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Dossiers
Authors
  • Lawrence Abu Hamdan
  • Babak Afrassiabi
    • Babak Afrassiabi is an artist who works both in Iran and the Netherlands. Since 2004, he has collaborated with Nasrin Tabatabai on various joint projects and the publication of the bilingual magazine Pages (Farsi and English). Their work seeks to articulate the undecidable space between art and its historical conditions, including the recurring question of the place of the archive in defining the juncture between politics, history, and the practice of art. The artists’ work has been presented internationally in various solo and group exhibitions and they have been tutors at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht (2008–13), and Erg, école supérieure des arts, Brussels (2015–).
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      published contributions
  • S. Ayesha Hameed
    • Dr. S. Ayesha Hameed is a Lecturer in Visual Cultures and the Joint Programme Leader in Fine Art and History of Art Research Fellow in Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, London. She received her PhD in Social and Political Thought at York University, Canada in 2008
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      published contributions
  • Sammy Baloji
  • On Barak
    • On Barak is a social and cultural historian of science and technology in non-Western settings. He has been a senior lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University since 2012. Prior to this, he was a member of the Princeton Society of Fellows. In 2009, Barak received a joint PhD in History and Middle Eastern Studies from New York University. His most recent book is On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt (University of California Press, 2013), and his current publication project, Coalonialism: Energy and Empire before the Age of Oil, is funded by a European Union Marie Curie Award and an Israel Science Foundation Grant.
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      published contributions
  • Anil Bawa-Cavia
    • Anil Bawa-Cavia is a computer scientist with a background in machine learning. He runs STDIO, a speculative software studio. His practice engages with algorithms, protocols, encodings, and other software artifacts and his doctoral research at the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London was on complex networks in urbanism. He is a founding member of Call & Response, a sonic arts collective and gallery space in London, and a member of the New Centre for Research & Practice.
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      published contributions
  • Etienne Benson
  • Josh Berson
  • Jeremy Bolen
  • Axel Braun
    • Axel Braun studied photography at the Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, and fine arts at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. His artistic research deals with controversial infrastructure projects, tautology as an attempt to understand reality, and failed utopias in art and architecture. Currently, he is pursuing the long-term project Towards an Understanding of Anthropocene Landscapes. Recently exhibited works include Some Kind of Opposition (2016) at Galeria Centralis, Budapest, and Dragonflies drift downstream on a river (2015) at Kunstmuseum Bochum.
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      published contributions
  • Keith Breckenridge
  • François Bucher
    • s, focusing on ethical and aesthetic problems of cinema and television, and more recently on the image as an interdimensional field. His work has been exhibited at
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      published contributions
  • Lino Camprubí
  • Zachary Caple
  • Ele Carpenter
    • Dr. Ele Carpenter is a senior lecturer in curating at Goldsmiths, London. Her curatorial practice responds to interdisciplinary socio-political contexts such as the nuclear economy and the relationship between craft and code.
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      published contributions
  • Andrew Chubb
    • Andrew Chubb is a PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia conducting research on the relationship between Chinese public opinion and government policy in the South China Sea. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Contemporary China, Pacific Affairs, East Asia Forum, and Information, Communication & Society. His blog, South Sea Conversations (southseaconversations.wordpress.com), provides translations and analysis of Chinese discourse on the South and East China Sea issues.
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      published contributions
  • Louis Chude-Sokei
    • Louis Chude-Sokei is a writer and scholar currently teaching in the English Department at the University of Washington, Seattle. His academic interests range from West African, Caribbean, and American literary and cultural studies to a particular focus on sound, technology, and performance. His literary and public work focuses on immigration and black-on-black cultural contacts, conflicts, and exchanges. Chude-Sokei is the author of the award-winning book The Last “Darky”: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (2006) and The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics (2016).
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      published contributions
  • Claire Colebrook
    • Claire Colebrook is a professor of English at Penn State University. Her areas of specialization are contemporary literature, visual culture, and theory and cultural studies. She has written articles on poetry, literary theory, queer theory, and contemporary culture. Colebrook is the co-editor of the series Critical Climate Change, published by Open Humanities Press, and a member of the advisory board of the Institute for Critical Climate Change. She recently completed two books on extinction for Open Humanities Press, Death of the PostHuman and Sex after Life (both 2014), and with Tom Cohen and J. Hillis Miller co-authored Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols (2016).
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      published contributions
  • Rana Dasgupta
  • Filip De Boeck
    • Filip De Boeck is actively involved in teaching, promoting, coordinating and supervising research in and on Africa at the Institute for Anthropological research in Africa at the U
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      published contributions
  • Seth Denizen
    • Seth Denizen is a researcher and design practitioner trained in landscape architecture and evolutionary biology. Since completing research on the sexual behavior and evolutionary ecology of small Trinidadian fish, his work has focused on the aesthetics of scientific representation, madness, and public parks, the design of t
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      published contributions
  • Jonathan Donges
    • Jonathan Donges is a postdoctoral researcher who holds a joint position at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (as Stordalen Scholar) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He studies planetary boundaries and social dynamics in the Earth system from a complex dynamical system perspective. At Potsdam, he is Co-head of the flagship COPAN (Coevolutionary Pathways) project (www.pik-potsdam.de/copan). His published research includes work on complex network theory, dynamical systems theory, and time series analysis, with a focus on their application to our understanding of past and present climate variability and its interactions with humankind on planet Earth.
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      published contributions
  • Keller Easterling
  • David Edgerton
    • David Edgerton is Hans Rausing Professor of the History of Science and Technology and a professor of modern British history at King’s College London. After teaching at the University of Manchester, he became the founding director of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at Imperial College London (1993–2003), and moved along with the centre to King’s College London in August 2013. He is the author of many works, including The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 (2007), which argues for and exemplifies new ways of thinking about the material constitution of modernity.
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      published contributions
  • Technosphere Editorial
  • Sasha Engelmann
  • Eberhard Faust
  • Jennifer Gabrys
    • Jennifer Gabrys is Reader in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Principal Investigator on the ERC-funded project, "Citizen Sense." Her publications include Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (University of Michigan Press, 2011); and Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming).
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      published contributions
  • Oliver Gantner
  • Florian Goldmann
    • Florian Goldmann is a Berlin-based artist and a PhD candidate at the DFG Research Training Center Visibility and Visualisation – Hybrid Forms of Pictorial Knowledge as well as at the Brandenburg Center for Media Studies, both Potsdam University. His research focus is the utilization of models as a means of both commemorating and predicting catastrophe. In 2015, he took part in the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Sendai, Japan. Goldmann is one of the founders of the research collective STRATAGRIDS and the author of Flexible Signposts to Coded Territories (2012), an analysis of football hooligan graffiti in Athens as a system of fluid signage.
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      published contributions
  • Johan Gärdebo
    • Johan Gärdebo is a PhD candidate at the Royal Institute of Technology affiliated to the Environmental Humanities Laboratory (EHL). H
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      published contributions
  • Orit Halpern
    • Orit Halpern is a Strategic Hire in Interactive Design and an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal. Her work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design and art practice. She is also a co-director of the Speculative Life Research Cluster, Montreal, a laboratory situated at the intersection of art and life sciences, architecture and design, and computational media (www.speculativelife.com). Her recent monograph, Beautiful Data (2015), is a history of interactivity, data visualization, and ubiquitous computing. www.orithalpern.net
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      published contributions
  • Carola Hein
    • Carola Hein is a professor of the history of architecture and urban planning in the Architecture Department at Delft University of Technology. She has published widely on topics in contemporary and historical architectural and urban planning, notably that of Europe and Japan. Her current research interests include transmission of architectural and urban ideas along international networks, focusing specifically on port cities, and the global architecture of oil. Her books include Port Cities: Dynamic Landscapes and Global Networks (2011), Cities, Autonomy, and Decentralization in Japan (2006), and The Capital of Europe: Architecture and Urban Planning for the European Union (2004).
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      published contributions
  • Julian Henriques
    • Julian Henriques is the convener of the MA in Script Writing and Director of the Topology Research Unit in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. Prior to this, he ran the film and television department at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) at the University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica. His credits as a writer and director include the reggae musical feature film Babymother (1998) and as a sound artist, Knots & Donuts, exhibited at Tate Modern in 2011. Henriques researches street cultures and technologies and his publications include Changing the Subject: Psychology, Social Regulation, and Subjectivity (1998), Sonic Bodies: Reggae Sound Systems, Performance Techniques, and Ways of Knowing (2011), and Sonic Media (forthcoming).
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      published contributions
  • Hanna Husberg
    • Hanna Husberg is a Stockholm-based artist. She graduated from ENSB-A in Paris in 2007 and is currently a PhD in Practice candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.
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      published contributions
  • Erich Hörl
  • Timothy Johnson
  • Peter K. Haff
  • Laleh Khalili
  • Alexander Klose
    • Dr. Alexander Klose studied History, Law, Philosophy, Art, and Cultural Studies. From 2005-07 he held a scholarship at Bauhaus Universität Weimar for his PhD project on standardized containers used in transport as one of the leading material media in the 20th century. Between 2009 and 2014 he worked as a research associate and programme developer at Kulturstiftung des Bundes. In 2015 in the forefront of COP 21, he co-curated Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge No. 18 – On Becoming Earthlings: 150 dialogues and exercises in shrinking and expanding the Human at Musée de l'Homme, Paris. His latest publication is: The Container Principle. How a box changes the way we think (2015).
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      published contributions
  • Karin Knorr Cetina
  • Scott Knowles
  • Nile Koetting
  • Nicole Koltick
    • Nicole Koltick is an assistant professor in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design at Drexel University, Philadelphia. She is Founding Director of the Design Futures Lab at Westphal College, which is currently pursuing design research to stimulate debate on the potential implications of emerging technological and scientific developments within society. Koltick’s practice spans art, science, technology, design, and philosophy, and current work focuses on the philosophical, material, and relational implications of aesthetics as they intersect with emerging developments in computational creativity, artificially intelligent autonomous systems, robotics, and synthetic biological hybrids.
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      published contributions
  • Nik Kosmas
  • Matthijs Kouw
    • Matthijs Kouw joined the Rathenau Instituut, The Hague, in March 2016. He holds an MA in Philosophy and an MSc in Science and Technology Studies from the University of Amsterdam as well as a PhD from Maastricht University. In his PhD thesis, Kouw describes how and to what extent reliance on models can introduce vulnerabilities through the assumptions, uncertainties, and blind spots concomitant with modeling practice. He was employed as a postdoctoral researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), during which time he acted as a member of the Dutch delegation for plenary sessions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
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      published contributions
  • Lars Kulik
    • Lars Kulik studied biology at the Humboldt University of Berlin. He received his doctorate on the development of social behavior of rhesus monkeys at the University of Leipzig and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. He lives with his family in Berlin.
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      published contributions
  • Richard L. Hindle
    • Richard L. Hindle is an assistant professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning at the University of California, Berkeley. His current research focuses on patent innovation in landscape related technologies, from large-scale mappings of riverine and coastal systems to detailed historical studies on the antecedents of vegetated architecture. His work explores the potential of new technological narratives and material processes to reframe theory, practice, and the production of landscape. Recent works include the articles “Levees That Might Have Been” (2015), and “Infrastructures of Innovation” in Scaling Infrastructure (MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism, 2016), and the exhibition Geographies of Innovation at UC Berkeley (2015).
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      published contributions
  • Brian Larkin
  • John Law
    • hn Law was a professor of sociology at Keele University, Lancaster, and the Open University, Milton Keynes, and a co-director of the Economic and Social Researc
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      published contributions
  • S. Løchlann Jain
  • Donald MacKenzie
  • Laura McLean
    • Laura McLean is a curator, artist, and writer based in London. She is a graduate of Goldsmiths College and Sydney College of the Arts, where she later lectured. She has also studied at Alberta College of Art and Design, and the Universität der Künste Berlin.
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      published contributions
  • Eden Medina
    • Eden Medina is an associate professor of informatics and computing, affiliated associate professor of law, and adjunct associate professor of history at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research and teaching address the social, historical, and legal dimensions of our increasingly data-driven world, including the relationship of technology to human rights and free expression, the relationship between political innovation and technological innovation, and the ways that human and political values shape technological design. Medina’s writings also use science and technology as a way to broaden understandings of Latin American history and the geography of innovation. She is the author of Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende's Chile (2011) and the co-editor of Beyond Imported Magic: Essays on Science, Technology, and Society in Latin America (2014).
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      published contributions
  • Anne-Sophie Milon
    • Anne-Sophie Milon is an artist and a freelance illustrator and animator working and living in Bristol, UK. After completing two Masters in Art, she has recently concluded the program of experimentation in Art and Politics at SciencesPo (SPEAP) in Paris.
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      published contributions
  • Gerald Nestler
    • Gerald Nestler is an artist and writer who combines theory and post-disciplinary conversation with video, installation, performance, text, code, graphics, sound, and speech. He explores what he calls the derivative condition of contemporary social relations and its paradigmatic financial models, operations, processes, narratives, and fictions. He is currently working on an “aesthetics of resolution” that maps counterfictions and counterimaginations for “renegade activism,” which revolves around the demonstration as a combined artistic, technological, social, and political practice. Nestler holds a practice-based PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London.
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      published contributions
  • James P. M. Syvitski
    • James P. M. Syvitski is Executive Director of the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS) at the University of Colorado Boulder. From 2011 to 2016, he chaired the International Council for Science’s International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), which provides essential scientific leadership and knowledge of the Earth system to help guide society toward a sustainable pathway during rapid global change. His specialty is the global flux of water and sediment (river and ocean borne) and its trends in the Anthropocene. He works at the forefront of computational geosciences, including sediment transport, land-ocean interactions, and Earth-surface dynamics.
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      published contributions
  • Luciana Parisi
    • Luciana Parisi is Reader in Cultural Theory, Chair of the PhD program in Cultural Studies, and Co-director of the Digital Culture Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research focuses on cybernetics, information theory and computation, complexity and evolutionary theories, and the technocapitalist investment in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. Her books include Abstract Sex: Philosophy, Biotechnology and the Mutations of Desire (2004) and Contagious Architecture: Computation, Aesthetics, and Space (2013). She is currently researching the history of automation and the philosophical consequences of logical thinking in machines.
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      published contributions
  • Lisa Parks
  • Matteo Pasquinelli
  • Arno Rosemarin
  • Dorion Sagan
  • Birgit Schneider
  • Lizzie Stark
    • Lizzie Stark is an author, journalist, and experience designer. She is the author of two books, Pandora’s DNA (2014), exploring so-called ‘breast cancer genes’ and her first book, Leaving Mundania (2012), which investigates the subculture of live action role play, or larp. Her journalism and essays have appeared in The Washington Post, the Daily Beast, The Today Show Website, io9, Fusion, the Philadelphia Inquirer and elsewhere. She holds an MS from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has organized numerous conventions and experiences across the US. Her most recent work is as a programming coordinator for Living Games Austin, and as co-editor and contributor for the #Feminism anthology, which collects 34 nano-games written by feminists from eleven countries.
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      published contributions
  • Lucy Suchman
    • ology of Science and Technology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Lancaster, UK. Her research interests within the field of feminist science and technology studies are focused on technological imaginaries and material practices
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      published contributions
  • Jenna Sutela
    • Jenna Sutela’s installations, texts, and sound performances seek to identify and react to precarious social and material moments, often in relation to technology. Most recently, she has been exploring exceedingly complex biological and computational systems, ultimately unknowable and always becoming something new. Her work has been presented, among other places, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; and the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo and her writing has been published by Fiktion, Harvard Design Magazine, and Sternberg Press.
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      published contributions
  • Bronislaw Szerszynski
    • Bronislaw Szerszynski is a Reader in Sociology at Lancaster University in the UK. Szerszynski’s work has developed across several themes, including the role of Western religious history in shaping contemporary understandings of technology and the environment—typified by his book Nature, Technology and the Sacred (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005).
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      published contributions
  • Elisa T. Bertuzzo
    • Elisa T. Bertuzzo studied comparative literature, sociology, communication, and media studies and holds a PhD in urban studies. She was a curator and project leader with Habitat Forum Berlin, including for the project Paradigmising Karail Basti (2010–16). Bridging discourses from the fields of cultural and urban studies, her research focuses on the everyday life facets of urbanization and settlement in South Asia. On that topic, she published Fragmented Dhaka: Analysing Everyday Life with Henri Lefebvre’s Theory of Production of Space (2009) and runs her multimedia project Archives of Movement (since 2012), which deals with the everyday life of temporary labor migrants in Bangladesh and India.
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      published contributions
  • Gregory T. Cushman
    • Gregory T. Cushman is Associate Professor of International Environmental History at the University of Kansas.
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      published contributions
  • Nasrin Tabatabai
    • Nasrin Tabatabai is an artist who works both in Iran and the Netherlands. Since 2004, she has collaborated with Babak Afrassiabi on various joint projects and the publication of the bilingual magazine Pages (Farsi and English). Their work seeks to articulate the undecidable space between art and its historical conditions, including the recurring question of the place of the archive in defining the juncture between politics, history, and the practice of art. The artists’ work has been presented internationally in various solo and group exhibitions and they have been tutors at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht (2008–13), and Erg, école supérieure des arts, Brussels (2015–).
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      published contributions
  • Katerina Teaiwa
    • Dr. Katerina Teaiwa is Associate Professor at the Department of Gender, Media and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History & Language and the president of the Australian Association for Pacific Studies. Her main area of research looks at the histories of phosphate mining in the central Pacific. Her work does not only span academic research, publications, and lectures, but also manifests itself in other formats within the arts and popular culture. Her work has inspired a permanent exhibition at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, which tells the story of Pacific phosphate mining through Banaban dance. In 2015, she published „Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba“, Indiana University Press. She is currently working with visual artist Yuki Kihara on a multimedia exhibition for Carriageworks in Sydney.
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      published contributions
  • Jol Thomson
  • Claire Tolan
  • John Tresch
  • Etienne Turpin
    • Etienne Turpin is a philosopher, Founding Director of anexact office, and a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, where he coordinates the Humanitarian Infrastructures Group and co-directs the PetaBencana.id disaster mapping project for the Urban Risk Lab. He is the editor of Architecture in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Design, Deep Tim
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      published contributions
  • Asonseh Ukah
    • Asonzeh Ukah is a sociologist and historian of religion. He joined the University of Cape Town in 2013 and previously taught at the University of Bayreuth (2005–13), where he also earned a doctorate and habilitation in history of religions. His research interests include religious urbanism, the sociology of Pentecostalism, and religion and media. He is Director of the Research Institute on Christianity and Society in Africa (RICSA), University of Cape Town, and Affiliated Senior Fellow of Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS), University of Bayreuth. He is the author of A New Paradigm of Pentecostal Power (2008) and Bourdieu in Africa (edited with Magnus Echtler, 2016).
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      published contributions
  • Underworlds
  • Sebastian Vehlken
    • Sebastian Vehlken is a media theorist and cultural historian at Leuphana University Lüneburg and Permanent Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (MECS). From 2013 to 2017, he worked as MECS Junior Director, and in 2015–16, he was a visiting professor at Humboldt-Universität Berlin, the University of Vienna, and Leuphana. His areas of interest include the theory and history of computer simulation and digital media, the media history of swarm intelligence, and the epistemology of think tanks. His current research project, Plutonium Worlds, explores the application of computer simulations in West German fast breeder reactor programs.
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      published contributions
  • Vladimir Vernadsky
  • Davor Vidas
    • Davor Vidas is a research professor in international law and Director of the Law of the Sea Programme at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Lysaker, Norway. He is Chair of the Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise and a member of the Anthropocene Working Group. Vidas has been involved in international law research for over thirty years, focusing since 2009 on implications of the Anthropocene for the development of international law. Among his books are The World Ocean in Globalisation (2011) and Law, Technology and Science for Oceans in Globalisation (2010). He is the editor-in-chief of the book series Anthropocene (Skolska knjiga, Zagreb), launched in 2017.
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      published contributions
  • Hannes Wiedemann
    • Hannes Wiedemann is a Berlin-based photographer. He studied at the Ostkreuz School of Photography, Berlin. For his project Grinders (2015–16), he followed the American bodyhacking community, a small group of people across the United States working out of garages and basements to become real cyborgs. Recent exhibitions include NEW PHOTOGRAPHY II (2017) at Gallery ALAN, Istanbul, and HUMAN UPGRADE, with Susanna Hertrich (2016), at Schader-Stiftung Gallery, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt. www.hanneswiedemann.com
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      published contributions
  • Cary Wolfe
    • Cary Wolfe is Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Professor of English and Founding Director of 3CT: Center for Critical and Cultural Theory at Rice University, Houston. He is the author of What Is Posthumanism? (2010), a book that weaves together principal concerns of his work: animal studies, system theory, pragmatism, and post-structuralism. It is part of the series Posthumanities, for which he serves as Founding Editor at the University of Minnesota Press. His most recent publication is Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in Biopolitical Frame (2013) and earlier books and edited collections include Animal Rites: American Culture, The Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory (2003) and Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal (2003).
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      published contributions
  • Andrew Yang
  • Jan Zalasiewicz
    • Dr. Jan Zalasiewicz is Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Leicester and Chair of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy. A field geologist, paleontologist, and stratigrapher, he teaches and publishes on geology and earth history, in particular on fossil ecosystems and environments that span over half a billion years of geological time.
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      published contributions
  • Anna Zett
  • Liv Østmo
    • Liv Østmo is one of the founders and current Dean of the Sámi University of Applied Sciences, Kautokeino, Norway, where she researches and lectures on the subject of multicultural understanding. For the last eight years, Østmo has worked with traditional Sámi knowledge and she is currently working on putting the finishing touches on a methodology book about the documentation of this knowledge.
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CCO Public Domain

Creole Technologies

In this original essay written nearly a decade ago, historian of science and technology David Edgerton introduces the concept of creole technology by foregrounding the varied transformations of technologies that attend to locally specific situations and thereby putting actual and, more importantly, derivative use over invention.
Conflating Use/Innovation and Past/Present
The vast majority of accounts of technology (academic and popular) conflate technology with technological novelty (invention/innovation/creativity). Such studies cannot usefully contribute to a rethinking of standard accounts of technology and society, for they are concerned neither with what technologies actors had available to them, nor indeed what was invented. Rather they focus on the early history of some technologies, which later became important. Yet despite such limitations, such studies, implicitly and explicitly, do seek to say something about both invention/innovation and the relations of technology and society. Yet if we do want to examine these we need studies of technology-in-use on the one hand, and of invention/innovation on the other. This will yield a dramatically different picture to the one implicit in most existing accounts, and will allow us furthermore, to engage with and challenge, standard general historical accounts.
As well as conflating invention/innovation and use, most writing about past technology is not concerned with the place of technology in history, but with something subtly but significantly different. Its aim is to illustrate with examples from the past, what one historian calls, after Martin Heidegger, “the question of technology.Thomas J. Misa, Leonardo to the Internet: Technology and Culture from the Renaissance to the Present. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004
That is, the main concern is with exploring the nature of technology, its malleability, relation to culture, and so on. This helps us to understand more why so little work set in the past is concerned with historical arguments about technology, let alone challenging existing historical pictures. Its concerns are elsewhere. The conflation of invention/innovation and technology is deep-seated. It is found not only in older studies, but is central to most work in the social construction of technology (SCOT) and actor-network theory (ANT) traditions.A criticism made by Langdon Winner, who had long been concerned with use. See Langdon Winner, “Upon Opening the Black Box and Finding it Empty: Social Constructivism and the Philosophy of Technology,” Science, Technology & Human Values, vol. 18, no. 3 (1993), pp. 362‒78.
It is also there, despite immediate appearances, in Ruth Schwartz Cowan’s call for the study of the “consumption junction,” and in Ruth Oldenzeil’s subsequent arguments that studying users shows women active in the shaping of technology.Ruth Schwartz Cowan, “The Consumption Junction: A Proposal for Research Strategies in the Sociology of Technology,” in Wiebe E. Bijker et al. (eds), The Social Construction of Technological Systems. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987, pp. 261‒80.
Studies of users and innovation, going back to the 1970s, and later developed under the SCOT tradition, and recently extended, are similarly primarily concerned with users and changing technologies.Ruth Oldenziel, “Man the Maker, Woman the Consumer: The Consumption Junction Revisited,” in Angela N. H. Creager et al. (eds), Feminism in the Twentieth Century: Science, Technology and Medicine. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001, pp. 128‒48; Trevor Pinch and Nelly Oudshoorn (eds), How Users Matter: The Co-Construction of Users and Technologies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.
It is revealing too that the key concept of “technological determinism” has been routinely defined as something along the lines of “technical change causing social change” rather than the older definition of technology shaping society. It is also significant that in STS and history of technology circles it was primarily criticized as a theory of technology, rather than what it classically was: a theory of society and history.For examples, see David Edgerton, “De l’innovation aux usages. Dix thèses éclectiques sur l’histoire des Techniques,” Annales Histoire, Sciences Sociales, vol. 53 (1998), pp. 815‒37; trans. “From Innovation to Use: Ten (Eclectic) Theses on the History of Technology,” History and Technology, vol. 16 (1999), pp. 1‒26.
In recent years there have been serious and rewarding efforts by historians of technology to engage with general histories of the nation and the world. Yet here too an innovation-centric picture of technology has been central. Thomas Hughes has written just such a book, explicitly committed to a providing a history of America. It is called, appropriately and revealingly, American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm.Thomas Hughes, American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm. New York: Viking, 1989.
More recently Pauline Maier, Merritt Roe Smith, Alexander Kayssar, and Daniel Kevles have written a textbook of American history which includes much material on innovation in science, technology, and medicine: the book is called Inventing America: A History of the United States.Pauline Maier et al., Inventing America: A History of the United States. New York: Norton, 2003, 2 vols.
Global histories of technology too are innovation-centric. One very recent world history of technology illustrates this. The period 1870‒1930 is discussed in terms of research and invention in electricity and chemicals; 1936‒1990 in terms of the wartime history of the atomic bomb, electronics, and computing; and 1970‒2001 in terms of the fax, hamburgers, and the internet.This is my reading of Thomas Hughes, American Genesis, and recent textbooks, namely Carroll Pursell, The Machine in America: A Social History of Technology. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995; Ruth Schwartz Cowan, A Social History of American Technology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997; and Thomas J. Misa, Leonardo to the Internet.
Such a list of technologies, in this chronological form is, apart from the hamburger, far from idiosyncratic. It is very similar to the choice of technology in works on the history of US technology in their coverage of the twentieth century: the interwar period tends to have electricity, motor cars, and aviation, and the period of the Second World War and later is deemed to be the age of nuclear power, computers, space rockets, and the internet.Misa, Leonardo to the Internet, 1900‒1950 is also dealt with in terms of modern architecture.
One historian of the United States claims explicitly that “four technological systems have dominated twentieth-century history: automobiles, and their attendant roads and fuel sources; aircraft, spacecraft and also rockets; electronic communication devices; from wireless telegraphy to personal computers; and finally, biotechnologies, new foodstuffs, medications, and contraceptives,” an argument which has the virtue of insisting on the simultaneous existence of these systems.Schwartz Cowan, A Social History of American Technology, p. 221.
Innovation-centeredness is also found in the global histories of writers other than professional historians of technology. So-called “long-wave” theories, which see the world economy going through fifty-year cycles of activity, driven by innovation, are a good example.Chris Freeman and Francisco Louçã, As Time Goes By: From the Industrial Revolutions to the Information Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002; Carlota Perez, Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2002. Nathan Rosenberg and Claudio Frischtak wrote a devastating critique of such writings as they first appeared. See their “Technological Innovation and Long Waves,” Cambridge Journal of Economics, vol. 8, no. 1 (1984), pp. 7‒24; reprinted in Nathan Rosenberg, Exploring the Black Box. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Of course, it did not stop production of such work: the key long-wave innovator was the East German Gerhard Mensch, Das technologische Patt: Innovationen überwinden die Depression. Frankfurt: Umschau Verlag, 1975.
The Schumpeterian focus on innovation is also central to the global historical work of David Landes and Joel Mokyr: for them a few innovations are of crucial importance, and are discussed mainly around the time of innovation.David S Landes, The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969; Joel Mokyr, The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.
Many global histories show a Smithian focus on technologies of communication, with, again, a strong innovation-centric bias.For example, J. R. McNeill and William H. McNeill, The Human Web: A Bird’s-eye View of World History. New York: Norton, 2003.
We need to stress that these are not studies of innovation, but rather of studies of the economy, focused on innovation.
Our understanding of the technology (and science) of the twentieth century is thus, I suggest, nowhere near as securely based as we routinely assume; our mental maps need redrawing.
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Our shared accounts of rich-world technology are systematically biased by a conflation of stories of innovation and use, and the focus on technologies and sciences of high cultural resonance at the early stages of diffusion. We have many critiques of what is taken to be old-fashioned history of technology – it is taken to be masculine-oriented, production-oriented, materialistic, determinist, internal etc. which is to be countered by new approaches. But we don’t in fact have even a coherent productionist, masculine, materialist account of technology (either of technology-in-use or invention) and history in the twentieth century.Thanks to Eric Schatzberg for helping me formulate this point.
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"Jugaad" engine. Source: Vinayak.razdan, Wiki Commons 2009.

To produce a full account of technology we need a new approach. It needs to distinguish clearly between use and invention/innovation, and to focus on each. It should not be concerned with replacing the study of innovation with the study of use but rather needs to recognize the significance of the distinction for the study of each. In its focus on technologies-in-use it has distinguished predecessors, including the work of feminist historians like Ruth Schwartz Cowan,Siegfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1948; Ruth Schwartz Cowan, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic Books, 1983; Cynthia Cockburn and Susan Ormrod, Gender and Technology in the Making. London: Sage, 1993; Stewart Brand, How buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built. London: Viking, 1994. See also Carroll Pursell, “Seeing the Invisible: New Perceptions in the History of Technology,” ICON, vol. 1 (1995), pp. 9‒15.
historians concerned with the environment, and historians of technology, above all Svante Lindqvist.Svante Lindqvist, “Changes in the Technological Landscape: The Temporal Dimension in the Growth and Decline of Large Technological Systems,” in Ove Granstrand (ed.), Economics of Technology. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1994, pp. 271‒88; John McNeill, Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth Century. London: Penguin, 2000; Vaclav Smil, Energy in World History. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994; Paul Josephson, Industrialized Nature: Brute Force Technology and the Transformation of the Natural World. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2002; Andrea Tone, Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001; Ronald Kline, Consumers in the Country: Technology and Social Change in Rural America. Baltimore, MD, and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.
In the history of invention, oddly enough, it has fewer recent works of note to draw on, especially for the twentieth century.Though, see Kees Gispen, Poems in Steel: The Politics of Invention from Weimar to Bonn. Oxford: Berghahn, 2001.
The shift away from the conflation of technology and innovation is just the beginning. We need to be concerned with all kinds of technologies. Rather than seeking to replace a history focused on high-tech, masculine, industrial technologies with low-tech, the feminine, and the domestic, we need to deal with both, with the aim of getting a sense of the material basis of human existence. We need also, I would argue, to engage with history, and not just the question of technology, and to do it in a particular way, offering a new kind of post-contextualist history to those already available. This point requires a brief elaboration. One of the great aims of historians of technology has been to write contextual histories of technology/innovation, that is to say histories which locate their subject matter within their historical context. Historians of technology/innovation have become experts not just in particular technologies but in particular contexts.Those contexts have often been national, just as most histories are national, which raises problems in itself.
But what is the context? Is it the conclusions of other historians? If so, which? Histories are as contested as we want technologies to be. There are deeper problems still: contextualism assumes that technology was not present in the literature on the context, and explicitly that was often the case. But there is a great difficulty here, which is that existing historical work, and indeed contemporary sources, already have a particular account of technology in them.
No history of the USA, or of Britain, or anywhere, in the twentieth century, especially, does not already have an implicit history of science and technology in it. There is a problem of circularity.
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One way out of all these problems is write the “history of content and context together,” to write a history from all the materials to hand.Andy Pickering calls for histories “without regard for traditional distinctions between history of science and history more generally, and especially without centering research upon an archive demarcated by such distinctions. Such an approach would blur the disciplinary identity of historians of science, of course, but no one is better placed than historians of science to speak of the truly integral place of science in global history, and the end result might be a clearer view of global history itself.” Andrew Pickering, “The Rad Lab and the World,” British Journal of the History of Science, vol. 25, no. 2 (1992), pp. 247‒51, here p. 251.
This leads to the use of concepts like co-production and mutual constitution of technology, politics, history. They are useful not least because they get us away from bashing at technological determinism.Gabrielle Hecht, The Radiance of France: Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War II. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998, is an example, in part, of this approach. See also Michael Allen and Gabrielle Hecht (eds), Technologies of Power: Essays in Honor of Thomas Parke Hughes and Agatha Chipley Hughes. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.
But there is a real risk in using this approach of falling for the Latourian temptation of seeing the world being recreated from scratch in the laboratory, and of following the scientists and engineers a little too closely. The danger is that we end up reproducing (yet again, I would argue) their accounts of national and world history, even if it is with a different gloss and in new language.See for example, Bruno Latour, “Give Me a Laboratory and I will Raise the World,” in Karin Knorr-Cetina and Michael Mulkay (eds), Science Observed. London: Sage, 1983, pp. 141‒70; and also Bruno Latour, Aramis: The Love of Technology. Cambridge: MA, Harvard University Press, 1996.
A different kind of post-contextual history is possible, and I think necessary. It needs to get away from its focus on scientists and engineers, and their originality, and to examine the extent to which, for example, the ideas of scientists and engineers, about science and technology to politics, are derivative rather than original.For elaboration of these points see David Edgerton, “British Scientific intellectuals and the Relations of Science and War in Twentieth-Century Britain,” in Paul Forman and José-M. Sanchez Ron (eds), National Military Establishments and the Advancement of Science: Studies in Twentieth-Century History. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1996, pp. 1‒35.
It needs to examine carefully the assumptions that are made in accounts of technology and the context. That means understanding the standard narratives, often derived from popular sources, that shape our accounts (for example, in making them so innovation-centric). The point of a post-contextual picture is to give us a different account of the national and global historical context, and the place of technology in it, not merely adding technology to accounts.For examples, see David Edgerton, Warfare State: Britain 1920‒1970. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005; and David Edgerton, The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900. London and New York: Oxford University Press and Profile Books, 2007, which attempts to rethink standard accounts of production, war, nations, killing, and invention, by focusing on the technologies that were in use.
Thinking about twentieth-century horsepower, and technology and poor world is a good example of the need to rethink object and context, and the underlying assumptions made in our accounts of both. Let us start with the poor world: rarely taken seriously by sociologists or historians, it hardly figures in global histories.Peter Worsley, The Three Worlds: Culture and World Development. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1984, is a rare case.
Some explanation of the term is required: I use it to mean that majority of places in the world, where the great majority of the population are and have been, by the standards of Western Europe and North America, very poor. In other words, I am referring to those places we more usually study under labels like “colonial,” “post-colonial,” “developing,” and “third-world,” none of which ever applied to all poor countries of the twentieth century.
In relation to technology the poor world is especially invisible.
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For innovation-centric history of technology the poor world does not exist as it has not been a significant technical innovator in recent centuries.An important and honourable exception is Arnold Pacey, Technology in World Civilization: A Thousand-Year History. Oxford: Blackwell, 1990, which has a fair amount on poor countries in the twentieth century.
Thus a key built-in assumption in many kinds of treatments is that the poor world, with some notable exceptions (which I discuss further below), lacks modern technology. This rule is proved by the exceptions to it. Many general texts on technology will mention the “green revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s in poor parts of Asia. This is also interesting in that it is illustrative of the deep association between agriculture and poverty: it is rare to find other references to agriculture after 1945, even 1900, in histories of technology. That should be a matter of surprise, since there was a radical transformation in agriculture in the rich world, particularly after the mid-twentieth century, when agriculture saw much greater rates of productivity change than industry, and at much greater rates than before. This green revolution made a huge impact on patterns of world trade, belying the standard image of a poor agricultural world exporting food to a rich industrial world. The USA exported wheat to the USSR in the 1970s and 1980s and on a huge scale, and continues to export raw cotton to the whole world, including China. The neglect of even the most modern agriculture goes along with a much wider neglect of non-industrial technologies in studies of the twentieth century: the horse, the camel, the donkey cart, the wooden plough, or the handloom, are seen as technologies of previous historical eras, not to be considered as part of the twentieth century. That they are primarily associated with a poor world makes them even more invisible as technologies, even in the poor world. Yet they, just like the airplane and the motorcar, were made, maintained, and used, and changed throughout the last century. They existed in the same, interconnected world. Our conceptualization of these technologies reveals a deeply embedded assumption of how technological space and time works, one in which spatially separated rich and poor are put on a temporal scale, as “developed” and “developing,” and in which we date technologies by invention. We may scoff at such naiveté, but we should not fall for the idea that we have an adequate account of the technology of the rich world, which we have to “decenter” to get a decent account of the poor world. We have to decenter that account to get a good account of the technology of both.David Arnold, “Europe, Technology, and Colonialism in the Twentieth Century,” History and Technology, vol. 21 (2005), pp. 85‒106, argues for the significance to the study of European technology of studying colonial technologies. My point here is more general.
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Not Alphaville but Bidonville: Technology and the Poor Megacity
The story of the poor world and technology if it is told at all is one of transfer, resistance, incompetence, lack of maintenance, and enforced dependence on rich-world technology. Imperialism, colonialism, and dependence were the key concepts, and the transfer of technology from rich to poor, the main process.For an excellent review which parallels many of the arguments developed here, see Arnold, “Europe, Technology, and Colonialism.”
There have been calls for the decentering of the standard “Western” account of technology, and thus for example, not to judge Chinese technology of the eighteenth century, say, by the standard of standard stories of British technology: different technologies were central.Francesca Bray, “Technics and Civilization in late Imperial China: An Essay in the Cultural History of technology,” Osiris, Series 2, vol. 13 (1998), pp. 11‒33. I would make the additional point that we should not believe that the standard story applies to the industrialized “West” either. Bray does not challenge the innovation-centeredness of most accounts of Western technology. Indeed, while one would expect anthropologists, archaeologists and so on to concentrate on use of established technologies, nevertheless in practice, innovation becomes central when “technology” comes into the frame. Thus Pierre Lemonnier’s notes of his own collection of essays that “most papers are concerned [not with invention but] with a subsequent step of the process of innovation, that of ‘choosing’ what to do with a new technical element, whether it has been contrived locally or not.” Pierre Lemonnier (ed.), Technological Choices: Transformation in Material Cultures Since the Neolithic. London: Routledge, 1993, p. 21.
That is a crucial point, yet studies of technology in the poor world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, even by post-colonial historians, focus precisely on (some) technologies brought from the rich world. The case of the “green revolution” has been mentioned. But the list is longer. Thus Gyan Prakash notes that to “speak of India is to call attention to the structures in which the lives of its people are enmeshed – railroads, steel plants, mining, irrigation, hydro-electric projects … and now, the bomb.Gyan Prakash, Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999, p. 3.
The long list he produces hardly includes anything which did not come from outside India, and was not central to Western accounts of modernity. This is far from unusual, for most studies of that well-studied case of India, when dealing with “technology,” take this to mean railways, dams, does not include, to anything like the extent merited, the technologies most Indians used (though one should not underestimate indeed the importance of such things as railways in India). The interest is not primarily in the material basis of Indian life, but in technology, which almost by definition it seems, comes from the West, and is defined by what counts as technology in the histories.See for example the papers covering the twentieth century in Morris Low (ed.), “Beyond Joseph Needham: Science, Technology and Medicine in East and South East Asia,” Osiris, Series 2, vol. 13 (1998); Roy MacLeod and Deepak Kumar (eds), Technology and the Raj: Western Technology and Technical Transfers to India, 1700‒1947. New Delhi: Sage, 1995; and David Arnold, Science, Technology and Medicine in Colonial India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
This is not to say we should not study railways, dams, or nuclear weapons in the poor world – far from it. It is to say that they do not exhaust the category “technology” in the poor world (just as it does not in the rich world), even that which originated in the rich world. Whatever the view taken of what technology has done in the poor world, what “technology” is has not been seriously debated.For some white European intellectuals in the interwar years, a critique of Western industrial civilization was built on celebration, often with noble savage overtones, of the ancient less corrupted cultures of Africa and Asia. A very few non-white intellectuals, and fewer African and Asians were themselves putting this forward, among them Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. See Michael Adas, Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology and Ideologies of Western Dominance. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989, pp. 380‒401.
We don’t have a good account of the distinctiveness of the new poor world as it emerged in the twentieth century. We have neither an appreciation of the significance of “traditional” technologies – whether the crucial agricultural ones or any others – nor those brought by colonizing states, nor indeed that came in from the rich world through to native populations though trade, like the neglected cases of consumer durables like the bicycle and the sewing machine.A point also well made by David Arnold, “Europe, Technology and Colonialism.”
Yet we need to go further and see the poor world as a distinctive technological world, not merely a derivative one, or one which was a hybrid of rich and poor worlds. The poor world was particularly fast-growing and changing in the twentieth century. It depended on a complex, original, and changing technological landscape which included, importantly, mass technologies first developed elsewhere but used in distinctive ways. The technologies of the poor megacity, and particularly the materials from which is has been made, are a key case: they represent, today, a distinctive, new technology of poverty.Gustavo Riofrio and Jean-Claude Driant ¡Que Vivienda han construido? Nuevos Problemas en viejas barriadas. Lima: CIDAP/IFEA/TAREA, 1987.
It is easy to underestimate the importance of the poor city in the twentieth century. Through the twentieth century they have growth at remarkable rates, as the poor world grew in population much faster than the rich world, and urbanized quickly too. By the end of the century (in stark contrast to the beginning) most of the largest cities of the world were poor places: where once Paris, London, and New York led in scale and opulence, the largest cities of 2000 were places few would seek to emulate: São Paolo, Jakarta, Karachi, Mumbai (Bombay), Dhaka, Lagos, and Mexico City. These cities did not replicate the earlier experience of Berlin or Manchester. These were not cities of horses, or of trains, or spinning mules, or great electrical or chemical industries. They do not conform to the standard story of modernity. […]

Creole Technologies
Corrugated iron, asbestos-cement, and cement were not invented in the poor world, they were first exported to it, and then locally produced. The growth of the poor world went along with a massive increase in use of these “old” technologies from the rich world, and yet also, importantly, it was a story of the spread of distinctive uses of these technologies. One can usefully describe them as creole technologies, not least as a way of pointing to the fact that most technologies in use are to varying extents creole. By a creole technology I mean one which finds a distinctive set of uses outside the time and place where it was first used on a significant scale. Thus it is to be distinguished from transferred technologies, though I include the latter in cases where the transferred technology is essentially no longer in use in the originating territory. Often, but not necessarily, these technologies originating elsewhere combine in original ways with local technologies, forming hybrids, which not only combine creole technologies with local technologies, but also themselves become new creole technologies. We can explore these points further by examining the meanings of the term creole (criollo in Spanish, whence the term comes). The original meaning of creole is local derivatives of something originally from elsewhere, used specifically to describe the locally born white and black populations of the Americas ‒ descendants of European settlers, and African slaves, in contradistinction to the indigenous population. Creole means derived from, but different to, the originating case. Thus the creole horse of the Americas, originating from beasts brought by the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores, entered a horseless world, yet became different from the horses of the Old World. The term creole also carries the sense of earthy, local, genuine, vulgar, popular, in contrast to the sophistication of the metropolitan. These are the senses in which I use the term here. Yet I also allow into it elements of another sense from which it generally needs to be radically distinguished. In the United States in particular the term has come to be associated with hybridity, that is the mixing of traditions, races, cultures, and this is the sense in which it has found limited use in the history of science.Stuart George McCook, States of Nature: Science, Agriculture, and Environment in the Spanish Caribbean, 1760‒1940. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2002; Peter Galison, Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1997. It is also used for languages – the languages of languages of the ex-slaves of the colonies, principally in the Caribbean that went from “pidgin” simplified versions of English, French, Portuguese, Spanish etc., to become separate “creoles.” On language, see Ronald Segal, The Black Diaspora. London: Faber, 1995, Chapter 34. The concept of “hybridity” has been in vogue for a while in many fields, now including the study of technology. See Mikael Hård and Andrew Jamison, Hubris and Hybrids: A Cultural History of Technology and Science. London: Routledge, 2005.





This is a reprinted selection from Edgerton, David. “Creole Technologies and Global Histories: Rethinking how Things Travel in Space and Time,” Journal of History of Science and Technology, vol. 1, no. 1 (2007), pp. 3‒31.