Category: Series

Ways of Looking: Alternative Encounters with Art and Artifacts

“When we encounter something beautiful, we usually experience two kinds of reactions. One may be moved by learning the background of the work or the artist, while the other one is an emotional excitement we feel for no apparent reason.”— Suntory Museum of Art. One would guess that this quote is based on theories of lateralization, stating that the right hemisphere of the brain controls emotion, while the left hemisphere is dominant in language expression. While there is evidence that discounts the left/right brain concept, many people still believe in this distinction and that their preference for reason or emotion may be genetic. Held at the Suntory Museum of Art in Tokyo, Japan, from April 27 to June 2, 2019, “Information or Inspiration? Japanese aesthetics to enjoy with the left side and right side of the brain” plays with this debate in brain science and invites visitors to experience art via two routes: the information route and the inspiration route. (read more...)

Making the Invisible Seen: The Infrastructure of Modern Groundwater Governmentality in Taiwan

In 2009, the Taiwan High Speed Railway Company (THSR) claimed that severe land subsidence in Changhua and Yunlin counties was compromising and damaging the structural integrity of the railway. The THSR urged the government to regulate the over-pumping of groundwater in the region, which was seen as culpable for the land subsidence, in order to guarantee the safety of the rail users. Since the agricultural wells constitute a significant proportion of the total wells in these two counties, the safety issue became an issue of “water-justice” – local farmers have accused the Sixth Naphtha Cracking Plant owned by the Formosa Plastic Corporation of exploiting Yunlin’s surface water thereby forcing them to pump groundwater. To tamper farmers’ sentiments, the central government announced that according to a relevant survey, land subsidence was caused by deep wells, rather than farmers’ shallow wells. Therefore, the government would not forbid the pumping of groundwater by farmers in Changhua and Yunlin county. (read more...)

“I’m Not an Anti-Vaxxer, I Just Don’t Want This Vaccine”: Understanding Vaccine Hesitancy among Pregnant Women

“The world isn’t made up of good people and death eaters.” -JK Rowling The world isn’t made up of people who choose to vaccinate and those who are vehemently opposed. With the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, understanding has changed rapidly. With the development of three effective vaccinations, there has emerged a group of people that exhibit what has been dubbed “vaccine hesitancy.” This is a relatively new phenomenon in terms of new vaccination–the uptake, for example, of the polio vaccination in the early 1950s, was more immediate and widespread. The Zika epidemic also provides an interesting contrast to the current situation as well. I use these examples simply as a foil to the current pandemic and draw a number of interesting similarities and differences. (read more...)

Regulating Misinformation from the Global South

India is among the top three internet markets internationally with nearly seven hundred million users. What can debates in India about protecting user privacy under right-wing authoritarian political regimes highlight about social media platforms and the spread of misinformation? In February 2021, the Indian Information Technology, Law and Justice Minister announced wide-ranging regulations over social media firms, streaming services, and digital news outlets that require firms to enable traceability of end-to-end encrypted messages, acknowledge takedown requests of unlawful, misleading, and violent content within twenty-four hours, and deliver a complete redressal within fifteen days. Less sensitive cases, such as those engaging explicit sexual content, are required to be removed within twenty-four hours, and companies are required to establish local offices staffed with senior officials to deal with law enforcement and user grievances. These new regulations pose new challenges for technology giants which count India, Asia’s third-largest economy, as a key overseas market. These gains increasingly struggle with Prime Minister Modi’s government as his promise of muscular economic progress increasingly reveals itself to be ambivalent economic nativism. (read more...)

On Drones and Ectoplasms: Breath of Gaia

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) How do concepts such as the human condition, human mind, or collectivity transform in a technologically enmeshed world? And how is our understanding of relationality and agency changed in the context of hybrid tech and built infrastructures, networked systems of control? This ongoing project constitutes an artistic performative reflection on the entanglement between human agency and technological advances. In this project, the artist[1] focuses on aerial multicopter technological systems—also known as drones—emphasizing the idea of interdependency and control within human-nonhuman systems, which are capable of informing the sustainable and collective futures of our world. (read more...)

When Cash Rules: A Local Researcher/Activist’s Fieldnotes on “Passive Locals” Living Around Mailiao’s Petrochemical Complex

Yunlin is a coastal county in Western Taiwan famous for its agricultural produce, also known as “the barn of Taiwan.” However, the exchange value of agricultural produce has plummeted significantly since the 1970s. This has led to the outmigration of the underemployed able-bodied rural workforce to the cities, leaving behind the old and the young. As a consequence of this migration and Yunlin’s agricultural history, the county developed a reputation for being backward and poor. Residents of Yunlin have been eager to prove this stereotype wrong. (read more...)

A Very Lengthy Swedish Introduction: Hype, Storytelling, and the Question of Entrepreneurial Allies

At a Stockholm-based entrepreneur meetup, two entrepreneurs stood on stage ready to pitch their startup to a panel of venture capital investors (VCs).[1]  The man clicked the laptop button to display their first slide—a large image of their logo. “Hello! I am Per and this is Jonna and this is our startup, Forests! We are on a mission to understand the world’s forests and their inhabitants.” Jonna moved to the second slide and told the story of an endangered forest-dwelling animal. On the next slide, Per talked more specifically about the importance of the world’s forests to global climate change. On the fourth slide, the endangered animal appeared again. “Oh, this guy again!” the event’s moderator interrupted with an exaggerated tone of exhaustion. The entrepreneurs laughed nervously and continued to talk about the grand mission of their company to support climate research with crowdsourced data from birders, amateur naturalists, and other forest enthusiasts. The moderator interrupted again: “Let’s pause there because I think we are about to get to the good stuff. But, that was a very lengthy Swedish introduction!” (read more...)

Naming the Virus, Becoming the Virus: Affective Forces of Threat from Hà Nội to Atlanta and the Possibility for Anti-Racist Solidarities

“Chống dịch như chống giặc” (“Fight the pandemic like an invader”) has become Vietnam’s slogan in its battle against COVID-19. From the pandemic’s onset until April 2021, Vietnam performed exceptionally in halting the viral spread and preventing deaths from COVID-19. While COVID-19’s origin remains contested, Vietnam’s 1,306km border with China posed an acute risk during the first wave in early 2020. Defying odds, Vietnam kept the virus at bay. With a low case load and death count between Jan 2020 – June 2020, Vietnam stood out from its northern neighbor, China, as well as other European countries and the United States. Simply crediting Vietnam’s success to an authoritarian regime misses a deeper distrust of the Chinese government within Vietnam. This distrust stems from the historical colonization of China over Vietnam and imminent military and sovereignty threats posed in the East Sea (or the South China Sea) over the Spratly and Paracel Islands. (read more...)