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“Critical Invention: Media, Engagement, Practice”

March 19-20th, 2016

“Before there is ‘thought,’ there must have been ‘invention.’” – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 293.

“Building is, for us, a new kind of hermeneutic — one that is quite a bit more radical than taking the traditional methods of humanistic inquiry and applying them to digital objects. Media studies, game studies, critical code studies, and various other disciplines have brought wonderful new things to humanistic study, but I will say (at my peril) that none of these represent as radical a shift as the move from reading to making.” – Stephen Ramsay, “On Building.”

The 2016 CRDM Symposium seeks papers, creative work, and digital projects in a wide range of formats and from various disciplines following the theme of “critical invention.” While the concept of “invention” has a long history in the rhetorical canon, it also exists as a way of thinking more generally about how new objects and processes come into being. Invention, in this sense, might apply to any aspect of our designed environment: the development of new technologies, archives, architecture, software, or visual media, in addition to the development of new texts and ideas. This growing sense that scholars should critically engage with multiple processes of invention is evident in a number of emerging fields: critical making, digital humanities, code studies, digital rhetoric, multimodal composition, and others. This impulse to understand invention as a broad set of dynamic, interconnected processes opens up new potentials for pedagogy, research, and creative practice across disciplines. As John Muckelbauer (2008) argues, an affirmative sense of invention “structures the very possibility of what it means to read, to write, and even to think,” and this sense of invention cannot always be “explained representationally” but must be “demonstrated performatively” (p. xi). It is precisely these sorts of demonstrations, which include but are not limited to language, that we seek for this symposium. Thus, we invite proposals of various formats to explore the following questions:

  • What does it mean to invent critically?
  • What do processes of critical invention look like across disciplines? What does it mean to engage critically with processes of invention in the context of library science, Victorian literature, music theory, neuropsychology, or other fields not usually associated with making?
  • Beyond making meaning, what can critical invention actually do?
  • How do these processes affect digital pedagogies, creative production, and research practices?

From video games, to scientific apparatuses, to online interfaces, to computational scripts—any innovative projects invented in pursuit of academic inquiry have a place under our theme of critical invention. Some examples of such projects can be found at the latest issue of Hyperrhiz.

The CRDM Symposium will be hosted in conjunction with the Carolina Rhetoric Conference (March 17-18). This partnership will ensure an expansive, cross-disciplinary audience for presentations. It will also allow participants the opportunity to network with students and invited scholars from a wide range of academic backgrounds.

We invite proposals for the following presentation formats:

  • Student project showcase: presentations of project-based work in a gallery-style setting, either in the format of demonstrating projects, showcasing media art, or poster-style presentations. We welcome various examples and permutations of “critical invention(s)” made as part of academic inquiry, whether it be a gyroscopic computer mouse, a web scraper, or a mechanism to stabilize an ultrasound probe. If you made it for your research, it’s welcome!
  • Panels/lightning round talks: discussions of issues related to critical invention from multiple perspectives, either in traditional 15-20 minute panel presentations or roundtable discussion facilitators—these submissions can take the form of individual presentations or full panels.
  • Workshops/breakout sessions: participatory, hands-on activities and sessions to put critical invention into practice. Possible topics might include critical making, feminist game design, interaction design, new media activism, and more.

Please submit contact information, institutional affiliation(s), and 200-300 word proposals indicating your intended presentation format and description via google forms.

Deadline: February 17th, 2016.

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