Home > Uncategorized > Reflections on SLSA conference 2009

Reflections on SLSA conference 2009

Last weekend, I had the chance to carpool down to the SLSA (Society for Literature, Science and the Arts) which was held in Atlanta, Georgia. The theme this year was “coding/decoding” and highly relevant to some of the issues we’ve talked about in class, so I thought I’d jot down some of the notes that I took from interesting presentations (unfortunately I could not see Kate and Bill’s presentations because they were held at the exact same time, so instead of choosing I sat in on a panel on Shekcner’s performance theory).

Friday morning: Clarissa gave a talk on consciousness, thought experiments, and a novel about Alan Turing (which she can explain further :). The other presenter was John Bruni, who wrote about the relations of popular science magazines in the early 20th century, the emergence of anthropology as a discipline, evolution, and Secretary of State John Hay’s foreign policy. His argument was essentially: we create what we think we know, and that the idea of observed information as objective should be unbalanced. Science and the social are made together. For Hay, if you had the power of representation, you didn’t have to control regions locally. Bruni discussed how scientists take part in foreign policy whether they like it or not, and in the politics of representation. Some nice threads that were pointed out as running through both Clarissa’s and John’s papers included: evolutionary narratives being “thought experiments” of the past, future v. past oriented modeling, and how perhaps knowledge will never get away from the “non-human” because in analyzing and observing, we already make the data ours. (This strikes me as a very Cavellian point, that knowledge is always “for” someone, not up for grabs in a kind of idealist universe)

Friday mid-morning: Nancy Anderson, Colin Milburn, Rob Mitchell (Duke). Nancy gave a presentation on the mind/brain, visual technology and revolution, which primarily concerned the Buckminster Fuller’s “world game” in the world expo ’67 and the geodesic dome it was housed in (including “ludology” or the study of games, another theme in Clarissa’s paper). She was interested in the impulse to externalize the self (or brain) in order to change that self, calling this a “tesseract effect” where the mind is exploded and reinternalized (or reterritorialized). Colin (my undergraduate advisor) gave a phenomenal presentation on the genre of Mondo films that was delivered in the style of Mondo (dealing with violent and controversial material, “shockumentaries” designed to provide a different sort of global tourism), where he read his paper while playing a powerpoint presentation that utilized the “shock cut” to go from Mondo film footage to various text blocks or important dates. Rob Mitchell gave a talk on Romantic era vitalism and modern bioartists, and the “mutual infection” of media and vitality, metaphors of organic transformation.

Friday afternoon: Colin gave another talk on the videogame “Crysis” and the contradiction within its nanotechnology rhetoric of the nanosuit as being at “ultimate hardness” and impenetrability, while nanotechnology also presented the anxiety of the body being a site of endless penetration (a “softer” situation). Lisa Yaszek (a science fiction scholar) gave a great talk on the genric relation between (what she refers to as “mundane” or realistic) SF and foreign policy, as both intend to speculate credibly about the future based on current developments.

Friday late afternoon: the Duke guys: Zach, Casey Alt, Patrick Jagoda. Patrick went first and talked about network theory/network aesthetics in “The Wire”; Zach talked about his Queer Technologies project (elaborated in the previous post); and Casey gave a presentation on the company for which he is the CEO of one, Vacillogix, which equates sociopathy with individual freedom–and develops iPhone/facebook applications that enable this (as a way of pushing capitalism to its extreme).

I’ll post on Saturday and Ian Bogost’s talk on “alien phenomenology” soon.

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