Rosenthal, C. Caitlin. (2018). Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA.
I’ve read a number of Caitlin Rosenthal’s academic papers and have been anticipating this book for a while. The book doesn’t disappoint. It cements and builds on her past work, and draws her insightful ideas together. Rosenthal convincingly shows how the systems of accounting used in the (largely) antebellum Southern States of the US served to manage (and master) slaves, methodically sustaining the violence we know too well.
I particularly enjoyed Rosenthal’s careful examination of the paper-based records, showing in detail how forms, tables and calculations objectified people’s bodies as machinery in a capital project, in effect authorising the brutality. What I’d really like to see in any future work is how this line of inquiry ties into contemporary slave studies, with its strong and vital narrative forms. This will no doubt present a challenge, but one worth pursuing.
When we really need it — amidst so much darkness and gloom — Daniela Rosner has woven together an interventionist design with a critical feminist view to produce something so full of promise. The generative theorising set out in the works of Donna Haraway, Anna Tsing, Saidiya Hartman and so on (all such outstanding figures in contemporary feminist scholarship) is put into practice through an assortment of design interventions. The design work is cleverly presented through a range of different voices and perspectives, altogether showing Rosner’s impulse to work creatively. But the book is much much more than this, it is about the stories we are able tell in doing design and because of design. It is about a design practice done differently — redoing design so that the absences and alternative imaginaries come to life.
What I really enjoyed in reading this book is that it offers a way for those of us in design to think with the kind of hopeful scholarship coming out of feminist theory. For so many, scholars like Haraway are a challenge to read, but not only does Rosner make this scholarship accessible, she spins something new into the ideas. She takes Haraway’s ‘speculative fabulations’ and provides very tangible ways to think ‘with’ stories, and think ‘other’ and ‘more than’ with stories. Her design interventions (constituting a patchwork across the book) provide exemplary ways of both undertaking design and also thinking with it. The centrepiece, the work Rosner has done with others on weaving the Apollo mission’s ‘core memory’, speaks then to both a designerly practice for doing technological innovation and a way to do design in responsible, sensitive and open-ended ways.
Happy to have the short conversation I had with @danielarosner published in Interactions Magazine’s regular “What are you reading?” column. We experiment with a brief interchange about two wonderful books: Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World and Sarah Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life.
Below is the long-winded version before tidying and editing. (more…)
Tsing, A. L. (2015). The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton University Press.
Ahmed, S. (2017). Living a Feminist Life. Duke University Press.
Amanda Windle has kindly invited me to participate in her small seminar:
Informed matters Digital media materialities.
The seminar is summarised as follows:
Considering Peter Sloterdijk’s rendering of a Heideggerian ‘being-in’ this informal seminar will be a situated reading. The discussion will be located at the Royal Society of the Arts to spatially think through an approach to Peter Sloterdijk’s ‘spherology’ across disciplines. How, where and with what matterings do we embark our daily readings is no trivial matter? Sloterdijk’s writing can both inform and trouble readers and so the adjacent readings from and will open up further questions and provocations. Sloterdijk’s recent publications have been aimed at a design audience (namely architects) and with his media theory the following digital media question will be proposed. With a broadly experiential and performative approach in mind the discussion will loosely consider spherology in this respect:
This formulation opens to the somewhat irreverent question (following Sloterdijk’s own irreverence) of how his thinking can be turned into an app or an application (app displacing application displacing theorisation displacing philosophisation, the last term barely being a word)?
How might Sloterdijk’s work be reparatively questioned through a feminist enquiry? How might Sloterdijk’s metaphors engage us intra-actively?
I’ve sketched out my response to the latter: (more…)
Barad, K. (2003). Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28(3), 801 – 831.
Stengers, I. (2013). Introductory notes on an ecology of practices. Cultural Studies Review, 11(1), 183 – 196.
The article is a hard hitting critique of Apple’s current design philosophy. More than this, though, the two long time interaction design gurus set out a clear project for design, one that they see Apple having been instrumental in but now deviating from. Their general argument is, on the face of it, pretty convincing. Yet digging a little deeper it’s one that I have problems with. This post is really an effort to sort things out in my own mind. (more…)
Kenney’s article is very much a homage to Helen Verran and her wonderful book Science and an African Logic. She pays special attention to Verran’s efforts at decomposition and frames these through a lens of accountability. Care is given by Kenny to differentiate this kind of accounting from that of “contemporary neo-liberal bureaucracies” that run the risk of strengthening “the academic culture that privileges critique and revelation over other, more subtle and creative, approaches.” (more…)