Unless otherwise noted, all events are scheduled in Curtin Hall 175, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 3243 N Downer Ave.
Wednesday, May 1: a pre-conference event
Kelly Gates, “The Computational Work of Policing: Surveillance Video and the Forensic Sensibility”
Join the Center for Information Policy Research, the Social Studies of Information Research Group, and UWM Libraries for a special lecture by Dr. Kelly Gates (Communication, UC-San Diego), 2-4pm in the UWM Library’s 4th floor conference center (2311 E Hartford Ave). More info and abstract here.
Thursday, May 2
|9am-1pm||Autonets Workshop with micha cárdenas|
|Hefter Conference Center (3271 N. Lake Drive)|
|Join us for a workshop that will culminate in an 8pm performance where we will use Theater of the Oppressed dance and performance exercises to embody community-based responses to violence. Register in advance; more info here|
|3pm||Welcome: Johannes Britz|
|Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at UWM|
|3:15pm||Conference Introduction: Richard Grusin|
|Director, Center for 21st Century Studies at UWM|
Plenary: Lisa Nakamura
|American Culture, University of Michigan|
|"I Will Do Everything That I am Asked:" Spambaiting, Dogshaming, and the Racial Violence of Social Media
While much media scholarship celebrates the new ways that participatory culture allows users to generate new viral content by “riffing” or repurposing digital visual forms such as advice animals, animated gifs, and dance conventions, (Jenkins et al, Spreadable Media) this paper seeks to balance this utopian perspective through a critical visual analysis of “shaming” memes. The “trophy room” of 419eater.com, a site with over 48,000 registered members, is full of images of African men and women holding signs penned with demeaning slogans or engaged in ridiculous acts, such as men wearing women’s bras and posing with a fish held near their heads. And though the site strenuously asserts that it is not racist, the vast majority of the images are of African men and women holding signs that say things like “King of Retards” and “I like to give head.” While some of these are humorous, such as “I can’t believe it’s not butter,” many are designed to render their holder abject, such as “I will do everything that I am asked.” Some have been tricked into giving themselves tattoos that say “I give bj’s” or “Baited by Shiver” because a scam-baiter demanded it as a proof of good faith. These “trophy” photographs have circulated all over the Internet, causing near-universal hilarity. This paper will explore the genealogy, distribution, aesthetics, and visual history of this “shaming” meme across Tumblr, image trophy rooms, and other image and discussion boards. The root of the shaming meme in social media’s visual cultures of racial abjection reminds us of the digital pillory’s hidden history. This history is fundamentally and foundationally about the power of digital visual culture and its memes to dehumanize its objects.
|Speaker Introduction: Thomas Malaby @tmmalaby (Anthropology, UWM)|
Plenary: Greg Elmer
|School of Media, Ryerson University|
|Going Public: Accounting in/for the Internet
In light of the 2008 debt and banking crisis, this talk turns to the early industrial history of the accounting profession in an effort to understand the development of protocols and practices that initially sought to redress financial and corporate transgressions. At the heart of this story is a set of mechanisms — book keeping formats, audits, forecasting and costing techniques (including the costing of labour and determination of “profit”) — that governed the terms of “going public”. Such a history moreover serves to lay the groundwork for the enumeration and financialization of clients and their accounts in the Internet age, where users are similarly governed by a set of protocols that manage the terms of their “going public”.
|Speaker Introduction: Alessandra Renzi @RenziAle (School of Information Studies, UWM)|
|8pm||Performance: Building Local Autonomy Networks|
|Pabst Brewery (901 W. Juneau Ave)|
|micha cárdenas’ Local Autonomy Networks (Autonets) is an artivist project focused on creating networks of communication to increase community autonomy and reduce violence against women, LGBTQI people, people of color and other groups who continue to survive violence on a daily basis. The networks are both online and offline, including handmade wearable electronic fashion and face-to-face agreements between people. More info here.|
Friday, May 3
|8:30am||Coffee (Curtin Hall lobby)|
Plenary: Sandra Braman
|The Dark Side of Evidence: A Precautionary Tale
As our engagement with what an architect once referred to as “the twenty-five ‘posties’” ripens ever-more emphatically digital, at times moving beyond, we may achieve yet one more. In the case of facticity, however, the denial, refutation, masquerade, and trump are all designed into it at the core of all things modern. “Hyper-facticity,” however, can be achieved, and has been. This presentation will provide a brief history of facticity; articulate its dimensions; explore the various openness movements from a facticity perspective; examine legal features of facticity issues as they are manifest in and influence network environments; and offer a sense of the state and trajectories of facticity today. Contemporary facticity must be understood in light of the new potentialities of big data, complex adaptive systems theories, and novel approaches to causality and the assignment of accountability. Evidentiary purposes are not the sum of the instrumental uses of facts, but they will provide a focal lens for this talk as a means of throwing the light of the particular on behavioral, expressive, and decision-making effects of 21st century facticity.
|Speaker Introduction: Tasha Oren (English, UWM)|
Breakout Session 1
Surveillance State (Curtin Hall 175)
|Panel Moderator: Christine Evans (History, UWM)|
|Justin Joque (Spatial and Numeric Data Librarian, University of Michigan)
Mutually Assured Deconstruction: Cyberwar and the Catastrophe of Information
This paper argues that the development of cyberwar, along with a whole collection of other military strategies such as information war, lawfare, and economic warfare are expanding the battlefield temporally, spatially and conceptually. This horizontal escalation of conflict is reshaping not only the face of war but also of the everyday. While these techniques have roots in military strategies from antiquity their contemporary expansion and abstraction has created a new conceptual battle-space that calls into question the very possibility of communication in the digital age. This new truly cybernetic battle-space spills into networks of law, economies, and physical infrastructure, raising the specter that any system could already be compromised. This new concept of war redefines and reshapes digital technologies. Low-intensity conflicts and espionage quietly and constantly rage through civilian machines and networks, militarizing their design and function. Furthermore, the constant threat of low-level attacks and potential future cyber-catastrophes combine to sow uncertainty into the present functioning of networks. This weaponization of communications technology, along with political, economic and legal systems, creates an immanent uncertainty in digital technology and life. All digital technologies, and the societies and governments built upon them, are awash in this background noise of an expanding, abstracting and destabilizing militarization. While this destabilization facilitates the horizontal escalation of war into traditionally civilian spheres, it is possible that this ʻauto-deconstructionʼ of systems opens new possibilities for resistance. Ultimately, any analysis of the “digital” must come to terms with its relation to war and these discourses of cyber-catastrophe.
|Jeremy Hunsinger @buridan (Communication Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University)
Mutatis mutandis: darknets, resistance, and the technicities of internet governance
This paper argues that the effects of extreme governance on internet technologies, specifically the control of networks and content regulations of the contemporary surveillance states are generating significant increase in development of darknet systems as systems of resistance that operate within and through internet systems. Specifically, I argue that as governments seek more surveillance and control over the internet, they will have less control of technical elites. Darknets are securitized internet networks that operate either over existing networks through encrypted traffic on those networks, or increasingly they are mixes of those networks and either planned or ad-hoc mesh networks. Mesh networks are computer to computer networks that route date across, by routing it through the computers themselves sans intermediation by the internet. While these darknets exist within and through the commercial internet, their traffic can be governed by the commercial providers and the governments that govern those providers, mesh routing bypasses even that control and forces a different strategy to address the governance of content and its distribution. This new strategy for surveillance and control of media is device based monitoring, but even that might be bypassed by using non-standard operating environments. Thus I conclude that given the socio-technical parameters of future darknets, that the governments who seek to regulate and control content on the internet are forced into position of either hypersurveillance of individual devices or to abdicate monitoring and content provision to the communities themselves.
Gaming (Curtin Hall 118)
|Panel Moderator: Mike Newman (Journalism and Mass Communication, UWM)|
|Stephanie Boluk @chouxsalad (Media Studies, Vassar College) and Patrick LeMieux (Art, Art History and Visual Studies)
Lens Caps: The Dark Side of Digital Games
At the turn of the twenty-first century, we are beginning to understand the profound impact that nonhuman agents assert on the conscious experience of everyday life. “Dark pools” of financial liquidity and “black swan” events algorithmically escalate the US economic collapse while Internet “blackouts” and autonomous “dark nets” disconnect clients from computers in order to engage in and escape from telematic warfare. Attempts to correlate human experience with nonhuman operations—as with usability or accessibility design—promote a fantasy of mastery which obscures more than clarifies our relation to the mechanics of the world—from finance capital to physics. If this is a case of looking through a glass, but darkly, then perhaps it is time to put the lens cap back on. This talk will explore the phenomenal limits of digital media through an alternative perspective on the history of videogaming. Rather than rehearsing the story of an ocularcentric desire for higher fidelity graphics, we hope to engage the problems and possibilities offered by non-visual games and visually-impaired play. From Jeremy Kaldobsky’s Swamp to 4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness by Petri Purho and from Edo Stern’s Dark Game to the Helen Keller Simulator meme, this collection of “dark games” negate visual operations in order to question the very concept of game. The videogames we will examine (and original prototypes we will present) are not lenses, but lens caps which deploy darkness, blindness, and sensory deprivation to orient players to a horizon of unthinkability.
|Matthew Tiessen (Infoscape Research Lab, Ryerson University)
Gamed Innovation and the 'App'earance of Digitally-Modulated Agency
Imagine waking up on Monday morning only to be greeted by an alarm clock “app” awarding you 100 “Early Bird” points for getting out of bed. Imagine shuffling to the kitchen anticipating that your “app” embedded refrigerator will reward you 50 “Health Nut” points for choosing the low-fat organic yoghurt for your cereal. This hypothetical vignette of future morning rituals gives us just a glimpse of a not too distant world overrun by a digital “gamification” or “pointsification” – a world wherein the embedding of game-like apps, logics, mechanics, and modulations into everyday objects and routines adds “value” to previously non-game contexts. This is a digitally-enhanced – and potentially dystopian – world wherein intrinsic values are replaced by statistics, points, and badges in pursuit of access, privileges, and prestige; a world wherein the awarding, redeeming, and trading of credits, digital achievements, and virtual trophies is an end in itself. In the face of today’s burgeoning app and gamification explosion, this paper will suggest that the embedding of game-based logics into everyday objects and processes has the potential not only to reshape our behaviours and desires, but also to objectify the contingent nature of “human” agency in a world of technological and biological convergence.
|Kendrick Gardner @KG_008 (School of Information Studies, UWM)
Armchair Armies: The changing military and cognitive modality of the 21st Century
Violence in the media has long been a hotly debated topic with regards to its effect on developing minds. At the forefront of this debate in the last two decades videogames have garnered negative attention unparalleled to any other existing form of media. Recently, we’ve witnessed a massive surge in the popularity of ultra realistic modern military combat type videogames. Due to many of the same digital technologies, we’ve also witnessed a huge upswing in the development and deployment of military combat drones and various armed robotic platforms. Perhaps more attuned to societies watchful gaze via mass media, we’ve also witnessed ever more increasing horrific acts of violence in the form of mass shootings across the country. While the pros and cons of videogames have and will continue to be scrutinized by the media and academics alike, should we perhaps be turning our concerns to the root causes and cultural implications instead? We know that various branches of the military fund videogame development for training and recruitment purposes; yet those responsible for the education of our nation’s youth are woefully behind when it comes to bridging the gap between what adolescents learn in the classroom and what they learn from immersive, interactive, and realistically violent videogames. These issues, as well as the general shift in cognitive modality in today’s youth must be addressed before jumping to conclusions and enacting ill planned legislation or turning a blind eye. Failure to act now may result in a nation of less scientists and more broken toy soldiers.
Media Archaeology (Curtin Hall 108)
|Panel Moderator: Caitjan Gainty (C21 Provost Fellow, UWM)|
|Adalberto Müller @admuller (Literary Theory/Film Studies, UFF, Rio de Janeiro) Flusser and Kittler Against the Black Box of the Digital World
In a prophetic essay from 1991, “Digitaler Schein”(digital appearance) Czec-brazilian philosopher Vilém Flusser recognizes the end Modernity as the process of a radical transformation of alphabet into numbers, a process that would create no further difference between “real” and “artificial” (künstleriches) world. According to Flusser, Post-history era – or the era of “alpha-numeric society” – creates a gap between those who think and act in a “formal and numeric” way (the “programmers”) and those who still think and act in a “lettered”(büchstablich) way (the “programmed ones”). This gap could only be overcome through the opening or de-cyphering of the codes that sustain the “black boxes” created by the programmers, which seems nowadays almost a task for Sisyphus, specially for the scholars of the Humanities. However, german ex-”Germanist” and media philosopher Friedrich Kittler creates a literary-tecno-archeological kind of “hardware” hermeneutics that somehow accomplishes Flussers call for a new kind of research vis-à-vis the digital world. My aim is here to understand the heritage of the Flusser-Kittler way of thinking of the digital world in order to look through his dark side.
|Lauren Klein @laurenfklein (Literature, Media, and Communication, Georgia Tech)
The Long, Dark History of Data Visualization
William Small, the eighteenth-century natural philosopher, is best remembered as Thomas Jefferson’s favorite college professor – if he is remembered at all. But he also notable, albeit certainly less renowned, for his role in educating William Playfair (1759-1823), the Scottish political economist extolled by Edward Tufte (among others) as the “inventor of modern data visualization.” This paper takes as its point of departure the shared intellectual origins of Thomas Jefferson and William Playfair, locating the source of today’s impulse towards data visualization in eighteenth-century empiricism, and the epistemological relation it established between the observable, the visualizable, and the truth. By illuminating the intertwined histories of – and images created by – Jefferson and Playfair, I will show how each employed charts, lists, and diagrams in order to advance a shared empirical worldview, each with an unstated goal of enacting a system of control. More specifically, I will show how Jefferson’s visual rhetoric, as exemplified by his Notes on the State of Virginia, extends from his desire to assert the unequivocal nature of the evidence presented, to his attempt to enforce a unanimity of response among the book’s citizen readers. I will connect this controlling impulse to Playfair’s pioneering charts, which have not yet been analyzed from an ideological perspective. By exposing the ideological underpinnings – and social consequences – of the belief that what can be seen must be true, I hope to challenge the positivist rhetoric surrounding contemporary data visualization. By illuminating the long, dark history of data visualization, I also hope to allow us, as neoliberal citizen subjects, to better interpret—and ideally, to counter-contemporaneous instances of ideologically tinged visual display.
Plenary: Andrew Norman Wilson
|Movement Materials and What We Can Do
In Movement Materials and What We Can Do, Andrew Norman Wilson employs corporate, academic and artistic lecture techniques to the intertwining concerns of his projects Workers Leaving the GooglePlex and ScanOps. Medium-specific considerations and various histories of film/video, photography and publishing media are addressed, emphasizing the materiality of both analog and digital media and the labor processes they entail. Workers Leaving the GooglePlex investigates the marginalized class of Google Books “ScanOps” workers at Google’s international corporate headquarters in Silicon Valley. Wilson documents the yellow badged ScanOps workers, while simultaneously chronicling the complex events surrounding his own dismissal from the company. The reference to the Lumière Brother’s 1895 film Workers Leaving the Factory situates the video within motion picture history, suggesting transformations and continuities in arrangements of labour, capital, media, and information. ScanOps is based on Google Books images in which software distortions, the scanning site, and the hands of the ScanOps employees are visible. Through varied analog presentations, the aesthetics of the images and the apparatuses that produced them are foregrounded over the originally intended content. These re-materializations are treated as photography— taking the form of framed image-sculptures, compiled in a mobile book-sculpture, and presented in a performance-lecture.
|Speaker Introduction: TBA|
Breakout Session 2
Freedom and Security (Curtin Hall 175)
|Panel Moderator: Alessandra Renzi @RenziAle (School of Information Studies, UWM)|
|Nandita Biswas Mellamphy (Political Theory, University of Western Ontario)
Larval Terror: The Globalization of Insecurity in the 21st Century
The inversion/perversion of the anthropocentrically comforting Clausewitzian dictum that ‘war is a continuation of politics’ reveals at least two unsettling implications: that war today cannot be redeemed as a function of the body-politic; and that war cannot be understood in simply rational, instrumental and mechanical terms. This is the terror-horror (in a real Lovecraftian sense) underlying terrorism today, and we are confronted with nothing less than this paradigm-annihilating question: if, in its most uninhibited sense, war does not serve the State, then who or what does war serve (Guha, 2010)? Within such a theoretical context, this paper will focus on the ‘war on terror’ and more specifically on the figure of the ‘terrorist’ as the ‘asymmetrical enemy,’ in whom neither the object nor agent of terrorism can be readily defined via Clausewitzian criteria. As Reza Negarestani argues (2006 and 2008), novel forms of terrorism today are hard to anticipate and govern because they exploit the blurring boundary between civilian and military battlespace (how can one govern the ungovernable?). Drawing on these sources, I hypothesize that terrorism today is ‘larval’ (Latin larva or ‘mask’): its characteristics must be understood as ‘emergent’ and cannot be fully considered within the conceptual framework reserved for pre-constituted or fully constituted objects. The asymmetric enemy as larval terrorist cannot be understood as an ‘individual’ at all, but as a reticulation of larval forces that is able to weaponize its transitory, pre-individual and emergent properties. (abridged abstract)
|Tung-Hui Hu (English, University of Michigan)
Invitation to Participate: Activism, State Violence, and the Ideology of Interactivity
In the run-up to NATO’s 2011 intervention in Libya, a Dutch hacker using the Twitter handle @FMCNL warned the US military’s Africom Command that a F-16 fighter jet was mistakenly broadcasting its identity in the clear due to a misconfigured Mode-S transponder. As blogger David Cenciotti commented, this unusual moment for social media exemplified “what can be done with off-the-shelf products and a bit of knowledge, as well that skilled enthusiasts following air operations can help the coalition to improve self-protection and safety of some of its High Value assets.” Digital hobbyists working for the ‘love of the game’ may seem to be free of or even counter to the logic of market capital. But Cenciotti’s call for hacker participation unwittingly allows us to glimpse the neoliberal ideologies within participatory media. For Cenciotti, @FMCNL’s “simple and cheap” hobby, couched in the language of affect (“enthusiasm,” “activity”), has a payoff: it protects the military’s “High Value assets.” This paper uses two cases from the Arab Spring to show how affective laborers online serve as cost-effective auxiliaries for state violence. This is true even of digital resistance movements, which are easily co-opted; as Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter put it: “They point out the problem, and then run away. Capital is delighted, and thanks the tactical media outfit or nerd-modder for the home improvement.” If Lovink and Rossiter are correct, this paper asks, then what role can digital activism play in a structure of power that already positions us as active participants?
|Katherine Maher @krmaher (World Bank)
Missing the Forest for the Trees: the Falsehood of Internet Freedom
Under Barack Obama, the US has spent more than US $30 million promoting ‘Internet Freedom,’ defined as the protection of freedom of expression, association, and assembly online. This funding has been disbursed through State Department and other agencies to organizations working overseas on issues such as democracy development, human rights, and independent media—most frequently in authoritarian or hostile political contexts. The bulk of this funding has gone to support the trainings of activists and advocates and the development of ‘secure’ communications tools. While laudable in intent, the practical methodology of implementing Internet Freedom funding has proven impracticable for its ultimate aims and has arguably put at risk its intended beneficiaries. Increasingly, the very notion of Internet Freedom as defined by the US Government is outmoded, as heuristics for determining beneficiaries have been rendered obsolete by changes in global network legislation, architecture, and user behavior. Occidentalist categorizations such as a ‘global south’ or ‘authoritarian state’ typified by limited income or political freedoms have lost meaning in a world where income inequality and pervasive surveillance are increasingly characteristics of ‘liberal’ Western democracies—many with emerging popular opposition movements. As global Internet users adopt products developed and hosted in Western nations, efforts to allocate need-based aid by national need has been undermined by the emergence of a global policy regime predicated on US and EU norms. Finally, the false policy dichotomy of a world with an ‘Internet-at-risk,’ vs. a presumptive ‘free’ Internet has obscured increasing consolidation, intrusion, and incursion upon privacy and speech freedoms in the West.
Commons and Democracy (Curtin Hall 118)
|Panel Moderator: Jenn Fishman @JennFishperson (English, Marquette University)|
|Amy Elias @amyjelias (English, University of Tennessee)
The Web as 'Commons'
Everyone knows that a “commons” is a public, community environment open to all, controlled singly by no one, and somehow linked to communicative democracy. In digital culture and media studies, moreover, the rhetoric of the commons has always been an indigenous language: the internet may have been born of the military industrial complex, but it was from the start conceived as a commons space, and notions of “open source” and “the digital commons” have driven online innovation as well as utopian rhetoric about the Web’s potential for infomatic liberation. Yet debates about Web proprietary rights are hardly new, traced from the earliest warnings by Lawrence Lessig in the 1990s through the present in anthologies such as Balkin and Noveck’s The State of Play (2006), and on December 13, 2012, the Wall Street Journal’s Julia Angwin reported that under Barack Obama’s administration the National Counterterrorism Center has been given a freedom to surveil digital records of American citizens unprecedented even under the Bush administration. In this environment, we need to revisit and theorize rigorously “the commons” in relation to the planetary Web if this concept is to retain any use. In this paper I address how Elinor Ostrom’s research in political economy complicates and even refutes many academic and popular utopian conceptions of “the digital commons” and then consider how her research may force us to abandon utopian for pragmatic ethical and political conversations in relation to the planetary virtual environment of the World Wide Web. (abridged abstract)
|Jason Wilson @jason_a_w (Journalism and Communication, Swinburne Institute for Social Research)
Agonism, incivility and 'affect sinks' on the front lines of digital political communication
Twenty years after Rheingold’s Virtual Communities, it is still common for scholars to look forward to each new generation of technology as possible redeemers of a fallen democracy. My research on online incivility reveals that while the Internet has revealed our politics as agonistic, our institutions are still geared to the kind of liberal constitutionalism that depends on large areas of consensus. Indeed, the consolidation of neoliberalism has meant that the opposite to an accommodation of agonistic politics has occurred: many areas of politics and government have been depoliticised, and removed from the sphere of democratic scrutiny and dissension. In these circumstances, precarious, entry-level workers in our political institutions act as “affect sinks” for the political feelings which have been loosened by communicative capitalism, but which struggle to find their destination. For now, they cool the system by bearing the costs of agonistic politics; a more sustainable polity will have institutions built to accommodate interminable political conflict. This paper is based on a study of those working at the of digital political communication. Drawing on interviews with comment moderators on mainstream news websites and electorate officers for Australian Senators and Members of Parliament, I show how political communications systems are approaching something of a structural crisis. Those working in public facing roles struggle to deal with the large volumes of communication that digital technologies allow citizens and campaigning groups to send in contentious times. They also labour emotionally with the tone of what they receive at a time when a weakening mass media has lost the capacity to moderate political discourse.
|Mary Murrell @M_Murrell (Anthropology, UW-Madison)
Today digital librarians and technology companies are designing new digital information systems for storing and distributing digital information. Access is their guiding ethic. Libraries are “all about access,” and search engines have a mission to make “all the world’s information” accessible. Access is a keyword of our digital age, and, to those technologists I have been studying, its guiding ethic. Access is also a normatively positive democratic principle that has guided rights movements (such as the disability movement), social policy around communications (universal service with regard to the telephone), cultural institutions (such as libraries), and public education. My paper will argue that, as new systems are put into place around digital information, critical analysis needs to approach “access” not as a principle, however, but as a practice. Taking as my case in point the Google Book Search Settlement – a “copyright peace” that the U.S. book publishing industry negotiated with Google over its mass book digitization program – my paper will examine precisely how “access” was conceived in the Settlement. The paper will show that access, in this one case, proved to be more complicated – and much darker – than the aspirational invocation of “access” that mass digitization claims as its purpose and promise.
Drones (Curtin Hall 108)
|Panel Moderator: Gerry Canavan @gerrycanavan (English, Marquette University)|
|Peter Asaro @PeterAsaro (Media Studies, The New School)
The Remediation of Killing: Drone Warfare from Secrecy to Social Media
For a decade the U.S. government has been pursuing a covert policy of targeted killings utilizing remote-piloted drone surveillance aircraft armed with guided missiles. The details of the policy, its legal justifications, its implementation, and its effects on both targeted communities and the personnel who conduct these operations, have been shrouded in secrecy. Yet, much of the outline of program, and the digital networks of satellite communications, video feeds, computer interfaces, and automated aircraft, is publicly known. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have also been using armed drones for targeted killing for a number of years. In a marked departure from U.S. secrecy, the IDF live-blogged their most recent conflict in the Gaza Strip. Most infamously, the IDF released video footage via its Twitter account from the drone used to launch a missile strike on the car carrying Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari, just minutes after the attack on November 14, 2012. This talk considers this dramatic shift in the relationship between drone warfare and public media–from secrecy to social media. It considers the remediation of killing in armed conflict as digital media removes soldiers from battle via remote and automated systems, as well as provides powerful new means of generating and disseminating images of armed conflict. It also considers the ways in which these technologies enable militaries and governments to better control the rhetorical framing of armed violence, and manage the civil public’s relationship to the killing that is conducted by their states.
|Patrick Lichty (Interactive Arts and Media, Columbia College Chicago)
Weapon, Toy, Camera: the Aestheticization of Dark Technology
In the second decade of the Third Millennium, many discursive fields have formed around the emergence of drone technology. This is a vast cultural milieu, including the development of drone warfare and its questionably legal execution in Pakistan and Afghanistan to the use of drones for domestic uses in areas such as North America. Legislation has recently been passed in the United States regulating domestic drone use, and quadricopters are available for the 2012 Christmas shopping season at big box retailers. There is an unfolding conversation about drones on many levels; as political tool, as fetish, and as toy, with the phenomenological space between the first and last points being highly disturbing. What can one say about a political weapon that is tamed and repackaged for mass consumption? Is this saying that a Bengal Tiger is simply a very big housecat? Perhaps this may be so, but it would be analogous to a large housecat with Sidewinder missiles. Secondly, the gaze of the drone has been fetishized by the New Media Art community as part of the New Aesthetic art conversation that began when Bruce Sterling highlighted James Bridle’s tumblr site in his SXSW endnote speech. The New Aesthetic refers to a set of aesthetic practices that focuses on the nonhuman gaze, including ‘glitched’ media, surveillance photography, and drone imaging. There is a doubling that occurs from the fetishization of the object (toy drone) to the “New Aestheticization” of the image that comes from the eye of the drone. The epistemological line that is drawn from surveillance technology to its aestheticization is complex. In this presentation, I wish to discuss the political issues inherent to the emergence of drones as instrument of warfare, agent of amusement and aesthetic tool.
|Thomas Stubblefield (Art History, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth)
Rematerializing Combat: Drone Art and the Everywhere War
The practice of killing from a distance goes back at least as far as Homer who bemoans the use of archery in the Illiad as a cowardly form of combat which violates the Greek code of heroism. While this removal of the human from the scene of conflict has in many ways been the driving narrative of modern warfare, the drone or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) realizes a near perfect abstraction which in dematerializing the battlefield intertwines combat and spectatorship. Unlike the cathartic images of the Gulf War missile camera which plummeted viewers to unsuspecting targets on a scale that rivaled IMAX or before it Hales Tours, the drone relinquishes embodiment for a cartographic gaze which flattens the world, reaffirming Henri Lefebvre’s dreaded conception of space as an empty container. As such, the empty cockpit becomes a crucial means of articulating the abolition of time and space which is at the core of what scholars have described as the “everywhere war.” In the face of an invisible war, a handful of contemporary artists have sought to rematerialize these relations of surveillance and visibility. For example, James Bridle & Einar Sneve Martinussen’s Drone Shadows (2012) interjects life-sized UAV silhouettes in the town squares of European cities, Trevor Paglen’s Drone Vision loops footage from drone cameras which have been compromised by satellite hackers (2010) and James Bridle’s Dronestagram (2012) captions images of the location of drone strikes taken from Google maps with information such as the number of casualties. This presentation will consider the way in which the work of these artists engages with the invisibility of drone warfare, its transformation of the terms of combat and the relations of (in)visibility which it introduces.
Plenary: Rita Raley
|English, UC-Santa Barbara|
From the rise of for-profit universities to the push to develop online “content modules” branded with the names of established universities, it is clear that the 21C university is fundamentally networked, nearly impossible to envisage without the objects and methodological practices of the computational sciences. Profound shifts in delivery and distribution, as with courseware and open education initiatives, have been commonly recognized, though slightly less critical attention has been paid to processes of disaggregation, as in the development of tutoring centers on the model of call centers. The new P2P universities are driven by the principle of disruptive innovation, beginning with a corner of the market not necessarily prioritized by traditional institutions (e.g. tutoring, introductory-level instruction) and continually oriented toward a market takeover (online study groups become online universities). A roughly analogous narrative could be written of the Digital Humanities in relation to traditional disciplines. With an eye toward the “dark side,” this presentation will consider the production of the aesthetic as techne, the appreciation of entrepreneurialism, and what has become an innovation doctrine in Digital Humanities research, online learning platforms, and the new global networked university alike.
|Speaker Introduction: Anne Wysocki (English, UWM)|
Saturday, May 4
|8:30 am||Coffee (Curtin Hall lobby)|
Plenary: Julie Cohen
|Law, Georgetown University|
|The Networked Self in the Modulated Society
Networked Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) configure their users both by shaping behavior and by mediating perception. They therefore play important roles in the ongoing contest between self-determination and social shaping. Concurrently, the economic and political strategies of powerful players are reshaping the design of technical and legal architectures, producing a way of living that I will call the modulated society. Modulation here refers to a set of processes in which the quality and content of surveillant attention is continually modified according to the subject’s own behavior, sometimes in response to inputs from the subject but according to logics that ultimately are outside the subject’s control. Within the emerging system of global informational capitalism, modulation is a technique for extracting and appropriating surplus more precisely and completely. In this respect it is a new way of exercising power, and one that has important implications for networked society. Since the early days of the Internet, scholars and pundits have debated whether networked information technologies will produce a new global cosmopolitanism, or whether they will accentuate the fragmentation of civil society into balkanized enclaves animated by narrow, parochial interests. The reality that the networked world confronts is more complicated than either narrative suggests. Networked selves in the modulated society enjoy a species of community that is organized largely around consumptive and instrumental freedoms, and they participate in a form of balkanization that is profit-driven rather than identity-based. The values of the modulated society are those of a neoliberal philosophy of government in which citizens are defined through their autonomous choices as consumers of goods, services, and information. Charting a different course requires careful attention to the structure of the networked information environment and to the ways that regulatory activity is conducted.
|Speaker Introduction: Michael Zimmer (School of Information Studies, UWM)|
Breakout Session 3
Biometrics and Biopower (Curtin Hall 175)
|Panel Moderator: Jennifer Johung (Art History, UWM)|
|Zach Blas @zachblas (Information Science, Information Studies, Visual Studies, Duke University)
Escape, Opacity, and Darkness: Queer Illegibility and the Facial Weaponization Suite
Today, in an era of universal standards of identification exemplified by biometrics, genomics, GPS, and data-mining technologies, it is no surprise that themes of opacity, illegibility, darkness, and nonexistence are coterminously emerging. In media theory, there are concepts like Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thackerʼs “tactics of nonexistence” and Hanna Rose Shellʼs “camouflage consciousness.” New works in queer theory have brought about many useful conceptualizations, such as José Muñozʼs “queer escape,” Nicholas de Villiersʼ “queer opacity,” Jack Halberstamʼs “queer darkness,” and Jaime del Valʼs call to “devisualize.” These concepts and theories insist that illegibility is a tactic for political autonomy. In this paper, I engage biometric facial recognition technologies as a form of identification standardization and control and also consider the structural violence it enacts on non-normative populations through communications scholars Kelly Gates, Shoshana Amielle Magnet, and Toby Beauchampʼs recent work. I then present my current artwork the Facial Weaponization Suite that deploys such illegible tactics against biometric facial recognition. The project provides masks for public intervention, such as “collective masks” that allow a person to simultaneously wear the faces of many. Each mask is generated from the aggregated biometric facial data of many peoplesʼ faces. This data is imported into 3D modeling software, and when plotted together on the same plane, the result is a mutated, alien facial mask that cannot be read or parsed by facial detection technologies. One mask in the suite, the Fag Face Mask, responds to emerging scientific studies that link successfully determining sexual orientation with rapid facial recognition techniques.
|Simone Browne @wewatchwatchers (Sociology, University of Texas at Austin)
Branding Blackness: Biometric Technology and the Commodification of Blackness
This paper questions how the intimate relation between branding and the black body – our biometric past – can allow us to think critically about our biometric present. Biometric information technology, in its simplest form, is a means of body measurement that is put to use to allow the body, or parts, pieces and increasingly performances of the human body, to function as identification. In order to understand the meanings of biometrics as historically situated, this paper explores some early applications of this technology and questions its role in the racial framing of blackness as property. What I am suggesting here is that branding in the transatlantic slave trade was a biometric technology, as it was a measure of slavery’s making, marking and marketing of the black subject as commodity. I do this by looking to narratives, some written by slave merchants, others by abolitionists. As well, I look at the uses of branding as a form of racializing surveillance: as both identification and as corporeal punishment. This paper also examines the role played by prototypical whiteness in the making of some bodies and not others as problematic in contemporary biometrics and its attendant practices. I close this paper by looking to visual artist Hank Willis Thomas’ B(R)anded series and films starring Will Smith to suggest that these texts allow us a reading of biometrics as a commodification of information of and about the body that is contingent upon discursive practices for its own making and, in the case of B(R)anded, unmaking.
|Shelleen Greene (Art and Design, UWM)
Bina48: Gender, Race, and Artificial Life
Although parallels are made between slaves and non-human mechanical laborers, my paper seeks to move beyond metaphor and examine how legal arguments for and against black African slavery inform our current reception of and debates regarding artificial intelligence. For my discussion, I use Bina48 (Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture) as an example of an artificial intelligence that raises not only the slave/artificial intelligence comparison, but also questions of property, ownership, and reproduction – areas where legal arguments concerning the non-human status of both the slave and artificial intelligence also intersect. As featured in a July 2010 New York Times article, Bina48 was commissioned by Dr. Martine Rothblatt, the founder of the Terasem Movement, and is modeled after her wife and co-founder, Bina Rothblatt. The New York Times article and video interview elide the fact that Bina Rothblatt is an African American woman. Reviewing the transcripts from a 2003 International Bar Association mock trial in which Bina48 (not yet realized, but performed by Bina Rothblatt) sues to prevent a fictional corporation from disconnecting and thereby ending her life, I examine the Rothblatts’ defense statements which make reference to abolitionist anti-slavery arguments that challenged the black African slave as non-human property. While the Rothblatts won the mock trial, I return to considerations of Bina48’s race and gender in relation to arguments for her status as living, sentient being. In particular, I consider how the slave/artificial intelligence arguments are complicated by black women’s role as reproducers under institutional slavery and in light of current debates concerning race, technology, and reproductive rights.
Digital Subjectification (Curtin Hall 118)
|Panel Moderator: Peter Paik (Film and Comparative Literature, UWM)|
|Antonio Ceraso (Media Studies, DePaul University)
Contripreneurs of the Self: Digital Sharing, Contribution, and the Neoliberal Subject
One of the more seemingly positive phenomena associated with the emergence of both Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 has been the prevalence of social sharing. The interconnectivity of networks, observers noted, seemed to spur an explosion in generosity—a gift culture and economy that could only with difficulty be explained in terms of capitalist market logics. The will to contribute both digital and analog material on and through networks thus apparently opened an alternative space, a kind of hacker utopia that might be replicated. If this space was encroached upon, it was by the traditional notions of property as they played themselves out in the intellectual property disputes of the 1990’s and 2000’s. This paper seeks to put pressure on this narrative and logic by situating digital sharing not in an alternative space, but within an emerging discourse of “contribution” in contemporary capitalism. Drawing on Foucault’s analysis of the “enterprise subject” of mid‐twentieth century neoliberal theory (what he calls, famously, the entrepreneur of the self), the paper introduces and describes the figure of the contripreneur, or contributorentrepreneur, arguing that the subjective space for digital sharing is immanent to the neoliberal economic and political project. While drawing on numerous forms of “contribution” to make this argument—from contributions of code and creative works on digital networks, to the general shift toward defined‐contribution benefit plans (the 401(k)) in financial/labor practices—the argument here focuses most on the recent neoliberal history of philanthropy as a parallel sphere where we see the subjectivation of the contripreneur emerging. Viewed through this lens, the paper suggests that far from an alternative space to contemporary capital, digital sharing deepens modes of subjectivity favored in neoliberal economies.
|Joss Hands @josshands (Media and Critical Theory, Anglia Ruskin University)
From ‘We’ Think to ‘They’ Think: The Challenges of Subjectification in Digital Culture
One of the most celebrated concepts of recent work in critical and media theory is that of ‘general intellect’, as originally outlined by Karl Marx in his celebrated ‘Fragment on Machines’. The concept is often framed as containing a liberatory promise via the destruction of the value of labour power, and thus the capacity of capital to generate surplus value. While autonomist theories have speculated that this concept pre-empts characteristics of the digital revolution and the creation of cooperative common, there is a potential dark side of a digitally enhanced general intellect. This presentation will explore this dark side with an address to two concerns, firstly the neo-liberal recuperation of cooperative ideals as embodied in such popular thinkers as Clay Shirky, James Surowiecki and Charles Leadbeater, such market based recuperation of the common risks a decomposition of the common into what Heidegger refers to as the ‘they’, that is an undifferentiated ‘mass’ that is not, to use Alain Badiou’s term, capable of subjectifcation. Secondly, the presentation will explore certain strands of autonomist theory itself that disavows rational deliberation in favour of notions of affect and assemblage and as such risks the same trajectory as the neo-liberal variation. The presentation will critically explore the possibility of overcoming this danger with reference to Alain Badiou’s concepts of ‘truth’ and ‘event’ and Matthias Vogel’s work on media of reason.
|Morgan Adamson (Literature Program and Program in the Arts of the Moving Image, Duke University)
Markets Without Subjects: NASDAQ and the Making of Contemporary Finance
In 1971, the US financial sector witnessed concomitant revolutions in the functioning of money and capital markets: the end of the dollar-gold standard and the birth of the NASDAQ market. These two events signal the move towards the so-called “dematerialization” money; more precisely, these events mark the beginning of the technological revolutions in the electronic transfer of financial information and money that have, in part, enabled the vast expansion of the financial sector and circulation of ever-more complicated forms of financial commodities in the past four decades. As Caitlin Zaloom has chronicled, this transformation forced financial traders “out of the pits” and positioned them in front of computer screens, shifting the culture of financial institutions and the subjects that populate them. My proposed paper expands on the work around finance and technology started by Zaloom, Manuel Castells, and others by focusing specifically on the inception of the NASDAQ market—the world’s first electronic financial platform. My interest is to bring together recent theoretical discussions around the proliferation of credit and debt in neoliberalism (and the forms of subjugation they imply) with recent conversations in media studies regarding the interface, from Alexander Galloway and others, arguing that without an adequate conception of media and mediation of monetary processes and the technologies that undergird them, we cannot fully understand the operation of power relations and the production of value with regards to financial economies economy. The introduction of the NASDAQ is a pivotal moment of rupture in culture of financial markets, prefiguring the era of e-trading and the proliferation of financial products and transactions dependent electronic financial networks. Specifically, I want to argue that this network interface and the real-time financial information that it provided is crucial to understanding the new non-human, pre-individual, mechanical aspects of market practices.
Openness/Access (Curtin Hall 108)
|Panel Moderator: Gregory Jay (English, UWM)|
|David Golumbia @dgolumbia (English, Virginia Commonwealth University)
The Cyberlibertarian Agenda
The term “cyberlibertarian” is sometimes used to point to a widespread belief system about the positive effects of ubiquitous networked computer technology. Its central tenets are something like: 1) the unencumbered proliferation of computing power throughout all social spheres correlates with increased human freedom; 2) access to unregulated computing power is a fundamental human right; 3) regulation of computing power is unwelcome because it restricts that fundamental right, or impossible because technology advances regardless of such regulation. Together, these principles combine the apparent literal meaning of the term “libertarian” (broadly concerned with freedoms) with its specific connotation in our society, a doctrine of freedom from regulation, especially for actors in free markets. The core set of beliefs agreed upon by cyberlibertarians may appear to transcend traditional political concerns, but on closer inspection of cyberlibertarian writings and policy recommendations, a series of rhetorical moves license a deep ambiguity about fundamental political commitments. While left-cyberlibertarians write as if the participants in online politics and markets are inherently equal individuals whose power and effects remain consistent as they participate in society – thus giving weight to the claim that the internet “democratizes” – right-cyberlibertarians emphasize the ability of individuals to accrue to themselves concentrated power and wealth as democracy in action, and champion this inequality as the realization of internet freedom. Often these commitments remain ambiguous, allowing cyberlibertarian discourse to satisfy a range of political interests, especially when it appears to advocate a leftist egalitarian politics while tacitly supporting a rightist politics of inequality.
|Victoria Nash @VickiNashOII (Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University) The Un-politics of Child Protection
For many, there could be no better illustration of the ‘dark side of the digital’ than the media’s hysterical portrayal of children’s daily exposure to paedophiles, pornography and gambling. Yet although such risks undoubtedly do exist and merit serious-minded attention from policy-makers, the moral panic surrounding their prevalence serves to obscure another dark corner in this debate, namely the misrepresentation of children in Internet policy and regulation. Drawing on liberal political theory as well as empirical research into Internet use, this paper argues that children’s interests are ill-served by dominant trends in Internet policy-making. Specifically, too much attention is devoted to the avoidance of unmeasured harms and an over-reliance on symbolic technical ‘fixes’ like content filtering, whilst too few resources are targeted at reducing inequality in access, or providing protection in the face of changing privacy and copyright behaviours. From a theoretical perspective, it would also appear that there’s an unwillingness to accept that childhood is itself a socially defined construct, and media portrayal of children as helpless, vulnerable victims of online harms may be outdated at a juncture where youngsters are capable of both perpetrating online abuse, and protecting themselves against it. Finally, this critical paper asks whether the great myth of the Internet’s supposed unregulability and the state’s impotence in the face of online abuse and harm simply serves to mask the dark politics of yet another technology subsumed in the quiet pursuit of moral conservatism and social control.
|Gary Genosko @genosko (Social Science and the Humanities, University of Ontario Institute of Technology)
A Tyranny of Hands: Big Toe Computing
In this speculative paper I provide an unlikely example of a surrealist concept working flush with computing history that has both contemporary and historical dimensions in addition to pointing forward into a difficult to imagine digital future. What I would like to rehabilitate is the big toe for computing beyond the hand held era, the hegemony of palms, and intelligence of fingers. In the process I will reconstruct a historical assemblage as well as speculate on the big toe’s potential for breaking this tyranny and reterritorializing digitality below the work table. Thus, I develop a theory of big toe computing beyond the keyboard and mouse pad and the world of fingers, palms, hands and hand held devices: from turf toe to BlackBerry thumb, there exist techno-indignities of digits, but the human dimension of the big toe and infotech is my point of focus. Following the theory of French writer Georges Bataille, the interface of the most human yet base part of the human body and wearable computing confounds the low with the high and produces a condition in which the computational intervenes to overcome the horror evoked by the lowly, flat, dirty foot with chipped nails by means of regaining the big toe’s ability to move, though not convincingly grip. For Bataille, having lost its prehensile character, the human big toe is idiotic, especially compared with fingers, which are long, light and nimble and intelligent. Yet for all the nobility of the human whose head is elevated and distant from its feet which are still stuck in the mud, the big toe imposes its ignobility when least expected. The toe mouse is one example that I explore.
Literature in a Digital Age (Curtin Hall 124)
|Panel Moderator: Theodore Martin (English, UWM)|
|Joseph Tabbi (English, University of Illinois-Chicago)
Relocating the Literary: In Networks, Knowledge Bases, Global Systems, Material and Mental Environments
In two essays, “Toward a Semantic Literary Web” (2006) and “Electronic Literature as World Literature” (2010, Poetics Today), I set out a project for identifying literary qualities and marking literature’s present transformations within new media. The idea in these essays was to discern aesthetic and communicative qualities that I felt could be carried over to the present (e.g., Goethe’s and Marx’s unrealized call for the formation of a world literature “transcending national limits”), and those that could easily go missing (e.g., the materially bounded object whose aesthetic can be recognized and repeated by a generation of authors in conversation with one another, and renewed, revised, or renounced by later generations). Trying to hold onto both of these desirable literary qualities, the aesthetic as well as the communicative, I turn my attention in the present talk to the one place where such conversations are now being staged – not in stand-alone scholarly journals or social media (online or in print) but rather, in databases. Specifically, I consider the open source, open access literary database. I settle on database construction as a necessary scholarly and technical complement to the creation of works, not for wholly archival purposes, but as a condition or destination for present creativity. The electronic database, by granting authors (and their critics) access to present discourse networks and a means of identifying works, opens possibilities that appear unique to literary writing in new media. I argue that the current, wide-ranging database construction (already a trans-disciplinary collaboration among scholars and programmers), is the necessary precondition to the emergence of the electronic ‘world literature’ that I described some years previously. (abridged abstract)
|Sharon O’Dair (English, University of Alabama)
Why 1984 won't be like '1984': because 2014 will be?
In January 1984, during the Super Bowl, Apple Computer used a commercial to introduce a new product, the Macintosh Computer. Budgeted at $900,000 and directed by Ridley Scott, “1984” was sixty seconds that Apple hoped would stop the world by casting Apple – or maybe the people whom Apple would empower – as destroyers of Big Brother. Questions remain about who – or what – Big Brother was, or is. A fear of technology? IBM? Microsoft? Apple itself? Thirty years later the pressure of the digital on research and pedagogy conjoin to allow me to address education, entertainment, neo-liberalism, authority, and the profession of literary study. Taking a dystopian view of the world of digital technology, and of the current state of higher education and particularly of literary study, but doing so with a good deal of humor, I invoke the year 1984 – especially Orwell, Jobs, and Springsteen – to mark the beginning of my professional life with the digital, and to allow for an analysis of the consequences of literary study and higher education becoming wildly digital in the 21st century. The talk consists of two acts and an entr’acte. Act One addresses that compelling year 1984; the entr’acte pairs Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and the “Aimee Mann” episode of Portlandia; and Act Two addresses neo-liberalism, the digital, and the academy. I propose points of resistance to neo-liberalism and the digital: the embrace of art, the embrace of writing as a craft, and hence the embrace of the literary.
|Rachael Sullivan @rachaelsullivan (English, UWM)
The Liminal Textuality of Comments in Code
In Protocol (2004), Alex Galloway asserts that “code is the first language that actually does what it says” (166). Here, he attributes agency to machine readers executing scripts and compiling characters into software programs or web applications that people can use. One consequence of this view is an over-emphasis on the autonomy of code, conceived as flickering text-events (Hayles 1999, 2005) continuously activated before our eyes. This perspective tends to obscure the rough-hewn edges of computer code and the situations within which vulnerable humans learn and develop that code. As Matthew Kirschenbaum argues in Mechanisms (2008), the code object is intricately layered and inheres within multiple materialities and bodies: “Programming is messy business,” he writes (205). If we open the interface curtain to glimpse the backstage of a digital text, what awaits will likely resemble a “construction site, with spare parts and blueprints left lying about” (Kirschenbaum 205) rather than the sleek and systematic process promoted by most accounts of code performativity. Code’s eventual execution and ephemerality must co-exist with the uneasy friction of writing a massive composition that always threatens to exceed the programmer’s control and understanding. I propose to analyze comments embedded in the source code of digital literary texts — specifically the code of Sea & Spar Between by Stephanie Strickland and Nick Montfort. Through this study, I argue that questions such what is the text? and where is the text? encounter productive complications, at times diverging from those raised by Kirschenbaum’s readings of Mystery House and Storyspace software. As a theoretical question and a pedagogical opportunity, comments in code exhibit a liminal textual condition, somewhere between content and markup, between human readers of texts and machine readers of code. In turn, this uncertain, vulnerable status positions comments to serve as a starting point for readers who are curious about learning code and the making of electronic literature.
Plenary: micha cárdenas
|Media Arts and Practice, USC|
|Local Autonomy Networks: Post Digital Networks, Post Corporate Communications
From the temporary shutdown of ThePirateBay.org and Wikileaks.org at the DNS level to the shutdown of cell phone communications to prevent protests in Egypt and San Francisco, corporate communications infrastructures are obsolete for resistant communities. In contrast, people in resistance are imagining new post-digital futures. My work on the Transborder Immigrant Tool led me to Local Autonomy Networks (Autonets), which is being developed in collaboration with community based organizations in Detroit, Los Angeles and Bogotá, Colombia. Digital technology is the basis for an epistemology often referred to as “the digital” which is imbricated with western logics. To work towards post-digital networks is to participate in a decolonization of technology and to imagine possibilities that both precede and follow the digital. My intervention is to make a trans of color critique, taking inspiration from the queer of color critique, that rejects the binary logic of the digital and looks to oppressed communities for alternative logics.
|Speaker Introduction: Heather Warren Crow (Peck School of the Arts, UWM)|
Breakout Session 4
E-ducation and Labor (Curtin Hall 118)
|Panel Moderator: Wilhelm Peekhaus (School of Information Studies, UWM)|
|Joe Grobelny @jgrobelny (Reference and Instruction Librarian, Front Range Community College)
Information Literacy's Constraints on Critique
As early as the 1970’s, the idea that we were becoming an “information society” took hold, and very early on librarians in the American Library Association (ALA) took it upon themselves to devise a method for Information Literacy (IL) to help individuals thrive in this new, digitally-driven information society. As a result, literacy was the coupled with the pace of technology and the neoliberal economy, which fails to allow for the slowness needed for critical reflection and action. This paper critiques IL as it is currently taught, using Robert Hassan’s conception of speed (Empires of Speed, 2009), and discursive regimes, specifically those applied by Kitchin and Dodge in code/space (MIT Press, 2011). While many critiques of Information Literacy have examined its underlying faults, few have questioned the discursive regime set up by the expectations put upon individuals in the early years of the “information society” and “information economy” in the United States. This paper sets out to make these connections explicit, and give more weight to the projects of critical information literacy and more recent IL standards. The hope is to provide a path of resistance by decoupling information literacy from the discursive regime of speed in the the 21st century networked society of control, and examine some of the alternatives to the ALA formulation of IL: concepts like critical IL informed by Paulo Freire’s Critical Literacy, and new IL frameworks such as SOCNUL.
|Thomas Frizelle @ThomasFrizelle (Director of Technology and Integration, The Overlake School)
Luddism as Epistemology: A Call for an Alternative Framework in Educational Technology Research
A fundamental assumption in educational technology research is a belief that engagement with technology can improve teaching and learning; it is up to experts, researchers and practitioners to elucidate how and when to integrate technology in order to achieve the best possible outcomes. Coupled with this underlying confidence in technology is a belief in the progressive evolution of technology over time; the belief that technology is not only a powerful tool for teaching and learning, but that it generally improves with each revision. This paper seeks to briefly explore the implications of these underlying assumptions in educational technology research and present an alternative way of framing research in the field. When these fundamental assumptions are aligned with critical questions concerning technology’s impact on teaching and learning, it seems reasonable to spend an equal amount of time exploring the positive outcomes of disengagement from technology in education rather than focusing almost exclusively on the positive outcomes of engagement with technology. This paper draws on the work of Langdon Winner (1977). While Winner’s work was not directed to education, he advocated for a thoughtful, focused rejection of technology with the expressed purpose of learning from that disengagement. In other words, the thoughtful dismantling of technological systems in education could provide researchers, stakeholders, policy makers, and practitioners a better way to assess technology’s impact on teaching and learning. It is this notion of Luddism as Epistemology that should reframe much of the research surrounding educational technology. Additionally, practical research examples will be drawn from K-12 as well as higher education.
|Safiya Umoja Noble (African-American Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) From Extraction to Disposal: Black Women’s Labor in Information and Communication Technology Practices
The study of information and communication technologies requires location in social systems and analysis of economic and social practices at the local and global level, for technology can be an expression of oppressive social relations — it is not a neutral tool. From the mining of Coltan by Black women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to fuel Western computer and mobile phone consumption, to the displacement of Black labor in the United States through global outsourcing practices; political and economic systems of inequality are an enduring feature of social relations embedded in digital technology practices. This qualitative research using historical methods and interviews unveils systems of inequality by addressing issues of globalization, oppression and political economy as they affect and are affected by technology. I do this by foregrounding the experiences of women from the Democratic Republic of the Congo about their role in global digital labor practices. This is an approach that prioritizes alternative narratives about Black people in various technology practices, and foregrounds the role of Black labor in the extraction, production, manufacturing, consumption and disposal of digital technologies. This inherently locates Black life at the epicenter of the dark side of capitalism and profit extraction in information and communication technology industries across the diaspora.
Internet Culture (Curtin Hall 124)
|Panel Moderator: Jason Puskar (English, UWM)|
|Peter Paik (Comparative Literature, UWM)
Everyday Machiavellianism, or, How to Enjoy the Demise of Patriarchy
One of the darker and less theorized aspects of the web is the cluster of sites associated with pick-up artists and advocates of men’s rights, known broadly as the “manosphere.” Openly reactionary in their attitudes toward male-female relations and condemnatory of feminism, these sites on the other hand regard traditional patriarchy as hopeless and doomed. The most popular sites associated with the manosphere are typically maintained by pick-up artists who boast of their sexual conquests. They also aim at fulfilling the pedagogical function of teaching men how to attract and seduce women. But the comments on these sites reveal quickly the readership of these sites, which are made up predominantly of frustrated men who have been unsuccessful at courting women. In many cases, their failure stems from the effort to adopt social codes and behaviors that they believe women want them to exhibit, but finding that this is not the case. They thus resort study and adopt behaviors that are manipulative and sociopathic. The manosphere accordingly provides a compelling glimpse into how market imperatives in late capitalism, in this case, the sexual marketplace, leads individuals to embrace actions and conduct that are explicily sociopathic in order to get what they want. In this talk I will relate the practice of “game,” which is the name given to the techniques and attitudes cultivated by pick-up artists, to the novels of Michel Houellebecq and J. G. Ballard, which have as their theme the pursuit of enjoyment by means of an elective psychopathy.
|Adrienne Massanari @hegemonyrules (Communication, University of Illinois, Chicago) and Renee Powers @ReneeMPowers (Communication, University of Illinois, Chicago)
Creepshots and Predditors: When Should Privacy Matter?
In the fall of 2012, one woman began posting personal information of Reddit users, specifically users of the subreddit r/CreepShots, onto a Tumblr blog entitled Predditors. The r/CreepShots users intended to be anonymous when posting non-consensual and often sexualized photographs of women. The Predditors Tumblr resulted in utter humiliation and some of the men lost their jobs. The backlash against the Predditors Tumblr and r/CreepShots (both removed since) continues today. Palen and Dourish (2003) contend that users of online spaces treat the virtual world much the same as the physical world. In other words, instead of using doors and locks to maintain privacy, users develop strategies involving levels of disclosure depending on the online context. This speaks to Nissenbaum’s (2011) theory of contextual privacy, which demonstrates that our social lives are framed by the activities that occur in specific contexts. These contexts are characterized by the flow of personal information. Privacy scholars have regularly attempted to articulate the nuances between privacy and anonymity in online contexts, and the Predditors Tumblr is especially relevant to continue this discussion. The Predditors Tumblr raises questions about gendered surveillance, women’s bodies as public property, and empowerment through resistance, or even vengeance. Analyzing anonymity and privacy through a feminist framework provides a unique perspective to privacy studies, one that is often overlooked. Conrad (2009) contends that reconceptualizing gendered bodies as information can illuminate an individual’s right and need to control that information as privacy, a concept that is clearly violated by the so-called Predditors.
|Irene Chien (Film Studies and New Media, UC-Berkeley
The Transnational Contagion of Gangnam Style
“Gangnam Style” is YouTube’s most watched video, attracting over a billion views since its mid-2012 release. The viral spread of what has been lauded as a global smash hit seems to herald the triumph of a global network society, as countless parodies and imitations from Tibet to Brazil re-circulate the galloping gait of PSY’s dance contagion. The rapid proliferation of the video and its replications through viral networks has become a model for the future of worldwide media distribution as well as a sign of Asian, specifically Korean, pop culture’s ascendance as an international force. This paper refutes this narrative of celebration and empowerment. While Gangnam Style bolsters Korean national pride, it also reinforces stereotypes of Asian male buffoonery and inspires “Mongol horde” fears of Asian invasion and contamination of western culture that are analogous to anxieties about the insidiousness of network culture. This paper examines how the image of a frenetically dancing Asian male body became an American and global phenomenon in the context of transnational racial formation, phenomenology, and global networks. How do corporeal “styles” of movement become racialized and globally circulated? How does the “style” associated with a local Korean city district become remediated, through global communication networks, as a transnational style of movement, and what are the political stakes in the bodies that it passes through? I read the “Dark Side of the Digital” as pointing to the unexamined racial meanings attached to networked media technologies even as they euphorically promise to erase national boundaries and transcend difference.
Plenary: McKenzie Wark
|Culture and Media, New School|
|Telesthesia: How Class and Power Work in the Post-Internet Age
The most resonant slogan of Occupy Wall Street is “we are the 99%!” But who are the one percent? The popular answer is “Wall Street.” But to think about this more closely, perhaps the question to ask is: how do the most advanced means of computing and communication of our time create new class relations? Perhaps this isn’t your grandparents capitalism we are now living in. Perhaps there are intra-class struggles within the ruling class for which we do not yet have good social maps. Perhaps there are new kinds of class formation outside the ruling class. What do the new relations of communication mean for the creation of art and culture?
|Speaker Introduction: Lane Hall (English, UWM)|
|5:30pm||Closing Remarks: Richard Grusin|
|Director, Center for 21st Century Studies at UWM|