Emerging Media Scholars @ McGill: Reem Hilu, Elizabeth Parke, Shirley Roburn

Join us on Wednesday, October 25, 2017, 5:45 p.m. (Arts 230, Arts Building, McGill University, 853 Sherbrooke Street West) for an evening devoted to current media studies research by three postdoctoral and visiting scholars in the Media@span>McGill community:

Their presentations will be followed by a Q&A with the public and a reception.

“Games Families Play”: Board Games and Cybernetic Family Communication
Reem Hilu

This paper explores the way that family board game play in the latter half of the twentieth century served as a site through which cybernetic discourses and computer technologies came to intervene in the home. I suggest that board games, although they may seem to be only a familiar family pastime, can also be examined as mediations of family interactions. I will briefly discuss how family board games have historically functioned to mediate family play and to help accommodate the family to new media technologies. Then, focusing on the 1970s and 1980s, I argue that board games helped usher in cybernetic modes of family communication and also served to facilitate the integration of digital media into intimate family relations. Tracing these games to a growing trend in cybernetic, systems family therapy in clinical setting in the postwar period, I argue that in these games, the family is addressed as a unit and encouraged to think of their interactions together as a cybernetic system. By encouraging players to vigilantly regulate their speech in the interest of “authentic” family communication, these games helped accommodate the family to the type of rationalized communication later necessitated by digital technology.

Reem Hilu is a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at McGill University. Her current project, “The Family Circuit: Home Computing and Cybernetic Intimacies,” is a study of the changing norms and practices of sociability and intimacy in the digitally mediated home that focuses on domestic computing in the 1970s and 1980s. Her other research interests include video game history and educational technology. In Fall 2018, she will join the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis as an assistant professor of Electronic Media.

Elizabeth Parke

At McGill I will be working on a second book length study, tentatively titled Sino-Automobilities. This project aims to articulate the ways that the automobile in the Sinosphere—specifically the PRC, Singapore, and the North American diaspora—functions as a form of ‘mobile media’ that projects complex codes of nationalism, identity, and materiality. For this project I will be looking at histories of car manufacturing and technology mobility in East Asian economies, at mobility and diaspora studies, and the codes of luxury aesthetics.

In this presentation I’ll provide an overview of my project’s main lines of inquiry and then offer a close reading of two recent luxury car based works by established artists Cao Fei (Art Car 18, 2017) and Yang Fudong (Moving Mountains, 2016). Both works were produced in collaboration with car companies (BMW and Rolls Royce) and, I will argue, illuminate not only how luxury cars and car companies are capitalizing on these artists’ global status to leverage more market share in the Sinosphere, but also how the artists approach the form, function, and materiality of cars in these works to very different ends.

Elizabeth Parke: I specialize in contemporary art, visual culture, and urban planning in China. I examine how representational practices such as film, installation art, photography, and online platforms are mobilized by artists to reflect on, critique, and alter how audiences experience and engage with urban environments. More specifically, I draw on theoretical considerations from the fields of new materialism and media studies to understand how artists interpret the category of infrastructure to deconstruct and critique the implicit assumptions and aspirations of statecraft. I also look at how citizens make creative interventions into their daily environment as a way to understand the grey economies and informal networks that enable and sustain the growth of neo-liberal world cities. Parts of this research were published in China Information and in a forthcoming edited volume, Urban Interfaces: visual arts, representations and interventions in contemporary China. Last year I was the inaugural CLIR/Jackman Humanities Institute postdoctoral fellow in digital humanities at the University of Toronto.

Re-mediating the Salish Sea: salmon, surveillance technologies, and social movement storytelling along British Columbia’s central coast
Shirley Roburn

This presentation delves into theoretical and practical implications of the ways that coastal First Nations in British Columbia and their allies have used new media to extend and exert First Nations legal orders with regards to ocean conservation and the salmon fishery. It takes as its starting point two dramatic events in the summer of 2017: the salmon farm occupations undertaken by Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw, Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwamis, and other local First Nations in the Broughton Archipelago, and the months long run of the new media project Uninterrupted, which deployed the latest digital technologies to recreate a salmon run on the underside of Vancouver’s Cambie Street bridge. Drawing on research into indigenous communications and indigenous legal orders, forms of networked protest and political organizing, and coalition building and allyship in social movements, I will explore the affordances that new media technologies ranging from drones to Facebook have offered to coastal First Nations and their allies in efforts to change salmon governance. “Re-mediating” the broader public culture of how citizens understand their responsibilities towards salmon has been and is an important part of efforts to remediate the ecosystem and management of the Pacific salmon fishery in the region.

Shirley Roburn is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. Her current work focuses on the role of multimedia storytelling in growing community involvement in campaigns for marine protection along the British Columbia coast. More broadly, she studies the public storytelling strategies used by indigenous communities and their civil society allies in order to reframe controversies over energy infrastructure development in terms of issues of land, food, and cultural sovereignty. Another ongoing project analyzes the impact of a constellation of "caribou stories," told through speech, print, film, and multiplatform and mobile media practices, that northern First Nations communities and environmental groups have told in order to garner public support to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Peel basin from oil, gas, and mining developments.

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