Political Technology

Interpreting and transforming politics, in and through technology

The arts and humanities have a special role to play in studying the political dimension of technology. At the Sussex Humanities Lab, we place inclusion, diversity, and critical awareness at the heart of all our research and activities. This includes techno-feminist research and activism: for example, the FACT///. network (Feminist Approaches to Computational Technology), co-founded by Cécile Chevalier, Ioann Maria Stacewicz, and Sharon Webb, seeks to promote dialogue and collaboration, and to support diverse voices in transdisciplinary computational thinking and environments. Research by Kat Braybrooke and by Annika Richterich explores the politics of collective and collaborative tech, including crafter, maker, and hacker spaces and communities; Annika's project 'Hacking Your Way to IT Literacy: What digital societies can (and need to) learn from digital learning in hackerspaces' uses digital ethnography and other methods to explore how informal learning takes place in hacker- and makerspaces. Commencing in late 2019, this research has engaged in particular with how hacker- and makerspaces have learned from and responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

SHL is interested in interdisciplinary study of, and intervention in, emerging futures. Another strand of our practice research involves performing, prodding, and prefiguring the future. Jo Lindsay Walton’s critical design fiction explores markets and commodities, and their alternatives, at the limits of the neoliberal imaginary and beyond. Natalia Cecire's Mycological Turn project, a collaboration with Sam Solomon, explores the increasingly prominent place that fungi are occupying in our imagined futures, investigating SF, start-ups, poetry, policy, and more. Research by Caroline Bassett, Ed Steinmueller, and Georgina Voss reveals a complex relationship between speculative fiction and technological innovation, with an exacting nuance sure to dismay those eager to hype the horizon-scanning significance of storytelling, without critically considering where and how such power actually manifests. Another key theme of such research is digital childhoods, involving documenting and analysing contemporary childhoods and exploring the interplay between dynamic processes of technical and bio-social maturation. How do new technologies give rise to new temporalities, and how might these be changing the meaning of childhood and of growing up?

Environmental issues, and climate change in particular, are set to be a key driver of the politics of the future. Not only does climate change itself promise to transform society, but the measures we adopt to become more sustainable and resilient will also have complex ripple effects. Environment, technology, economics, society, culture, ethics, politics: these are intimately bound together, and whatever field we are working in, we must not allow sustainability and resilience to be treated as politically neutral. The Sussex Humanities Lab Environmental Strategy (2020) commits to keeping considerations of justice squarely in view as the UK and the wider world rise to meet environmental challenges.

Our ambition is that environmental sustainability and resilience are never merely parameters that we operate within, but rather form a set of live questions running throughout our research in the digital humanities and beyond. For example, Alice Eldridge’s exploration of innovative, multi-sensory participatory mapping methodologies seeks to integrate ecological, geophysical, cartographic, anthropological, and phenomenological data, to comprehensively capture, in situ, community knowledge of towards dynamic environments, and to integrate these with ecological and geophysical data. Traditionally, research methods that attempt to capture the diversity of complex knowledge about wilderness areas have relied upon standard methodological tools from human and physical geography (e.g. GIS, PPGIS, etc.). These new methodologies will build bridges across forms of knowledge traditionally assumed incommensurable, contributing to the co-production of sustainable strategies for the future management of wild spaces and species.