[-empyre-] Welcome to April on -empyre: Digital Media and the Interstices of Identity.

Soraya Murray semurray at ucsc.edu
Thu Apr 2 03:09:46 AEDT 2015

Welcome to April 2015 on –empyre soft-skinned space:

Moderated by Soraya Murray (US) with invited discussants.
Thank you to Renate for the wonderful introduction, and for the opportunity to share in the –empyre conversation.
Welcome to the April 2015 discussion, “Digital Media and the Interstices of Identity”. This month is dedicated to an open discussion on the subject of Digital Culture broadly defined, in relation to issues of race, class, gender, sexuality and other socially-defined forms of difference. The term “identity” is somewhat maligned or sometimes considered passé as a result of earlier debates around multiculturalism and, among other things, the claim that a static identity necessarily excludes those who do not bear membership. Representation and identity is far less foregrounded in considerations of technology than it should be. However, recent events and phenomena (such as the implications of social media for the Arab Spring, Occupy movement, and GamerGate) make it clear that critical issues in representation and identity are indeed very much at stake in these expressive media. 
Stuart Hall, who is one of the founders of cultural studies, in his essay "Encoding/Decoding" wrote about the way in which messages are sent and received in far more complex ways than previously understood. Hall noted that mass media image producers (in this case, he was specifically discussing television) were often frustrated that viewers did not necessarily absorb the images with their intended meaning. Since individual viewers are activated participants in a living culture that is shifting and changing, and because they may have varying relationships to the dominant viewpoint, it's natural and inevitable that varying interpretations of the image will result, or that the technologies themselves may be repurposed. So if we think of this in terms of computational technologies, social media and digital culture, the person whose value system is in alignment with the mainstream will absorb images differently than someone who already has an oppositional stance to the Western mainstream. It is not hard to imagine that we bring a great deal to digital culture, and our subject positions, histories and cultural contexts (as well as innumerable other unforeseen factors) shape what is taken from them. Over the course of the month, a series of esteemed guests, including emerging and more senior scholars and artists, will consider the social and political uses of information technologies and their role in transforming or reshaping identity. 
I will be introducing a new topic each week.  A little later today, I will launch the first week.
Guests for Week 1: Derek Conrad Murray (US) / Dalia Othman (US) / Laila Shereen Sakr (US)

Soraya Murray, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor 
Film + Digital Media Department
University of California, Santa Cruz

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