This spring for me is filled with reflections on “new materialism,” and I’ve got the conference schedule to prove it. I will be presenting work at three conferences in April and May exploring the ways in which new materialist practices can engage important issues of embodiment in my research. And I’m using (you guessed it), Moby-Dick, as a core site of investigation. Each of the presentations offers a different angle on the issue, but collectively I’m hoping to probe more deeply ways in which I can think through (think with) materiality within emergent digital media space and develop my (re-)Mapping Moby framework. My three upcoming “talks” are:
- “Mapping Moby: digital cartography, affective bodies, and a whale of a text” Gender, Bodies, and Technology International Conference. Virginia Tech, Roanoke VA (April 26-28 2011)
- “’Call me Ishmael’ and other (new) material performa(c)tivities and ontological entanglements.” The Non-Human Turn in 21st Century Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee WI (May 3-5 2011)
- “(F)lensing and Reading the Whale with New Spectacles” (working title). Entanglements of New Materialisms. Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden (May 25-26 2011)
I say “talks” because I’m not entirely sure the format they will take. I’m trying to incorporate at least some more performative elements in my presentations, reflective of the issues I’m dealing with, so we’ll see how that goes. I haven’t actually confirmed the format of my Linköping presentation either, so I think I may be able to be especially “loose” with this one. When I was in Linköping for a research residency in the fall, I discussed with the organizers a kind of (re-)Mapping Moby demo for the conference, but since I am quite behind in technical development, I will have to figure out a way to 1) develop technology more quickly, or 2) demo in a way that bypasses some of the technical constraints in development. Hmmmm, we’ll see.
I must say, as much as we academics all try to veer away from the conference format, it does create a familiar (if often dull) mechanism for succinctly presenting ideas. Dusting off the Powerpoint and propping oneself on the podium for 20 minutes is unimaginative, but safe. The irony, though, of working through such complex “new-material” theoretical patterns, those that evoke non-representational models and onto-epistemological perspectives, while clicking through ppt. slides, or worse, shuffling papers, is rich. The philosophical dilemma from theory to discursive practice is not new, of course, but it is really resonating with me these days. Creative critical practice is a bitch. As much as I long for the camaraderie necessary to think with the ideas at appropriately-themed conferences, I balk at the idea of another conference listening to academics read theory at me. And by balk, I mean I have a strong visceral affective reaction that propels me to the hotel bar, rather than to that exceedingly ugly little conference presentation room, badly lit by ppt. and its Microsoft kryptonite properties that weaken even superhero academics. Ahh, Lex Luthor, you are powerful.
Anyway, I’ll share more of my new materialist dilemmas in more detail as I’m working through each of this conference talks. Stay tuned.