Research delegations

With its Research Delegation initiative, The Participatory Condition colloquium provides opportunities for the training and professional development of graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and emerging scholars. Five doctoral and postdoctoral researchers have accepted to act as colloquium Research Delegates, and head a small team of researchers (consisting in 4-5 students and/or community media practitioners) for their assigned colloquium sections.

Members of the research delegations are expected to:

  1. conduct background research on their assigned colloquium sections and contribute informed postings to the colloquium website, blog, POOC (participatory open online course), and social media sites before, during, and after the colloquium;
  2. attend the colloquium in its entirety, and take detailed notes of their assigned sessions;
  3. pose the first formal question(s) to panelists during the Q&A session with the public;
  4. present a critical account of the assigned section in a post-colloquium seminar at McGill.

Research delegations will also be invited to submit a text for an open access, peer-reviewed publication on Media@McGill’s website following the colloquium.

Research Delegations:

The Predicament of Participation I

Speakers: N. Katherine Hayles, Trebor Scholz, Geert Lovink
Research Delegate: Adair Ronthwaite (McGill)
Team members: Rodrigo Davies (MIT); Christine Mitchell (Concordia)

The central focus of our research will be the question of how participation relates to agency in the work of Katherine Hayles, Geert Lovink, and Trebor Scholz. In the work of these three authors, we see a concern with identifying “genuine” participation that empowers individuals and collectives, in a cultural context where participation constitutes a dominant paradigm of discipline and capitalist productivity. How can we identify resistant or grassroots participation, given the fact that our affective experiences and critical faculties increasingly are shaped by compulsory, non-liberatory participation? Or does the participatory condition necessitate a conception of agency that is beyond resistance and compliance? Specific sites for our analysis will include blogs, crowdsourced translation, crowdfunding for community projects, and contemporary art.

The Predicament of Participation II

Speakers:Nico Carpentier, Bernard Stiegler
Research Delegate: Alessandro Delfanti (McGill)
Team members: Nathalie Casemajor (McGill); Stéphane Couture (McGill); Mauricio Delfin (McGill); Matt Goerzen (McGill); Molly Sauter (McGill)

Our delegation aims to understand how digital technologies allow or restrict the possibilities of participation. We will focus on the affordances of digital media, as well as on the theories and practices that enact forms of participation in the civic sphere. Different conditions of participation shape and sometimes disrupt the social worlds within which participation is actualized. In technology-driven societies, new aspirations surrounding participation resonate with the cultures and values that are actively promoted and put to work by digital platforms. The predicament of participation is the product of these frictions.

Gaming, Art and Design

Speakers:Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Rudolf Frieling, Graham Pullin, T.L. Taylor, Mia Consalvo, Jason Lewis and Skawennati
Research Delegate: Erandy Vergara-Vargas (McGill)
Team members: Michael Lithgow (McGill); Heather Mills (McGill); Anne Pasek (McGill); Saelan Twerdy (McGill)

Our delegation aims to reflect on the practices and critical debates regarding participation in the fields of art, design and gaming. Particular attention will be paid to the knowledge / power implications of the aesthetics of public participation—in terms of cultural outcomes and policy decisions; the distributed and permeable nature of embodiment through participatory digital networks; the history of participation in the radical politics of the avant-garde (i.e. Futurism and Dadaism), and more recent trends such as community art, interactive art, public art, and relational aesthetics. In addition, we are interested in investigating the participatory impulse in relation to cyber-feminism, global art histories, and postcolonial theories in an effort to examine hegemonic flows of participation across nations, as well as within nations and communities.

Publics and Participation

Speakers:Kate Crawford, Bart Cammaerts, Christina Dunbar-Hester
Research Delegate: Gretchen King (McGill)
Team members: Stefanie Duguay (Oxford); Ali Karimi (McGill); Candace Mooers (CKUT 90.3 FM); Errol Salamon (McGill); Samine Tabatabaei (McGill)

Headlines proclaimed the 2011 political changes in Tunisia and Egypt as “Twitter” or “Facebook” revolutions, yet a more grounded analysis moves beyond technological reductionism by recognizing the limitations of Internet availability, which is a necessary precondition for the use of social media. This is especially true in a region where governments regularly block websites, slow down Internet traffic, and disrupt cell phone transmissions as means to repress political dissent and organizing. The theme Publics and Participation within the Participatory Condition is an opportunity to problematize accessibility, cooperation, and resistance within these and other participatory platforms. We are interested in counter-hegemonic articulations of mediated forms of political participation and activism within specific social movements, such as the 2012 Quebec Student Strike or the more recent Idle No More mobilization. Specifically, our delegation will: 1) reflect on the cultural-centrism underpinning contemporary conceptualizations of participation; 2) examine the limits of participatory platforms among a diversity of publics and contexts; and 3) consider invisible or illegitimate forms of participation and the manifestation of not participating.

Regulation and Surveillance

(Julie Cohen, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Jillian C. York, Christopher Soghoian, Marc Andrejevic)
Research Delegate: Ian Kalman (McGill)
Team members: Fiona Achi (McGill); Alex Dean Cybulski (Univ. of Toronto); Darcie Deangelo (McGill); Joshua Friesen (McGill); Samine Tabatabaei (McGill)

As a group, we inquire what becomes of the concept of surveillance once it is participatory. Emphasizing surveillance’s technological modalities, and their emergent regulation, dissemination, and evaluation in a legal context, we explore the distribution of power and agency over surveillance practices and how participation can redefine the balance over hegemonic and counter-hegemonic activities. Paying special attention to ways in which these practices extend beyond the historical provenience of the state, we look at questions of representation, and consequent frictions between state and citizenry.