Mar 16, 2017

Ep. #61 – Geoffrey Bowker

On this week’s spring break edition of the Cultures of Energy podcast, Cymene and Dominic talk about the dangers of hiking and Trump’s budget. Then [10:37] we welcome to the podcast the ever delightful Geof Bowker. With Geof we talk about why infrastructure studies has become such a lively area of research in the human sciences and muse over some the possible explanations for its rise. Has infrastructure become too broad a category? Is it a nostalgic one? Geof asks not only what is an infrastructure but also when is an infrastructure. And he weighs in on Trump’s infrastructure plan as well. We turn from there to another charismatic topic—data—as Geof reflects on his work on data ethics and how theory gets built into data. We talk algorithms, racist artificial intelligence, the internet of things and the impact of cybernetics on social theory. We then move on to biodiversity, matters of concern and the relationship between science studies and climate skepticism. Geof shares with us the secret behind how he gained access to energy titan Schlumberger’s archives for his pathbreaking book, Science on the Run (MIT, 1994), and talks about how oil companies work to shift senses of time and space in the interests of empire. Finally, Cymene and Geof talk through the graphic novel project, Unda, they are working on with Laura Watts and how media like comic books can offer scholars new opportunities to reach wider audiences.