Tag: politics

Assembling an Actor-Network Theory Archaoelogy

When I first thought of putting Science and Technology Studies (STS) and archaeology in conversation, several aspects of this conversation seemed obvious. Given that things and human interactions with things are central to both fields of inquiry, I thought that it would largely be a discussion about epistemologies and the way that the “social,” as a field of action, is constructed by both disciplines. (read more...)

Mobilizing Cemeteries, Representing Ancestors: The Infrastructure of Protest and the Anti-Petroleum Complex Movement in Pengerang, Malaysia

In 2011, the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, and the CEO of the national oil company Petronas, Shamsul Azhar Abbas, announced the “Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex” (PIPC) project: a billion-dollar, state-led, mega refinery and petrochemical complex. The PIPC project promised to transform Pengerang, a small fishing village, into a world-class oil and gas hub that would fuel Malaysia’s economic growth for decades to come. It is the biggest of its kind in Southeast Asia and has negotiated a joint venture agreement with Saudi Arabia’s national oil giant Saudi Aramco as of 2017, guaranteeing a supply of crude oil to the PIPC for 20 years to produce petroleum and petrochemical products for growing Asian markets. Beneath the official “success story,” promoted by the Najib government and Petronas of how this “Rotterdam Port of the East”[1] would help Malaysia overtake Singapore as the leading oil and gas trading center of the Asia-Pacific region[2], the PIPC project has spawned a myriad of controversies and local resistances. (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...)

Before They Erase It: Memory and the social media archive

This afternoon, I began to notice increasingly alarming images, posts, and tweets from my interlocutors in Santiago. It appeared that Santiago was on fire, and that the military was in the streets. Images of familiar streets and landmarks now felt doubly familiar, as their similarity to images taken during the coup of 1973 were undeniable. A quick Google search confirmed my fears; Piñera had declared a state of emergency in response to the student metro protests, that there were already deaths, disappearances, and torture reported, and that a curfew had been implemented. Switching over to Whatsapp, I sent frantic messages to my interlocutors and former host family to check that they were safe (they were.) However, it was clear that—even for seasoned activists—this felt different. Many recalled memories or iconic images of the 1973 coup, wondering if history might be about to repeat itself. As the day progressed, I began (read more...)

Politics in environmental research infrastructure formation: When top-down policy-making meets bottom-up fragmentation

By: Elena Parmiggiani, Helena Karasti, Karen Baker, and Andrea Botero The environmental sciences have been a fertile ground for the development of scientific infrastructures (a.k.a. cyberinfrastructure in the USA and research infrastructure in Europe). Their promises of addressing grand challenges such as climate change require increasing collaboration as well as new forms of research based on data sharing. However, infrastructure policy work in this domain has proven arduous. The environmental sciences are intrinsically heterogeneous with variations in data that must be navigated across local and global scales, ecological variety, societal concerns, and funding structures. (read more...)

Locating Servers, Locating Politics

When we think of servers, like web servers and Amazon servers, we don’t usually think of them as occupying physical space. We might think of a remote data center, thanks in large part to images that have been circulated by companies like Facebook and Google. But still, these only visualize unmarked buildings and warehouse rooms, showcasing a particular tech aesthetic of colored wires and tubes, and neatly assembled rows of blinking machines (Holt and Vondereau 2015). Such imagery is hardly meant to provide the public with a sense of where servers are actually located. For most day-to-day computer users, it often doesn’t matter at all whether servers are in the U.S. or China or Russia, so long as they work. But server location matters, and many groups of people value certain material benefits and effects of the placement of servers and their own proximity to servers. It matters for online (read more...)

Trolling and the Alt-Right in Japan (Part 1)

I was only a couple of months into my fieldwork when I met Masa. I had been focusing my attention on innovation and politics within the major Japanese TV networks, but he drew my attention to a different kind of media organization: The Free Press Association of Japan, now defunct. At the time, he identified with its founder, Takashi Uesugi, who had made a name for himself as one of the country’s most prominent crusaders for Japanese journalism reform. Masa liked anyone who flouted convention, and the mainstream media’s disparagement of Uesugi for not having attended a high-ranked university only served to endear him further to Masa, who himself had not attended college. It was from Masa that I first heard about chemtrails (kemutoreiru) – the notion that the white trails that aircraft leave in their wake represent a chemical form of meteorological or biological manipulation. He began forwarding me articles and links to documentaries exposing Japanese and American government cover-ups. Unemployed, he spent most of his days on the Japanese bulletin board, 2ch (ni chan). He was my first encounter with the Japanese internet alt-right (the netto uyoku), the beginning of an inadvertent deep-dive into one of the most vocal factions in the Japanese internet. (read more...)

Three Perspectives on “Fake News”

Editor’s Note: Today, Shreeharsh Kelkar brings us the inaugural post in a new series on Fake News and the Politics of Knowledge. The goal is to tackle the knowledge politics of both so-called “fake news” itself and the discourse that has cropped up around it, from a wide range of theoretical perspectives on media, science, technology, and communication. If you are interested in contributing, please write to editor@castac.org with a brief proposal.  Donald Trump’s shocking upset of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US Presidential Election brought into wide prominence issues that heretofore had been debated mostly in intellectual and business circles: the question of “filter bubbles,” of people who refuse to accept facts (scientific or otherwise), and what these mean for liberal democracies and the public sphere.  All these concerns have now have coalesced around an odd little signifier, “fake news” [1].   (read more...)