The Network for Anthropologies of Forecasting Weather and Climate
Anticipating familiar/strange environments: the social lives of scientific predictions (AAA panel)
18 November 14:00
Colorado Convention Centre, Denver, USA
Sophie Haines (Oxford) and Renzo Taddei (UNIFESP) convened a double panel at the 2015 meeting of the American Anthropological Association, in Denver, Colorado.
Anthropologists have long engaged with questions of how people anticipate and act on predictions of the future. Divinations, prophecies, extrapolations from historical records, local and indigenous knowledges, simulations and hazard maps are just some of the processes and devices used by human groups to anticipate changing environments and consider possible responses. Futures are envisaged through strategic processes involving modelling, scenario-building, warning, foresight and risk assessment; and through less formalised, everyday imaginaries, fiction, and other articulations of hopes and fears. This session encourages reflection on knowledge production, circulation and use: how are different types of environments, evidence, institutions and experts perceived, recognised, and deemed credible (or not)?
This session provides an opportunity to bring into conversation fields including science and technology studies, political ecology and phenomenological approaches to environmental change. What types of work and sociality are mobilised in the production and communication of shared or divergent expectations (Borup et al 2006; Porter & Randalls 2014, Zeitlyn 2012), and how do these play into economies of appearance, anticipation and speculation (Tsing 2000, Wezkalnys 2011)? Environmental predictions on various timescales link the historical conditions and experiences from which they draw and diverge, and the visions they conjure of familiar/strange futures. Recognition of the ‘social life of climate change models’ (Hastrup and Skydstrup 2013) emerges alongside conceptualisations of the anthropocene era; other forms of prediction on diverse temporal and spatial scales bear their own social and political contexts and relations.
We also aim to explore the performativity of forecasts: how they can themselves bring futures or worlds into being (Taddei 2013). This has implications for governance; for the roles of scientific predictions in decision-making over future resource allocations and environmental hazards, and notions of sustainability, stewardship, and resilience. Predicting the trajectories of emerging social and technological interventions in earth and atmospheric systems adds to the complexity and salience of the questions addressed in this session. What information about future familiar/strange environments is available? What prediction techniques are used or rejected? How can scientific predictions broaden or narrow discussions about possible futures? What are the consequences when predictions do or do not come to pass? (How) are scientific predictions used to initiate action in the face of uncertainties and wicked problems?
Addressing these questions in sectors including water, health, civil protection/disaster management, biodiversity and agriculture, and across varied geographical locations, these papers apply anthropological lenses to cultural, institutional and ethical approaches to risk and uncertainty; to infrastructures of prediction, policy and practice; to social dimensions of (possible) interventions; to the roles of imagination and visualisation in prediction; to diverse conceptions of time and space; and to interdisciplinary engagements among scientists, policymakers, practitioners and publics.
Ultimately, we aim to deepen understanding of the ways in which human perceptions and actions relating to future environments interact with processes and outcomes of scientific prediction; and how subsequent interventions may be framed in terms of nature/culture relationships, scientific management, and our capacity to influence or determine the (familiar/strange) futures of ourselves and our socio-ecological environments.
Brice Paul Laurent & François Thoreau (Mines ParisTech): Governing Anticipations. Models As Scientific and Regulatory Techniques for Prediction
Vincent Duclos (Collège d'études mondiales, FMSH): Google Trends: Web-Based Surveillance of Health-Related Risk
Marko A Monteiro (State University of Campinas): The Social Life of Models in the Amazon: Science, Policy and Deforestation in Brazil
Elizabeth A. Reddy (UC Irvine): Risk Topography: Forecasting Seismic and Social Violence in Mexico
Jennifer A. Spinney (Western University): Scientific Prediction and the Public Imagination: An Ethnographic Analysis of Flood Warning Production and Response during the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Ontario
Heather Lazrus (NCAR) &Elizabeth K Marino (Oregon State University-Cascade): On Island Time: Prediction and Experience of Extreme Events on the Front Lines of Climate Change
Jennifer Henderson (Virginia Tech): To Error on the Side of Caution: Ethics and the National Weather Service Warning Process
Sophie Haines (Oxford): Reckoning Resources: Mapping and Imagining Belize’s Water Futures
Steve Rayner (Oxford): Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: The Role of Prediction in the Management of Climatic Variability in South Australia
Renzo Taddei (UNIFESP) & Cecilia E Hidalgo (University of Buenos Aires): Post-Normal Anthropology
Discussants: Renzo Taddei (UNIFESP) & Susan Crate (George Mason)