Topics

Contents and conference structure

The programme (papers, tracks, and keynotes) is structured according to dual criteria: on one side, the conference content will follow the path of established academic fields, organised around similar disciplines (“Main thematic areas”); on the other side, the purpose of this conference is to cast light on issues that traverse those disciplinary fields and to underline the novelty and complexity of new scenarios (“Main conference topics”). This dual approach will allow for different ways of approaching the conference topics and schedule, as well as encouraging knowledge exchanges and unexpected connections.

 

Main thematic areas

A. DISCIPLINES OF LANGUAGE

The alteration of the order of discourse affects almost all disciplines of knowledge. Philosophy, linguistics, semiotics, aesthetics, and social sciences in general have formulated a whole body of instruments that allow for the analysis of shifts in the use of language in relation to their public competence. Competence here should be understood as the capacity to settle binding meanings in the social sphere and thus produce common political agendas. However, these disciplines have also shaped the [social, linguistic, discursive] frame that validates those changes, with special support from the study of history and law.

TAGS: Linguistics – Semiotics – Philosophy – Aesthetics – Theory of communication – History of art and design – Discursive theory / Discourse analysis.

B. MEDIA THEORY AND COMMUNICATION STUDIES

The construction of the public sphere through ICT has profoundly altered the (always variable) boundaries of the objectivity of language and its capacity to produce public bonds. New economies of language appeared due to the transformations in the production of subjects and objects through a unified system of signs. This led to the emergence of new categories that put the boundaries between traditional formats of truth and fiction under heavy pressure.

This thematic area brings together all academic fields that deal with the construction of “truth” not just as a philosophical or linguistic problem, but as the result of productive routines, the production of public space or power hierarchies. In particular, we refer to all those disciplines that analyse the evolution of media and their languages, as well as the material and symbolic conflicts implied in the collective construction of spaces of discourse and subjectivity. Special emphasis is placed on all areas that can provide relevant interpretations of the collapse of the public sphere in mass society, the emergence of new public spheres, the breakdown of hegemonic communicative models, and finally activist strategies of intervention and education.

TAGS: Visual arts and media – Cultural Industries – Interface cultures – Digital art and technologies – Digital society – ICTs and social networks – Pedagogy, authority and truth – Communication theory – Disinformation theory – Journalism – Media engineering – Cultural Studies.

C. ART, VISUAL CULTURES, CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES

Modern industrial culture redefined the classical boundaries between truth and fiction, placing the former firmly in the sphere of public authority and the latter in the field of aesthetic perception. However, while traditionally the artistic field was simply ascribed to the cultivation of subjectivity, in recent years the symbiosis between creation and activism placed a strong creative emphasis on formats of objectivity. The fake, deception, impersonation, infiltration, camouflage, and invisibility have become part of an instrumental body of several practices that suggest a critique to models imposed by the condition of the seeming transparency and user-friendliness of contemporary communication.

TAGS: Artistic practices – Media jamming – Design – Interface design – Activist poetics – Digital countercultures – New Objectologies – Poetics of automations and infrastructures.

 

Main conference topics

1) MUTATIONS IN THE SEMIOTIC PRODUCTION OF TRUTH IN THE CURRENT SOCIAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL CONTEXT

Papers in this area will establish case studies and analysis of the following topics:

  • Critical theory and research about “veridiction contracts” (from Greimas and Foucault to the present): new notions of realism; ways to establish shared criteria for trust and semiotics of suspicion; utilitarian and pragmatist philosophy and its influence on the economy of meaning.
  • The symbolic efficacy of signs and the post-alphabetical society. Iconography as a linguistic model: from iconography to spectrography.
  • Psychology of deception and cognitive prejudice. The bias of post-truth as a conflict between a social competence or bond based on authority competences and one based on emotional response competences.

2) NETWORKED SOCIETY: NEW FORMS OF POWER, THE DECLINE OF THE PUBLIC SPHERE AND ITS FUTURE

Papers in this area will focus on the multiple relationships between the design of global communication tools, the development of a networked society and its infrastructures, the crisis of the traditional mass media, the contradictions in the role of user-citizens (as promoters of self-expression and political agency, as well as atomised sources of intoxication and mass distraction).

Specific themes for this topic are:

  • Politics and mass media from the golden age of TV politics to the post-political languages of the era of global social media.
  • The building of the past: identity politics, nations, communities, history, and storytelling. Tradition as fraud.
  • Algorithmic propaganda and the technological design of misinformation.
  • Education and post-truth: a shift in the boundaries between authority and collective knowledge, and its consequences both in the classroom and elsewhere.
  • The power of data, invisible hierarchies and a political critique of transparency.
  • The life of objects in the anthropocene: deception, opacity and material truths of socio-technical devices.
  • Identity at play: the political agency of masks, heteronomies and improper identities in creative and grassroots activism.
  • The decline of the competence of objectivity in the public sphere: problems of the algorithm and proposals for revitalisation.

3) THE CRISIS OF TRADITIONAL REPRESENTATION AND NEW WAYS OF SEEING. DESIGN OF TRANSPARENCY, AESTHETICS OF OBFUSCATION, USER SUBCULTURES AND THE CRISIS OF TRADITIONAL REPRESENTATION

 

Papers in this area will focus on the challenges that “post-truth” poses to creative processes in contemporary art, design, and the making of popular technologies. Under the weight of global interfaces and infrastructures, post-truth—as a combination of semiotic, social, technological and post-political symptoms—seems to be provoking changes in all forms of representation, be they visual, audiovisual, textual, objectual, performative or creative in general.

Specifically, papers will investigate topics such as:

  • Photography after Google and, in general, the alleged ‘user revolutions’.
  • Individualist saturation and the crisis of corporate design.
  • From the responsibility of design in emotional communication to new non-corporate design practices: user design, unrecognisable or “brutalist” styles, camouflage, amateur professional practices, automatic design.
  • The evolution of cultural industries and their criticism: objective fiction and new formats in TV and network cinema.
  • Reality in drag: the evolution of the artistic/activist fake, unrecognisable art, fictions and revelations in contemporary art.
  • Parametric truths and fictions in algorithmic representations: objects and possible/impossible bodies, subcultures in fabrication, digitisation and maker cultures.
  • The design of transparency: a critical vision of the opacity of interfaces, applications, users, data.
  • The design of machines for deception: ethics and aesthetics of trolls and bots.
  • The possibility of lying through artificial intelligence (and its cultural biases) vs. the technological impossibility of lying (collective control, the automatisation of trust, blockchain technologies).
  • New realisms to visualise what is invisible to the human eye (infrastructure policies, planetary computing and big data).
  • The collapse of critical irony in dystopian times: memes and user subcultures in irony-saturated online environments (identity politics, ironic racism, critical memetics).
  • Technological disobedience, rebellion and sabotage: counter-production of data, infrastructure design for counter-surveillance and obfuscation, machines to deceive other machines, sabotage of capture devices.
  • Historicism, mannerism, revival: the use of pastiche and irony in postmodern design.
  • Learning from the copy: manipulations, versions and fakes as learning tools.