Category: Series

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...)

Spotlight! “Global STS: Transnational Network Building – Asia, Oceania, and Beyond” hosted by the STS Futures Initiative

This week as part of our “ReAssembling Asias through Science” series, we would like to highlight an event held by the STS Futures Initiative last month. This panel (whose second part is forthcoming this fall) brought together a range of academics and graduate students to engage substantively with what might be termed a ‘global turn’ in STS scholarship, characterized by a greater attention to knowledge production and scientific practices outside of Europe and North America. Interested in both the theoretical possibilities of, as well as the practical aspects and skills necessary for transnational network building, the panel raised a range of questions around the possibilities for and challenges inherent to collaborative research and forms of decolonial practice and knowledge production across institutional and national contexts. As moderator Dr. Kathleen Gutierrez put it in her opening remarks, “Who is doing the work? And more importantly, who is building the networks with other STS inclined scholars in the world areas in which we work?” [0:01:18]. (read more...)

Entrepreneurship and Emergent Technologies: From Predicting to Creating the Future

What is the motivator, what inspires us?” Stephen discusses with his teammate. “The reason is contribution, contribution to the world and to the future. It is about the new. We want to make a strong impact in the world and we want to create happiness with our app. So, let’s use our technology for something that is new. I believe in it and I know we can create a better world in the future with it. Tech entrepreneurs like Stephen start from nothing but an idea in a pitch deck, which over time then is supposed to materialize into a business. Developing their digital businesses, they attempt to create a successful venture in the future. In this process, the future is a reoccurring issue since they ongoingly discuss what the future might look like and how they can influence it. While conducting ethnographic research for the last two years in a startup accelerator, my team and I became interested in understanding issues of time and temporality such as the phenomenon of “acceleration” (Skade et al., 2020). (read more...)

Swarming Syphilis: On the Reality of Data

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) Syphilis, an infection caused by the bacterium treponema pallidum, is an important disease. It starts as a skin lesion and develops until it deforms bones, compromises the central nervous system, and ultimately causes death. During pregnancy, the disease can also be transmitted from mother to child. It has accompanied our species at least since the Renaissance and generated various innovations in modern science throughout this history. It helped give rise to serology through the Wasserman Reaction (Fleck 2010), the first detection test, and it was crucial for the consolidation of somatological perspectives of mental illnesses in psychiatry (Carrara and Carvalho 2010). Due to sexual transmission of the disease, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it became the evil venereal illness par excellence in restrictive sexual regimes (Fleck 2010; Quetel 1986). Since that time, syphilis has laid the foundations for codes of social conduct and even for ideas of the “self” in western societies, for example in criminalizing prostitution (Carrara 1996; Bastos 2007) and shaping contagion theories and its relations of body-subject (Echeverría 2010). (read more...)

Centavitos Against Food Insecurity: Structural Violence, Charity, and Technical Fixes in Guatemala

On March 23rd, 2021, the 2020 yearly results for the “Gran Cruzada Nacional por la Desnutrición” (Great National Crusade for Malnutrition) were presented in a press conference held in the Guatemalan National Palace. For a little over an hour, several ministers made short speeches about the success of their activities related to programs attempting to prevent food insecurity in the country. After, a company highlighted a donation for acquiring a nutritionally improved flour to complement children’s diets. The event ended with some words from the Guatemalan president, Alejandro Giammattei. He explained that lowering malnutrition rates in Guatemala is a communal effort that must be carried out by civil society, business, and the government. He then invited national banks to institute a new campaign in which account holders donate the leftover “little cents” (centavitos) from their bank account balance each month. (read more...)

Multiple Modes of Being Human

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) In the last couple of years, I have been toying around with the ideas of “modes of humanism,” “inventing new modes of being human,” and modes of existence, such as data swarms and the pre-, post-, and transhuman. However, I was never really able to wrap my head around the question, what it really means when Bergson, Simondon, and others speak about the possibilities of “new modes of being human.” Modes of being human signify a multiplicity of possible forms of being human. These forms differ historically and culturally. (read more...)

Angelology and Technoscience

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) The study of angels, angelology, is seldomly taken seriously. Instead, it is seen as the topic of ridicule, exemplifying the irrelevancy and unworldliness of some academic questions: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Why would angels have knees? Do angels have sexes? Further, angels often reference disembodiment and neutrality, ideas any decent posthuman scholar seems to abhor. Nevertheless, I would argue that angels are a fruitful way to critically assess our posthuman condition. Angels embody a number of valued characteristics of our posthuman selves, but also a number of transformations in how science is currently practiced– what I would like to call technoscience. Technoscience refers then to a range of new disciplines, such as synthetic biology, nanotechnology, robotics, or data science. These are new disciplines where classic distinctions between science and technology, nature and artifact, are disappearing. Posthuman thought and technoscience have remarkable similarities, but, in contrast to posthumanism, our attitude towards technoscience is ambivalent. Do we really want that kind of science for our future? Or, differently put, do we really want to become angels? (read more...)