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Dossiers
Authors
  • Lawrence Abu Hamdan
  • Babak Afrassiabi
    • Babak Afrassiabi is an artist who works both in Iran and the Netherlands. Since 2004, he has collaborated with Nasrin Tabatabai on various joint projects and the publication of the bilingual magazine Pages (Farsi and English). Their work seeks to articulate the undecidable space between art and its historical conditions, including the recurring question of the place of the archive in defining the juncture between politics, history, and the practice of art. The artists’ work has been presented internationally in various solo and group exhibitions and they have been tutors at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht (2008–13), and Erg, école supérieure des arts, Brussels (2015–).
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  • S. Ayesha Hameed
    • Dr. S. Ayesha Hameed is a Lecturer in Visual Cultures and the Joint Programme Leader in Fine Art and History of Art Research Fellow in Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, London. She received her PhD in Social and Political Thought at York University, Canada in 2008
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      published contributions
  • Sammy Baloji
  • On Barak
    • On Barak is a social and cultural historian of science and technology in non-Western settings. He has been a senior lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University since 2012. Prior to this, he was a member of the Princeton Society of Fellows. In 2009, Barak received a joint PhD in History and Middle Eastern Studies from New York University. His most recent book is On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt (University of California Press, 2013), and his current publication project, Coalonialism: Energy and Empire before the Age of Oil, is funded by a European Union Marie Curie Award and an Israel Science Foundation Grant.
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  • Anil Bawa-Cavia
    • Anil Bawa-Cavia is a computer scientist with a background in machine learning. He runs STDIO, a speculative software studio. His practice engages with algorithms, protocols, encodings, and other software artifacts and his doctoral research at the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London was on complex networks in urbanism. He is a founding member of Call & Response, a sonic arts collective and gallery space in London, and a member of the New Centre for Research & Practice.
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  • Etienne Benson
  • Josh Berson
  • Jeremy Bolen
  • Axel Braun
    • Axel Braun studied photography at the Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, and fine arts at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. His artistic research deals with controversial infrastructure projects, tautology as an attempt to understand reality, and failed utopias in art and architecture. Currently, he is pursuing the long-term project Towards an Understanding of Anthropocene Landscapes. Recently exhibited works include Some Kind of Opposition (2016) at Galeria Centralis, Budapest, and Dragonflies drift downstream on a river (2015) at Kunstmuseum Bochum.
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      published contributions
  • Keith Breckenridge
  • François Bucher
    • s, focusing on ethical and aesthetic problems of cinema and television, and more recently on the image as an interdimensional field. His work has been exhibited at
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      published contributions
  • Lino Camprubí
  • Zachary Caple
  • Ele Carpenter
    • Dr. Ele Carpenter is a senior lecturer in curating at Goldsmiths, London. Her curatorial practice responds to interdisciplinary socio-political contexts such as the nuclear economy and the relationship between craft and code.
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      published contributions
  • Andrew Chubb
    • Andrew Chubb is a PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia conducting research on the relationship between Chinese public opinion and government policy in the South China Sea. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Contemporary China, Pacific Affairs, East Asia Forum, and Information, Communication & Society. His blog, South Sea Conversations (southseaconversations.wordpress.com), provides translations and analysis of Chinese discourse on the South and East China Sea issues.
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      published contributions
  • Louis Chude-Sokei
    • Louis Chude-Sokei is a writer and scholar currently teaching in the English Department at the University of Washington, Seattle. His academic interests range from West African, Caribbean, and American literary and cultural studies to a particular focus on sound, technology, and performance. His literary and public work focuses on immigration and black-on-black cultural contacts, conflicts, and exchanges. Chude-Sokei is the author of the award-winning book The Last “Darky”: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (2006) and The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics (2016).
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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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Deposit of concrete blocks at Dunakiliti dam, 2015

Towards an Understanding of Anthropocene Landscapes

Artist and photographer Axel Braun collects case studies on contentious infrastructure projects in order to trace humanity’s development as a geological force. His studies focus on human-altered landscapes as byproducts of discourses and processes that describe the technosphere as it brings forth the Anthropocene. Braun’s growing anthology of examples invites readers to complement the artist’s selection with their own observations and experiences.
Humans transform their environment to satisfy their growing needs. The suggestion of the Anthropocene is a critical reminder that there are indeed limits to growth. Facilitated by technological progress, a growing world population is leaving its mark on the planet. By improving its living conditions and shaping the world, humanity has created an inescapable web of factual laws that leaves little option to start all over again. The following selection of case studies on controversial infrastructure projects aims to illustrate discourses and processes that describe humanity’s advancement towards the Anthropocene. Large constructions, like dams, land reclamation, or canals are examples for interrelated structures that constitute the technosphere and determine its further expansion. Water management is one of the oldest forms of engineering that has been central to civilizations for millennia. It provides interesting cases to trace the progress from cultivation of land and the defense of living spaces against natural forces towards the redesign of entire environments with numerous ecological, social, economic, political, and geological implications.


Dragonflies Drift Downstream on a River

Do we build a house forever? Do we make a home forever? Do brothers divide an inheritance forever? Do disputes prevail [in the land] forever? Do rivers rise in floods forever? Dragonflies drift downstream on a river, their faces staring at the sun Then suddenly there is nothing.Benjamin R. Foster, trans., The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet X, lines 307‒314. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001, pp. 82f.
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Img. 01 Cave mansions, Hasankeyf, 2014
Hasankeyf is a small town in Southeast Anatolia at the Northern fringes of ancient Mesopotamia. The settlement bears traces of several thousand years of history. Located on the Silk Road, at a crossing point of the Tigris River, the castle and settlement became a center of trade and a meeting point for early civilizations. Numerous ruins and remnants from medieval times characterize the old town today and illustrate the wealth and power of the past. Hundreds of human-made cave mansions cover the canyons around the castle rock and create impressive sceneries. The archaeological sites are the main assets for tourism, a modest source of income for the local population. Mainly Kurdish and Arab communities inhabit this economically and structurally weak part of Turkey, many of them leading traditional lives based on subsistence agriculture. The region has been stuck in uncertainty for decades, as plans to build a dam and flood the valley have been announced and postponed repeatedly by Turkish authorities. The Ilisu Dam, about seventy kilometers downstream at the border with Iraq, will drown significant parts of Hasankeyf in its reservoir. This barrage is one of the last unfinished facilities of the Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP), a scheme of twenty-two dams, tunnels, and canals in the catchment areas of the Euphrates and Tigris. The Atatürk Dam is the most famous asset in operation.
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Img. 02 Construction site of Ilisu dam, Ilisu, 2014
Officially, the GAP fosters the economic development of Southeast Anatolia by providing energy and irrigation water for arid land. Critics object to these aims, as the already existing dams have shown that building these infrastructures mainly served the economic elites in the West of the country, while irrigation caused soil salination. Thus, the Turkish government and military are suspected of having different ambitions: installing large-scale reservoirs in the most important rivers of the region promises geopolitical power. The GAP entitles the Turkish government to control significant parts of the drinking water supply of Iraq and Syria. This aspect has been matter of diplomatic controversies for decades. The project has been delayed repeatedly, e.g. after European states withdrew their funds and insurances due to public protests or Turkey’s failure to comply with comparably loose World Bank standards. However, the Turkish government found the means to finance the construction on its own and European engineering companies continued to provide the technology and expertise that nowadays finds little demand and acceptance in their home countries.
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Video 01 Interview with Firat A. (owner of a bed & breakfast in Hasankeyf), 2014
Meanwhile, the local population refuses to change its traditional ways of life for the apartment blocks in New Hasankeyf: the hastily built settlement has been marked by decay even before the first inhabitants moved in. Nevertheless, the requested prices exceed the announced compensation for their old farms and houses by far. Rising poverty and migration are expectable consequences.

Technology Must be Cruel in order to Assert Itself

Technology must be cruel in order to assert itself. In many cases, however, it has the power to alleviate and to shield piety from the purity of nature.Author unknown, Die Kraftzentrale im Schwarzwald, Vorwärts (28 December 1928)
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Img. 03 Remnants of the landslide, Monte Toc, Vajont, 2011
The Vajont Dam in Northern Italy was planned by a private energy company with ambitions to sell the asset to the state after completion. Although experts and locals protested against the plans and warned of unfavorable geological conditions, the constructions were pushed ahead unscrupulously during the 1950s. Critics were silenced in court trials and unfavorable surveys were concealed in order to realize profits as soon as possible.
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Img. 04 Diga del Vajont dam wall, 2011
The resulting dam wall appears impressively light given its overall height of more than 250 meters: an elegant parabolic concrete construction that might have become an icon of engineering had it not caused a tragedy in 1963. During one of the test fillings of the freshly completed reservoir, the collected water caused a massive landslide, which made the barrage spill over and resulted in a tidal wave that wiped out Longarone at the foot of the Vajont gorge.
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Img. 05 Chiesa Santa Maria di Immacolata, Longarone, 2011
Visiting the valley can still provide an impression of the tragedy’s impact almost fifty years later. Apart from the devastated landscape slowly being covered by vegetation, and the remaining dam wall becoming a monument for the chasms of human greed and hubris, the rebuilt town center of Longarone was striking: constructed in a particularly robust interpretation of béton brut, each building seemed to express the trauma, as well as the fear that events might repeat themselves.

Nothing is Impossible in a Place Where Dreams Become Reality

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Img. 06 View from Daebudo over lake SiHwa, 2012
On the South Korean peninsula, further expansion of urban areas is restricted by geological conditions. Large-scale land-reclamation activities along the Western coast are the consequence, especially in the agglomeration around Seoul. Many former islands and bays have become part of the mainland during the last decades. The island Daebudo in Gyeonggi Bay, for example, was connected to the mainland by a twelve-kilometer-long dam in 1994.
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Video 02 SiHwa Lake Tidal Power Plant, Daewoo E&C, DVD, 17‘07“, 2007
The aim was to turn the dammed saltwater bay into a freshwater reservoir and to facilitate land reclamation along the shores, a scheme comparable to the Ijsselmeer in The Netherlands. Because of insufficient purification facilities in a densely populated region, the endeavor soon became an ecologic disaster. Opening the dam to have the polluted Si-Hwa Lake washed out by the tides, appeared as the only solution. Eventually the dam and the bay became the world’s largest tidal power plant, in order to lead the infrastructure back to profit and reputation.
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Img. 07 Construction site of SiHwa Technological Valley, 2012
On the other side of the bay, the planned city New Songdo was established on a land-reclamation site that allegedly replaced a bird sanctuary. Nevertheless, architects and investors advertised the future free-trade zone as particularly sustainable: because of smart technologies, New Songdo City will have 30 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than a conventional city of its size.
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Img. 08 Construction site of New Songdo City, 2012
In 2012, the construction works were delayed and those parts that were already completed resembled a ghost town. The global financial crisis had left clear marks on a site promoted as the future business hub for Northeast Asia. One of the few assets already in operation was the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club course suitable for international tournaments. Once the anticipated growth returns, New Songdo is well prepared: numerous plots for further constructions are available, idly awaiting their future purposes in a rectangular grid of unfinished streets.

DMZ – Natural Mineral Water

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Img. 09 Scale model, Odusan Unification Observatory, 2012
The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a buffer zone between North and South Korea that has been completely closed to any human access. Reportedly, a remarkable ecosystem has developed in the fenced-off and heavily land-mined landscape since the cease-fire of 1953. For decades, a real-live experience of the mountains, rivers, and floodplains was unimaginable; that was until the DMZ Eco-Peace Park opened in 2016, inviting ecotourism. The pristine nature in the exclusion zone has inspired marketing campaigners for some time.
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Img. 10 DMZ – Natural Mineral Water, LOTTE, 2012
Allegedly obtained from underneath the demarcation line, DMZ Natural Mineral Water provides a nice example of the human desire to leave no natural resource untapped. Furthermore, it illustrates a growing nostalgia for the pureness of nature in an expanding technosphere.

And Who Steps into this Realm Will be Enchanted by the Spirit of a New Age

There have been complaints by elderly people that everything has developed to the current state. They say that the industry has taken away the intimate appeal from the lovely Emscher valley. Indeed, we can understand this point of view, just we do not see it justified. Of course, the poetic charm has disappeared but even before it was just present for those few who had time and delight to search and enjoy it. [...] Overviewing the landscape from an elevated point [...] [still] reveals a fabulous image [...] At its glance everybody feels that a new time is coming, and who steps into this realm will be enchanted by the spirit of a new age.“An der Emscher,” Essener Volkszeitung, Stadtarchiv EVZ 43 (1910) v 11.6., Haus der Essener Geschichte, trans. Axel Braun
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Img. 11 Regulated Emscher, Essen, 2014 (excerpt)
The Emscher River in the Northern Ruhr area, Germany’s former industrial center, was a shallow stream that found its meandered course through forests and flood plains until the nineteenth century, when industrialization changed its fate within decades. Already heavily polluted by unfiltered industrial and domestic sewage waters from the growing agglomeration, the river became increasingly affected by submergences of ground that facilitated floods and turned whole parts into toxic lakes and swamps. At a time when smoking chimneys were a symbol of power and prosperity, a dying river would not have been reason for concern; until that is, the calamities became a threat to industrial assets and workers’ health. After years of debates about who should cover the costs, a cooperative of private and public stakeholders was formed at the beginning of the twentieth century.
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Video 03 Construction site of Abwasserkanal Emscher, 2014
Full canalization and diking of the river, relocation of the estuary, and the establishment of hundreds of pumping stations appeared as the only solution for the disastrous situation. After completion, the resulting hydrological scheme served as the main, open sewer for the entire industrial region during the rest of the twentieth century.
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Img. 12 Oxbow of river Emscher, Kaisergarten, Oberhausen, 2014
Since coal mining ended, an even higher technological effort is currently undertaken to disentangle river and sewage water again by drilling a seventy-kilometer-long tunnel and reshaping sections of the river landscape to achieve a more natural appeal. The only remaining branch of the original river that survived as a pond in a park was restored in 2010. Although now stagnant, it is a lone memorial to a lost river and landscape.

A Pathway for MillenniaUn drum pentru milenii, is the title of a Romanian propaganda film for the Danube‒Black Sea Canal, author unknown, 1980s. Archive of ADMINISTRATIA CANALELOR NAVIGABILE S.A., Agigea.

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Img. 13 Nicolae Ceauşescu inaugurates the first branch of the Danube-Black Sea canal, 1984 „TOVARASUL NICOLAE CEAUŞESCU A INAUGURAT IERI CANALUL DUNARE-MAREA NEAGRA“, Scinteia, 27 May 1984, p.3
On its way from Serbia to the Black Sea, the Danube forms the border between Bulgaria and Romania for several hundred kilometers. Shortly before the river reaches the sea, an elevation in the Dobrogea region directs the river for about 300 kilometers to the North, before it arrives at the Black Sea. Since the nineteenth century, plans were developed to correct “nature’s mistake” by building a Danube‒Black Sea Canal to create a direct connection to the seaport of Constanta. Both Austrian and British enterprises distanced from their ambitions quickly, due to the extreme technical challenges. After the Second World War and establishment of the communist regime in Romania, the plans were reassessed in order to use the construction site as a forced labor camp to eliminate the old elites. Again, the canal project was deemed unrealizable after a few years, and work was halted, until Nicolae Ceauşescu made the canal his prestige project in the 1970s. Mobilizing the military and numerous volunteers eventually allowed him to inaugurate the two branches in 1984 and 1987.
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Img. 14 Construction site of the Danube-lack Sea canal, 1980s 9. ZONA km.12 + 500. VEDERE SPRE POARTA ALBA – MIDIA, NAVODARI; MTTC-IPTANA, „Canalul Poarta Alba – Midia, Navodari“, Album Fotografic, etapa I, 1987; Archive of ADMINISTRATIA CANALELOR NAVIGABILE S.A., Agigea
The canal was supposed to establish the communist dictator as an important actor in world trade. However, comparing the canal to projects of similar size, like the Suez Canal or Panama Canal, makes it appear rather irrelevant today. Nevertheless, the appeal of pushing the right buttons in order to split mountains still does not seem to have fallen out of fashion among authoritarian leaders worldwide.

Some Kind of Opposition

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Video 04 A műtargy (The Object), Fekete Doboz, VHS, 46’30”, 1988, Copyright by Marta Elbert
Committee secretary János Berecz . . . spoke of a ‘certain group’ which was ‘moving in the direction of some kind of opposition.“B-WIRE / 02-JUN-86 04:59,” 2 June 1986. HU OSA 300-40-1: 276/3; Energetika, Erőművek, Vízerőmű, Bős- Gabčíkovo Gabcikovo-Nagymaros, 1986 [3 of 3]; Records of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute; Donald and Vera Blinken Open Society Archives at the Central European University, Budapest [At the time of the statement János Berecz was a member of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party and the central committee secretary for ideology. He was seen as a possible successor of János Kádár.]
The majority of events connected to the controversy around the Gabčíkovo‒Nagymaros Dam System in Hungary and Czechoslovakia took place in the 1980s and early 1990s, yet the conflict remains unresolved to the present day. The planned scheme of three dams was to redirect and alter the Danube drastically on a stretch of about 200 kilometers according to a bilateral agreement from 1977. Next to the undisguised announcement that the planned redirection would dry out Europe’s last remaining inland delta Szigetköz, the prospect of building the Nagymaros Dam in the Danube Bend, a landscape of national identification, mobilized Hungary’s first environmental initiative, the Duna Kör (Danube Circle), founded by biologist János Vargha in 1984. In the beginning, the group used Samizdat underground publications to protest against both dams. Despite oppression during the early years, the movement kept growing and the political climate of perestroika made possible large protests and petitions with more than 100,000 signatures in 1988. Duna Kör reached its biggest success in 1989: Hungary’s socialist government suspended the construction of the Nagymaros Dam, and its democratic successors discarded the project completely in 1991.
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Img. 15 Scale model of the Nagymaros dam in the Danube bend, 1950s “Ábra alsó része” [lower part of the picture], undated Környezetvédelmi és Vízügyi Levéltár Budapest
While not building the dam became a symbol for democratization in Hungary, completing the scheme became a symbol for nation-building in newly independent Slovakia, whose aim was to achieve energy autonomy. Consequently, Slovakia continued alone in the early 1990s. The Danube was redirected towards the Gabčíkovo Power Plant near Bratislava. The major share of water was provided for the Slovak power plant, while the Szigetköz on the Hungarian side of the former border river dried up. Hungary accused Slovakia of environmental damage and Slovakia insisted on Hungary’s responsibility to comply with their bilateral agreement. As the dispute between the two countries could not be solved diplomatically, it was taken to the International Court of Justice in 1997 – without significant results. A bilateral conflict would have prevented the two countries from entering the European Union in 2004, thus the official debate was muted and unofficial solutions were found to share the current, in order to provide both electricity and maintain the threatened inland delta by technical means.
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Img. 16 Deposit of concrete blocks at Dunakiliti dam, 2015 The blocks were produced to build a gravity dam and redirect the Danube towards Slovakia. Due to conflicts between Hungary and Slovakia the river was redirected at a different location in 1993.
However, both the Slovak governments and the Hungarian far-right faction called for a renegotiation and completion of the dam project repeatedly. For decades, even touching on the topic was seen as political suicide in Hungary, as it was so closely related to the events of regime change and many politicians of post-socialist Hungary had built their careers on fighting the dam. So did Viktor Orbán and the FIDESZ movement that joined the environmental protest in 1988. However, since these young democrats have changed their agenda remarkably and the Visegrad 4 countries have grown closer in recent years, unofficial governmental consultations on the Gabčíkovo‒Nagymaros issue have been reported in 2016.

Towards an Understanding of Anthropocene Landscapes

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Img. 17 Side arm of the Danube in the Szigetköz, 2015 Europe’s last inland delta could not exist without the water management of the Čunovo and Dunakiliti dams.
Apart from the political aspects we have encountered in the last case study, the Szigetköz provides an interesting example of how the technosphere maintains the biosphere by subordinating the latter into its structures. Since the construction of the dam system, the inland delta can only survive due to the water-management system provided by the dams. Hydro-engineers aim to simulate the more favorable water levels of the last decades, including seasonal droughts and floods, in order to provide the best conditions for an ecosystem that had almost been sacrificed to the dam scheme. However, it would be false to blame the dam system alone for the problems of the delta: the transformation of the Szigetköz had started centuries earlier, first in terms of land reclamation by local farmers, then joined by the dredging and diking of the Danube by Habsburg engineers in order to foster navigation and flood control. Long before the first dam constructions, weirs had to be installed to prevent the side-arms and oxbows from running dry, due to the fast-flowing current of the dredged-out main branch. This example describes the ongoing development of the technosphere as a multilayered process, which increasingly assimilates its predecessors.
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Img. 18 Control panel of the Rheinkraftwerk Albbruck-Dogern hydro power plant, 2011
Similar relations, consequences, or dependencies can be observed throughout the selection of the case studies described here. Often, a single interference in a natural system can make numerous additional reactions and regulations necessary, even if the original aim that started the chain reaction over time has been almost forgotten. As many disasters have shown, the increasing domination of the biosphere by the technosphere bears uncontrollable risks. Nevertheless, the technosphere will continue to extend and interconnect globally, forming the system that brought about the Anthropocene as well as the thrust for its further articulation.

The case studies that belong to the long-term project TOWARDS AN UNDERSTANDING OF ANTHROPOCENE LANDSCAPES have been supported by the Innogy Stiftung, Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation, Emscher Genossenschaft, Visegrad Fund, European Cultural Foundation, Goethe-Institut, Kunststiftung NRW, Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives, and the Visual Studies Platform & Institute for Advanced Study at the Central European University, Budapest. Unless indicated otherwise, the copyright holder for all texts and images is Axel Braun. Reproduction or publication requires the written permission of the author. Copyright Axel Braun, 2017.