31/5/2020 – CFC: Digital Hermeneutics

What, when & where

Digital Hermeneutics

Critical Hermeneutics, vol. 4, n.1, June 2020

Guest Editors: Luca Possati (University of Porto), Alberto Romele (Université Catholique de Lille)

Deadline (full paper): 31 May 2020

Digital technologies are deeply woven into contemporary life – economically, culturally, creatively, politically – in both obvious and nearly invisible ways. Yet while much has been written about how digital technologies are used, and the activities that they support and shape, thinking about digital technologies themselves is still something rare. However, an expanded and critical understanding of the “digital world” is necessary.

The expression “digital hermeneutics” indicates one of the ways in which this task can be accomplished. Unifying these terms (“digital” and “hermeneutics”) means modifying each of them. On the one hand, considering digital technologies as something to be interpreted entails looking at them not only from the point of view of mathematical logic, information theory or engineering, but also from that of linguistics, symbolism, phenomenology and social criticism. On the other hand, applying hermeneutics to digital technologies means to formulate the question of meaning in a completely new way. This confirms that science and techniques “create philosophical insights” (Bachelard 1934, 7).

Following Ihde (1991, 2009), we take for granted four elements from Husserlian phenomenology: a) variational analysis, or multistability; b) embodiment; c) lifeworld; d) interrelational ontology, or intentionality. Digital technology deeply transforms these treats: a) multistability becomes surfing in internet; b) embodiment becomes embodiment through devices; c) lifeworld becomes the cultural context defined by digital technologies; d) intentionality becomes internet. The condition of the unity of these categories is no longer the subject, but software. Software determines and defines all the categories (Bratton 2015).

The first task of a digital hermeneutics is to avoid a digital idealism, i.e. the idea that the whole being can be reduced to a digital representation, a string of 1s and 0s. In doing that, digital hermeneutics takes up the concept of “distanciation”, that is the essential Ricoeur’s contribution to hermeneutics. Just as the text, according to Ricoeur, stems from a movement of distancing from the world, but only in order to transfigure this world and enrich the experience of the subjects / readers, the digital technologies distance themselves from the world of ordinary experience, but only in order to return to it in a new form. Therefore, the task of hermeneutics is to shed light on the pragmatic and social roots of digital. In doing this, the analysis and critique of the notion of “digital trace” and “datafication” of our society are essential (Romele 2020; De Mul 2015). There are two other main challenges : a) the analysis of the new materialities created by digital technologies (Hayles 2005; Kirschenbaum 2004), that are not neutral at all (smartphones, laptops, chips, hard disk, RAM, etc.); b) the critical evaluation of the notion of information in relation to the philosophy of information (Floridi 2011, 2019) and the classical information theory (Shannon 1948).

The dossier will focus on four research axes:

1. Culture and Imagination. We depend on algorithms to choose which book to buy, which movie to watch, or to execute a mathematical proof. Code is a kind of “magical spell”. If we want to understand the conditions of this dependence and the distance between “virtual” and “digital” (Vial 2013), we must develop an “algorithmic reading” model that would be not merely technical or functional (Finn 2017; Sack 2019). Algorithms are “imaginative machines” or “cultural machines” (Manovich 2013; Romele 2018). But what kind of imagination are we dealing with? Digital technologies create a world that must be interpreted in order to access it. Moreover, in the digital world the human subject is no longer the source of meaning. Phenomena like machine learning or data visualization interpret humans (their needs, their way of acting and thinking, etc.) even before humans interpret them. Traditional concepts such as identity, subjectivity, imagination and consciousness must be completely redefined.

2. Software Studies. The concepts of symbol and language become enigmatic in digital technologies. There is a very close relationship between writing and computation (Bachimont 2010). Today the predominant language is software, and digital hermeneutics cannot overlook a serious analysis of it. But what is software? Is there a difference between software and algorithm? Software is not simply the code machine or an algorithm. It has a cultural, imaginary, aesthetic, and even rhetorical dimension (Chun 2013; Berry 2013). However, “software has never been univocally defined” (Frabetti 2015). On this level, the task of a digital hermeneutics must be to go beyond a merely technical reading of software and shed light on its historicity and its ontology. Is software an abstract or concrete object? Is it an object or a process? “Programming languages are the offspring of an effort to describe the mechanical arts in the languages of liberal arts” (Sack 2019).

3. Video Games. What is a video game? How can video games transform the notion of fun and hallucination? Video games allow an experience that is detached from our daily life. However, this experience has important heuristic effects on our existences (Triclot 2013). “The video game is the total digital object”; it “increasingly exports its codes and culture, in all the sets and chains of the digital technical system, as well as in the most diverse social practices. […] Digital is intrinsically ludogenic [ludogène]” (Vial 2013, 185). We must analyse the singular nature of the playful experience in video games. In video games (at least in most of them) the suspension of the direct relation to the world aims to transform our existence. “Phenomenological alterations and virtual experiences disclosed by interactive digital media cannot take place without a shift in human kinds of ontologies” (Gualeni 2014). Therefore, video games can help us to understand how digital transforms our way of thinking about ontology. Nevertheless, video games can convey also ideological contents. For this reason, a political critique of video games is also necessary.

4. Politics and Society. Recent discussions on the post-industrial society, the information society, the network society, disciplinary society, control society, informatization, scale-free networks and “small worlds” are all ways of attempting to understand how social change is indissociable from technological development, though not determined by it. Social and political are not external to technology. The main task, in this sense, is a critique of the idea of network. As Galloway (2004) pointed out, the founding principle of network is not freedom, but control. The controlling power lies in the technical protocols that make network connections possible. There are new forms of symbolic violence (Bourdieu and Passeron 1970). In this situation, what is the relation between network controlling and political power? What is the relation between network controlling and the collective imaginary of a society (Castoriadis 1975)? How can politics have a “good relationship” with the net, i.e. a relationship that excludes total control on the net, but also subordination to the net?

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Vinicio Busacchi: busacchi@unica.it


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5/6/2020 – CFP: Pop Cinema

What, when & where

CFP: Pop Cinema (Anthology)
Glyn Davis and Tom Day, Editors

One of the most revolutionary and divisive art movements of the 20th century, Pop Art often found its thematic and stylistic sources in cinema. While it remains common to speak of Pop Art in relationship to film culture, there has been a significant lack of theorisation of films and filmmakers that were influenced by or employed the aesthetics and themes of Pop Art. Although there have been useful discussions in recent years of the place of Pop Art in the film criticism of curator and theorist Lawrence Alloway (Stanfield 2008), and curators William Kaizen (2011) and Ed Halter (2015) have separately attempted to define a corpus of Pop Films, there has been no thorough scholarly engagement with what this book terms ‘Pop Cinema’. This anthology will begin to remedy this omission by gathering a range of perspectives on artworks from the late 1950s to the present to probe the idea that a body of cinema and cinema-related practice exists that bears a direct relationship to Pop Art. We are concerned to bring the methodologies and critical positions of Art History and Film Studies together to bear on works of moving-image art—be they cinema or video—not to explore the ways in which they display works of Pop Art within their diegesis but to situate them as works of Pop Art in their own right.

In light of recent attempts to widen both the geographic and temporal frame of Pop Art practice, as seen in the major exhibitions ‘International Pop’ at The Walker Art Center (2015) and ‘The World Goes Pop’ at Tate Modern (2015-2016), we invite contributions which consider Pop Cinema from an international perspective. Moreover, we seek to engage with a wide variety of works from before and beyond Pop’s canonical decade of the 1960s. This anthology will gather a diversity of perspectives on Pop Cinema in the interest of charting new directions for the interdisciplinary practice of both Film Studies and Art History. We use the term “diversity” broadly here, to signify a multitude of types of moving-image artwork as well as an assortment of methodological approaches. Potential topics include but are not limited to:

· Individual Films, television shows and video works made by Pop Artists (e.g. Evelyne Axell, Dara Birnbaum, Dereck Boshier, Niki de Saint Phalle, Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Martial Raysse, Martha Rosler, Joyce Wieland)
· Nonfiction films about mass culture and mass consumption
· Pop and the surface aesthetics of colour and production design in classical Hollywood and global art cinema
· Pop Art and American Underground Cinema (e.g. Kenneth Anger, Bruce Conner, George and Mike Kuchar, Marie Menken, Ron Rice, Barbara Rubin, Warren Sonbert, Jack Smith, Stan VanDerBeek, Andy Warhol)
· Found Footage and Collage filmmaking
· Real and fake advertising and commercial moving-image work by artists and filmmakers (e.g. Dara Birnbaum, The Dziga Vertov Group, Richard Hamilton, William Klein, Joan Rabascall and Benet Rossell, Andy Warhol)
· Films related to pop music (e.g. musicals, promos, music videos)
· Modes of Camp reception and address in mainstream and underground filmmaking
· Discourses of Pop in film and art journalism and criticism
· Pop themes and aesthetics in Video Art (e.g. George Barber, Dara Birnbaum, Anthony Dicenza, Ann Magnuson, Antonio Muntadas, Paper Rad, Michael Robinson, Martha Rosler, Tom Rubnitz, Jason Simon)
· Pop in relation to global experimental and mainstream animated filmmaking

Deadline & how to apply

The timeline for proposals and submissions is as follows:

· 400-word proposal and 150 word bio due by June 5, 2020
· Notification of acceptance by June 26, 2020
· Full submissions due by January 8, 2021

The full submissions will be between 6,000–7,500 words, formatted in Chicago style.

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For questions and submissions, contact the editors at popcinemabook@gmail.com.


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08/05/2020 – Call for papers BrANCH conference

What, when & where

Call for Papers Annual BrANCH Conference

Madingley Hall, Cambridge, 9-11 October 2020

BrANCH 2020 and COVID-19

BrANCH is assuming, or at least very much hoping, that the current Covid-19 pandemic will be over by October 2020 and, with it, the travel restrictions between the US and the UK (and indeed anywhere else) will be lifted. So we encourage you to submit your panel and paper proposals as normal by the original Call for Papers deadline of Friday 8th May. We will continue to monitor the situation, and will make a decision on how best to manage registration, which would not normally open until June in any event. We can assure you that if we have to cancel BrANCH2020, a full refund for conference fees will be given. We cannot cover travel costs and/or losses, however, so we advise later than usual booking, perhaps, to ensure confidence that you can fly. The BrANCH Conference Secretary, Liz Barnes, has ensured that she has the dates to cancel by firmly in her diary, so we will let you know promptly (by the end of August, if not earlier) if there is any risk of BrANCH2020 at Madingley not going ahead. Please all take care in this current crisis.


Deadline & how to apply

The BrANCH committee is pleased to invite proposals for our 27th annual conference, to be held at Madingley Hall, Cambridge, 9-11 October 2020.

The Parish Lecturer for 2020, we are delighted to announce, is Professor Adam Smith, author of The Stormy Present: Conservatism and the Problem of Slavery in Northern Politics, 1846-1865 (UNC Press 2017) and No Party Now: Politics in the Civil War North (OUP 2006).

The BrANCH Keynote for 2020, we are equally delighted to announce, is Professor Elaine Frantz, author of Ku-Klux: The Birth of the Klan during Reconstruction (UNC Press 2016) and Manhood Lost: Drunken Men and Redeeming Women in the Nineteenth-Century United States (John Hopkins University Press 2003).

The BrANCH Committee would like to invite both panels and individual papers on all aspects of U.S. history from the period 1789 to 1917. We particularly encourage panels that open new lines of communication between established thematic specialties as well as individual papers that cut across traditional categories of historical inquiry in imaginative and innovative ways. Sponsored panels and postgraduate contributions are especially welcome.

In line with BrANCH’s diversity initiative, proposals for single-gender panels are unlikely to be accepted. Sponsored panels and postgraduate contributions are especially welcome. Due to limitations of space on the programme we are also unlikely to accept paper proposals from those who presented at our last two conferences (Edinburgh, 2019 and Missouri, 2020); this does not prevent them from chairing a panel however.

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Subsidies for UK-based postgraduate participants are available for those not in receipt of support from their home institutions. These will be offered on a first come first served basis.

We are pleased to introduce a childcare/carers bursary for postgraduates and ECRs with caring responsibilities. Full details to follow on our website.

Please send a brief CV and a summary of the proposed paper or panel (no more than 3 speakers per panel and 300 words per paper, please) by Friday 8th May 2020 to the Conference Secretary at: branchconference2020@gmail.com.

Please note that all programme participants will be expected either to be members or register as BrANCH members before the conference.

Further information on membership can be found here, and please see our Twitter feed (@Branch19th) for regular updates, or you can email the Chair, susan-mary.grant@ncl.ac.uk.


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08/05/2020 – Senior lecturer in political science, Security & Strategy, US and Western Europe.

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15/05/2020. Call for papers CHORD 2020. Retailing and Distribution in the Twentieth Century

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15/09/2020 – call for papers for the Constance Fenimore Woolson Conference.

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