‘Standing on the Shoulders’ Podcast: On Plural Futures and Multi-Species Companionship

BY: Superflux

In June, Anab Jain was featured on the Standing on the Shoulders podcast series hosted by social psychologist and Guardian technology journalist Aleks Krotoski, and produced by Storythings. Standing on the Shoulders interviews “metaphorical, inspirational, Giants [..] whose symbolic shoulders you can stand on to reach greater heights”.

The podcast series aims to tell the backstories and defining moments of a range of key thinkers and visionaries such as theatre director and producer Jude Kelly and columnist and Head of Entertainment at Facebook in the UK Anna Higgs to name a few.

In the fifth episode of the series, Aleks and Anab discuss Anab’s role as a futurist of colour, and the backstory and inspirations that led her to co-found Superflux studio with Jon Ardern in 2009.

Listen to the podcast here or read on for a summary of the topics discussed and some recommended further reading.

The podcast begins by discussing Anab’s cross-cultural perspectives, a result of her Indian upbringing. Anab describes growing up, not with western science-fiction, but instead with Indian “multi-species” mythology. She explores how this has impacted her approach and work at Superflux.

Different cultures think about human being-ness in this world differently. It makes me reflect that actually increasingly, we are going to need to live in a world where human exceptionalism or individualism must give way to collaboration and networks of care and multi-species understanding […] Multi-species ethnography is just this kind of noticing and an understanding and acknowledgment that we are one of many species.

– Anab Jain

The conversation moves on to Anab’s journey to where she is now: from school through to founding Superflux via a Degree in filmmaking; a Masters in Interaction Design at the Royal College of Art; and positions at Nokia and Microsoft Research.

Anab and Aleks then discuss Superflux’s recent work, Mitigation of Shock. Mitigation of Shock was first exhibited as part of After the End of the World at Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona in 2017 and more recently as part of 2219: Futures Imagined at ArtScience Museum Singapore. The installation invites visitors into a family home set in a future severely impacted by climate change. Visitors are able to explore the many ways the apartment’s inhabitants have radically adapted their lives to survive, and thrive, in these new circumstances.

In this instance, we chose to invite people into something that they experience every day, their homes, a very domestic space – but set in the future. What would our homes look like and feel like in a world that has been severely impacted by climate change? And so we built this London apartment set around 2050 or so, when Jon and my son, who was six at that point, would be around our age. It was far enough in the future to affect an entirely new generation of people.

– Anab Jain
Images from Mitigation of Shock, exhibited as part of ‘2219: Futures Imagined’ at ArtScience Museum Singapore

The Standing on the Shoulders series aims to understand who the inspirational figures have been in each featured “giant’s” journey. Anab discusses the ways in which philosopher Timothy Morton’s concept of “Hyperobjects” and Anna Tsing’s 2015 book The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins helped her and Jon Ardern to develop the ideas behind Mitigation of Shock. From the concepts of “multi-species ethnography” to the idea of “destruction as a productive force”, she discusses learnings about human expectations and social imagined futures.

We need to look at, and kind of “stay with”, these entanglements and observe them more closely – with nuance to see our own role in this world. So I think that’s how I see it anyway.

– Anab Jain
Oyster mushrooms growing in the Superflux studio, “amidst disturbances”

The podcast is rounded up with reference to the political situation today and why it is imperative that we apply these principles to begin to move towards more hopeful futures.

They’re all moving through such short political cycles that they are not able to make long term decisions. We are trapped in a short-term political cycle. And unfortunately, a lot of the senior level people have very strong vested interests, and things need to change at that level.

– Anab Jain

Even though, if you look around us, the way the future or our present is unfolding is complex, messy, chaotic, turbulent. The trends reports and the kind of visions that are presented to us by those who have the power to present those visions are often clean, white, shiny, seductive. And unfortunately, the future is not going to be like that. It’s going to be standing on the bones of our actions and decisions that we’re making today. So I think if we are able to liberate ourselves from this shiny future idea, we might benefit a lot.

– Anab Jain

We’d like to thank the Standing on the Shoulders team for bringing together this fantastic series. You can find the rest of the episodes on the Standing on the Shoulders website.

You can read more about the concept of “multi-species thinking” in Calling for A More-Than-Human Politics, originally given as a talk by Anab at Tentacular Festival, 2019.

If you’d like to read more about Superflux’s project Mitigation of Shock you can read our project posts on Mitigation of Shock, London at CCCB and Mitigation of Shock, Singapore at ArtScience Museum, or read about the process of developing food growing methods for Mitigation of Shock, Singapore on our blog.

Follow Superflux on Instagram to keep up to date on exciting new projects that we’re working on around the themes discussed in this podcast.

SUPERFLUX

Somerset House Studios, London UK
hello@superflux.in
All rights reserved © 2017. No. 6601242

Web Design > SONIA DOMINGUEZ
Development > TOUTENPIXEL

We'd love to hear from you

New projects
Internships
General enquiries

Studio M48,
Somerset House Studios,
New Wing, Somerset House,
Strand, London, WC2R 1LA

Title By Date
‘Standing on the Shoulders’ Podcast: On Plural Futures and Multi-Species Companionship Superflux 01.10.2020
Superflux Invited to La Biennale Di Venezia 2021 Superflux Climate Change 03.07.2020
EU Horizon 2020 Grant for Superflux and Partners Superflux 19.06.2020
Experiments in Indoor Farming Leanne Climate Change 08.06.2020
Calling for a More-Than-Human Politics Superflux 23.03.2020
Superflux Feature in ‘Feeling the Future’ Conference Superflux Climate Change 24.06.2020
Spring in Flux Nicola 14.04.2020
Calling Creative Producers! Nicola 29.01.2020
Inviting Internship Applications Superflux 16.01.2020
Come Work With Us Superflux 01.10.2019
Stop Shouting Future, Start Doing It Anab 24.01.2019
2018 Highlights Danielle Knight 21.12.2018
Instant Archetypes: A toolkit to imagine plural futures Nicola 01.11.2018
TED Talk: Why We Need To Imagine Different Futures Anab Autonomous systemsBiotechCity & InfrastructureClimate ChangeIoT, Data & Civics 19.06.2017
Cartographies of Imagination Anab City & InfrastructureIoT, Data & Civics 30.09.2018
Tackling the Ethical Challenges of Slippery Technology Anab Autonomous systems 11.06.2018
AI, HUMANITARIAN FUTURES, AND MORE-THAN-HUMAN CENTRED DESIGN Nicola 08.06.2018
The Future Starts Here Danielle Knight 29.05.2018
Studio News: Power, AI and Air Pollution Jake 09.10.2017
Future(s) of Power Launch Event Anab IoT, Data & Civics 09.10.2017
BUGGY AIR AT DESIGN FRONTIERS Jake City & InfrastructureClimate Change 15.09.2017
Calling all comrades & collaborators! Nicola 14.09.2017
CAN SPECULATIVE EVIDENCE INFORM DECISION MAKING? Anab IoT, Data & Civics 31.05.2017
STUDIO NEWS: TED, MAPPING, FOOD COMPUTERS, AND THE FUTURE OF WORK. Jake Autonomous systemsCity & InfrastructureClimate ChangeIoT, Data & Civics 21.04.2017
BACK TO THE FUTURE: WHAT WE DID IN 2016 Jake Autonomous systemsCity & InfrastructureIoT, Data & Civics 31.01.2017
REALITY CHECK: PRESENTING AT UNDP SUMMIT Jon IoT, Data & Civics 06.12.2016
MITIGATION OF SHOCK JOURNAL Jon Autonomous systemsBiotechClimate Change 12.07.2016
STUDIO HAPPENINGS Anab Autonomous systemsClimate ChangeIoT, Data & Civics 04.07.2016
PROFESSORSHIP AT THE UNIVERSITY OF APPLIED ARTS VIENNA Anab 28.06.2016
HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2015 Anab Autonomous systemsCity & InfrastructureIoT, Data & Civics 30.12.2015
SUPERFLUX MAGAZINE, ISSUE 1. Anab Autonomous systems 21.04.2015
THE DRONE AVIARY JOURNAL Anab Autonomous systems 09.04.2015
IOT, DRONES AND SPACE PROBES: ALTERNATE NARRATIVES Anab Autonomous systemsIoT, Data & Civics 01.03.2015
AUTUMN NEWS Jon City & InfrastructureClimate ChangeIoT, Data & Civics 08.11.2014
ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES AND DESIGN: AN INTERVIEW WITH SARA HENDREN Anab 07.11.2014
A QUARTERLY UPDATE FROM THE STUDIO Anab Autonomous systemsBiotechCity & InfrastructureIoT, Data & Civics 11.05.2014
IN THE LOOP: DESIGNING CONVERSATION WITH ALGORITHMS Alexis Autonomous systems 04.04.2014
IOTA WINS NOMINET TRUST FUNDING Jon IoT, Data & Civics 25.10.2013
SAILING THE SEAS OF SUPERDENSITY: GUEST POST BY SCOTT SMITH Scott City & Infrastructure 19.10.2013
DNA STORIES: GUEST POST BY CHRISTINA AGAPAKIS Christina BiotechClimate Change 30.09.2013
PRESS RELEASE: DYNAMIC GENETICS VS. MANN Jon Biotech 01.08.2013
AN INTRODUCTION TO INFRASTRUCTURE FICTION: GUEST POST BY PAUL GRAHAM RAVEN Paul City & Infrastructure 24.06.2013
SUPERNEWS, VOL 1. Jon 08.04.2013