Archive for October, 2012

29 October 2012

Some interesting examples of data visualisation projects from Mark Hansen via the mathbabe blog


This week in Rachel Schutt’s Columbia Data Science course we had two excellent guest speakers.

The first speaker of the night was Mark Hansen, who recently came from UCLA via the New York Times to Columbia with a joint appointment in journalism and statistics. He is a renowned data visualization expert and also an energetic and generous speaker. We were lucky to have him on a night where he’d been drinking an XXL latte from Starbucks to highlight his natural effervescence.

Mark started by telling us a bit about Gabriel Tarde (1843-1904).

Tarde was a sociologist who believed that the social sciences had the capacity to produce vastly more data than the physical sciences. His reasoning was as follows.

The physical sciences observe from a distance: they typically model or incorporate models which talk about an aggregate in some way – for example, biology talks about the aggregate of our…

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Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures, February 2013

29 October 2012


[brochure PDF]

Facing Gaia: A new inquiry into Natural Religion

A series of six lectures by Bruno Latour, Professor at Sciences Po, Paris

18 February to 28 February 2013 at 5.30pm

All lectures take place in St Cecilia’s Hall, Niddry Street, Cowgate, Edinburgh, at 5.30pm.

The Gifford Lectures

The Gifford Lectures, which are held at each of the four ancient Scottish universities, were established under the will of Adam Lord Gifford, a Senator of the College of Justice, who died in 1887. For over a hundred years, the Lectures have enabled a most notable field of scholars to contribute to the advancement of philosophical and theological thought. Past Gifford Lectures at Edinburgh include William James, John Dewey, Albert Schweitzer, Niels Bohr, Arnold Toynbee, Sir John Eccles, Iris Murdoch, Charles Taylor, Michael Ignatieff, Wentzel van Huyssteen, Noam Chomsky, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Simon Conway Morris, Alexander Nehamas, Robert Veatch, Jonathan Sacks, Diana Eck, Mike Gazzaniga, Terry Eagleton, Patricia Churchland.


Facing Gaia. A new inquiry into Natural Religion

There could be no better theme for a lecture series on natural religion than that of Gaia, this puzzling figure that has emerged recently in public discourse from Earth science as well as from many activist and spiritual movements. The problem is that the expression of “natural religion” is somewhat of a pleonasm, since Western definitions of nature borrow so much from theology. The set of lectures attempts to decipher the face of Gaia in order to redistribute the notions that have been packed too tightly into the composite notion of ‘’natural religion’’.

18 February 2013 – Once out of nature

The set of questions around the two words “natural religion” implies that only the second word is a coded and thus a disputed category, the first one being taken for granted and uncoded. But if it can be shown that the very notion of nature is a theological construct, we might be able to shift the problem somewhat: the question becomes not to save or resurrect “natural religion”, but to dispose of it by offering at last a ‘’secular’’ version of nature and of the natural sciences.

19 February 2013 – A question of agency

Once nature and the natural sciences are fully “secularized”, it becomes possible to revisit also the category of the supernatural. Then, a different landscape opens which can be navigated through an attention to agencies and their composition. Such a freedom of movement allows the use of the rich anthropological literature to compare the ways different “collectives” manage to assemble and totalize different sets of agencies.

21 February 2013 – Gaia’s puzzling features

In spite of its reputation, Gaia is not half science and half religion. It offers a much more enigmatic set of features that redistribute agencies in all possible ways (as does this most enigmatic term “anthropocene”). Thus, it is far from clear what it means to “face Gaia”. It might require us to envisage it very differently from the various divinities of the past (including those derived from nature).

25 February 2013 – How many globes can be held on an angel’s fingertip?

The paradox of what is called “globalization” is that there is no “global globe” to hold the multitude of concerns that have to be assembled to replace the “politics of nature” of former periods. What are the instruments —always local and partial— that are sensitive enough to Gaia’s components for the limited technical and emotional apparatus of assembled humans?

26 February 2013 – War of the worlds: humans against earthlings

In the absence of any Providence to settle matters of concern – and thus of nature, its barely disguised substitute – no peaceful resolution of Gaian conflicts can be expected. The recognition of a state of war and the designation of enmity is indispensable if a state of diplomacy is later to be reached. Under the pressure of so many apocalyptic injunctions, what is a Gaian political theology?

28 February 2013 – St Christopher you’re not strong enough to carry the world!

Although the resources of “paganism”, New Age cults, renewed themes of Christian incarnation, and process theology offer rich mythological insights, it is not clear whether they are at the scale and sensitivity needed to face Gaia. A search for collective rituals should begin with works of art and experiments able to explore in sufficient detail the scientific and political composition of the common world.

Video: Conditions of Possibility, CUNY

22 October 2012

Video of “Conditions of Possibility” – 19 October 2012, CUNY (hat tip to dmf, who posts a lot of good stuff in the comments that I don’t always have time to re-post). Event starts at 34 min.

As part of the series Critical Theory Today, eminent theorist Slavoj Žižek joins Martin Hägglund and Adrian Johnston in a discussion about “Conditions of Possibility,” with respect to philosophy, literary theory, religion, and psychoanalysis. Drawing on such diverse and archetypal figures as Kant, Hegel, Freud, Derrida, and Lacan, the panel will explore the notion of philosophical critique and its transformation in contemporary theory.

New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies

20 October 2012

The latest book from OHP’s New Metaphysics series, edited by Graham Harman and Bruno Latour:  “New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies,” by Rick Dolphijn and Iris van der Tuin. Open access book available as HTML here, download as PDF here [2.3MB]. Paperback coming soon. Design by Katherine Gillieson. Cover Illustration by Tammy Lu.

This book is the first monograph on the theme of “new materialism,” an emerging trend in 21st century thought that has already left its mark in such fields as philosophy, cultural theory, feminism, science studies, and the arts. The first part of the book contains elaborate interviews with some of the most prominent new materialist scholars of today: Rosi Braidotti, Manuel DeLanda, Karen Barad, and Quentin Meillassoux. The second part situates the new materialist tradition in contemporary thought by singling out its transversal methodology, its position on sexual differing, and by developing the ethical and political consequences of new materialism.

11 October 2012

6 October 2012

Korean paper on Heidegger-Latour theme

5 October 2012

Lee, June-Seok (2012). “Understanding the Identity of a Disaster through STS.” Korean Association of Science and Technology Studies. 12 (1): 45-78.

한국어 초록

재난이란 무엇인가. 그리고 과학기술학은 이에 대해 무엇을 말해주는가. 재난에 대해서는 여러 정의가 있을 수 있지만, 이 글에서는 주체가 예비한 기술사회시스템 행위자-연결망이 그에 부딪혀 오는 힘과의 겨루기(trial of strength)에서 밀려 와해되는 경우를 상정한다. 이러한 상태는 결절(結節, punctualization)된 행위자-연결망이 해리(解離, depunctualization)되는 과정이며, 존재자의 용재성(用在性, Zuhandenheit, readiness-to-hand)이 뒤로 물러가고 도구의 전재성(前在性, Vorhandenheit, presentness-at-hand)이 현존재 앞에 드러나는 과정이다. 재난을 사례연구로 하여 이 글은 선행연구들이 보지 못했던 라투르 존재론과 하이데거 기술관의 겹침을 살펴볼 것이다. 이러한 과학기술학적 접근은 기술과학과 자연-사회의 아상블라쥬를 해석하는 새로운 이론적 프레임을 우리에게 제공할 수 있을 것이다.


What is a disaster? And what can science and technology studies tell us about it? There might be numerous definitions about disaster. In this article, we will posit that disaster is an incident when sociotechnical system actor-network broke down against the other force in their “trial of strength”. This is a process that punctualized actor-network is depunctualized, and a status that readiness-to-hand of Being recedes while presentness-at-hand of tool-being comes forward. Using the concept of disaster as a case study, we will consider how Latourian ontology overlaps with Heideggerian philosophy of technology. This STS approach which hasn’t been previously studied might provide us with new theoretical framework that enables us to construe the assemblage of technoscience and nature-society in the field of PUS or NPSS.

4 October 2012


A drawing adopted for this flyer: “It’s Not What You Think: Communicating Medical Materialities” at the Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen.

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3 October 2012