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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–).
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      published contributions
  • S. Ayesha Hameed
    • Dr. S. Ayesha Hameed is a Lecturer in Visual Cultures and the Joint Programme Leader in Fine Art and History of Art Research Fellow in Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, London. She received her PhD in Social and Political Thought at York University, Canada in 2008
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      published contributions
  • Sammy Baloji
  • On Barak
    • On Barak is a social and cultural historian of science and technology in non-Western settings. He has been a senior lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University since 2012. Prior to this, he was a member of the Princeton Society of Fellows. In 2009, Barak received a joint PhD in History and Middle Eastern Studies from New York University. His most recent book is On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt (University of California Press, 2013), and his current publication project, Coalonialism: Energy and Empire before the Age of Oil, is funded by a European Union Marie Curie Award and an Israel Science Foundation Grant.
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      published contributions
  • Anil Bawa-Cavia
    • Anil Bawa-Cavia is a computer scientist with a background in machine learning. He runs STDIO, a speculative software studio. His practice engages with algorithms, protocols, encodings, and other software artifacts and his doctoral research at the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London was on complex networks in urbanism. He is a founding member of Call & Response, a sonic arts collective and gallery space in London, and a member of the New Centre for Research & Practice.
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      published contributions
  • Etienne Benson
  • Josh Berson
  • Jeremy Bolen
  • Benjamin Bratton
    • for Media, Architecture and Design, Moscow. Bratton is also Professor of Digital Design at the Eur
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Axel Braun
    • Axel Braun studied photography at the Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen, and fine arts at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris. His artistic research deals with controversial infrastructure projects, tautology as an attempt to understand reality, and failed utopias in art and architecture. Currently, he is pursuing the long-term project Towards an Understanding of Anthropocene Landscapes. Recently exhibited works include Some Kind of Opposition (2016) at Galeria Centralis, Budapest, and Dragonflies drift downstream on a river (2015) at Kunstmuseum Bochum.
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      published contributions
  • Keith Breckenridge
  • François Bucher
    • s, focusing on ethical and aesthetic problems of cinema and television, and more recently on the image as an interdimensional field. His work has been exhibited at
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      published contributions
  • Lino Camprubí
  • Zachary Caple
  • Ele Carpenter
    • Dr. Ele Carpenter is a senior lecturer in curating at Goldsmiths, London. Her curatorial practice responds to interdisciplinary socio-political contexts such as the nuclear economy and the relationship between craft and code.
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      published contributions
  • Andrew Chubb
    • Andrew Chubb is a PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia conducting research on the relationship between Chinese public opinion and government policy in the South China Sea. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Contemporary China, Pacific Affairs, East Asia Forum, and Information, Communication & Society. His blog, South Sea Conversations (southseaconversations.wordpress.com), provides translations and analysis of Chinese discourse on the South and East China Sea issues.
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      published contributions
  • Louis Chude-Sokei
    • Louis Chude-Sokei is a writer and scholar currently teaching in the English Department at the University of Washington, Seattle. His academic interests range from West African, Caribbean, and American literary and cultural studies to a particular focus on sound, technology, and performance. His literary and public work focuses on immigration and black-on-black cultural contacts, conflicts, and exchanges. Chude-Sokei is the author of the award-winning book The Last “Darky”: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (2006) and The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics (2016).
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      published contributions
  • Claire Colebrook
    • Claire Colebrook is a professor of English at Penn State University. Her areas of specialization are contemporary literature, visual culture, and theory and cultural studies. She has written articles on poetry, literary theory, queer theory, and contemporary culture. Colebrook is the co-editor of the series Critical Climate Change, published by Open Humanities Press, and a member of the advisory board of the Institute for Critical Climate Change. She recently completed two books on extinction for Open Humanities Press, Death of the PostHuman and Sex after Life (both 2014), and with Tom Cohen and J. Hillis Miller co-authored Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols (2016).
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      published contributions
  • Ana Dana Beroš
    • chitect and curator focused on creating uncertain, fragile environments that catalyze social chan
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      published contributions
  • 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
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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
  • 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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      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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      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
  • Elaine Gan
  • 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
  • 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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      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
  • Gerda Heck
  • 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.
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Sabine Höhler
  • Erich Hörl
  • Timothy Johnson
  • Peter K. Haff
  • Bernd Kasparek
  • 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
  • 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.
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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
  • Bruno Latour
  • John Law
    • hn Law was a professor of sociology at Keele University, Lancaster, and the Open University, Milton Keynes, and a co-director of the Economic and Social Researc
    • 1
      published contributions
  • 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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      published contributions
  • S. Løchlann Jain
  • Donald MacKenzie
  • 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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      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.
    • 1
      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
  • Daniel Niles
    • terial, millenary and momentary—that their knowledge takes, and, finally, the significance of this experience to our understanding of t
    • 1
      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
  • 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
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      published contributions
  • Arno Rosemarin
  • 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
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      published contributions
  • Dorion Sagan
  • Isabelle Saint-Saëns
  • Birgit Schneider
  • Jens Soentgen
  • 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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      published contributions
  • Lucy Suchman
    • ology of Science and Technology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Lancaster, UK. Her research interests within the field of feminist science and technology studies are focused on technological imaginaries and material practices
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      published contributions
  • 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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      published contributions
  • Jenna Sutela
    • Jenna Sutela’s installations, texts, and sound performances seek to identify and react to precarious social and material moments, often in relation to technology. Most recently, she has been exploring exceedingly complex biological and computational systems, ultimately unknowable and always becoming something new. Her work has been presented, among other places, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; and the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo and her writing has been published by Fiktion, Harvard Design Magazine, and Sternberg Press.
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      published contributions
  • Bronislaw Szerszynski
    • Bronislaw Szerszynski is a Reader in Sociology at Lancaster University in the UK. Szerszynski’s work has developed across several themes, including the role of Western religious history in shaping contemporary understandings of technology and the environment—typified by his book Nature, Technology and the Sacred (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005).
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      published contributions
  • Elisa T. Bertuzzo
    • Elisa T. Bertuzzo studied comparative literature, sociology, communication, and media studies and holds a PhD in urban studies. She was a curator and project leader with Habitat Forum Berlin, including for the project Paradigmising Karail Basti (2010–16). Bridging discourses from the fields of cultural and urban studies, her research focuses on the everyday life facets of urbanization and settlement in South Asia. On that topic, she published Fragmented Dhaka: Analysing Everyday Life with Henri Lefebvre’s Theory of Production of Space (2009) and runs her multimedia project Archives of Movement (since 2012), which deals with the everyday life of temporary labor migrants in Bangladesh and India.
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      published contributions
  • Gregory T. Cushman
    • Gregory T. Cushman is Associate Professor of International Environmental History at the University of Kansas.
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Nasrin Tabatabai
    • Nasrin Tabatabai is an artist who works both in Iran and the Netherlands. Since 2004, she has collaborated with Babak Afrassiabi on various joint projects and the publication of the bilingual magazine Pages (Farsi and English). Their work seeks to articulate the undecidable space between art and its historical conditions, including the recurring question of the place of the archive in defining the juncture between politics, history, and the practice of art. The artists’ work has been presented internationally in various solo and group exhibitions and they have been tutors at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht (2008–13), and Erg, école supérieure des arts, Brussels (2015–).
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Katerina Teaiwa
    • Dr. Katerina Teaiwa is Associate Professor at the Department of Gender, Media and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History & Language and the president of the Australian Association for Pacific Studies. Her main area of research looks at the histories of phosphate mining in the central Pacific. Her work does not only span academic research, publications, and lectures, but also manifests itself in other formats within the arts and popular culture. Her work has inspired a permanent exhibition at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, which tells the story of Pacific phosphate mining through Banaban dance. In 2015, she published „Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba“, Indiana University Press. She is currently working with visual artist Yuki Kihara on a multimedia exhibition for Carriageworks in Sydney.
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      published contributions
  • Jol Thomson
  • Claire Tolan
  • John Tresch
  • Etienne Turpin
    • Etienne Turpin is a philosopher, Founding Director of anexact office, and a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, where he coordinates the Humanitarian Infrastructures Group and co-directs the PetaBencana.id disaster mapping project for the Urban Risk Lab. He is the editor of Architecture in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Design, Deep Tim
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      published contributions
  • Asonseh Ukah
    • Asonzeh Ukah is a sociologist and historian of religion. He joined the University of Cape Town in 2013 and previously taught at the University of Bayreuth (2005–13), where he also earned a doctorate and habilitation in history of religions. His research interests include religious urbanism, the sociology of Pentecostalism, and religion and media. He is Director of the Research Institute on Christianity and Society in Africa (RICSA), University of Cape Town, and Affiliated Senior Fellow of Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS), University of Bayreuth. He is the author of A New Paradigm of Pentecostal Power (2008) and Bourdieu in Africa (edited with Magnus Echtler, 2016).
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      published contributions
  • Underworlds
  • Sebastian Vehlken
    • Sebastian Vehlken is a media theorist and cultural historian at Leuphana University Lüneburg and Permanent Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (MECS). From 2013 to 2017, he worked as MECS Junior Director, and in 2015–16, he was a visiting professor at Humboldt-Universität Berlin, the University of Vienna, and Leuphana. His areas of interest include the theory and history of computer simulation and digital media, the media history of swarm intelligence, and the epistemology of think tanks. His current research project, Plutonium Worlds, explores the application of computer simulations in West German fast breeder reactor programs.
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      published contributions
  • Vladimir Vernadsky
  • Davor Vidas
    • Davor Vidas is a research professor in international law and Director of the Law of the Sea Programme at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Lysaker, Norway. He is Chair of the Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise and a member of the Anthropocene Working Group. Vidas has been involved in international law research for over thirty years, focusing since 2009 on implications of the Anthropocene for the development of international law. Among his books are The World Ocean in Globalisation (2011) and Law, Technology and Science for Oceans in Globalisation (2010). He is the editor-in-chief of the book series Anthropocene (Skolska knjiga, Zagreb), launched in 2017.
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      published contributions
  • Kalindi Vora
  • Hannes Wiedemann
    • Hannes Wiedemann is a Berlin-based photographer. He studied at the Ostkreuz School of Photography, Berlin. For his project Grinders (2015–16), he followed the American bodyhacking community, a small group of people across the United States working out of garages and basements to become real cyborgs. Recent exhibitions include NEW PHOTOGRAPHY II (2017) at Gallery ALAN, Istanbul, and HUMAN UPGRADE, with Susanna Hertrich (2016), at Schader-Stiftung Gallery, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt. www.hanneswiedemann.com
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      published contributions
  • Cary Wolfe
    • Cary Wolfe is Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Professor of English and Founding Director of 3CT: Center for Critical and Cultural Theory at Rice University, Houston. He is the author of What Is Posthumanism? (2010), a book that weaves together principal concerns of his work: animal studies, system theory, pragmatism, and post-structuralism. It is part of the series Posthumanities, for which he serves as Founding Editor at the University of Minnesota Press. His most recent publication is Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in Biopolitical Frame (2013) and earlier books and edited collections include Animal Rites: American Culture, The Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory (2003) and Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal (2003).
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Andrew Yang
  • Jan Zalasiewicz
    • Dr. Jan Zalasiewicz is Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Leicester and Chair of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy. A field geologist, paleontologist, and stratigrapher, he teaches and publishes on geology and earth history, in particular on fossil ecosystems and environments that span over half a billion years of geological time.
    • 1
      published contributions
  • Anna Zett
  • 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
    • 1
      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.
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      published contributions
Etienne-Louis Boullée, 1784. Cénotaphe de Newton. Page 6, vue intérieure
Source: Wiki commons

The Origin of the Idea of Material and Life Cycles in the Ancient Cosmos of Concentric Spheres

Why does the world not come to a standstill? This question is positioned at the crest of the modern understanding of terrestrial cycles and spheres. In this article historian of science Pietro Daniel Omodeo unpacks the original, and thus, literal notion of the spheres—from their genuine context in ancient and early modern cosmology and metaphysical doctrine—and comments on the forfeiture of stability threatening today’s spheres.
What shows that the spherical body is the best of all bodies is the fact that it does not perish and that it moves with the motion which precedes all motions, and also that it moves with it eternally and regularly.Alexander of Aphrodisias, On the Cosmos
The shape of the heaven is of necessity spherical; for that is the shape most appropriate to its substance and also by nature primary.Aristotle, De coelo II.4, 286b9–10
And he [the Demiurge] bestowed on it the shape which was befitting and akin. Now for that Living Creature which is designed to embrace within itself all living creatures the fitting shape will be that which comprises within itself all the shapes there are; wherefore He wrought it into a round, in the shape of a sphere, equidistant in all directions from the center to the extremities, which of all shapes is the most perfect and the most self-similar.Plato, Timaeus 33b
We live in a world of spheres. Within the larger system of the geosphere many subsystems unfold and entwine their material cycles—the hydrosphere and the atmosphere weave together with the more limited lithosphere and cryosphere. The biosphere, the “layer” of life and its cycles, has been complemented by mental and artificial spheres such as the Vernadskyian noosphere and the most successful newcomer, the technosphere. To be sure, we have to understand our modern spheres metaphorically, the sphere being the symbol of self-regulating closeness; and yet they stem from ancient visions that literally posited the existence of perfectly spherical bodies in nature. In this essay, I will reconstruct the ancient, cosmological roots of the very idea that stable natural processes can be understood as “cycles”. In fact, they were initially brought back into the circular motion of the perfectly spherical bodies of the heavens.
The cosmological spheres of the ancient worldview were ethereal orbs deputed to transport stars and planets in circular motion. Thanks to their geometrical form they were allotted the divine privilege of eternal motion: “There is no continuous movement except movement in place, and of this only that which is circular is continuous”—Aristotle stated with crystalline clarity in the Metaphysics.Aristotle, Metaphysics XII.6, 1071b10–11, cf. Metaphysics, ed. C. D. C. Reeve. Cambridge, MA and Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2016, p. 203.
Drawing on these premises, Aristotle’s followers saw the spherical shape as the precondition of circular motion, which they considered to be the only never-ending displacement in nature. In fact, its end coincides with its beginning. In the Latin Middle Ages, “sphaera” became then a synonym of the uppermost heaven, thought of as the starry boundary of the material world. According to theological conceptions still in circulation in the seventeenth century, the orb of “fixed” stars was embraced by the Empyreum, the immaterial seat of blessed souls, saints, and angels according to the hierarchical chain of beings that connects the lowest realm to God (Figure 1).
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Figure 1: The theological vision of a hierarchical universe culminating with God was still in circulation in the seventeenth century, as shown by this diagram taken from Robert Fludd, Microcosmi historia (Oppenhemii: De Bry, 1619), p. 219. SLUB Dresden, collocation 1.B.3237-2 [online](http://digital.slub-dresden.de/werkansicht/dlf/4570/5/).

One can hardly find a better representation of the material cosmos of concentric spheres than the diagram (Figure 2) that is often included in manuscripts and early editions of Johannes de Sacrobosco’s De sphaera (On the Sphere), the standard textbook on spherical astronomy in the art faculties of medieval and early modern universities.See Lynn Thorndike, The Sphere of Sacrobosco and its Commentators. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1949; and Michel-Pierre Lerner, Le Monde des spheres: Vol. 1, Genèse et triomphe d’une représentation cosmique; Vol. 2, La fin du cosmos classique. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1996–97.
At the beginning of his tract Sacrobosco introduced the Aristotelian distinction of “two physics,” sublunary and superlunary. While the heavens move according to the most perfect motion (that is, as we already know, in circles), the elements move in straight lines, upwards (air and fire) or downwards (water and earth), unless impeded from doing so by some occurrence or “violence.” In the diagrams that accompany these tracts, the highest sphere is that of the fixed stars; it encloses a series of lower planetary orbs, among them those transporting the Sun and, closest to us, the Moon. The sublunary realm occupies the innermost place and is partitioned in concentric spheres as well. The sublunary spherical partitions represent the so-called “natural places,” which the four elements incessantly aim to reach in accordance with their nature. These are: fire, air, water, and, at the center of the world and coincident with the center of gravity, the earth.
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Figure 2: Scheme of the medieval concentric-spheres cosmos from an early edition of Johannes de Sacrobosco, Tractatus de sphaera (Paris, Georg Mittelhus, 1493), f. A1v. University Library of Ludwig Maximilian Universität Munich, signature: 4 Inc.lat. 310#6.

A certain discrepancy between the geometrical scheme and reality is unavoidable since the elements often intermingle, the boundaries of their “natural places” are permeable, and their contours are blurred. Ontological imprecision notwithstanding, cosmological diagrams continued to display four idealized elementary spheres throughout the fifteenth century in the incunable Tractatus de sphaera (Treatise on the Sphere) (Figure 2). The earth was often represented as a disc with the letter “T” engraved on it, this tau was the carrier of a geographical meaning as well as a theological one, as it signified the holy cross as well as the Mediterranean Sea dividing the world into three continents (Europe, Africa, Asia). At the time of the European conquest of America and the discovery of the “Antipodes” (people living upside down on the opposite side of the globe) it became evident that the mass of the land outside the oceans was not just a little earth cup, the limited orbis terrarum imagined by the ancient geographers; instead, continents were irregularly distributed all over the globe. In light of this discovery the earth ceased to be seen as an elementary sphere included in that of the waters, only partially emerging from the ocean thanks to a providential mismatch between the centers of the two spheres, it was now established that we inhabit an “earthly-watery globe” (a globus terraquaeus), the image of which appears in post-Columbian cosmological diagrams. These innovations notwithstanding, the general structure of the concentric-spheres cosmos was not about to be abandoned. Despite the emergence of the in(de)finite universe idea—e.g. in the post-Copernican conception of philosophers such as Giordano Bruno, René Descartes, and their followersPietro Daniel Omodeo, Copernicus in the Cultural Debates of the Renaissance: Reception, Legacy, Transformation, Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy and Science, vol. 23. Leiden: Brill, 2014, chapter 4.
—the standard teaching of “celestial physics” remained as conveyed by Aristotle in De coelo (On the Heavens).Aristotle, On the Heavens (De coelo), in The Complete Works of Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes, vol. 1. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984, pp. 447–511.
Here, the heavenly and elementary spheres are approached one after the other (in books I–II and III–IV, respectively) according to their supposed physical contiguity and continuity. The world of the spheres lived on, long after alternative worldviews emerged.
Yet, order does not imply motion. A disposition is not an explanation for motion just as the ascertainment of “structures” underlying the phenomena does not explain their dynamics, unless causes are introduced to account for the genesis and persistence of systemic processes.Aristotle, On the Heavens (De coelo), in The Complete Works of Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes, vol. 1. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984, pp. 447–511.
In De generatione et corruptione (On Coming to Be and Passing Away), a work devoted to generation, life, and death, Aristotle raised the crucial question (II, 337a8–11): “what is to some people a baffling problem—viz. why the simple bodies [the elements], since each of them is travelling towards its own place, have not become dissevered from each another in the infinite lapse of time.Aristotle, De generatione et corruptione, in W. D. Ross (ed.), The Student’s Oxford Aristotle, vol. 2. London, New York, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1942.
Why does the world not come to a standstill? What is the reason for the stability of such terrestrial cycles ranging from material transformations to life processes? Such questions concern the genesis, endurance, and even goals of the spheres; it is, in one word, the quest for causes, including teleological ones. This intuition can be seen as the structural inception or, rather, as the premodern basis of the later, metaphorical usage of the term “spheres.” It refers to their main feature—i.e. recurrent dynamic stability—and implies related questions about what causes the material and life cycles in nature, and the question of what keeps them going. In this respect natural philosophers from the Latin Middle Ages distinguished between the so-called “quia,”—the observed cyclic phenomena seen as facts—and the “propter quid,” their causes. Each should be taken into account for a sound explanation of nature.
A tentative answer to the question about the causes of natural cycles can be found in Aristotle’s elementary doctrine; such doctrine occupies a key position in his natural philosophy. It is addressed in the second part of De coelo and in the two books of De generatione et corruptione, functioning to connect the general theory of motion and of the heavens in Physics and De coelo I–II with the explanation of meteorological phenomena specifically expounded in the Meteorologica. Aristotle characterized the corporeal elements as couples of opposite tactile qualities: heat and coldness, wetness and dryness, of which he admitted only four combinations. Moreover, he did not see the elements as stable. According to him they are constantly intermixed, transforming into one another. These conversions are not the effect of an internal impetus; he posited external causes which produce specific qualities by their action on prime matter (the universal material substrate). These causes are heavenly: the displacement of the Sun along the ecliptic is the proper cause of material and life cycles, while the steady, daily motion of the heavens around the poles of the world is the source of continuity for the sublunary processes.This cosmological idea, expounded in De generatione et corruptione is repeated at a higher level of abstraction in Metaphysics XII.
The celestial origin of terrestrial cycles was to become a stock medieval argument in favor of astrology, seen at the time as the science of heavenly influences. The solar causation of seasonal changes was equated to the lunar causation of tidal movements in reference works such as Albumasar’s Introductorium in astronomiam [Introduction to Astronomy].Albumasar, Introductorium in astronomiam. Venice: Sessa, 1506, ff. a3r-v.
Solar–lunar conjunctions and oppositions accounted for the ebb and the flow, regarded as the effect of a cosmic sympathy between the waters and the Moon—an occult, distant action that bears more resemblance to Newtonian gravitation theory than to the mechanical explanations of Galileo and Descartes.
Hence, in order to trace the origin of terrestrial cyclic phenomena such as seasonal change, the Copernicans—just like the Aristotelians—lifted their eyes in search of astronomical causes. Still, cosmological causation does not solve the problem of the origin of motion in the world system, but only shifts it, for two reasons. Firstly, even celestial phenomena are not as regular as the principle of perfect circularity assumes. Secondly, their causes have to be detected, as well.
Early fifteenth-century celestial physics in Europe was marked by the convergent reception of two Islamic authors who envisaged a solution to the incongruity between the axiom of circular motion and observed phenomena. Ibn Rushd (Averroes) in his most celebrated commentaries on Aristotle’s Metaphysics and al-Bitruji (Alpetragius) in Planetarum theorica physicis rationibus probate (Planetary Theory Demonstrated Through Physical Proof) envisaged a program of “physical mathematics” aimed at tracing all astronomical phenomena back to sets of circular motions produced by the motion of concentric ethereal spheres. Aristotelians of the Padua School such as Girolamo Fracastoro and Giovanni Battista Amico were particularly receptive to these theoretical debates. It was argued that the continuity of the circular motion in the ethereal spheres had to be secured through “cosmo-psychological” considerations as well as metaphysical principles.Alexander of Aphrodisias, 2001; Ibn Rushd (Averroes), De substantia orbis. Critical edition of the Hebrew text, with English trans. by Arthur Hyman. Cambridge, MA, and Jerusalem: Medieval Academy of America, 1986.
They assumed that celestial bodies were “ensouled”; moved by an intellectual desire for the divine. The Aristotelian God, the “Immobile Mover” toward which all natural beings strive, constituted the transcendent principle that secured the functioning and endurance of the cosmic machinery.
In spite of his ambitious attempt to connect causal and mathematical reasoning, there were major shortcomings in the homocentric approach from its inception. Mathematical astronomers, including Nicolaus Copernicus, objected to the idea that the eccentric and intersecting geometrical devices of the mathematical–astronomical tradition were indispensable to model planetary motions, and thus no concentric spheres could be assumed as leading hypotheses for astronomical inquiry. In fact, epicyclical models—characterized both by their eccentricity with respect to the cosmological center and by the nesting of circles on circles—accounted, among other things, for planets’ retrograde motions, elongations, and varying distances (Figure 3).
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Figure 3: Ptolemaic devices for the modeling of planetary motions, from Gregor Reisch, Margarita philosophica VII, 1 (Strassbourg: Johannes Grüninger, 1508). Library of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin.

How could a model of concentric spheres satisfactorily account for these phenomena, and particularly the varying distances of celestial bodies? Contrary to the homocentrists, mathematical-astronomers who followed in the footsteps of Ptolemy offered a different reconciliation of planetary modeling with the material spheres of the Aristotelian tradition. As has been argued, widespread graphic representations of epicyclical models in the standard sources of Renaissance planetary theory represent the ethereal bodies of the celestial spheres as black ink discs; they encircle the mathematical devices of Ptolemaic astronomers. In this manner, one can visualize the planets, transported by Ptolemaic circlets, without transgressing the boundaries of their orbs in the stratigraphy of the onion-like cosmos of concentric spheres (as can be observed in many editions of Georg Peuerbach’s Theorica novae planetarum (New Planetary Theories, 1454), such as in the diagram reproduced as Figure 4, below).
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Figure 4: A planetary diagram from a Renaissance edition of Georg Peuerbach’s Theoricae novae planetarum (Wittenberg: Lufft, 1542), in which the embedment of the Ptolemaic eccentrics and epicycles in a sphere is evidenced with black ink. Library of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin.

During the sixteenth century the cosmos of celestial spheres entered an irreversible crisis after it was established that comet trajectories are located outside the sublunary realm and thus freely travel across a fluid cosmic space. Among Renaissance astronomers, Tycho Brahe was the most authoritative critic of the existence of orbs, which he rejected on the basis of the observations and computations relative to the comet of 1577. Not long after him, the fluidity of the heavens became the consensus among many astronomers. Hence, the urgent question arose of how to explain planetary motions after the spheres vanished. The theoretical vacuum left by the ban on the old causal explanation fueled research and eventually led to the novel celestial physics of Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton. In passages from Alexander Koyré’s (1957) From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (or better put in context: “From the World of Celestial Spheres to that of Fluid Space”) the concept of the sphere, in referring to natural processes, could only survive as a metaphor.Alexander Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1957.
The concrete materiality of spherical bodies that had previously accounted for cycles was abandoned without renouncing the idea of the circular recurrence of phenomena in nature. William Harvey’s discovery of the circulation of blood offered a new model that could serve for the interpretation of natural processes in functional terms (according to his own form of revised Aristotelianism), for contemporary vistas in Renaissance vitalism or for later mechanic physiologies and philosophies.
My final remark concerns anthropology. The question addressing the place of humankind accompanied astronomy and had particular relevance in the economy of classical cosmologies. Philosophical sources and astronomical literature from the Renaissance period assumed that a structural correspondence between man and the cosmos existed. The human microcosm was represented at the center of Creation and regarded as the copula mundi, the universal link of nature connecting the inferior reality with the loftier spheres, and the material with the supernatural (Figure 5).
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Figure 5: This image, taken from Robert Fludd, Microcosmi historia (1619), p. 93, visualizes the cosmo-anthropological issue, the question about the place of humanity in the cosmos of concentric spheres. SLUB Dresden, collocation 1.B.3237-2 [online](http://digital.slub-dresden.de/werkansicht/dlf/4570/5/).

Renaissance anthropocentrism pitted human freedom against natural necessity. The world was the stable stage for our actions and choices. The heavenly spheres accomplished their revolutions in the background, setting the stage for the drama of history. The foundations of that exterior world, either eternal or created during the six days of Genesis, were metaphysical and theological. Dynamic conceptions of physics and biology would eventually discard that static image of nature. However, it is only with the most recent debates concerning the Anthropocene that the modern separation of human action and natural settings has been overcome in consideration of the fact that the technosphere has emerged in a historical time. In this manner, the continuity between nature and human history, which was often assumed with vitalistic conceptions at the threshold of modernity, has been revived from a different viewpoint.
The Anthropocene debate reveals human collective practices as the cause of the emergence of fundamental global transformations, and their dynamic stability. Unlike its ancient and medieval predecessors the technosphere cannot rest on extra-human foundations, therefore its autonomy as a self-regulating system is threatened by the fragility of our biological species, whose survival is endangered by the global dynamics it has set in motion.
Technology is the first geological paradigm complex enough to become aware, through its human components, of the essential contribution to its own existence of the support provided by established paradigms. Whether this awareness will lead to the conservation of a sufficient quantity of natural capital to maintain technological function (and thus the well-being of humans) is the basic question of environmental science. The answer to this question may also determine whether or not the technosphere will, in the long run, become an established rather than a failed geological paradigm.Peter K. Haff, “Technology as a Geological Phenomenon: Implications for Human Well-Being,” in Colin N. Walters et al., A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene. London: Geological Society Special Publications, vol. 395, 2014, pp. 301–09, here 304–05.
Evidently the maintenance of the technosphere and the survival of humanity are interlocked. Both ultimately depend on our capacity to harmonize culture and nature, to express the problem in classical terms. If this task is not achieved, the Anthropocene will not mean the beginning of the geological age of humankind but rather the opposite, an age that comes after the short season in which humankind populated the world. In this light, the Anthropocene proves to be a “task” of collective relevance and, as such, it is political in its essence. In fact, the technical solution can only be addressed from the perspective of a science and humanity emancipated from the anarchy of the present-day economy and from the logic of destruction that accompanies the scientific-technological development that is often assumed transcendent to us.Pietro Daniel Omodeo, “The Politics of Apocalypse: The Immanent Transcendence of Anthropocene,” Stvar: Časopis za teorijske prakse/Journal for Theoretical Practices, 9 (2017): 433-449.
The stabilization of our spheres of life is in our hands, as they cannot be secured through metaphysical principles anymore. The Anthropocene predicament calls for political and cultural action aimed at mobilizing the technical and ethical means necessary to stabilize the spheres of the human-made world.