Accepted paper:

From Critter Chips to Critter Compilers - a fabulation of environmental computing otherwise


Helen Pritchard (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

Through ethnographic and fabulative engagements with "Critter Chips" I outline the exploitation of microbial life in the computational practices of a toxicology lab. In response I propose the artwork "Critter Compiler", a microbial novella writer that re-imagines environmental computing otherwise.

Paper long abstract:

Today so-called "Critter Chips" and "living sensors" are used in hundreds of applications from environmental remediation to cosmetic testing. These sensors upload, move and stream trillions of data points to big data repositories as part of practices intended to manage and control environments. Through empirical research in a toxicology lab and sites of environmental computing this presentation discusses lab practices in which living is entangled with modes of harm. This presentation outlines how practices of computation, in the context of monitoring pollution for the protection of others, holds more-than-humans in injurious states. I ask what type of activity is this computational execution that derives from injury and how we might fabulate on computing otherwise? Through ethnographic and fabulative engagements with "Critter Chips" I will show how processes of computational execution exploit the potential of microbial injury and death. I follow this with a discussion of the artwork "Critter Compiler", a fabulation that engages with contemporary microbial computing. "Critter Compiler" is a digital artwork and a prototype for a machine-learning algae-based microbial novella writer. Drawing on queer theory, the artwork takes as its starting point this toxic execution, and as a fabulative experiment performs (or executes) these processes otherwise. I propose that the artwork, "Critter Compiler", asks us to consider creative and flourishing alternatives to what I am calling the injurious modes of computation.

panel A26
More-than-human mobilities