In the Spotlight: Gregory Ulmer

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.

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In the Spotlight: Markku Eskelinen

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

In the Spotlight: Sarah Kember

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.”

In the Spotlight: WREK

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

In the Spotlight: Ilan Manouach

Greek (comics) artist Ilan Manouach will be our first keynote speaker at the Poetics of the Algorithm conference, where he will present his ‘Shapereader’ project (see shapereader.org), which explores a ground-breaking form of tactile storytelling. Throughout his varied projects, which include Situationist-like détournements of popular comics from Maus to The Black Smurfs, Ilan Manouach’s work has continuously raised the core issues of the digital and ‘unidentified’ media that the conference seeks to map out.

As Bill Kartalopoulos wrote in World Literature Today, “Externalization, improvisation, systems, and collaboration: these ideas and more inform the decentered approach that runs through Manouach’s mature work. In all their diverse manifestations, Manouach’s comics undercut both the protagonist-based model of classical narrative and the author-expression mode of traditional creative production.” While not working in digital media proper, Manouach’s work, with its relentless defamiliarization and reliance on collaborative creative processes, foregrounds approaches to art and narrative that are clearly in tune with this changed media ecology.

Most of Manouach’s comics have been put out by Belgian publisher La Cinquième Couche.