Art, critical thinking, ethnography, and STS

Here’s an AstroDime Special Report on the 4S conference ( held in San Diego October 9-12, given by AstroDimer sam smiley

My concentration here will be on art and ethnography. I’m not necessarily looking at the big “art and science” question because there are value sets in both the visual arts and in science and technology that are too large for me to break down, and to start by deconstructing those would mean that I would never get down to my personal arts, ethnography and STS detective work.

One session that proved to be important to me was the following:

The work I enjoyed from this panel was Anne Galloway’s ethnographic work with sheep farms, sheep, farmers in New Zealand..and the artwork that has come out of it. It’s truly “situated artwork” and speculative fiction. Her talk was titled “Speculating the Multispecies Internet”.

Her current links for the project are here:

and you can follow her research blog here.

Another talk from this “Critical Making” panel was on the materiality of data, and making data narratives (Yanni Loukissas and Laura Forlano). I actually found this work (a form of performing data collection in the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, massachusetts) really useful both for STS connections and Qualitative Arts Based Research. They are intersted in “codesigning technoscience” and “hands on ethnography” and do ethnographic scavenger hunts and co-designing workshops. Here is a web site from their recent work in the Arnold Arboretum completed this past June of 2013

A note about the organizers of the Critical making panels: The Critical Making movement originates out of the Critical Making Lab in University of Toronto

They put out a great ‘zine called Critical Making

The first issue had an insert and parody on MAKE magazine (a sort of commodified DIY guide published by O’Reilly)

I found the concept of critical making really really interesting because it had some of the same critiques of DIY ish “Maker” culture in the U.S that I have thought about..overwhelmingly white, male, and uncritically “making”. The Critical Making group also involves craft in the concept of their work, which I appreciated.  Because when I had followed and read the original MAKE magazines, I noticed that O’Reilly split the concept of craft off from the “maker” concept..(in another magazine called “CRAFT”) effectively reinscribing the gender divide that the “democratizing” MAKEr movement was supposed to bridge. But enough of my ranting..

Back to 4S..another talk that combined the arts and STS for me was actually on another panel..but had a lot in common with the previous aforementioned presentations. It was in the “In Search of ‘lines of flights’  in/to/for/by Latin America and Elsewhere” organized by Ivan da Costa Marques.

Within the first session was a presentation by Wendy Cano (researcher) that involved a collaboration with her sister Frida Cano (artist) in looking at corn as culture, and the uses of trangenic corn.This blog site has really great documentation of the artistic cross cultural exchange on the meaning of corn that took place in Schöppingen, Germany in the spring of 2012. There is a great art book with Wendy’s writing, and also documentation of recipes from that experience. You can find examples in this blog entry:

My summary from these small samples are this: that the arts in STS can have a few models.. but the most effective models seem to work well with a collaboration of STS methods of research, and artists interested in ethnographic field work.

one model is using art to “co-design” field research such as with the work of Yanni Loukissas and Laura Forlano,

one model is doing critical public art with STS themes such as the work with Wendy and Frida Cano,

one model is somewhat like Anne Galloway’s art and ethnography work.. to create “artifacts” or fictions that result from the research and from collaboration with other artists.

I will close with a totally unrelated post. I was lucky enough to see Donna Haraway present a book Insectopedia by Hugh Raffle. First, I love the book. and I’m not really into bugs.  It has exactly the kind of esoteric bits and pieces I love to follow and file somewhere. Also Haraway’s description of a “tangled coexistence” with insects is totally creepy but real. Donna Haraway talked about digging ticks out of her skin. But somehow it was a lot more poetic.

SLSA 2013 roundup (Postnatural)

Astrodime member sam smiley attended the SLSA conference (Society for Literature, Arts and Sciences) in South Bend Indiana, October 3-6, 2013.  The theme was Postnatural.

What follows is a incomplete summary:

AstroDime is hard at work on finishing INtransit V.7: Invaders!, and we are starting research on INtransit V.8 (most likely weeds). My presentation was on weeds as boundary objects. So this conference (as well as the follow STS conference) was very valuable for the development of these ideas. I also would like to mention there was a great accompanying art exhibit too at this conference.

Since I am actually teaching a class on gaming using a program called Scratch, I  paid attention especially to the gaming tracks:

Digital humanities theorist N. Katherine Hayles worked with a team of  collaborators at Duke University (at the Greater Than Games Lab to create an alternate reality game (ARG in the lingo) based on economics and the financial crash in the U.S. in 2008.  It is called (that’s a number 1 for the name)

There was a great talk on Queer Videogame Ecologies..Edmond Chang spoke about queer subtexts in the film Wreck it Ralph. And I got myself online with Minecraft, thanks to Amanda Phillips. I think I also got a lead on another queer game artist:  Electronic Game art by Merrit Kopas

I went to the first panel of Object Oriented Feminism. (some of my notes)

And a not-to be missed panel with artists Praba Pilar and Adam Zaretsky

Thoughts I left with..and took into the following 4S conference:
If an artist gets trained in social science or visual some point (I did anyway) I became very self conscious about the ethics of representation..I was able to surmount this this…