2015, Fri, Oct 02

Triggers: Introducing the Technosphere

The Technosphere, Now

Photo: Andreas Meichsner

Photo: Andreas Meichsner

With Peter K. Haff, Mark B. N. Hansen, Erich Hörl, Jürgen Renn, Birgit Schneider

What happens when technology rivals nature in shaping the Earth? Starting with The Technosphere, Now, a four-year project investigates how social, environmental, and technological forces intertwine in the Anthropocene to form a technosphere.

What triggered the technosphere? This lightning-round will challenge leading theorists of science, technology and culture to present a visual and aural panorama of events, disruptions, and breakdowns that catalyzed the rise of our contemporary technical worlds. Back-to-back talks by art historian Birgit Schneider, geologist Peter K. Haff, media theorists Mark Hansen and Erich Hörl, and historian of science Jürgen Renn will allow for a visceral staging of the visual, geological, phenomenological, cybernetic, and epistemic aspects of the technosphere.

Jürgen Renn describes the technosphere as a space in which humanity’s metabolism with its earthly environment takes place. Since 1865 a factory using Justus Liebig’s patent to produce meat extract transformed the Uruguayan town of Fray Bentos into a landmark of agro-industrial globalization: one of the many original sites where the chemical laboratory, the world, and the Anthropocene meet half-way.

Media studies scholar Birgit Schneider examines how the extracts of a South American tree triggered the global galvanization of the technosphere. By disclosing the role of Gutta-percha (a natural thermoplastic from a tropical tree species) within the construction of global telegraphic systems, Schneider shows how the fate of empire can spring from a colonial forest.

Is the technosphere a single, definite event or is an iterative multi-event? In this talk Mark Hansen examines how the invention and reinvention of radio since the nineteenth-century triggered the rise of the technosphere.

Geologist and physicist Peter Haff examines the role of quantum mechanics as one of the key triggers of the technosphere.

Is the essence of the technosphere technological? In this intervention media theorist Erich Hörl discusses how cyberneticization—a process of turning linear processes into recursive feedback-based systems—triggered the rise of the technosphere in the twentieth-century.