On February 18, 2021, I joined Marisa Duarte, Rahul Mukherjee, and Tyler Morgenstern, at the Carsey Wolf Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for “The New Ethereality.” We discussed the “contemporary politics of wireless communication, with special attention paid to the cultural and governmental imaginaries that accrue to emerging wireless infrastructures like 5G. Wirelessness has long been embedded in a range of divergent cultural, political, and social narratives. Today, it is as central to the enduring promise of untrammeled global connectivity as it is to the paranoid divinations of conspiracy theorists. What is at stake in this volatile mix of epistemologies? How might historical debates regarding the possibilities, the substance, and indeed the very existence of the ether help us to grapple with a new era of ethereal speculation?
Image via Rodrigo Cámara-Leret, Miguel A. Fortuna, and Jordi Bascompte@ PNAS
Inter-Institutional Undergraduate Intensive, with M.E. Luka and Annette Markham
The acronym IRL, or “in real life,” purports to distinguish our “real,” unmediated, bodily existence from everything “unreal” that happens online. But the distinction isn’t quite so tidy; there’s hardly any aspect of our social and material worlds that remains untouched by digital technologies. How can we deploy the methods and sensibilities of ethnography, anthropology’s signature method, to better understand how the digital shapes our relationships, our institutions, our economies, our selves, etc? How might we deploy digital tools *in* that investigation? And how can we supplement anthropological methods with those from media studies, critical data studies, infrastructure studies, design, creative technology, and a variety of other fields? In this intensive intersession workshop, we’ll join with the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Toronto to engage in the globally networked exploration and application of digital ethnography. Students will be invited to complete course readings and screenings, small ethnographic exercises, and an individual or collaborative final project: a multimedia documentary of, or a field guide to, a digital environment or community or phenomenon. For the first two weeks in January, we’ll meet intensively for lecture, discussion, and collaborative exercises; students should expect to dedicate roughly five hours each day to either class meetings or asynchronous engagement, plus light homework. Students will then apply their learning through independently designed and executed digital fieldwork, which they’ll complete during the first half of the spring semester. The sensibilities and skills developed in this course will be highly relevant in a variety of fields, as most institutions and industries in the post-pandemic world will have to reimagine themselves to more integrally incorporate digital technologies.
Maps reveal, delineate, verify, orient, navigate, anticipate, historicize, conceal, persuade, and, on occasion, even lie. From the earliest spatial representations in cave paintings and on clay tablets, to the predictive climate visualizations and crime maps and mobile cartographic apps of today and tomorrow, maps have offered far more than an objective representation of a stable reality. In this hybrid theory-practice studio we’ll examine maps as artifacts, as texts, as media; and mapping as a method useful in the social sciences, humanities, arts, and design. We’ll explore the past, present, and future – across myriad geographic and cultural contexts – of our techniques and technologies for mapping space and time. In the process, we’ll address various critical frameworks for analyzing the rhetorics, poetics, politics, and epistemologies of spatial and temporal maps. Throughout the semester we’ll also experiment with a variety of critical mapping tools and methods, from techniques of critical cartography to indigenous practices to sensory mapping to time-lining, using both analog and digital approaches. Students are encouraged to use the course, which will be supported by a skilled cartographer teaching assistant, to supplement their fieldwork, to develop their own thesis / dissertation projects, or to advance other personal research and creative pursuits. Course requirements include: individual map critiques; lab exercises; and individual research-based, critical-creative “atlases” composed of maps in a variety of formats.
On November 23, 2020, the University of Pennsylvania’s Workshop on the History of Materials Texts hosted a “Writing on Objects” roadshow, and I shared “Fluttering Codes: A Cultural History of the Split Flap Display”; my presentation starts at around 22:00