HASTAC 2014 Proposal: Political Platforms: Software, Social Justice, and Designing for Change

*Update: Our panel was accepted! I’ll see you all in Lima, Peru (thank goodness my Mellon Postdoc comes with research fund!) for HASTAC2014!


Here’s a proposal I put together with several colleagues for HASTAC 2014, the 6th annual meeting of HASTAC, this time in Lima, Peru. Much of the thinking that informs this proposal comes from #transformDH, and, more recently, the panel I participated on at the American Studies Association in D.C., and work done that may have been directly connected with either but very much invested in critical approaches to media, infrastructures, platforms, and the communities that use, appropriate, and hack them.

Hopefully we’ll get in, and we’ll see you in Lima in April!


Curated Panel | Political Platforms: Software, Social Justice, and Designing for Change

Abstract |

This panel will bring together early career scholars working in diverse areas of digital technology and cultural studies to explore various critical approaches to understanding, critiquing and applying platforms. Of particular interest is the interrogation of the “neutrality” that is often read into digital technologies, tools, interfaces and platforms. Instead, we investigate the ways in which different platforms may be appropriated for their disruptive and transformative potentials, especially by communities that may include women of color, precarious laborers, queer gamers, or political dissenters. Together, we explore the possibility for a politically engaged and sophisticated form of platform studies that pushes beyond the often formalist, de-politicized research that frequently categorizes scholarship on specific platforms today. We are interested in a critical platform studies that begins with the social, the cultural and the ideological rather than with the fetish of the technological per se.

Facilitated by and with a response from Tara McPherson, the panel’s 4 presenters will offer 8 -10 minute lightning talks that will seek to provoke, critique and think through a range of topics, issues and questions that link divergent communities affected by global shifts brought on by globalization, urbanization, and dispossession.

The panel will start with a presentation by Josh Honn, who will discuss the politics embedded in platforms of “openness” and “sharing,” particularly through an analysis of content management systems in relation to the preservation, privacy and display of cultural artifacts and knowledge.

Anne Cong-Huyen will then provide a close-reading of one open source content management system, Drupal, in the Voces Móviles (www.vozmob.net) project, an online platform for immigrant and low-wage workers in Los Angeles. This experiment appropriates Drupal and mobile phones for a collaborative narrative project that embodies an aesthetics of the precarious laboring classes, and resists any desires to be easily organized, parsed, or identified.

Beatrice Choi will examine Brazil’s Internet Bill of Rights–the Marco Civil da Internet. of Brazilian investments in open-source software to observe how state and activist communities negotiate parameters for free speech from the street to online communities, from “analog” to digital spaces. In the aftermath of the NSA scandal, the bill’s dissident rhetoric embodies the growing visibility of open-source software in Brazil; consequently, this paper analyzes software communities to analyze the parallels that software and protest communities adopt in expressions and practices of free speech.

Finally, Amanda Phillips will look at the indie game development revolution as fueled in particular by software such as GameMaker, which enables users to create graphics-based digital games without the knowledge of a programming language. The movement has been spearheaded by prolific queer game developer Anna Anthropy, whose recent book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Dropouts, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form, exhorts everyday users to take game design into their own hands. This presentation will examine how GameMaker enables ludic self-expression and game design for social justice in private practice and pedagogical settings.


Biographies 

Beatrice Choi, Northwestern, @seebeatrice
Bio: Beatrice J. Choi is a PhD student at Northwestern University’s Rhetoric and Public Culture program. She is currently developing a media ethnography that explores open-source software communities and politicized practices of coding in Brazil. Her research interests include the performance of technology, media theory, and trauma studies.

Anne Cong-Huyen, UCLA (Organizer), @anitaconchita
Bio: Anne is a  Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities and Visiting Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include the literature and media of migration and labor, Asian American and Ethnic studies, globalization and neoliberalism, postcolonial studies, and transnationalism. I’m especially invested in the ways gender, race, class, and nationality affect how the temporary and the precarious is experienced. Her work appears in The Journal of e-Media Studies, and is forthcoming in Humanities and the Digital (MIT Press). She has previously published on comics in the Asian American literature class. She was formerly a HASTAC scholar, and co-founding member of the #transformDH collective, with which she is still active.

Josh Honn, Northwestern University, @joshhonn
Bio: Josh Honn is Digital Scholarship Librarian at the Center for Scholarly Communication & Digital Curation, Northwestern University, where he consults and collaborates with faculty and graduate students in the humanities on digital pedagogy and research projects. An academic librarian, he holds Master’s degrees in American Studies and Library & Information Science, and has worked professionally as a print and web designer. He currently co-convenes the Northwestern University Digital Humanities Lab and organizes the CRTCLDGTL reading group. His most recent paper, “Never Neutral: Critical Approaches to Digital Tools and Culture in the Humanities,” was presented as an invited talk at University of Western Ontario’s “Digital Humanities Speaker Series.”

Tara McPherson, University of Southern California, @tmcphers (Moderator/Respondent)
Bio: Tara McPherson is an Associate Professor of Critical Studies in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. She is author of Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender and Nostalgia in the Imagined South (Duke UP: 2003), co-editor of the anthologies Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture (Duke UP: 2003) and Transmedia Frictions (forthcoming, U. of Ca. Press), and editor of Digital Youth, Innovation and the Unexpected (MIT, 2011.) McPherson is a co-editor of the online journals, Vectors and IJLM: The International Journal of Learning and Media. She is lead PI on the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, home of the open source authoring platform, Scalar, and a founding member of the HASTAC Board. Her research interests include issues of media, gender, race, and representation, historical computing, and multimedia literacy and authorship.

Amanda Phillips, UCSB, @NazcaTheMad
Bio: Amanda Phillips is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English with an emphasis in Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation takes a vertical slice of the video games industry to look at how difference is produced and policed on multiple levels of the gamic system: discourse, hardware, software, representation, and corporate practice. Her interests more broadly are in queer, feminist, and race-conscious discourses in and around technoculture, popular media, and the digital humanities. She is a 2013-14 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow. In addition to participating in the 2010 NEH-sponsored Humanities Gaming Institute, Amanda has been a HASTAC Scholar since 2009 and hosted, in conjunction with Margaret Rhee, an online HASTAC Forum on Queer and Feminist New Media Spaces. Most recently, she has been involved with the #transformDH Collective’s efforts to encourage and highlight critical cultural studies work in digital humanities projects.

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