Sarah Kember 

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Academic Work


WhoseBook is it anyway? A View From Elsewhere on Publishing, Copyright and Creativity
Janis Jefferies and Sarah Kember
(Open Book Publishers 2019)

Whose Book is it Anyway? is a provocative collection of essays that opens out the copyright debate to questions of open access, ethics, and creativity. It includes views - such as artist's perspectives, writer's perspectives, feminist, and international perspectives - that are too often marginalized or elided altogether.

The diverse range of contributors take various approaches, from the scholarly and the essayistic to the graphic, to explore the future of publishing based on their experiences as publishers, artists, writers and academics. Considering issues such as intellectual property, copyright and comics, digital publishing and remixing, and what it means (not) to say one is an author, these vibrant essays urge us to view central aspects of writing and publishing in a new light.

Whose Book is it Anyway? is a timely and varied collection of essays. It asks us to reconceive our understanding of publishing, copyright and open access, and it is essential reading for anyone invested in the future of publishing.


iMedia. The Gendering of Objects, Environments and Smart Materials
Sarah Kember
(Palgrave Macmillan 2015)

This is a short format, provocative intervention that combines the conventions of the monograph, manifesto and novel in order to retell smoke and mirror tales about intelligent, invisible, information infrastructures.
The book asks what queer feminist writing strategies such as parody and irony can do to outsmart the sexism of smart objects, environments and materials and open out the new dialecticism of structure and scale, critique and creativity? Drawing on science and technology studies and feminist theory, this book examines the gendering of current and future media technologies such as smart phones, Google glass, robot nurses, tablets and face recognition. Kember argues that there is a tendency to affirm and celebrate the existence of smart and often sexist objects, environments and materials in themselves; to elide writing and other forms of mediation; and to engage in disembodied knowledge practices. Disembodied knowledge practices tend towards a scientism that currently includes physics envy and are also masculinist. Where there is some degree of convergence between masculinist and feminist thinking about objects, environments and materials, there is also divergence, conflict and the possible opening towards a politics of imedia. Presenting a lively manifesto for refiguring imedia, this book forms an often neglected gender critique of developments in smart technologies and will be essential reading for scholars in Communication Studies, Cultural and Media, Science and Technology and Feminism

Life After New Media

Life After New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process
Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska
(MIT Press 2012)

This co-authored monograph critically examines the current debate on ‘new’ or ‘digital’ media. It makes a case for a significant shift in the way new media is perceived and understood: from thinking about ‘new media’ as a set of discrete objects (the computer, the mobile phone, the iPod, the e-book reader) to understanding media predominantly in terms of processes of mediation.

The argument is threefold:

(1) In an era when being on Facebook or Twitter, having a smart phone or a digicam, and obtaining one’s genetic profile on a CD after being tested for a variety of genetic diseases has become part of many people’s everyday lives, we maintain that there is a need to move beyond the initial fascination with, and fear of, ‘new’ media; and beyond the belief in their alleged ‘newness’, too.

(2) There is also a need to look at the interlocking of technical and biological processes of mediation. Doing so quickly reveals that life itself has become a transient medium, which is subject to the same mechanisms of reproduction, transformation, flattening and patenting that other media forms (CDs, video cassettes, chemically printed photographs, and so on) underwent previously.

(3) If life itself is to be understood as a medium, we need to critically examine the complex and dynamic processes of mediation that are in operation at the biological, social and political levels in the world, while also remaining aware of the limitations of the stand-alone human ‘we’ that can provide such a rational critique.

The aim in Life after New Media is to achieve something other than merely providing an extension or corrective to the current field of ‘new media studies’. Instead of developing an alternative definition or understanding of new media, the authors refocus the new media debate on a set of processes that have so far escaped close analysis by media studies scholars. In other words, with this book we are not so much interested in moving the debate on new media on, but rather in moving on from the debate on new media; and, in doing so, focusing on the concept of mediation. The distinction is of course primarily heuristic, i.e. provisional and tentative, and the purpose of separating mediation from media is to clarify the relation between them. Mediation does not serve as a translational or transparent layer or intermediary between independently existing entities (say, between the producer and consumer of a film or TV programme).  It is a complex and hybrid process, which is simultaneously economic, social, cultural, psychological and technical.
                                Astrobiology  - front cover

Astrobiology and the Search for Life on Mars
(Open Humanities Press 2011)

This is an open access electronic book and part of a series entitled ‘Living Books about Life’. The aim of the series is to engage with the cultural aspects of new developments in science and technology and this volume explores the field of Astrobiology from a critical theoretical and fictional perspective, linking it to the historical and contemporary aspects of the search for life on Mars. The key features of the book are that it includes all of Percival Lowell’s writing on Mars in addition to the full text of H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds. It reviews the Viking experiments of the 1970s and includes an article written exclusively for this volume by one of the experimenters, Gilbert Levin who reviews and updates the findings of the labeled release experiment, claiming that he did discover life on Mars 40 years ago. The introduction connects Lowell’s claim that intelligent Martian life must be responsible for the presence of canals on Mars with Levin’s claim to have discovered microbial life on Mars with another more recent claim by a character named Lou. Lou’s more recent experiment, subsequent to the discovery of liquid water, is that Mars is host to an organism resembling green sulphur bacteria.


Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life
(Routledge 2003)

Cyberfeminism and Artifical Life examines the construction, manipulation, and re-definition of life in contemporary technoscientific culture. The book takes a critical political view of the concept of life as information and traces it through the new biology and the discourse of genomics, as well as through the changing discipline of Artificial Life, and its manifestation in art, language, literature, commerce and entertainment.

From cloning to computer games, and incorporating an analysis of hardware, software and ‘wetware’, Sarah Kember extends current understanding by demonstrating the ways in which this relatively marginal field connects with, and connects up global networks of information and communication systems.

Inventive Life

Inventive Life. Towards the New Vitalism (with Mariam Fraser and Celia Lury) (Sage 2006) demonstrates how and why vitalism – the idea that life cannot be explained by the principles of mechanism – matters now. Vitalism resists closure and reductionism in the life sciences, whilst simultaneously addressing the object of life itself.

The aim of this collection is to consider the questions that vitalism makes it possible to ask: questions about the role and status of life across the sciences, social sciences and humanities and questions about contingency, indeterminacy, relationality and change.

All of these questions have special importance now, as the concepts of complexity, artificial life and artificial intelligence, information theory and cybernetics become increasingly significant in more and more fields of activity.

Virtual Anxiety

Virtual Anxiety: Photography, New Technologies and Subjectivity
(Manchester University Press 1998)

Examines the fears and hopes surrounding imaging, information and reproductive technologies. It offers a gendered and contextualized reading which is critical of the trend towards technological determinism and the new biology of machines, and addresses the relationship between photography and new imaging technologies in general. Concentrating on the contexts of medicine and law, this text contains research on body scanners and criminal identification technologies, as well as studies of the Visible Human Project and the murder of James Bulger. The book also draws on the monster myths of Frankenstein and Dracula to expose and parody the masculine unconscious in contemporary reproductive and information technologies