The Ecosystem Analogy:
Machinery of Nature, Borrowed landscapes, Anthropology of the near.
Track chairs Thomas Patrick Pringle (Brown University), Tarek Mourad (International University of Beirut), Theo Lepage-Richer (Brwon University).
In 1981, Eugene Odum and Bernard Patten argued that “ecosystems are cybernetic.”
Cybernetics—the informational control of energy—afforded the universal logic of systemic self-regulation that allegedly spanned nature and machines: “Analogy” between biophysical processes and informationally governed technological systems, “and the willingness to accept [analogy], are the keys to identifying the cybernetic machinery of the ecosystem” (888).
Papers under this track would explore the historical strategies shaping the willingness to accept the organic/technical analogy afforded by cybernetic universalism, as strategies of analogy permit epistemological equivalence in analyzing the functions of nature and machines. Whether analogy takes the form of violence in the radiation-as-information concept produced during the Odums’s early ecosystem experiments during the American nuclear tests at the Enewetak Atoll (Martin, 2018); the historical influence of resilient ecosystem complexity upon Friedrich Hayek’s neoliberal economics (Cooper and Walker, 2011); or the legitimation of James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis as “the second Copernican revolution” in the “