Disentanglement from my lifestream: wrapping up algorithmic cultures and EDC 2020

‘Entanglement’ (ellen x silverberg, Flickr)

As I disentangle myself from my lifestream feeds, and reflect on the course, I consider how I have perceived and been influenced by the algorithmic systems involved.

Google and Twitter were consistent influences, the latter through new/existing connections and via #mscedc#AlgorithmsForHer and #ds106, and I saved/favourited (often highly ranked) resources to Pocket, YouTube and SoundCloud (and other feeds).

While I had some awareness of these algorithms, alterations to my perception of the ‘notion of an algorithm’ (Beer 2017: 7) has shaped my behaviour. Believing I “understand” how Google “works”, reading about the Twitter algorithm and reflecting on ranking/ordering have altered my perceptions, and reading about ‘learning as “nudging”‘ (Knox et al. 2020: 38) made me think twice before accepting the limiting recommendations presented to me.

Referring to the readings, these algorithmic operations are interwoven with, and cannot be separated from, the social context, in terms of commercial interests involved in their design and production, how they are ‘lived with’ and the way this recursively informs their design (Beer 2017: 4). Furthermore, our identities shape media but media also shapes our identities (Pariser 2011). Since ‘there are people behind big data’ (Williamson 2017: x-xi), I am keen to ‘unpack the full socio-technical assemblage’ (Kitchin 2017: 25), uncover ideologies, commercial and political agendas (Williamson 2017: 3) and understand the ‘algorithmic life’ (Amoore and Piotukh 2015) and ‘algorithmic culture’ (Striphas 2015) involved.

During my ‘algorithmic play’ with Coursera, its “transformational” “learning experiences” and self-directed predefined ‘learning plans’ perhaps exemplify Biesta’s (2005) ‘learnification’. Since ‘algorithms are inevitably modelled on visions of the social world’ (Beer 2017: 4), suggesting education needs “transforming” and (implied through Coursera’s dominance of “tech courses”) ‘the solution is in the hands of software developers’ (Williamson 2017: 3) exposes a ‘technological solutionism’ (Morozov 2013) and Californian ideology (Barbrook and Cameron 1995) common to many algorithms entangled in my lifestream. Moreover, these data-intensive practices and interventions, tending towards ‘machine behaviourism’ (Knox et al. 2020), could profoundly shape notions of learning and teaching.

As I consider questions of power with regards to algorithmic systems (Beer 2017: 11) and the possibilities for resistance, educational institutions accept commercial “EdTech solutions” designed to “rescue” them during the coronavirus crisis. This accelerated ‘datafication’ of education, seen in context of wider neoliberal agendas, highlights a growing urgency to critically examine changes to pedagogy, assessment and curriculum (Williamson 2017: 6).

However, issues of authorship, responsibility and agency are complex, for algorithmic systems are works of ‘collective authorship’, ‘massive, networked [boxes] with hundreds of hands reaching into them’ (Seaver 2013: 8-10). As ‘processes of “datafication” continue to expand and…data feeds-back into people’s lives in different ways’ (Kennedy et al. 2015: 4), I return to the concept of ‘feedback loops’ questioning the ‘boundaries of the autonomous subject’ (Hayles 1999: 2). If human-machinic boundaries are blurred and autonomous will problematic (ibid.: 288), we might consider algorithmic systems/actions in terms of ‘human-machinic cognitive relations’ (Amoore 2019: 7) or ‘cognitive assemblages’ (Hayles 2017), entangled intra-relations seen in context of sociomaterial assemblages and performative in nature (Barad 2007; Introna 2016; Butler 1990) – an ‘entanglement of agencies’ (Knox 2015).

I close with an audio/visual snippet and a soundtrack to my EDC journey


My EDC soundtrack:

My EDC soundtrack cover image

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Micro-ethnography artefact – ‘Entangled Communities’

My micro-ethnography artefact Entangled Communities – focused on the ds106 ‘open’ course – primarily consists of a “Miro board” (or network map), but is presented with this accompanying blog post in my lifestream. I hope this helps to contextualise the small-scale study and offer some initial thoughts, particularly on the questions around research ethics and methods that were raised.

You can browse the board directly, and this post also links to certain “frames” (boxed areas) on the board at points. This includes key areas I focused upon for my micro-ethnography, which include the ds106 radio that hosted a series of live shows and tweet-alongs during the audio week of the course, and associated assignments including the radio bumper.

The accompanying post elaborates on the background of ds106, and some of the complex and difficult questions raised, however in the spirit of TL;DR, you can jump straight to the conclusions if you wish!

(You can also view my field notes #1, field notes #2 and the feed from my lifestream connected to the “ds106 flow”.)

Explore Miro board

Miro board


  • Enter the Miro board.
  • Move around the map using the controls at the bottom-right. You will need to zoom in to see the detail. There are overlapping “frames” which group micro-artefacts together, and lines which highlight perceived connections.
  • Alternatively, you can click through the frames, or enter the presentation mode, using the controls at the bottom left.

Entangled communities? (Photo by Noor SethiUnsplash.)

‘To be entangled is not simply to be intertwined with another, as in the joining of separate entities, but to lack an independent, self-contained existence. Existence is not an individual affair. Individuals do not preexist their interactions; rather individuals emerge through and as part of their entangled intra-relating.’ (Barad 2007: ix)


My micro-ethnography centres around the connectivist-informed ‘open’ ds106 course on digital storytelling, of which I have joined as an open participant’ during this community cultures block. Stephen Downes (2007) describes connectivism as ‘the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.’

As noted in my field notes #1, ds106 originates and is currently running (in spring 2020) at the University of Mary Washington (UMW). For the 31 UMW students this semester, the course is actually designated CPSC 106 (ComputerScience), but is run publicly via ds106.us. Each student has their own blog (much like on this Education and Digital Cultures course), which is connected to the ds106 flow“, and completes a series of weekly assignments and summary posts. There is also an open and community-run ds106 radio station, which is used during the course. ds106 is also available for ‘open participants’, who can participate in any way (at any pace) they wish; this might include commenting, submitting assignments and connecting a blog to the flow (as I have done). All course materials and blogs are public and not behind a login, and the main form of discussion is through the #ds106 Twitter hashtag. There are also a number of connections with related courses at other institutions which connect into the ds106 flow. Due to the distributed nature of ds106, which questions traditional MOOC forms and qualities, ds106 is arguably more of a community than a course; ‘open participants’ such as myself can forge their own pathway (Levine 2013; 2014).

Approach, ethics and methods

I started by connecting a filter of my own lifestream (based on a ds106 category) to the ds106 flow (see Miro board). This displays posts with this category in the ds106 flow, alongside all other ds106 posts, but linking back to my own lifestream. I posted an introductory post outlining that I was carrying a small-scale study as part of this MSc in Digital Education, and inviting anyone who wishes to be excluded from the study to add comments to the post.

While ds106, and the connected student blogs, comments and Twitter streams are all “public”, I am conscious that despite my best efforts some may not have seen my introductory post. Thus, during many of my later participations, I linked back to the initial post in order to contextualise my presence and intentions, and allow any concerns to be voiced via comments. In addition, as suggested by Helene Fournier et al. (2014: 3), I have taken care to anonymise quotes and any personal details for, adanah boyd (2014: 57) argues, ‘there’s a big difference between being in public and being public’.

Given the distributed nature of ds106, and the sheer volume of content on blogs, the aggregated ds106 flow and Twitter streams (largely #ds106 and #ds106radio, but with other related hashtags such as #4life, assignment/activity hashtags and other related communities such as #clmooc), it was a complex challenge to both focus the micro-ethnography for the purposes of the small study and find a way to both log my findings and find a way to begin draw any conclusions. This challenge in itself, however, was fruitful in considering the limitations of research methods and approaches in general, from a theoretical standpoint as well as the ethical and practical issues involved. Inspired by Markham and Lindgren (2014), who discuss network analysis and symbolic interactionism, and show a range of visual examples including network maps, I decided to compile screenshots, links, quotes, audio and video artefacts of interest into a Miro board“.

After some very broad exploration of the ds106 community, or ‘deep hanging out’ (boyd 2008: 29), I began with a loose focus around the radio bumper assignment (one of the focuses for UMW students at the time), the ‘make noise from a normal sample‘ assignment (from the assignment bank for anyone to try at any time), and the ds106radio. However, I was keen to remain open-minded and uncover new questions as I went, as suggested by danah boyd (2008: 29). The Miro board “network map” quickly grew in complexity and at times removed focus from the initial empirical object for analysis, as predicted by Markham and Lindgren (2014), although they view this as a positive which can allow a greater focus on the research question at hand rather than pre-determined empirical or theoretical objects.

In addition to the ethical questions of researching a ‘public’ space mentioned above, my micro-ethnography brought up a range of questions about research methods. For example, my initial explorations involved ‘lurking’ in the ds106 community, listening to ds106 radio and monitoring #ds106 and #ds106radio Twitter streams. Whether and how I might participate in activities was initially in question. However, inspired by Tim Ingold’s assertion that ‘we don’t make studies of people, we study with them and learn from them’, and boyd (2008: 29) who argues that ‘to observe a culture, you must build rapport, be present, and participate’, I began to ‘entangle’ myself into the ds106 community. I submitted a radio bumper and other audio assignments, commented on others’ radio bumper posts and branched out into the #ds106 Twitter stream.

While I began with a general idea to focus on the audio assignments and radio shows, I uncovered the broader question of if/how/why these might create a sense of ‘community’ or ‘belonging’, what connections might be made, and what entanglements may occur with other wider communities. I collected some of the screenshots and observations into some rough live field note posts (#1 and #2) in my lifestream, and included these in the Miro board also. These are public and in clicking through from my participations in the ds106 flow and other ds106 feeds, it is possible for anyone to link through to my live field notes and the unfolding micro-ethnography. It is possible that UMW students accessed or explored this – what effect might this have had on ds106, EDC and my own research?

Finally, I wrote this concluding lifestream post to accompany the Miro board or “network map” and added links here through to specific “frames” within the Miro board, such as the radio shows/tweet-alongs, radio bumper assignment, and the research methods themselves (and indeed this very post). In a sense, the research methods, means of data collection and so on are entangled with the ‘object of the research process’, and ‘co-created by the fieldwork assemblage’ (Hickey and Moody 2019: 5); considering these entanglements have inspired my artefact’s name and presentation.


During my micro-ethnography, I began to explore new materialist approaches to think about ‘community’, ‘belonging’ and ‘togetherness’, such as those used by Hickey-Moody and Willcox (2019). Drawing on Braidotti (2013), Barad (2007) and others, Hickey-Moody and Willcox (2019: 4-5) acknowledge that we are entangled with our research sites, that both we and the subjects of our research change through that entanglement. Hickey and Moody (2019: 4-5) build on Barad’s (2007) concept of ‘intra-action’, questioning the boundaries implied by ‘interaction’ whereby independent discrete entities with individual agency relate; instead entities intra-act and agency is co-constituted and entangled. Thus, the focus should not be on the individual entities, but on the agential relations.

As Hickey-Moody and Willcox (2019: 4) put it, ‘feminist new materialism accounts for this enmeshment of the social and the material, the virtual and real, human and non-human assemblage…all bodies, not just human bodies, are endowed with agency and complexity’. Given the nature of ds106, where participants (some co-located at University of Mary Washington, some ‘open participants’ such as myself) work on multimodal assignments (often making use of their own or others’ technology), this is significant. The ‘virtual’ experiences of participants are enmeshed with their ‘real’ lives, their backgrounds, the way in which they produce audio, video, visuals and so on, and this is all entangled with socio-economic and political factors. We may also take a new materialist approach to sound itself – viewing it as ‘a vibrational event’ which is ‘shaped and distorted by the materials and spaces in which it occurs’ (Ceraso 2018). Furthermore, my research study and methods are entangled with, and cannot be separated from, the object of research. Taking a feminist new materialist approach, we cannot simply say the ds106 community exists ‘online’ and is a research site ready for “things” to be discovered by an impartial observer.

What implications, then, might this have for research? Given that taking this approach problematises research which takes a more traditional or humanist approach, Lather and Pierre (2013: 630) speak of ‘post-qualitative research’; acknowledging that we cannot untangle “us” and the “object” of research, we might instead ‘see our research methods as open-ended ways of changing environments and changing people’ (Hickey and Moody 2019: 5); in this way, the research methods themselves are agentive.

While the scope of my micro-ethnography was necessarily limited, there were examples of these entanglements. One includes listening into ds106 radio during the one hour broadcast and tweet-along. At the beginning, the tutor announced the number of listeners reported by the server, and asked who was listening in. I was acting as a “lurker”/listener at this point, and so it may have been apparent to those announcing themselves through Twitter that there were others listening in. Yet, had I announced myself, would I have declared myself as both an open participant and researcher (as I had done elsewhere), and how might the broadcast and tweet-along have been altered? In any case, my entanglement with the research site was apparent here.

It was notable that, as a ‘lurker’/‘newbie’ (Kozinets 2010: 33) to the ds106 community, I received little comment on my own work as an ‘open participant’ from those studying as part of the spring semester as University of Mary Washington. There were some views and likes on my audio submissions on SoundCloud, although it was difficult to ascertain whether these were from UMW students or elsewhere. However, in attempting to“connect” the #ds106, #ds106radio and #mscedc hashtags/communities, I received likes and comments from those within the #mscedc community and a follow from a regular contributor to the #ds106 ‘Daily Create’ challenges and other related communities such as #clmooc. This follower also shares with me a passion for music, as we share on our Twitter profiles, and this perhaps speaks to the grouping of “micro-communities” around a ‘central consumption activity’ (Kozinets 2010: 31) or ‘shared domain of interest’ (Wenger 1998; Lave and Wenger 1991).

In ds106, there are many pathways an ‘open participant’ can follow or create, and this is by design (Levine 2013). However, access to these ‘open’ spaces this does not automatically mean inclusion in each of the “micro-communities” Collier and Ross 2017: 8). My short time with ds106 has shown perhaps that it is more likely participants may group around a “central consumption activity” (Kozinets 2010); this might include the UMW course itself, or individual assignments such as the ones I took part in. For ‘open participants’ such as myself, participants may group around activities for a number of reasons, for example their background, existing knowledge and skills or so on, or perhaps even equipment or software they own (the audio assignments could be one example, where it appeared that some participants had specialist equipment).

As I write this post, the UMW students are getting into groups to prepare a radio show for ds106 radio, and the radio station could be seen as another “micro-community” in itself. It is possible to sign up (via a Google Doc) for extra responsibilities such as scheduling and broadcasting (which in themselves may benefit from certain existing specialist skills or equipment, although some skills may be picked up via the assignments). In a way, signing up for this could be one way for me to progress from a ‘lurker’ (or listener) to a ‘maker’, as Kozinets (2010: 33-34) puts it.

Monitoring tweet-alongs to the evening (Eastern Standard Time) radio shows in the “audio week” (which allowed discussion of a radio documentary, as well as the chance to hear your radio bumper) demonstrated examples of participants (including the tutor) connecting over their background and experiences. One student commented how listening along to the documentary together reminded them of the radio stories their father would listen to in the evening, and the tutor agreed that this same experience was key in introducing them to these kinds of radio shows. Furthermore, it appeared some listeners may have been listening in the same physical location (when one participant announced on Twitter both their own presence and that of a fellow participant), perhaps an additional connection worth noting. Looking at the turnout figures (compared to the “listener” figures reported publicly by the server), there were few ‘lurkers’ although the active participants were themselves a subset of the UMW cohort.

Listening in as an open participant (in a different physical location and time zone to many of the UMW participants) inspired me to take part in some of the audio assignments which other participants were engaging in, I did at times “feel” the “distance” between myself and my fellow UMW participants, and limited by the lack of time I had to engage in all of the activities which UMW students were gaining credit for. These observations perhaps speak to the complexities of ‘location’ and constraints of time in this context (Bayne et al. 2014; Ross et al. 2019; Sheail 2017; Sheail 2018). Furthermore, the necessarily small scope of the micro-ethnography activity meant my short time “with” the ds106 community felt quite temporary, speaking to the ‘fluid and temporary assemblage of engagement’ discussed by Ross et al. (2013: abstract 51).


My small and short study has perhaps raised more questions around research methods than come to concrete conclusions, although considering these questions has been a fruitful exercise in considering the entanglements of the ds106 and related communities with my own research, as well as the complex connections and agential relations between overlapping “micro-communities” that I have attempted to visualise through the Miro “network map”. These micro-communities have often seemed grouped around a ‘central consumption activity’ (Kozinets 2010: 31) or ‘shared domain of interest’ (Wenger 1998; Lave and Wenger 1991), such as the audio assignments or shared experiences of radio.

Returning to my thoughts at the beginning of our community cultures block, a ‘creative “gathering” (Bayne 2015b) where technology and culture are intertwined (Kozinets 2010: 22) and ‘we are part of the world in its ongoing intra-activity’ (Barad 2003: 828), seems an appropriate way to reflect upon my entanglement with ds106. My focus on audio and ds106 radio has encouraged me to reframe sound as a ‘vibrational event’ entangled with the ‘materials and spaces in which it occurs’ (Ceraso 2018), an aspect I hope to explore further in future.

Finally, while ds106 is described as ‘open’, it has been important during my micro-ethnography to reflect upon the false binary between ‘open’ and ‘closed’ (Collier and Ross 2017: 8-9). My own experiences in these ‘open’ spaces have not automatically led to “inclusion” with other participants who are co-located physically at UMW, although time constraints have been a factor and I have forged unexpected connections with those active in related communities. My short time entangled in these communities has raised a great deal of questions, which I hope to explore as I bring this micro-ethnography to a close.

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Week six: ‘Community’ as networks and entanglements

Entangled communities? (Photo by Noor SethiUnsplash).

As I become entangled in the ds106 community, while building my micro-ethnographic artefact, I reflect upon how the vast complex ds106 community consists of numerous overlapping/entangled networks or “micro-communities”.

#ds106 Twitter hashtag word clouds (SocioViz)

Hashtag word cloud (04-02-2020 to 10-02-2020)
04-02-2020 to 10-02-2020
Hashtag word cloud (07-02-2020 to 13-02-2020)
07-02-2020 to 13-02-2020

“Micro-communities” seem grouped around ‘central consumption’ activities (Kozinets 2010: 31), like assignments/challenges, occurring in different online spaces (Twitter, blogs, ds106radio etc.) and co-existing in physical on-campus spaces. Might this exemplify the blurred boundaries between ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ (Hickey-Moody and Willcox 2019)?

You might also view ds106 as a community of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991; Wenger 1998), whereby people with a shared domain of interest participate in and construct an identity around the community.

My involvement as a lurker/listener or ‘newbie’ (Kozinets 2010) has largely involved posting ‘within’ the ds106 flow, without comments from others, and have felt the distinction between my ‘open participant’ status and ‘core’ university students (and perhaps secluded?). However, I have commented on others’ blog posts and, as my confidence grows, started to branch out to Twitter, and connect with related communities/hashtags.

Considering ethical issues, I have taken care to be clear I am carrying out a small study and to anonymise quotes (Fournier et al. 2014: 3). As danah boyd (2014: 57) says, ‘there’s a big difference between being in public and being public’.

Finally, as I become entangled in ds106, I reflect on Hickey-Moody and Willcox (2019) who, drawing on Barad (2007), acknowledge their entanglement with what they are researching, and argue more-than-human assemblages produce feelings of ‘community’ and ‘belonging’.

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Michael saved in Pocket: ‘Entanglements of Difference as Community Togetherness: Faith, Art and Feminism’ (Hickey-Moody and Willcox 2019)


Using a feminist, new materialist frame to activate ethico-political research exploring religion and gender at a community level both on Instagram and in arts workshops, we show how sharing ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, gender identities and sexualities through art practice entangles a diffraction of differences as ‘togetherness’. Such entanglement creates cross-cultural interfaith understandings and gender diverse acceptance and inclusion online. We use diffraction, intra-action and entanglement as a way of framing our understanding of this ‘togetherness’ and show that human feelings rely on more-than-human assemblages; they rely on homelands, countries, wars, places of worship, orientations, attractions, aesthetics, art and objects of attachment. The feelings of ‘community’ and ‘belonging’ that we discuss are therefore direct products of human and non-human interactions, which we explore through arts-based research. In this article, we apply Karen Barad’s feminist new materialist theories of ‘diffraction’, ‘intra-action’ and ‘entanglement’ to ways of thinking about human experience as intra-acting with aspects of the world that we classify as non-human. We use these new materialist frames to reconceptualize the human feelings of ‘community’, ‘belonging’ and ‘what really matters’ in feminist and intra-religious collaborative art practices and Instagram-based art communities. To better understand and encourage communities of difference, we argue that the feelings of ‘community’ and ‘belonging’, which are central to human subjectivity and experience, are produced by more-than-human assemblages and are central to identity. The methodologies we present are community focused, intra-active, arts-based research strategies for interrogating and understanding expressions of ‘community’ and ‘belonging’. We identify how creative methods are a significant and useful way of knowing about communities and argue that they are important because they are grounded in being with communities, showing that the specificity of their materiality needs to be considered.

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Focusing my micro-ethnography on ds106 (‘community’) radio during week five

Reflecting on Karen Barad’s (2003; 2007) agential realism and onto-epistemology, where the “thing” is entangled with the way in which “we” research it, I have found myself questioning how I might research my micro-ethnography and how/whether I should participate (as a ‘lurker‘ or otherwise). How might different kinds of participation affect ‘community’ and the ethical issues surrounding the study?

In my role as ‘open participant‘, having ‘access’ to read/listen/participate in, and feed into, the same activities/assignments as those studying the course through a degree, the binaries between ‘open’/’closed’, ‘insider’/’outsider’, ‘included’/’excluded’ appear blurred and problematic. Is access alone enough to be ‘included’?

Listening to Tim Ingold’s assertion that ‘we don’t make studies of people, we study with them and learn from them’, this week I submitted a radio bumper into the ‘ds106 flow’ alongside the work of students/open participants, with the potential of receiving “airtime” on ds106radio. Is this an example of the kind of entanglement Barad refers to?

Inspired by an article on live field notes, I wrote some field notes of my own, and began focusing my micro-ethnography on ds106radio and the interactions surrounding it

What makes ‘community’ endure in a connectivist-informed course such as ds106, often beyond the end date (“#4life“)?

How might we define/understand/documentcommunity‘? What role might ds106radio, and sound in general, play?

As I continue my micro-ethnography, and refer to relevant literature and examples, I uncover new questions, as suggested by danah boyd (2008: 29), and consider the communities and relations in these distributed educational spaces.

Michael saved in Pocket: ‘New Materialism: Phenomena – Agential Realism’


The concept of the phenomena has been subject to a wide array of philosophical writings. Here I unfold on phenomena, as methodological apparatus in Karen Barad’s Agential Realism (2007).

In an agential realist sense, the smallest units of analysis are phenomena:

A phenomenon is a specific intra-action of an ‘object’; and the ‘measuring agencies’; the object and the measuring agencies emerge from, rather than precede, the intra-action that produces them.” (Barad, 2007, p. 128).

The central idea is that “the thing” “we” research, is enacted in entanglement with “the way” we research it. This is an onto-epistemological offset:

“Practices of knowing and being are not isolable; they are mutually implicated. We don’t obtain knowledge by standing outside the world; we know because we are of the world. We are part of the world in its differential becoming. The separation of epistemology from ontology is a reverberation of a metaphysics that assumes an inherent difference between human and nonhuman, subject and object, mind and body, matter and discourse.” (Barad, 2007, p. 185)

There is in this sense no privileged position from which knowledges can be produced, as the researcher is of the world. Researching phenomena, then, is a methodological practice of continuously questioning the effects of the way we research, on the knowledges we produce. This unfolds itself as an ethico-onto-epistemology of knowing in being. Ethics is about being response-able to the way we make the world, and to consider the effects our knowledge-making processes have on the world (Barad, 2007, p. 381).

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Michael saved in Pocket: ‘Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter’ (Barad 2003)


‘On an agential realist account of technoscientific practices, the “knower” does not stand in a relation of absolute externality to the natural world being investigated—there is no such exterior observational point. It is therefore not absolute exteriority that is the condition of possibility for objectivity but rather agential separability—exteriority within phenomena. “We” are not outside observers of the world. Nor are we simply located at particular places in the world; rather, we are part of the world in its ongoing intra-activity.’ (Barad 2003: 828)

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Michael saved in Pocket: ‘Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning’ (Barad 2007)

Meeting the Universe Halfway


Meeting the Universe Halfway is an ambitious book with far-reaching implications for numerous fields in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. In this volume, Karen Barad, theoretical physicist and feminist theorist, elaborates her theory of agential realism. Offering an account of the world as a whole rather than as composed of separate natural and social realms, agential realism is at once a new epistemology, ontology, and ethics. The starting point for Barad’s analysis is the philosophical framework of quantum physicist Niels Bohr. Barad extends and partially revises Bohr’s philosophical views in light of current scholarship in physics, science studies, and the philosophy of science as well as feminist, poststructuralist, and other critical social theories. In the process, she significantly reworks understandings of space, time, matter, causality, agency, subjectivity, and objectivity.
In an agential realist account, the world is made of entanglements of “social” and “natural” agencies, where the distinction between the two emerges out of specific intra-actions. Intra-activity is an inexhaustible dynamism that configures and reconfigures relations of space-time-matter. In explaining intra-activity, Barad reveals questions about how nature and culture interact and change over time to be fundamentally misguided. And she reframes understanding of the nature of scientific and political practices and their “interrelationship.” Thus she pays particular attention to the responsible practice of science, and she emphasizes changes in the understanding of political practices, critically reworking Judith Butler’s influential theory of performativity. Finally, Barad uses agential realism to produce a new interpretation of quantum physics, demonstrating that agential realism is more than a means of reflecting on science; it can be used to actually do science.

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