Commons Conversations 2018-2019 In Review

11 Jul, 2019

Commons Conversations 2018-2019 In Review

Commons Conversations: Technology and Public Life in Changing Times is a discussion series hosted by the Berkeley Center for New Media on the impact of new media on our current political and public climate.

09/14/18 Belinda Middleweek

Love Bytes and Intimate Machines - Analysing News Media Representations of Human-Robot Interactions

Research on human-robot interactions (HRI) has surged in recent years with a number of studies debating the social, ethical, psychological and philosophical implications of intimate robotic companions in the form of sex robots. Despite increasing scholarly interest in these relationships, how news media represent HRI is little analysed (Correa 2016). Applying the concept of the ‘technological imaginary’ (Cranny-Francis 2013) to a qualitative content analysis of news articles published between 2007 and 2018, this study identifies the images, metaphors and narratives used in news media coverage of sex robots. The results indicate a growing concern about the future of human intimacy and key perspectives from sex robot enthusiasts were absent or marginalized in the news content sampled. Given the mounting evidence that metaphors used to describe robots impact the regulation of robotic technology (Darling 2015; Richards and Smart 2016), there is a greater need to understand how science journalism reports on issues of technology and intimacy and its potential to shape social attitudes and ethico-legal frameworks.

Dr. Belinda Middleweek is a senior lecturer in the School of Communication at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia. She has worked as a segment producer for Australia’s top rating breakfast television programs Sunrise and The Morning Show and for the nightly current affairs program Today Tonight (Seven Network). She has also worked as an associate producer, field producer and researcher on a range of local and internationally broadcast documentaries for production houses Beyond International, Shadow Productions, Graham McNeice Productions and iKandy Films. Her PhD explored media representations of “deviant women” and her research on gender, media and digital cultures has been published in the international journals Feminist Media Studies, Sexualities and Crime, Media, Culture. Her book Real Sex Films: The New Intimacy and Risk in Cinema (2017 with John Tulloch), explored intimacy, desire, risk and transgression in films of the extreme cinema movement. She is currently researching mediations and technologies of intimacy with a particular focus on news media representations of human-robot intimacy.

From the recap:

Middleweek addressed the social, ethical, psychological, and philosophical implications of sex robots in relation to the ‘technological imaginary,’ as well as shared some of the images, metaphors, and narratives used in coverage of intimate robot companions. Given the explosion of interest and development of human robots and AI, her scholarship shines a light on how news journalism is shaping social attitudes and ethico-legal frameworks, thus impacting the regulation surrounding issues of technology and intimacy.

Read the full post here!

11/09/18 Lucia Allais

Designs of Destruction: The Making of Monuments in the 20th Century

Between 1943 and 1945, the Allied Air Forces produced aerial photographs of 79 Italian cities, annotated them with the location of monuments, and appended them with elaborate instructions for aerial bombers on “how to miss cultural sites.” Similar lists and maps of monuments were produced by the Allies for almost every country in Europe, alternatively expanding and shrinking to fit various phases of fighting. The longest German list was 150 pages; one map of 23 monuments for the whole of France was once made. What kind of media were these? To what use were they put; how did they partake in the technologies of precision that were the core of Allied aerial strategy, and how did they help inaugurate a new global regime of cultural preservation? Lucia Allais will narrate and analyze this remarkable episode, drawn from her book, Designs of Destruction: The Making of Monuments in the 20 th Century (Chicago: 2018), which chronicles the rise of the cultural monument as a modern, global, building type between the 1930s and 1970s.

Lucia Allais is a historian and theorist of architecture who works at the intersection of architecture, preservation, politics and technology in the modern period, with a special focus on international institutions and global practices. Her first book, Designs of Destruction (University of Chicago Press, 2018), addresses the rise of the cultural monument as a global building type, due in equal parts to the success of bureaucracy as a tool for global governance, the availability of modern architectural techniques to maintain buildings old and new, and the banality of destruction as a historical fact.

From the recap:

Lucia Allais (Associate Professor of Architecture, Princeton University) lectured to an overflowing house about her remarkable research chronicling the rise of cultural monument as a modern, global building type.

Read the full post here!

03/18/19 Bo Ruberg

Video Games Have Always Been Queer

While popular discussions about queerness in video games often focus on big-name, mainstream games that feature LGBTQ characters, like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, Bonnie Ruberg pushes the concept of queerness in games beyond a matter of representation, exploring how video games can be played, interpreted, and designed queerly, whether or not they include overtly LGBTQ content. Video Games Have Always Been Queer argues that the medium of video games itself can—and should—be read queerly.

In the first book dedicated to bridging game studies and queer theory, Ruberg resists the common, reductive narrative that games are only now becoming more diverse. Revealing what reading D. A. Miller can bring to the popular 2007 video game Portal, or what Eve Sedgwick offers Pong, Ruberg models the ways game worlds offer players the opportunity to explore queer experience, affect, and desire. As players attempt to ‘pass’ in Octodad or explore the pleasure of failure in Burnout: Revenge, Ruberg asserts that, even within a dominant gaming culture that has proved to be openly hostile to those perceived as different, queer people have always belonged in video games—because video games have, in fact, always been queer.

Bonnie Ruberg, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of digital games and interactive media in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. Their research explores gender and sexuality in digital media and digital cultures. They are the author of Video Games Have Always Been Queer (NYU Press, 2019) and the co-editor of Queer Game Studies (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), as well as the co-lead organizer and co-founder of the annual Queerness and Games Conference. They received their Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in conjunction with the Berkeley Center for New Media and served as a Provost's Postdoctoral Scholar in the Interactive Media and Games Division at the University of Southern California.

From the recap:

The lecture drew from their recently published book, Video Games Have Always Been Queer (NYU Press, 2019) as well as new research directions, and opened a conversation, “more broadly about this intersection between LGBT issues and video games, and how working through queerness allows us to understand video games differently.” Ruberg delved into the core argument of their book, “that all video games, even games that don’t appear to have LGBT representation, can be understood as queer”; highlighted ways of thinking about this, including queer interpretation, queer play, and queer design; and shared new explorations regarding how queerness can be seen in the computational technologies that underlie videogames, as well as actionable take-aways for design.

Read the full post here!

Check out the video below:


And don't miss out on our first Commons Conversations of the 2019-2020 year with Ceci Moss on November 18th on Expanded Internet Art!

Details here!