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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
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Seth Denizen
    • Seth Denizen is a researcher and design practitioner trained in landscape architecture and evolutionary biology. Since completing research on the sexual behavior and evolutionary ecology of small Trinidadian fish, his work has focused on the aesthetics of scientific representation, madness, and public parks, the design of t
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      published contributions
  • Jonathan Donges
    • Jonathan Donges is a postdoctoral researcher who holds a joint position at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (as Stordalen Scholar) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He studies planetary boundaries and social dynamics in the Earth system from a complex dynamical system perspective. At Potsdam, he is Co-head of the flagship COPAN (Coevolutionary Pathways) project (www.pik-potsdam.de/copan). His published research includes work on complex network theory, dynamical systems theory, and time series analysis, with a focus on their application to our understanding of past and present climate variability and its interactions with humankind on planet Earth.
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      published contributions
  • Keller Easterling
  • David Edgerton
    • David Edgerton is Hans Rausing Professor of the History of Science and Technology and a professor of modern British history at King’s College London. After teaching at the University of Manchester, he became the founding director of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at Imperial College London (1993–2003), and moved along with the centre to King’s College London in August 2013. He is the author of many works, including The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 (2007), which argues for and exemplifies new ways of thinking about the material constitution of modernity.
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      published contributions
  • Technosphere Editorial
  • Sasha Engelmann
  • Eberhard Faust
  • Jennifer Gabrys
    • Jennifer Gabrys is Reader in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Principal Investigator on the ERC-funded project, "Citizen Sense." Her publications include Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (University of Michigan Press, 2011); and Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming).
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      published contributions
  • Oliver Gantner
  • Florian Goldmann
    • Florian Goldmann is a Berlin-based artist and a PhD candidate at the DFG Research Training Center Visibility and Visualisation – Hybrid Forms of Pictorial Knowledge as well as at the Brandenburg Center for Media Studies, both Potsdam University. His research focus is the utilization of models as a means of both commemorating and predicting catastrophe. In 2015, he took part in the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Sendai, Japan. Goldmann is one of the founders of the research collective STRATAGRIDS and the author of Flexible Signposts to Coded Territories (2012), an analysis of football hooligan graffiti in Athens as a system of fluid signage.
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      published contributions
  • Johan Gärdebo
    • Johan Gärdebo is a PhD candidate at the Royal Institute of Technology affiliated to the Environmental Humanities Laboratory (EHL). H
    • 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
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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.
    • 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).
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      published contributions
  • Andrew Yang
  • Jan Zalasiewicz
    • Dr. Jan Zalasiewicz is Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Leicester and Chair of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy. A field geologist, paleontologist, and stratigrapher, he teaches and publishes on geology and earth history, in particular on fossil ecosystems and environments that span over half a billion years of geological time.
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Anna Zett
  • Liv Østmo
    • Liv Østmo is one of the founders and current Dean of the Sámi University of Applied Sciences, Kautokeino, Norway, where she researches and lectures on the subject of multicultural understanding. For the last eight years, Østmo has worked with traditional Sámi knowledge and she is currently working on putting the finishing touches on a methodology book about the documentation of this knowledge.
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      published contributions

The Risk Equipment Deserves More Credit: Modeling, Epistemic Opacity, and Immersion

Through examining the way hydraulic engineers employ and tinker with computational models for managing water-related risks, science and technology scholar Matthijs Kouw argues for a more reflected stand against such modeling practice. These models are indispensable as critical tools, and understanding simulation practices as a hybrid and situated form of making-do can lead to better reflection on their epistemic potential.
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Figure 1: The great flooding of the Zeeland province in 1953 caused substantial loss of life and capital, and triggered large-scale improvements to the flood defences of the Netherlands. © https://beeldbank.rws.nl, Rijkswaterstaat / Archief RWS.


Introduction: The Instrumental Role of Models
The history of the Netherlands is replete with water-related adversity and catastrophe (see Fig. 1). Although the Dutch have become renowned for their ability to deal with the various challenges of water, there is still ample reason for disconcert. Projected risks related to climate change include sea-level rises of up to four meters by the year 2200 and increasing river discharges, both of which pose great challenges to Dutch flood defences. In addition, climate change will negatively impact biodiversity and ecological resilience.PBL, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Effects of Climate Change in the Netherlands: 2012. The Hague: PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, 2013.
Activities aimed at ensuring and maintaining the safety, habitability, economic welfare, and environmental sustainability of the Netherlands depend heavily on models, which are used to define, monitor, predict, counter, and communicate water-related risks.
Models are not mute instruments that objectively represent the world as it “really” is. Rather, models play an inscriptive role when it comes to understanding and dealing with water-related risks. As various studies of modeling practices have shown,See for example Gabriele Gramelsberger, “The Epistemic Texture of Simulated Worlds,” in Andrea Gleiniger and Georg Vrachliotis (eds), Simulation: Presentation Technique and Cognitive Method. Basel: Birkhäuser, 2004, pp. 83–92; G. Gramelsberger, Computerexperimente: Zum Wandel Der Wissenschaft Im Zeitalter Des Computers. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2010; G. Gramelsberger (ed.), “From Science to Computational Sciences: A Science History and Philosophy Overview,” in From Science to Computational Sciences. Zürich: Daphanes, 2011, pp. 19–44; Stefan Helmreich, “Digitizing Development: Balinese Water Temples, Complexity, and the Politics of Simulation,” Critique of Anthropology, vol. 19, no. 3 (1999), pp. 249–65; Günter Küppers and Johannes Lenhard, “Computersimulationen: Modellierungen 2. Ordnung,” Journal for General Philosophy of Science, vol. 36, no. 2 (2005), pp. 305–29; Günter Küppers et al. (eds), “Computer Simulation: Practice, Epistemology, and Social Dynamics,” in Simulation: Pragmatic Constructions of Reality. New York: Springer, 2006, pp. 3–22; Mary Morgan and Margaret Morrison (eds), “Models as Mediating Instruments,” in Models as Mediators: Perspectives on Natural and Social Sciences. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 10–37; Margaret Morrison, “Models as Autonomous Agents,” in Mary S. Morgan and Margaret Morrison (eds), Models as Mediators: Perspectives on Natural and Social Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 38–65; Eric Winsberg, “Sanctioning Models: The Epistemology of Simulation,” Science in Context, vol. 12, no. 2 (1999), pp. 275–92; E. Winsberg, “Models of Success Versus the Success of Models: Reliability Without Truth,” Synthese, no. 152 (2006), pp. 1–19; E. Winsberg, “A Tale of Two Methods,” Synthese 169 (2009), pp. 575–92; E. Winsberg, Science in the Age of Computer Simulation. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2010.
the development and use of models requires that target systems are translated into physical and/or computational models that facilitate experimentation. As a result, the use of models is “inscriptive,” which can be dangerous, due to potentially dangerous assumptions, uncertainties, and blind spots. Modeling practices shape the understanding of target systems. As a result, they may have dangerous repercussions for the practices that draw on model output. For example, model-based experiments can be used to determine the adequate height of flood defences. However, the determined height may turn out to be insufficient due to the omission or inadequate representation of crucial parameters of the target system, such as the amount of water, the impact of wind, and the structural stability of flood defences.
Although the inscriptive aspects of models should be taken seriously, they should not necessarily be lamented either. Models give an idea of what may happen in futures that have some probability, or in extreme circumstances that which may not often, or perhaps never actually occur. Moreover, models enable experimentation in a way that does not interfere with real-world systems, and can be much cheaper and more efficient than experimentation in such systems. By means of models, risks are imagined and reimagined in various ways, potentially opening up new vistas for fruitful intervention in real-world systems.
In sum, modeling practice involves a razor’s edge between dangerous omissions and fruitful intervention, which deserves further elaboration. Given the instrumental role of models in equipping the Netherlands against water-related risks, I inquire how hydraulic engineers subject models to scrutiny, and to what extent such a reflexive attitude is adopted more broadly by other social groups. Failing to approach models and their inscriptive aspects in a reflexive manner may render the Netherlands (and other countries reliant on models) vulnerable to the potentially negative effects of models.
Rather than wallowing in a defeatist elaboration of the inscriptive role of models, my perhaps sobering remarks are meant as a call to arms: the equipment used to model risks deserves more credit. Models need to be appreciated as equipment of crucial importance, provided reliance on modeling is met with persistent attempts to comprehend how models shape one’s understanding of risks.

Computer Simulation and Traveling Code
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Figure 2: A scale model of the Rotterdam harbour and hinterland in operation. Note the devices used to register water levels located at various points of the model. © Deltares.

During the twentieth century, research in hydrology and hydrodynamics in the Netherlands gradually abandoned scale modeling in favour of computational modeling. Over time, computer simulations became the dominant knowledge means of modeling hydrological and hydrodynamic phenomena.Cornelis Disco and Jan van den Ende, “‘Strong, Invincible Arguments’? Tidal Models as Management Instruments in Twentieth-Century Dutch Coastal Engineering,” Technology and Culture, vol. 44, no. 3 (2003), pp. 502–35.
Costly experiments using scale models involved a time-intensive process of recreating water systems and man-made structures (see Fig. 2). Due to their gradual improvement over the years, computer simulations were embraced due to their efficiency and perceived epistemic prowess. Still, scale models are used to this very day. Depending on the extent to which the problem to be studied is known or features uncertainties, engineers advocate a “hybrid” approach that consists of both computer simulations and scale models, in particular when it comes to studying water flow near man-made structures or the border between water and land (see Fig. 3).
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Figure 3: Scale model of a pier under inspection and awaiting an experiment, which will involve unleashing artificially created waves on the structure shown. The coloured bricks are used to identify which bricks have changed position, enabling the assessment of structural integrity. © Deltares.

Over time, the use of computer simulation has led to a more and more complex computer code underpinning such models, making it more and more difficult for hydraulic engineers to grasp fully the design and impact of the models they use. The increasing complexity of code is due to a variety of factors: models are developed by more and more people, many of whom are responsible for a smaller part in a larger whole. In addition, older code may not be understood because the expertise underlying it is no longer available. Finally, modelers may have the tendency to leave parts of the model unquestioned due to successful applications in the past that foster trust in the model in question.
Thus, computer simulations become “black-boxed” in the sense that their successful application renders them invisible.Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999, p. 304.
More generally, computer simulations enable code to travel to other contexts of development and application, exacerbating the distribution of modeling practice over a large and diverse group of social actors. The expertise of modelers is codified in the form of computer code that underpins computer simulations. This code can be shared with parties farther removed from the contexts in which development of code took place. As a result, the group of social actors involved with modeling is by no means limited to engineers actively developing models. Code may travel to consultancies, software developers, decision makers working for city governments, scientists, etc.
Present-day developments related to modeling further enable the distribution of modeling practice across a multitude of actors. First, so-called “modeling interfaces” are becoming more and more popular. Such interfaces enable a modular approach to modeling, in which model code, written by a variety of parties, is coupled and patched together to create a working model, provided these model components meet the standard of the modeling interface. Thus, model components can be combined to create some model that “works” in a pragmatic sense by providing a perceived solution to a problem. As a result, users are tempted to attribute reliability to the model in question, though extensive knowledge of the underlying model components is not required. Second, the increasing popularity of computer simulations in water governance has created a demand for models that can be used by “non-experts.” Such models need to be interactive to be sufficiently appealing and useful in practical settings, meaning underlying calculation rules are simplified to enable interaction with the model in question. Users end up using a model that meets the criteria of practical settings, but such models may not have the scientific rigor needed to create a more complete understanding of water-related phenomena. As the rising popularity of “serious games” shows, models can be praised for their interactive and playful characteristics that enable a wide variety of users to interact with complex systems (see Fig. 4).
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Figure 4: Screenshot from the serious game ‘Levee Patroller’ showing a damaged dike and flooding in progress. This serious game is used for educational purposes. © Deltares.


Epistemic Opacity and Immersion
The increasing complexity of models, together with their codification in the form of computer software that involves a larger and more varied group of social actors in modeling practices, imply “epistemic opacity”:Paul Humphreys, Extending Ourselves : Computational Science, Empiricism, and Scientific Method. Cambridge. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004; P. Humphreys, “The Philosophical Novelty of Computer Simulation Methods,” Synthes, vol. 169, no. (2009), pp. 615–26.
those involved with modeling practices may be unable to understand the computational techniques and underlying design of models, or may not have the desire to understand these underlying principles.
When such an inquisitive attitude is absent, those working with models straddle discovery and manipulation: models may inform the understanding of risks, but the way in which they inscribe themselves into such an understanding through their role as risk equipment is not subject to reflection. In other words, the instrumentality of models is left unquestioned. According to Sherry Turkle,Sherry Turkle, Simulation and Its Discontents. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.
the balancing act between discovery and manipulation concomitant with modeling is tipping more and more toward manipulation, since models are becoming more and more difficult to understand and more convincing at the same time (e.g. due to the use of interaction and realistic visualizations). As a result, models imply “immersion,” which can be defined more generally in terms of the engrossing, enticing, or captivating influence of technologically-mediated practices and experiences.Gordon Calleja, In-Game: From Immersion to Incorporation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011; Matthew Causey, Theatre and Performance in Digital Culture: From Simulation to Embeddedness. London: Routledge, 2009.
It is possible to assess the extent to which those engaged with modeling are subject to immersion by asking whether epistemic opacity is something about which they are concerned. It may be the case that those engaged with modeling are unable or unwilling to reflect on what impact models have on their understanding of the world. As I show in more detail below, immersion due to epistemic opacity is by no means a given.

Tinkering
Those engaged with modeling need not necessarily succumb to immersion, provided they consider how models affect their understanding of phenomena. In this context, Till Grüne-Yanoff and Paul Weirich argue for an “experimental approach” that may counter epistemic opacity:
Because simulations are typically based on calculations that are intractable, the results of a simulation cannot be predicted at the time when the simulation is constructed or manipulated. This allows seeing the simulation as an unpredictable and opaque entity, with which one can interact in an experimental manner. However, the legitimacy of a computer simulation still relies on the analytic understanding of at least the underlying mathematical equations, if not the computation process itself. Thus, the experimental approach to simulations consists in a strategic move to “black-box” […] the known program and to interact ‘experimentally’ with the surface of the simulation.Till Grüne-Yanoff and Paul Weirich, “The Philosophy and Epistemology of Simulation: A Review,” Simulation & Gaming, vol. 41, no. 1 (2010), pp. 20–50, here p. 26.
There are cases of hydraulic engineers adopting a more “experimental” approach to models.Matthijs Kouw, Pragmatic Constructions: Simulation and the Vulnerability of Technological Cultures. Maastricht: Maastricht University, 2012; M. Kouw, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants – and Then Looking the Other Way? Epistemic Opacity, Immersion, and Modeling in Hydraulic Engineering,” Perspectives on Science, vo. 24, no. 2 (2016), pp. 206–27.
Such an approach involves the persistent questioning of a model, by examining the way it translates target systems into a formal representation that enables computation (known as a “schematization,” see Fig. 5), underlying equations, and a time-consuming process of getting to know a model by working with it for extended periods of time in different projects. Rather than taking model output for granted, hydraulic engineers often study the principles on which basis a model has been designed. More generally, this interaction with scientific instruments can be identified by the term “tinkering,Karin Knorr Cetina, The Manufacture of Knowledge: An Essay on the Constructivist and Contextual Nature of Science. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1981.
which denotes the active engagement of scientific practitioners with their objects of study. Such objects are usually recalcitrant and require active intervention on the part of scientists.
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Figure 5: A schematization of the Wadden Sea in the north of the Netherlands that translates a physical environment into a grid on which computational operations can be performed. © 2012 Google.

Hydraulic engineers tinker by “interacting experimentally” with the “surface” of models. Despite this reflexive attitude toward models, immersion surfaces when hydraulic engineers or other social actors take model output for granted. Who is to say that hydraulic engineers or other social actors are indeed tempted to question the models with which they work? The everyday reality of modeling practice does not always require such an inquisitive attitude. Even though the study of water-related risks may be based on opaque models, engineers need not be hamstrung by the complexities of their risk equipment. Modeling practice, as well as other technologically mediated practices, imply a degree of ignorance, which “allows us to take our tools for granted; we don’t even notice them as objects, most of the time. We rely on their ‘equipmental effect’, forgetting that this efficacy is itself the result of a vast network of alliances, mediations, and relays.Steve Shaviro, “The Universe of Things,” Theory & Event, vol. 14, no. 3 (2011)(DOI:10.1353/tae.2011.0027).
Similarly, the issue of immersion in modeling practice concerns the fact that those involved with modeling are thrown into and entangled in technological practices, which involves working with increasingly opaque models. Abandon all hope, ye who enter the domain of modeling practice?

Mastering Technology?
Rather than lamenting the inscriptive effects of models beforehand, a concern with immersion as a result of modeling practice, should be met by subjecting risk equipment to critical and persistent scrutiny. This can be achieved by studying the various ways in which practitioners interact experimentally with risk equipment by means of tinkering. As indicated above, hydraulic engineers adopt reflexive forms of modeling practice in the face of epistemic opacity, making a pessimistic view of models unnecessary.
This said, nonetheless, there is always a degree of ignorance within which reflexive forms of modeling take place: technologies are not so much mastered, as subjected to experimental interaction, which does not guarantee a complete and exhaustive understanding of a model. In this scenario, mastery of technologies may not be the most eloquent response to the risk of immersion:
[…] the belief that we can humanize machines by slowing them down, refraining from their continuous use, alternating their use with authentic home- and handcrafting, or using them on a less massive scale […] the point is not to make the same machine do the same thing more slowly, at a human pace or in a friendlier way, but to make machines do things differently […] We should look carefully at how human action organizes itself around machinery, how machinery organizes and even institutionalizes action, and how it slowly takes away or enables freedom.Lars Spuybroek, The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design. Rotterdam: V2 Publishing, 2011, p. 49.
Tinkering is a form of reflexivity that leads to engagement with epistemically opaque models. Since it is unlikely that the trends that have established epistemically opaque models can be reversed, tinkering rather than mastery needs to be fostered. Although the danger of epistemic opacity was signalled in the early days of software development, present-day challenges of hydraulic engineering do not bode well for Edsger Dijkstra’s suggestion to “confine ourselves to the design and implementation of intellectually manageable programs.Edsger W. Dijkstra, “The Humble Programmer,” in R. L. Ashenhurst and S. Graham (ed.), ACM Turing Award Lectures: The First Twenty Years, 1966 to 1985. New York: ACM Press, 1987, pp. 17–32.
As indicated above, modeling practice is distributed over a larger and more varied group of social actors.
Reflexivity and tinkering need to be interpreted as a form of situated making-do rather than attempts to achieve mastery over technologies. Rather than taking a defeatist stance towards modeling, the ways in which people actually work with models needs to be studied. Such study affords a criticism that is more grounded in actual practices, thereby able to suggest more engaging forms of interaction with models.

Conclusion
There are strong indications that a reflexive attitude to modeling is primarily adopted by engineers responsible for model development. Actors outside the realm of model development, such as consultants, decision makers, and policymakers, appear to have substantial confidence in models, and have a lesser tendency to take model output with a grain of salt, which is something lamented by engineers involved with modeling. The question remains how more reflexive forms of modeling practice can be adopted more broadly. Although the implementation of “good modeling practice” (i.e. programming methods that foster more engagement with code underlying models) can be a way to achieve more reflexivity, it is unlikely all social groups involved with modeling practice will find the opportunity to concern themselves with the nitty-gritty details of modeling and software.
Models are of profound importance when it comes to preparing for futures in the near and not so near future, and therefore deserve substantial credit. The fact that models are risk equipment on which more and more aspects of today’s profoundly technological cultures depend is all the more reason to engage with them, rather than pushing them away as a mischievous source of simulacra. Instead of advocating a dismissive attitude to models due to their inscriptive effects, I propose the study of modeling practice as a more fruitful way to engage with models as risk equipment. Thus, an understanding of how knowledge about risks is produced can be achieved. Articulating how models envisage risks is a fruitful way forward in meeting the myriad challenges of tomorrow.