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Commentary Archive

Deadly Algorithms

Can legal codes hold software accountable for code that kills?
by / RP 187 (Sept/Oct 2014) / Commentary

Algorithms have long adjudicated over vital processes that help to ensure our well-being and survival, from pacemakers that maintain the natural rhythms of the heart, and genetic algorithms that optimise emergency response times by cross-referencing ambulance locations with demographic data, to early warning systems that track approaching storms, detect seismic activity, and even seek …


Boycotting Israel

 Academia, activism and the futures of American Studies
by / RP 186 (Jul/Aug 2014) / Commentary

On 4 December of last year, the annual conference of the American Studies Association resolved that ‘whereas the United States plays a significant role in enabling the Israeli occupation of Palestine … whereas there is no effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation, and Israeli institutions of …


‘Yes’

A non-nationalist argument for Scottish independence
by / RP 185 (May/Jun 2014) / Commentary

On the evening of 16 May 1973, around halfway through the Aladdin Sane tour, I watched David Bowie play his second sold-out show at the Aberdeen Music Hall. I could not have imagined that one day I would be listening to him – or, rather, listening to Kate Moss speaking on his behalf – intervene …


‘People not of our concern’

by / RP 184 (Mar/Apr 2014) / Commentary

‘We stay here and we don’t move.’ This is the refrain in the Choucha refugee camp among those who have been stranded there, in the desert, since 2011. ‘Rejected’ and ‘non-resettled refugees’ are the categories through which these migrant stories have been sorted. They are also the terms that determine the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) …


Dissonances of the Arab Left

by / RP 184 (Mar/Apr 2014) / Commentary

To talk of the secular democratic leftist project in the Arab world is to talk of crisis – a crisis that is manifest in two ways. First, there is the fundamental question of whether such a project even exists in a coherent and comprehensive form, rather than as a mere collection of statements and propositions …


Generative grafting

Reproductive technology and the dilemmas of surrogacy
by / RP 183 (Jan/Feb 2014) / Commentary

In 2013, at the advanced age of 101, Howard W. Jones, a medical pioneer in reproductive technology, published Personhood Revisited: Reproductive Technology, Bioethics, Religion and the Law. Looking back at the development of what came to be called the ARTs (assisted reproductive technologies), Jones chronicles the initial controversies surrounding their emergence and his own participation …


Kleptography

by / RP 183 (Jan/Feb 2014) / Commentary

One must remember that mathematics, like death, never makes mistakes, never plays tricks. If we are unable to see those irrational curves or solids, it means only that they inevitably possess a whole immense world somewhere beneath the surface of our life. – Yevgeny Zamyatin, We

The settings alone brush perilously close to fiction: a deserted …


Smells like Gezi spirit

Democratic sensibilities and carnivalesque politics in Turkey
by / RP 182 (Nov/Dec 2013) / Commentary

A small protest in Istanbul, which began by aiming to protect the urban greenery, was rapidly turned into a full-blown nationwide resistance. The protests should be regarded as the most important outcry of the Turkish people since the 1980 coup, and herald a new period in the history of Turkey. But it would be …


Corporate open source

Intellectual property and the struggle over value
by / RP 181 (Sept/Oct 2013) / Commentary

I began to worry about open source when the corporate world stopped worrying and learned to love open source. For me the turning point was a drinks party in Paris in 2003, thrown by the wife of an American advertising executive temporarily based in the city. First, a bit of context for the party and …


Commercial enclosure

Whatever happened to open access?
by / RP 181 (Sept/Oct 2013) / Commentary

The language of openness is powerful and persuasive. Applied to the practices of government, it purports to be about transparency and holding politicians to account. Applied to public services, it purports to be about the evaluation of performance to facilitate decision-making by their users. Applied to publicly funded research in universities, it purports to be …


Aló Presidente

by / RP 180 (July/Aug 2013) / Commentary

If capitalism resists, we are obliged to take up a battle against capitalism and open the way for the salvation of the human species. It’s up to us, raising the banners of Christ, Mohammed, equality, love, justice, humanity, the true and most profound humanism. If we don’t do it, the most wonderful creation of the …


Citizens’ agora

The new urban question
by / RP 179 (May/Jun 2013) / Commentary

What would Rousseau, who penned his classic Discourse on Inequality in 1755, have made of things today? Had he still been around, had he travelled around the globe a bit, he’d have doubtless despaired of how little ‘civilized’ society had ameliorated the ‘artificial’ inequalities that derive from the conventions that govern us. Maybe …


Global carcass balancing

Horsemeat and the agro-food network
by / RP 179 (May/Jun 2013) / Commentary

The discovery by European forensic science laboratories of horse DNA in food labelled as beef meat products has brought renewed public scrutiny and interest to meat supply network activities and associated politics and policies. These have included concerns about food safety, horror from national and religious communities who have been sold food that …


Resisting Resilience

by / RP 178 (Mar/Apr 2013) / Commentary

I’m 24, in a horrible relationship, feeling stuck and alone. I met my boyfriend three years ago while I was struggling to find work after graduating. He was not only charismatic, ambitious and gorgeous, but supportive, too. I became infatuated. By the time I found out about his angry rages and subtle bullying, I had …


What the frack?

Combustible water and other late capitalist novelties
by / RP 177 (Jan/Feb 2013) / Commentary

There is a reason why oil gets the lion’s share of attention when it comes to the global game of petrocarbon extraction. Through the multiple products into which oil is refined, most important of which are gasoline and diesel, oil is the blood that animates the body of capitalism. It is a substance necessary for …


Lines in class

The ongoing attack on mass education in England
by / RP 176 (Nov/Dec 2012) / Commentary

Andrew McGettigan’s analysis of the financial transformations of higher education (‘Who Let the Dogs Out? The Privatization of Higher Education’, RP 174) is important for comprehending the complexity of the changes universities are undergoing and their implications. As he argues, ‘it is mass higher education in England’ that is now under attack and …


What is Pussy Riot’s ‘Idea’?

What is Pussy Riot’s ‘Idea’?
by / RP 176 (Nov/Dec 2012) / Commentary

 

It goes without saying that the Pussy Riot trial was an even more obscene performance of power than the punk prayer in the church itself. But the most ‘avantgarde’ and cynical part of this ‘power performance’ started not today, not a year ago, and probably not just in …


Euro-Keynesianism?

The financial crisis in Europe
by / RP 175 (Sep/Oct 2012) / Commentary

Financial collapse is haunting Europe. The most immediate fear is that a small European state might default on its government debt, but several large European banks might go bust because of a deflated real-estate bubble in Southern Europe. Brutal austerity policies have been imposed on countries that are already in recession, but in …


Who let the dogs out?

The privatization of higher education
by / RP 174 (Jul/Aug 2012) / Commentary

In April last year, I framed my article on ‘New Providers’ in relation to the delay surrounding the publication of the government’s White Paper for Higher Education (HE). That was caused by a combination of factors, but chiefly the need to fix a hole in the proposals for student loan financing; and additional …


Moving Borders

The Politics of Dirt
by / RP 174 (Jul/Aug 2012) / Commentary

Who can move? Who can speak? Who can act politically? The struggles of refugees and migrants have problematized conventional answers to these questions in a profound manner. Their struggles have demonstrated that, despite the considerable risks and dangers, new political subjects are being formed within securitized sites and border zones. Struggles by refugees …