Orit Halpern

Dr. Orit Halpern is a Strategic Hire in Interactive Theory and Design and an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University. Her work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design and art practice. She is also a co-director of the “Speculative Life Research Cluster”, a research-creation laboratory situated at the intersection of the computational and environmental sciences, design, and anthropology.
She is currently working on three projects: the first is a history and theory of “smartness”, the second is about extreme infrastructures, resilience, and speculation, and the third is with Tal Halpern, and it is a comic book, whose plot is not to be divulged, but it will involve neural nets, machine’s that learn (including ourselves), and Mongolian gerbils.
Her recent monograph, “Beautiful Data” (Duke Press, 2015), is a history of interactivity, data visualization, and ubiquitous computing. She has also published and created works for a variety of venues including e-flux, Rhizome, The Journal of Visual Culture, Public Culture, and ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany.


Talk: The Planetary Bet

Conference: Scaling Media
Date: Day 2 – 9:45
Location: E-Werk Kesselsaal, Weimar
Language: English

Volatility—extremes of high and low, temporal scales between the geological and digital, varying thresholds of toxicity, safety, poverty—these are the differentials that in contemporary societies are the very mediums for financial speculation and ubiquitous computing. This talk will examine how concepts of resilience from ecology, ideas of urban management and design cybernetics (the rise of “responsive” or “smart” ecologies), and algorithmic investment strategies from finance merged to produce a contemporary mode of disaster speculation that I label "the planetary bet”. This assemblage is grounded on playing with differentials and thresholds—highs and lows of time, space, and toxicity—to turn life itself into a speculative experiment for ubiquitous computing that finds itself incarnated in our “smart” cities and infrastructures.  

My argument is that what differentiates this condition from earlier histories of capital, urbanism, or habitat  is not the question of technology, but rather the particular form of spatial and temporal containment and speculation engendered by the historical merger of cybernetics and ecology.

Under the patronage of

Deutsche UNESCO Kommission

Supported by


Organized by

Media and event partners