Carbon-dioxide (CO2) takes a panoply of embodiments as it circulates between the atmosphere, animal bodies, plants, rocks, motor engines, etc. Various bodies capture, transform, or release carbon-dioxide, contributing to the carbon cycle (Volk, 2008). This vital circulation is all-pervading and ubiquitous but, in a twist of evolution, it is all but intangible to human senses. Through advancements of the climate science, carbon-dioxide has eventually become a major (or minor) public ‘figure’.
The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is meticulously tracked since 1958 when Charles David Keeling began measurements in the laboratories at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The in-progress Keeling Curve, colloquially called the ‘hockey stick graph’, informs us that CO2 is rising. Having in mind that CO2 is one of the primary greenhouse gases, these values are strong indicators of the rising temperatures or global warming (see IPCC, 2013). The shadow of this (for humans) odourless, colourless and quite rarefied element looms heavily over our societies. Less heavily on some than others.
Since 2005, in Europe, CO2 is also a commodity, it can be bought or sold per metric tonne. It is the object of the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS). EU ETS is the “cornerstone of the EU’s policy to combat climate change” (EU Commission, 2013: 1). The stated mission of the trading scheme is to progressively reduce pollution so to meet the sustainability targets of the EU in view of the Kyoto Protocol1. The rationale for setting up the market is laid out in these terms:
By putting a price on carbon and thereby giving a financial value to each tonne of emissions saved, the EU ETS has placed climate change on the agenda of company boards and their financial departments across Europe. A sufficiently high carbon price also promotes investment in clean, low-carbon technologies. (EU Commission, 2013: 2)
The medium of the Scheme are ‘allowances’ to release CO2 or ‘equivalent’ greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. One EU Allowance Unit (EUA) amounts to one metric tonne of carbon-dioxide or the corresponding amount of nitrous oxide (N2O) or perfluorocarbons (PFCs). As a whole the market is capped, each year a regulated number of allowances is issued, a number decreasing each year to meet the emission reduction targets, currently at a rate of 1,74% every year (in view of cutting emissions by -20% by 2020, and -80-95% by 2050). Sectors covered include “power and heat generation”, “energy-intensive industry including oil refineries, steel works and production of iron, aluminium, metals, cement, lime, glass, ceramics, pulp, paper, cardboard, acids and bulk organic chemicals” and “civil aviation” (EU Commission, 2013: 3). The market covers “around 45% of total EU emissions” and currently involves around 12,000 power plants and factories, as well as commercial airlines within the EU (ibid.)2.
Part of the Scheme is also the electronic financial market for trading in Allowances. EUAs are sold as futures with quarterly expiry date (e.g., June 2016, September 2016, December 2016, etc.). If the EUA is not ‘used’ by its expiry date, a tonne of emissions is ‘saved’3. Each EU country is allocated a certain amount of emissions through the National Allocation Plan, which are then either allocated freely (‘grandfathering’) or auctioned to the local industries and businesses. The incentive to reduce the emissions comes from the fact that the company is permitted to sell the unused allowances, and, in a perfect scenario, this surplus will incite investment in greener and cleaner technologies. But, what is this “sufficiently high price”?
In reality, the prices have been depressed for most of the market’s history, even dropping to zero in September 2007, and sinking for 80% over the past eight years (Krukowska & Parkin, 2016). In the current Phase III of the Scheme (2013-20), EUAs have stayed invariably below 10€, and often below 5€, situation that came to be called the ‘carbon glut’ in the press4. Throughout the years EU has attempted various measures towards keeping the market running5. Estimating what a ‘competitive’ price for one tonne of emissions would be is too complicated an issue to resolve here, but an onto-epistemic analysis of the market is far more simple.
EU is betting on “a market instrument” to sort out one of the major causes of a complex and transversal problem such as global warming. EU ETS is arguably a highly sophisticated legal-financial apparatus but, in the last instance, it institutes a rather simplified cut between economy and ecology (while claiming to inter-link the two). The Scheme deals exclusively with emissions, thereby excluding a multitude of entities from (political and economic) existence. Hence all the other participants and processes in an infinitely more complex ecology of carbon circulation are invisibilised. By doing so, their appropriation continues. Clamorously overshadowed is what/who is going to re-absorb (or ‘fixate’) all the emitted CO2. The answer is straightforward: photosynthetic organisms. Plants, trees, shrubs, phytoplanktons, algae, and many others who day after day labour from dawn to sunset to absorb the CO2, and through a series of most astonishing chemical metamorphoses, give out oxygen. This multitude is fully out of equation of the carbon market apparatus. EU ETS thus perpetuates the established economic tradition of environmental ‘externalities’, even as it partially internalises greenhouse gas emissions. EU ETS, an advanced political-economic instrument forged in one of the most developed parts of the world, shows, how, almost 50 years after first scientific alerts, magically and perversely, global warming is not real. Or, CO2 is not as real as financial-political interests.
To intra-act with global warming, economy would need to take in ‘deep times’ where fossil fuels come from and also ‘future future’ (Morton, 2013). The ‘lifetime’ or the rate of absorption of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere ranges from a couple of decades to thousands of years:
Within several decades of CO2 emissions, about a third to half of an initial pulse of anthropogenic CO2 goes into the land and ocean, while the rest stays in the atmosphere. Within a few centuries, most of the anthropogenic CO2 will be in the form of additional dissolved inorganic carbon in the ocean, thereby decreasing ocean pH. Within a thousand years, the remaining atmospheric fraction of the CO2 emissions is between 15 and 40%, depending on the amount of carbon released (Archer et al., 2009b). (IPCC, 2013:472)
Can we comprehend these timescales with carbon emissions with quarterly expiry dates? This is not to say that EU is not trying to reduce the emissions, but that the case is to radically rework our apparatuses to tune them to more-than-human realities.
The problem is not only to get the volume or the price of the carbon allowances ‘right’. The main issue with EU ETS is that it is firmly grounded upon anthropocentric premises. At best, it follows an old understanding of sustainability, which worries only about (some) humans’ interests. The market is still firmly embedded in the ‘anthrobscene’ (Parikka, 2014). How would it look in a post- or pre-anthrobscenic world?
One of the marketplaces where EUAs are traded is physically located in London. Through the office buildings and outdoors, myriads of CO2 molecules silently float through the air. As things stand, the market and the air in the City are quite far from each other.
date / location: 1 – 18 May, 2014. London, arebyte gallery, Hackney Wick
performers: 46 dracaena marginata trees, one areca palm, a red trolley, field data worker (Declan Driver), office data worker (Steffen Michels), me
media: photography, GPS Tracks app, CO2 meter, website, paper prints
project website: http://allthatisairmeltsintocity.cc/
all that is air melts into city was a performative re(con)figuration of the carbon emissions market for a post-oil world, seeking a more responsive and accountable assemblage of humans with carbon-dioxide and vegetation. The performance consisted in a ten-day walk across London, a physical transportation of one ‘real carbon share’ through the street-level topography of the EU carbon trading electronic market. The ‘transportation walk’ took place over ten working days, from 1st to 16th May 2014, starting at 10am and finishing at 5pm every day from Tuesday to Friday. The transportation was rhythmically interposed with periodic environmental sensing and makeshift data measurements. This field data were then transmitted to the gallery space (‘air office’) where they were processed, archived, and mapped. Finally, the data ‘updates’ were published online through dedicated website and social media accounts. By embodying and decelerating financial exchanges of carbon stocks, the project tried to re-assemble the out of joint speeds of economic flows with the rhythms of bio- and atmosphere.
Performance operated transversally across sites and three main action lines: 1) transportation walk: carrying of a material carbon share through the city; 2) environmental data gathering, and 3) data processing and presentation, as well as archiving and mapping. The processes 1) and 2) took place on street-level, whereas 3) was happening in the gallery space. I will now describe these distinct performative processes one by one.
1) Transportation walk materialised what appears to be invisible in everyday life – carbon-dioxide and carbon shares (EU Emission Allowances). These two invisibilities-cum-immaterialities were embodied in the 75cm tall dragon tree mounted on a red trolley (fig. 2.18)6. The ‘carbon convoy’ was completed by myself—the ‘motor’ of the trolley-palm assemblage—and Declan Driver—the ‘field data worker’—who was documenting the proceedings and communicating with the air office.
The carbon convoy treaded a narrative of a slowed-down material circulation of 1/272th fraction of a EU carbon stock through the cityscape of data, glass, steel, and air. The walks in the public space re-actualised the trades that were taking place in the electronic space. The convoy was moving on foot (and two wheels) between seats of the trading companies active on EU ETS, physically based in London, from West End, through the City to Canary Wharf7. The route traced a chain of potential/speculative transactions among companies8. The walks repeated the infra-trading methodology from black box white paper. We started from company A (a seller), proceeded via the seat of the trading platform ICE (Intercontinental Exchange), then to the company B (a buyer). At this point, one trade was completed (A → B). From point B (a seller now), again through the ICE, to company C (B → C), and so forth (C → ICE → D → ICE → E …) (fig. 2.15).
2) Throughout the walks, at intervals of about every 10 minutes, the carbon convoy stopped to collect and collate data9. We collected: current geolocation; two landscape photographs in near-infrared vision (fig. 3.19, 3.20); and concentration of carbon-dioxide on the spot (fig. 3.21). The first landscape photo (#city_number, fig. 3.19) was taken in parallel with street-level showing the carbon convoy with its environs, and the second (#air_number, fig. 3.20) was taken by inclining the camera at 90 degrees towards the sky from the same spot. Geolocation was recorded via a GPS app on field data worker’s iPad. After performing these actions, the data were e-mailed to the office data worker sited at the arebyte gallery in Hackney Wick.
3) In the air office/gallery, office data worker Steffen Michels was processing, formatting the field dispatches and adding another layer: current futures prices of the EUA futures (fig. 3.23). In line with the ethos of deautomation / deceleration, Michels was performing a series of 20+ steps per each ‘update’10. If everything went smooth, around 10 minutes after the data was dispatched from the field, #allthatisair update would surface on the project website11. The website presented data in the following vertical sequence and subsections: time/date/trading route — #city_xyz (landscape photo) — geographical coordinates – #air_xyz (sky photo) — CO2 measurement — EUA futures screengrab (fig. 3.22). The layout was based on simple top-down format to emulate the ‘newsfeed’ which does not prioritise one piece of information over the other. To emphasise the liveliness, when the website is accessed, only the latest update is on the page.
Now i will delve deeper into some of the methods of performing with data. Landscape photographs revealed a world in near-infrared spectrum, a reality in which the observer can catch glimpses of what ‘plants do’. Human eyes do not register waves in the near-infrared part of the spectrum, but even a basic digital camera has potential to do it, capacity blocked in manufacturing. Following an online tutorial by media activist group Public Lab, and using their Infragram filter, i modified a Canon Powershot camera to capture near-infrared frequencies. The technique of near-infrared imagery is in use since the launch of the first Landsat satellite in 1972, “to estimate the productivity of vegetation by comparing the amount of red light reflected (there is not much from healthy plants) to the amount of near infrared light reflected (there is a lot)” (Public Lab). Using an open-source photo-editing plug-in Photo Monitoring12, raw near-infrared shots were processed to produce NDVI (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index) images. The NDVIs disclose “how much of the available light plants are metabolising into sugar via photosynthesis” (Public Lab). This type of imagery is used in forestry to examine the health of the vegetation cover. In the context of this project these images tell about the intensity of labour of vegetation’s labour. The warmer the area in the image, the more photosynthetic activity, thus work, takes place. In NDVI imagery, the built environment, vehicles, and humans are rendered in colder hues, and thus fade into background, while the vegetation comes forth in fireworks of greens, yellows, and reds (e.g., fig. 3.24, 3.26). In the photographs we took pointing towards the sky appear strange patterns and fluorescent clouds (fig. 3.25, 3.27). These images however do not capture the gas directly, they are only invitations to gaze upwards. To sense carbon-dioxide, another type of inhuman vision is needed.
Carbon-dioxide gas analyser ‘sees’ CO2 by measuring how much of a specific infrared wavelength is absorbed by the air inside the instrument13. The gas analyser displays the measurement outcome in parts per million. As a reminder, the world mean level of CO2 for 2014 was 397.16 ppm (Dlugokencky, E. & Tans, P.)14. Throughout the performance, we made 349 measurements, with the final average being 412.57 ppm15. Our measurements cannot be counted as scientific evidence, they served as a performative way of bringing CO2 into the picture.
Beyond near-infrared images and the graph from the stock exchange, the remaining information on the ‘update’ page was in textual form. Numerical data—the carbon convoy’s geographical coordinates and CO2 concentration—were written down in words. It is not necessary to expound on the central role numbers play in the financial apparatus16, it should be noted that environmental processes are usually expressed in scientific measurements (temperature, emissions, pH values, etc.). To get some hold on this, i wished to reveal the material side of the numerical apparatus, taking a bit more time to write and read the numbers, in alphabetical form.
Geographical co-ordinates of the convoy, e.g. 51°31’15”N 0°5’28”W become fifty-one degrees thirty-one minutes thirty-one seconds north zero degrees five minutes twenty-eight seconds west17. A carbon-dioxide measurement of 430ppm CO2 writes as four hundred thirty particles of CO2 per million. The method of ‘handwriting numbers’ is about slowing down reading, and intensifying the affective experience of the number, destabilising the graphic compactness of numbers as mathematical symbols.
In the exhibition/’office’ space, the off-site part of the performative assemblage, the data were processed, mapped, published online and archived. The exhibition space was divided between two areas covered in office-like carpets. The main space featured a sea of electric blue carpet, that was gridded in gold lines scaling down the geographical grid of London (fig. 3.30). The adjacent space with a beige carpet was the working space of the ‘office data worker’. On the walls of this area were affixed the website updates in chronological order thereby creating a dynamic archive of the work18. Michels’ co-workers in the space were 45 young dragon trees (dracaena marginata) and one more grown-up areca palm (dypsis lutescens), all planted in transparent plastic bags. The dragon trees and the areca palm are excellent air-purifiers, hence they formed a tiny factory of clean air (Wolverton, 1997). Beyond aerobic labour, the palms were also the cartographers of the transportation walk. As different trading destinations (seats of the companies) were reached, dragon trees were placed onto corresponding geographical positions on the gold grid drawn on the blue carpet. Day after day, the usually backgrounded landscape of EU ETS trading platform was shaping, its glass towers materialising into a forest of tiny palms.
At the end of day 10, we exited the routes of trading among companies, and walked the carbon convoy back to the gallery. On day 11, with a performative story-telling in front of an audience, the ‘walking’ palm was rejoined with other palms (fig. 3.33, 3.34). This marked a leaving or an exit from the financial apparatus, a will to go elsewhere.
In this section i will analyse the outcomes of the performance, with especial considerations given to the power dynamics and labour patterns that were developed within our performative assemblage, and through our intra-actions with the City and wider environment. all that is air melts into city aimed to set in motion and maintain a small-scale/minoritarian apparatus traversing a number of large-scale assemblages. The intent was, first, to bring together a number of agencies commonly kept separate, and, second, to iterate this re(con)figured minoritarian territory. Clearly, the power of the EU ETS trading apparatus operated on an entirely different power plane and topology. It kept going its own way undisturbed. However, for a time and space, all that is air envisaged a possibility of a more responsive and accountable intra-action with trees, shrubs, grass and CO2.
Inasmuch as we were weaving an alter-narrative, all that is air was performing in close proximity or within the territories of existing economic and juridical networks. We were “walking the lawscape” (Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, 2015: 94-106) of the financial districts handling the highest volume of capital in the world. Thus we became part in the interplay of procedures of ‘in/visibilisation’ (ibid.) these lawscapes enact. On the one hand, the carbon convoy melted with the general hustle and bustle of deliveries—mail, food, office supplies, waste—trolleyed in, out and around the buildings. Thanks to these flows, the convoy was not unusual, but, at a closer look, the DIY packaging of the plant and our lost-in-space attitude ‘betrayed’ us. In addition, taking souvenir photos in front of the business buildings in the City “is not a smart idea”, as a security officer of the building in which the ICE is seated admonished me. According to the regulation of the Corporation of London, it is allowed to take pictures, but they advise to be informed in advance of the photo shoot19. Legal complication could emerge from the smoothness between private and public spaces in the City, which makes photographers subject of possible intervention by security forces of the owner. This created a heightened sense of territorial awareness, and wherever possible, we took images from the pavement, which is public land.
Canary Wharf, the other major business complex in London, sits entirely on private land, owned by Canary Wharf Group Inc., thus right of passage could be revoked. The area is much more visibly policed and, on one occasion, we were questioned by the security staff of the complex20.
Beyond this largely mute dance with the legal-security apparatus, permanent challenge was posed by the labyrinthine geography of the City, its numerous walkways, foot bridges, inner yards, its numerous construction sites, which are never fully mapped on digital maps and change from one week to the next. This multi-level pedestrian geography was more difficult to negotiate because of the trolley with a living plant on top of it. These factors made the daily seven-hours walks into a physical and psychogeographic endurance exercise, one that swarms of delivery and other logistics workers perform each day to make possible the informational labour in the high-rises.
The choreography of data handling was purposefully made pedestrian, a series of decelerated steps that troubled the distinction between manual and digital, the mind and the body. This tactics was part of a critical and speculative de-automation/deceleration collaborative ethos of the work. The attempt was to trouble the hierarchies of labour, to question the primacy of informational labour which is enshrined in the financial apparatus. The informational labour is in the informational-financial context also strongly correlated with gender disparity patterns21. Beyond the gender gap, what is of interest here is that this gap was historically produced throughout modernity through the gendered division of labour. ‘Computer’ was initially a job title—a human who computes—a role mostly fulfilled by women22. Data gathering/assembly/processing in the performance were made into slow repetitive procedures, essentially manual labours, in a gesture of re-thinking the primacy given to mental operations and highlighting the embodied experience of informational labour. Decelerating informational labour, intensifying affective or ecological labour23. What is at stake in all that is air, and in several projects that will follow, is ultimately a question of how industries that are understood to be dedicated to production (of value), can be reoriented towards reproduction (of ecological relations). In ecofeminist tradition, i take that reproductive work is more generous towards the environment (Shiva & Mies, 1993). What would it mean if computing would in its essence be reproductive affective work? In all that is air, i tried to imagine this possibility as each measurement and translation was a bringing together of heterogeneous bodies and processes (molecules, organisms, devices, numbers, colours, words). To feel photosynthesis, to smell carbon-dioxide, to touch the naturalcultural relations abstracted in market prices. And to keep doing this again and again, re-producing care for the bodies, visible and invisible.
Our measurements were not trying to produce scientific knowledge or “to help the world by revealing mystic truths” (Nauman, 1967), but they tried to trouble the boundaries between politics, law, economy and the ‘great outside’. EU Emissions Trading Scheme, i imagine, would be radically different if the traders walked from one London park to another to talk carbon emissions, and in the process they saw or smelled photosynthesis and carbon circulation. Then, perhaps, the market’s mission could be to conduct “shared respiration: cospiration, conspiracy, growing together” (Berardi, 2012: 127) between industry and the atmosphere.
By way of conclusion and moving forward, i have to recognise that the work, though oriented towards atmosphere and biosphere, because of the structure of the apparatuses we were working with, turned out to be quite anthropocentric. Plants do not have access to the internet to see our novel gatherings of data, and we did little that could make the difference to the extra-human bodies involved. As a matter of fact, the plants trolleyed around town suffered heavily. Connected with this, much too weight was given to data aesthetics and dynamics, which in turn to an extent perpetuated the operative methods of the finance. The whole performative apparatus produced an operational closure of its own, making itself less permeable to unexpected encounters with other bodies. Thus, even though the apparatus of all that is air was hopefully more minoritarian than that of the EU ETS, we ‘cut out’ other bodies that could have intersected our spacetime, e.g. insects, birds, passers-by. The hospitality of our minor apparatus was precluded because, first, in a certain sense we wished to ‘out-perform’ the majoritarian apparatus, and, second, because of a certain feeling of deterrence produced by the complexity and immensity of the City’s mechanisms. Fundamentally, we repeated the networking logic that is constitutive of financial apparatuses.
The main lesson learned was that reorienting an apparatus even only at the level of imagery means getting implicated into its power dynamics. Because of the physical and discursive proximity to the (infra)structure of the market, the dynamics of the performance was not fully in our control. While we were trying to symbolically slow down the racing of the market, in reality we felt like rushing and racing against it. Acceleration is a mental construct, a desire deeply present in subjectivities living in capitalist societies.
The question of mimicry and critique is crucial. If one abandons the critical stance of modernity, by which the subject distances her/himself from the object, in favour of ‘critique by proximity’, how close can one get to the centre without becoming the same? Luce Irigaray opposes phallogocentrism of Western philosophy by “find[ing] transgressive leverage from within” the discourse (Kirby, 2010: 112). Through her “close attention to the openings and folds of these phallocentric logics her perverse form of fidelity discloses the value of their repressed and disavowed interiorities” (ibid.). Vicki Kirby further likens Irigaray’s methodology to Derrida’s ‘play’, “the discovery that a different economy of valuation, indeed, different worlds, can be found in the very ‘scene’ from which we might hope to escape” (ibid.: 113). The field of these thinkers is quite defined, it is Western metaphysics. Tentacular operations of finance, law, and power are perhaps harder to detect. In this generalised power field, majoritarian apparatuses exert strong gravity pulls, and it is not easy to pick and choose the tools, sometimes they are chosen for us.
Yet, one must not give too much credit to the majoritarian operations. Even in the presumed interiority of capitalist apparatuses, there are zones that do not answer to the majoritarian logics (The Invisible Committee, 2015: 169-95), a plurality of alternative ‘noncapitalist’ insides (Gibson-Graham, 2006). For an eco-oriented practice, of especial interest are ‘pericapitalist sites’ where translations between life and capital are performed (Tsing, 2015: 63). In these sites, ‘salvage accumulation’ is in full swing (ibid.), but they also reveal where cuts have not yet been made. Perhaps all that is air gave too much credit to the centre, or it tried to assert peripherality too close to the centre, geographically, and discursively.
- EU ETS is the largest greenhouse emission trading scheme in the world, but ‘carbon trading’ is a global phenomenon. Other major markets are South Korean, Australian, New Zealand, and Californian emission trading schemes. Kyoto Protocol also includes four mechanisms for carbon emission trading among nations, signatories of the treaty.
- Note that transportation, households, small businesses and agriculture are exempt from the trading scheme.
- This is the brilliant logic of Amy Balkin’s Public Smog (2004-) series of works. One of them consisted in buying carbon shares and not using them, thereby withdrawing them from the market. My work further has great resonance with Balkin’s Today’s CO2 Spot Price (2009), a chart installed in the public space of Cajarc, publishing daily updates on the spot price of EUAs, derived from European Energy Exchange.
- Bloomberg News and Economist are good sources to follow the dramatic history of EU ETS.
- Despite the reform EU announced in 2015, Jos Delbeke, EU Commission’s director general for climate, recently said: “Massive surpluses in emissions certificates mean that there’s hardly an impulse to reduce CO2 right now” (in Krukowska & Parkin, 2016).
- One European Emissions Allowance stands for 1kg of CO2 or equivalent emissions. The weight of carbon in one tonne of CO2 amounts to c. 272,72kg. The tree trunks contain around 50% of carbon. Having in mind that our tree was c. 2kg of weight, it amounted to circa 1kg of carbon. Hence the carbon share would be only 1/272th part of carbon present in one tonne of CO2, one trading unit in the EU ETS. The abyssal difference in volumes shows how each tonne of CO2, which is sold for relatively little price, requires quite a few vegetal bodies to reabsorb.
- From the list of the trading companies available on the website of Intercontinental Exchange, i derived a list of forty-five companies, traders on the market that are physically located in London, most of which are concentrated between the City of London and Canary Wharf. It should be noted that these companies are only intermediaries on the market, and that the end-users are one (or more?) steps behind this first layer. The fact that most of the trading companies are banks or trader agencies is quite interesting having in mind the nature of the market and its goals.
- The itinerary of the ‘carbon convoy’ did not follow a ‘true’ history of an EUA because the stock exchange data published by the ICE does not disclose the identity of sellers and buyers. In the project development phase, i considered gaining access to the electronic trading platform, eventually i decided to work with information that is in the public domain, exposing its limitations.
- The breaks were timed in sync with the ‘office data worker’. When he processed the data and published it online he would give us ‘green light’ to send in a new batch, so a new ‘update’ cycle would begin. This was the only way we could keep our small apparatus sustainable. There was no automatic ‘refresh’ button that we could have pressed to make the web-site publish the new data.
- The choreography of the office data worker involved went from using the photo-editing software, translating the numbers into letters (‘handwriting numbers’, see below), screen-grabbing, page design, and finally printing of web updates and their placing on the walls.
- The time of the city photo was used to time each ‘update’. The last operation in data assembly was the price of EUA on the EU ETS, because the ICE trading platform publishes the prices of carbon shares with a delay of 10 minutes. This temporal buffer implied that the ‘office data worker’ had to wait at least 10 minutes to collate this piece of information, before publishing our #allthatisair update.
- Photo Monitoring is a freesource plug-in for the open-source photo processing software Fiji. The plug-in was developed and kindly made available by Ned Horning via GitHub. Fiji is an image processing software, bundling together plugins with the distribution of scientific analysis software ImageJ (Schindelin, Arganda-Carreras & Frise et al., 2012).
- Molecules of CO2 absorb a specific infrared wavelength (4.3 μm). A nondispersive infrared analyser allows air to come inside a chamber, where infrared light is emitted from one end and the light wavelengths are measured on the other end. As the light passes through the chamber, part of the light spectrum is absorbed by the molecules of CO2, which computes to the concentration of the gas in the air.
- In the meantime, in March 2015, global measurements surpassed 400ppm for an entire month for the first time since the measurements began in 1958 (Kahn, 2015). “The 400ppm milestone is a largely symbolic one” (ibid.), but according to the influential environmentalist group 350.org, 350 is the level needed “to preserve a liveable planet”.
- These numbers are indicative only and do not make scientific evidence. CO2 concentration is very sensitive to environment, and it soars close to sources of emissions such as human breath or fossil fuel vehicles. For this reason, Mauna Loa observatory is based on top of a mountain in Hawaii. Our measurements were performed over the duration of 60 seconds, which gives some time to the instrument to stabilise. Out of 349 measurements we performed, 106 were below the 400 mark. Only 2 days of 10 averaged under 400, and these were after the Bank holiday.
- This very issue will be further examined in the project below, counting live stock(s) (see 3.4.b.).
- This format degree/minute/second (DMS) format maintains a conjunction to time, whereas the decimal one is purely mathematical, i.e. 51.52083 N, -0.09111 W.
- The website was designed in such way that the visitor can only see one update at a time, which made the comparison of values through time complicated. This operation was facilitated in the gallery space where one could see the printouts, but only the recent 80. However, the printouts were printed in black and white, so the near-infrared images were essentially unreadable. Each part of the apparatus provided only a partial view of the ensemble, thus inviting the audience to perform their own assemblage of bits and pieces found online and in the gallery space.
- According to the application on the website of the Corporation of London, photo shoot is an activity in a precise spot over a specified period of time. Our peripatetic trajectories could not be planned in advance in this way, so our visits were unannounced. As DG insist, nomadic practices often do not fit well into the regulatory frames of the State.
- After acknowledging that they were watching us since the first visit, the security wanted to know if were performing some kind of protest (“green against glass”, in the words of the chief security officer). Protesting is not permitted by the Canary Wharf regulation, neither is photographing of the building entrances. After some reassurances that this is a research project on ‘urban greens and architecture’, we were allowed to proceed.
- Historically, the banking and finance in the City have fostered macho culture in workplace. It is hard to know what is going on behind the glass walls, but it seems that gender disparity is far from gone. Although 50-50 gender balance has purportedly been achieved by many companies, gender division is evident in the pay gap and working positions. The farther up one goes in management, the less women one encounters, the rule of the “glass ceiling”. In 2010 Equality and Human Rights Commission report, among the 100 top ranking companies on the London Stock Exchange, women were represented with only 12,5% in the boardrooms. Following the report, the Treasury issued recommendation to reach 25% of representation, which was achieved in 2015. However, less than 10% of executive director roles are occupied by women (Kollewe, 2015). According to a Financial Times research of top 35 companies in the City, though overall staff numbers are close to gender balance, only 19,5% of the senior roles are held by women (Jenkins & Agnew, 2015). Gender pay gap also widens from 9,4% for all employees to 15,9% for managers, directors and senior officials (ONS, in ibid.). The larger picture is more concerning, in 2015 World Economic Forum stated that it “may take 118 years to close” the gender gap on the world level.
- First ‘computers’ were women, working mostly in military and scientific contexts. [blockquote]In the history of computing, the humbler levels of scientific work were open, even welcoming, to women. Indeed, by the early twentieth century computing was thought of as women’s work and computers were assumed to be female. Respected mathematicians would blithely approximate the problem-solving horsepower of computing machines in “girl-years” and describe a unit of machine labor as equal to one “kilo-girl.” (Skinner, 2006)[/blockquote]The ‘digital age’ would not come into being without “the age of female computers” (ibid.). Gendered division of informational labour is far from being only a relict of the past. For example, according to the American Association of University Women 2015 report, the gender gap in the U.S. in the computing sector increased in 1990-2013 period (Corbett & Hill, 2015)!
- By deceleration of informational labour i am not arguing to ditch away PCs and the internet, but i am gesturing towards thinking alternative nonlinear modes of organisation where some critical operations could be re-adapted/de-automated while others could be automated. It is fairly obvious that computing, assembly and logistics roles are probably best gradually delegated to machines. In ecological context, i very much doubt that merely placing digital sensors to ‘track’ environmental processes leads to better environmental policies. I believe that even numbers require affect and care. Politically speaking, i am not sure that ‘full automation’ as proposed by the accelerationist manifesto would automatically translate into social emancipation at large (Williams & Srnicek, 2013). While i am very interested in Williams and Srnicek’s prospect of ‘post-work world’, what we now call reproductive labour will still be necessary (Power, 2015). Reproductive affective work that operates transversally within and beyond the realm of the human is what i call ‘ecological labour’. Its seeds and present manifestations are varied and many (e.g., communal forestry in Japan, see Tsing, 2015), yet there is still a lot of space for envisaging more-than-human patterns of collaboration.