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Accepted Paper:

Algae Pastures: Art and the Domestication of the Sea  
David Stentiford (Stanford University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper tracks sociotechnical imaginaries in formation, specifically as they relate to algae biomass and open-ocean farming. The paper investigates imaginative works that seek to intervene in the formation of these worlds.

Paper long abstract:

In the late 1960s, American scientists and engineers envisioned building a biofuels-based economy for the United States, one supported by vast open-ocean farms cultivating _Macrocystis pyrifera_, or giant kelp, an extremely productive macroalgae that forms "forests" along temperate reefs in the Pacific. These endeavors diminished in the 1980s, corresponding to the deregulation of U.S. natural gas markets. Recently, however, the U.S. Department of Energy has invested around $30 million in algae biomass research with the hopes of cultivating enough seaweed, in coming decades, to significantly reduce fossil fuel use and emissions. The successful application of these technologies would transform the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone into an intensive mariculture operation. What roles do imaginative works and acts play in giving these technological and infrastructural forms their shape?

To answer this question, this paper turns to the art world, specifically to the work of artist Peter Fend, to think through the stabilization of a sociotechnical imaginary of open-ocean farming. I report on participant observation with Fend who has been working with the mariculture concept for more than four decades. I also discuss Fend's ocean farming visions in relation to the science fiction novel _Deep Range_ (1957) by Arthur C. Clarke, which imagines a world in which plankton farming and whale ranching have scaled to meet the needs of a growing planet. I track how terrestrial notions of pastoralism and agriculture re-articulate in imagined seas.

Panel P059
Sea Economies: Labour, Infrastructure and New Techno-Environmental Horizons