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The Ugliness of Multispecies Intersubjectivity: Pandemic Racism and the Love of Animals in the U.K.

The meme consists of a photograph of a protester about to throw a brick at a police horse and a caption that reads, “If your BLACK OR WHITE I don’t care you should be shot for throwing bricks at K9 horses & dogs !!! K9 lives MATTER !!!”.

Content and Trigger Warning: This post contains profanity and strong references to violence against Black Lives Matter protesters, but more specifically, protesters who are Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. In 2020, we saw the collision of two simultaneous crises. First, the COVID-19 pandemic forced social, political, economic, and cultural changes in our lives. Adapting to this crisis hasn’t been an easy task, especially for individuals, communities, and societies that were already marginalized. (read more...)

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an abstract painting of a fish school

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...)

A visualization of a flocking algorithm consisting of colored letters and heart symbols

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...)

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...)

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...)