Islands on the Cutting Edge: Test sites for reimagining future technoscience
Phoebe Sengers (Cornell University)
Laura Watts (University of Edinburgh)
Kaiton Williams (Cornell University)
Max Liboiron (Memorial University of Newfoundland)
Hrönn Holmer (Cornell University )
Lucy Suchman (Lancaster University)
Start time:
3 September, 2016 at 11:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This collaboratively presented session interweaves stories from 4 islands - Orkney Islands (Scotland), Fogo and Change Islands (Newfoundland), and Jamaica - to speculate on islands outside the mainstream as test sites for alternative versions of science, technology and the future.

Long abstract:

In this collaboratively presented session, we interweave stories from our fieldwork on 4 islands around the edge of the Atlantic - Orkney Islands (Scotland), Fogo and Change Islands (Newfoundland, Canada), and Jamaica - to create a speculative futures account of islands outside the mainstream as potential 'test' sites for developing alternative visions of science, technology, and the future. Islands at the edge make visible the edge conditions of technoscience. Blinkered from mainstream view, isolated from centralized infrastructures, things go awry: sensors are blown off rocky beaches or encased in ice; the precarity of the local economy make the intense focus of Silicon Valley start-up culture too risky for local developers; technological 'disruption' risks booms and busts that the big city can absorb, but not a small island. The hopes we invest in science and technology do not always apply here. Yet, islands can also be places where technology and science do just work - surprisingly, when conditions appear to violate assumptions of technoscientific practice. And even when things go awry, in places far from licensing institutions there are traditions of making things work outside officially sanctioned methods. Islands are sites of innovation where new infrastructure is opportunistically cobbled together, new scientific protocols leverage local climactic conditions, and where science and technology can do things those at the center never imagined or would consider unorthodox. These moments - sometimes marvelous successes, frequently precarious or double-edged accomplishments - demonstrate possibilities to reformulate technoscientific practice outside of central assumptions.