Your cohosts discuss what sensory technologies they might wish for their own home and the kind of multispecies encounters Cymene might have had in a Tegucigalpa red light district hotel (trigger warning: there be cockroach stories ahead!) Then (20:29) we chat with the multitalented Jennifer Gabrys from Goldsmiths (https://www.jennifergabrys.net), author most recently of Program Earth (U Minnesota Press, 2016), and her fascinating work on the spread of environmental sensing technologies and the impacts they are having on our worlds. Jennifer explains to us why she became taken with Whitehead’s concept of the “superject” as a different, more distributed and relational way of thinking about sensation and experience. That gets us to talking about nonhuman modes of sensing, what humans want from all these sensors, the problem of environmentality in smart city designs, computational urbanism, and why the figure of the idiot interests her in terms of thinking about models of digital participation. Jennifer explains how we can be for a world (and for other worlds) rather than simply of the world and why the etho-ecological is thus such an interesting domain for her. In closing, we return to Jennifer’s pathbreaking work on digital waste and the need for electronic environmentalism and talk about the e-waste/energy nexus and the paradox of spending ever more energy to monitoring ourselves using more energy. Listen on!
Cymene and Dominic talk surprising energy trends and how to make news more fun with games. Then (15:05) we talk with the marvelous Christina Cogdell from UC-Davis about her fascinating soon-to-be-published book, Toward a Living Architecture? Complexism and Biology in Generative Design (U Minnesota Press, https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/toward-a-living-architecture). We talk about how her background studying eugenics in the 1930s informed her interest in the interplay of architecture, biology and computational science in the emergent field she calls, “generative design.” We discuss what the growing interest in using living materials for architectural purposes might have to do with climate change, the relationship between complexity theory and eugenicism, the porting of natural systems models across the human sciences and why some in generative architecture actually oppose notions of “sustainability.” We turn from there to topics like eugenic algorithms, the idea that complexity is the key to the universe and living building projects from arborsculpture to bioprinting to genmod kudzu cities and beyond. Will buildings and other architectural objects need veterinarians in the future? Is Lamarckism making a comeback in generative design? This and many other questions will be covered in this week’s episode. Listen on! PS And check out Christina and her students’ amazing product life cycle website at: http://www.designlife-cycle.com
Dominic and Cymene react to the new CENHS podcast studio and share a tale of robot sushi misadventure. Then (15:02) we welcome Leo Coleman (Hunter College) to the program and get right into his new book, A Moral Technology: Electrification as Political Ritual in New Delhi (Cornell U Press, 2017) and its exploration of the political and moral history of electricity in India since the early 20th century. We talk about how electricity unleashes the imagination of modern urban life, mundane uses vs. grand rituals of electrified power, and, apropos of the making of the postcolonial Indian state, Leo argues we need a more subtle understanding of Gandhi’s concerns about the ethical impact of electrification. We turn from there to what extent electricity reshaped India’s public sphere in the past, how the grid became an object of political concern, and whether the neoliberal era has brought new moralities of electricity to India. That brings us to the electronic and political dimensions of India’s new energy metering, biometric and surveillance projects. We close with Leo’s fascinating essay on the impact of electricity upon Durkheim’s thinking about morality and his new research on hydropower and equality in Scotland.
Dominic and Cymene indulge a little post-Pruitt glee on this week’s podcast and speculate about the possibility of six foot tall low carbon lava lamps in the future. Then (16:46) we are thrilled to be joined by star STS scholar and emergent anthropologist María Puig de la Bellacasa to talk about her celebrated new book, Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds (U Minnesota Press, 2017). We start with the importance of care in feminist philosophy and how this work, alongside her own activist background, inspired this project. She asks us to consider how we can make knowledge that takes seriously a politics of care without giving ourselves over to the neoliberal commodification of care. And she asks how a commitment to speculative ethics can lead us to imagine and enact worlds different than the one we inhabit now. Later on, María tells us about what led her to quit philosophy and why appropriation might not actually be such a bad thing. Then we turn to her work with permaculturalists and soil scientists, what it was like to study with Starhawk, changing paradigms of soil ontology and ecology, what are alterbiopolitics, speculative ethics in a time of political crisis, and so much more.