3/6/2020 Sense, Sentience, Sensors

Friday, 6 March / Symposium

From web cameras, RFID transmitters, drones, satellites, and buoys, the world is increasingly seeded with powerful technologies that can record, process, transmit and respond to information. This workshop focuses on sensors as conceptual and ethnographic objects through which to think the increasingly networked and computational dynamics of health, architecture, urban life and ecology.

Sensors typically register mechanical or chemical stimuli (e.g. changes in moisture, movement, sound, light) and then convert them into electronic or digital signals. Such signals are often aggregated, networked and recursively interpreted in expansive and complex chains that form the basis of ubiquitous computing, quantified selves, smart cities, the internet of things, and the general “becoming environmental of computation” (Gabrys 2016). Little devices that sieve the world, sensors resonate with ongoing efforts in anthropology, media theory, process philosophy, and science and technology studies to rethink self, life, mind and agency as distributed across a range of more -than-human-actors.

Building on these concerns, presentations in this workshop will inquire into both the design and deployment of sensors across various domains. Firstly, what ontological assumptions are embedded in a given sensor’s translation of world into data? What is the inferential relationship between indices and higher order ‘kinds’ such as emotional states, threat-levels, satisfaction, consumer types, health, efficiency, security, development, sustainability? How in turn do these categories relate to the political-economy of sensor networks—their jurisdiction, infrastructural supports, and ownership structure?

Secondly, as they are seeded into the world and began generating data, what social relations, political claims, and perceptual augmentations develop around sensors? In what ways do sensors performatively remake the worlds, bodies, or environments so sensed? Alternatively, how are sensing encounters buffered, blocked, overloaded, modified, rendered visible or camouflaged? How are different sensors progressively democratized or privatized? How are they put to creative, ominous or otherwise unanticipated use in works of art, architecture, design?

Organizers: Michael Degani & Alessandro Angelini (JHU Anthropology)

Location: Gilman 132

Time: Friday, March 6, 2:30 pm – 6:30 pm

Natasha Dow Schüll (NYU), “Frictionless Living and the Sixth Sense of Sensor Technology”
Etienne Benson (Penn), “Sensing a River: Labor, Instruments, and Affect in Fluvial Geomorphology”
David Bowen (Studio Artist), “What’s Happening Over There?”
Ciprian M. Crainiceanu (JHU), “Data Visualization For Wearable and Implantable Sensors in Health Research”

Commentary: Yulia Frumer (JHU) and Kyle Stine (JHU)

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