Mediations Lecture Series

Mediations is a graduate student-run workshop and guest speaker series housed in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) at The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario Canada. The goal of the series is to establish a space in which to display the rich diversity of research and scholarship being pursued at FIMS to the broader Western community.

The Mediations Workshop sessions offer members of the FIMS community a venue in which to present any aspects of their work that engage with ‘Media Studies,’ defined as broadly as possible to incorporate many aspects of this rich, diverse, and loosely defined discipline. Sub-fields or approaches might include: Media and Cultural Theory, Political Economy, Technology/Technoculture, Media History, New Media, Journalism Studies, Library and Information Science, Popular Culture, Popular Music Studies, and Media Aesthetics, to name a few. We welcome both theoretically and empirically-based studies, as well as practice-based engagements with media. Each 1.5-hour session consists of one 30-40 minute presentation followed by two respondents (5-10 minutes each). The remainder of the sessions are devoted to questions from and discussion with the audience.

Mediations Presents, a guest speaker series, invites both FIMS and the broader Western community to engage with the work of leading scholars engaging with questions regarding media and mediation, across a variety of interdisciplinary intersections.

For questions please contact the mediations organising committee: for SHARP

Additional support provided by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing.

2017/2018 Mediations Lecture & Workshop Series

Capital and Post-Cyernetic Control: On Amazon's Patent for Anticipatory Package Shipping
Thursday, April 5, 2018
4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
FNB 4110

Presented by Atle Mikkola Kjøsen.
Responses by Warren Steele and Ryan Schroeder

Abstract: On Christmas Eve 2013, Amazon was awarded patent for a “Method and System for Anticipatory Package Shipping.” In essence, the patent explains that the online retail giant wants to build a logistical system that will ship packages to potential buyers before they have ordered anything. By analyzing their massive trove of data collected from their customers—including previous orders, products viewed and in shopping carts or wish lists, and tracking web browsing and links hovered over—Amazon is effectively able to anticipate that someone may buy a particular product and consequently ship packages to the general geographical area from where they anticipate orders will come. What is the logic behind such methods? Why must exchange be anticipated?
This paper will interpret Amazon’s patent using Marx’s value theory and drawing on Brian Massumi’s analysis of pre-emptive power—the military doctrine that led the U.S. to invade Afghanistan and Iraq—and Luciana Parisi’s concept of post-cybernetic control in smart architecture. The logic of pre-emption states that if there is a potential threat in the future, action must be taken right now with the effect that what pre-emptive action sought to prevent instead creates it. Post-cybernetic control describes a similar operation; it does not concern establishing conditions of the present based on data from the past, but rather is driven towards the future not for the sake of predicting it, but with actually producing the conditions of the future. The paper will argue that the patent marries the logic of pre-emption or post-cybernetic control to capital—by sending out packages in anticipation of an order, the future acts on the present and the conditions for future sales are created. But for that reason, the patent should also be read as an example of what Marx terms the rational-irrationality of capital.

Bio: Atle Mikkola Kjøsen has a PhD in media studies from FIMS where he currently is an assistant professor. He is one of the co-founders of mediations. His research broadly focuses on Marxist theory, media archaeology, artificial intelligence, logistics, and retailing. His research has been published in TripleC, Communication +1, Information, Communication & Society and has been translated in Turkish, Chinese and German. Together with James Steinhoff and Nick Dyer-Witheford, he is writing a book on the challenge of artificial intelligence to Marxist theory titled Inhuman Power and to be published by Pluto Press.

"I'm Not Evil. I'm Chaotic Neutral!": On the Classification of Internet Trolls
Thursday, February 8, 2018
4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
FNB 4130

Presented by Yimin Chen
Responses by Chandell Gosse and kirstyn seanor

What does it mean to be a troll? For many people, trolling essentially means “being a butt while on the internet” – or worse. Mainstream news reporting has consistently characterized internet trolls as anti-social and malicious with stories of obscenity, harassment, and cyberbullying. However, this portrayal has been critiqued as misrepresentative and is often at odds with how trolls see themselves: as comical rather than criminal. This work aims to disambiguate some of these conflicting narratives and map out different conceptions of trolling by investigating the perspective of the online onlookers who inhabit the digital spaces and places where trolling occurs. As informed, but (usually) uninvolved witnesses to acts of trolling, the experiences of these “internauts” are invaluable when trying to understand online behaviours and cultures in context. What emerges is a multifaceted picture of trolling as sometimes positive and sometimes negative, but always motivated by chaos.

Bio: Yimin Chen is a PhD Candidate in Library and Information Science in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University, where he studies satire, clickbait, and other types of “fake news”. His research interests include online communication, internet culture, and memes. He also co-hosts Gradcast, the official podcast of the Society of Graduate Students, and, in his spare time, Yimin likes working on his dissertation on internet trolling.

The Faked Death of Real News: Why Delusion is Here to Stay
Thursday, January 11, 2018
4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
FNB 4130

Presented by Andrew Woods, Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism
Responses by Dr. Victoria Rubin and Dylan Hughes

Abstract: Mark Zuckerberg revealed earlier this year that Facebook would launch a scheme to combat the proliferation of Fake News. “Disputed” tags would be attached to news stories that have been discredited by Snopes or Associated Press. I assert that this initiative fails to tackle Fake News for three key reasons. First, I expand on Paul Virilio’s idea of “reflex democracy” to explain that some users do not believe that Facebook is politically neutral and, therefore, they ignore the disputation if it contradicts their own views and biases. Second, I build on Jean Baudrillard’s conception of media as the “expulsion of the human” and Slavoj Zizek’s notion of “interpassivity” to argue that disputed tags outsource our ability to distinguish between facts and fabrications and thus make people more susceptible to believe untrue articles. Finally, I show that the spread of fraudulent articles over social media platforms—most notably, the Irish Slave Trade story—is so rapid that disputed tags are only added to the story once it has been read and shared by thousands of users. I conclude that technological answers to Fake News—like disputed tags—are unpersuasive, unhelpful, and too slow, as well as propose a few alternative solutions.

Prime-Time Minister: Politics, Entertainment and Justin Trudeau
Thursday, November 9, 2017
4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
FNB 4130

Presented by Tiara Sukhan, Media Studies PhD candidate.
Respondents: TBA

Abstract: When Justin Trudeau told an elated crowd in Ottawa in the fall of 2015 that “we’re back!” he was referring to more than just the return of the federal Liberal party to power. A life-long quest had been fulfilled and “Trudeaumania” was back. Popular culture has reinforced this messaging, various examples suggesting that “Just-in time” Justin’s celebrity status is intrinsic to his political power, an integral aspect of the Trudeau brand and key to his style of governance. His reported desire for authentic interpersonal connection has been revealed through a multiplicity of appearances to be part of a calculated branding campaign designed to blur the boundaries of public and private, celebrity and fan. There is a myriad of ways in which Trudeau’s celebrity status is cultivated and reflected in North America media, but this analysis will focus particularly on examples from popular and entertainment media which include television, comic books, fashion magazines, and photographs. The “politics of hype” he deploys through these media work to obscure the fundamental insignificance of any real change he delivers.

Human Dignity Between Declaration and Curation: The Human Rights Exhibition Album as Cultural Technique

Thursday, September 28, 2017
4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
FNB 4130

Presented by Amy Freier, PhD Candidate, Media Studies
Responses by Katie Oates and Sonya de Laat

Abstract: In 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was put into effect, ushering in a new era of human rights and a new prominence for the concept of human dignity. As dignity became part of a declarative instrument, it also became something of a modern technology. In this document dignity is positioned as a “durable materiality” (Durham Peters), as something that is meant to exist between and across cultures and times as a relatively stable property. Using UNESCO’s Human Rights Exhibition Album (1950) as an anchor to this paper, I aim to show how human dignity’s new declarative functions during this period should be tempered with its visual translations and traces that accompanied its emergence. Exhibitions, I argue, are critical to a contemporary understanding of human dignity. The Human Rights Album demonstrates an important, if not optimistic and progressive view of how human rights and human dignity evolved from disparate cultures and at times radically different understandings. Its visual form, as an album and curatorial medium, effectively open up dignity’s declarative functions to issues of cultural techniques, or those properties closely tied to the human form and history. As a “form of map-making that opens new routes through a city, a people or a world” (Obrist) curation helps to undo the enduring assumptions that frame dignity within the declaration and instead positions this concept as a contemporaneous issue.

Pandemic Fame and its Consequences: The Inattention Economy of Online Culture
Friday, September 8, 2017
4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
FNB 4130

Presented by Dr. David Marshall, Visiting Scholar at FIMS and Chair in New Media, Communication and Cultural Studies at Deakin University, Australia.

Abstract: Dr. Marshall's work covers a number of areas related to media, new media, cultural studies and communications. More specifically, he has been developing the field of Persona Studies. This is connected to his work on public personality systems that operate across many cultural fields including entertainment and politics. He is extending this research into the way in which we, via social media, are all collectively engaged in producing mediatized versions of ourselves - or personas. His recent publications in this area include an edited book entitled Contemporary Publics (2016, Palgrave), a sole-authored book entitled Celebrity Persona Pandemics (2016, Minnesota University Press) and an edited collection, A Companion to Celebrity (2016, Blackwell Wiley).

Previous Workshops and Lectures


Sept: Fake News or Truth? Using Satirical Cues to Detect Potentially Misleading News
Presented by: Victoria L. Rubin, Niall J. Conroy, Yimin Chen, and Sarah Cornwell
Responses by Vicki O’Meara and Darryl Pieber

Nov: The Entreprecariat: Recording Artists in Extreme Metal Music Proto-Markets
Presented by Jason Netherton
Responses by Norma Coates and Ryan Mack

Feb: Aspirations and Precariousness in the life of Indian IT support service workers
Presented by Indranil Chakraborty
Responses by Edward Comor and James Steinhoff

March: Lewis Hine’s First World War Photographs for the American Red Cross: Interpretations in/of the past for humanitarianism today
Presented by Sonya de Laat
Response by Amy Freier

March, Special Event with PMCP:
A Public Lecture by Dr. Kimi Karki, University of Turku, Finland on Metal Music and Nationalism

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