Announcing the Fall 2019 Conference Grant Recipients

07 Oct, 2019

Announcing the Fall 2019 Conference Grant Recipients

The Berkeley Center for New Media is thrilled to provide small grants to our graduate students to help them share their innovative research at the premier conferences in their field. We look forward to seeing the work of these students spread across the globe!

Harry Burson

Media Matter: Media-Archaeological Research and Artistic Practice | Stockholm University, Sweden

The Sound of Globalization: An Archaeology of Immersive Media at the World’s Fair

My paper is a media archaeological exploration of the earliest experiments and demonstrations of stereophonic sound at the end of the 19th Century. I argue that these largely forgotten applications of multi-channel sound reveal a genealogy of stereo sound as a part of a formative media environment in which the new technologies reshaped received conceptions of time and space. I examine how this transmission and recreation of space for a performatively modern listener suggests the technology’s imbrication in the colonial imagination of space as an empty resource to be reshaped and consumed in the course of historical progress. In looking at the origins of stereo sound in the technology and culture of the late 19th century, I ask what the early history of the technology can tell us about the ideals and assumptions underlying the creation of stereophonic space. My presentation focuses on the first two public demonstrations of stereo both occurring in Paris in the 1880s, as French inventor Clément Ader presented his telephonic system first at the 1881 Exposition of Electricity and again eight years later at the Universal Exposition of 1889. I explore how these initial demonstrations—along with the related technology of the stereoscope—alternately shape and challenge contemporary conventions of representing and shaping space. Written accounts and illustrations portray the public performance of private, absorptive listening, as visitors to the Expositions took the opportunity to demonstrate both aesthetic discernment and their facility with the latest audio technology. Considering the heterotopia of the Exposition, in which the world is brought as spectacle for a European audience. I ultimately connect this early demonstration of multichannel sound to immersive sound artworks at later World Expos including Le Corbusier’s Phillips pavilion at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s spherical concert hall at the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka.

Miyoko Conley

Fan Studies Network North America 2019 Conference | Chicago (DePaul University Loop Campus)

How Fanon Becomes Canon: EXO, Free!, and the Nebulous Transnational Fandom Archive

This piece interrogates our methodologies as fandom scholars when studying transnational fandoms, particularly around synergistic events between multiple transnational fandoms. It compares the beginning debut of EXO (2012-present), a K-pop group, and the release of Free! (2013), a Japanese anime. Though different objects, both have large transnational fandoms that significantly impacted the band and show’s initial formation, specifically through the Tumblr blogging platform. While it is not uncommon for fans to contribute to their objects, I note this time as a growth period in transnational, transmedia creation. The events surrounding the co-creation of EXO and Free! reveal just how porous relations are between producer, object, and consumer, between fandoms, and between online and offline, challenging the where and how a transnational product is produced.

However, I am primarily interested in the methodological questions of how to frame an event that is now seven years old, transnational, and stored in an unstable archive (Tumblr). How does one study phenomena that cross borders, without reducing “transnational fandom” to something that is culturally unspecific, as scholars such as Lori Morimoto have previously pointed out? Additionally, as much of transnational fandom activities take place online within platforms that are not efficient archives, how can we as fan scholars historicize important yet fleeting events in these fandoms?

This presentation will provide not only two contemporaneous case studies of important transnational fandoms for K-pop and anime, but also offer one possible trajectory for historicizing nebulous, yet affectively shared, transnational fandom events.

Kaitlin Forcier

THE PICTURESQUE: Visual Pleasure and Intermediality in-between Contemporary Cinema, Art and Digital Culture | Cluj-Napoca, Romania

White Cube, Black Mirror: Reframing Moving Images in the Digital Age

This paper examines a small but compelling trend in contemporary art that fuses traditions of canvas painting with digital moving images. These works involve moving images projected onto painted frames or paint applied directly to screens. In their fusion of moving image and painterly canvas, these works speak to the increased blurring of the White Cube and the Black Box. By invoking the materiality of painting, they insist on their status as unique objects in a digital image economy more often characterized by ephemerality, movement, or flux. In their emphasis on tactile surface, these pieces reveal a friction between the material supports of digital culture, and the moving, distributed, images it produces.

This paper will examine key works in this trend in moving image art to consider the tension between painting and digital culture which they encapsulate. I argue that, although these pieces point to the materiality of the mobile screen, they ultimately reveal a persistent incompatibility between the touchiness of the touch screen and the illusoriness of the image-in-motion. Computing is distinctly material, but it is differently material than previous artifacts of visual culture. By putting the tactility of the plastic arts in dialogue with mobile computing, these works pose generative questions about the particular materiality of the digital image, its status as a commodity, and its imbrication in a global economy with material consequences. This paper presents readings of key works in this subgenre of moving image art, including the work of Josiah McElehny, Albert Oehlen, Ken Okiishi, and Faith Holland.

Juliana Friend

Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA/CASCA) | Vancouver, BC

Algorithms of Immodesty in Senegalese Porn Infrastructures

As on many porn websites, content on Senegal’s first and now-defunct porn site was searchable through race and nationality tags (e.g. “White,” “Mali,” “100% Senegal”). This paper explores how's content configuration reifies sexual and moral difference along national lines. This reification remediates Wolof ethics of "sutura," glossed as discretion or modesty. This paper suggests the theoretical value of studying pornography outside Euro-American contexts.

In historically persistent yet contingent ways, sutura has predicated one’s honor, virtue, and legible gender identity on the “correct” management of public/private boundaries (Mills 2011). Seneporno’s nationality tags play on an intransigent prejudice that women in certain West African countries outside Senegal lack sutura or modesty, and co-constitutively, lack sexual restraint. Seneporno advertises videos tagged with these West African nationalities as more “hardcore” than other content. This marketing works through graphic design techniques, meta-linguistic markers of locality, and ironic dissonances between video content and title.

In publicity materials, Seneporno’s team claims to simply connect viewers to “what they want” through an optimization algorithm. This claim to algorithmic objectivity obscures the ways in which intersecting forms of historically contingent marginalization mediated by sutura shape the website's content configuration. Yet, seemingly at odds with claims to algorithmic objectivity, Seneporno’s elusive founder claims the site pursues a moral project. In pop-ups, disclaimers, and “warning” videos directed to young women, the site’s presumed founder addresses viewers and potential contributors directly, calling for them to heed his call for sutura by keeping the "corrupt women" and "pure women" separate. Seneporno alternately obscures and highlights its role in charting moral oppositions and reifying difference. Its meta-discourse frames optimization algorithms and tagging as technological solutions to a perceived social problem (of unruly, foreign female sexuality,) presenting an unsettling appropriation of techno-optimism discourse. This case study points to the potential contributions of porn studies outside Europe or the United States to theorizing the intersection of sex work, algorithms, desire, and capital.

Rebecca Levitan

Archaeological Institute of America Annual Conference | Washington D.C.

The Digital Futures of Ancient Objects: Discussing Next Steps for Collaborative Digital Humanities Projects

The focus of the workshop will be on recent work which leverages digital tools in the study of classical antiquity and the itineraries of ancient objects. As participation in the Getty Institutes and other Digital Humanities-oriented working groups has only been available to a small number of digital practitioners, we aim to share a general overview of the work conducted at the meetings of the Digital Institutes, as well as contributions from scholars presenting a relevant short case study of their own work or thinking-in-progress. We are particularly interested in projects which address the ways that digital tools can help scholars better understand the provenance of ancient objects, as well as how this can be visualized and spatially oriented.

Informal discussion of works in progress and discussions of problems of methodology are welcome, with the understanding that this is meant to be a constructive Forum for thinking through problems, rather than a formal academic presentation of any complete academic project. In addition to surveying the most recent advances in digital research relating to mapping, modeling, and analysis of ancient objects and spaces, we hope to discuss questions such as "what should happen when a digital project is complete?" and "how can we plan for the future stewardship of digital projects - especially those with multiple authors?" Although we might look towards examples of text-based projects as examples for best (and less-than-stellar) practice, the scope of the panel would be limited to tools developed to solve the particular problems posed by material culture of classical antiquity and charting its' past and future itineraries.

The ultimate goal of the workshop is to open the work of small groups of DH practitioners to the larger archaeological community in order prevent research replication, as well as facilitate possible collaborations and a larger conversation about key issues in Digital Humanities in relation to objects from the Ancient Mediterranean.

Will Payne

North American Cartographic Information Society Annual Meeting | Tacoma, Washington

Neither Pin Map nor Network Visualization: Liminal Mapping With Pseudo-Spatial Charts

In the migration of cartographic practice to GIS and web-based tools, commonly used in digital humanities (DH) projects and data journalism, important vernacular use cases have been lost in the "democratization of cartography," which too often requires strict Cartesian spatialization. While network visualizations solve some problems, many analyses require rough concepts of distance and bearing. Sometimes a qualitative or non-linear scale of distance can provide a more meaningful and layout-efficient visualization. We will demo our lightweight "pseudo-spatial" chart engine, where relative orientation is preserved, but distance is transformed in accordance with underlying scalar relationships, concluding with a series of use cases to take relational spatial analysis beyond the pin map. (with co-presenter Evangeline McGlynn, University of California, Berkeley)

Rashad Timmons, Lian Song, Bryan Truitt, Eleni Oikonomaki

2019 Shenzhen Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture (UABB) Exhibition | Shenzen, China

Collective Obscura

At the 2019 Shenzhen Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture (UABB), our group will produce and curate an exhibition that explores the ways fabrics and critical fashion design can be used to counter the ubiquity of surveillance technologies.

Attuned to the ways surveillance and various forms of biometric data capture are used to target, criminalize, and dox people, especially those within vulnerable communities, our exhibition showcases designs of our wearable technologies—sewn garments that mobilize the material properties of various fabrics to achieve tactics of camouflage, obscurity and opacity. Through our garments and modes of fabrication, we emphasize the use of textile craft as a subversive tactic of embodied resistance against centralized, mechanistic surveillance. Rather than reading our collection of wearables as nontechnical, we assert that the fabrics themselves inhere a suite of technological affordances that can be activated through the strategic inflection of their material properties and are quite effective when directed against facial detection software.

Our exhibition also will include a series of mini-workshops where participants will learn accessible and easily reproducible methods of fabrication that can undermine facial detection systems. We feel it is crucially important to equip participants with the tools to utilize some of these strategies in their everyday lives. The workshops will include how to quickly transfer subversive prints onto apparel and accessories, instruction on useful fabrication techniques, and how to use light and gesture to impair facial detection systems.

Xiaowei Wang

The 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts | Irvine, CA

Let's Have a Pearl Party: Style and Livestream in the Making of Subculture

Why do we ask about the future of work, when we could instead ask, when will work end? In this paper, I look at the phenomenon of pearl parties on Facebook Live to examine how artifice and style form a subculture that is against the dominant neoliberal ideology of hard work. In pearl parties, hostesses draw on a combination of nostalgia and campiness to open oysters that contain pearls for a live audience. These hostesses are typically in geographic peripheries, with a concentration of hostesses in states such as North Dakota, Iowa and Wyoming, leading pearl parties as a source of necessary, extra income. The pearl oysters themselves are a form of high camp: the pearls originally grow in a larger oyster, the pearls are then implanted into these smaller oysters, and then the smaller oysters are vacuum sealed and then shipped to the US from China. I draw upon Dick Hebdige and Stuart Hall's work on subcultures to examine how this type of informal work has created its own subculture enshrined in refusal, how pearl party culture articulates the jubilant failures of neoliberalism and the difficult contours of representing the actually existing working class. It is through this subculture that we might understand one path for failure and refusal as a way to counter and put an end to work as we know it.