Objects, Animals, Fantasies and Speculations, Oh My!

Darth Stark

With Trimester 1 ending this week and Wellington quickly sinking into winter, I’m looking forward to visiting warmer-than-here Australia…

In a few weeks I’ll be heading to Brisbane to join a great team at the CCI Winter School, which offers some amazing participants “a week-long program of interdisciplinary study, collaboration and social interaction in the broad area of creative industries and innovation research.” While there,  I’ll be co-facilitating the following workshops:

Materiality, Digital Media and the Stuff of Everyday Life (with Heather Horst)

Material culture studies, STS, infrastructures and related approaches to conceptualising human and nonhuman agency have become central to our understanding of the relationships we have with digital media and technology. This workshop will explore the material infrastructures and objects that underpin participants’ areas of study, and ask questions about the active roles they play in constituting our experiences of digital media and culture – ‘the stuff’ of everyday life.

The Internet of Animals and Dead People (with Tama Leaver)

While online profiles, identities, policies and discussions almost always centre on active human subjects, the internet is a vast arena filled with many other entities. This scenario-driven workshop will focus on two under-studied areas which are both meaningful in themselves, and shed important light on the limitations of much current thinking about online culture. Tama will focus on the question of digital death and the transition of active subjects into digital objects and sites of mourning, examining the relationship between identity and ‘being’ data. Anne will explore the increasingly vital roles that animals–and even some vegetables and minerals–are taking as mediators of digital culture, while also questioning the possibilities of nonhuman media production.

The following week, I’ll head to Melbourne to spend some time with the stellar researchers at RMIT’s Digital Ethnography Research Centre. While there, I’ll be teaching the following Postgraduate Masterclass:

Fantastic Ethnography and Speculative Design

Let's PretendEthnographers have long grappled with questions of empiricism, cultural representation and performance, but these debates almost exclusively maintain the assumption that ethnography is, and should remain, a realist endeavour. Even ethnographic fictions are expected to resemble stories that could actually have happened, or might actually have been uncovered through ethnographic research. But what could ethnography become, and do, if it maintained its interest in partial truths but was not bound by realist aesthetics? What could the subjects—and objects—of ethnography become? And by moving beyond the literal writing of culture, what worlds could we make? Using examples from speculative fiction and design, this postgraduate masterclass will explore what making things and making things up can, and cannot, offer the practice of ethnography. In particular, we will look at what fantastic ethnography and speculative design can bring to our understanding of complex cultural issues and the decline of human exceptionalism.

I’m also looking forward to catching up with some colleagues at Swinburne, and if you’re in Melbourne or Brisbane and would like to meet up, please just DM me on Twitter.