Exploring the Affective (After)Lives of Digital Archives

By Alistair Anderson, Current MSc Society and Space Student

The archive is the quintessential arena of historical research, and for the compulsory ‘Experimental Methods’ unit I interrogated the use of digital archives as fields of affective materials. Specifically, my project focussed on the extinct thylacine (Thylacinus cynacephalus) as a theme around which the materials in question could coalesce. The overall aim was to explore the affective potency of an archive held in a digitalised form.

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Researching Alternative Worlds: James Ash on (Un)shared Horizons, the Concrete and the Abstract

The official launch event for the Society and Space MSc blog, which also served as a celebration of the 25 years of the course’s existence, took place in Geographical Sciences on Wednesday 27th April. The panel for the event was made up of six Society and Space alumni, who spoke highly of their experience on the course, and responded to the event’s theme in the light of their current research. JD Dewsbury, a Reader based in the School and an alumnus of the course also gave a retrospective view on the course through the stages of its development, reflecting on what has been unique in the course’s culture and pedagogy. The event drew in a diverse audience including past and current students, staff from the School and other disciplines, and the general public. After the panel pieces were given, the audience joined in a discussion about the possibility for academic research to address current social issues, to imagine not-yet-thinkable ways of doing, and to create more expansive ways of organising and co-existing within planetary boundaries.
The following paper is a written version ofash the panel intervention give by Dr James Ash. After completing the Society and Space MSc in 2004, James continued his postgraduate studies at the University of Bristol, culminating in a PhD, completed in 2009, which examined how video game environments are designed to capture and hold attention and generate affective and emotional states for players. James is currently a Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Newcastle University. His work lies at the intersection between human geography and media, specifically investigating the relationship between bodies and technologies and how technologies shape the practices, experiences and capacities of those who use them. In addition James’ research draws upon ideas from new materialist and continental philosophy to theorise technology as a category of being that is distinct from both human and animal life. James has been appointed primary investigator on the current ESRC funded project ‘Digital Interfaces and Debt: Understanding mediated decision making processes in high cost sort term credit products’ which is running from 2016-2018. We were delighted to welcome Dr James Ash as a panellist to launch the blog and we hope you enjoy reading his intervention below.

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Researching Alternative Worlds: Sam Kinsley’s Algorithmic Imaginary

The official launch event for the Society and Space MSc blog, which also served as a celebration of the 25 years of the course’s existence, took place in Geographical Sciences on Wednesday 27th April. The panel for the event was made up of six Society and Space alumni, who spoke highly of their experience on the course, and responded to the event’s theme in the light of their current research. JD Dewsbury, a Reader based in the School and an alumnus of the course also gave a retrospective view on the course through the stages of its development, reflecting on what has been unique in the course’s culture and pedagogy. The event drew in a diverse audience including past and current students, staff from the School and other disciplines, and the general public. After the panel pieces were given, the audience joined in a discussion about the possibility for academic research to address current social issues, to imagine not-yet-thinkable ways of doing, and to create more expansive ways of organising and co-existing within planetary boundaries.

In his talk, Sam Kinsley spoke about “the idea of an Sam Kinsley‘imaginary’ (in the vein of ‘geographical’ or ‘sociological’ imaginaries) to offer a critical reading of how particular stories about automation and agency are taking hold”. Kinsley frames this argument firstly “in terms of ‘anticipation’ and in terms of ‘stupidity’.” The following is an excerpt from a post on his academic blog about anticipation and stupidity within the imaginary of the algorithm and the ways algorithmic imaginaries represent their own form of ‘worlding’ that does not entirely coincide with the realities these algorithms are designed to represent.
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