CfP: Poetics of the Algorithm. Narrative, the Digital, and ‘Unidentified’ Media

An International Conference organized by the ACME Comics Research Group
University of Liège (ULg), Belgium
June 16-17-18, 2016
Stichtag: 2015 12 20

Poetics of the Algorithm: Narrative, Digitality, and Unidentified Media is an international conference hosted by the University of Liege (Belgium, 16-17-18 June 2016) with a focus on interactive fiction, apps, digital comics, games, e-literature and other emerging, ‘new’ media. The conference will host workshops, roundtable discussions, panels, and presentations of papers. We invite scholars, artists, writers, programmers, (game) developers, practitioners, designers, etc. to participate in what we hope to be an extraordinary event.

It seems that narrative today is undergoing a radical change in its ‘source code.’ New technologies are changing the way texts are produced, distributed, viewed and read. The conference Poetics of the Algorithm intends to chart the implications of this shift. What does it mean that through digital technologies we can now experience on the surface of a single (touch) screen previously distinct media, artefacts and events such as literature in codex form, comic books, exhibitions, films, photographs, visual art and so on? Has medium-specificity become an obsolete notion given that binary code and algorithms seem to bypass material constraints?

The phenomenon of adapting/remediating ‘low tech’ works into digital format is instructive in this regard. Already an unconventional graphic narrative in codex form, Richard McGuire’s Here for example was adapted into a so-called “enhanced edition” for the iPad. Does the notion of ‘enhancement’ entail that the hardback version is in some way inferior? Speaking of the app-version of Here, what does it mean that the simulation of travel in ‘deep time’ no longer proceeds from turning the page but from touching the screen, zooming, and pinching? Does the meaning change after a graphic novel in book format has been translated into an application for digital devices? How is the creation of the work impacted, as a work by a single author is transformed into a collaborative project with software designers and a team of coders? Next to mastery of his or her craft, must the artist also be ‘code-literate’ today to matter?

Furthermore, this shift also pertains to the ‘system requirements’ of the reader-participant of digital media. Indeed, is touch—with the gestural protocols of swiping, pinching, and zooming—a radically new paradigm revising what is narratable, visible, and performable, making the world an unfamiliar place again after having lived in a world that could be ‘read like a book’? What new habits of thought and bodily engagement are brought into being?

These questions immediately bring us to the politics of post-media poetics, an issue the conference will also raise. How to think constructively about the relation between the backbreaking, (often neo-colonial) exploitative labour that makes western new media possible and our shiny new hardware so hostile to dirt and dust? Can modes of ‘slow,’ ‘grimy,’ ‘artisanal’ cultural production (‘old school’ book art, lettering, the smears of paint, the woodcut, etc) be read as critiques of our digitized, supposedly ‘accelerationist’ epoch, and/or are they symptoms of post-media nostalgia?

Lastly, if the material configuration of literature, comics, art, and other media are shifting, how should this be reflected in our methodology? Should research, critique and scholarship aspire to become a multi-media experience? What are adequate forms for the digital humanities to respond to these challenges?

These are but some of the questions the conference will raise. Additional areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Intermediality, transmediality, remediation, media archeology
  • The notion of the author vs new media creation as a collaborative production, or delegation (‘outsourcing’) from author to digital production team
  • Gaming, comics and narrative
  • Digital comics, digital experiments with the language of comics, web-comics
  • interactive literature
  • Memes as (anti-)narrative
  • From Being-in-the-world to Being-with-Siri/Cortana
  • Smooth screens or rough textures: drawing on tablets, or drawing on paper, with pen, ink, paint
  • ‘Old media’ in times of high-tech algorithmic hyper-capitalism
  • The art of coding, coding art
  • Database and narrative logics
  • Internet and the digital archive
  • Phenomenology of the digital
  • Modes of narration: Point-and-click, scrolling, touch, gestures narration
  • Poetics and emerging conventions and genres in digital media storytelling
  • The line between gaming, the ‘app-novel’, interactive fiction
  • As of yet ‘unidentified’ highly experimental media
  • Media literacy, illiteracy
  • Capitalism, new media, political economy
  • Media obsolescence, garbage, electronic debris, lost codes
  • Dirt and the machine, malfunctions, glitches, static, noise, tactics, hacks
  • Digital avant-gardes
  • Art, autonomy and the app-store
  • The coder-researcher, new research practices, ‘minor’ data-humanities in Big Data

Pease send abstracts (500 words maximum) by 20 December to
We are greatly looking forward to your proposals. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

ACME Comics Research Group
University of Liege (ULg)
Place du 20-Août, 7
4000 Liège

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