Leslie Goufo Zemmo, Giorgio Busi Rizzi, and David Pinho Barros wrote a conference report up at the Comics Forum website.
It was an exciting, enriching and thought-provoking encounter, and all the participants are sure its consequences will be conspicuously felt in the future of digital media scholarship.
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.”