PhD candidate, Rice University
Dissertation Fellow, NAEd/Spencer Foundation
Editor, Platypus: The CASTAC Blog
I'm currently a doctoral student in the sociocultural program at Rice University, and the editor of Platypus, the CASTAC blog. I work on data science and computational neuroscience in Russia and the United States.
Contributions to Platypus: The CASTAC Blog
After a brief hiatus, the weekly round-up returns with stories on algorithms, microdosing, virtual reality documentaries, and how to read new media. As always, we'd love to showcase stuff that CASTAC members are working on elsewhere, or just cool stuff that you find around the web! Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll throw it in the mix for next week. Algorithms have been a favorite punching bag of the blogosphere and middle-brow journals for a few years now. While they're easy to criticize, they're harder to engage and historicize. "Rule by Nobody" does a nice job of both, however. Adam Clair draws on Weber and Graeber to argue that algorithms should be understood as an expansion of bureaucratic rationalization. Rather than posthuman monstrosities of unfeeling code and insensate machines, he suggests that we consider them as profoundly human, sociotechnical systems, open to intervention and creative refashioning. How anthropological! The emergence of algorithms as active inhabitants of social space has also been producing a strangely didactic current of commentary, such as this "guide to seeing the news beyond your cozy filter bubble." Although perhaps more interesting sociologically than practically to the ever-so-savvy readers of Platypus, it's nevertheless nice to see the pendulum swing from smug criticism of algorithms' shortcomings to critical engagement with their affordances and constraints. Meanwhile, in actual algorithmic news, Google has managed to produce the first SHA1 collision, undermining faith in the Secure Hash Algorithm underlying huge swathes of the contemporary digital security landscape. This is a big deal for existing web infrastructures, (more...)
Editors note: this week, we’re pleased to bring you a conversation between Stefan Helmreich and Jessica O’Reilly about her new book, The Technocratic Antarctic: An Ethnography of Scientific Expertise and Environmental Governance, just published by Cornell University Press.
Stefan Helmreich: Why Antarctica?
Jessica O’Reilly: I came across the 1980’s environmentalist movement to make Antarctica a World Park when I was putting together a campfire talk, while I was a park ranger in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. That fall, I began grad school and began reading Bruno Latour. At the beginning of We Have Never Been Modern, Latour writes about an imaginary ethnography of the ozone hole—this is one of his examples of the hybridity of nature and culture. This idea seemed so weird and wonderful. Once I began reading about and talking to people who live and work in Antarctica, I learned there was this fascinating blend of speculative adventuring and intense governmental scrutiny and cooperation. Environmentalists often describe Antarctica as a “last wilderness,” along with the deep oceans and outer space, and I wanted to take the opportunity to explore how Antarctic people mapped out their activities and ideas in relation to this. (more…)
This week’s round-up is a bit more focused, with threads on Mars colonization, automation, and artificial intelligence. As always, we also ask you to write or find great stuff for us to share in next week’s round-up: you can send suggestions, advance-fee scams, or Venmo requests to email@example.com.