Author Archives: Jordan Kraemer

Anthropologist of social and mobile media, working on the intersection of emerging media technologies and everyday experiences of space and place, especially transnational connections in Europe.

From Technocracy to the Anthropocene: 2016 in Review

#ALSIceBucketChallenge. Deflategate. Twins in Space. Animal Sex Work. The joy of working on Platypus since its inception arises from the many lively, timely, engaged posts that our team of contributing editors and authors bring to the blog each week. Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, often critical and reflective, the blog offers a look into up-and-coming research in anthropology, STS, and related fields on science, tech, computing, informatics, and more. As editor, I’ve delighted in posts that frequently turn commonsense assumptions upside down. For the past two years, I’ve summarized the major themes and highlights in a yearly review post, and have the pleasure of doing so for 2016. Two noteworthy themes threaded through many of last year’s posts: 1) reflections on technocracy, and 2) living in the anthropocene. By technocracy, I mean emerging regimes of data, algorithms, and quantitative living. Melissa Cefkin (Human-Machine Interactions and the Coming Age of Autonomy) opened (read more...)

2015 Year in Review: Deflating Footballs, Twins in Space, Women (not) in Tech, and More

Last year on the CASTAC Blog began with anthropological ruminations on what the “Deflategate” football scandal has to do with questions of expertise, and closed with discussions of citizen science, earthquake warning systems, the (anti-)politics of women in tech, and deeply personal engagement with experiencing crisis or catastrophe—in this case, terror attacks in Paris—over social media. One of the great perks of editing this blog lies in reading the array of topics, perspectives, and modes of analyses from our contributors. This year, I’m taken by the variety in tone, from the (somewhat) tongue-in-cheek (the aforementioned Deflategate post; the anthropology of rigged games), to the deeply affecting (again, Charlotte Cabasse-Mazel “Looking at the Pain of Others [on Social Media]”), from the boundary-pushing (Abou Farman’s call to envision radical alternative futures) to the experimental (a Twitter fieldwork experiment from Rice’s Ethnography Studio). Beyond timely, weekly engagement with climate change, artificial intelligence, changing media ecologies, infrastructure, design, energy, and more, the blog is becoming a repository cataloging—and pushing forward—the driving concerns of social scientific and humanistic inquiry in these areas. In this review post, I consider four central conceptual questions animating this year’s coverage on how science, technology, computing and more are shaping (and shaped by) diverse lives, worlds, and experiences. These include: the mutual production or constitution of conceptual categories; questions of knowledge production and expertise; concerns with the future and futurity; and key political dimensions of science, technology, and computing. Although these themes unfold differently across intellectual projects and modes of inquiry, they elucidate the value of critical, reflexive, and empirical approaches to scientific and technological worlds. (read more...)

Editor’s Welcome 2016

This is an exciting time for CASTAC and the CASTAC Blog. CASTAC hosted a number of well-attended events at November’s Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Denver, including our business meeting, while our website sports a great redesign from returning Web Producer Angela VandenBroek. To ring in the new year here at the CASTAC Blog, I’m continuing our yearly tradition of introducing the new team. When Patricia Lange, Jenny Cool, and I launched the Blog in 2012, we envisioned a collaborative space for discussing emerging work on science, technology, and computing from anthropological and ethnographic perspectives. To quote our About page, our goal was to “to build a thriving discourse among a community of scholars concerned about the implications of techno-science, technologized products, and worldviews for human beings and other forms of life.” We began with a team of two, Patricia and me (plus many generous authors) publishing weekly posts. This took enormous effort on the Editor’s part, which was not sustainable for an all-volunteer operation. So in 2014, Patricia announced our first crackerjack team of Associate Editors who brought in myriad perspectives, their own and those of guest authors. This collective model helps the blog keep pace with boundary-pushing research in anthropology, STS, informatics, and related fields, from graduate students and senior researchers alike, and has modeled how a scholarly blog can link academic conversations to broader public debates. As I begin my second year as the Blog’s Editor, I’m pleased to say we are expanding our editorial team (redubbed Contributing Editors to reflect better their role). We are losing one longtime editor, the intrepid Beth Reddy, stepping down in anticipation of her new role as CASTAC Co-Chair in 2017—thanks, Beth, and congrats! Meanwhile, seasoned editors Todd Hanson, Shreeharsh Kelkar, Ian Lowrie, Lisa Messeri, and Casey O’Donnell are all continuing, along with last year’s new recruits Elizabeth Rodwell, Adam Webb-Orenstein, Emily Wanderer, and Jamie Sherman. Glad to have you all! We’re sad to say good-bye to our Outreach Manager Michael Scroggins, however, who kept the Twitter feed and Facebook page lively this past year. Finally, we are welcoming five new Contributing Editors, many who are longtime Blog and/or CASTAC participants, and who expand the blog’s breadth with an exciting range of interests: Emily Brooks, Elizabeth Hare, Yuliya Grinberg, Sean Mallin, and Jasmine McNealy. Read on to find out more about them. (read more...)

Call for Contributing Editors, 2016

The CASTAC Blog, a weekly, collaborative publication of the Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing at the American Anthropological Association (AAA), seeks two to three new Contributing Editors to join our team in January 2016. Deadline to apply: Dec. 11, 2015 Description Contributing Editors are responsible for 4-5 posts yearly, and both contribute original pieces and solicit posts from scholars and researchers in the field. This is a great opportunity to get involved with CASTAC and the Blog, and with the anthropology of science and technology more generally. Topics of interest could include environmental anthro, energy, medical anthropology, disability, animal studies, user experience, social and mobile media, infrastructure, etc. We are open a wide range of topical interests at the intersection of anthropology and STS, especially those that complement our existing ones. CEs must commit to 4-5 post slots at the beginning of the year, and are responsible for submitting the post for review by the Editor and making any necessary revisions, in conjunction with the author (if the post is not by the CE). CEs also find appropriate images to illustrate posts, secure necessary permissions, and format it according to our style guidelines, as well as promote the weekly posts. This is a one-year renewable term, and most CEs find they really enjoy it and want to stay on. Qualifications Interest in or familiarity with blogging, CASTAC, anthropology, STS, & computing, especially from a scholarly perspective and strong written communication skills, especially writing about scholarly topics for broader audiences. Knowledge of WordPress or similar platforms is helpful. To apply Please send a CV, a brief (one paragraph) description of research/topical interests and relevant experience, and a few sentences about what kinds of posts you would bring to the Blog to the Editor, Jordan Kraemer (jkraemer @ wesleyan.edu). Deadline: Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, by midnight PST. (read more...)

CASTAC Panels at AAA 2015 in Denver

We at the CASTAC Blog are very excited about many panels and events at this week’s Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Nov. 18-22 in Denver, CO. We’ve collected talks and panels of particular interest to CASTAC Blog readers attending the meetings. Hope to see you there, and don’t forget to attend our business meeting! There will be food! Jordan Kraemer, Editor Jenny Carlson and Nick Seaver, CASTAC Co-chairs Wednesday, Nov. 18 Wednesday, 12:00 PM-1:45 PM 2-0175 TESTING AS WORLD-MAKING Richard W Rottenburg, Uli Beisel, Sandra Calkins and Stacey A Langwick Wednesday, 2:00 PM-3:45 PM 2-0290 , 2-0460 ANTICIPATING FAMILIAR/STRANGE ENVIRONMENTS: THE SOCIAL LIVES OF SCIENTIFIC PREDICTIONS – PART I | PART II Sophie Laura Haines, Sophie Laura Haines, Renzo Taddei and Susan Crate Wednesday, November 18, 2015: 4:00 PM-5:45 PM 2-0505 ANTHROPOLOGIES OF DATA Nick Seaver, Elizabeth A Rodwell, Orit Halpern (discussant), Shreeharsh Kelkar, Anna Jabloner, Alison Cool (read more...)

Announcing the Winners of the 2015 Forsythe Prize!

Today we have a special post from the 2015 Forsythe Prize Committee announcing two scholars recognized in this year’s competition. The Diana Forsythe Prize was created in 1998 to celebrate the best book or series of published articles in the spirit of Diana Forsythe’s feminist anthropological research on work, science, or technology, including biomedicine. The prize is awarded annually at the AAA meeting by a committee consisting of one representative from the Society for the Anthropology of Work (SAW) and two from the Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology and Computing (CASTAC). It is supported by the General Anthropology Division (GAD) and Bern Shen. Winner, 2015 Diana Forsythe Prize Gabriella Coleman’s Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous (Verso, 2014) is a powerful ethnography of the making and remaking of networked computational infrastructures and their animating publics and politics. Taking a multi-method anthropological approach to understanding the unruly online collective known as Anonymous, Coleman creatively continues Diana Forsythe’s legacy of getting underneath the cultural logics motivating projects of computational representation and culture. In her unique ethnographic exploration, she tracks affiliated participants across virtual and physical spaces, providing a rich and highly intricate understanding of the labyrinthine worlds that her hacker-activist subjects occupy. (read more...)

Note from the Editor: Summer vacation

The CASTAC Blog is on (late) summer vacation this week. See you next week! Jordan Kraemer Editor-in-chief (read more...)

2014 in Review: Re-locating the Human

In retrospect, 2014 may appear a pivotal year for technological change. It was the year that “wearable” technologies began shifting from geek gadget to mass-market consumer good (including the announcement of the Apple Watch and the rising popularity of fitness trackers), that smartphone and tablet usage outstripped that of desktop PCs for accessing the Internet, along with concurrent interest in home automation and increasingly viable models for pervasive computing (such as Google’s purchase of smart thermostat Nest), and that computer algorithms, machine learning, and recommendation engines came increasingly to the fore of public awareness and debate (from Apple buying streaming service Beats to the effects of Facebook’s algorithms). Many of these shifts have been playing out world-wide, or at least, in diverse contexts, such as Chinese online retailer Alibaba going public and Xiaomi smartphone maker speedily surpassing most rivals. It also proved to be an exciting year on The CASTAC Blog, where our team of Associate Editors and contributors brought our attention to this rapidly shifting technological landscape, and to pressing questions and debates driving anthropological inquiry into science and technology. In today’s post, I continue my predecessor Patricia Lange’s tradition of reviewing themes and highlights on the blog from the past year. Some of these are topical, and included energy, the environment, and infrastructure, crowdsourcing and the “sharing” economy, wearables, algorithms and the “Internet of Things,” science communication, science’s publics, and citizen science, while others were more conceptual or even experimental—reflections on longterm ethnographic engagement with technology, broader issues of scientific (and ethnographic) authority, technological infrastructures as social infrastructures and tacit knowledges (such as Jenny Cool’s co-chair report), and broadly, how to make anthropological research into science and technology relevant within and beyond academic circles. (read more...)

New Year, New Team: Welcome from the Editor

The year has gotten off to a contentious start, with recent events triggering lively debates on social (and other) media, notably the deadly attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7. Ensuing discussions about free speech, religion, and extremism at times reiterate old tropes about Islam and the Muslim world, yet other responses call attention to larger social and historical contexts, such as postcolonialism in Europe and elsewhere. My Facebook and Twitter feeds last week were dominated first by those proclaiming #JeSuisCharlie, and then followed by others countering #JeNeSuisPasCharlie. But of course, social media feeds are increasingly determined by opaque algorithms, raising further questions about the intersection of technology, politics, and corporate power in social life. These debates illustrate once again the value of scholarly blogs and research on emerging technologies and their imbrication in everyday life – concerns that motivate much of what we do here at the CASTAC Blog. With that in mind, I’m pleased to announce some changes in the Blog’s team for the upcoming year. (read more...)