#HASTAC2013: seeking shelter
HASTAC (the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Collaboratory), supported by Duke University, the McArthur Foundation and others, held its digital humanities conference in Toronto, April 25-28, 2013. I was delighted to be able to attend and present there. It was an inspiring and challenging event. Well-organized and enthusiastically attended. Check out the twitter stream for a ton of details, reactions and observations by searching #hastac2013.
On Friday, April 26, I moderated a panel about archives, creativity, mapping and monetization, comprised of five lightning talks including mine (6 to 8 minutes each) and 20 minutes of discussion with the audience. The text of my talk is on the HASTAC website, along with a link to the slide show of images I used in the talk.
I’d originally proposed something like the following:
Ten years of thoughtful creative activity resulting in extravagances of discussions, proliferations of practices, reams of visual and audio footage, and terabytes of backups and storage: what was the generative relationship between art and digital media in Canada at the cusp of the 21st century? It is not easy to find a quiet place to rethink creative practices and spaces, and find pathways through archival materials, communications methodologies, potentially totalizing narratives and theoretical frameworks about the work of art and artists in relation to broadcast and digital media. That is what I have set out to do in my research: seek the eye of the storm in order to look back, look around and look out.
By digging into the video art and public broadcasting roots of CBC ArtSpots – an innovative, decade-long digital and television program in Canada – through visual, textual, aural and not always digital constructions, I intend to cast light (or at least, cast productive aspersions) on the helpfulness of mobilizing old and new methodological and creative processes side-by-side with theoretical structures and strictures. That this would happen at the decennial of HASTAC is particularly apropos.
This is a deliberative mash-up of post-it notes, Evernote(s) and field notes, hard-copy bibliographies and handcrafted reflections, mappings of my house of theory, and themes and questions that arise through tilling the verdant soil of discussion groups and in-depth interviews. Segmenting and manipulating archived video productions embedded with high production values, and newly-recorded investigative conversations on tape in a Korsakow non-linear documentary structure, I combine these fragments with freeze-frames grabbed from a moribund website, scanned pictures of production notes and photographs of other production detritus including gratefully-intended, not-for-profit “merch” used in a seemingly-ancient voluntary sector approach that nonetheless rears its 21st-century head in crowdfunding’s best practices. These seemingly chaotic and seductively productive incursions hurtle me into provocative interrogations of vernacular and cultural citizenship, the creative commons and the cultural industries, interrupting and tracing a concept of creative citizenship that seems helpful. Must progress always be forward moving? Of course not, but storm-filled momentum – yes, how tempting it is to attempt to get in front of it, and how necessary, instead, to seek the calm offered at the core.
Several of the images in the slide show dealt with ongoing working processes and annotations in my doctoral dissertation research discussed in the lightning talk, particularly the experiences of conducting Korsakow-related media production. And then on Saturday, April 26, and on Sunday, April 27, it was fantastic to see and share work and discussions with several other people working in media production using Korsakow. These included Midi Onodera, Philip Hoffman, Mél Hogan, Florian Thalhofer, plus my dissertation supervisor Monika Kin Gagnon, and Matt Soar, neither of whom were showing current work but both of whom have lovely projects on the Korsakow website. On April 26, Matt & Monika also launched the co-edited volume of media-based essays in Scalar, a still-beta scholarly publishing platform, based on a selection of works from the 2011 D|N|A conference.
The working sessions concerning Korsakow were particularly interesting for me since Midi, Phil, and Florian all showed work that was clearly artist-based, while Mél’s work and mine were engaged with different approaches to using Korsakow in relation to enormous amounts of archival material. Based on the several hours of conversation before, after and during, and the six pages of notes and sketches I generated afterwards, I can sense a field note reflection coming about this experience. In combination with the time spent at the University of Colorado – Boulder, at the Brakhage Center, this experience at HASTAC has really helped to circulate my work in an international conversation. I’m really grateful for the financial support of the Hexagram | CIAM Internationalization Grant, which allowed these outreach activities to take place in such a timely and productive manner.
There were some other great talks and events at the conference, including ones by Greg Van Alstyne and Gabe Sawhney, discussing the work of a collaboratory at OCAD called sLab, and the Sensorium interactive exhibition of digital media work. All digital humanities, all the time. And all in all, time well-spent.