[iDC] IPF09 Conference thoughts

stmart96 at aol.com stmart96 at aol.com
Thu Dec 3 17:47:46 UTC 2009

Hi Everyone,  I want to add to the comments on the conference  in hopes of encouraging  support for future events.  I must be brief  I am afraid.   The conference  was exhausting  in the Deleuzian sense.  It exhausted me and it exhausted a broad range of  topics making room for fresh and much needed critical thinking. I loved the range of the scholarship and the intensity of most of the presentations. I deeply appreciated everyone's efforts.  I feel we only have begun to know what this field of study is or maybe that it is ever changing even as we  think it.    Of the papers I enjoyed so much  I want to point out Alexander Galloway's.   I thought it  politically brave and on that same panel  Timothy Pachirat on the slaughter of cows  This presentation was fabulous, working  from the meat to the virtual and back  was a bit startling intellectually   and the best use of ethnography I have seen in a long time.   Like others, I missed panels  but have been catching up online.   Trebor's organization of online and  elsewhere was fabulous   Really  great. The online videos and the blogging and tweeting    yes yes yes.    I would like much more  techo experimentation among us   Group work is needed.  I want it.  I do.    Patricia    

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Edward Cote <markcote at trentu.ca>
To: idc at mailman.thing.net; scubitt at unimelb.edu.au
Sent: Wed, Dec 2, 2009 4:37 pm
Subject: [iDC] IPF09 Conference thoughts

Hello all,
here are some concluding thought on the IPF09 conference as requested,
lbeit a little late...
first off, i want to thank trebor organizing such a brilliant event; it
as certainly one of the best conferences i have had the privilege to
ttend. as important was all the work done by the student volunteers.
ithout your collective labour, the play of the conference simply would
ot have happened. thank you.
i won't try to comprehensively summarize the conference in part because
oncurrent panels meant i (like everyone) missed so much, including
umerous panels i would have dearly loved to have attended (especially
ideology and the erotics of playlabor", "work, labor and the
roductivity of fun", and "the emancipatory potential of play").
nstead, i will offer a more impressionistic account and suggest ways
hat at least it has prodded me to want to move forward.
the scope and intensity of mediation was both appropriate and thought
rovoking. the IPF09 tweets in particular was an unexpectedly welcome
tream of dialogue, inter- and intra-panel and by those materially and
irtually present. as well, the pre-conference interviews (on video) and
he live streaming video of the panels set a new baseline to which i
hink future conferences should aspire. thanks again to all the students
or their labour which made such mediation possible. and a question:
ill the panel videos be archived on the site?
the diversity of participants (not just artists, activists,
ractitioners, and academics, but the range of scholars) gave the
onference a real depth and richness. perhaps most amazingly, it
esulted in many instances of incredibly productive dialogue that i did
ot necessarily expect. for me the most impressive example was the
aturday morning panel 'governance in the age of vulnerable publics.'
onestly, i wasn't sure what to expect on a panel with a couple of legal
cholars and an activist-scholar but the results were breathtaking.
onathan zittrain was truly, deeply funny, as well as richly
ubstantive. in conjunction with a great presentation by laura denardis,
t was a reminder that regarding issues of legal governance and
echnical architecture, the devil is in (knowing, and where possible
ubverting) the details. the whole while i was wondering how brian
olmes might respond but any apprehensions i had were wildly misplaced.
is outstanding paper on 'predatory networks' made palpable the issues
f governance in their real (and often deadly) effects on labour.
ollectively it reminded me that critical interdisciplinarity offers
erhaps the most robust tools for thought and action--something that
ade getting up early on saturday definitely worthwhile.  
my panel highlight though was the friday evening's 'changing sites of
alue' with patricia clough, orit halpern and melissa gregg. talk about
hree powerhouses! ideas and concepts were flying with such speed and
ntensity that, in the best possible way, i felt like i was flattened by
 steamroller. thank you all seriously for reminding me why i love being
n academic in the first place; what a febrile pursuit of ideas.
atricia's paper raised critical questions around 'measuring the
mmeasurable' especially in terms of affect when considered as
otentiality. questions of measure are surely among the most important
hallenges identified at the conference, both for capital in seeking to
xtract value, and for those who wish to both understand and mobilize
or progressive purposes what patricia called the 'ontology of dynamic
atter.' the pace and intensity of orit's presentation was a challenge
o, in her words, "choose a pattern in the data field." i was fascinated
y her radical representation of second-generation cybernetics,
specially regarding the multi-mediated informational flow which
roceeded with an assumption of 'absolute storage.' this left me
uminating on the relationship between a political economy of absolute
torage versus it affective, bodily phenomenology. finally, melissa
regg recounted the important feminist genealogy of affective labour. it
as a necessary reminder that the concept of 'affect' is much more than
soteric theory; instead, it helps us understand real trends in labour
hich are often markedly gendered. she presented research from her
orthcoming book 'working from home' which recounts women (often
others) who undertake domestic computer-mediated work. as she asked,
hat kind of labour politics might address such a situation wherein
omputers are sold as a solution to a largely gendered problem? this
gain raises that confounding relation between the material body and its
irtual instantiations.
that this panel lasted only 90 minutes was its only shortcoming.
the last panel i want to touch on briefly was the first one i attended
'virtual worlds, civil rights, and slaughter'). it grappled
mpressively with the difficulties in articulating the relationship
etween the body and its virtual manifestations. lisa nakamura presented
he now iconic 'chinese gold farmers' as a key example of racialized
igital labour. a key contribution she made here was to insist on overt
inkages between a digital labour struggle and a civil rights struggle.
s haunting for me was the video clip of a young 'gold farmer' who,
fter a dawn-to-dusk day of digital labour, continued playing 'world of
arcraft' into the night, desperately seeking the intensive and
xtensive social connectivity which is expected by players but not
ecessarily forthcoming to those who service the game's mode of
roduction. alex galloway picked up seamlessly on nakamura's thread by
ounding the depths of digital labour wherein 'tastes and proclivities
re uploaded and data mined,' and where virtual bodies are always tagged
y corporeal-cultural markers of gender, race, and ethnicity. amidst all
his is the 'genius' of google page rank, which, in galloway's
elecitous terms "uses graph theory to valorize heterogeneity." what i
ook away from this terrific insight is that by operating on a
unctional coding of pure difference, distributed digital networks can
ffortlessly flow back to a tyranny of the universal. timothy pachirat
ollowed with what initially seemed to be the most incongruous paper on
he "olifactory putridity" of slaughterhouses. there was, however, a
isceral impact on his recounting of the "bloody, meaty centre to
abour" wherein fleeing cattle are at once the physical escaping the
irtual, and the virtual becoming material. finally, jodi dean expertly
ransposed agamben's politics of 'whatever being' to a teenager's online
eing of whatever...therein she questioned the political possibilities
n the socially-networked world of youth where ubiquitous communication
f personal media can result in the severing of expression from content.
a few other random memories: christian fuch's persistent but jovial
nsistence on the fact that the virtual conditions for a new communism
re already with us; hendrick speck's purposelfully baffling 'zizek
alk' near the end of the closing plenary; biella coleman and jonathan
eller's insistence on a particular 'return of the repressed'--the
tterly abject material conditions of 2B of the world's population upon
hich digital dreams and aspirations rest; catherine driscoll's dogged
damance on 'emotion' over 'affect'; and the unreconstructed optimism of
ichel bauwens.
this summary is getting far too long so i will bring it to a close with
ne last thought. during the closing plenary, a number of students made
ome really smart and cogent observations. one in particular (from
ayden?) wondered about the disconnect between the physical and digital
orld, asking "what vestiges of our physical selves are brought into the
igital world?" as evidenced by my observations above, this for me is
he most pressing issue to take away from the conference and an area i
ill focus upon in future work. how do we square what sean cubitt called
he "cartesian geometry" of the material (perhaps borrowed from deleuze
n cinema?) with what patricia clough called the "quantum non-locality"
f the virtual. we have robust means for parsing either the material or
he virtual. what we really need are ways to account for the
imultaneity (and difference) of both/and. thinking in terms of
ransductive relations may be a start, as might be a thorough rethinking
f the myriad relations between the human and technology.
others, thankfully, will have other ideas from which we can collectively
earn and act. the one thing i bet everyone at the conference agrees
ith is that however we might imagine a virtual future, it must
acilitate actions which contribute to a more sustainable and equitable
aterial world.

Mark Coté, Ph.D
ultural Studies Program
rent University
arkcote at trentu.ca
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