EASST 2018 Presentation

Abi­gail Dur­rant and I gave our paper Mod­el­ling Cells in/with risky comak­ings and devi­ous worlds” at EASST last week, in the fab­ulous Fem­in­ist Fig­ures pan­el.

Mod­el­ling cells in/with risky comak­ings and devi­ous worlds

ABSTRACT
We use String Fig­ures and Invol­u­tion­ary Momentum to read against the grain” of a con­tem­por­an­eous bio­logy char­ac­ter­ised by reduc­tion. Work­ing through the design of a tool that mod­els cel­lu­lar sta­bil­ity, we spin a yarn of affect­ively charged” rela­tions between research­ers, cells and tech­no­lo­gies.

Draw­ing from her found­a­tion­al stud­ies of bio­logy, Evelyn Fox Keller (2009:301) writes of a com­plex­ity and con­nec­ted­ness that might just char­ac­ter­ise our devi­ous” world(s). She has traced threads through bio­logy for over 40 years, draw­ing atten­tion to — amongst oth­er things — how it has often res­isted the explan­at­ory powers con­ferred upon its coun­ter­parts in oth­er nat­ur­al sci­ences. A prag­mat­ic approach has dom­in­ated, she extols, in which unknowns have been a part of biology’s messy real­ity.

Look­ing ahead, to the deep­en­ing entan­gle­ments between bio­logy and com­pu­ta­tion, we find con­tem­por­an­eous ima­gin­ar­ies sur­round­ing cel­lu­lar life to be test­ing this lin­eage. Cer­tainly — as Keller her­self has reflec­ted — com­pu­ta­tion makes pos­sible very par­tic­u­lar modes of under­stand­ing, ones con­form­ing to the reduct­ive, mech­an­ist­ic, and adapt­a­tion­ist logics” that char­ac­ter­ise a pre­vail­ing neo‐Darwinism (Hus­tak & Myers 2013:77).

In this paper, we wish to cut across what on the face it appears to be biology’s nar­row­ing move. By look­ing askew’, we hope to ask more about bio­logy and wheth­er or not it is being rendered com­pu­ta­tion­al. Examin­ing a pro­ject inves­ted in the com­pu­ta­tion­al chal­lenges of mod­el­ling cel­lu­lar sta­bil­ity, and rely­ing on the risky comak­ings” (Har­away 2016:14) between act­ors, algorithms and com­pu­ta­tion­al tools, we stay com­mit­ted to the troubles enlivened by knot­ted rela­tions. We use two fem­in­ist fig­ures, Haraway’s String Fig­ure, and Hus­tak and Myer’s Invol­u­tion­ary Momentum, to (re-)tell a story of unfold­ing rela­tion­ships between research­ers, cells and tech­no­lo­gies, spin­ning a yarn of affect­ively charged” (Hus­tak & Myers 2013) relays and knot­tings that res­ist sin­gu­lar fig­ur­ings.

Ref­er­ences
Har­away, D.J., 2016. Stay­ing with the trouble: Mak­ing kin in the Chthu­lu­cene. Duke Uni­ver­sity Press.

Hus­tak, C. and Myers, N., 2012. Invol­u­tion­ary momentum: Affect­ive eco­lo­gies and the sci­ences of plant/insect encoun­ters. dif­fer­ences, 23(3), pp.74 – 118.

Keller, E.F., 2009. Mak­ing sense of life: Explain­ing bio­lo­gic­al devel­op­ment with mod­els, meta­phors, and machines. Har­vard Uni­ver­sity Press.

Audrey, Anyone?

An Audrey in my office

I just dug out my old Audrey, a com­puter appli­ance designed for the home released in 2000 and then canned in 2001. What a shame to think a device with such thought­fully designed soft­ware and hard­ware was so quickly releg­ated to the dust‐pile of e‐history. Any­way, see­ing Audrey reminded me Laurel Swan and I presen­ted a paper on Audrey at 4S in 2005 titled Audrey, Any­one?” The abstract is below. We did man­age to inter­view some of the ori­gin­al design­ers on the team includ­ing Ray Win­ninger. How­ever, things got the bet­ter of us and we nev­er wrote it up in fin­ished form. Here’s the abstract we wrote:
(more…)

Wiki­pe­dia has an entry, here.
A short chapter we came across in doing back­ground research on Audrey is Leslie Regan Share’s The gen­der­ing of a com­mu­nic­a­tion tech­no­logy: the short life and death of Audrey”, in Out of the Ivory Tower: Fem­in­ist Research for Social Change, edited by: Mar­tinez, Andrea and Stu­art, Meryn. Toronto: Sumach Press.

Platypus blog post

The Com­mit­tee for the Anthro­po­logy of Sci­ence, Tech­no­logy & Com­put­ing (CASTAC) and Rebekah Cul­pit kindly gave me the oppor­tun­ity to write a piece for Platy­pus (the CASTAC blog).

Titled Becom­ing More Cap­able”, the blog post sketches out some of the early ideas I’ve been think­ing with in con­nec­tion to dis/ability. Spe­cific­ally, it takes up a gen­er­at­ive (fem­in­ist inspired) pos­i­tion, that under­stands cap­ab­il­ity as col­lect­ively achieved, as a becoming‐with’. The Platy­pus post is here, or see a longer un‐edited ver­sion below.

We need to exer­cise the ima­gin­a­tion in order to elbow away at the con­di­tions of im/possibility.

Ingunn Moser & John Law (1999: 174)

What is it to be cap­able? How might we elbow away the con­di­tions that lim­it abil­ity, to become more cap­able? (more…)

Paper at 4S 2017

I’m thrilled to have our paper sub­mis­sion accep­ted to the . Cyn­thia Ben­nett and I will be busily pre­par­ing our paper for the always amaz­ing event, this year in August/September in Boston.

A care for being
more (cap-)able

Cyn­thia Ben­nett and Alex Taylor

In this paper, we begin with Ingunn Moser’s and Maria Puig de la Bellacasa’s gen­er­at­ive notions of care and use them to expand how we under­stand cap­ab­il­ity. Draw­ing on field­work with blind and vis­ion impaired people, we turn our atten­tion to a mater­i­ally enacted, unfold­ing sense‐ability’. This is a sens­ing that puts (cap)ability and care togeth­er, that under­stands seeing‐in‐the‐world’ as a prac­tic­al affair that is, at once, know­ing, effect­ing and affect­ing with oth­ers (humans or oth­er­wise). Thus, we show not only that care can con­test an instru­ment­al­ism’ in forms of know­ing and doing — by re‐affecting objec­ti­fied worlds’ (Puig de la Bel­lacasa, 2011: 98) — but also give a great­er clar­ity to how care can be, in prac­tice, entangled in prac­tice. This sense‐ability seeks to be act­ive, enliven­ing how we become cap­able; it is figured to be worked with, not finite and dic­tated by assumed bod­ily lim­its, but open to becoming‐with and becoming‐more. Bor­row­ing from Vin­ciane Despret, this sense‐ability is to gain a body that does more things, that feels oth­er events, and that is more and more able…” (2004: 120).

Despret, V. (2004). The Body We Care For: Fig­ures of Anthropo‐zoo‐genesis. Body & Soci­ety, 10(2 – 3), 111 – 134.

Moser, I. (2011). Demen­tia and the Lim­its to Life. ST&HV, 36(5), 704 – 722.

Puig de la Bel­lacasa, M. (2011). Mat­ters of Care in Tech­nos­cience. Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence, 41(1), 85 – 106.

4S is the Soci­ety for the Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence. The annu­al meet­ing details are here.

Paper presented at 4S/EASST meeting

At the com­bined 4S/EASST meet­ing this year, Sarah Kem­ber and I presen­ted a paper titled:

Writerly (ac)counts of finite flour­ish­ings and pos­sibly bet­ter ways of being togeth­er

As Sarah’s intro­duc­tion to the paper out­lined, our co‐writings were an attempt to think with the emer­ging strategies of fem­in­ist count­ing, account­ing and re‐counting.

Below, I present my part to the co‐authered piece. It’s long, so I put it here more for the record than any expect­a­tion it will be read. I must add that the ideas I present draw on work done by . Without her energy and always thought­ful invest­ment in the field site, this reflec­tion would not have been pos­sible: (more…)

... work­ing from Newcastle’s Open Lab

The promiscuity of interaction”

This is a brief com­ment on a meet­ing Barry Brown and I hos­ted at Microsoft Research Cam­bridge, titled .

Inter­ac­tion as a a promis­cu­ous concept”: it’s Stu­art Reeves’ phras­ing that nicely cap­tures the sen­ti­ment of our small meeting’s dis­cus­sions. The col­lec­tion of short talks and the emphas­is giv­en to talk­ing (and not just lec­tur­ing), gave rise to a lan­guage of crit­ic­al but pos­it­ive reflec­tion. Rather than delib­er­at­ing on an after’ or post’ inter­ac­tion turn or wave in HCI, inter­ac­tion was seen to still offer a great deal. The con­sensus (led by pos­i­tions from Dav­id Kirk, Abi Dur­rant , Bill Gaver and Stu­art) was it provides us with a device or machinery in com­mon, and, con­cep­tu­ally, there remains much to do with the word that keeps us open to new domains and indeed new (design) pos­sib­il­it­ies. Here, I’m reminded of Isa­belle Stengers use of the phrase a tool for think­ing”. It cer­tainly appears inter­ac­tion (still) provides us with just such a tool.

And yet I felt there was a shared frus­tra­tion (more…)

See this post as one source for the dis­cus­sion.
Kindly atten­ded by, Andy Bouch­er, Barry Brown, Rob Comber, Anna Cox, Abi Dur­rant, Bill Gaver, Elisa Giac­cardi, Kat Jung­nick­el, Dave Kirk, Airi Lamp­inen, Eric Laur­i­er, Lucian Leahu, Chris­ti­an Licoppe, Dave Mar­tin, Mike Michael, Mari­anna Obrist, Stu­art Reeves, Yvonne Rogers, Francesca Sal­vadori, Anja Thieme, Tony Weiser and Alex Wilkie.
Stu­art has pos­ted the notes to his talk here. He has sug­ges­ted this as a com­pli­ment­ary read­ing: Ander­son, B. and Shar­rock, W. (2013). Post­Mod­ern­ism, Social Sci­ence & Tech­no­logy.
Abi ref­er­enced the piece Edge Town” by Hook­er and Kit­chen (2004), in her short talk. She has also sug­ges­ted E. M. Foster’s The Machine Stops’ for fur­ther read­ing. As she explains: [t]his is because this novella con­veys the ideas we dis­cussed about making‐and‐describing the macro and micro fea­tures of a world (of com­plex medi­ated inter­ac­tions) and, dare I say, the loc­al and glob­al’.  (With the 1:1 scale fea­tures of  inter­ac­tion being the stuff that design­ers can really work with. It man­ages to con­vey the com­plex­ity of a socio‐technical sys­tem through depict­ing a few moments of rel­at­ively simple inter­ac­tion with the machine’.  The story also presents truly entangled human and non human bod­ies and their polit­ics, eth­ics, depend­en­cies, faith — and deals more spe­cific­ally with implic­a­tions around trans­par­ency with­in those medi­ated inter­ac­tions. This is des­pite being of it’s time and assum­ing cer­tain dif­fer­ences between people and the nat­ur­al world, and man and machine’.
See, Stengers, I. (2013). Intro­duct­ory notes on an eco­logy of prac­tices. Cul­tur­al Stud­ies Review, 11(1), 183 – 196.

Reading Sloterdijk’s Spheres, alongside Stengers and Barad

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 Review11(1), 183 – 196.

Reading Counting, accounting, and accountability: Helen Verran’s relational empiricism”

Just read Martha Kenney’s Count­ing, account­ing, and account­ab­il­ity: Helen Verran’s rela­tion­al empir­i­cism”.

The art­icle is cur­rently avail­able through the Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence Online­First ser­vice. Inten­tion­ally or not, it sits nicely with oth­er art­icles brought togeth­er to exam­ine .

Ken­ney, M. (2015). Count­ing, account­ing, and account­ab­il­ity: Helen Verran’s rela­tion­al empir­i­cism. Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence, 1 – 23.

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…)

See, for example, Mar­tin, A., Myers, N., & Viseu, A. (2015). The polit­ics of care in tech­nos­cience. Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence, 1 – 17.

Back to interaction (a reply to Barry)

I’m grate­ful to Barry Brown for his com­ments on my short Inter­ac­tions piece, After Inter­ac­tion”.

Barry, as always, you’ve forced me to think more care­fully about my mean­der­ings. Indeed, my inten­tion was to append a short reply to your com­ment, but your ques­tions have deman­ded more and, pre­dict­ably, words have got the bet­ter of me. This post, then, is my long‐winded response. Thank you for giv­ing me the chance to expand on my thoughts.

First, let me respond to your cri­ti­cisms regard­ing the inter­ming­lings of humans and non­hu­mans. (more…)