This panel will explore STS and mobilities approaches to more-than-human assemblages of actors that meet on the move. We are particularly interested in papers that investigate multi-scalar resonances, consonances and dissonances in more-than-human assemblages by tuning into them from different perspectives.
More-than-human assemblages shape life in the ruins of capitalism and modernity. They are made in and through movement, blocked movement, immobilities. A deeper understanding of their im|mobilities can be a source of creativity and hope. STS and mobilities researchers already share an interest in how flows, rhythms and stoppages of particulates, microbes, humans, animals, technologies and environments on the move reveal and produce encounters and assemblages of more-than-human actors and knowledges.
This panel leverages the post-disciplinary momentum of STS and mobilities research to study more-than-human entanglements. Understanding a world in movement requires a methodological flexibility and a capacity to tune in to different ways of knowing. In this panel we develop a practice of resonance as an approach to inter- or post-disciplinary analysis and creative, affirmatively critical ‘worlding’ with more-than-human mobilities. Resonance describes processes of filtering – amplification and muting – that occur when more-than-human assemblages come together and when they are the subject of analysis or ‘design’. Like Barad’s (2007; 2014) work on diffraction, resonance draws connections between physics and the social world, operating as a way of rethinking and re-doing research practices and more-than-human assemblages by focusing on how methods, knowledges, and phenomena interfere with one another as understandings are negotiated and performed collaboratively.
We are particularly interested in interdisciplinary contributions that involve making, whether artistic or design-oriented, in combination with STS and mobilities research, and processes of careful, active listening (Back 2007; Schrader 2015). The panel will explore resonance, consonance and dissonance as phenomena, methods, and methodologies; drawing attention to ‘discords’, situated knowledges, reality disjunctures, practices, spaces, temporalities of care. Rejecting ‘solutionism’ (Morozov 2013), we approach resonance as a way of “staying with the trouble” (Haraway 2016).
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
From Critter Chips to Critter Compilers - a fabulation of environmental computing otherwise
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.
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.
Lenses and rhythms in the sea in crisis
This paper explores interactions between changing bio- and geo-rhythms in tidal zones of the sea in environmental crisis, human temporal experiences and temporalities of scientific investigations in relation to the materiality of scientific lenses.
"Seawater", writes Stefan Helmreich, "prompted Boas to consider qualitative aspects of seeing". Reporting on preliminary results of a transdisciplinary conversation between a visual artist (Deborah Robinson) and a marine scientist (Simon Rundel) and myself, this paper tries to link lenses and rhythms in the sea. We seek to draw attention to the limitations of human temporal experiences, which potentially compromise the ways in which we respond to the crisis in the sea, and ask for example how do the temporal rhythms of bodies of marine organisms, used to sensing in an aqueous world, get modified and adjusted to environmental changes? What emerges when ways of seeing become attuned to the interlocking of bio- and geo rhythms of organisms in intertidal zones and their alterations due to climate change. How do these rhythms interact with human experiences, scientific measurements and earthly cycles? For example, marine organisms inhabiting the intertidal zone adjust their body clocks to tidal cycles as well as the diurnal and seasonal cycles experienced by humans. How do the marine rhythms of life connect to planetary and terrestrial ones? Altering perceptions and cultivating new rhythms require transdisciplinary approaches and interventions. In addition to questions of time scales and interlocking of rhythms, we raise questions about lenses, literally and metaphorically. Experimenting with film and seawater lenses we seek to interrogate simultaneously the temporalities of scientific investigations and the materiality of its own lenses.
What is a dog able to do? Producing a new cosmopolitan antropozoogenesis in Chilean cities
The aim of this work is to reflect about singular antropozoogenesis blending dogs-and-humans through a foreign and ethnographical experience. For that, I will propose some concepts as: 1) interespecies citizenship/socialism; 2) reciprocal domestication/care; and 3) domestic cosmopolitism.
The old spinozian question (what are bodies able to do?) can be translated and modified by some contemporary authors, such as Vinciane Despret: 1) What would animals be capable of if we changed their conditions?; 2) What would animals say if we proposed good questions? An interesting and truly empirical way to explore these questions can be seen in Chilean cities with a quite peculiar actor: street dogs. We have some interesting stories presented through a foreign perspective, David Byrne is one of them. As a Brazilian with frequent passages through different Chilean cities, I constructed a foreign ethnographical perspective that allows me to reflect on some singular aspects of this singular antropozoogenesis blending dogs-and-humans. The aim of this work is to reflect about this collective experience through some concepts. In this sense, I would like to sustain that: 1) this experience produces a new kind of citizenship because it does not only happen in different cities but also involves rights and laws (e.g, Cholito law); 2) it creates a kind of reciprocal care and domestication that involves feeding, playing and occupying very different public spaces (markets, classes, protests, plazas...); 3) it produces a type of domestic cosmopolitism because it brings the possibility of relationships based on open trust without any priority of some groups (like ecological ones) or territories. In short, it is possible to say that it creates a kind of an interspecies socialism that was present during both Pinochet dictatorship and Allende human socialism.
Crafting geographies of human-wildlife encounter: visual praxiography in more-than-human worlds
This paper discusses a collaboration in writing and visualizing critical more-than-human geographies, drawing on textual and visual materials to critically (re)consider the normative framing of 'human-wildlife conflict' in a landscape fraught with violent multispecies encounter.
In this paper I will present and discuss a collaboration in writing and visualizing critical more-than-human geographies, drawing on textual and visual materials produced through a collaborative research/activist project conducted in 2015-2016 in Karnataka, India around Bandipur National Park. In concert with my collaborators, we experimented with a form of participant photography as method to complicate normative understandings of multispecies relations cast as 'human-wildlife conflict' in a conservation landscape rife with deathly and destructive encounters between humans, their property (including domestic animals), and a variety of wild animals. The primary aim of the project was to document the everyday experiences of individuals living with a multiplicity of other kinds of animal life in a politically fraught landscape through a public archival practice. Intellectually, the project contributes to experimentations with visual methods for enlivening more-than-human geographies (Hodgetts and Lorimer 2015). In doing so, I sought a practice of doing research more open to multiplicities of entangled and hybrid kinds of life (Sharp et al 2000; Whatmore 2002; Collard 2012), drawing on AnneMarie Mol's concept of praxiography (Mol 2002, 53-55). I approach praxiographic research in the context of more-than-human geographies of human-wildlife encounters as a way to move past epistemic questions of whether we as researchers have most accurately and comprehensively described the reality of human-animal encounters, to ontic questions of being in the world, and how our engagement in making sense of these worlds in effect produces them.
Hybrid assemblages on the move: a more-than-human understanding of pandemic threat identification and governance
Pandemic viruses are a threat to global health because of the way they move around the globe. However, they do not travel alone but as part of more-than-human assemblages. These assemblages are key in threat identification processes and in the way pandemic flows and care are governed.
The rise of pandemic threats as a global concern is tied to an increase in global mobility, trade and transport. The study of such phenomena happens in the frame of international research networks that usually focus on the study of specific viruses like Influenza, Ebola or Zika. However, when viruses move around the world, they do not travel alone. They do it as part of assemblages that include animals and humans as well as traveling and biosafety technologies. Consequently, pandemic preparedness and response mechanisms do not focus only on viruses but on wider more-than-human assemblages, on the movements, flows and care of hybrid threats. Control mechanisms resonate with those of global migration movements. A diseased human is not equally threatening in Africa, Europe or an airport. Similarly, the threat posed by a bird depends on its status as wild or domestic. In my work I argue that identifying and categorizing threats is an intersectional process. Being categorized as part of a threatening assemblage happens in connection to categories such as nationality, gender, educational background, beliefs and even epistemological position. I illustrate this by combining the analysis of documents on pandemic preparedness and response from different national and international organisations, of scientific articles and news on ongoing outbreaks and alerts and by interviewing public health professionals and observing their work. My work helps build a more-than-human perspective that develops the understanding of how scientific, technical and institutional categories and boundaries are made productive in health governance.
More-than-human hypermobilities: unravelling the entanglements and resonances of air travel in the Anthropocene
This paper explores experiences of 'hypermobilities', in particular air travel, as sensations that are more-than-human. A creative artwork that merges audio-visual media and ethnographic documentation will be used to highlight affective resonances and dissonances in such situations.
Air travel has become almost ubiquitous to contemporary hypermobile global society. Yet how we sense and experience such 'hypermobilities' is dependent on a range of interactions with humans and nonhumans. Mobilities and STS scholars have recognised airports and flight routes as global hubs where material and immaterial actors are entangled: passengers, workers, material resources, cargo, ideas, cultures and many others. However, few studies have employed creative and experimental techniques that might further unravel the multi-sensory complexities of how we experience the more-than-human entanglements that hypermobilities bring to the foreground.
In this paper I examine air travel as a situation where interactions with the more-than-human realm become pronounced. This may come to attention when we adjust to different times, locations or climates; or notice the extensive transport infrastructures and security networks involved; or the lingering sensations of turbulence while feeling our circadian rhythm synchronise to a different hemisphere and environment. Drawing from a creative artwork that merges audio-visual media, ethnographic observations, alongside empirical data, I explore the affects, resonances, and at times, moments of disjuncture and dissonance that constitute sensations of air travel. I suggest that positioning nonhumans at the foreground of air travel experiences draws attention to our individual perceptions, expectations, and impacts of consuming such hypermobilities. Using creative documentation, from both on-the-ground and in-the-air, I investigate how the practices, demands, consumption patterns, and challenges surrounding increasing high-speed global mobilities might be re-thought in terms of more-than-human entanglements.
The more-than of acceptable resonances in traffic mobilities
Contrasting two distinct mobility situations in non-urban and urban environments, my contribution highlights the (un)acceptability of collisions in the ways and rhythms of enacting traffic and in the resonating mobile togetherness of human and more-than human actors.
How is it that we shape, frame and do moving in natural and urban spaces? Based on an understanding of mobility as an on-going relational positioning with our socio-cultural-physical-technologically forming environments, this contribution contrasts two projects on the more-than of traffic mobilities in non-urban and urban environments.
Firstly, the performance 'Changing Perspectives by Water Magic' conveys what it feels like to regularly travel in a dugout canoe in a tropical forest. Moving-with the River Ivindo in Gabon is to deeply experience-see-perceive-sense-think-hear the continuous story of transformative shape-shifting and more-than-human diversity in tropical river traffic. Secondly, with participants of my 'Dance your Vehicle: Becoming Sensicle' workshops, which were initiated as part of Lancaster University's Mobile Utopia activities and later took place also in France and Spain, we explored what happens when you bring together urban transport technologies, road traffic rules and human bodily intelligence in new ways.
Contrasting these two distinct mobility situations questions our understanding of 'traffic' as essentially about avoiding contact, whilst arguably being governed by our capacities to continuously resonate with our surroundings to ensure positioning and safety in our daily mobilities. It highlights that movement qualities affect how we intra-act, addressing performative methods and the role of bodyworkers in STS research as well as examining how mobility technologies can aid in augmenting (human) senses. The research also suggests that awareness of the sensorial more-than in mobilities can support non-dualistic perspectives in urban planning and build capacities and tools for collective, integrated, co-creative mobilities inspiring post-capitalist entanglements.
Affective encounters with pollution data: growing augmented reality trees
We discuss Pocket Penjing, an App developed through participatory design with 60+ people. Live Air Quality Data (AQD) is used to grow bonsai trees grows displayed growing in real-time 3D using augmented reality. More-than-human assemblages co-produce affective encounters with pollution data.
We discuss the interdisciplinary project, Pocket Penjing, an App co-designed through a participatory design method that depends on researchers actively listening to participants (potential app users) and working with them as collaborators and co-designers. In Pocket Penjing, live Air Quality Data (AQD) is scraped from air monitoring stations around the world and a bonsai, or Chinese penjing, tree grows depending on that data. The tree is displayed growing in real-time 3D using augmented reality. The way the tree grows depends on more-than-human assemblages of AQD, human users, algorithms, and the local environment where the AR is displayed. The artificial life of each tree is shaped by these more-than-human assemblages as, for example, people intervene to reduce the impact of pollution, add water or prune their tree. Drawing on research into the perception of pollution, we argue that visualizing AQD, showing the problem of pollution is a necessary step, before any problem-solving is likely to take place. By visualizing AQD using AR to create polyaesthetic experiences (Bolter), Pocket Penjing does not seek to make the problem of pollution disappear through acts of solutionism (Morozov 2013) but, by contrast, rather to make pollution appear, to make imperceptible pollution visible in order to 'stay with the trouble'. The project depends on the annual rhythms and stoppages of air-borne particulates and humans and their shifting technologies and environments to co-produce affective encounters with pollution data that defy the techno utopianism of big data.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.