Experimental ecologies encompass attempts among environmental activists, scientists, engineers, and environmental designers in Japan to design new and open-ended ecological systems toward the creation of environments that will foster, in turn, new modes of being and thinking with technology and nature. Experimental in this regard corresponds with the understanding of experiment as developed in science and technology studies literature: as a dynamic and performative process that aims to produce new knowledge alongside new ontological possibilities. Experimental ecologies are not about a return to an idealized prelapsarian form of pristine nature but rather about fusing traditional stewardship practices with emerging technologies into innovative forms of environmental design that can enfold and remediate the residual effects of industry’s concrete and toxic legacy. In contrast to the emphasis on contingency in much of multi-species studies, I use experimental ecologies to underscore a provisional intention in the work of technological engineers and designers. In so doing, I frame design as a process in dialogue with material relations, in which form is elicited from the specific thresholds and qualities of those relations. Similarly, I emphasize design as a practice demanding modes of attention to heterogeneous registers and embarking from the questions, What does an environment want to be? and How might we, as human beings, assist in and benefit from that process of emergent becoming?
Concrete sovereignty names a modern phenomenon that is, nevertheless, irreducible to a formula of Western modernity. It denotes a specific relationship between materiality and the political philosophy of self-governance in Japan.