Member Profile

Savannah Mandel

MSc Candidate , University College London

Contributor, Platypus: The CASTAC Blog

Research Interests

About Savannah

Savannah is currently employed at the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. She recently earned an MSc from University College London in Social Anthropology. Her research is on the anthropology of human space exploration and during Spring of 2018 she conducted fieldwork at Spaceport America. Her blog posts for CASTAC have been inspired by technoscapes, material culture and a deep love of all things extraterrestrial. In her spare time she watches and reads all the science-fiction she can find, writes novels and other short stories.



Contributions to Platypus: The CASTAC Blog

View all of Savannah's posts on Platypus: The CASTAC Blog.

Ghosts in the Machine: On losing control to the technoscape

“There have always been ghosts in the machine. Random segments of code that have grouped together to form un-expected protocols. Unanticipated, these free radicals engender questions of free will, creativity, and even the nature of what we may call the soul. Why is it, when some robots are left in darkness they will seek out the light? Why is it that when robots are grouped in an empty space they will stand together, rather than alone?” For now, sentient robotics do not exist. But don’t let that undermine the relevance of Dr. Alfred Lanning’s speech in the 2004 science fiction movie I, Robot, or diminish its potential significance for the anthropology of technology. As I begin a new field research project with Spaceport America, studying the future of human space exploration, I find myself re-considering human interactions with technology and technoscapes: not only in the sense of how we interact with the inanimate, but, more importantly, how we leave behind pieces of ourselves in the inanimate. Ghosts in the machine. Extensions of ourselves. How does our position in evolving technoscapes relate to our anthropomorphism of inanimate objects? Here, I draw on science fiction as I analyze the break between human-essence-in-machine and human-machine, specifically in relation the anthropomorphism of the Curiosity rover. I argue that it is no longer sufficient to reflect on the benign anthropomorphizing of technology. Our understanding of the human in the machine - especially in the context of space technologies - must be taken one step further. (more...)