Digital Ecologies and the Anthropocene Symposium

Bath Spa University, Friday 28 April 2017
Media Convergence Research Centre, Newton Park Campus, Bath Spa University

One-Day Symposium organised by Charlie Tweed.

In August 2016 the International Geological Congress said that a new geological epoch known as the Anthropocene needs to be declared due to the fact that the human impact on the earth is now so profound. Timothy Morton uses the term hyperobjects to discuss some of the characteristics of the anthropocene and why it is often invisible to the human: he notes that hyperobjects are ‘so massively distributed in time, space and dimensionality’ that they defy our perception, let alone our comprehension, therefore the condition of the anthropocene is easily ignored.

Another of these hyperobjects relates to the human relationship with machines and we can trace their impact on the earth back to the invention of the steam engine in 1781 by James Watt and its deposits of carbon on the earth’s crust. Today’s contemporary technologies appear to be different and are crucial for enabling human life and culture to function as well as realising the production and distribution processes of capital. They also provide us with useful tools for visualising processes such as climate change and tracking the earth’s own movements and seismic activity.

However the notion of these technologies being ‘clean’ or ‘virtual’ is soon unraveled by tracing their material realities which are made up of complex meshes of human and non-human moving parts. Today’s machines are heavily enabled by the extraction of raw materials, the use of fossil fuels and the production of material waste.

In terms of responses to these conditions Christophe Bonneuil describes the ‘shock of the Anthropocene’ as a space for generating new political arguments, new modes of behaviour, new narratives, new languages and new creative forms and this symposium is focused on bringing some of these emerging discourses to the surface. The symposium will feature keynote lectures from Dr. Ele Carpenter (Goldsmiths College, London and editor of the Nuclear Culture Source Book) and Professor Charlie Gere (The Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Arts, Lancaster University). Alongside these keynotes the symposium will feature dynamic responses from filmmakers, artists, writers, poets and theorists. There will be numerous opportunities to view practical works within the panel sessions and also on the film reel which will be presented throughout the day at two locations and in the evening screening. As well as this we will have a number of other films to view and a sound installation in the main Atrium by poet Caroline Harris. We hope that you will have an engaging and thought provoking day with us.

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