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Authors
  • Lawrence Abu Hamdan
  • Babak Afrassiabi
    • Babak Afrassiabi is an artist who works both in Iran and the Netherlands. Since 2004, he has collaborated with Nasrin Tabatabai on various joint projects and the publication of the bilingual magazine Pages (Farsi and English). Their work seeks to articulate the undecidable space between art and its historical conditions, including the recurring question of the place of the archive in defining the juncture between politics, history, and the practice of art. The artists’ work has been presented internationally in various solo and group exhibitions and they have been tutors at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht (2008–13), and Erg, école supérieure des arts, Brussels (2015–).
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      published contributions
  • S. Ayesha Hameed
    • Dr. S. Ayesha Hameed is a Lecturer in Visual Cultures and the Joint Programme Leader in Fine Art and History of Art Research Fellow in Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, London. She received her PhD in Social and Political Thought at York University, Canada in 2008
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      published contributions
  • Sammy Baloji
  • On Barak
    • On Barak is a social and cultural historian of science and technology in non-Western settings. He has been a senior lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University since 2012. Prior to this, he was a member of the Princeton Society of Fellows. In 2009, Barak received a joint PhD in History and Middle Eastern Studies from New York University. His most recent book is On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt (University of California Press, 2013), and his current publication project, Coalonialism: Energy and Empire before the Age of Oil, is funded by a European Union Marie Curie Award and an Israel Science Foundation Grant.
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      published contributions
  • Anil Bawa-Cavia
    • Anil Bawa-Cavia is a computer scientist with a background in machine learning. He runs STDIO, a speculative software studio. His practice engages with algorithms, protocols, encodings, and other software artifacts and his doctoral research at the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London was on complex networks in urbanism. He is a founding member of Call & Response, a sonic arts collective and gallery space in London, and a member of the New Centre for Research & Practice.
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      published contributions
  • Etienne Benson
  • Josh Berson
  • Jeremy Bolen
  • Benjamin Bratton
    • for Media, Architecture and Design, Moscow. Bratton is also Professor of Digital Design at the Eur
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      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.
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      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
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      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.
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      published contributions
  • Gerald Nestler
    • Gerald Nestler is an artist and writer who combines theory and post-disciplinary conversation with video, installation, performance, text, code, graphics, sound, and speech. He explores what he calls the derivative condition of contemporary social relations and its paradigmatic financial models, operations, processes, narratives, and fictions. He is currently working on an “aesthetics of resolution” that maps counterfictions and counterimaginations for “renegade activism,” which revolves around the demonstration as a combined artistic, technological, social, and political practice. Nestler holds a practice-based PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London.
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      published contributions
  • Daniel Niles
    • terial, millenary and momentary—that their knowledge takes, and, finally, the significance of this experience to our understanding of t
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      published contributions
  • James P. M. Syvitski
    • James P. M. Syvitski is Executive Director of the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS) at the University of Colorado Boulder. From 2011 to 2016, he chaired the International Council for Science’s International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), which provides essential scientific leadership and knowledge of the Earth system to help guide society toward a sustainable pathway during rapid global change. His specialty is the global flux of water and sediment (river and ocean borne) and its trends in the Anthropocene. He works at the forefront of computational geosciences, including sediment transport, land-ocean interactions, and Earth-surface dynamics.
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      published contributions
  • Luciana Parisi
    • Luciana Parisi is Reader in Cultural Theory, Chair of the PhD program in Cultural Studies, and Co-director of the Digital Culture Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research focuses on cybernetics, information theory and computation, complexity and evolutionary theories, and the technocapitalist investment in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. Her books include Abstract Sex: Philosophy, Biotechnology and the Mutations of Desire (2004) and Contagious Architecture: Computation, Aesthetics, and Space (2013). She is currently researching the history of automation and the philosophical consequences of logical thinking in machines.
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      published contributions
  • Lisa Parks
  • Matteo Pasquinelli
  • 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.
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      published contributions
  • Nasrin Tabatabai
    • Nasrin Tabatabai is an artist who works both in Iran and the Netherlands. Since 2004, she has collaborated with Babak Afrassiabi on various joint projects and the publication of the bilingual magazine Pages (Farsi and English). Their work seeks to articulate the undecidable space between art and its historical conditions, including the recurring question of the place of the archive in defining the juncture between politics, history, and the practice of art. The artists’ work has been presented internationally in various solo and group exhibitions and they have been tutors at the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht (2008–13), and Erg, école supérieure des arts, Brussels (2015–).
    • 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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  • Cary Wolfe
    • Cary Wolfe is Bruce and Elizabeth Dunlevie Professor of English and Founding Director of 3CT: Center for Critical and Cultural Theory at Rice University, Houston. He is the author of What Is Posthumanism? (2010), a book that weaves together principal concerns of his work: animal studies, system theory, pragmatism, and post-structuralism. It is part of the series Posthumanities, for which he serves as Founding Editor at the University of Minnesota Press. His most recent publication is Before the Law: Humans and Other Animals in Biopolitical Frame (2013) and earlier books and edited collections include Animal Rites: American Culture, The Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory (2003) and Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal (2003).
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      published contributions
  • Andrew Yang
  • Jan Zalasiewicz
    • Dr. Jan Zalasiewicz is Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Leicester and Chair of the Anthropocene Working Group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy. A field geologist, paleontologist, and stratigrapher, he teaches and publishes on geology and earth history, in particular on fossil ecosystems and environments that span over half a billion years of geological time.
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      published contributions
  • Anna Zett
  • 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
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      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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Ji hlava International Documnentary Film Festival
Le chant du Styrène

Waste in Time and the Radioactivity of Objects

Cultural scholar Esther Leslie reveals the vexing temporalities of contemporary types of waste as it unsettles the socioeconomic logic of extraction and decay. Plastic fabrics and electronics molecularly molded from fossil hydrocarbons and rare earths, together with the multiple toxic byproducts of their life cycle, suggest a new history of the synthetic and the natural.
In 1957, Alain Resnais and Raymond Queneau made The Song of Styrene, an advertising film for the chemical firm Péchiney. It shows, in reverse, the procedure for the manufacture and processing of colorful styrene items, including a red bowl. It presents the many stages of producing a plastic material and working it into goods—molding, beading, extruding, stretching, coloring, and heating. There are references in Raymond Queneau’s screenplay to life, liveliness, and the process of giving birth: the birth of an object from a mold, the birth of hydrocarbons, these vivacious and turbulent granules. Human hands extract objects from molds like a midwife extracts a baby. The building block of plastics is polymers, synthesized from chemicals extracted from petroleum, as well as coal, air, lime, fluorspar, and salt. Polymers are constellations of long, chain-like, carbon-based molecules that can be shaped when warm. Polymer makes plastics: polymer, polymer, polymère, many mothers, is a pun made by Queneau. As the film works backwards, it makes origins explicit: the beginning of the bowl in the seas, posing a common origin with something that became human life. These origins are obscure: somewhere in the sea, among the oil of fish from millions of years ago, are wasted, dead organic matter. As masses of coal undergo firing, the film text muses:
Does the oil come from masses of fish? We do not know too much or where the coal comes from. Is oil coming from plankton in labour?
Mysterious common origins unite that which is conceived as natural with that which is conceived as artificial, indeed emblematizes the artificial. The bowl is a “solid cloud,” for this is a body that, like clouds, could be molded into any form. “In new materials these obscure residues / Are thus transformed.” Waste becomes new life, an unimaginable proliferation of new forms.
Plastic is a “material of a thousand uses,” as the inventor of Bakelite, the first truly synthetic resin, dubbed it in 1907. Once upon a time plastics had been solely made by nature. Then natural substances were coaxed, through human invention, into forms. Bakelite came close to the body and mingled in the senses; from it came the radio sounds that caressed the ear, it entered the mouth as a smoking pipe, through telephone conversations it was whispered into; this browny plastic became intimate with the early twentieth-century consumer. When its patent expired, Catalin appeared, in 1927, with the added bonus of a range of colors. What began as limited in color—the white of ivory, the brown-black of tortoiseshell, the orangey-gold of amber—fanned out into a rainbow. In the 1830s the most spectacular transformation had begun, as colors burst out of the darkness of old dead matter they met well with these new materials, for color and plastic were twins of the laboratory. Color, like oil, came from a waste product. A waste product from black coal, its tar the foundation for an entire spectrum of colored dyes. The epoch of mass consumerism came in a rainbow of colors. Nature was outbid in the laboratory for the creation of flexible and moldable materials that could appear in any shape and any color.
By the early years of the twentieth century plastics were in dining rooms and parlors, bathrooms and kitchens, playrooms and gardens, factories and offices, on the battlefield and in the cinema. There was rayon and viscose, Formica and formaldehydes. There was Perspex and polystyrene, polyethylene, acrylic, and melamine. The names clunked from the lips like new hexes. Familiar and cooked-up materials seemed flung together in magical rituals that produced new substances out of which old objects—buttons, combs, door knobs, bangles—might be formed, and new ones—plugs, light-fittings, telephones—were given shape. It was the waste of the oil-refining process that produced Tupperware.
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Tupperware pot © Gail Thomas 2012

Synthetic materials promised to increase the quality and quantity of life. DuPont’s slogan, devised in 1935, resonates with this: “Better Things for Better Living [...] Through Chemistry.” Adaptability is a key quality of synthetic materials; after the war, in Germany in particular, where making substitutes was a high art and one associated with the war years and the search for Ersatz materials, the first task of manufacturers, advertisers, and chemists was to reform the image of plastic, which was regarded as inauthentic, degraded. The economy demanded that surrogates climb in value: the traditional to be diminished in face of plastic substitutes. Turned inside-out, plastic was remolded as the very substance of democracy.See Andrea Westermann, Plastik und politische Kultur in Westdeutschland. Zurich: Chronos Verlag, 2007.
“Whether Hannelore, Lilli, Hella or Isabella / Life is led more simply, beautifully and more untrammeled with Acella / No dirt, no dust and not a blemish / One wipe and everything has vanished,” goes the 1950s jingle. Acella, a soft-plastic fabric of PVC—a modern fabric for modern people—eliminates waste through its very presence. Floor coverings, window drapery, furniture, toothbrushes, plastics found their way into domiciles and the governmental corridors of power alike, an indication of their essential anti-hierarchical leveling. Such materials befit a new forward-facing environment. A material bent by forces itself exerts a powerful social force, one connected to waste—for if all this modernity, this new economy is to work, it must be based on squander, on waste, on endless renewal, on the caprices of fashion, on obsolescence, on consumption without end. In time, all of this, all this newness that is to be kept ever-new, will be remaindered. It is part of its economic logic; it is also part of its nature. Like everything, it becomes the past.
The past comes to us in strange colors and odd substances, some embraced their modernity, while others claimed and still claim to imitate the natural world. The past appears to us as odd shapes that were once so intimate with someone’s fingers or hair, their voice or ear. The magic that was proclaimed to constitute the new now lingers as a dusty magic or charm that adheres to the relics of the past, as the Surrealists knew well. An old, dented PVC doll, discolored and warped, a melamine ashtray scratched yet still cheerfully bright; that which was so of its moment slips out of its moment and becomes itself a residue that occupies the same amount of space, emits the same intensity of light, and yet is displaced. It has not become a memory, but a stumbling block, a scandal. The unnatural wears itself into the landscape and juts out at us, not because it is curiously new, but rather curiously old, out of time. That which promised a signal of more life, of a better life, becomes fragments for a history of non-life, becomes so many residues that continue to exude something, a minimal signal connected to memory—or it exudes something worse, more tangible, a leeching that is harmful, a crumbling like that of asbestos, fatal.
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Microplastics in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed © Chesapeake Bay Program, 2015

What residues? What by-products? What toxicities? What lingers on? Since The Song of the Styrene around 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced, and much of that now occupies the oceans or landfill. Resnais and Queneau gesture at lives and life cycles in The Song of the Styrene with analogies made between an individual human birth and the life of a plastic bowl, but they also indicate the birth of a species and the birth of a “new nature,” both emergent from the sea. One, the species “life,” a product of teeming life in the depths, the other, “new nature” in oil, coal, and plastic, a product of all of that life’s death. Time figures—eons: a long time since their origins, and an even longer time until that which is a product of death (oil-based plastics) dies again, or, more accurately, wears out, breaks down; that time may never come.
Birthing in the film occurs through a mechanical dynamism, an almost autonomous action of material and machine in conjunction, with workers featuring only as occasional walk-ons. There is a contradiction between, on the one hand, the sleek, placeless machinery, the industrial plants that are distributed across the world all operating in the same way, and the smooth products they make, which are also distributed throughout the world and always look the same, and, on the other, the references toward the end of the film to the places of extraction and the specific ingredients of plastic manufacturing such as the Indonesian shrub storax (or snowbells) crucial to the material, as well as the oil, which is found—so Queneau states—nearly everywhere from Bordeaux to states in Africa. And from these specific details of matter and place, viewers are made aware that the structure into which the red bowl of The Song of the Styrene arrives is one of geopolitical distribution, of economies that straddle the world, from France to Indonesia to Africa, and that these function within the contexts of colonialism and decolonization.Edward Dimendberg, “‘These Are Not Exercises in Style’: Le Chant du Styrène,” October, no. 112 (Spring 2005), pp. 63–88.
The firm that owned the red bowl factory, Péchiney, had plants in Cameroon and French Guinea, and in that same region the French petroleum industry was extracting reserves, until nationalization followed independence in various countries.
The red plastic bowl is there at the start of the film gleaming, as are the plastic ladles and rainbow tags, all newly born. It is old for us now: is it still floating in the seas or in landfill? How scathed is it? These plastic forms—which exist in time but exude a certain timelessness, as is the wont of plastic forms—are deconstructed through the course of the film’s thirteen minutes. The plastic objects are taken back to an original moment, original matter, out of which, going forwards, the magic of science and technology will conjure a bowl, or a plug, or a spoon.
Rare Earthenware (2015) by Unknown Fields is another film-in-reverse that follows products to their origins. Rare Earthenware tracks rare-earth elements—such as terbium, europium, and neodymium—back to their extraction. These are used in electronic devices and so-called green technologies that promote renewable energy or supposedly mitigate environmental damage: compact fluorescent bulbs, electric-car batteries, solar panels, wind turbines. The film documents their passage from container ships and ports across the world to wholesalers and factories in China, and eventually back to the banks of a barely-liquid tailings lake in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, where the refining process of the minerals takes place.
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Paisaje de las Minas de Río Tinto, Spain © Edmundo Sáez, 2013

The ten square-kilometer tailings lake is comprised of a constant flow of sludge, a radioactive clay that has been shed by the city’s mineral-refining factories. Tailings are the materials remaining once an ore has been stripped of its economically valuable parts. This waste settles in a pond, in mud, preventing the fine tailings from floating on the wind into populated areas and harming human health; any animals attracted to the seeming pond would not live long. Under a certain light this black mire might exude a lustrous gleam like the plastic of a smart phone’s casing, the sludgy lake it surrounds is the other side, the liquid crystal touchscreen; the side which monitors the changes in electric state on the screen, composed of these rare-earth minerals and metals, highly conductive and optically transparent ones, easy to deposit on the glass as a film.
The landscape’s minerals are splintered into tiny parts and distributed on the surface and inside of a box that is never supposed to be opened, at least until its life’s end, perhaps not even then. From under the ground, from immense cavernous holes in the earth, from brown rock and mud, smashed and grabbed from the crust, elements take up residence inside the glossy pebbles, the black boxes, the smooth white slabs, the rose-gold gewgaws. Where masses of these minerals are mined, in environments prepared to accept the hazardous and toxic processing required, the rainwater turns murky from the interminable coal dust of the power stations that day and night process compounds for polishing touchscreens or coloring glass. This smart world of light and polish is an elemental one, binding chemical elements for its affects. The film provides statistics: there are eight rare-earth elements in a smartphone and it produces 380 grams of toxic waste in the course of its manufacture, a laptop generates over one kilogram.
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These tiny crystalline “roses” of europium oxycarbonate are formed under intense heat and pressure in a controlled system. Under certain conditions, they emit bright red light. Scientists are working to investigate the material's luminescence intensity and decay time. Nanoroses © Argonne National Laboratory, 2008

Together with Kevin Callaghan, the filmmakers used mud from the lake to craft a set of ceramic vessels. Each is sized in relation to the amount of waste created in the production of three items of technology – a smartphone, a featherweight laptop, and the cell of a smart car battery. In their reference to the Chinese tradition of producing—and exporting—valuable porcelain, as well as in their manufacture of irradiated objects whose atoms have half-lives that will likely outlast ours, the vessels evoke a tangle of thoughts about waste: about recycling, beauty, the irreducible, the timescales introduced by new processing, the effects this has on the environment and how we might think about that, fatefully, in terror at new prospects of sublime devastation, and delightedly, in terms of new aesthetics, the new possibilities of objects that are recognized as more active than ever before, even if only radioactive. They are active because we are attuned now to how much these objects build relations between us. Active because we are sensitive to the distribution of agency. Active because like humans these are amassings of promise, things with the capacity to delight or to do harm.
This specific waste, the toxic waste of mineral processing, is rarely redeemed. The gesture of making it into pots is a perverse one, possible only within the remit of art or cultural politics. This poisonous waste is not like the waste of the seas that, over impossibly long times, made petroleum, which, in turn, could make plastic, a substance that would, in time, return to those seas and deep into the earth where it too exudes toxins—this muddy waste is a more direct process. It is waste that remains, for the most part, from its start to end irreducibly waste. It does not pass through human hands. Its life, its radioactive half-life, is long, endlessly long. But its existence is not measured in human terms, this is residue, its valuable part—the useful minerals—has traveled the world, but even the value of that part is limited. Soon the mainly plastic bodies, or outer shells, of phones, laptops, batteries, bulbs, housing the valuable minerals, will be discarded through constant upgrades, and the whole plastic body and mineral core will find its way to landfill or the seas, generating a new category of waste—e-waste. The rare-earth minerals will return to the earth, pressing into it, but this time leaking toxins and contaminating it; some people might dream of recovering tiny quantities of valuable minerals from devices, some might one day make a business of it.
The Song of the Styrene alluded to the Song of the Sirens—a beckoning call by a number of harpy-like women whose classical names are as evocative as those names of plastics: Peisinoe, Aglaope, and Thelxiepeia alongside Parkesine, Alkathine, and Galalith. Theirs was an enchanting melody sung to lure sailors into shipwreck; to respond to that song was hazardous. Hazardous too, then, is the call of plastics, that they would entice us into their world, make us bring them through their birth into our world, so that we might share it. Hazardous too are the toxins they produce as they decompose in the waters and landfill—and hazardous too is the exposure to toxicity that poses new levels of pursuable risk to the world. This plastic, that little red bowl that promised so much, has generated new contours of waste whose lifespan may be limited but the effects of which last an eternity, though if we are lucky we may find out that they can succumb to a slow digestion by bacteria, so that new forms might be recycled from the disintegrated chemicals. Plastics propose a non-time of newly born and never sullied existence. It ends floating on the seas—although “end” may not be accurate, for we operate still with the idea of a certain reversibility. A Canadian company called Upcycle the Gyres Society (UpGyres) works under the premise that waste plastic in the oceans is an extractable reserve that can be made self-sustaining, profitable, and have a positive environmental impact in the “blue-circular economy.” The proposal is a reversal: “Because plastic comes from oil, processing technology already exists to transform these oceanic plastic deposits through pyrolysis back into oil and into low sulfur fuel for energy and transportation.” Other plastics can be chemically recycled to make virgin plastics, collected by robots that appear to share the same quality of life.
UpGyres offers to extract plastic deposits with bio intelligent and biomimetic robots. The advantage of using biomimetic robots is that they will blend with marine life; will be able to shelter themselves from storms and hurricanes; locate, track, pursue and actively collect as well as passively extract deposits of macro, meso and micro plastics from the surface and water column of the global ocean.José Luis Gutiérrez-García, “The Case for Upcycling the Gyres,” The Maritime Executive, September 10, 2017.
UpGyres is still fundraising for its project to exploit this new material for extraction. The tailings lakes across the world, and in its poorest parts, might offer themselves up as a resource in time too, a resource for more than just art projects. It is as if, after all of this, we can turn back time and make something better: take another route in which the mountains and islands of waste were not permitted to grow, or that we could make of them things of beauty that were no more harmful and threatening than the vision in a painting of cataclysm or natural fury.
Everything is waste. In time, everything is wasted. Nothing is waste. Over time, nothing is wasted. Any look into a rubbish bin is an image of potential beginnings—for waste awaits only a new extraction. Waste is a resource. Perhaps there are endpoints though. That we might reach the waste that can never be re-assimilated, is too dense a concoction of toxins and things that harm life. Then that waste becomes waste that is usable, but not for us. Against us perhaps, or against those who are poor, who are always sited near the toxic remnants. If not for us, then, for what instead?