Technoscience Salon

2020-21 :: Gathering Online

The magic of Zoom calls and Skype meetings are created by a global digital technologies industry that is entangled in the history and presence of slavery, colonialism, global mining, financial speculation, and other techniques of the corporation. How do we locate ourselves in the worlds of plasma screens, wires and binary code? Moving beyond individualized and neoliberal concerns of censorship, privacy and data security that often shape public discussions about the politics and ethics of digital gathering, we want to contend with the way that Big Tech assembles itself in everyday practice. How are Big Tech and infrastructures appropriating and manipulating lands and bodies in order to produce open and fair digital paradises for networking and play? What are our complicities? This year’s Salon builds on critical approaches to media ecology/archaeology, digital labour, and decolonization to not only track the corporate, privatized forces that are fabricating digital worlds through neocolonial expansion, but to imagine and practice alternatives as we partake responsibly in those movements that are building other worlds within these zones of extraction.

We invite you to read more about this year’s Salon, attend our upcoming events and join our working group. Led by Fan Wu and Lucy Wowk, the opening workshop for the Technoscience Salon, “Attuning to our Digital Practices,” considers how our political responsibilities and commitments shape our engagement with digital technologies, starting from a place of attunement to ourselves and to one another across language and space. Follow the links below for further details.

Fan Wu and Lucy Wowk: Attuning to our Digital Practices
Friday 29 January 2021, 3:30pm –5:00pm EST
Zoom Event, register via Eventbrite

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rush towards digital gathering, engagement, and output across all disciplines and sectors, “Gathering Online” will bring together faculty, graduate students, and community researchers to:

  • Research the economies of extraction and investment that we entangle ourselves within by relying on various digital practices of collaboration;
  • Gather information about alternative methods and forms of collaboration; 
  • Experiment with new approaches to distanced and virtual collaboration through our upcoming activities; and
  • Partake responsibly in decolonial world-building practices around the globe that honour the inseparability of lands and bodies.

This salon series has been co-organized by Vanbasten de Araujo, Sophie Jaworski, Lindsay LeBlanc, Sajdeep Soomal, and Dawn Walker, with support by Kristen Bos and Michelle Murphy.


Attuning to our Digital Practices - Eventbrite Image

Attuning to our Digital Practices 

When :: Friday 29 January 2021, 3:30pm –5:00pm EST
Where :: Zoom Meeting, register through Eventbrite
Workshop Facilitators :: Fan Wu and Lucy Wowk

Collective work towards the future begins in spaces of translation: how do we make sense of one another’s silences, intonations, and vernaculars when we gather online across difference? How can we understand the patterns and rhythms of language, while still listening for the fundamental differences of another’s voice? Please join us for this workshop that takes translation as its starting point to assemble diverse knowledge about gathering in the virtual while working through our multivalent responsibilities and response-abilities.

We have invited Fan Wu and Lucy Wowk to guide us through a workshop to delve into the topic of this year’s Technoscience Salon series: Gathering Online. They will be guiding us through exercises that work towards new forms of collectivity, generating shared language in the form of experimental writing around our intuitions on the theme of “gathering online”. We can consider how our political responsibilities and commitments shape our engagement with digital technologies, starting from a place of attunement to ourselves and to one another across language and space. We are pleased to extend this invitation to our community at large to collectively think about the virtual and its discontents. The event will be moderated by Sophia Jaworski who is a PhD candidate in the faculty of Anthropology and the Women and Gender Studies collaborative program at the University of Toronto.

We are happy to offer food for participants through local delivery services (if available)! Spots are limited and available on a first-come basis. If you are interested in joining the workshop, please register through Eventbrite by Thursday 28 January 2021 at 5pm and we will send further details including the event link on Friday morning.

Fan Wu is a performer, writer, protean acolyte of Dionysus, and community organizer. His main practice concerns the gathering of collectives, and the curation of spaces that potentiate intimacy and spontaneity between strangers; he is a co-founder of The Toronto Experimental Translation Collective, and has hosted critical reading/creative writing workshops at Art Metropole, Trinity Square Video, and Mercer Union. You can read his work online at MICE Magazine, Aisle 4, and Shrapnel Magazine.

Lucy Wowk is interested in moments of encounter between ethics and aesthetics. Lucy is currently completing an M.A. in Communication in Culture at Ryerson University and York University, conducting experimental translations as a mode of inquiry. Their research interests include theories of affect, translation, and auto-fictional expressions of philosophical concepts.

Sophia Jaworski is a PhD candidate in the faculty of Anthropology and the Women and Gender Studies collaborative program at the University of Toronto. Her research interests problematize ‘medically unexplained chronic illness’ through reimagining how volatile organic compounds and petrochemical exposures are embodied and figured as toxicants by technoscience. Her dissertation examines symptoms treated as environment-linked under the umbrella of environmental sensitivities, as well as social, disability, and data justice using ethnographic fieldwork and experimental methods, interrogating the ways atmospheres shape, and are shaped by, a politics of life and capitalism in Canada. She brings these themes to her media art practice, including worked screened with Pleasure Dome’s New Toronto Works, and as a part of KTH Environmental Humanities Crosscut’s Film Festival”

Presented by :: Technoscience Research Unit, McLuhan Centre for Culture and TechnologyDigital Research Ethics Collaboratory.


Alternatives and Demands in Network Ruins

Date :: Friday 16 April 2021
Times :: 12pm – 1:30pm EDT [UTC-4] Toronto / Montreal :: 9:00am – 11:30am PDT [UTC-7] Los Angeles / Phoenix :: 9:30pm – 11:00pm IST [UTC+5.5] Bidar
Where :: Zoom Meeting, register through Eventbrite

As the rush towards gathering online has sheds more light on the legacies of the digital technologies industry we also see attempts to create vibrant and joyful worlds. The act of assembling these alternatives asks us to confront our complicities in global technologies. And yet that confrontation can not be where we stop. It also asks us to practice responsible worldmaking together as we imagine otherwise.

How can the politics of demand be a tool against big tech? How can refusal address the inequalities in the making, use, and afterlives of digital worlds? How can we enact alternatives to existing platforms and infrastructures from the midst of this network’s ruins (Tsing, 2015)? How can we look with new eyes for signs of life in the ruin that can serve as seeds for pluralist futures?

We ask you to reflect with us during a self-guided web crawl into conversation with virtual care lab, TECH TECH TECH, and Janastu, to start to glimpse at possible networked futures. The event will be moderated by Dawn Walker who is a design researcher and PhD candidate at the Faculty of Information, as well as a member of the Technoscience Research Unit.

virtual care lab creates opportunities for genuine presence, purposeful online/offline connection and collaboration, and digital well-being. Their projects have included many unconventional virtual gatherings, focused discussions, collective performances, creative activities, and collaborative online spaces, and are all available to the public. An exercise in mutual governance, virtual care lab is co-founded by Alice Yuan Zhang and Sara Suárez, operating in fluid collaboration with Lea Rose Sebastianis and other community members, and organized in partnership with NAVEL, a non-profit cultural organization and community space in Los Angeles.

Alice Yuan Zhang (she/her) is a 1st generation immigrant who makes homes in AR filters, browsers, and community networks. She furnishes them with dreams of post-capitalism, phone lines to interspecies neighbors, and tools for time travel, inviting in playful ancestors of the future. Alice is the co-founder of virtual care lab, a resident artist at CultureHub, and an involved member of NAVEL Los Angeles. She studied at University of California, Berkeley and currently lives on unceded Tongva, Kizh, and Chumash land.

Kenny Zhao is a composer, artist, and digital tinkerer who is exploring the relationship between compost and creative practice. He produces and performs under Zhao, and maintains a live-streamed music production diary called “Office Hours” on YouTube. His recent single [HOPE] is out on Bandcamp and Spotify. http://zhaomusic.com

Sara Suárez (she/her) makes experimental film and soundscape compositions that explore collective memory, landscape, and sensory perception. Her work has been screened by Slamdance, the Film & Video Poetry Society, Los Angeles Filmforum, ICDOCS, and Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival, and other venues. She is a co-founder of the experimental platform virtual care lab and manages public programming at Zócalo. She is an MFA graduate of CalArts and lives in Los Angeles.

Janastu. Last mile connectivity, community owned meshes and devices…what it takes to break away from mainstream global metaphors imposed on the technology we use everyday and in the process explore newer ways of being in a digital space. 

Can we imagine a space that reflects and produces the richness of our world’s multiple forms of knowledge? We, at Janastu, attempt to subvert the bias of the text-heavy internet; breaking away from western notions of digital technologies impacting society to enable alternate vernacular narratives with community-owned devices and mesh networks at its heart. We explored ideas of intranet of local informal archives that would collectively function as a knowledge network as well as devices used socially. During the course of the project, we came to see both the limitations of technology but also the potential of it to catalyse and nurture many more spaces of cultural collaboration.

Shafali Jain (she/her) is currently building her practice in the space of community and technology. At Janastu, she is pursuing research on how to move away from textually prolific internet through annotations and hypermedia communication. As a new media artist and designer, her work puts the audience in a dilemma, triggering them to question the existing systems in place and look beyond the horizon. (Milli)

Micah Alex (he/him) aspires to be a maintainer among various collectives learning to nurture conversations, efforts and people. He works with these collectives in the domains of open technology, human rights in the digital, art-based design practice, archival, and annotation and cultural research undertaken in the Dakkhani region. He also freelances as a content writer, proofreader, and copywriter. (Living Labs Network and Forum, Design Beku, Janastu, Agamashaala, Milli)

Ada X | TECH TECH TECH exists because we want to use feminist digital tools and platforms. But it’s hard to do : most of us don’t have the time or resources to quit Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and the conveniences they provide. With researchers Liane Décary-Chen and Sarah Choukah, and Ada X team members, we’re getting started with a series of trials, errors, and (hopefully) discoveries.

Liane Décary-Chen (she/her/they) is an artist and creative technologist working in digital media and cultural intervention. She is interested in creating work that grows inside of the digital systems she seeks to dissect. More specifically, she uses her own virtual selfhood to explore identity, media, social structures, and issues of “truth.” Décary-Chen has worked in numerous fields, including wearable computing, games, interactive filmmaking, and tech education. She has previously collaborated with TAG Lab, Vice Quebec, Cambridge Radical Tech Series, the International Marketplace for Digital Art, and Shanghai Design Week.

Sarah Choukah (she/her) aims to further situate and explore feminist intersections of digital cultures, communication, media art and biotechnology. Her research and practice focus on broadening the range of operations —such as transmission or storage—that make up communication technologies. She uses the space within that broader range as a creative medium to access more-than-human-life dimensions and contact trans-species forms of life. She hopes to further unsettle familiar perspectives on communication to better understand and share potentials for exclusion to transmute into care.

Moderated by :: Dawn Walker is a design researcher and PhD candidate at the Faculty of Information. Her research focuses on the possibilities for social transformation in the design of alternative internet infrastructure. In particular how values of justice, autonomy, and sovereignty operate in (web) decentralization projects. She completed her Master’s of Information at the University of Toronto in 2016 and also holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts with Distinction in Philosophy and History.

Presented by :: Technoscience Research Unit, McLuhan Centre for Culture and TechnologyDigital Research Ethics Collaboratory


Semiconductors: Relations & Responsibilities

Date :: Friday 30 April 2021
Times :: 10am – 11:30am EDT [UTC-4] Toronto
Where :: Zoom Meeting, register through Eventbrite

“Semiconductors: Relations and Responsibilities” takes the semiconductor industry as its conceptual starting point to discuss our responsibilities to those people and lands enveloped into the making of digital worlds. Join us for a conversation about the movements opposing the extractive economies that make semiconductors possible and tackling the disproportionate health harms of toxic processing and manufacturing practices in the industry on Indigenous women and women of colour. We have invited two panelists to speak to this topic from different places in the world. Maria Daniela Sanchez Lopez will be speaking about upstream and downstream value chain of lithium ion batteries and the different implications for governance in the countries of the lithium triangle (Chile, Bolivia, Argentina). She will be joined Hsin-Hsing Chen who has participated in the legal struggles of former workers of Taiwan RCA (Radio Corporation of America) to address the health harms of toxic exposures that workers assembling electronics for the RCA faced in the workplace. We hope this salon event will be a place to think about the transnational work of translation and coordination that is required to organize against the debilitating practices of global forces like the semiconductor industry. We are thrilled that Rohini Patel and Reena Shadaan will be joining as discussants to stir up discussion. The event will be moderated by Sajdeep Soomal.

As the event is happening on the eve of May Day, we will end the event with an “open mic” hangout. We have a few acts lined up, but we are happy to open the floor to all the participants to join in by sharing a labour song, reciting a poem, or anything else that is pertinent and that you have a connection to! If you are interested in taking part, send us a short message at techscisalon@gmail.com. The “open mic” hangout will take place from 11:30am – 12:00pm EST.

Dr Daniela Sanchez-Lopez is a Research Fellow at Margaret Anstee Centre for Global Studies, Newnham College, University of Cambridge. She researches the geopolitics of renewable energies and lithium in the South American saltflats of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. Her work further explores the different elements shaping the governance of lithium in the region, the role of China in accessing the lithium supplychain, and the new forms of dependency and neo-colonialism emerging in a world embedded in a lowcarbon energy transition and the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals. Her research interests include: socio-environmental conflicts, governance of lithium and energy politics, extractive resources in Latin America and environmental justice.Daniela has a background in Economics at Universidad Católica Boliviana, an MA in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Netherlands and a Ph.D. in International Development from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. She also has a decade of experience in public policy research in international organizations like the United Nations Development Program (UNDP-Bolivia), Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF) and NGOs.

Hsin-Hsing Chen is a professor at the Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies of Shih-Hsin University. He acquired his Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1999. He has participated in the Taiwan STS Society, the journal Taiwanese Journal for Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine, and Taiwan: A Radical Quarterly in Social Studies. His main research interests include labor studies, appropriate technology, and scientific causation in law. The latter interest arose mainly from his participation in the collective occupational-disease lawsuit of former Taiwanese workers against the US-owned Radio Corporation of America (RCA). His English-language work has been published in Science as Culture, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, East Asia Science and Technology Studies, and in the 2014 Routledge Handbook for Science, Technology and Society.

Rohini Patel is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto researching the political and environmental history of agrochemical and Agent Orange production in southern Ontario. She is interested in histories of colonialism, industrialism and ecological change, science and technology, and military geographies.

Reena Shadaan is a PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University and co-lead of the Pollution Reporter mobile application, developed at the Environmental Data Justice Lab. Her work looks at the gendered dimensions of environmental justice and health, including in workplace environments. Shadaan’s doctoral work concerns occupational health in nail salons.

Sajdeep Soomal is a PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on science and technology studies, the history of consciousness and madness, and contemporary art practices within and beyond South Asia. He previously worked at the South Asian Visual Arts Centre, the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives and the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas.

Presented by :: Technoscience Research Unit, McLuhan Centre for Culture and TechnologyDigital Research Ethics Collaboratory