Stefan Helmreich

Stefan Helmreich is Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology at MIT. He is the author of Alien Ocean, Sounding the Limits of Life, and Silicon Second Nature.

  • Being Material

    Being Material

    Marie-Pier Boucher, Stefan Helmreich, Leila W Kinney, Skylar Tibbits, Rebecca Uchill, and Evan Ziporyn

    Explorations of the many ways of being material in the digital age.

    In his oracular 1995 book Being Digital, Nicholas Negroponte predicted that social relations, media, and commerce would move from the realm of “atoms to bits”—that human affairs would be increasingly untethered from the material world. And yet in 2019, an age dominated by the digital, we have not quite left the material world behind. In Being Material, artists and technologists explore the relationship of the digital to the material, demonstrating that processes that seem wholly immaterial function within material constraints. Digital technologies themselves, they remind us, are material things—constituted by atoms of gold, silver, silicon, copper, tin, tungsten, and more.

    The contributors explore five modes of being material: programmable, wearable, livable, invisible, and audible. Their contributions take the form of reports, manifestos, philosophical essays, and artist portfolios, among other configurations. The book's cover merges the possibilities of paper with those of the digital, featuring a bookmark-like card that, when “seen” by a smartphone, generates graphic arrangements that unlock films, music, and other dynamic content on the book's website. At once artist's book, digitally activated object, and collection of scholarship, this book both demonstrates and chronicles the many ways of being material.

    Contributors Christina Agapakis, Azra Akšamija, Sandy Alexandre, Dewa Alit, George Barbastathis, Maya Beiser, Marie-Pier Boucher, Benjamin H. Bratton, Hussein Chalayan, Jim Cybulski, Tal Danino, Deborah G. Douglas, Arnold Dreyblatt, M. Amah Edoh, Michelle Tolini Finamore, Team Foldscope and Global Foldscope community, Ben Fry, Victor Gama, Stefan Helmreich, Hyphen-Labs, Leila Kinney, Rebecca Konte, Winona LaDuke, Brendan Landis, Grace Leslie, Bill Maurer, Lucy McRae, Tom Özden-Schilling, Trevor Paglen, Lisa Parks, Nadya Peek, Claire Pentecost, Manu Prakash,Casey Reas, Paweł Romańczuk, Natasha D. Schüll, Nick Shapiro, Skylar Tibbits, Rebecca Uchill, Evan ZiporynBook Design: E Roon KangElectronics, interactions, and product designer: Marcelo Coelho

    • Hardcover $39.95

Contributor

  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

    Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

    The Commissions Book

    Daniela Zyman and Eva Ebersberger

    A massive anthology of texts, visual material, and research on TBA21's commissions and the foundation's vast collection of over 700 artworks.

    "What survives after the artwork?" asks curator and researcher Natasha Ginwala in one of the essays in Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary: The Commissions Book, a new and comprehensive publication by the art foundation Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21), founded by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza in Vienna, Austria, in 2002. "The artwork is not just the thing in itself, but also the metaphysical infrastructure and unfinished relationships that produce it," Ginwala writes. In that sense, this anthology of texts, visual material, and research on TBA21's commissions and the foundation's vast collection of over 700 artworks serves as vivid testimony to the processes and relationships that enabled them.

    In more than 1,300 pages, The Commissions Book engages with more than 100 works of art, proposing a speculative topography that organizes and weaves together sequences of potential narratives and interrogations along with close examinations of different works of art and a collective archive of images. The stories embedded in these works, as well as in TBA21 and TBA21-Academy's practice--an itinerant site of transdisciplinary research and cultural production engaging with the oceans--is a story of making new connections, or rather creating interconnections. Bringing together visual and written material from TBA21's commissioning practice and vast history of exhibitions and live events, The Commissions Book also goes beyond the foundation's archives to present new works and commissions by Cecilia Bengolea, Claudia Comte, SUPERFLEX, and Territorial Agency, amongst many others. New essays by Natasha Ginwala's and such transdisciplinary feminist thinkers as Astrida Neimanis and Eva Hayward transcend individual artistic positions and ask questions that lie at the core of TBA21's program.

    • Hardcover $35.95
  • Simulation and Its Discontents

    Simulation and Its Discontents

    Sherry Turkle

    How the simulation and visualization technologies so pervasive in science, engineering, and design have changed our way of seeing the world.

    Over the past twenty years, the technologies of simulation and visualization have changed our ways of looking at the world. In Simulation and Its Discontents, Sherry Turkle examines the now dominant medium of our working lives and finds that simulation has become its own sensibility. We hear it in Turkle's description of architecture students who no longer design with a pencil, of science and engineering students who admit that computer models seem more “real” than experiments in physical laboratories.

    Echoing architect Louis Kahn's famous question, “What does a brick want?”, Turkle asks, “What does simulation want?” Simulations want, even demand, immersion, and the benefits are clear. Architects create buildings unimaginable before virtual design; scientists determine the structure of molecules by manipulating them in virtual space; physicians practice anatomy on digitized humans. But immersed in simulation, we are vulnerable. There are losses as well as gains. Older scientists describe a younger generation as “drunk with code.” Young scientists, engineers, and designers, full citizens of the virtual, scramble to capture their mentors' tacit knowledge of buildings and bodies. From both sides of a generational divide, there is anxiety that in simulation, something important is slipping away. Turkle's examination of simulation over the past twenty years is followed by four in-depth investigations of contemporary simulation culture: space exploration, oceanography, architecture, and biology.

    • Hardcover $30.00
  • Evocative Objects

    Evocative Objects

    Things We Think With

    Sherry Turkle

    Autobiographical essays, framed by two interpretive essays by the editor, describe the power of an object to evoke emotion and provoke thought: reflections on a cello, a laptop computer, a 1964 Ford Falcon, an apple, a mummy in a museum, and other "things-to-think-with."

    For Sherry Turkle, "We think with the objects we love; we love the objects we think with." In Evocative Objects, Turkle collects writings by scientists, humanists, artists, and designers that trace the power of everyday things. These essays reveal objects as emotional and intellectual companions that anchor memory, sustain relationships, and provoke new ideas.These days, scholars show new interest in the importance of the concrete. This volume's special contribution is its focus on everyday riches: the simplest of objects—an apple, a datebook, a laptop computer—are shown to bring philosophy down to earth. The poet contends, "No ideas but in things." The notion of evocative objects goes further: objects carry both ideas and passions. In our relations to things, thought and feeling are inseparable.

    Whether it's a student's beloved 1964 Ford Falcon (left behind for a station wagon and motherhood), or a cello that inspires a meditation on fatherhood, the intimate objects in this collection are used to reflect on larger themes—the role of objects in design and play, discipline and desire, history and exchange, mourning and memory, transition and passage, meditation and new vision.In the interest of enriching these connections, Turkle pairs each autobiographical essay with a text from philosophy, history, literature, or theory, creating juxtapositions at once playful and profound. So we have Howard Gardner's keyboards and Lev Vygotsky's hobbyhorses; William Mitchell's Melbourne train and Roland Barthes' pleasures of text; Joseph Cevetello's glucometer and Donna Haraway's cyborgs. Each essay is framed by images that are themselves evocative. Essays by Turkle begin and end the collection, inviting us to look more closely at the everyday objects of our lives, the familiar objects that drive our routines, hold our affections, and open out our world in unexpected ways.

    • Hardcover $28.95
    • Paperback $19.95