This paper examines recent street tests of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the UK and makes the case for an experimental approach in the sociology of intelligent technology. In recent years intelligent vehicle testing has moved from the laboratory to the street, raising the question of whether technology trials equally constitute tests of society. To adequately address this question, I argue, we need to move beyond analytic frameworks developed in 1990s Science and Technology Studies, which stipulated “a social deficit” of both intelligent technology and technology testing. This diagnosis no longer provides an effective starting point for sociological analysis, as real‐world tests of intelligent technology explicitly seek to bring social phenomena within the remit of technology testing. I propose that we examine instead whether and how the introduction of intelligent vehicles into the street involves the qualification and re‐qualification of relations and dynamics between social actors. I develop this proposal through a discussion of a field study of AV street trials in three cities in the UK—London, Milton Keynes, and Coventry. These urban trials were accompanied by the claim that automotive testing on the open road will enable cars to operate in tune with the social environment, and I show how iterations of street testing undo this proposition and compel its reformulation. Current test designs are limited by their narrow conception of sociality in terms of interaction between cars and other road users. They exclude from consideration the relational capacities of vehicles and human road users alike—their ability to co‐exist on the open road. I conclude by making the case for methodological innovation in social studies of intelligent technology: by combining social research and design methods, we can re‐purpose real‐world test environments in order to elucidate social issues and dynamics raised by intelligent vehicles in society by experimental means, and, possibly, test society.
New Chapter: ‘Circulation and its Discontents’ by Scott Wark (CIM, Associate Researcher) and McKenzie Wark
Written with McKenzie Wark, this chapter uses the circulation of internet memes and the fraught concept of ‘meme magic’ to examine the incommensurabilities – labour and technics – that structure contemporary online culture. It appears in a new edited collection on internet memes, Post Memes: Seizing the Memes of Production, which is open access and available for download from the punctum books website.
Applications are invited for a Teaching Fellow in Computational Social Science in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies (CIM).
Calvillo's In the Air at “Eco-Visionaries: Confronting a planet in a state of emergency” (Royal Academy of Arts)
Exhibition dates: 23 November - 23 February 2020.
In The Air, an air pollution visualisation project led by Nerea Calvillo is exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts as part of the international exhibition “Eco-Visionaries: Confronting a planet in a state of emergency”, opening to the public this Saturday 23 November. Two pieces will be on display: The video In The Air 24h (2019), commissioned by the Royal Academy and produced with the support of CIM and the Spanish Embassy, has been developed in collaboration with code designer and artist Martin Nadal (Berlin), sound designer and musician Javier Lara (Mexico City), and photographers Imagen Subliminal (New York-Madrid). The second piece is Histories of Pollution (2010), three models developed in collaboration with Martin Nadal.
Curated by Gonzalo Herrero Delicado, Pedro Gadanho and Mariana Pestana, Eco-Visionaries was originally organised by the MAAT (Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnología) in Lisbon (Portugal), Bildmuseet de Umeå (Sweden), House of Electronic Arts (HeK) in Basel (Switzerland) and LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial in Gijón.
A CIM visit will take place on 17 February, to accompany a public seminar on air pollution visualisations. More information soon, stay tuned!
The Royal Academy of Arts webpage for this exhibition is here.
As part of the collectively edited volume digitalSTS: A Field Guide for Science & Technology Studies (Princeton University Press and Open Access), Calvillo’s contribution draws on the air pollution visualisation project In the Air to suggest the production of visualizations as an STS, material, feminist research method, particularly suited to examine the invisible materiality of environmental agents and to think with the environment. Considering air pollution and pollen visualisations as affective airscapes, the chapter reflects on their interfering capacity in re-thinking environmental justice and multispecies urban relations.
Naomi Waltham-Smith will be giving a talk title 'A Motley Music: The Music Analyst Lends an Ear to Democracy' at the Music Faculty at the University of Oxford
British democracy is in crisis. Lord Keen QC has just taken the extraordinary step of having to reassure the Justices that the Prime Minister will take all necessary steps to comply with any declaration the Supreme Court makes. Legal experts, political scientists, and the Twittersphere have been exercising themselves in debating the constitutional stakes of a juncture (and hubris) unprecedented in modern times. More broadly, in recent years scholars across a wide variety of disciplines—historians, political theorists, economists, sociologists, philosophers—have offered various analyses of the resurgence of right-wing populisms, the emergence of leaders brandishing authoritarian personalities, and the collapse in the hegemony of the liberal political-economic consensus. But there is another hypothesis that merits exploration, a diagnosis that music analysts are in a privileged position to test and explain—namely, that the crises of representation we are currently witnessing may be analysed as a generalized crisis of listening.
My admittedly provocative argument has two limbs. First, ever since Plato dismissed the people as a motley rabble in the same breath that he rejected certain rhythmic and melodic modes, music, sound, and listening have repeatedly been present at precisely those moments in the European political philosophical tradition when thinkers have sought to specify the limitations and especially the aporias of democracy. I suggest some explanations for the privileged status of this aural metaphorics and draw a number of conclusions from the historical vicissitudes of the concept of listening for understanding the contemporary situation in which there is paradoxically both a democratic deficit and a panacoustic excess of listening.
Second, the changes in social forms of listening are inseparable from and arguably even symptomatic of transformations in the conditions and practices of musical listening undergone as a result of digital mediations. The consumption of music through streaming services, together with the rise of digital personal assistants, affective listening technologies, and the judicial weaponization of forensic sound analysis, have combined to alter radically our attunement to our environment and to others around us. If our relation to this planet, and to the other human and non-human lives it supports, is a function of listening, who better than music analysts to clarify its intricacies, expose its risks, and advocate for its future possibilities?
New paper by Michael Dieter, David Gauthier & Marc Tuters - Conversation pieces: On recounting new media art mailinglist cultures
In the field of media art, mailinglists such as nettime, -empyre-, SPECTRE and CRUMB have functioned as important para-institutional formations that have influentially played host to a diverse community of artists, critics, curators, activists and academics since the 1990s. These lists, we suggest, are of particular epistemological and methodological interest for the field of internet history due to their critical and experimental nature. This stems mainly from the cultivation of highly reflexive, at times ambivalent, stance towards the technical, social and aesthetic limits of such networking activity itself. In this sense, they present unique objects of study for exploring what difference computational methods might make for understanding mailinglist cultures over time; what we refer to in this article, drawing on Wolfgang Ernst, as counting and recounting the past. Our aim in this paper is, therefore, to both introduce these lists to the emerging field of internet history and scope out medium-specific methods that take the measure of concepts, discourses, cohorts, and events that have taken place through them over time.
Alexander I. Stingl joins CIM, alongside the IAS, as a WIRL-COFUND fellow for 2019-2021 (following two previous years in Paris with fellowships funded by the FMSH and the ISRF). Simultaneously he was made chair of the scientific advisory committee by the directors for the project "Juridifying the Anthropocence", Beatrice Parance (Paris 8) and Gilles Lhuilier (Ecole Normale Superieure Rennes); the project creates expertise for both the Development Bank and the High Court of Appellations of France. Alex will primarily, but not exclusively, conduct research on the so-called "Bioeconomy" (a transnational policy network and "post"-neoliberal discourse proposing to guide the transition from foissil-based to biotech-based economy and society). He will speak in the CIM Forum on Nov. 20 to give a more general introduction into this research topic, and, before that, on November 7 he will present a paper on "The Bioeconomy in International and Transnational Law" at the International Economic Law (IEL) Collective Inaugural Conference held here at Warwick. In January, his new book is due to be published with Routledge, titled Care Power Information, which addresses shortcomings of contemproary Global Northern Social Science resulting from the "colonial matrix of power" and makes an engaged plea for a different social scientific scholarship.
This article draws on insights from digital media theory and design methodology to contribute to sociological and anthropological understandings of money. It postulates the rise of a new money-form, or rather money-forms, referred to (in the plural) as experience money. The notion of experience money is developed through an analysis of Apple Pay, where I suggest that experience contains both economic and design qualities. Experience, that is, is both a way of thinking about and producing value, and a set of concrete design techniques for realizing such value. Each instance of experience money therefore embodies a distinctive ‘value proposition’ – an experience value, if you will – which forms the basis of differentiation and competition. While there is a vast literature dedicated to troubling and challenging the modern accounts of money and economy in terms of abstraction – from anthropology to economic sociology, social studies of finance or even behavioural economics – experience money poses new challenges for these empirically-nuanced theories of money. Experience money performatively incorporates and recodes the diversity and specificity of money and monetary practices as described by sociologists and anthropologists. It participates in the critique of (modern) money as abstraction, but it by no means does away with abstraction. The article concludes with a reflection on what money’s new relationship to abstraction entails for how we study economy.
CIM Assistant Professor Matt Spencer has been awarded a UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship for his project ‘Scaling Trust: An Anthropology of Cyber Security’.
More information coming soon!