Tuesday
Jul302019

100 Atmospheres: first of the OHP Seed Books

We are delighted to announce the first of the OHP Seed Books: 100 Atmospheres by the Meco Network, a collectively written book/breath for the troubled present.


100 Atmospheres is available at http://www.openhumanitiespress.org/books/titles/one-hundred-atmospheres/

Published with assistance from https://theseedbox.se/

At a time when climate panic obscures clear thought, 100 Atmospheres is an invitation to think differently. Through speculative, poetic, and provocative texts, thirteen writers and artists have come together to reflect on human relationships with other species and the planet. The process of creating 100 Atmospheres was shared, with works (written, photographic and drawn) created individually and collectively. To think differently, we need to practice differently. The book contains thirteen chapters threaded amidst one hundred co-authored micro-essays. In an era shaped by critical ecological transformation 100 Atmospheres dwells in the deep past and the troubled present to imagine future ways of being and becoming.

"This collection is simply wonderful. Truly. The text manages to be performative and pedagogic at once (it enacts its content through its form; it teaches). It invites extended contemplation (such gravity, the fate of the planet and more) and then tempts with moments of distraction and slivers of insight (and sometimes light humor/chunked conversation). There is so much of a world (several worlds, and *this* one) in this collection.”

Greg Seigworth – Professor of Communication Studies in the Department of Communication and Theatre, Millersville University

100 Atmospheres is an ambitious and unique collection. Driven by an experimental spirit, it beautifully articulates, in multiple voices, our current planetary concerns. The book’s vignettes, embracing a plethora of genres, styles and voices, challenge the reader in her intellectual assumptions and theoretical affinities. The theoretical-writerly ‘compost’ produced as a result of the authors’ joint efforts takes the form of a powerful narrative about the polysemic concept of the ‘atmosphere’ - which stands for breath, vapour, weather, climate, sensation, affect and relationality. Inviting the reader into their already crowded conversation, the book becomes a hospitable space for learning how to live with multiple voices, viewpoints and agencies.”

Joanna Zylinska – Professor of New Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London

 

Thursday
Jun272019

On Class in Elitist Britain

(A report published by the Sutton Trust and Social Mobility Commission this week, 'Elitist Britain', found that two fifths (39%) of Britain’s ‘leading people’ were educated privately, more than five times as many as in the population as a whole, with almost one quarter (24%) graduating from Oxbridge. So I thought it might be timely to publish the first section of a new work in progress that deals precisely with the subject of class.)

--- 

This time last year I attended an event organised by the London Review Bookshop to mark the publication in English of Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon and History of Violence by Édouard Louis. In Eribon’s celebrated memoir, the Parisian sociologist travels home for the first time in thirty years following the death of his father, a ‘stupid and violent’ man he had never loved and had long held in ‘contempt’. There he tries to account for the shift in politics of his working class family while he has been away: from supporting the Communist Party to voting for the National Front. 

Returning to Reims was a significant influence on Louis, inspiring him to write his bestselling first novel, The End of Eddy, which he dedicated to Eribon. Like the latter’s memoir, History of Violence and The End of Eddy both in their different ways tell the story of how Louis, having grown up gay and poor in the north of France, was eventually able to escape his working class environment through education. ‘I realised that was pretty much the only way I could get away from my past’, he writes, ‘not just geographically, but symbolically, socially – that is completely … Studying was the only real escape route I could find’. (Although they are from different generations, Eribon and Louis first met at university, the former being a professor at the time and the latter a student. They are now close friends.)

As is customary on these occasions, the authors read from their books and discussed their work and lives, followed by a Q&A session with the audience. During this latter part of the evening they spoke about the transition they had made from the social realm of the working class to that of the middle class, with its very different gestures, knowledges and manners of speech. Recognising they now had a foot in both camps, each said the process of reinventing themselves had nonetheless left them feeling they truly belonged to neither. Arriving in Paris at the age of twenty, Eribon found it much easier to come out of the sexual closest and assert his homosexuality to his new cosmopolitan friends than to come out of the class closet. It was his working class origins he found shameful and embarressing and lied about. Yet ‘I never came to share the values of the dominant class’, he insists. ‘I always felt awkward or incensed when hearing people around me talking scornfully or flippantly about working-class people and their habits and ways of life. After all, that’s where I came from’.

Both authors also described how, as a consequence, they are unsure for whom they are actually writing. They may be addressing the question of what it means to grow up in a working class environment in Returning to Reims and History of Violence: the violent modes of domination and subjectivation; the profound racism, sexism and homophobia; the social impoverishment; the lack of possibilities that are imaginable, to say nothing of those that are actually realisable. However they are aware few people from that social class are ever likely to read their books, so can hardly say they are writing for them. As Eribon acknowledges:

When people write about the working class world, which they rarely do, it is most often because they have left it behind. They thereby contribute to perpetuating the social illegitimacy of the people they are speaking of in the very moment of speaking about them. This happens even if they write with the goal of exposing and critiquing the very status of social illegitimacy to which these people are relegated over and over again, because in writing they take a necessary critical distance, and with it comes the position of a judge or an evaluator. 

What really captured my attention, though, was the moment Eribon and Louis stressed that what they are trying to do with their writing is ‘reinvent theory’: to produce a theory in which ‘something is at stake’. (Elsewhere, together with Eribon’s partner Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, they have described this as a theory that speaks about ‘class, exploitation, violence, repression, domination, intersectionality’ and yet has the potential to generate the excitement of ‘a Kendrick Lamar concert’). Eribon is of course the author of a well-known biography of the philosopher Michel Foucault. Nevertheless this statement struck me: partly because theory is one of the areas I work in; but also because it’s difficult to imagine many English literary writers of a similar stature engaging with the kind of radical thought Foucault and his contemporaries are associated with, let alone expressing a desire to reinvent it. Since it undermines the idea of the self-identical human subject, that theoretical tradition is often described as antihumanist, even posthumanist in some of its more recent manifestations. By contrast, English literary culture is predominantly humanist and liberal, seeing education in general, and the reading and writing of literature in particular, as a means of freeing the mind of a rational human individual whose identity is more or less fixed and unchanging.

One explanation given for this difference is that, historically, writers in England have been more closely associated with the ruling elite: with public schools, Oxbridge colleges and the tradition of the gentleman as amateur scholar. It’s an association that contrasts sharply with the cafes, streets and factory shop floors of the more political French intellectual. Suspicious as we are in this country of radical and abstract ideas – epitomized by the emphasis in France on the universal values of freedom, justice and liberty since at least the revolution of 1879 – ‘the intellectual’ is often viewed negatively: as someone who is arrogant, pretentious and full of self-importance. Paradoxically, to be viewed approvingly as intellectual in England it’s better not to be too intellectual at all. So middlebrow authors such as Yuval Noah Harari (Oxford) and Mary Beard (Cambridge) are considered acceptable and taken seriously, as they can write clearly in ‘plain English’ and communicate with a wider public, even attain the holy grail of a popular readership. High theorists like Gilles Deleuze and Catherine Malabou are not, as their philosophy and use of language is held as being too complex for most ‘real’ people to understand. ‘They are all there’, runs a recent book review, ‘the first-team of intellectual narcissists and jargon-mongers: Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Luce Irigaray, Hélène Cixous et al. …  the theoreticians ... primarily responsible for turning literary studies into the heartland of the incomprehensible and irrelevant, and alientating the ordinary reader.’ (And that’s in the Times Higher Education, the U.K.’s leading weekly magazine for academics.)      

This is why the literary novel in England today is so unashamedly humanist. The Scottish journalist Stuart Kelly (Oxford) even goes so far as to compare it unfavourably to the ‘posthuman novel’ that is the streamed TV series Westworld. (I’m drawing on newspaper commentary to show mainstream culture in the U.K. is not entirely dominated by uncritical liberal humanist thought.) For Kelly, the modern literary novel and its understanding of life is ‘outdated’, still constrained by its 18th century origins. Nowhere is this more evident than with its ‘unquestioned foundations’, based as it is on the idea of the autonomous human subject as protagonist, someone who has an ‘intact self’, ‘cogent agency’, ‘memories they trust – and can trust – and desires they understand’. As Kelly points out:

Philosophers, psychoanalysts and neuroscientists have all called into question these notions that we cherish – will, self, choice, desire, recollection – but the novel has failed to keep up with these insights. I know myself that I do not know myself, that what I want is not what I choose to want, that the ‘me’ that was 11 is barely recognisable as the ‘me’ that is 44.

Some novelists – Will Self [University College School, Hampstead & Oxford] … Tom McCarthy [Dulwich College & Oxford], Nicola Barker [Cambridge], Lydia Millet, and the much-underrated Nigel Dennis (my copy of Cards of Identity is much-thumbed and has a clipping of a review by Hélène Cixous inside it) – have tried, and sometimes succeeded in creating novels where the self is not fixed but fluid, where want is both absence and yearning, where the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are realised as stories.[ix]

And to be sure, the work of Tom McCarthy – to take just one of Kelly’s examples – can be viewed as  ‘a kind of grand anti-humanist manifesto’, as the English novelist readily concedes. Culture here is not about providing ‘a vanity mirror for liberal society to see itself reflected back in the way it wants to see itself’. Culture, for McCarthy, should rather ‘disrupt’ and create trouble. Consequently, ‘in order to do what needs to be done you need to reject a certain set of assumptions, certain models of subjectivity’, he claims – ‘for example, the contemporary cult of the individual, the absolute authentic self who is measured through his or her absolutely authentic feeling’.

Yet if McCarthy strives to bring the concept of the discrete, sovereign human subject into question in the content of novels such as Remainder and C, it’s a different matter when it comes to how he himself actually functions as an author. There, for all his interest in antihumanist theory and modernist writing, McCarthy serves to sustain, rather than shatter, the liberal humanist model of subjectivity and its assumptions. This is perhaps most apparent from the manner in which McCarthy, as with his 18th century predecessors – Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Smollett (all of them ‘affluent, middle-class white men’, Kelly points out) – continues to act as if his novels are, in the last instance, the original creative expression of his own personality as an absolutely singular and unique individual. At the very least McCarthy considers his subjectivity to be fixed enough to be able to assert the moral right to be identified as the sole human author of his written works, and to claim copyright over them on an all rights reserved basis as his isolable intellectual property, ‘in accordance with the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988’. (Even the unnumbered pages in a text count, as McCarthy will surely know from his reading of Derrida: ‘il n'y a pas de hors-texte’, and all that.)

In Whatever Happened To Modernism?, Gabriel Josipovici (Cheltenham College & Oxford) characterises the novel of the Julian Barnes (City of London School & Oxford)/Martin Amis (Oxford) generation as the product of a non-modernistic literary culture that is determinedly realist, preferring sentimental humanism and readability to the kind of ground-breaking experimentation he associates with previous eras of the European novel. In their ‘petty-bourgeois uptightness’, their ‘terror of not being in control’, their ‘desire to boast and to shock’, Amis and co. are like ‘prep-school boys showing off’, he writes. And this may indeed be the case. It may also be the case that for us to disdain the legacy of modernism – not just ‘radical writers’ such as Kafka and Beckett, but also Bataille and Derrida in philosophy, Freud and Lacan in psychoanalysis, Godard and Lynch in film – ‘as if it was just some irritation that got in the way of an ongoing rational enlightenment’ is, as McCarthy says, ‘ethically wrong and aesthetically rubbish’. Still, the cure for English culture’s addiction to the world-view of prosperous, middle-class white men – or fear of revolution, the underclass and the other, depending on how you look at it – is not simply more modernism. As Isabel Waidner emphasizes in their anthology of innovative writing (Waidner’s preferred pronouns are they/them/their), even experimental literature in England is predominantly white, bourgeois and patriarchal, very much to the exclusion of (non-Oxbridge) BAME, LGBTQIAP+, working class and other nonconforming identities. (The Preface to Josipovici’s Whatever Happened To Modernism? actually begins: ‘The first extra-curricula lecture I attended at Oxford…’) Nor is this particularly surprising. After all, 7% of the UK population attend private school (that’s over 600,000 pupils, double the number of the 1970s), and approximately 1% graduate from Oxford or Cambridge. Yet it was reported in 2018 that ‘of the poets and novelists included in Who’s Who … half went to private schools; and 44% went to Oxbridge.’ One result of this systematic bias is that non-white British authors published fewer than 100 titles in 2016.

I began by referring to social realms that contain a lack of possibilities that are even imaginable, let alone achievable. It’s worth noting in this context that, of the 9,115 children’s books published in the U.K. in 2017, only 4% featured BAME characters. Just 1% had a BAME lead character, 96% having no BAME characters whatsoever. Similarly, with regard to the 100 bestselling children’s picture books published in 2018, not a single author or illustrator was BAME. Nor is it only literary culture that’s affected by what Eribon describes as the ‘terrible injustice’ of the ‘unequal distribution of prospects and possibilities’. Comparable statistics can be provided for the arts, drama, music, business, politics, the law, medicine, the military, the civil service, the media and journalism. 54% of the U.K.’s ‘top’ news journalists were educated in private schools, for example; while of the 81% who attended university, more than a half were educated at Oxbridge, with a third attending just one institution, Oxford. (As a public broadcaster, the BBC is supposed to be politically neutral. Once John Humphrey’s retires, however, Emily Maitlis [Cambridge] will be the only presenter on either the BBC’s Today or Newsnight programmes not educated privately. The political bias inherent in such a situation is rarely acknowledged or remarked upon, even though much of the country’s understanding of politics is shaped by the upper middle class voices found on these programmes.) Moreover, 94% of all journalists in the U.K. are white and as few as 0.2% black. Even when it comes to that most stereotypical of working-class sports, football (which in Louis’ first memoir Eddy’s father suggests he play to toughen him up), the figures are barely any different. Over half of the England players at the 2018 World Cup in Russia were from BAME backgrounds. Yet there were reportedly only two BAME journalists from English newspapers and press agencies there out of approximately one hundred. (2% is better than 0.2%, I guess.)

In a modest bid to counter such inequality of opportunity and stalling of social mobility, the BBC Radio 6 presenter Cerys Matthews has said she wants to program less music on her show by artists who’ve been given a leg up by virtue of attending public school, and more music by people from all walks of life, including women and those with a working-class upbringing. Which makes me wonder: if we want to foster culture in England that’s not so liberal and humanist, if we want to develop an understanding of life, agency and subjectivity that is more complex – or at least not quite so outdated – do we need to adopt a similar stance? Instead of setting up prizes like the Goldsmiths in order to reward literature that is daring and inventive, do we need to publish (and perhaps read and cite) fewer texts by people who went to public school or Oxbridge, and more by writers from other backgrounds? Do we even need quotas?

 

Friday
Jun142019

CPC Researchers at Coventry to lead £2.8 million Project To Develop Open, Not-For-Profit Community-Owned Ecosystem For Open Access Monographs

Research England and Centre for Postdigital Cultures Press Release 

Research England awards £2.2m to project to improve and increase open access publishing

Professor Gary Hall and Dr. Janneke Adema, from the Centre for Postdigital Cultures (CPC), are to lead on a major new Research England funded project. Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) has been awarded £2.2 million from the Research England Development (RED) Fund, which supports innovation in research and knowledge exchange in higher education that offers significant public benefits. 

COPIM is a strategic international partnership led by Coventry University, consisting of universities (Birkbeck, University of London, Lancaster University, and Trinity College, Cambridge), established scholar-led open access presses (represented through the ScholarLed consortium, which consists of Mattering Press, meson press, Open Book Publishers, Open Humanities Press, and punctum books), libraries (UCSB Library, Loughborough University Library), infrastructure providers (DOAB, Jisc) and international membership organisations (The Digital Preservation Coalition). 

COPIM will develop and build the critical—yet still missing—underlying modular components to support the sustainable publication of open access books. As such it will develop a significantly enriched not-for-profit and open source ecosystem for open access book publishing that will support and sustain a diversity of publishing initiatives and models, particularly within Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) in the UK but also internationally. The project’s key objectives are to: 

  •        Remove hurdles preventing new open access book initiatives to emerge and existing publishers to adopt open access workflows
  •        Develop consortial, institutional, and other funding systems
  •        Showcase alternative business models for open access books
  •        Support the creation of, interaction with and reuse of  in all their variation and complexity
  •        Conduct knowledge transfer to stakeholders through various pilots 

COPIM will benefit the general public, the economy, and the creative industries by maximising the dissemination and impact of world-leading research. The adoption of COPIM’s infrastructures, business models, preservation structures, re-use strategies, and governance procedures, will enable economic sustainability and enhanced capacities, at smaller and larger scales, for open access books. It offers HE institutions and HSS researchers sustainable publishing models they control, increased publishing options, and cost-reductions. 

Hosting COPIM is a testament to Coventry University’s thought leadership and commitment to open science. The University is currently investing over £250m in research staff and infrastructure establishing a robust and innovative research portfolio. The Centre for Postdigital Cultures (CPC) is a flagship initiative in this broader investment programme. It was launched in early 2018 with the mission to conduct world-leading research and promote critical practices in open access publishing building on Coventry University’s long-standing research excellence in Open Media. 

The CPC, directed by COPIM’s PI Hall, has a reputation for supporting cutting-edge open access publishing projects. Its researchers, including Co-PI Adema, have established new forms of collective organisation (e.g. Open Humanities Press, The Radical Open Access Collective) and innovative business models for open access books, while being at the forefront of experimental publishing. 

Professor Gary Hall, Executive Director Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Humanities

“As a community-led consortium of universities, presses, libraries, and infrastructure providers, we are delighted with Research England’s investment in COPIM, supporting the project’s aims to address those key hurdles, around funding, production, dissemination, discovery, reuse, and archiving, that are currently standing in the way of the wider adoption and impact of open access books” 

Dr Janneke Adema, Assistant Professor, Co-Principal Investigator

"COPIM is an exciting opportunity to push for open infrastructures, for community-led governance, and for the realignment of relations between not-for-profit institutions in the realm of monograph publishing. It will support the sustainable publication of open access books, delivering major improvements and innovations in the infrastructures, systems, and workflows being used by open access book publishers and by those publishers making a transition to open access books" 

For more information about COPIM please contact us at

Professor Gary Hall: gary.hall@coventry.ac.uk

Dr. Janneke Adema:  janneke.adema@coventry.ac.uk

 

Monday
Jun102019

Pirate Care conference, 19th-20th June 2019, Coventry 

PIRATE CARE

Centre for Postdigital Cultures 2nd Annual Conference
19 & 20 June 2019 Square One, Coventry University

This event is free and open to all, but places are limited. Please register at the link below.

REGISTRATION NOW OPEN HERE:

https://www.coventry.ac.uk/research/about-us/research-events/2019/pirate-care-conference/


The Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry University, UK invites you to its second annual conference, which will explore the phenomenon of 'Pirate Care'. The term Pirate Care condenses two processes that are particularly visible at present. On the one hand, basic care provisions that were previously considered cornerstones of social life are now being pushed towards illegality, as a consequence of geopolitical reordering and the marketisation of social services. At the same time new, technologically-enabled care networks are emerging in opposition to this drive toward illegality. The conference will feature projects providing various forms of pirate care ranging from refugee assistance, healthcare, reproductive care, childcare, access to public transport, access to knowledge, a number of reflections from and on such practices, and a film programme.

Projects: Cassandra Press | Docs Not Cops + Medact +#PatientsNotPassports | The Four Thieves Vinegar Collective | Memory of the World | Planka | Power Makes Us Sick (PMS) | Sea-Watch | Soprasotto pirate kindergarten | WeMake Milan + Opencare.cc | Conflict, Memory, Displacement project.

Participants: Agustina Andreoletti (Academy of Media Arts Cologne) | Mijke van der Drift (Goldsmiths / Royal Academy of Art, The Hague) | Taraneh Fazeli (curatorial fellow, Jan van Eyck Academie and Canaries collective) | Kirsten Forkert (BCU) + Janna Graham (Goldsmiths) + Victoria Mponda (Conflict, Memory, Displacement project) | Maddalena Fragnito (Soprasotto) | Valeria Graziano (CPC) | Derly Guzman |Toufic Haddad (Kenyon Institute) | Jelka Kretzschmar + Franziska Wallner (Sea-Watch) | Andrea Liu (Goldsmiths) | Marcell Mars + Tomislav Medak (CPC) | Power Makes Us Sick (PMS) | Gilbert B. Rodman (University of Minnesota) | Zoe Romano (WeMake Milan / Opencare.cc) + Serena Cangiano (SUPSI) | Deborah Streahle (Yale) | Nick Titus (Four Thieves Vinegar Collective) | Kim Trogal (UCA) | Ana Vilenica (LSBU) | Kandis Williams (Cassandra Press) | Kitty Worthing (Docs Not Cops) + James Skinner (Medact)| John Willbanks (Sage Bionetworks/ FasterCures)

Films by Kelly Gallagher(Syracuse University)

##SEE ABSTRACTS

https://www.piratecare.net/pages/abstracts/


Schedule

.................    DAY 1 - 19th June

10:00-10:30    Registration and refreshments
10:30-11:00    Welcome and Introduction: Gary Hall + Valeria Graziano
11:00-12:45    Session 1: CRIMINALIZATION OF CARE (Chair: Valeria Graziano)
Kirsten Forkert (BCU) + Janna Graham (Goldsmiths) + Victoria Mponda (Conflict, Memory, Displacement project): Social media and refugee solidarity networks in the face of state failures
Jelka Kretzschmar + Franziska Wallner (Sea-Watch) : Pirates of the Mediterranean – care on the high seas
Kitty Worthing (Docs Not Cops) + James Skinner (Medact): #Patients Not Passports toolkit

12:45-14:00    LUNCH

14:00-15:45    Session 2: HACKING HEALTHCARE (Chair: Adrienne Evans)
John Willbanks (Sage Bionetworks/ FasterCures): Open Science, DIY Bio, and Cheap Data (video conference)
Zoe Romano (WeMake Milan / Opencare.cc) + Serena Cangiano (SUPSI): Rebelling with Care
Nick Titus (The Four Thieves Vinegar Collective): I'm my own primary care provider: Taking back control with diy medicine in the 21st Century.

15:45-16:15    COFFEE BREAK

16:15-18:00    Session 3: SOCIAL REPRODUCTION: WITHIN AND AGAINST (Chair: Marcell Mars)
Maddalena Fragnito: Soprasotto, a pirate kindergarten
Toufic Haddad (Kenyon Institute): Excursions in Pirate Care in Palestine
Deborah Streahle (Yale): Reclaiming the Dead: The Politics of Home Funerals in United States
18:00-18:30    DRINKS RECEPTION
18:30-19:30    FILM, CREATIVITY, RESISTANCE: Screening of works by experimental animator Kelly Gallagher (Syracuse University) + artist talk in conversation with Miriam De Rosa

.................    DAY 2 - 20th June

10:00-12:30    Session 4: PIRACY AS CARE pt 1 (Chair: Kaja Marczewska)
Gilbert B. Rodman (University of Minnesota): Whose Culture? Our Culture!: Pirates as Cultural Care/Takers
Andrea Liu (Goldsmiths): Artist Strategies to Enact Interventions of Pirate Care
Kandis Williams (Cassandra Press): Fusing Ethics and Aesthetics, a question of what we owe to future generations: piracy, collage, redistribution and messy dissemination - the work of CASSANDRA PRESS
(10 min. break)
PIRACY AS CARE pt 2
Agustina Andreoletti (Academy of Media Arts Cologne): Shadow Libraries: Using Art to Resist
Marcell Mars + Tomislav Medak (CPC): Against innovation – Compromised institutional agency and acts of custodianship

12:30-14:00    LUNCH

14:00-15:45    Session 5: ETHICS OF COLLECTIVE CARING (Chair: Janneke Adema)
Taraneh Fazeli (curatorial fellow, Jan van Eyck Academie and Canaries collective): Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying
Power Makes Us Sick (PMS): Illegalism, self-defense and accountability as strategies of community care
Mijke van der Drift (Goldsmiths / Royal Academy of Art, The Hague/ School for New Dance, Amsterdam): Caring for Transformative Justice.

15:45-16:15    COFFEE BREAK

16:15-17:45    Session 6: SUBVERTING INFRASTRUCTURES (Chair: Peter Conlin)
Kim Trogal (UCA): Confronting unjust urban infrastructures: repairing water connections as acts of care
Derly Guzman (Planka): Freeriding Insurance and the global free public transport movement
Ana Vilenica: Between autonomy and regulation: Grassroots pirate care in the external borderscape of the EU (video conference)

17:45-18:00    Closing remarks

Monday
May202019

Delivered the Same Day: The Post Office and Amazon.com, June 3rd, Coventry

Delivered the Same Day: The Post Office and Amazon.com

Seminar Series: Work, Property, Metrics
June 3rd, 2019, 11:00-17:00
Lanchester Library, Teaching Room, 3rd floor


Post Office research group, Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry University

External Speakers: !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Jamie Woodcock

CPC researchers: Janneke Adema, Peter Conlin, Valeria Graziano, Gary Hall, Kaja Marczewska, Marcell Mars, Tomislav Medak


Historically the postal service has solidified as a national and transnational infrastructure owned by the public, for the benefit of the public. It has played a central role in organising long-distance communication - mail, telegraph, telephony - facilitating, amongst other things, the regular delivery of written correspondence, the dissemination of printed matter, the expansion of the public sphere, but also the surveillance of communication and the coordination of war.

Alongside being political, the postal service was also an intensely technological institution. It has laid down the postal paths, network topologies, and routing protocols for later communications networks to follow. In fact, in the UK, the Post Office has had its own Research Station since 1909, helping develop the first transatlantic radiotelephone service and the world's first programmable electronic digital computer

No less important is the fact that the postal service also created a material distribution system. In the very period when the communicational infrastructures became deregulated, privatised and disinvested, on the back of these services and their delivery networks arose the digital platforms - most prominently the informational-distributive Behemoth that is the Amazon.com.

This event will explore the contrast between the transformative role the postal service as a public institution has had - and continues to have in spite of its creeping privatisation and erosion - and the disruptive role Amazon.com is now playing by offering cloud computing infrastructure, furthering platformisation, automating digital network services, and casualising the labour inside and outside of of its own operations.

I. Post Post Office: the Afterlives of Postal Networks

11:00-10:15  Gary Hall: introducing the Post Office

11:15-12:00  !Mediengruppe Bitnik: Postal Machine Decision (artist talk)

12:00-12:45  Kaja Marczewska: Postal Reforms and the Crisis of Grassroots Publishing
Janneke Adema & Kaja Marczewska: Post-it. Academic Post Card

 

II. Amazon.com: work, property and metrics in the logistical circuit

13:30-13:45  Valeria Graziano: Automation as Domestication

13:45-14:15  Marcell Mars & Tomislav Medak: The Anatomy of Amazon.com

14:15-14:45  Jamie Woodcock: Amazon.com, Twitch.tv, and Videogames

14:45-15:15  Peter Conlin: Incontrovertible Landscapes and Vanishing Points: Logistic Spaces, Opacity and Obscurity

15:30-16:30  Discussion

Speakers:

Janneke Adema is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University. In her research, she explores the future of scholarly communications and experimental forms of knowledge production, where her work incorporates processual and performative publishing, radical open access, scholarly poethics, media studies, book history, cultural studies, and critical theory. She explores these issues in depth in her various publications, but also by supporting a variety of scholar-led, not-for-profit publishing projects, including the Radical Open Access Collective, Open Humanities Press, and Post Office Press (POP). You can follow her research, as it develops, on openreflections.wordpress.com.

Peter Conlin is a media lecturer and research associate at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University. He is currently developing a book project entitled Evitable: The De-obsolescent Future of Media and Urban Space (Routledge Press).

Valeria Graziano is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry University. She is co-editor with Kim Trogal of ‘Repair Matters’, a special issue of the ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organisation(2019) and convenor of the international project Pirate Care (piratecare.net).

Gary Hall is a writer, philosopher and cultural theorist working (and making) in the areas of digital media, politics and technology. He is Professor of Media in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at Coventry University, UK, where he co-directs the Centre for Postdigital Cultures. He is the author of a number of books, including The Inhumanist Manifesto (Techne Lab, 2017), Pirate Philosophy (MIT Press, 2016), The Uberfication of the University (Minnesota UP, 2016), Digitize This Book! (Minnesota UP, 2008), and Culture in Bits (Continuum, 2002). http://www.garyhall.info/
 

Kaja Marczewska is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry University, UK. Her research is positioned at the intersection of publishing and book cultures, cultural studies, and experimental arts and writing. She is the author of This is not a copy (Bloomsbury Academic 2018), Book-mobility: cultures of small press distribiution (CUP 2020), and a co-editor of The Contemporary Small Press: Making Publishing Visible (Palgrave 2020). In 2018, she was a Reese Fellow for American Bibliography and the History of the Book in the Americas, Terra Foundation fellow, and The Getty Research Institute visiting fellow, and will be taking up visiting fellowships at Sallie Bingham Centre, Duke University and at Michigan State University later this year.

Marcell Mars is a research associate at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University (UK). Mars is one of the founders of Multimedia Institute/MAMA in Zagreb. His research “Ruling Class Studies”, started at the Jan van Eyck Academy (2011), examines state-of-the-art digital innovation, adaptation, and intelligence created by corporations such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and eBay. He is a doctoral student at Digital Cultures Research Lab at Leuphana University, writing a thesis on “Foreshadowed Libraries”. Together with Tomislav Medak he founded Memory of the World/Public Library, for which he develops and maintains software infrastructure.
 

Tomislav Medak is a doctoral student at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University. Medak is a member of the theory and publishing team of the Multimedia Institute/MAMA in Zagreb, as well as an amateur librarian for the Memory of the World/Public Library project. His research focuses on technologies, capitalist development, and postcapitalist transition, particularly on economies of intellectual property and unevenness of technoscience. Together with Marcell Mars he coedited Public Library and Guerrilla Open Access. 

!Mediengruppe Bitnik are the artists Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo. They are contemporary artists working on and with the Internet. Their practice expands from the digital to affect physical spaces, often intentionally applying loss of control to challenge established structures and mechanisms. In early 2013 !Mediengruppe Bitnik sent a parcel to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy. The parcel contained a camera which broadcast its journey through the postal system live on the internet. They describe «Delivery for Mr. Assange» as a SYSTEM_TEST and a Live Mail Art Piece. They have also been known for sending a bot called «Random Darknet Shopper» on a three-month shopping spree in the Darknets where it randomly bought objects like Ecstasy and had them sent directly to the gallery space.  

Jamie Woodcock is a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. He is the author of Marx at the Arcade (2019, Haymarket) about videogames, and Working The Phones (2017, Pluto), a study of a call centre in the UK - both inspired by the workers' inquiry. His research focuses on labour, work, the gig economy, platforms, resistance, organising, and videogames. He is on the editorial board of Notes from Belowand Historical Materialismhttps://www.jamiewoodcock.net/

 

Work, property, metrics is a series of seminars, workshops, and talks investigating the transformations of work, property relations, and mechanisms of social control resulting from the processes of digitisation, computerisation, and automation. These transformations are reflected in a crisis of institutions responsible for the universal access to social goods and services: employment, care, education, housing etc. With our research activities we want to investigate, support, and develop practices emerging in response to this crisis - ranging from alternative organisational models, collective forms of work, all the way to refusal. In its first round of events, this series is focusing on the institutions responsible for the provision of communication, information, and education - the postal service, the library, and the university.

Post Office is an exercise in imagining counter-institutions in response to the crisis of those very institutions. It is an endeavour in devising practices that collectively re-configure public infrastructures against the onslaught of managerial neoliberalism and technological acceleration. As a research collective (connected to the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University), it is a horizontal experiment in knowledge production and action situated between theory and technology, politics and poetics, the inside and the outside of the university. Post Office follows a methodology of affirmative critique. Our projects are both critical and performative: actively changing the situations in which they intervene while helping devise protagonist-centered approaches to organisation, methodology, and technology. We are involved in changing scholarly and creative writing, publishing, libraries, open access, universities, cultural production, the humanities, technologies, and labour relations, and want to create alternatives for a more just, diverse, and equitable future.