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The Animal Hacker

Key words: Feminist TechnoScience, Computational Aesthetics, STS, Non-human geographies, Creative Methods, DIY, Data Practices, Ethical Hacking, Feminist New Materialisms, More-than-humans, Animals, Ubiquitous Computing, Art Practice.

“The Animal Hacker” is a queer intervention into the environmental computation. My engagements bring attention to scenes in which computation, nature and nonhuman animals are mobilised and figured—scenes of environmental computation. Rather than taking the approach of“designing for” nonhuman animals, this research is an enquiry into thinking with the endurance of nonhumans within networks to understand the ways in which nonhuman animals are becoming-with computational ensembles. 

Through empirical enquiry and theoretical fabulations, I encounter nonhuman animals that are, always already, engaged with computation, in both exploitative, compliant and resistant, non-compliant ways. Importantly, and avoiding moralizing, speciesist accounts of animals within the context of computation, I investigate what I term “the Animal Hacker” as a double bond, focusing on nonhuman animal practices that both re-make computation, as well as an inquiry with, the emergence of the nonhuman animal as a site for technoscientific experimentation. The figure of the animal hacker shifts the focus from “designing for others” to a rich engagement with queer and affective practices, out of which technologies and our attachments to them,are made, remade and, take hold beyond the human. By focusing on nonhuman animals, I do not re-instate the category of the animal as a fixed boundary, instead, I demonstrate the urgency for a new ethical-ontological engagement with, what I argue is the neo-colonial force of environmental computing.

“The Animal Hacker” is a detailed ethnographic and theoretical study that focuses on three diffractive figurations; the camera dodging sheep in a BigData project, the “Environmental Virtual Observatory Pilot (EVOp)”, “BrotherCream”, the Facebook famous cat who lives in a Hong Kong convenience store and the “GFP Medaka”, a transgenic fish engineered as a living sensor.

Thinking with these figures I discuss events in which nonhuman animals are not always compliant to infrastructures of computing. Inquiring into the fantasies, attachments and promises of extended intimacy I outline thepromises of comfort and environmental repair in Big Data. I discuss my experience of working in a transgenic toxicology lab, to apprehend and theorize how nonhuman animals are no longer solely the subject(s) of measurement by computers and I argue that their lives, half-lives and deaths are also propelled by the mattering of environmental data. Together with the cat Brother Cream, I interrogate the demand for nonhuman animals to “speakback” to the network in some form, outlining how certain nonhuman animals must be shared or uploaded in-order to enter a sphere of care or ethicalconsideration. 

The diffractive figure of the ‘Animal-Hacker’ is used to consider activities of sensing not as measuring or writing the other, but instead as co-writing with articulate nonhumans. The project focuses on how the animal is inscripted with, and by, new technology and the theoretical perspectives that we need in order to take seriously the participation of nonhuman animals in computational systems. Developing a set of practices for “postnatural computing”

In response, “The Animal Hacker” contributes a set of ethno-political practices for environmental computing that begin from within life and nonlife.

This book project is based on my post disciplinary PhD research in the Department of Geography at Queen Mary University of London,  funded by the EPRSC, RCUK. 

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