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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
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Sammy Baloji
  • On Barak
    • On Barak is a social and cultural historian of science and technology in non-Western settings. He has been a senior lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University since 2012. Prior to this, he was a member of the Princeton Society of Fellows. In 2009, Barak received a joint PhD in History and Middle Eastern Studies from New York University. His most recent book is On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt (University of California Press, 2013), and his current publication project, Coalonialism: Energy and Empire before the Age of Oil, is funded by a European Union Marie Curie Award and an Israel Science Foundation Grant.
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      published contributions
  • Anil Bawa-Cavia
    • Anil Bawa-Cavia is a computer scientist with a background in machine learning. He runs STDIO, a speculative software studio. His practice engages with algorithms, protocols, encodings, and other software artifacts and his doctoral research at the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London was on complex networks in urbanism. He is a founding member of Call & Response, a sonic arts collective and gallery space in London, and a member of the New Centre for Research & Practice.
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      published contributions
  • Etienne Benson
  • Josh Berson
  • Jeremy Bolen
  • Axel Braun
    • Axel Braun studied photography at the Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, and fine arts at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. His artistic research deals with controversial infrastructure projects, tautology as an attempt to understand reality, and failed utopias in art and architecture. Currently, he is pursuing the long-term project Towards an Understanding of Anthropocene Landscapes. Recently exhibited works include Some Kind of Opposition (2016) at Galeria Centralis, Budapest, and Dragonflies drift downstream on a river (2015) at Kunstmuseum Bochum.
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      published contributions
  • Keith Breckenridge
  • François Bucher
    • s, focusing on ethical and aesthetic problems of cinema and television, and more recently on the image as an interdimensional field. His work has been exhibited at
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      published contributions
  • Lino Camprubí
  • Zachary Caple
  • Ele Carpenter
    • Dr. Ele Carpenter is a senior lecturer in curating at Goldsmiths, London. Her curatorial practice responds to interdisciplinary socio-political contexts such as the nuclear economy and the relationship between craft and code.
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      published contributions
  • Andrew Chubb
    • Andrew Chubb is a PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia conducting research on the relationship between Chinese public opinion and government policy in the South China Sea. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Contemporary China, Pacific Affairs, East Asia Forum, and Information, Communication & Society. His blog, South Sea Conversations (southseaconversations.wordpress.com), provides translations and analysis of Chinese discourse on the South and East China Sea issues.
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      published contributions
  • Louis Chude-Sokei
    • Louis Chude-Sokei is a writer and scholar currently teaching in the English Department at the University of Washington, Seattle. His academic interests range from West African, Caribbean, and American literary and cultural studies to a particular focus on sound, technology, and performance. His literary and public work focuses on immigration and black-on-black cultural contacts, conflicts, and exchanges. Chude-Sokei is the author of the award-winning book The Last “Darky”: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (2006) and The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics (2016).
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      published contributions
  • Claire Colebrook
    • Claire Colebrook is a professor of English at Penn State University. Her areas of specialization are contemporary literature, visual culture, and theory and cultural studies. She has written articles on poetry, literary theory, queer theory, and contemporary culture. Colebrook is the co-editor of the series Critical Climate Change, published by Open Humanities Press, and a member of the advisory board of the Institute for Critical Climate Change. She recently completed two books on extinction for Open Humanities Press, Death of the PostHuman and Sex after Life (both 2014), and with Tom Cohen and J. Hillis Miller co-authored Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols (2016).
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      published contributions
  • Rana Dasgupta
  • Filip De Boeck
    • Filip De Boeck is actively involved in teaching, promoting, coordinating and supervising research in and on Africa at the Institute for Anthropological research in Africa at the U
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Seth Denizen
    • Seth Denizen is a researcher and design practitioner trained in landscape architecture and evolutionary biology. Since completing research on the sexual behavior and evolutionary ecology of small Trinidadian fish, his work has focused on the aesthetics of scientific representation, madness, and public parks, the design of t
    • 1
      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
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Orit Halpern
    • Orit Halpern is a Strategic Hire in Interactive Design and an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal. Her work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design and art practice. She is also a co-director of the Speculative Life Research Cluster, Montreal, a laboratory situated at the intersection of art and life sciences, architecture and design, and computational media (www.speculativelife.com). Her recent monograph, Beautiful Data (2015), is a history of interactivity, data visualization, and ubiquitous computing. www.orithalpern.net
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      published contributions
  • Carola Hein
    • Carola Hein is a professor of the history of architecture and urban planning in the Architecture Department at Delft University of Technology. She has published widely on topics in contemporary and historical architectural and urban planning, notably that of Europe and Japan. Her current research interests include transmission of architectural and urban ideas along international networks, focusing specifically on port cities, and the global architecture of oil. Her books include Port Cities: Dynamic Landscapes and Global Networks (2011), Cities, Autonomy, and Decentralization in Japan (2006), and The Capital of Europe: Architecture and Urban Planning for the European Union (2004).
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      published contributions
  • Julian Henriques
    • Julian Henriques is the convener of the MA in Script Writing and Director of the Topology Research Unit in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. Prior to this, he ran the film and television department at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at the University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica. His credits as a writer and director include the reggae musical feature film Babymother (1998) and as a sound artist, Knots & Donuts, exhibited at Tate Modern in 2011. Henriques researches street cultures and technologies and his publications include Changing the Subject: Psychology, Social Regulation, and Subjectivity (1998), Sonic Bodies: Reggae Sound Systems, Performance Techniques, and Ways of Knowing (2011), and Sonic Media (forthcoming).
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      published contributions
  • Hanna Husberg
    • Hanna Husberg is a Stockholm-based artist. She graduated from ENSB-A in Paris in 2007 and is currently a PhD in Practice candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.
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      published contributions
  • Erich Hörl
  • Timothy Johnson
  • Peter K. Haff
  • Laleh Khalili
  • Alexander Klose
    • Dr. Alexander Klose studied History, Law, Philosophy, Art, and Cultural Studies. From 2005-07 he held a scholarship at Bauhaus Universität Weimar for his PhD project on standardized containers used in transport as one of the leading material media in the 20th century. Between 2009 and 2014 he worked as a research associate and programme developer at Kulturstiftung des Bundes. In 2015 in the forefront of COP 21, he co-curated Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge No. 18 – On Becoming Earthlings: 150 dialogues and exercises in shrinking and expanding the Human at Musée de l'Homme, Paris. His latest publication is: The Container Principle. How a box changes the way we think (2015).
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      published contributions
  • Karin Knorr Cetina
  • 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
    • 1
      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–).
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Katerina Teaiwa
    • Dr. Katerina Teaiwa is Associate Professor at the Department of Gender, Media and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History & Language and the president of the Australian Association for Pacific Studies. Her main area of research looks at the histories of phosphate mining in the central Pacific. Her work does not only span academic research, publications, and lectures, but also manifests itself in other formats within the arts and popular culture. Her work has inspired a permanent exhibition at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, which tells the story of Pacific phosphate mining through Banaban dance. In 2015, she published „Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba“, Indiana University Press. She is currently working with visual artist Yuki Kihara on a multimedia exhibition for Carriageworks in Sydney.
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      published contributions
  • Jol Thomson
  • Claire Tolan
  • John Tresch
  • Etienne Turpin
    • Etienne Turpin is a philosopher, Founding Director of anexact office, and a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, where he coordinates the Humanitarian Infrastructures Group and co-directs the PetaBencana.id disaster mapping project for the Urban Risk Lab. He is the editor of Architecture in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Design, Deep Tim
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      published contributions
  • Asonseh Ukah
    • Asonzeh Ukah is a sociologist and historian of religion. He joined the University of Cape Town in 2013 and previously taught at the University of Bayreuth (2005–13), where he also earned a doctorate and habilitation in history of religions. His research interests include religious urbanism, the sociology of Pentecostalism, and religion and media. He is Director of the Research Institute on Christianity and Society in Africa (RICSA), University of Cape Town, and Affiliated Senior Fellow of Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS), University of Bayreuth. He is the author of A New Paradigm of Pentecostal Power (2008) and Bourdieu in Africa (edited with Magnus Echtler, 2016).
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      published contributions
  • Underworlds
  • Sebastian Vehlken
    • Sebastian Vehlken is a media theorist and cultural historian at Leuphana University Lüneburg and Permanent Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (MECS). From 2013 to 2017, he worked as MECS Junior Director, and in 2015–16, he was a visiting professor at Humboldt-Universität Berlin, the University of Vienna, and Leuphana. His areas of interest include the theory and history of computer simulation and digital media, the media history of swarm intelligence, and the epistemology of think tanks. His current research project, Plutonium Worlds, explores the application of computer simulations in West German fast breeder reactor programs.
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      published contributions
  • Vladimir Vernadsky
  • Davor Vidas
    • Davor Vidas is a research professor in international law and Director of the Law of the Sea Programme at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Lysaker, Norway. He is Chair of the Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise and a member of the Anthropocene Working Group. Vidas has been involved in international law research for over thirty years, focusing since 2009 on implications of the Anthropocene for the development of international law. Among his books are The World Ocean in Globalisation (2011) and Law, Technology and Science for Oceans in Globalisation (2010). He is the editor-in-chief of the book series Anthropocene (Skolska knjiga, Zagreb), launched in 2017.
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      published contributions
  • Hannes Wiedemann
    • Hannes Wiedemann is a Berlin-based photographer. He studied at the Ostkreuz School of Photography, Berlin. For his project Grinders (2015–16), he followed the American bodyhacking community, a small group of people across the United States working out of garages and basements to become real cyborgs. Recent exhibitions include NEW PHOTOGRAPHY II (2017) at Gallery ALAN, Istanbul, and HUMAN UPGRADE, with Susanna Hertrich (2016), at Schader-Stiftung Gallery, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt. www.hanneswiedemann.com
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      published contributions
  • Cary Wolfe
    • Cary Wolfe is Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Professor of English and Founding Director of 3CT: Center for Critical and Cultural Theory at Rice University, Houston. He is the author of What Is Posthumanism? (2010), a book that weaves together principal concerns of his work: animal studies, system theory, pragmatism, and post-structuralism. It is part of the series Posthumanities, for which he serves as Founding Editor at the University of Minnesota Press. His most recent publication is Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in Biopolitical Frame (2013) and earlier books and edited collections include Animal Rites: American Culture, The Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory (2003) and Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal (2003).
    • 1
      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.
    • 1
      published contributions
Iran Today 1960
A view over the Abadan city and refinery

Port Cities: Nodes in the Global Petroleumscape between Sea and Land

Mapping the interplay between oil corporations, coastal regions, colonial and post-colonial politics, historian of architecture and urbanism Carola Hein investigates the establishment, transformation, and possible future of the global petroleumscape. The result is a portolan chart of the networked infrastructure of extraction, refining, transport, and storage by which the open sea faces the continental hinterlands.
Each city receives its form from the desert it opposes; and so the camel driver and the sailor see Despina, a border city between two deserts.Italo Calvino, Le città invisibili. Torino: Giulio Einaudi Editore,1972; trans William Weaver, “3: Cities and Desire”in Invisible Cities. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1976.

Like the imaginary Despina, port cities have two sharply differing faces: facing the sea, they are industrial and globally identical, and facing the land, they are multifunctional and locally integrated. Global petroleum has long been a critical agent in shaping port cities’ global geographies, which are simultaneously maritime, urban, and rural. Its infrastructure at major production and transformation sites punctuates networks of consumption, and the industry is sustained by intangible, international flows of finance and ideas. This confluence of politics, economics, and geography has produced a single, but layered landscape—a palimpsestic petroleumscape. Port cities are key nodes in the flows of petroleum, where kilometers of oil infrastructure ‒ including storage tanks, refineries, and pipelines ‒ occupy prominent spaces. They are paradigms of the petroleumscape.

Oil Ports from the Sea and from the Land
Viewed from the sea, oil ports are almost uniform, characterized by almost identical industrial structures. Refineries, storage tanks, and pipelines signal the presence of global petroleum flows. They can serve incoming vessels whether they carry oil or refined products, and no matter in which direction the vessels arrive. These structures illustrate how industrialization has served as a global equalizer, and both the production of petroleum products and its consumption showcase globalization. While the petroleumscape within the port is particularly visible and notably similar everywhere, it produces a second urbanism in the port city and its hinterland, that is more diverse and features local adaptation. That is, viewed from the land, the uniformity of the port city’s industrial petroleumscape dissolves. Diverse actors, global, national, regional, and local negotiate a distinctive presence in the port city and region. Throughout the twentieth century, as oil companies (and states) sought to transport oil from production sites to refineries, and, ultimately, to the consumer, they expanded their distribution networks by building railways, roads, and pipelines to access the hinterland in the United States, Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. Port cities have become petroleum nodes on every continent because corporate and public interests collaborated on various parts of the supply chain, from oil extraction to transportation to transformation and resale. Refineries and other petroleum facilities thrived in proximity to the port, at the transition point between water- and land-based infrastructure generally. Oil infrastructure overlapped here with other aspects of the dynamic, multi-scalar, and interconnected petroleumscape, including transportation, administration, and consumption. Rotterdam is just one example, with its oil-related infrastructure spanning the inner city to the tip of the port, the Maasvlakte II terminal (Fig. 5 at the end of the text). Almost identical oil facilities are situated along the shores of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, or the Elbe River in Hamburg. Port areas around the world, from Dubai to Singapore, from Abadan to Port Harcourt, display similar structures.

Parallel Stories in Global Oil Ports
Investments in expensive infrastructure have guided petroleum flows for over 150 years. We can trace this history in the ups and downs of Philadelphia’s refineries along the Schuylkill RiverCarola Hein, “Refineries (Oil),” Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia (2016). Philadelphia, NJ: The State University of New Jersey (http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org).
(Fig. 2). Already an industrialized port city with global networks, and boasting extensive under-developed available land along the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers, the city offered the new industry the necessary rail- and water infrastructures as well as access to water. New refineries, storage tanks, pipelines, and railway lines constructed in the late 1860s amidst apple orchards, made Philadelphia a global player. In Pennsylvania more largely, private owners and state-funded entities had built long-distance railroads to carry anthracite coal along the course of the Schuylkill River to Philadelphia; now they transported oil from the oil fields to both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Seafaring vessels carried petroleum in barrels along the coasts and across the oceans. Standard Oil, which sold kerosene for lamps in China as early as the 1890s, owned its own fleet of ships. This fleet also carried oil from Philadelphia to Shanghai and other treaty ports in Asia. By 1912, petroleum had become “one of the most important industries of Philadelphia.John James Macfarlane, Manufacturing in Philadelphia, 1683‒1912: With Photographs of Some of the Leading Industrial Establishments. Philadelphia, NJ: Philadelphia Commercial Museum, 1912, p. 65.
Oil export was closely linked to the shipping business, and by 1912, the Philadelphia port was in its heyday. After companies finished consolidating the refineries on a handful of sites, notably on the Schuylkill, the presence of the oil industry continued to influence spatial decisions, and continues to do so to this day.
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Fig. 1: The Belmont Petroleum Refinery stood on the Schuylkill River in 1866 and was later dismantled because of its location upstream of the city’s water supply. Library Company of Philadelphia.

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Fig. 2: The Atlantic Petroleum Storage Company on the Schuylkill River, Atlantic Petroleum Storage Company Advertisement, 1866. Library Company of Philadelphia.

Petroleum has had a similarly strong and transformative presence in many other port cities. With the beginning of commercial oil extraction in Western Pennsylvania, corporations quickly reshaped cities and landscapes, initially for the benefit of the oil industry, often with support from public entities. All the ports along the Northeast European coastline, from Hamburg to Antwerp, received petroleum from the United States, often via Philadelphia, from the 1860s on. Petroleum entered the markets of Germany, The Netherlands, and Belgium, first as light oil, and later as benzene for cars. Indeed, corporations and public entities again reshaped landscapes to facilitate the consumption of gasoline by the growing number of cars. Among all these changes, production for local consumption was not the only goal; the industrial petroleumscape in the port cities stretched out its tentacles to the hinterland, often serving other countries beyond national boundaries. Private companies built railway lines, pipelines, tunnels, bridges, and even airports in their attempt to facilitate trade. The relationship of port and city, of water and land-based infrastructure, became a major element in a company’s choice of location for its refining infrastructure. In the case of Rotterdam, cities expanded to serve the needs of oil companies. Here, the de Monchy family of merchants owned the firm Pakhuismeesteren, the first company to store petroleum in the city.Huibert Schijf, “Mercantile Elites in the Ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, 1850–1940,” in Carola Hein (ed.), Port Cities: Dynamic Landscapes and Global Networks. London: Routledge, 2011.; Vopak, Onze historie. https://www.vopak.nl/onze-historie (accessed March 14. 2017)
The economic elite were closely associated with political brokers, including those driving the annexation of Charlois. After several years of negotiations, in 1895, Charlois officially became part of Rotterdam, and the oil storage and trading center.Arie van der Schoor, De Dorpen Van Rotterdam: Van Ontstaan Tot Annexatie. Rotterdam: Ad Donker Publishing, 2013.
By that time, the urbanized area in the Western Netherlands, also called the Randstad, where railways had first connected the main cities on the Western shore, saw the construction of railway lines towards the German industrial areas just across the border, lines that would also come to serve the oil industry. In the competition between the Northwest European oil ports, this connection would be of key importance. Over time, Rotterdam would first bypass Amsterdam and Antwerp and then later the North German ports (Fig. 3). It created the foundation for the long-term development of Rotterdam as an oil port just at a time when new global players in oil emerged.Carola Hein, “Rotterdamse Olie-Industrie in Historisch Perspectief,” 2016, Europoort Kringen (http://www.europoortkringen.nl/?s=Carola+Hein); Carola Hein, “Analyzing the Palimpsestic Petroleumscape Of Rotterdam,” Global Urban History Blog, 2016 (https://globalurbanhistory.com/?p=2071&shareadraft=57ea1be60f827).
As inventors created new uses for petroleum products and as companies aggressively brought them to market, oil became a dominant resource in daily life around the world.
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Fig. 3: The transformation of the Rotterdam port during the oil revolution: 1862, 1882, 1930, 1936, 1950, 1964, 1972, 2015. Copyright: Oil and the Rotterdam Port, by Carola Hein/Bernhard Colenbrander/Alexander Koutamanis, CC BY NC SA 4.0.

Simultaneously, oil companies and states sought to assure transportation of oil from the production site to the refinery and, ultimately, to the consumer. Colonial empires grew around oil networks. Cities like the oil port Abadan in the province of Khuzestan in Southern Iran where a refinery was established in 1911, and other towns built by the Anglo-Persian Petroleum company (later named Anglo-Iranian Petroleum Company ‒ a predecessor of British Petroleum (BP)) in the early 20th century to produce, transfer, and refine oil, illustrate how modern technology in the port served as the basis for introduction of foreign lifestyles through housing for expatriates and workers, or new urban amenities such as swimming pools, hospitals, and members’ clubs. The end of Europe’s colonial empires and subsequent post-colonial nationalization coincided with the expansion of the United States’ global oil interests and its related restructuring of global networks and transportation infrastructure. As oil became more important to the national interest, many oil-rich countries nationalized oil reserves and foreign-owned infrastructure, including refineries, at times using the resulting new wealth to create new infrastructure, including new capital cities. Then, as the former colonial powers had to leave, oil companies rebuilt refineries back home, but remained involved, where possible, in the post-colonial oil business. The case of Nigeria exemplifies the entanglement of global oil companies in post-colonial oil exploration and the development of new urban structures, including new ports in exporting countries. Royal Dutch Shell (as Shell D’Arcy) discovered oil at Oloibiri in 1956, and Nigerian crude oil was exported from Port Harcourt after 1958.Neeraj Bhatia and Mary Casper (eds), “Between Oil and Water: The Logistical Petroleumscape,” in The Petropolis of Tomorrow. New York: Actar/Architecture at Rice, 2013.
The petroleum industry sparked urban development in Port Harcourt and the conception and construction of the new capital city, Abuja, in the center of the country, as well as the growth of Lagos Port, through which consumer goods and raw materials entered the country. The impact of petroleum exploration thus extends beyond production sites to locations of administration as well as to new urban developments and investment of oil funds: an urbanism fueled by oil. As oil networks expanded, new producers created additional oil ports featuring well-known industrial features, thus developing yet another set of relationships with neighboring cities. In the 1970s, Sheikh Rashid constructed Port Jebel Ali in Dubai to compete with a neighboring emirate and to secure oil profits.Stephen J. Ramos, “Dubai's Jebel Ali Port. Trade, Territory and Infrastructure,” in Carola Hein (ed.) Port Cities: Dynamic Landscapes and Global Networks. London: Routledge, 2011.
He used foreign ideas and consultants for engineering, planning, and architecture (including concepts for company towns), reinventing and reimagining the port city at a new, unprecedented scale. The governments of the new global players, such as China and Russia, are directly involved in the economies and spaces of the regions of oil flows; they plan the spaces for oil as part of the urban infrastructure and function of the neighboring city and region. Public and private partners have the capital and the resources ‒ but not necessarily the incentive ‒ to contribute positively to the process of planning and overcoming the petroleumscape.

Petroleum Ports beyond Oil
Changes to petroleum activities and requirements have had a major impact on cities, and by extension, to the ports that serve them: from the use of the waterfront to the construction of infrastructure, company headquarters, and housing facilities. Some of this infrastructure, such as the railways and road networks, has survived and shaped later patterns of use; others, such as shipping routes, have disappeared with little trace. Today, petroleum interests are again shifting the locations of their infrastructure, leaving behind spaces that will require redevelopment, and forever transforming new areas. They are moving exploration and production facilities ever further out to sea, rebuilding and revamping refineries, and bringing new greenfield refineries to life. These transformations present states and cities with new opportunities for comprehensive planning, including careful consideration of their environmental impact and potential as redevelopment and heritage sites. Some of the abandoned areas can be reused for other activities, but the pervasive quality of oil interests, and the economic and environmental burden of the cleanup, often prevents cities from liberating centrally located spaces. Over the decades, for example, the industrial complex in Philadelphia has become an obstacle to urban development. When use of these refineries was declining, the high cost of cleaning up the highly polluted sites prevented the city from closing them (Fig. 4). In 2011, a new urban future seemed to be in sight after the American petroleum and petrochemical manufacturer SUNOCO threatened to close its struggling refineries on the Schuylkill River.Dealbook, “Sunoco to Sell Refineries,” The New York Times, September 6, 2011 (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/09/06/sunoco-to-sell-refineries/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0). Andrew Maykuth, “Sunoco to Sell or Close Its Refineries in Philadelphia, Marcus Hook,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 2, 2011 (http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20110907_Sunoco_to_sell_or_close_its_refineries_in_Philadelphia__Marcus_Hook.html).
But a shale oil boom in the US revived the company’s financial viability,“Revived Sunoco Refinery Could Be Worth $1 Billion Plus,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 6, 2015 (http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20150806_Revived_Sunoco_refinery_could_be_worth__1_billion_plus.html).
as Bakken oil started to be brought in by rail from North Dakota.Energy Information Administration, 2015, “Total Crude by Rail” (http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/2015/04/01/105014309b.png).
By January 2015, more than 33.7 million barrels of crude oil were transported by rail in the US, fifty times the amount that had been shipped five years earlier. Having tanker railcars regularly run through a city of 1.5 million inhabitants in a metropolitan area of some 6 million is to invite trouble. No major accident has happened so far, but the only reason to transport oil through a densely populated metropolitan area is to maintain a refinery established more than a hundred years earlier. Discussions of Philadelphia as an energy hub or a green city contend with the inertia of the oil infrastructure that, once established, draws oil flows even into regions that would not attract such flows today.

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Fig. 4: Philadelphia’s oil refineries, shown here in a 1980 photograph taken from the Passyunk Street Bridge. Library of Congress, Carol M. Highsmith collection.

In Rotterdam, innovative refining technologies blocks cities from reclaiming these sites in the near future. Today, BP refinery in Rotterdam, which started production in 1967, includes facilities at Europoort and Pernis. Its production capacity of 400,000 barrels of crude per day with a storage capacity of 4.5 million cubic meters illustrates the growth of the industry. Today, five refineries are located in the port of Rotterdam, and several more are connected to it: Total/Lukoil in Vlissingen, Shell in Godorf, BP/Rosneft in Gelsenkirchen, and Total and ExxonMobil in Antwerp, make the port of Rotterdam one of the largest petroleum nodes in the world. The Clingendael Institute, a Dutch think tank, recently evaluated the refineries in Northwest Europe and concluded that many of the installations in Rotterdam and Antwerp were so-called “Last Man Standing” or “Must-Run” refineries.CIEP, “Long-Term Prospects for Northwest European Refining. Asymmetric Change: A Looming Government Dilemma? With contributions by Robbert van den Bergh, Michiel Nivard, and Maurits Kreijkes. The Hague: CIEP, 2016.
The existence and staying power of the Rotterdam oil port may mean that fossil fuels will be directed there even while other refineries close, unless the port players opt for a different strategy. Despite the growing crisis of climate change, the growth of new renewable energy sources, and the need for circular economies aimed at a long-term use of materials, and at recovering and regenerating products at the end of their lifecycle, the oil era will probably not end soon. The critical role of shipping and ports in global petroleum commerce thus will also likely continue into the future. Ships continue to be the main form of transporting petroleum across the world’s oceans. Even pipelines ‒ within continents, as an alternative to shipping ‒ are often linked to ports because ships navigate the oceans. The global rise in sea levels particularly challenges port cities and the historic locations of refineries, yet another dimension in the relationship between water and oil. As we become more aware of the ways in which oil logistics produce similar spatial templates in port cities and elsewhere, and how those templates linger beyond their original function, the re-planning of this technosphere merits greater consideration. In appreciating the power of and extent of oil, we can engage with the complex challenges of creating sustainable architectural and urban design and policy, developing novel concepts for the heritage of oil, and meaningfully imagining the future of built environments beyond oil. It remains to be seen whether corporate and governmental players that control oil can re-design coastal cities in anticipation of broader cultural needs and uses. Democratic intervention and public input are needed to address the distinctiveness of each port city and its hinterland, designing its own way forward past identical global challenges of overcoming oil.
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Fig. 5: Aerial view of the oil installations in the Port of Rotterdam. Carola Hein 2015.