By Stefan Helmreich
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Extra resources for Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas
I, too, have invisible materials in my head, such as fragments of argument from sociologist of science Karin Knorr-Cetina's Epistemic Cultures. "55 The techno music gives such intelligence an enabling soundtrack, immersing researchers in a mundane media sublime, a flow. Such activity may support Knorr-Cetina's claim that, "if anything is indeed irrelevant to the conduct of research in molecular biology, it is the sensory body as a primary research tool. "56 But while messaging mud and swaying to the sounds of the Orbital Shaker are, yes, not primary research protocols, they do allow researchers to fasten their bodies to their work.
Steven's generative fusion of Lovelock and Lovecraft discloses an ocean alien to human purposes, purposes themselves perhaps unwittingly alien to their own scaffoldings. 66 Steven tells me he wishes we humans had something like an ocean ethic, an ethos that could detour us away from funneling everything through the marketplace or technocratic politics. A deep-sea biologist from MBARI, Kurt Buck, walks by. He asks Kim, behind the counter of the Haute Enchilada, if he can get some used vegetable oil to experiment with as a biofriendly fuel.
My interview with shoreside software engineer John Graybeal a week earlier centered on how he thought about the sea as he put together a database for Lobos. The ocean on the screen was for him about projection, conceptualization. When he considered the ocean through the medium of The Message from the Mud / 49 his database, he said, "1 don't think of it as a wet thing. It's a construct that places constraints on what we do. " He said he "couldn't imagine someone solving a chess problem if they were up to their neck in water.