Technologies of Equal Participation: Formats, Designs, Practices. Introduction.

Listen to an audio recording of this piece read by Svetlana Borodina Only today, an unremarkable Friday morning in March 2022 (the day when I was writing this text), my participation has been requested at least eight times. On my way to work, as I was running down the stairs to catch a train, through the sound of music coming from my headphones I caught, “Please make sure to vote!” This was followed by a faint addition: “if you are a voter.” As I purchased coffee in a corner shop right outside the subway, the screen solicited my participation in their customer satisfaction survey: “What can we improve?” At work, as I sat down and opened my email, I saw that the NYC Parks and Rec Department had sent out a new batch of volunteering opportunities; a colleague had sent an invitation to participate in a round table next month; and a friend working on their UX portfolio had sent a link to a survey for an app they’d been working on (“What kind of problems do I run into in my commute?”). Meanwhile, my family’s WhatsApp chat was filling up with the regular, “Sveta, are you even here?” messages, complaining about my lack of participation in conversations. A gofundme campaign to crowdfund struggling refugees and a friend’s paper silently awaited their time, too. (read more...)

A wild boar (sus scrofa vittatus) is covered in mud and roams a forest in Pahang, Malaysia.

Viral Entanglements in Malaysian Porcine Worlds

Listen to an audio recording of this piece read by Kymberley Chu Content warning: This blog post contains photos of factory farming that viewers may find distressing.   Pigs squeal and scream as they lie down in group pens. The humid air in the foreground, the farm’s pipes churn out pig waste into the nearby river. This is Kampung Selamat, an industrialized area known for factory farming in mainland Penang, Malaysia. Its river, known as Sungai Kreh, is the living chronology of industrialized pollution. Since the 1980s, the river has turned from bright blue to lime green as 72 pig farms discharge antibiotics, pig feces, and pig carcasses into the water. The foul stench and waste reveal how intertwined pig lives are with the personal livelihood of Kampung Selamat’s villagers over time. (read more...)

Representation of a constellation showing a llama

Thinking in Constellations: Problematizing Indigeneity in the Atacama Desert, Chile

. In October 2021, I flew from the capital of Chile to the driest desert in the world—the Atacama Desert, a place with a long history of colonialism and extractivism. I was 12 years old the first time I visited as part of a family trip that lasted one month. We traveled by car 2000 km, so it was exhausting but also unforgettable. I remember our fleeting time in Calama city in the Antofagasta region to continue the journey to San Pedro de Atacama, a town in the Atacama salt flat basin where “atacameño” communities  (one of the ten “native peoples” recognized by the Chilean state since 1995) live. (read more...)

A silver iPhone photographed against a dark grey background

Revisiting Human-Machine Relationships and Efforts of Feminist STS

Alexa, Bixby, the GPS voice, Siri.… AI (Artificial Intelligence) assistants, which operate through algorithms and also produce them, have restructured our everyday lives: from listening to music to getting a sense of where we are (if the GPS is working properly). For users, these “assistants” have become integral parts of our everyday lives. Human-machine communication, in turn, has become more intimate than ever before. However, little effort has been made to understand this intimacy between humans and machines. Instead, much attention has been centered on the increasing obsolescence of technology, as newer models and gadgets enter the market. To recognize machines as sociable and understand human-machine relationships from a different perspective, I revisit feminist STS (Science and Technology Studies) scholars’ works. Furthermore, I look at smartphones, which are usually only considered as hosts for the immaterial AI, as social. (read more...)

A poster for the ReACT conference says, in Portuguese, "Alliances for other futures." It shows an illustration of colonial people interacting with Indigenous people, but standing in front of a large electrical power facility.

Alliances and Institutional Partnerships for an Engaged Anthropology of Science and Technology

Listen to this post read by the authors here. Conceptual transformations and emerging thematic agendas in the anthropology of science and technology become clearly visible in STS conferences. Paying particular attention to conferences that take place in the global South has the potential to open up an understanding of post-colonial scientific endeavors within our own field of expertise (Kervran, Kleiche-Dray & Quet, 2018;  Anderson, 2017; Law & Lin, 2017). (read more...)

graphic representation of various disability dongles. Top Left stair climbing wheelchair. Top right "social emotion recognition" AR goggles. Bottom Left Sign language gloves. Bottom Right haptic shoes interfering with blind person's navigation.

Disability Dongle

I created the term “Disability Dongle” in 2019 to draw attention to the phenomenon of design and engineering students and practitioners who prototype “innovative” disability solutions. The definition satirizes an outcome in which designs or technologies “for” disabled people garner mainstream attention and accolades despite valid concerns disabled people have about them.  (read more...)

a collage of the cards we made in our trial run of the game

Powerpoint Karaoke, a Ph.D. Version

“You win the lottery! You are a millionaire! You never have to work again in life.” This was the first card I drew in the weird little game of Ph.D. life that Quinn Georgic and I designed. I had no idea who wrote it. Everyone was giggling when I read it out loud and started making up the story: “I don’t need to worry about anything, so I started grad school.” The other group was far less fortunate. The card they drew was “You or your partner are pregnant.” (read more...)

This is an image of Maxine's principal patch as it appears in the Max/MSP, which is a visual programming environment in which the programmer connects boxes and string-like to control the flow of information and the system's decision-making processes.

People Are Not Fixed Media

Listen to an audio recording of this post as read by Ritwik Banerji Sensory ethnography continually emphasizes that the sensorium is just as much a (product of) sociocultural practice as it is a biophysiological property of the human species (Pink 2015). Recognition of this point has prompted several shifts in ethnographic work. On the one hand, it has pushed ethnographers to include in their writing a greater discussion of how subjects engage with the world through their senses as well as how the putatively biological phenomenon of sensory perception is so highly variable across and within sociocultural milieux. On the other, it has inspired ethnographers to pursue media practices beyond text, particularly through ethnographic film or sound recording (Feld 1991). Regardless of form, this work has greatly increased the possibility for the reader, listener, or viewer to experience with their senses the social environment that subjects inhabit and where the ethnographer conducted fieldwork. (read more...)