman. The purpose was clearly defined: to extend the sovereign rights to new, distant borders under the sea, related to the exploitation of oil and gas from vast submarine areas. This was soon accepted by other coastal states. In a decades-long development, these external boundaries of the sovereign rights of coastal states have been gradually heading towards the outermost extent of the continental margin, at some places hundreds of miles away from the land territory. The geological concept of a continental shelf gave rise to the “legal” continental shelf. However, while the concept of a legal continental shelf was initially based on the unity of continental mass on land and its continental shelf under the sea, the temptation of resources—oil and gas in particular—extended the concept to quite different areas, ultimately far beyond the (geological) continental shelf, all the way to the edge of the continental margins, and beyond. At first, though, that was only a theoretical option, opened by a (not very carefully drafted) legal provision. The key point in that story was back in 1958, when the Convention on the Continental Shelf was adopted at the First UN Conference on the Law of the Sea held in Geneva. In that Convention, the outer limit of the continental shelf was not defined with direct reliance on geology. Instead, the Geneva Convention contained a double criterion for defining the “legal” outer limit: to a depth of 200 meters, or beyond that limit, to where the depth of the superjacent waters admits of the exploitation of the natural resources. In effect, that second criterion was left dependent on technology feasibility and its development. That proved to be an open formula that made the outer limit of the continental shelf subject to unforeseeable changes, opening huge prospects for nations that were industrially developed and geographically favorably situated. It soon became conceivable that the criterion of “exploitability” might lead to constantly expanding claims and, in theory (depending on technology and economic feasibility), to the apportionment of the entire ocean floor by some coastal states. That, in turn, led to the initiative for negotiating a new convention, which remains in force today: the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Technosphere Magazine: What about the exploitation of marine natural resources and marine environments in general? Are the coastal margins, the seafloor and the oceans in general merely just another area or space cultivated by the technosphere?
Davor Vidas: Most of the delegates at the 1958 Geneva Conference apparently did not believe that technological advances could in any near future enable the oil industry to develop structures that would permit drilling at depths of 200 meters. Less than ten years later, in 1967, Ambassador Arvid Pardo of Malta delivered what has since been recognized as a famous law-of-the-sea speech in the UN Gen¬eral Assembly. He argued for the establishment of an international regime for the sea-bed beyond the limits of “clearly” and “reasonably” defined national jurisdiction (as defined at that time!), and for the use of the resources thereof in the interests of mankind, with particular regard to the needs of poor countries. That initiative has become a familiar part of the modern history of the law of the sea. It was based on the argument that rapidly developing technology makes possible the exploration and exploitation of the world’s sea-beds and much of its ocean floor, and that some strategic minerals (like copper, cobalt, and nickel), that are limited on land, are still abundant on the sea floor. However, arguing for the objectives of this 1967 initiative, Malta (and the countries supporting it) in fact called for a new reconciliation of geology and law with economy. This was then seen in the light of the “New International Economic Order” as the ideological basis for redistributing the benefits from resource exploitation between industrially developed and developing nations. Ultimately, all this led to a major development of the law of the sea during the last third of the 20th century, which triggered the convening, in 1973, of the Third UN Conference of the Law of the Sea—and eventually resulted in the law-of-the-sea framework that we have today: the 1982 Convention. An interesting thing in that Convention is the shortest and the longest definition of a maritime area. The shortest one is the definition of international sea-bed area, which is considered, with its resources, as being the “common heritage of mankind.” The definition of the “Area” (as found in Article 1 of the Convention) reads: “sea-bed and subsoil beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.” A total of nine words, for all the vast expanses lying under the sea, beyond continental shelves of individual states… The longest definition is, however, the one on the continental shelf, as found in Article 76 of the Convention: it consists of 632 words in all. Here, states took great care to define what portion of the submarine areas (and resources) should belong under their sovereign rights and exclusive jurisdiction, rather than fall beyond these. In summation, we can say that the continental shelf of a coastal state may comprise submarine areas throughout the “prolongation” of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, but shall (notwithstanding provisions on submarine ridges) not exceed 350 nautical miles from the baselines. However, this does not apply to submarine elevations that are natural components of the continental margin, such as its plateaus, rises, caps, banks and spurs… As the geological science and technical means develop, options for extending the continental shelf expand—and, in consequence, the international sea-bed area regarded as the “common heritage of mankind” shrinks.
Technosphere Magazine: Would you say that codified law in itself is a feature of the technosphere? Are we reshaping the baselines of our law with our technologies?
Davor Vidas: Much of what we have seen since the end of World War II, when the development leading to the current law of the sea as codified in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea began (starting with the 1945 Truman Proclamation), would indicate that we have used technology for reshaping, or, more accurately put, for constantly pushing further the outer limits—if not the baselines—of rights of coastal states over areas of the sea. This concerns especially the submarine areas beyond the territorial sea: the legal “continental shelf,” which is considerably wider than merely a geological shelf. The reason was straightforward enough: to gain exclusive rights over oil and gas found under the sea, beyond what had been the final border of coastal states' rights at sea.
In that sense, it could be said that we have been reshaping the law as soon as the technology became available (sometimes even in anticipation of that), as economic interests demanded.
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However, the way of presenting this—in legal documents or international judicial decisions—has seldom been explicitly linked to the development of technology itself. Instead, the legal formulas have been so crafted as to show the origins of expanded rights over the sea or submarine areas as being based on sovereignty over the land. For instance, concerning the legal nature of the right of the coastal state over the continental shelf, the International Court of Justice stated—in its famous judgement in the 1969 North Sea Continental Shelf cases involving Germany vs. the Netherlands, and Denmark—that this is an inherent right which exists ipso facto and ab initio. This would mean that a coastal state is “born” with a continental shelf as its natural prolongation, rather than having an access to it that has been made possible by technology. Nonetheless, this dictum of inherent right over the continental shelf is nowadays legally codified and also taken as a “fundamental truth” by mainstream international law theory. Be that as it may, I would say that what we have in fact been seeing, ever since the 1945 Truman Proclamation, is the extension of boundaries of coastal states' rights over the sea, as well as a constant expansion of uses of the sea by means of technology—even though arguing that this is based on some different, fundamental legal principles. As I see it, the key issue, already at this stage, is to recognize the possibility of a development in a different direction: of devising technical and technological means to prevent losses related to maritime areas or marine resources—instead of extending rights over new areas or resources. There is not much more to extend to, and the resource bases are diminishing as well.
In practice we are already in the Anthropocene (regardless of formal confirmation)—and the problem that will increasingly confront us is that international law, as codified today, is still based on the implicit assumption of enduring Holocene conditions.
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Our international laws were formulated for a factual situation which, based on human experience so far, was taken for granted: that we will continue applying international law in the same epoch as when it emerged, through several centuries of development. What happened in the course of those centuries is not only a political change but—increasingly since the mid-20th century—also a change in the natural conditions of the Earth system itself.
Technosphere Magazine: In some of your earlier interventions you mentioned the idea of "vertical sharing". What do you mean by this concept?
Davor Vidas: Legal regimes in maritime areas differ not only “horizontally” but also “vertically.” Horizontal difference relies on the coastal baselines: measured from these, for the first 12 nautical miles, the territorial sea extends (where the coastal state has complete sovereignty), and from the outer limit of the territorial sea follows the exclusive economic zone (with fewer sovereign rights of the coastal state, mainly for fishing) until 200 nautical miles from baselines, and, in the submarine area, the continental shelf (and sovereign rights to its mineral resources), which can also extend far beyond 200 miles. Everything beyond those zones is the maritime area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. However, this is not a uniform legal area, as it consists of the high seas (free for all) in the water column, and the seabed which is the common heritage of mankind. However, as the result of the differing horizontal extents of the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf, there is a vertical difference between what is “beyond the limits of national jurisdiction” in the high seas, on the one hand, and submarine area, on the other—as these do not overlap completely. A major new development in the law of the sea relates to the conservation and sustainable use of the marine biodiversity beyond the limits of national jurisdiction—consisting of both the high seas and the deep seabed. Here we are speaking about an area that covers nearly half of the surface of the Earth, and with a key role in the biosphere of our planet! More recently, negotiations have been ongoing in the UN, currently within a preparatory committee, with a view to convening an international conference to discuss a new implementing agreement to the UN Law of the Sea Convention. Some of the contours of that new instrument can be discerned already: they would involve environmental impact assessments, as well as area protection and management for preserving the marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. In those respects, it could be possible to start talking about “vertical sharing”: that would mean shared responsibilityDavor Vidas, "The Anthropocene and the International Law of the Sea," originally published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society-A, vol. 369, 2011, pp. 909-925, reproduced in TBA21 Journals (https://www.tba21.org/journals/article/internationallawsea).
for the marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, whether in the high seas or the deep seabed. That would mark an important shift in the current legal regime—and, possibly, a development in a new direction, as until now we have been applying land-dominating concepts to regulating the seas. If we can succeed in following that new path, then we would make an important step towards adopting measures informed by the circumstances of the new, Anthropocene context.
This interview is based on a written email conversation between Davor Vidas and Christoph Rosol for Technosphere Magazine.