Short note on Objects, Infrastructure and Vocation’

infrastructure+vocation

Infra­struc­ture and Voca­tion: Field, Call­ing and Com­pu­ta­tion in Ecology

A bril­liant CHI paper by Steven Jack­son and Sarah Bar­brow. How many papers presen­ted at CHI cite St. Augustine of Hippo and, to boot, suc­ceed in draw­ing out rel­ev­ant reflec­tions on sci­entif­ic mod­el­ling tools in eco­logy. See­ing eco­logy through the lens of both infra­struc­ture and the voca­tion­al call­ing’ provides a pro­duct­ive view onto what eco­lo­gists do and how their prac­tices are chan­ging. Jack­son and Bar­brow illus­trate this nicely by writ­ing of the chan­ging notion of the field’ for eco­lo­gists. I see a strong par­al­lel here between eco­logy and bio­logy. Bio­logy is a field very much in trans­ition and the changes have much to do with the mater­i­al encoun­ters in bio­lo­gic­al work — with for example the chan­ging nature of bio­lo­gists’ work at the bench’ and with exper­i­ment­al appar­at­us. The turn to machines, com­pu­ta­tion and algorithms is not only reshap­ing the prac­tices but also refig­ur­ing what bio­lo­gists know and how they see their phe­nom­ena (some­thing we also tried to get across in At the inter­face of bio­logy and com­pu­ta­tion at CHI). A sim­il­ar con­clu­sion is being drawn out in this papers as it cap­tures the entangled rela­tions between the tools, prac­tices and ways of know­ing in ecology.

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