117 – Orit Halpern

Posted by on Mar 15, 2018
117 – Orit Halpern

Cymene and Dominic share wild tales on this week’s Spring Break edition of the Cultures of Energy podcast and make the case for #feralgarden4thward as the weedy edge of Houston urbanism. Then (11:30) we welcome the fantastic Orit Halpern to the podcast to discuss her research at the intersection of data, smartness, resilience and cities. We start off with her recent book, Beautiful Data: A History of Vision and Reason since 1945 (Duke U Press, 2015) and what it teaches us about how ubiquitous computing became positioned as the solution to all our ills. We talk about the importance of cybernetics to this story and Orit gives us her take on its origins, rise to prominence, and impact on how we understand rationality before we turn to the aesthetics and affects of data and how cybernetics has informed contemporary obsessions with “smartness” and “resilience.” That brings us to Orit’s new book project, The Smartness Mandate, and she tells us about the paradigm shift from environment to ecology in the 1970s, how cybernetic thought machines came to inform governmentality, and how financial instruments have come to be fused into projects of ecology. Finally we do a deep dive into the surveillance apparatuses and infrastructural sublime of smart cities, exploring how one can grapple analytically with these ideas without becoming submerged in smartness’s own logic of versioning and iterability. Why join the Borg? They might be better than your bad boyfriend. For that to make sense, listen on!