« Preconference : Seminar
Ecocriticism, Data, and Digital Media
Assistant Professor of English
University of Texas at Austin
H. Lewis Ulman
Associate Professor of English
The Ohio State University
Description and Goals
From information visualizations to interactive databases, digital media have become central to environmental culture over the last few decades. This seminar will investigate how familiar environmental discourses (from non-fiction narratives of travel, adventure, and inhabitation to experimental poetry; from political argument to natural history) are adapting modes of representation grounded in the sciences and information technology. Of particular interest will be how contemporary art contributes to environmental debates about issues such as biodiversity, climate change, and pollution by using data- and code-based representational forms such as GIS mapping technologies, interactive Web sites, information visualizations, and databases. This seminar invites participants to assess how cultural producers are using such strategies to address environmental issues and to alter how we perceive and live in the world. We will also consider how environmentalism and ecocriticism stand to benefit from engaging these technologies and what may be lost in doing so.
Participants will write short position papers/media presentations (~5 minutes) that address or build off of the collaborative inquiry questions listed below, then circulate their papers/presentations about two weeks before the conference, with the option of including short readings and/or links to media projects that inspired their positions. Before the seminar, participants will read one another's materials and the common readings listed below.
At the seminar, participants will introduce their papers/presentations for no more than 5 minutes each, after which the group will respond. Prior to the seminar, the organizers will create topical clusters for the presentations and discussions.
In addition to discussing one another's papers/presentations, participants will collaboratively plan a media presentation (e.g., Web page, seminar Tumblr, or other format) to be completed after the conference and shared with the ASLE community.
Collaborative Inquiry Questions
- How do contemporary environmental discourses of materiality, embodiment, and reality engage with discourses of "digital" spaces and "virtual" and "augmented" reality?
- How do depictions of physical environments and processes employ the representational strategies of digital media (i.e. code, data visualization, and so on)?
- How do artworks adapt representational strategies from the empirical sciences in order to convey environmental knowledge to the public?
- What cognitive skills and forms of authority do different environmental media privilege?
- Do data- and code-based representations and works of art require different interpretational procedures than those ecocriticism has traditionally privileged?
Anderson, Alison. Media, Culture, and the Environment. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997. Print.
Boetzkes, Amanda. The Ethics of Earth Art. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010. Print.
Cubitt, Sean. Ecomedia: Theory, Culture & Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998. Print.
Heise, Ursula K. "Lost Dogs, Last Birds, and Listed Species: Cultures of Extinction." Configurations 18 (2011): 39-62. Web.
Mitchell, W. J. T., and Mark B. N. Hansen. Critical Terms for Media Studies. Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 2010. Print.
Ulman, H. Lewis. "Beyond Nature/Writing: Virtual Landscapes Online, in Print, and in Real Life." Beyond Nature Writing. Eds. Karla Armbruster and Kathleen Wallace. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2001. 341–356.
A selection of online images, databases, and web-based art projects (e.g., Maya Lin's What Is Missing?, Chris Jordan's Running the Numbers, Amy Young's digital media and biological art, Google "Sea View").
Heather Houser is assistant professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. Her current project offers an account of techniques of environmental description across media. Her first book, Eco-Sickness: Environment, Disease, and Affect in Contemporary Fiction, is under contract with Columbia University Press. It argues for the centrality of sickness and affect to environmental culture of the past three decades. Her essays have appeared in Contemporary Literature (2010), The American Book Review (2010), American Literature (2012), and The Legacy of David Foster Wallace (2012, eds. Cohen and Konstantinou).
H. Lewis Ulman, associate professor of English at The Ohio State University, has straddled the digital and physical environments throughout his thirty-year career in higher education, from writing a master's thesis on American nature writing while learning to program mainframe computers to editing the ASLE Online Bibliography from 2000–2010. Along the way, he has written articles on non-fiction nature writing and virtual landscapes, and edited an online edition of previously unpublished eighteenth-century discourses on natural history. He is currently working on a book-length study of virtual landscapes and representations of virtual landscapes across multiple media.