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Injury and Measurement

Jacob Grimm on Blood Money and Concrete Quantification

Anna Echterhölter

The article takes a close look at Jacob Grimm’s astonishing account of measurement in his lesser-known studies on the history of law. Grimm gives a thorough description of concrete quantification of property and the measurement of economic value in a European rural setting. Both techniques are considered a necessary ‘infrastructure’ for any use of money, yet his exposition is curiously devoid of numbers. Instead, ‘poetic’ and procedural scripts of measurement take center stage. However, these qualitative procedures are not contrasted to quantitative ones in any expectable way. In Grimm’s polemic, precise quantification emerges as a shorthand for administrative regimes that circumvent and prohibit negotiation, appearing to be less rational and more socially binding.

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Dan Brockington

Measuring and being measured are some of the fundamental aspects of our worlds. Without them, we cannot live in our environments or function as social beings. But how we measure, and are measured, and to what ends and purposes, matters a great deal. Measurement does not just record; it shapes, changes, and constitutes things. It is not merely descriptive. It is creative. This introduction to the special issue explores how these themes of measurement are played out in diverse settings, including counting fish stocks, migration, social resilience, local measures of sustainability, oil exploitation, forest conservation, calculating ecosystem services, and measuring heat. Collectively, they provide a better understanding of how crucial measurements are formulated, and how they are and can be contested.

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Temperature and Capital

Measuring the Future with Quantified Heat

Scott W. Schwartz

The quantification of human environments has a history—a relatively short history. This article explores how the notion of quantifiable reality has become naturalized through the privileging of predictive utility as the primary goal of knowledge production. This theme is examined via the invention and application of temperature— how it was sociomaterially constructed and how it is globally restructuring social organization today. Temperature does not exist pervasively throughout all space and time. Physicists may affirm that fluctuations in relative heat are ubiquitous, but as a measurement of these fluctuations, temperature only emerges through arrangements of political and environmental observations. What phenomena do populations deem worthy of observation? How do populations manipulate materials to make such observations? By tracing the origins of thermometry and investigating modern efforts to reconstruct and model ulterior temperatures, I illustrate that temperatures, like other measurements, are cultural artifacts pliable to sociopolitical efforts of control and domination.

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Pamela McElwee

Ecosystem services (ES) are increasingly used as the conceptual driver for conservation and development actions, largely following from the influential Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Scholars skeptical of the neoliberal turn in conservation have critiqued the use of economic values for nature’s services. What has been less well understood and reviewed, however, is how concepts of ES are enacted by technologies of calculation, as well as how calculative practices move through networks and among stakeholders. This review traces how definitions and metrics of ES have evolved and how they are used, such as in biodiversity offsetting and wetland mitigation programs. Using the idea of the creation and deployment of calculative mechanisms, this article discusses how these processes proceed in different ES contexts, assesses what work has to happen ontologically to make ES commensurable and circulatable, and speculates on what the opportunities for future pathways other than commodification are.

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The “Democracy-Politics Paradox”

The Dynamics of Political Alienation

Gerry Stoker and Mark Evans

Contemporary political scientists have observed a democratic paradox that has crystallized around the disconnection between how citizens imagine their democracy and how politics is practiced. Citizens continue to believe in the values of liberal democracy but are increasingly disillusioned with how their political systems work and the politics that are practiced in the name of democracy. This article revisits the root causes of political alienation to better understand this democratic paradox. It provides both a conceptual understanding of political alienation and its domain of action and insights into how the concept can be operationalized and measured in empirical research. It argues that while democracy itself may not be in crisis, the politics on which its operation rests is in peril.

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Negotiating Uncertainty

Neo-liberal Statecraft in Contemporary Peru

Annabel Pinker and Penny Harvey

In this article, we deploy the concept of 'affect' to explore processes of state formation in contemporary Peru. Drawing on ethnography concerning a controversial engineering project in the Sacred Valley, we show how the state emerges as an affective force in the ambivalent spaces opened up by the slippages between the stable certainties promised by regulatory frameworks and the doubts generated by the ambiguities they pose. Tracing the tensions, gestures, and tiny shifts in perspective that punctuate an encounter between engineers and local politicians, we complicate the notion that a pre-existing state induces affects in political subjects. Instead, we show how the state emerges as a virtual force—neither quite present nor absent—in an uncertain, highly political field of negotiation.

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What Should the Citizen Know about Politics?

Two Approaches to the Measurement of Political Knowledge

Lauri Rapeli

The aim of this study is to provide an empirical example of how an election-related empirical indicator of political knowledge can be constructed. Studies of political knowledge have shown that most citizens fall short of the democratic ideal in terms of their knowledge about politics. But according to critics it is unclear what the reference point for such conclusions has been. The critics say that indicators of political knowledge lack a transparent logic and connection to concrete political behavior. In this study two measures of political knowledge are compared: one is a general measure of political knowledge; the other is based on a specific analytical framework by Kuklinski and Quirk (2001). Both the aggregate distribution and the individual-level determinants of political knowledge are compared. The differences between the two measures are found to be minor. The findings suggest that although specific and theory-driven measures offer a nuanced view into the public's knowledge levels, general measures of political knowledge also provide a reliable understanding of what the public knows.

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Making Up for Lost Nature?

A Critical Review of the International Development of Voluntary Biodiversity Offsets

Sarah Benabou

This article analyzes the international development of voluntary biodiversity offsets, a conservation instrument that permits developers to pursue their activities if conservation actions are undertaken elsewhere to compensate for the environmental impacts of their projects. Largely undertaken by extractive industries that operate in the global South where no offsetting regulations exist, this tool is currently attracting growing interest from policy makers, private companies, financial institutions, and conservation experts. Building upon the concept of market framing developed by Callon (1998), I explore in what contexts and through what processes this idea has gathered momentum, as well as the disturbing gap between the way it has been framed and its practical implementation. It is suggested that once immersed in the outside world, the market framing of offsets appears as a fragile result dependent upon substantial investments, which casts serious doubts about offsets' ability to reduce biodiversity loss on technical, governance, and social grounds.

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Parks, Proxies, and People

Ideology, Epistemology, and the Measurement of Human Population Growth on Protected Area Edges

David M. Hoffman

There is an extensive literature about growing human populations on protected area (PA) edges and their contribution to biodiversity threats. This article reviews the conservation literature’s engagements with the question of human migration and population growth on PA edges by reviewing: (1) the normative basis of conservation biology; (2) the development of conservation science in response; (3) conservationist engagements with PAs, migration, and population growth; (4) the engagement with George Wittemyer and colleagues (2008); and (5) the landscape of analyses and debates regarding PAs and their relationship to migration. The review finds that a strong biocentric position of conservation biology is evident and discusses the impacts that this position has on research, conclusions, and policies intended to cope with this growing issue.

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David Coleman, Tico Romao, Cedric Villamin, Scott Sinnett, Tanya Jakobsen and Alan Kingstone

This article summarizes an evidence-based study that adapts a breakpoint approach to investigate how elements of television narratives (two half-hour episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: “Lamb to the Slaughter” and “The Case of Mr. Pelham”) were considered meaningful to viewers. Actions considered meaningful were found to be high in informational and emotional content, and primarily consisted of plot points where changes in narrative direction and protagonist's goals were perceived as interpretively salient. Viewers also registered as meaningful those scenes that were character centered and provided subjective access to the main characters. The article reviews segmentation behavior in the relevant film theory literature to contextualize study, and concludes by summarizing other potential applications of an adapted breakpoint approach beyond the investigation of dramatic structure.