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GameStop, the Platform-Democracy-Complex and the Promise of Crypto

The trading platform Robinhood tried to wiggle itself back into the heart of the masses with a prime-time ad during the Super Bowl break the first weekend of February. The headline was simple: we are all investors. Unsurprisingly, people got mad very quickly: what were the company executives thinking? They had in fact just done the exact opposite during the recent GameStop Saga, which saw the platform (temporarily) suspend stocks and prevented people from trading. (read more...)

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Grass field with trenches of drainage

How Plants Become Bits: The Politics of Harmful Algal Bloom Mitigation in Lake Erie

While seated at my kitchen table in my apartment in Columbus, OH, the site of my dissertation fieldwork, I attended an Ohio Agribusiness conference via Zoom. The theme of the conference was, fittingly, “disruption” and agricultural suppliers, farmers, university researchers, and agribusiness owners from across the state were all gathered together for the conference’s first-ever virtual annual event due to the pandemic. Having paid the $150 entrance fee to learn what leading experts had to say about the launch of an environmental governance policy I am following for my research called H2Ohio (read more...)

Six bright yellow double-story houses. Someone is painting red lines to decorate them. People are walking down the street near these houses.

Urban Acupuncture Design Theory: Researching New Development Practices in South Africa

Sometimes it only takes a “spark,” a “simple, focused intervention,” a “single stroke of genius,” or “the single prick of a needle” to release the flows and create new energies. This is the defining assumption of “urban acupuncture,” an urban design theory that has become very popular among socially engaged architects and urban planners in recent years. Urban acupuncture borrows from traditional Chinese medicine to analogously think about, and also treat, the existing urban fabric as a living body with flows and blockages, wounds, and pain. (read more...)

A frothy brew with powder sitting atop, and a stick ready to stir

Fugitive Science: Beer Brewing & Experiments with Pharmaceuticals in Tanzania

When I originally arrived to start fieldwork in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, I set out to observe the scientific practices through which counterfeit drugs were identified at the regional hospital.[1] I knew, from previous fieldwork, that the hospital had a mini-lab for conducting a Thin-Layer Chromatographic Test. Two years passed before I was finally able to observe this test; one of the reasons was that the hospital was out of the iodine detection reagent needed to carry it out. During the ensuing years, I came to learn that science was happening elsewhere; not always in the laboratory or hospital, but—perhaps even more frequently—in the home, marketplace, and workshop.[2] (read more...)

Border Fence entering the Pacific Ocean. Ocean and cloudy sky in the background. One Border Patrol jeep and a Border Patrol motorcycle guard the border fence. In the foreground a hill with sand and vegetation.

Envisioning a Different Park: Border Walls, Transborder Ties, and Militarized Ecologies

When news broke out on January 20th, 2021, that newly inaugurated President Joe Biden signed a proclamation ending Trump’s Executive Order 9844, which declared a national emergency at the U.S. southern border, funneling emergency funds to construct his infamous border wall, immigrant rights activists and leaders rejoiced. Biden’s proclamation explicitly called to “pause work on each construction project on the southern border wall.” Yet, the next day, construction crews replacing the existing 18-foot border fence with the 30-foot rusted steel border wall between San Diego and Tijuana carried on with business as usual. (read more...)

Drawing of a cargo ship viewed from behind. The drawing and text are black against a teal background. Ship is called "BURNOUT." Below the ship, handwritten text reads "a zine about academia, travel, & climate change."

Burnout

Clara del Junco and Mathilde Gerbelli-Gauthier In this post, we’re sharing some excerpts from Burnout: a zine about academia, travel, and climate change that we put together over the course of the past months, in the time freed up by the hiatus in travel. The excerpts we’ve chosen for Platypus include 1)  Our C*****n F*******t Calculator, along with our reflections on the limited utility of any carbon footprint tool; 2) Part of an essay by Riley Linebaugh, putting academic air travel into the context of global inequalities perpetuated by academic institutions; 3) A comic by Hannah Eisler Burnett that documents her transatlantic trip on a cargo ship. (read more...)

Screenshot of tweet about strike by Swiggy delivery worker. Image contains delivery worker on motorcycle.

Indian Food Delivery Networks During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the past decade, the concept of the gig economy has gained momentum in academic discourse. Often linked to temporary employment created by multinational technological corporations through digital platforms, the gig economy has transformed conventional discourses of labor and economy. It brought to the fore the increased precarity in employment, transformed modes of mobilization, fueled workers’ unionizing efforts, and produced new vocabularies (Vallas and Schor 2020; Khreiche 2018). In India’s dynamic economic landscape, these changes are particularly visible. One can argue that the use of digital technologies has reached a new peak in the ongoing global pandemic–as we have observed the changes in techno-bio-political regimes associated with COVID-19-tracking and increased reliance on mobile applications (Battin 2020; Segata 2020). In this light, focusing on India in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic becomes especially useful considering the narratives of hegemony and precarity often associated with gig labor within this geographical context, (read more...)

A photograph that shows a laptop and an altar on a counter. The laptop screen shows an image of burning candles. The altar includes a printed photo of the author who is a white woman with blue hair and in a pink dress standing in front of a brick wall. It also includes three crystals and a dried plant.

Living in a Time When “Death Feels Closer”

“I know I’m young, and dying isn’t something I’m ‘supposed’ to think about yet, but how can I not? Death feels like it is everywhere,” earnestly intoned Autumn, a twenty-five-year-old woman I met in late 2020. Autumn was a recent college graduate whose grandfather and roommate had both died during the vicious summer surge of Covid-19 in Los Angeles. The deep sense of loss she felt—not only from their deaths but also from the lack of national acknowledgment—had led her to seek out others whose lives had been touched by death. (read more...)