Category: Series

A Sandbox for a Specific Type of Narcissist – Clubhouse, the Allure of Live Audio and Dangerous Rabbit Holes

A nasal voice is rambling on in a long monologue about how to best pitch a startup on Clubhouse when I log on sometime in March. It is early morning UK time, late at night in California and this room is mostly populated by technology entrepreneurs, people that work at the big tech companies, and venture capital investors from the West Coast of the US. Eventually, another Californian accent interrupts the first one: (read more...)

Entrepreneurship and Technologies

Everyone is an entrepreneur – a new ethos is sweeping through our economic world. While the promises of ‘being your own boss’ and ‘deciding about your working hours’ are surely appealing to many, what is at times forgotten are the effects such an ethos has on the structures of work and labour, on relationships both economic and more widely. The flipside of this updated version of the American dream and the (false) promise of meritocracy have always been self-responsibilisation and dangers of reproducing structural inequality. (read more...)

(Re)Assembling Asias through Science

Over the past two decades, a proliferation of critiques have emerged from a body of critical inter-asian scholarship to challenge, revise, and situate the conventional theoretical categories, frames, and founding assumptions of many humanities and social science fields, with notable interventions into trans studies (Chiang, Henry, & Leung 2018), queer theory (Chiang & Wong 2017; Yue 2017; Yue & Leung 2016; Wilson 2006), and the anthropology of science and technology (Ong 2016; Ong & Chen 2010). These projects are as theoretical as they are political, ethical, and methodological, posing fundamental questions about the politics of knowledge production, encouraging a critical awareness of the geopolitical positions and historical locations from which our analytic concepts emerge, as well as a heightened sense of the audiences they are intended for, how they may travel, and an epistemic humility that embraces and acknowledges contingency and limitation. With the expansion of academic presses, journals, and academic professional organizations in Asia[1], a growing number of graduate students and professional researchers now find themselves straddling and translating across an interface that spans continents, from academic centers in Europe and the United States to intra-asian networks and spaces of knowledge production. (read more...)

Data Swarms Revisited – New Modes of Being

Editor’s Note: The new Platypus Thematic Series entitled “Data Swarms Revisited” will feature posts form computer science, philosophy and anthropology and connect to the Thematic Series Anthropos Tomorrow: Transhumanism and Anthropology inaugurated by Jon Bialecki and Ian Lowrie on Platypus in 2017. The posts will deal with overarching questions of the so-called “human condition” in times of accelerated computation, digitalization and technological infrastructures. Herein, the figuration of the Data Swarm serves as a playful and slightly ironic approximation to the threats and promises embedded in these on-going controversies. At the end of September 2019, it was already the fourth time that both the Research Lab of the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne and the Collaborative Research Center 806 “Our Way to Europe” had invited an interdisciplinary group of international graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to meet at the Cologne Summer School of Interdisciplinary Anthropology (CSIA). For an entire (read more...)

Human as the Ultimate Authority in Control

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) With the growing size of historical data available to researchers and industrial practitioners, developing algorithms for automating numerous aspects of everyday human life has become ever more dependent on data-driven techniques. Previous approaches relying on formal methods and global optimization no longer meet the increasing scalability requirements of modern applications. One of the most successful global optimization algorithms, such as Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO), continues to be employed in practice but more often as a part of more complex approaches, only being able to provide partial solutions to complex modern optimization problems. PSO was first introduced by Kennedy and Eberhart (1995) who were inspired by the most mesmerizing phenomenon in nature—bird flocking. As in any collective behavior, birds converge to an equilibrium formation that maximizes their benefits as individuals and as a society overall. V-Formation as (read more...)

The Spectrum of Research and Practice in Guatemalan Science Studies

On November 21, 2020, protestors flooded the historic and political center of Guatemala City over the congressional approval of a  budget bill of nearly twelve billion dollars (or ninety-nine billion Quetzales). The proposed budget not only significantly decreased aid to dire and already underfunded public health initiatives but allocated money to ministries known for robbing and vacating government funds. While protestors gathered in the capital’s Parque Central, youth on the frontlines cathartically set fire to the Congressional building only several blocks away and confronted the National Civilian Police (PNC) in order to limit their advancement onto the much larger, peaceful crowd. Guatemala’s recently elected president and former director of the Guatemalan penitentiary system, Alejandro Giammattei, and his administration stood by as the PNC threw tear-gas, harassed, and arrested protestors in sight on charges of illegal protest and public disorder. (read more...)

Quantum Arms Race

A lot has been said and written about the impending unleashing of quantum technology in the world. Whereas many sing paeans to the potential of the technology to better the world, many a soothsayers forebode a much grimmer reality. While the future might sound alien, it evokes, frankly, familiar feelings in the minds of those who imagine. We’ve all witnessed the world transform in front of our eyes in the past century, from this tech revolution to that, from nuclear promises of infinite power to laser-sharp visions of cameras better than the human eye; such is the oxymoronic, remarkable mundaneness of technological progress that the more the world changes, the more it remains the same. One might even be forgiven for feeling a sense of security at the thought of a world run by quantum technology. After all, the great leaps forward have all served us well and promise more. (read more...)

The Networked Animita: Transgender Remembrance on Social Media

Tomorrow, November 20th, the world will commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to collectively mourn and remember those who have died as a result of transphobia. Started in 1999 by US trans woman Gwendolyn Ann Smith, Transgender Day of Remembrance is now observed in countries around the world, including my primary field site, Chile. In this post, I explore how social media might be understood as a technology of memorialization and mourning, especially for marginalized groups. Inspired by informal roadside shrines called animitas, popular in Chile and elsewhere in Latin America, I propose the ‘networked animita’ as a useful analytic for understanding trans remembrance online. I do so through an exploration of the digital afterlife of Chilean trans activist, educator, interlocutor, and friend Mara Rita Villaroel Oñate. (read more...)