Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
At the center of the image is touch, whether in dream; film; poem; sound or otherwise—this mediated synesthesia is the product of “image-work” (Andrade and Elhaik, 2018). What can conceptual modes of ethnographic practice say about (non)representational articulations, the infra-thresholds of everyday life, and desires for connection or control? What is at stake for a sensoria hijacked by the virtual, especially in the imaginary of geoengineering? In this paper I explore variations on image-making praxis by speculating the “mirrorworld”—an augmented reality project promised by research labs of tech companies to create a “mirror” reality in virtual space. The mirrorworld intends to be a kind of interactive map, allowing users to refer to space through (determined) modes of attention. What is at stake in the geoengineering of the atmosphere affords its virtual antidotes. What about the somatics of marine-cloud brightening, space sunshade (solar mirrors) in an epistemology not toward techne but poesis, where curiosity, thresholds of availability, collaboration, boundary-shifting, virtual selection and manipulability shift toward worldmaking of a different sort? By mimetically exploring ethnographic attentions toward the sensory and its technological referents, I invoke Walter Benjamin’s use of the “optical unconscious” to frame image-making, speculative politics and conceptual ethnography as a desire for touch and knowability within uncertain atmospherics. I draw on affect and nonrepresentational theory, sound and image-studies to articulate what is at stake for image-makers and the capacities of multimodal and sensory ethnography to address the ecological inhabitations of lived (virtual) reality—toward touch, “non-sovereign relation” and its material expressivity.