In referring to the cancellation of Pluto’s planetary status in 2006, BWPWAP (Back When Pluto Was a Planet), the 2013 theme of the transmediale festival, interrogates techno-cultural processes of displacement and invention, asking for artistic and speculative responses to new cultural imaginaries.
Back When Pluto Was a Planet, life might have seemed more innocent, yet whole cultural imaginaries, like planetary systems, may change overnight, and technical and cultural paradigms along with them. The festival will take this fragility of culture as a point of departure for exploring the disruptive potential of technological development and artistic practice. Can we act like BWPWAP and at same time redefine present and future cultural practices, inventing networks out of place and out of time?
This conference and workshop, which precedes transmediale, asks how BWPWAP can be interpreted in the context of research culture that has been significantly destabilised by network culture and digital media. If Pluto didn’t exactly fall prey to an epistemological break or a scientific revolution, but rather to a mundane administrative procedure – a redefinition of what constitutes a planet and the invention of the category “dwarf planet” – then what does this say about contemporary research culture? Is research today occupied more with mundane acts of recategorisation, and – after Bologna – with what Lyotard already called performativity? Or does it still engage the kind of marvel and wonder that so many ascribe to Pluto and that BWPWAP captures as a cultural term? If BWPWAP captures a time when transmedial culture was researched outside academia, how does network culture and digital media then contribute to and transform research culture, forcing it out of its closet and, if not into the solar system, then at least beyond the academy?
BWPWAP, network culture was already becoming subsumed by social media and more recently mobile media. Networking and other strategies within software and net culture have become enmeshed with everyday life and big business. Research culture was visited by a similar fate: conferences reduced to networking events to foster cultural capital, and scholarly communications reduced to impact factors measured by grant givers. In light of this, what complicity can be constructed, with or without Pluto, between network and research cultures? Can digital culture save research from itself, and vice versa? What kinds of technological and artistic practices are suggested by BWPWAP and might produce rhizomatic effects for research and digital culture?
In the context of developing a platform for knowledge exchange, and research across the arts and sciences, transmediale and research groups at Aarhus and Leuphana universities have established a partnership to foster new forms of collaborative research, peer-review, publication and performative knowledge dissemination.
The international research conference and PhD workshop takes transmediale’s thematic framework as a broad starting point, and is a chance for researchers to share ideas and development processes across and beyond the time/space of academic research paradigms. The challenge is to salvage what there is to be salvaged from network culture and digital media for research, and vice versa.
The workshop forms part of a series of events initiated by reSource transmedial culture berlin, which is an initiative of transmediale based on continuous network knowledge development and community involvement around the festival throughout the year. The event itself will be an interdisciplinary conference and workshop where PhD students and other participants can engage with members of the three participating institutions and invited international guests.
One aspect of the conference will be a writing workshop wherein new digital writing practices and forms of collaborative writing will be explored. Ahead of the conference, invited participants will be asked to take part in an online discussion and collaboration process as an experiment in the peer production of knowledge. After the conference, participants will be involved in the production of a peer-reviewed research newspaper – itself an experiment in new forms of scholarly publication, and to be presented and distributed at transmediale 2013.
The event follows on from similar events organised in 2012 and 2011 at Universität der Künste (Berlin), and Aarhus University, respectively. For the publication resulting from the last events, visit the following.