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William Christopher Dawley's picture

William Christopher Dawley

Postdoctoral Fellow, Postdoctor Research Fellow
  • E-mailwilliam.dawley@uib.no
  • Phone+47 55 58 92 86
  • Visitor Address
    Fosswinckels gate 6
    Lauriz Meltzers hus
    5007 Bergen
  • Postal Address
    Postboks 7802
    5020 Bergen

CURRENT PROJECT (see past projects below):

Cryonics and “Bio-Inclusive” Human Augmentation in the US

This study will ethnographically explore the US-based projects whose goal is to allow humans to attain immortality (or at least radical longevity) within the body, through advances in technoscience (especially the fields of medicine, nanotechnology, genetics, biotech, and computation sciences).

Cryonics will be studied in ethnographic depth as one of the most “upper case” examples of these “bio-inclusive” efforts to achieve immortality, especially the community around Alcor (currently the largest cryonics facility in the world, outside Phoenix, Arizona), in comparison to the cryonics communities near Detroit (Cryonics Institute) and around the new Tomorrow Biostasis company in Switzerland and Berlin.

This study will also try to contextualize cryonics within the US. How can cryonics be distinguished from other research projects in the US, aimed at overcoming current limitations on human longevity, mental and physical capabilities, and well-being? Where does cryonics fit within the country’s widespread practices attempting to augment the body and mind (not only medical and technological interventions, but the development of cultural lifestyles around incorporating scientific findings and new technologies into health-and-fitness regimens). What are the special roles of science and technology distinguishing cryonics from these other scientific and cultural projects? Additionally, the project asks: What is the role of risk management in motivating these projects? Its proponents often describe cryonics, not as a guarantee, but as the best available option for avoiding the high risk of personal annihilation, and it is funded largely through insurance products that are more commonplace in the US than elsewhere. What is the role of a broader US culture of private investment and risk management, and how is risk management understood in these communities?

To complement this ethnographic and cultural investigation, this project will include both digital ethnographic research as well as a “Big Data” research component—both aimed at better understanding how the relatively rare practice of cryonics (only 190 people are cryonically suspended at the largest facility near Phoenix) is connected to broader trends, like intense mass media coverage of human augmentation and communities of interest around forms of human augmentation (largely online). Public social media and online forums for cryonics and other human augmentation practices provide one site for digital ethnographic research. Big Data approaches allow the project to visualize and measure the links between these topics, public accounts, mass media, and online communities, using tools like community detection and salience and proximity analysis to visualize the shape of these networks and to uncover unsuspected connections, the way these topics are framed, and where and when these topics are being most discussed. This complementary part of the project can help better understand the (often digital) communities and subcultures of interest that lead people to cryonics or to other projects of human augmentation.

*David Herbert, Fartein Nilsen, and Ida Skarsæterhagen will also collaborate on this part of the project.

PAST PROJECTS: Coming soon.
 

“New directions in the anthropology of religion and gender: faith and emergent masculinities.” 2018. Anthropological Quarterly 91(1): 5-24, “Religion and Masculinities” special collection.

“From wrestling with monsters to wrestling with God: masculinities, “spirituality,” and the group-ization of religious life in northern Costa Rica.” 2018. Anthropological Quarterly 91(1): 79-131, “Religion and Masculinities” special collection.

“Do new identities emerge from new social organizations? The origins of emergent masculinities in mutual support movements.” (being reworked for resubmission).

With Carlos Delclós. “Support groups in social movement studies: the support group as a social movement technology, as a social movement, and as prefigurative politics in the long term.” Social Movement Studies (in progress).

CURRENT PROJECT (see past projects below):

Cryonics and “Bio-Inclusive” Human Augmentation in the US

This study will ethnographically explore the US-based projects whose goal is to allow humans to attain immortality (or at least radical longevity) within the body, through advances in technoscience (especially the fields of medicine, nanotechnology, genetics, biotech, and computation sciences).

Cryonics will be studied in ethnographic depth as one of the most “upper case” examples of these “bio-inclusive” efforts to achieve immortality, especially the community around Alcor (currently the largest cryonics facility in the world, outside Phoenix, Arizona), in comparison to the cryonics communities near Detroit (Cryonics Institute) and around the new Tomorrow Biostasis company in Switzerland and Berlin.

This study will also try to contextualize cryonics within the US. How can cryonics be distinguished from other research projects in the US, aimed at overcoming current limitations on human longevity, mental and physical capabilities, and well-being? Where does cryonics fit within the country’s widespread practices attempting to augment the body and mind (not only medical and technological interventions, but the development of cultural lifestyles around incorporating scientific findings and new technologies into health-and-fitness regimens). What are the special roles of science and technology distinguishing cryonics from these other scientific and cultural projects? Additionally, the project asks: What is the role of risk management in motivating these projects? Its proponents often describe cryonics, not as a guarantee, but as the best available option for avoiding the high risk of personal annihilation, and it is funded largely through insurance products that are more commonplace in the US than elsewhere. What is the role of a broader US culture of private investment and risk management, and how is risk management understood in these communities?

To complement this ethnographic and cultural investigation, this project will include both digital ethnographic research as well as a “Big Data” research component—both aimed at better understanding how the relatively rare practice of cryonics (only 190 people are cryonically suspended at the largest facility near Phoenix) is connected to broader trends, like intense mass media coverage of human augmentation and communities of interest around forms of human augmentation (largely online). Public social media and online forums for cryonics and other human augmentation practices provide one site for digital ethnographic research. Big Data approaches allow the project to visualize and measure the links between these topics, public accounts, mass media, and online communities, using tools like community detection and salience and proximity analysis to visualize the shape of these networks and to uncover unsuspected connections, the way these topics are framed, and where and when these topics are being most discussed. This complementary part of the project can help better understand the (often digital) communities and subcultures of interest that lead people to cryonics or to other projects of human augmentation.

*David Herbert, Fartein Nilsen, and Ida Skarsæterhagen will also collaborate on this part of the project.

PAST PROJECTS: Coming soon.