As a follow up to my previous post, I wanted to share some of the things I am reading, listening to, following, and experiencing (that’s the verb for “watching” in VR) as we develop the PIP (Practically In Person) exhibition. I’ve added some light annotations to help non-STS scholars get a sense of what these authors and titles all mean. I’ve also leaned more on “the classics” so that non-scholars can dip their toes into some of the debates right at the source. Yes, there is a politics to this.
Image credit for this post goes to Panteha Abareshi, a young artist involved in the PIP collective. This image is also featured on the PIP site, linked to above. Panteha describes her art this way: “My work is first and foremost an expression of my emotions and struggles, as well as my desire to increase the representation of WOC in artwork and to de-stigmatize mental illness. I draw what I feel, and my art is a way of expressing what I can’t otherwise articulate.”
Contact me if you need help tracking anything down.
How to Tell Stories about Technoscience
Who tells stories about technoscience? What are the narrative frameworks we use to investigate and tell those stories?
- Donna Haraway – Staying With the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene
- Donna Haraway – Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene
- A lecture that predates Staying With the Trouble and strings things together a bit differently – and efficiently. Transcript available here.
- Janet Roitman – Anti-Crisis
- If it matters what stories tell stories, it also matters what narrative structures spawn narrations. Roitman’s analysis of “Crisis” nicely works through what work concepts do in constructing shared narratives about the “facts” of technocratic power.
- Bruno Latour – Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory
- I returned to this non-favorite while teaching a recent class on anthropology and ethnographic theory. Juxtaposed with the more activist politics of feminist technoscience STS, I found more to love this time around. Knowing how “the social” works and what human and non-human actors are involved in a given controversy or around a given technology helps for finding points of intervention.
- Lila Abu-Lughod – Writing Against Culture
- Consider the subaltern; preserve multiple, possibly dissonant, voices on their own terms.
- Timothy Choy, Lieba Faier, Michael Hathaway, Miyako Inoue, Shiho Satsuka, and Anna Tsing – A New Form of Collaboration in Cultural Anthropology: Matsutake Worlds
- Actor-network theory, multisited ethnography, feminist and multispecies sensibilities: the best example of ethnography that is sensitive to multiplicity in many directions at once, as well as a model of how to work collaboratively as an anthropologist (something we’re never taught – never even really allowed – to do in our training). Paywalled – again, get in touch if you want.
Feminist Technoscience Studies
The big question here is, what does it mean to see as a woman?
- Sandra Harding – Feminist Standpoint Epistemology
- Really you should read this whole volume if you’re interested in gender and science and technology. Some of the other pieces in this post are also in there.
- Nancy Hartsock – The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically Feminist Historical Materialism
- Marxist-feminist classic that informs Haraway, Harding, Murphy, Barad, many others. Paywalled, ironically.
- Donna Haraway – Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective
- Can science be feminist? What would feminist science be?
- Karen Barad – Agential Realism: Feminist Interventions in Understanding Scientific Practices
- Intra-action: how meaning and matter is made when people and things meet. “The world kicks back.” A feminist philosopher’s response to SCOT, among other things. The volume is expensive, apologies.
- Michelle Murphy – Immodest Witnessing: The Epistemology of Vaginal Self-Examination in the U.S. Feminist Self-Help Movement
- Classic, clever. Embodiment meets epistemology, activism meets objectivity, knowledge meets affect, intersectionality meets expertise. Lots of vaginas.
Who Controls Technology?
A couple of STS classics that are always in the back of my mind.
- Langdon Winner – Do Artefacts Have Politics?
- Classic STS article that argues that technologies can have inbuilt politics that exert agency on human society. His examples all concern ways that technologies produce oppression.
- Wiebe Bijker and Trevor Pinch – The Social Construction of Facts and Artifact
- Shout out to Trevor, who was DGS while I was at Cornell STS for grad school. Nicely lays out what “social construction” means as a framework for understanding emerging technologies, with illustrative case studies and diagrams. It also comes at things from a social history perspective, which emphasizes telling stories “from below” – in this case, how users exert influence on technologies despite the intentions of designers.
Cyborgs resist origin myths and take pleasure in disrupting boundaries.
- Donna Haraway – The Cyborg Manifesto
- Lynchpin piece for thinking about the political, subjective, and representation possibilities of digital technologies. This edition is beautiful (UMN Press takes cover art seriously) and also includes the Companion Species Manifesto, a more homely update to Cyborg Manifesto, and an extended conversation between Haraway and a colleague.
- Chela Sandoval – New Sciences: Cyborg Feminism and the Methodology of the Oppressed
- A mestizo response to Cyborg Manifesto.
- Norbert Wiener – The Human Use of Human Beings
- An explanation of the science of cybernetics, from the early 1950s when it was cohering as a field.
- Mara Mills – On Disability and Cybernetics: Helen Keller, Norbert Wiener, and the Hearing Glove
- A snapshot from the history of cybernetic science that thinks about how cybernetic technologies are enabling/disabling. Whose sensorium is “normal” and how does that shape what we imagine the uses for cybernetics to be?
- Ronald Kline – Where are the Cyborgs in Cybernetics?
- More empirical history, on the birth of cyborgs in the lab. Paywalled.
- Gary Downey, Joseph Dumit, and Sarah Williams – Cyborg Anthropology
- “Cyborg” as both method and analytic for doing anthropology.
- Hari Kunzru, for Wired – You Are Cyborg
- A nice exegesis on Cyborg Manifesto written to connect with tech industry audiences.
- Tom Boellstorrf – Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human
- Not cyborgs exactly, but an important text in digital anthropology and online worlds.
Some VR groups and non-scholarly artifacts I’ve been exploring.
- Notes on Blindness
- A visually and sonically beautiful, moving, free, ~30 minute VR experience you can even use on your smartphone with a Google Cardboard apparatus. Experience blindness. The best use of VR I’ve seen so far.
- Sunchaser Entertainment – Kanju
- Close runner up, with a postcolonial politics inspired by the metaphor of Africa as “the bright continent.” Thoughtfully executed immersive storytelling. Reach out to them to find out how to get your hands on it.
- Dayna Evans, for The Cut – In Virtual Reality, Women Run the World
- Curious how just this month Codebreaker, public radio staple Marketplace’s tech podcast, ran a podcast episode with NO women VR developers or scholars. The only women were an elderly woman who were ill and her daughter taking care of her. This is EMPHATICALLY NOT the full story about what women’s participation in VR looks like.
- Women in VR Meetup Group
- Self-explanatory. See above again.
- Volumetric Meetup Group
- Hardware hackers, VR, AR, cyborgs, digital embodiment… not sure what their mission is but their programming is great!
- Voice of VR Podcast
- Kent Bye’s perspective on the potential for VR is really terrific, and it doesn’t shy away from getting technical with experts in the field.