From Citizen Sensing to Collective Monitoring: Working through the Perceptive and Affective Problematics of Environmental Pollution (2016)
Helen Pritchard and Jennifer Gabrys
Citizen sensing, or the practice of monitoring environments through low-cost and do-it-yourself (DIY) digital technologies, is often structured as an individual pursuit. The very term citizen within citizen sensing suggests that the practice of sensing is the terrain of one political subject using a digital device to monitor her or his environment to take individual action. Yet in some circumstances, citizen sensing practices are reworking the sites and distributions of environmental monitoring toward other configurations that are more multiple and collective. What are the qualities and capacities of these collective modes of sensing, and how might they shift the assumed parameters—and effectiveness—of citizen sensing? We engage with Simondon’s writing to consider how a “perceptive problematic” generates collectives for feeling and responding to events (or an “affective problematic”), here through the ongoing event of air pollution. Further drawing on writing from Stengers, we discuss how the “work” of citizen sensing involves much more than developing new technologies, and instead points to the ways in which new practices, subjects, milieus, evidence, and politics are worked through as perceptive and affective commitments to making sense of and addressing the problem of pollution.
Just good enough data: Figuring data citizenships through air pollution sensing and data stories (2016)
Jennifer Gabrys, Helen Pritchard, Benjamin Barratt
Citizen sensing, or the use of low-cost and accessible digital technologies to monitor environments, has contributed to new types of environmental data and data practices. Through a discussion of participatory research into air pollution sensing with residents of northeastern Pennsylvania concerned about the effects of hydraulic fracturing, we examine how new technologies for generating environmental data also give rise to new problems for analysing and making sense of citizen-gathered data. After first outlining the citizen data practices we collaboratively developed with residents for monitoring air quality, we then describe the data stories that we created along with citizens as a method and technique for composing data. We further mobilise the concept of ‘just good enough data’ to discuss the ways in which citizen data gives rise to alternative ways of creating, valuing and interpreting datasets. We specifically consider how environmental data raises different concerns and possibilities in relation to Big Data, which can be distinct from security or social media studies. We then suggest ways in which citizen datasets could generate different practices and interpretive insights that go beyond the usual uses of environmental data for regulation, compliance and modelling to generate expanded data citizenships.
Performative Apparatus and Diffractive Practices: An Account of Artificial Life Art (2015)
Jane Prophet and Helen Pritchard
Drawing on our own art/science practices and a series of interviews with artificial life practitioners, we explore the entanglement of developments at the artistic edges of artificial life. We start by defining key terms from Karen Barad's agential realism. We then diffractively read artificial life together with agential realism to discuss the potential for interventions in the field. Through a discussion of artificial life computer simulations, ideas of agency are problematized, and artificial life's single purposeful actor, the agent, is replaced by agential, an adjective denoting a relationship rather than a subject-object duality. We then seek to reinterpret the difficult-to-define term “emergence.” Agency in artificial life emerges through what Barad calls entanglement, in this case between observers and their apparatus, a perpetual engagement between observations of a system and their interpretations. The article explores the differences that this diffractive perspective makes to artificial life and accounts of its materialization.
Diffractive Art Practices: Computation and the Messy Entanglements between Mainstream Contemporary Art, and New Media Art (2015)
Helen Pritchard and Jane Prophet
We engage with Karen Barad’s notion of diffraction (2007) to re-evaluate the relations between mainstream contemporary art (MCA) and new media art (NMA)1 that have been discussed for many years as part of a somewhat contentious debate. Our diffractive reading highlights both large and small but consequential differences between these art practices. We do not smooth over the tensions highlighted in earlier discussions of NMA and MCA. Instead we use Barad’s term ‘entanglement’ to suggest that there are generative ‘entanglements’, as well as productive differences, between these practices. We extend the debate by considering which differences matter, for whom (artists, gallerists) and how these differences emerge through material-discursive intra-actions. We argue for a new term, diffractive art practices, and suggest that such art practices move beyond the bifurcation of NMA and MCA to partially reconfigure the practices between art, computation and humanities.
Data Browser 06: Executing Practices (2018)
eds. Helen Pritchard, Eric Snodgrass and Magda Tyzlik-Carver
This collection brings together artists, curators, programmers, theorists and heavy internet browsers whose practices make critical intervention into the broad concept of execution. It draws attention to their political strategies, asking: who and what is involved with those practices, and for whom or what are these practices performed, and how? From the contestable politics of emoji modifier mechanisms and micro-temporalities of computational processes to genomic exploitation and the curating of digital content, the chapters account for gendered, racialised, spatial, violent, erotic, artistic and other embedded forms of execution. Together they highlight a range of ways in which execution emerges and how it participates within networked forms of liveliness.
Critter Compiler (2017)
The year is 1997 and we are at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory,California. Mike Simpson, the inventor in the lab, is holding up a microchip in front of his computer. He traces the sensor with his finger and points towards the surface; it is here that the genetically engineered Pseudomonas fluorescense HK44 is “living” on the bed of silicon. This chapter unravels how execution holds—in enduring states—semi-living microbes in sites of petrochemical waste. By referring to semi-living I am not signalling a life sustained through technological means, but a living constrained and held in injured states by computation. I ask what type of activity is this execution that derives from injury and how we might speculate on execution otherwise? Through ethnographic and speculative engagements withCritter Chips I will show how execution can be described as propelling semi-life, outlining how computation exploits the potential of microbial injury and death. I follow this with a discussion of the artwork CritterCompiler, a fabulation that engages with contemporary microbial computing. Critter Compiler is a prototype for a microbial novella writer and a response to Rosi Braidotti’s call for experiments that “are non-profit and actualise the virtual possibilities of an expanded relational self that functions in a nature-culture continuum”. The artwork takes as its starting point toxic execution, and as a speculative experiment performs (or executes) these processes otherwise.
Thinking with the Animal Hacker: Articulation in Ecologies of Earth Observation (2013)
Through developments in cloud-computing, data streaming and bio-sensing, the ubiquities of data practices are re-configuring how we imagine and come together with non-humans and the biophysical world. This paper emerges from embedded arts-based research in the ‘Environmental Virtual Observatory’ a large scale project in which distributed sensors monitor and upload ‘non-human’ environmental processes to a cloud computing infrastructure. In the ‘Environmental Virtual Observatory’ Dairy Cows staring down remote cameras or peaks in river flow bring us face-to face [through the network] with non-humans. If we consider these events not as measuring or writing the other, but instead as co-writing with articulate non-humans, then the question arises of how we might think with and from non human animal-writers in order to “speculate, imagine, feel, build something better”(Haraway 2008, 92). In this paper I tentatively introduce the figure of the ‘Animal-Hacker’ to consider the articulation of nonhuman entities in these computational ecologies. If we address the ‘Animal-Hacker’, not as a passive object of observation, but as co-creating computational environments, how might we consider the non human animal? If we are serious about forms of engagement with non humans, can we engage with the ‘Animal-Hacker’ as a possible invitation to reconsider a possible introduction to other-worlding?
Trace Fossil Fobu-1379 (2015)
This is the scene, a computer travels back in time. A dolphin falls in love with a computer. A computer falls in love with a dolphin. A computer falls in love with a computer. Two Earth dolphins are launched as Cosmodolphins in the cyberspace or dream-machine of the computer and wake up in the future as a feminist geographer, engaging us in a felt sense of causality.
A transgenic fish falls in love with a computer. A computer falls in love with a transgenic fish. A feminist geographer falls in love with the asthmatic luminous woman of Pirano whose breasts emit a blue glow. A transgenic fish from the past goes into suspended animation and winds up either becoming Donna Haraway or taking Donna Haraway’s place at a critical juncture.