On Counting

Kat Jung­nick­el kindly invited me to a two day meet­ing as part of her con­tinu­ing series of Trans­mis­sions and Entan­gle­ments events. Amidst oth­ers work­ing through new meth­ods and pro­cesses, here’s what I had to say for myself on count­ing:

What is it to count and to be coun­ted?

One way I have made sense of my work over the last 10 years at Microsoft has been to see it as a way of get­ting to grips with count­ing and in some ways com­ing to terms with being coun­ted. (more…)

Published Modelling Biology – working through (in-)stabilities and frictions

Just had our paper on Com­pu­ta­tion­al Bio­logy pub­lished in the online journ­al Com­pu­ta­tion­al Cul­ture.

Alex S. Taylor, Jas­min Fish­er, Byron Cook, Sam­in Ish­tiaq and Nir Piter­man (2014) Mod­el­ling Bio­logy – work­ing through (in-)stabilities and fric­tions. Com­pu­ta­tion­al Cul­ture, 1 (4).


Abstract: Com­pu­ta­tion­al bio­logy is a nas­cent field reli­ant on soft­ware cod­ing and mod­el­ling to pro­duce insights into bio­lo­gic­al phe­nom­ena. Extreme claims cast it as a field set to replace con­ven­tion­al forms of exper­i­ment­al bio­logy, see­ing soft­ware mod­el­ling as a (more con­veni­ent) proxy for bench-work in the wet-lab. In this art­icle, we deep­en and com­plic­ate the rela­tions between com­pu­ta­tion and sci­entif­ic ways of know­ing by dis­cuss­ing a com­pu­ta­tion­al bio­logy tool, BMA, that mod­els gene reg­u­lat­ory net­works. We detail the instabil­it­ies and fric­tions that sur­face when com­pu­ta­tion is incor­por­ated into sci­entif­ic prac­tice, fram­ing the ten­sions as part of knowing-in-progress — the prac­tic­al back and forth in work­ing things out. The work exem­pli­fies how soft­ware stud­ies — and care­ful atten­tion to the mater­i­al­it­ies of com­pu­ta­tion — can shed light on the emer­ging sci­ences that rely on cod­ing and com­pu­ta­tion. Fur­ther, it puts to work a stand­point that sees com­pu­ta­tion as tightly entangled with forms of sci­entif­ic know­ing and doing, rather than a whole­sale replace­ment of them.

Reading The sentient” city and what it may portend

A ram­bling piece in Big Data & Soci­ety by Nigel Thrift: The sen­tient’ city and what it may por­tend.


Wasn’t expect­ing the digres­sion into spir­its and per­form­ance art, but I do like Thrift’s con­tinu­al efforts to write about expans­ive human/agent capa­cit­ies and extend­ing the .

...the claim is being made that, as com­pu­ta­tion­al objects have developed, cit­ies are able to take on new forms of vital­ity (Stern, 2010), forms of vital­ity which can devel­op over time. Per­haps one way in which we might con­sider this ques- tion is pre­cisely through look­ing at how vital­ity devel- ops when com­pu­ta­tion­al things are expli­citly included in the con­tours of exper­i­ence. Then it becomes clear that it has only gradu­ally aris­en, line by line, algorithm by algorithm, pro­gram by pro­gram.

Thirft, N. (2014). The sen­tient” city and what it may por­tend. Big Data & Soci­ety, 1(1).