Thursday, May 28, 2015

stock(holm) in the tubes

On Monday I had the pleasure of being a guest presenter at the Social Anthropology Department at Stockholm University, to talk about pneumatic tubes.

I was invited by Asta Vonderau who is doing exciting research on how "the cloud" is culturally imagined and socially negotiated and how it materialises in terms of environmental change. She does fieldwork in previously unexplored places such as the Facebook data centre.

Asta and I first met as fellow panelists of an infrastructure panel at last year's EASA conference in Tallinn. It was a great chance to talk about infrastructures again with her and to present my work on pneumatic tubes to her colleagues. There was an excellent discussion afterwards, about the materiality/immateriality of air, the status of engineers, the acoustic possibilities of considering the hospital as an instrument, the tubes as part of a body, how fiction plays out in engineers' practices, aesthetics and issues of contamination.

One researcher reminded me of Matt Novak's piece on the most Jetsonian of technologies. I reread it today and became intrigued by one of the images in the blog, of George arriving from a pneumatic tube journey:

I love how George's eyes trail behind him, a hint at some of the concerns of human pneumatic tube travel, that our bodies will change under the speed and pressure, that we will melt, coagulate, malform. Our bodies altered by technologies, as they always are.

Image from Matt Novak's blogpost.

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