Many thanks for all those who attended and presented at the conference, for the lively exchanges, interesting discussions and the collegial atmosphere.
The discussions also went online through the #algopoetics hashtag. Ernesto Priego, editor of The Comics Grid, has generously set up a storify archive for the three days of the conference:
- #algopoetics Conference Day 1 (Thursday 16 June)
- #algopoetics Conference Day 2 (Friday 17 June)
- #algopoetics Conference Day 3 (Saturday 18 June)
Closing off the second day of the conference, Gregory Ulmer will bring the discussion into the digital world by intervening through online video conferencing. Ulmer is Professor of English and Media Studies at the University of Florida and is a new media theorist widely recognized for books as Applied Grammatalogy (1985) and Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy (2003). Drawing from Derrida’s theories, Ulmer has coined the concept of “electracy” to designate the transformative change from a culture of print literacy to a digital culture: “electracy is to digital media what literacy is to print,” as Ulmer famously put it, point to the knowledge skills and new media literacy necessary to understand and make full use of electronic and digital media. As a visual abstract for his talk, Gregory Ulmer proposed the following apparatus sheet charting the transition from orality to literacy to electracy.
A conference such Poetics of the Algorithm could not have attempted to map out the digital without focusing on video games. For the occasion, one of the founders of Game Studies, Markku Eskelinen, will give a keynote address –“Cybertextuality in 3D”– revisiting his recent book Cybertext Poetics: The Critical Landscape of New Media Literary Theory (2012). Eskelinen is an independent scholar and experimental writer of ergodic prose and critical essays. He is also one of the founding editors of Game Studies, an international journal of computer game research.
Following Eskelinen’s keynote, a panel will be devoted to game design and narratology, an area that Eskelinen also repeatedly explored. Fanny Barnabé, from the Liège Game Lab, will give some perspectives on narration in video games, drawing from her book Narration et jeu vidéo (2014). Mark Johnson will present on research carried out with Darren Reed, both at the University of York: besides being a post-doctoral researcher, Mark Johnson is also a game developer and holder of arcade gaming word records. Finally, David Myers, the author of The Nature of Computer Games, will be presenting on the notion of “possible worlds” within video games. A rich overview of cutting-edge approaches to narrative and video games and great discussions to look forward to!
Image credit: Mark R. Johnson
On the second day of the conference, we will be delighted to hear Sarah Kember give a keynote address based on her new book iMedia: The Gendering of Objects, Environments and Smart Materials, ‘hot’ off the Palgrave digital press. Pursuing Kember’s interest in the connexions between biological life and new media, feminism and technology, the book proposes to bring in a queer feminist perspective to the current analyses of ‘smart’ objects and media, revealing how gendered our ideas and celebrations of these objects are. The book is a lively manifesto in line with her “Notes Towards a Feminist Futurist Manifesto” (2012). Elaborating on these issues, she will pose the question “What or where is the i in iMedia?” during her talk in Liège:
“If the poetics of the algorithm are not post (as in, after) human and we do not seek to substitute structure for scale, epistemology for ontology, relations for objects, environments and materials as things-in-themselves (OOPs!) then we must maintain a sense of perspective and ask who, as well as what is writing – and to what end? If iMedia are currently being unmediated, rendered transparent and autonomous in an iworld that just is/coming soon, then a queer, feminist, writerly perspective might offer the prospect of iMedia otherwise.”
Pendant la journée du 15 juin, l’Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts de Liège, grâce à l’organisation de Paul Mahoux, accueillera un WREKshop d’Olivier Deprez, Miles O’Shea et Marine Penhouët, un atelier de (cinémato)gravures que suivra une dizaine d’étudiants. Le soir, le collectif WREK présentera ses travaux à l’Université de Liège, avec une projection du film Après la mort, après la vie et de quelques autres cinématogravures. La projection sera accompagnée de commentaires par Olivier Deprez et Aarnoud Rommens.
Écrivant à propos de la pratique d’Olivier Deprez dans un article de 2008 pour Relief, “La bande dessinée nouvelle dont Olivier Deprez et d’autres membres du groupe Fréon/Frémok s’imposent aujourd’hui comme des représentants majeurs, est donc bien autre chose que le ‘roman graphique’ ou la revalorisation littéraire et culturelle d’une pratique populaire et commerciale longtemps méprisée. Les changements de l’ancien média que l’on a pu diagnostiquer dans cet article touchent à la fois aux signes, aux supports comme aux contenus de la bande dessinée, qui s’oriente en plus vers des usages et des structures médiatiques insoupçonnées –mais cependant déjà là dans le travail d’Olivier Deprez.” Cette exploration aux confins des limites de la bande dessinée est peut-être plus vrai aujourd’hui que jamais dans le travail de Deprez et de ses comparses qui mélange bande dessinée, gravure, cinéma, photographie et performance, interrogeant les frontières médiatiques et redéfinissant l’espace entre image-fixe et image-en-mouvement comme celui d’un entre-deux où se jouent de nouvelles pratiques et de nouvelles formes.
Image: gravure par Olivier Deprez
The second keynote address is a conversation between comics artist Richard McGuire and developer Stephen Betts, who will discuss the digitization of Here as well as the differences between print and digital formats.
Here was first published as a six-page comic in Art Spiegelman and François Mouly’s avant-garde comics magazine RAW in 1989, it quickly became a cult work and was recently updated into a full-blown graphic novel, published by Pantheon in 2014. It was awarded the Fauve d’Or at the Angoulême Comics Festival in 2016. Here, which Chris Ware named a “game-changing graphic novel”, captures the changes of a single space across the million-years span of deep time, reimagining human time beyond the grasp of traditional narrative patterns. This multiscalar reimagination of narrative was simultaneously published as a print book – urging its readers to constantly flip through and manipulate the codex in nonlinear ways – and as an interactive app – which makes use of the specific affordances of digital media to expand that nonlinear aspect towards a database logic of random combinations and juxtapositions. As McGuire told Leanne Shapton in an interview for The Paris Review:
“The book form works perfectly for telling this story, but I also wanted to push the nonlinear aspects of the storytelling. I imagined an interactive version that could randomize all the panels and backgrounds and reshuffle them, and with the new combinations come new connections within the story. I spoke about this possibility at a lecture I gave, and by luck there was a developer in the audience, Stephen Betts, who knew how it could be done. We collaborated on that for two years, right alongside of the making of the paper version. Stephen wrote a lot of programing for what became the e-book. It’s unlike any other I’ve ever seen. It also incorporates animated GIFs and, for me, those little looped movements feel the closest to single memories.”
We are particularly happy to be featuring a special panel on Thinking about Digital Comics through Practice which will bring together four speakers who navigate the traditionnally wide spectrum between practice and theory – ranging from a researcher practising comics as scholarship, to two hybrid practicioners who co-mingle theory and practice in a feedback loop, to a graphic artist with a keen eye for self-theorizing.
- Nicolas Labarre is Associate Professor at the Université Bordeaux-Montaigne and he has been interested in how to make comics as scholarship, that is how to produce scientific discourse in the form of comics. Through his research blog Picturing it!, he is publishing his own reflections on the process and stakes of drawing an ‘academic comics.’ At the conference, he won’t so much present his own production as much as analyze various cases of ‘comics as scholarship’ and how these are framed in terms of genre, users and interpretative communities. His blog features an interview about the University of Florida’s Sequentials project, which will feed into the presentation.
- Anthony Rageul‘s approach to digital comics was, from scratch, weaved in with an academic framework: for his master thesis, he designed the digital comic Prise de tête, which received a large echo in the comics world, marking a significant point in the development of French digital comics. While completing a PhD thesis on digital comics at the Université Rennes 2, he simultaneously realized several works hosted on various platforms. Often subtitled “bande dessinée interactive,” his comics aim at fully taking advantage of the interactivity of digital comics. In his talk, he will highlight the relationship between coding and interface in the creation of digital comics and the importance of the stage of designing the interface in shaping up the narrative told.
- Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, comics artist and new media lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, is undoubtedly the British counterpart of Rageul. A prolific and innovative comic creator, Goodbrey has gained international recognition as a leading expert in the field of experimental digital comics. His hypercomic work received the International Clickburg Webcomic Award in Holland in 2006 while his work in print was awarded with the Isotope Award for Excellence In Comics in San Francisco in 2005. His smartphone app, A Duck Has an Adventure was shortlisted in the 2012 New Media Writing Prize. Academic-wise he wrote numerous articles on digital comics and co-edited a special issue of MeCCSA on digital comics.
- Yannis LaMacchia is a Swiss comics artist living in Lyon. He has been particularly involved with the Hécatombe publishing collective, which distinctively pursues alternate ways of making books exploring their materiality in a way that brings comics close to the field of artists’ books. Following these ideas, LaMacchia has come up with the idea of a “Fanzine carré” that literally is a cube of equal proportions, which led him to rethink the whole production process because of the challenges posed by its feasibility. With his Racontars project, he has been experimenting with new ways of narrative and seriality that is partly based on reader feedback and suggestions. Readers are indeed invited to post their own “racontars” (French for gossip) with which LaMacchia then improvises his fragmented stories.
Image credit: Yannis LaMacchia, Racontars