The overarching theme of AoIR2018 will be Transnational Materialities.
The theme is broadly rooted in the burgeoning implications of current massive global migrations of people and data, within the context of a growing materialist movement in cultural and media studies, media archaeology, software studies, science and technology studies, feminist materialism, object oriented ontologies of post-humanist philosophy, critical political economy, actor-network theory, and the like. These heterogeneous and polyvalent perspectives have opened up spaces for interrogating the socio-technical assemblages which comprise “the internet”.
The “material turn” within internet research seeks to firmly ground critical analyses in the manifold physicalities and corporealities embodied and engendered within such networked technologies. This turn has been embraced with enthusiasm in Canadian communication and media studies, whose intellectual tradition has been shaped by a productive confluence of medium theory (e.g., Marshall McLuhan), spatial materialism of communication systems (e.g., Harold Innis), feminist media and social justice theory (e.g., Gertrude J. Robinson, Dorothy Smith), and political economy of media institutions and practices (e.g., Vincent Mosco).
As a settler nation with complex contested histories, vast geographies, and ongoing struggles to achieve global economic impact, Canada is situated firmly in the middle of the pack globally when it comes to internet presence. Like so many other nations, Canada’s transnational aspirations are deeply tied to its efforts to integrate and grow a diverse population. Such interconnected orientations are increasingly mediated by internet technologies. These interconnections are materialist in nature, but deeply transnational in both institutional and cultural construction. This leads us to the theme of the conference: transnational materialities. While providing a direction, this theme is not meant to be limiting, as the spaces within it allow for reflexivity, critique, construction, interpretation, and a myriad of other positionalities. We seek research and analysis that finds its provenance in a multiplicity of methodologies, from qualitative work such as textual analysis, to quantitative projects, such as big data, to mixed methods projects that employ both kinds of research.
Topics may include, but are not limited to:
- global infrastructures, their networks, and materialities
- the politics and policies of the internet’s transnational and material contexts, including the materiality of communication regulations and policies including issues around ICT4D, community informatics, piracy and copyright, and network neutrality
- intersections of technology/race/ethnicity/embodiment, including First Nations and Indigenous networks and communication practices, and Francophone and minority language cultures, politics, and challenges in the context of transnational materialities
- the internet as a set of spatial paradigms in material terms: information highway, data centres, cyberspace, virtual space, net, web, network, tubes
- the materiality of new digital intermediaries such as the Internet of Things, AI, robots/robotics, automations, algorithms, VR, teledildonics
- contemporary intersections of gender, race, class (etc.) and technology, including feminist interventions and backlash movements such as GamerGate
- the role of internet technology in building affinity movements and transcending borders, e.g., the materiality of the hashtag across platforms, political solidarities across transnational borders, global fan cultures and media, and the role of internet technologies in the circulation of and resistance to “alt-right” discourses and hate speech
- the shifting political and creative economies of streaming media, such as YouTube celebrities; porn channels becoming producers of mainstream television shows (xHamster) and educational content (PornHub); assemblages of “Internet Cats”; or weird/strange transnationalities/materialities of the internet
- the politics of platforms as extensions and/or erasures of the self
- social media, email, platforms, podcasts, etc. as actors/actants in networks
- materialities of big/small/wide/deep data, its research methods and related possibilities