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  • 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–).
    • published contributions
  • Malin Ah-King
  • Memo Akten
    • . He is currently a PhD candidate at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is researching artificial intelligence, machine learning, and expressive human-ma
    • published contributions
  • Jamie Allen
  • 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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  • Sammy Baloji
  • Subhankar Banerjee
  • 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
  • Paul Boshears
  • Benjamin Bratton
    • for Media, Architecture and Design, Moscow. Bratton is also Professor of Digital Design at the Eur
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  • 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.
    • 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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  • 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.
    • 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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  • 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).
    • published contributions
  • Amy Cimini
  • 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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  • Flavio D'Abramo
  • Ana Dana Beroš
    • chitect and curator focused on creating uncertain, fragile environments that catalyze social chan
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  • Pietro Daniel Omodeo
  • 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
    • 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
    • published contributions
  • Rohini Devasher
  • 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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  • Design Earth
    • ollaborative architectural practice led by El Hadi Jazairy
    • published contributions
  • Keller Easterling
  • Anna Echterhölter
  • 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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  • Technosphere Editorial
  • Sasha Engelmann
  • Lois Epstein
    • stein is Arctic Program Director at the Wilderness Society an American land conservation non-profit. A licensed engineer, she has served on a number of federal advisory committees, including a National Academy of Sciences committee studying oil and gas regulations, and, for twelve years, a committee focusing on oil pipeline safety. Epstein holds a Master of Civil Engineering with a specialization in environme
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  • 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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  • Elaine Gan
  • Oliver Gantner
  • Beate Geissler and Oliver Sann
  • 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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  • Mark Graham
  • Jacques Grinevald
  • 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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  • 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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  • Eva Hayward
  • Gabrielle Hecht
  • Gerda Heck
  • Florian Hecker
    • dio 3 as the broadcaster’s first ever live binaural broadcast. Recent major exhibitions
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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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.
    • published contributions
  • Sabine Höhler
  • Erich Hörl
  • Timothy Johnson
  • Peter K. Haff
  • Bernd Kasparek
  • Nikos Katsikis
  • Laleh Khalili
  • Axel Kleidon
  • 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).
    • 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.
    • 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).
    • published contributions
  • Matija Kralj
  • Kei Kreutler
  • 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.
    • 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).
    • published contributions
  • Hannah Landecker
  • Brian Larkin
  • Bruno Latour
  • Manfred Laubichler
  • 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
    • published contributions
  • Yoneda Lemma
    • ents from one fiction to another. She has exhibited her work at V4ULT, Berlin; Le Cube, Par
    • published contributions
  • Esther Leslie
    • t theories of aesthetics and culture, with a particular focus on the work of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno. It deals with the poetics of science, European literary and visual modern
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  • George Lewis
    • my of Arts and Letters, New York. He has been a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Chicago, since 1971. Lewis’s work as composer, electronic performer, installa
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  • S. Løchlann Jain
  • Donald MacKenzie
  • Stefan Maier
  • Chowra Makaremi
  • Annapurna Mamidipudi
  • 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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  • 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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  • 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.
    • published contributions
  • Paul N. Edwards
  • 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.
    • published contributions
  • Huiying Ng
  • Daniel Niles
    • terial, millenary and momentary—that their knowledge takes, and, finally, the significance of this experience to our understanding of t
    • 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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  • 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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  • Lisa Parks
  • Matteo Pasquinelli
  • Karen Pinkus
    • w York. She is also a faculty fellow of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Ithaca. Author of numerous publications in literary studies, Italian studies, critical theory, and environmental humanities, Pinkus is also Editor of the journal Diacritics. In her latest book, Fuel (2016), Pinkus thinks about issues crucial to climate ch
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  • Giulia Rispoli
  • Sophia Roosth
    • t when researchers are building new biological systems in order to investigate how biology works. She holds a PhD from the Massachuse
    • published contributions
  • Arno Rosemarin
  • Rafico Ruiz
    • afico Ruiz is Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. He studies the relationships between mediation and social space, particularly in the Arctic and subarctic; the cultural geographies of natural resource engagements; and
    • published contributions
  • Kim Rygiel
    • f International Affairs in Waterloo, Canada. Her research focuses on border security, migration, and citizenship in North America and Europe. She investigates how citizens and non-citizens engage in citizenship practices and challenge notions
    • published contributions
  • Dorion Sagan
  • Isabelle Saint-Saëns
  • Birgit Schneider
  • Sever
    • SEVER was developed as a speculative design project by Francesco Sebregondi, Alexey Platonov, Inna Pokazanyeva, and Ildar Iakubov during the New Normal postgraduate program at Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design, Moscow. SEVER seeks to intervene into current Arctic debates by disturbing the landscape of the region’s possible futures
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  • Jens Soentgen
  • C Spencer Yeh
  • Nick Srnicek
  • 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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  • Carolyn Steel
  • Benjamin Steininger
  • 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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  • Kaushik Sunder Rajan
    • echnology studies, and postcolonial studies, holding a special interest in the global political economy of biomedicine, with a comparative focus on the Un
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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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.
    • 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–).
    • published contributions
  • Ksenia Tatarchenko
    • dies Institute, Geneva University, specializing in the history of Russian science and technology. She has held positions as a visiting Assistant Professor of History at NYU Shanghai and a post-doctoral fellow at the Harriman Institute, Columbia. Most broadly, she studies questions of knowledge circulation to situate Soviet developments in the global context. She is currently writing a book on science and innovation cultures in Siberia provisionally
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  • 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.
    • published contributions
  • Terre Thaemlitz
  • 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).
    • 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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  • Vladimir Vernadsky
  • Ben Vida
    • Korea, Australia ,and Europe at such institutions as the Guggenheim, New York; Centro Pecci, Prato, Italy; STUK Arts Center, Leuven
    • published contributions
  • 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.
    • published contributions
  • Kalindi Vora
  • Jennifer Walshe
    • porary Arts, New York; DAAD Berliner Künstle
    • 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
    • published contributions
  • Elvia Wilk
  • 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).
    • 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.
    • published contributions
  • Anna Zett
  • Sander van der Leeuw
    • ionships, and complex systems theory. He investigates the preconditions for and the practices and role of invention, sustainability, and innovation in societies. He has done
    • published contributions
  • 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.
    • published contributions
Source: Creative Commons
The sun seen with a small telescope

How the Technosphere Can Make the Earth More Active

As physicist and Earth System scientist Axel Kleidon argues, the future evolution of humans and their technosphere is not a random, unpredictable outcome. Rather, the technosphere might represent the thermodynamic imperative of advancing the Earth system to higher levels of activity with greater energy conversion. Could it be said that with the development of the technosphere, the Earth is currently undergoing a shift to a state of greater activity?
The Technosphere Needs Energy to Be Active
Energy is central for the technosphere to be active and do things. Just like humans who need energy to maintain their metabolisms even when they sleep and do nothing, any technical object requires energy to be created, to be maintained, and to be able to do things. This energy can come in different forms. Humans get their energy in the form of calories from the food they eat. A power plant gets its energy in chemical form from the coal it burns, while a toaster or a computer uses electric energy that was generated by a power plant. I use the term “active” here to refer to this continuous need for energy to do things. It is a basic need at a profound level for the technosphere, for humans, for the whole biosphere, and, in fact, for any Earth system process to be able to do things.
Focusing on energy makes the activity of humans and their technosphere comparable to the activity of other Earth system processes. I approach this from a purely physical—or, more precisely, thermodynamic—perspective. Overall, this approach allows us to generalize, to identify evolutionary directions and basic limits, and to weave these activities that seem so different from purely natural processes into the context of the Earth system. After all, the energy used by humans and their technosphere needs to come from somewhere within the Earth system, and their activities do something that ultimately alters this very same entity. By tracing energy through the Earth system back to human activity and the technosphere, one can link these processes together and view them in the context of the functioning of the whole planetary system. We can then appreciate the basic role of humans and their technosphere and get a glimpse of what we can expect of the future.
The Earth viewed from a perspective of energy conversions, with its cascades of energy conversions (left, solid lines) and its effects (right, dashed lines). Human activity and the activity of the technosphere are embedded in these conversions, in terms of their need for energy as well as their consequences on the Earth system. Modified after Kleidon, Axel. Thermodynamics and the Earth system. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

I focus on the planetary scale because it makes it simpler to describe the behavior of these processes. This may seem counterintuitive. At first, one may assume that the highly complex dynamics of many actors—such as whirls in a turbulent flow, producers and consumers in ecosystems, or humans and technical objects in societies—should result in even more complex behavior at the planetary scale. That is, larger scales involve more actors that can interact in more diverse ways. However, when energy is constrained, simplicity can emerge at larger scales within highly complex systems, of which there are well-established examples. I focus on such energy constraints in the following to justify the focus on the planetary scale in a comparatively simple way.
Thermodynamics Sets the Laws
Energy constraints emerge from the fundamental theory of thermodynamics that sets the basic laws for energy conversions. The first law states that energy is conserved when it is being converted, while the second law states that energy becomes increasingly dispersed, as measured by the physical concept of entropy.
These laws are fundamental, but they can also be experienced in everyday life. When I start my day with a hot cup of coffee, the inevitable will happen: the coffee will get colder. What actually happens is that the heat, or thermal energy, within the cup and my office are spread more and more evenly, which eventually results in equal temperatures in both (and cold coffee). During this redistribution, energy stays conserved (the first law), but the entropy increases (the second law). The increase in entropy caused by a process that spreads energy is a fundamental consequence of a process being active. This happens not only with cups of coffee, but with all processes in the Earth system. The increase of entropy sets a fundamental direction for anything that happens on Earth, and the speed at which it happens tells us about the overall activity. All processes follow these laws—the climate system, the biosphere, humans, and the technosphere—with no exceptions.
The second law sets more than just a direction. It sets limits to how much free energy, such as electric energy that is able to perform work and maintain activities, can be generated. This is, of course, directly relevant to the technosphere, as human-made objects require such energy to actually do things and stay active rather than to just sit idle and do nothing. This limit can be illustrated by a power plant. A power plant generates electric energy out of heat. The heat is generated by combustion of a fuel such as coal at a high temperature, which is energy of low entropy. The heat that leaves the cooling towers of the plant, seen in the form of white clouds emerging from their tops, exits the power plant at a much colder temperature, and hence at higher entropy. According to the first law of thermodynamics, energy needs to be conserved, so the heat created by combustion balances the heat lost through the cooling towers and the electric energy being generated. The second law tells us that not all of the heat from combustion can be converted into power. A substantial percentage needs to leave the cooling towers, so that in sum, at least as much entropy leaves the power plant as enters it through the combustion process. In the ideal case, these two rates are equal, which defines the well-known Carnot limit, which is a direct consequence of the first and second laws of thermodynamics. It applies not only to power plants, but also to solar panels and to how the Earth generates different forms of energy, for instance when it generates atmospheric motion out of heat. More generally, this limit sets an upper bound to how active a process can be.
The Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant in Þingvellir, Iceland, is an example of an energy conversion process that turns geothermal heat into waste heat (the smoke) and electric energy. © Gretar Ívarsson, 2002 Source: Wiki Commons.

The Sun Energizes the Earth System
When we apply the laws of thermodynamics to the Earth system, it is the continuous input of energy by sunlight that keeps the Earth active. Sunlight is radiation in the visible range of wavelengths. It has a very low entropy because it has been emitted by the Sun at a high temperature. After it has been absorbed, converted, and redistributed within the Earth system, it is emitted to space at much lower temperatures, having longer wavelengths in the infrared range and higher entropy. It is this difference in the entropy of the radiation Earth receives and that it emits that allows for substantial energy conversions and for Earth to stay active.
One set of energy conversions keep the climate system active, with organized circulation patterns of atmospheric winds, oceanic currents, and hydrologic cycling. The different forms of energy are generated by sunlight heating the Earth unevenly, thereby creating temperature differences. These temperature differences generate the kinetic energy of atmospheric motion, just like how a power plant uses the temperature difference to generate electricity. The result of motion is that the heat it transports reduces these temperature differences, which lowers the ability to generate kinetic energy. Simple considerations demonstrate that the atmosphere operates near its thermodynamic limit of maximum power, generating as much kinetic energy as possible, working as hard as it can, and thus staying as active as possible. It suggests more generally that not only do thermodynamic limits exist within the Earth system, but that they are highly relevant because physical processes actually evolve to and are maintained at these limits.
Hurricane Gonzalo is an example of a natural process that converts heat into motion. © Alexander Gerst/ESA/NASA

Motion, in turn, provides the means for further energy conversions. Upward motions cool air, bringing moisture to its saturation and causing precipitation, thus driving hydrologic cycling. The precipitated water on land dissolves minerals of the continental crust, thus driving geochemical weathering. Yet the rates at which energy is converted and sunlight is utilized are comparatively small. The whole atmospheric circulation, for instance, operates by converting less than 1 percent of the incoming solar radiation into the kinetic energy associated with motion. This is because much of the potential of solar radiation to perform work is lost when it is absorbed and converted into heat. The resulting temperature differences on Earth are small compared to that of a power plant, meaning that relatively little power can be generated.
With photosynthesis, life created an innovation, because this process does not use heat and temperature differences as a means to generate energy. Instead, it uses the low entropy of sunlight directly. Photosynthesis uses visible light to split water first into hydrogen and oxygen, and then the hydrogen further into its proton and electron. This generates electrical energy that the plant uses to generate chemical energy in the form of carbohydrates and atmospheric oxygen. Photosynthesis generates energy more efficiently than the physical climate system, yet it is nevertheless only able to convert at best 3 percent of the energy contained in sunlight. In many regions, biospheric activity is further limited by environmental factors. In the oceans, the replenishment of nutrient-depleted surface water with nutrient-rich water from the deep ocean limits the supply of nutrients to photosynthesizers, while on land, the supply of water by precipitation is a major limitation. This leads to a strong imprint of climate on patterns of biological productivity, and it makes the ability of the biosphere to generate energy dependent upon the work of the physical climate system.
The energy generated by photosynthesis feeds the food webs of natural ecosystems, but also geochemical reactions in the Earth system. In fact, life produces more than ten times the chemical energy than abiotic processes, such as stratospheric ozone chemistry and geochemical weathering. Life thus plays a dominant role in shaping the geochemical composition of the planetary environment. This effect on the geochemical composition feeds back into the planetary system because the atmospheric composition affects how well radiation is absorbed and emitted. This, in turn, alters heating and cooling rates and thereby the boundary conditions that determine how active the physical climate system can be. As climate limits biospheric activity, a positive feedback loop emerges by which life changes planetary geochemistry, which alters climate, which then allows the biosphere to become more active. This is probably the dominant feedback loop that shaped the evolution of the climate-biosphere system over the Earth’s history. It likely evolved the biosphere to become more and more active, which allowed it to become increasingly more complex and diverse.
Human Energy Consumption is a Planetary Process
To stay active, humans and the technosphere consume the energy generated by these Earth system processes just described. The calories in food come from the harvest of photosynthesis from croplands and, indirectly, from animals that graze on pastures. The energy that fuels the technosphere comes primarily from fossil fuels, stocks of energy contained in plant residues from millions of years ago that did not get decomposed because they were locked away by geologic processes.
To place these two forms of energy consumption by human activity and the technosphere into a quantitative context: the average human metabolism of a 75 kg human consumes about 100 W; multiplied by 7.7 billion people, this yields a consumption rate of about 0.8 x 10^12 W (I refer here to 10^12 W (watts), or 1 TW (terawatt), because this is a typical number for energy conversions at the planetary scale). More energy from the biosphere than the human consumption rate is required to meet this demand, because only a small fraction of plant tissues is suitable to be digested by humans. The use of animal products includes further inefficiencies, as additional energy is needed and consumed to sustain the metabolic activity of the livestock. Estimates place the actual use of photosynthesis for the metabolic needs of humans at about 8 x 10^12 W, which represents about 5 percent of the energy generated by photosynthesis on land.
The activity of the technosphere is primarily driven by fossil fuels, or, more generally, by its primary energy consumption. In 2017, this primary energy consumption was on average 18 x 10^12 W, or 18 TW. The technosphere’s energy consumption is twenty times more than the metabolic energy needs of humans. Just the sheer proportion of this rate shows how essential the technosphere has become in human lives. This rate also shows how relevant the technosphere is within the Earth system. The technosphere consumes more energy than, for instance, the power that mixes the world’s oceans, which is about 5 x 10^12 W. It substantiates the notion that we have entered the geologic era of the Anthropocene. Human activity and the operation of the technosphere consume energy at rates that are similar or even greater than those of natural processes in the planetary system.
Corn-processing plant near Columbus, Nebraska, 2006. Source: Wiki Commons.

Humans Perform More Work with Less Effort with the Technosphere
We can next ask about the role that the technosphere plays in human lives and in the Earth system in general. The energy being consumed by the technosphere drives several purposes. It feeds power plants and converts energy into electricity. It fuels cars and jet engines for transportation. It makes our environment more comfortable by lighting, heating, and cooling. It allows humans to communicate over distances, organize and store their knowledge, and do advanced computations using smartphones, computers, and the internet. While all of these examples clearly need energy, it is not immediately apparent what their overall role is within the Earth system.
To identify such a general role, let us take a step back in history. A primary, essential activity of humans is the acquisition of food. This is, after all, the energy needed to sustain our metabolisms and is thus a very basic need that comes in first place. While this activity forms a dominant part of the lives of hunter-gatherer societies, the cultivation of plants and the onset of agriculture a few thousand years ago allowed humans to produce more of the calories they needed with less effort. The surplus allowed for the development of other jobs as well as cities and trade networks.
With industrialization, food production changed again in a substantial way. The external energy input by fossil fuels produces mineral fertilizers and runs machinery such as tractors and harvesters. It reduces the need for these jobs to be done by nitrogen-fixing plants or by humans. More generally, it represents an externalization of human work that is done by the technosphere, resulting in increased food production with less human effort. Humans no longer need to plow their fields, and neither is this done by oxen or horses. Tractors do the job faster and more powerfully. Overall, this suggests that the technosphere allows humans to accomplish more with less effort in general. This allows human activity to focus less time on food production and more time on advancing the technosphere.
Yet, the beneficial effects of the technosphere come at an energetic price. A tractor that sits idle in the shed does not contribute to a benefit in food production. It needs energy to run. This ability of the technosphere to benefit humans comes at the price of requiring external energy input. This external energy input at present comes from fossil fuels. The use of fossil fuels are clearly not sustainable, because their geologic stocks will eventually deplete and, with them, the external energy supply to the technosphere that is vital to keep it active.
This lack of sustainability is an inevitable outcome of finite stocks. A shift away from fossil stocks is likely to take place long before they run out because of the detrimental effects of the global warming that is intimately connected with the burning of fossil fuels. These negative effects demand a shift toward a sustainable energy supply for the technosphere that is based on renewables or fusion energy. Both technologies are part of the technosphere, so in this sense a suitable evolution of the technosphere is required to accomplish this shift.
The Technosphere Can Take the Earth to Its Next Level
From the viewpoint of thermodynamics, one can very well imagine that such a shift toward sustainable energy consumption is likely to happen in the future, and one can anticipate the means by which it can happen. Such a trend would follow the thermodynamic imperative that systems evolve toward maximizing power, thus allowing for maximum activity, by altering the boundary conditions of the system. For the technosphere, this translates into the question about the means by which more energy can be generated sustainably that is more effective than the means already available as per the physical climate system and the biosphere.
A prime example of such a technology is photovoltaics. Just like photosynthesis, it uses sunlight directly to perform the work of charge separation to generate electric energy. Yet, in contrast to photosynthesis, a solar panel does not rely on sources of carbon, water, and nutrients to stay active, as it exports its energy solely in electric form (so it only needs a power line). Solar panels are vastly more efficient than photosynthesis, with current industrial-grade solar panels operating with efficiencies close to 20 percent. The theoretical limits of using sunlight at more than 70 percent efficiency will allow for further technological advancements and higher efficiencies.
At 20 percent efficiency, it would take an area of about the size of Germany, or 400 000 km2, covered with solar panels to generate 18 TW of solar power. This is a tiny fraction of the 19 million km2 of barren land available on Earth, and this land could be used for such fields of solar panels to meet the human energy demand. Imagine how easily much more energy could be generated for human use just by using a fraction of the world’s deserts. Naturally, these areas have no water to sustain productivity, so the potential of sunlight to generate free energy is wasted when it is absorbed and turned into heat. Large-scale use of photovoltaics in these areas would start making the technosphere a producer of energy, rather than merely a consumer of energy that has been generated by other Earth system processes, either in the form of stocks of fossil energy or stocks renewed by the Earth, such as wind energy and hydropower.
Photovoltaics at the Zugspitze mountain is an example of a technology that directly converts solar energy into free energy that can be used by human activity. Source: ILIOTEC Solar, 2012, Creative Commons.

This additionally produced energy by the technosphere could empower the whole planetary system. It could be used for desalination technology to sustainably provide more fresh water—more than the natural hydrologic cycle can provide, as the climate system accomplishes this desalination work rather inefficiently. The energy could be used to do agriculture in the form of vertical farming, growing food in warehouses on multiple shelves with artificial lighting and closed and controlled water and nutrient cycling. It could take food production to unprecedented levels, reducing the agricultural demand for suitable land and allowing for more ecosystems to remain in their natural state.
This evolution would clearly make Earth look different. It would become a planet that not only has a technosphere, but has a technosphere that plays a dominant role as a producer of energy. The human species alone cannot accomplish this task because, by nature, humans are consumers of energy, not producers. Solar-based technology that is more efficient than natural photosynthesis is needed for this evolution to take place.
Thermodynamically, this evolution would progress the Earth to its next level. As more of the incoming solar radiation is converted into free energy that can perform work, rather than just heat, it can sustainably fuel more activity of humans, of the technosphere, and of the whole Earth system than at any time in the planet’s past. The ability for more physical work can maintain a more organized state, reflected in more organization and physical structures, such as urban, transportation, and communication network structures that require work to be built, maintained, and used.
In moving Earth to its next thermodynamic level, humans and their technosphere would follow in and extend the footsteps of complex physical and biological systems that become more organized when they are able to perform more work. Such an organization of working systems is, for instance, reflected in the whirls in turbulent flows and in the vascular networks of river systems and plants. This pathway follows the ultimate thermodynamic imperative to evolve to states of greater energy conversions and higher levels of entropy production at the planetary scale, but in ways that are impossible to evolve by purely physical or biological processes. The Earth system thus needs the technosphere to make this evolutionary step to the next thermodynamic level of greater energy conversions.