Re-Configuring the Immune System – Thursday 14/11/2013


Re-Configuring the Immune System: bodies, words, and worlds

Organised by Andrea Nunez Casal and Elinor Carmi.

This event attempts to open up new pathways of critical engagement at the intersections of sciences, technology and humanities by taking the immune system as the bridging entity, concept, and tool.

Our aim is to create a transitory platform, in the form of a panel of discussions, in which the biological body, with its associated discourses and practices of immunity, can coalesce with the digital, artistic, and industrial bodies in order to enable a mediated insight of ‘bodies-words-worlds’ within the topic of the immune system.

The overarching question we will ask is how the immune system is currently done and thought by different set of knowledge and practices, and how we can go further with its present configuration(s). Thus, trying to challenge established discourses, we will particularly focus on issues such as the immunity of humans and non-humans, biological and digital contagion, the limits of self/other dichotomy in the phenomenology of organ transplantation, biopolitical strategies using key words such as security/safety/healthy, hygienic practices, the materiality and immateriality of embodiment, and current immunological research on host-microbes interactions.

In a move towards the dissolution of disciplinary boundaries, we will bring together representatives from various fields: digital media, STS, gender, sociology, biology, philosophy, and antivirus specialist.

17:00-17:30 – Introduction by Andrea Nunez Casal and Elinor Carmi.

17:30-18:00 – Professor Lucy Suchman (Lancaster University, UK): Professor Suchman is a pioneer in STS research and human-computer interaction (HCI). Before coming to Lancaster University, she worked for 20 years at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, where she held the positions of Principal Scientist and Manager of the Work Practice and Technology laboratory. Author of “Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Action” (2007). You can read from Prof. Suchman in her blog: Robot Futures.

Professor Lucy Suchman’s talk will be on “Figuring the Other within the Military-Entertainment System“:  This talk draws from research in progress on the problem of ‘situational awareness,’ and more specifically the identification of enemy combatants, within contemporary systems designed for what media scholar Derek Gregory has characterised as ‘Everywhere War’.  My focus is on the interfaces that configure U.S. war fighters to achieve ‘recognition’ of relevant subjects and objects, including the discriminations of ‘us’ and ‘them’ that are prerequisites for appropriate action. The empirical basis for this presentation is the archive of Flatworld, an immersive training environment developed between 2001 and 2008 as the flagship project of the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies.  I read these materials through the dense and continuing traffic between discourses of immunity within the body, and the desire for immunity from risk to the body of the soldier and the body politic.  Long conjoined, the battlefield and the clinic might be sites not only for the reproduction of self/other differences, but also for a deepening forensics of the contingent foundations on which those discriminations are made.

18:00-18:30 – Professor Margrit Shildrick (Linkoping University, Sweden): Professor Shildrick’s research focuses on interdisciplinary gender studies and feminist theory, postconventional bioethics, phenomenology, posthumanities, science and technology studies (STS), critical disability studies (including cripqueer theory and practice), knowledge production within the biosciences, theories of the monstrous, prosthetic theory, psychoanalysis, retheorising women’s health, organ transplantation. She has published various influential books such as “Leaky Bodies and Boundaries: Feminism, Postmodernism and (Bio)ethics” (1997), “Embodying the Monster: Encounters with the Vulnerable Self” (2002), “Dangerous Discourses: Subjectivity, Sexuality and Disability” (2009).

Professor Shildrick’s talk will be on “Chimerism and the immune system: demythologising self/other distinctions“: My presentation will look at the general issue of hybridity in the context of organ transplantation and more specifically at the event of chimerism as it contests the discourse of the self’s immunity from the other. Where the phenomenology of heart transplantation already unsettles identity to the self and signals new ways of becoming other, and of engaging in assemblages, chimerism and microchimerism present a bioscientific challenge to one of the fundamental doxa of western medicine. Surprisingly the response to that challenge has progressed rapidly from a blanket dismissal of the very possibility through intimations of pathology to a growing understanding that microchimerism is a universal occurrence. Nonetheless, in the face of a socio-cultural imaginary that insists on clear boundaries between self and other, the authorised discourse of the clinic remains unchanged, assuring recipients of their continuing essential singularity. In theorising what is at stake, I hope to suggest another way forward.

18:30-19:00 – Dr. Alex Mclean (Leeds University, UK): Dr. McLean is a research fellow and deputy director of ICSRiM (the Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Research in Music) in Leeds, co-founder of ChordPunch, an on-line record label promoting algorithmic music, and also event promoters Algorave and Lurk.

Dr. McLean will give a talk on “Live coding: stepping into software” – This talk will explore the social environment of the Algorave, where computer programmers improvise live music for people to dance to. The focus will be on exploratory feedback loops of correction and amplification, the possibility of failure, and alternative models of control in software production.

19:00-19:30 – Mr. Amir Carmi (Comsecure LTD, Israel): Mr. Carmi has been a technical support manager at Comsecure (patner of the antivirus company ESET)  for the past 5 years, he has a column on where he writes about malware, hackers and online crime, and has been deeply engaged with computers and hacking since the late 1980′s.

Mr. Carmi’s talk will be on “Malware – Accelerated Evolution” – My presentation will examine the evolution of computer viruses and malware in the past 30 years, from humble beginnings to becoming a weapon used by hackers, criminals, companies and countries alike. With information being the main target of malware, its writers are focusing on allowing the infected computers to function as normally as possible, while avoiding detection by antivirus software. This war between the malware writers and the antivirus companies has led to a situation where thousands of new malware variants are produced every day, and even malware which can ‘mutate’ to change its own code. As the battle escalates, security solutions are starting to combine biometric authentication, with malware following closely behind.

19:30-20:00 – Q&A.

20:00-21:00 – Wine reception.

Location: RHB Cinema, Goldsmiths College, University of London.

For further information please contact Elinor Carmi:

PreparationLucy Suchman2Lucy Suchman1Margit Shildrick1Margit Shildricklive coding 1Live codingMalwareAmir CarmiAids virusQ&A panel


3 thoughts on “Re-Configuring the Immune System – Thursday 14/11/2013

  1. Pingback: Alex McLean | Things coming up

  2. Pingback: Re-Configuring the Immune System: Bodies, Words and Worlds (Conference, 14 November 2013, Goldsmiths College) | Centre for Medical Humanities Blog

  3. Pingback: Alex McLean | Looking back on 2013

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