John Fekete Distinguished Lecture series
The annual John Fekete Distinguished Lecture series was established in November 2011 and inaugurated in November 2013, by the Cultural Studies PhD Program to honour John Fekete on his retirement from Trent in 2012. The idea of the lectureship is to invite distinguished visitors to the university to share their most recent or forthcoming publications that are influential and important in the field of cultural inquiry.
Distinguished Professor, UC Santa Barbara
November 10, 2022
Media Infrastructures and Globalization
Associate Professor, University of Bergen
November 14, 2019
The term and concept “posthumanism,” emerging as it did in the late twentieth century, differs from earlier literary and historical periodizations. In part, that’s because our media of communication, which expanded exponentially around this time are themselves operating at scales that exceed human understanding. Like photography, film, and video before them, but at a different scale, digital media situate what we think and say within communicative networks that are larger than consciousness. And for this reason, arguably, scholars are no longer restricted to documenting our own eras of human inventiveness. Rather, as humanism itself becomes recognizable as a bounded and largely completed project, scholars are now more often resituating ourselves, and imagining again what it means to be human within networks and ecological environments that we might influence but cannot dominate and control. That these realities have been so well hidden for so long by economic expansion, rationalist explanations and cultural knowingness, gives us some reason to hope for more flexible and less restrictive cognitive frameworks in current literary practice. We might observe, in Neil Badmington’s account of the posthumanist turn, “a long-overdue rethinking of the dominant humanist (or anthropocentric) accounts of who ‘we’ are as human beings. In the light of posthumanist theory and culture, ‘we’ are not who ‘we’ once believed ourselves to be. And neither are ‘our’ others.” (Neil Badmington, “Posthumanism.” In Bruce Clarke and Manuela Rossini. The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science. 2011). From this posthumanist perspective, I will argue that we can begin to observe a revitalizing of contemporary literature and the arts. While at once limiting our expectations about human agency and design, a literary posthumanism offers opportunities to think differently, and to embrace alternative cultural and aesthetic imaginaries.
Professor Joseph Tabbi is an American literary theorist and critic who has recently moved to the University of Bergen in Norway, where he continues to work on experimental American fiction, electronic literature, and, more generally, the intersections of technology and the arts. In 1995, he co-founded, and is still Editor-in-Chief of the reputable scholarly journal Electronic Book Review.
Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge
November 1, 2018
Program Earth: From Environmental Sensing to Citizen Sensing
The drive to instrument the planet, to make the earth programmable not primarily from outer space but from within the contours of earthly space, has translated into a situation where there are now more “things” connected to the Internet than there are people. Sensors are such connected and intelligent devices that typically translate chemical and mechanical stimuli such as light, temperature, gas concentration, speed, and vibration across analogue and digital sensors into electrical resistors, that in turn generate voltage signals and data. By sensing environmental conditions as well as detecting changes in environmental patterns, sensors are generating remote stores of data that, through algorithmic parsing and processing, are meant to activate responses, whether automated or human-based, so that a more seamless, intelligent, efficient, and potentially profitable set of processes may unfold, especially within the contours of the smart city. Yet what are the implications for wiring up environments in these ways, and how does the sensor-actuator logic implicit in these technologies not only program environments but also program the sorts of citizens and collectives that might concretize through these processes? I take up these questions through a discussion of material from Program Earth and the Citizen Sense research project to examine the distinct environments, exchanges, and individuals that take hold through these sensorized projects.
Jennifer Gabrys is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge. She was previously Professor in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is Principal Investigator on two European Research Council funded projects, Citizen Sense and AirKit. She is the author of Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (University of Michigan Press, 2011), and Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (University of Minnesota Press, 2016), and co-editor of Accumulation: The Material Politics of Plastic (Routledge, 2013). Her forthcoming books include How to Do Things with Sensors and Citizens of Worlds: Open-Air Toolkits for Environmental Struggle. Her work can be found at citizensense.net and jennifergabrys.net.
Professor of Culture and Media at the New School for Social Research and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs at Eugene Lang College (New York City)
November 3, 2016
Sonic Intimacy: Voice, Species, Technics
Roland Barthes famously discusses what he calls “the punctum”: the unexpected element of a photograph which pricks or wounds the viewer, thus creating an uncanny, authentic connection between people across very different moments in time. My talk introduces and explores a sonic analog to this concept – an “aural punctum” (first, as it relates to the gendered female voice, and then more generally across different species). This paper seeks to better understand how “the voice” might be a site of not only human communication, but also “creaturely” concern (whales, parrots, etc.). Indeed, it asks to what extent we can take seriously the possibility of a non-subjective expression of the elements themselves – a “voice of nature” – without succumbing to New Age delusions. Quite simply: who or what can rightly claim to have a voice? Is it a property or capacity that belongs to a subject, even a nonhuman subject (such as SIRI)? Or might “the voice” be located somewhere between beings of very different existential types (and thus potentially creating a sympathetic bridge between them)?
Dominic Pettman is Professor of Culture and Media as well as Chair of the Liberal Studies Program at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts in the New School for Social Research in New York. For more information about Dominic Pettman’s wide-ranging interests, cultural practices, and publications, please see http://www.newschool.edu/facultyexperts/faculty.aspx?id=83228
Professor: Gary Snyder Chair in Science and the Humanities
November 5, 2015
Science Fiction and the Project of Posthumanist Science
This lecture will address the curious relationship of science fiction to modern science and the production of high-tech futures. Focusing on a historical case study—the physicist Gerald Feinberg's theorization of tachyons—and then expanding to consider broader intersections of speculative fiction and experimental research in recent decades, Colin Milburn will show the extent to which science fiction as a narrative genre and a mode of discourse propagates a posthumanist way of doing science, disordering inherited distinctions between mythology and technology, present and future, the human subject and its alternatives.
A professor in English, Science and Technology Studies, and Cinema and Technocultural Studies, Dr. Milburn's research and publications focus on the relations of literature (especially Science Fiction and Gothic Horror), science (especially nanotechnology) and technology (especially as it relates to video gaming and to the Digital Humanities).
Wendy Hui Kyong Chun
Professor and Chair, Modern Culture and Media, Brown University
November 13, 2014
New Media: Paradoxes and Habits
New media live and die on a regular basis. Poised on the bleeding edge of obsolescence, they are exciting when they are demonstrated, boring by the time they arrive. If an analysis is interesting and definitive, it is inevitably too late: by the time we understand something, it has already disappeared or changed. We are forever trying to catch up, updating simply to remain the same, bored, overwhelmed and anxious all at the same time. In response to this rapid time scale, much analytic effort has concentrated on anticipating or creating the future, the next big thing: from algorithms that sift through vast amounts of data to suggest future purchases to scholarly analyses focused on the impact of technologies that do not yet exist. Against this approach, this talk focuses on the ways new media remain even when they seem to disappear as key to understanding the paradoxical remains of new media.
Professor Chun brings an interdisciplinary background in Systems Design Engineering (B.Sc. Waterloo) and English Literature (MA and PhD, Princeton) to her work in digital media. She is the author of Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (MIT Press, 2011) and Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT Press, 2006), as well as the co-editor of Race as Technology, special issue of Camera Obscura 24 (2009), with Lynne Joyrich and New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (Routledge, 2006), with Thomas Keenan. Her talk will draw on work she has just completed for her forthcoming book.
November 7, 2013
Professor of Literature and Arts of the Moving Image
Inaugural John Fekete Distinguished Lecture
'MEDIA FUTURES: Mediatheoretical Mathematics in Action"
Professor Hansen’s substantial and extensive publications on technology and new media are intrinsically interdisciplinary in nature – including literary studies, film and media studies, philosophy, science studies, and cognitive neuroscience – but broadly speaking, his work seeks to illuminate the impact of technology on human agency, on knowledge (especially in the Humanities), and social life, as well as the “brokering” role of cultural adaptation to technology played by visual art and literature. Hansen's books, which include Bodies in Code: Interfaces with New Media (2006), New Philosophy for New Media (2004), and a co-edited text with W.J.T. Mitchell, Critical Terms for New Media (2010), along with numerous essays on such topics as "distributed cognition," neo-cybernetics, digital art, and time have made him a considerable and influential figure in the media studies field. His most recent work, on what he calls "the computational revolution," is Feed Forward: On the Future of 21st Century Media, forthcoming from University of Chicago press. His talk will introduce this recent and cutting edge work on “the logic of futurity” to our community.