This review essay surveys recent literature in the history of science, literary theory, anthropology, and art criticism dedicated to exploring how the artificial life enterprise has been inflected by—and might also reshape—existing social, historical, cognitive, and cultural frames of thought and action. The piece works through various possible interpretations of Kevin Kelly's phrase “life is a verb,” in order to track recent shifts in cultural studies of artificial life from an aesthetic of critique to an aesthetic of conversation, discerning in the process different styles of translating between the concerns of the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and sciences of the artificial.

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