Speculative Security: Modeling Future Diseases and Climates

Presentation by Lindsay Thomas (UC Santa Barbara).

Through surveying contemporary governmental simulation systems, this paper considers the interrelation of epidemic and climate/weather modeling and the ways in which such living networks imagine and build possible futures. I turn to both a simulation engine itself, the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center’s Epidemic Simulation System, and an example of the high performance computing systems on which climate models are run, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Gaea supercomputer located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee in order to examine modeling in its relation to surveillance and time. The simulations I discuss map the micro-scales of viral infection and local atmospheric conditions onto the macro-scale of the global in order to survey future disease and climate spaces: they construct layered networks of interaction across many different spatial scales. However, these models operate not in three but in four dimensions; as such, we need to understand not only their representational (or spatial) qualities but also, more importantly, their operational (or dynamic) mechanisms. Through a discussion of the structure and architecture of a modeling application and a modeling platform, I point to how these systems forecast the extent and kind of future epidemics and climate changes. In this way, this paper reconsiders the topologies of surveillance networks, mapping their movements in and treatments of real time. At stake is an excavation of the futures such models construct.

Lindsay Thomas is a Ph.D. student in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research interests include contemporary literature, media studies, and science and technology studies, and her dissertation is on the relationship between security and speculation in speculative fiction and in governmental media and media technologies. She is also currently working as a project coordinator for UCSB’s Research-oriented Social Network (RoSE) project and as a research assistant for 4Humanities, an international humanities advocacy collective.

Lindsay Thomas presents "Speculative Security" at the "Network Archaeology" conference.

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