Call for papers for a new collection of essays: “Second Nature: Reproduction and the Artificial in Art, Science and New Media”

This anthology of essays seeks to explore technologies of reproduction in a time when concepts like ‘original’ and ‘origin’ are profoundly unsettled by notions of ‘copy’ and ‘reiteration’. One key aim is to investigate the many parallels and intersections between digital reproduction and human reproduction, curiously neglected in most discussions of reproductive technologies. The anthology will also investigate our continuing attraction to both innovation and the copy, the virus, the sample, and the clone, exploring the dialectic between design intentionality and randomising systems of chance, and the challenge these pose to interpretation and evaluation in contemporary art and design, aesthetic criticism and cultural theory.

Science and technology studies and new media studies each address the question of how reproductive technologies alter the meaning of concepts such as ‘origin’, ‘original’, and ‘originality’ and how the borders between what we think of as ‘authentic’ and ‘fake’, ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’, are under constant negotiation and transformation. Discussions of ‘life’ on one hand, and ‘information’ on the other, converge in the idea of a society reducible to ‘code’ – whether this means the code of life (DNA) or the code of information (computer code). In research on artificial life (A-Life), there are even more intricate fusions between info tech and biotech. If research in artificial intelligence (AI) has strived to simulate intelligence in a controlled, logical, top-down manner, then A-life is rather a bottom-up enterprise about growing and teaching organisms to develop and adapt on their own. Simulation and reproduction of various life forms is a growing trend in areas such as digital literature, new media art, and computer games. In spite of these interesting convergences, little has been said and done in the discursive spaces between digital- and life-creating reproductive technologies. The anthology’s focus on reproduction is therefore timely, bringing together new media studies with science and technology studies.

The anthology will be structured around three themed sections:

Origins – On origin stories of humans, animals, and machines in an era of bio-technological reproduction. This section focuses on the ways in which cultural significations of kinship, family, body, sexuality, and ‘life itself’ are altered in a society increasingly shaped around the notion that everything can be reduced to code/information. Reproductive technologies make possible new parental definitions and practices, and, arguably, reconfigure cultural connotations of the maternal. With human reproduction increasingly disconnected from institutions to which it has traditionally been associated (heterosexuality, marriage, the nuclear family etc.), in what ways do the cultural meanings of these structures change? What are the implications of changes to the previous epistemological certainty of motherhood and the distribution of the maternal function across several (technological and human) agents? How can we understand concepts of selfhood and individuality at a time when the human body is increasingly represented as code, and thus capable of being deciphered, transformed, extended and manipulated?

Originals – On the status of the original in a culture of the copy. This section focuses on questions of identity, authenticity, aura, and reproductive technologies. Walter Benjamin, in his seminal essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), claims that what is missing in every (lithographic or photographic) reproduction is the authenticity of the original – its aura. One reason for this is that technical reproduction (as opposed to manual reproduction) releases the copy from the original and thereby from tradition, thus replacing uniqueness with the possibility of mass-production. New professional networks and technologies, art and design practices – such as algorithmic, generative or “evolutionary” design, artificial life art, emergence, and metacreation (the design of generative and creative processes) – and disciplinary hybrids – such as “bioart” “emergent design”, and “information arts” – generate new types of cultural (re)production, new metaphors, new possibilities for innovation, new demands for interdisciplinary border crossings, new hybrid networks, and new capacities for seeing connections. With technologies of reproduction increasingly intervening in both works of art and (works of) bodies, how does this affect our understanding of art, life, and art-ificial life? What is the status of the ‘aura’ in digital works of art and reproduction?

Originality – On subjectivity and creativity in post-human collaborations. The cultural convergence of art, science and technology means that the concept of originality frames some of the most controversial questions in research, questions relating to accountability, authority, intellectual property, oeuvre and intention. Any reconfiguration of originality will invariably affect our understanding of these and related philosophical, economic, aesthetic, legislative and political categories. The notion of an impersonal, autonomous, evolving, actively reproductive machine or artificial ‘intelligence’ profoundly unsettles assumptions underpinning modern concepts of self and originality, as well as established distinctions between human and non-human. This section focuses on creative practices as material processes that make possible new kinds of alignments and affinities between the creator/s, creative technologies, and the resulting artifacts. Does human perception and individual creativity today still remain the core evaluating criteria for an authentic work? How do the prevailing metaphors of reproduction affect research in the sciences, humanities and interdisciplinary forms of inquiry?

Interdisciplinary contributions are welcomed. Potential contributors should mail an abstract proposal of 300 words plus a short bio to the editors by 9 January 2006. Abstracts will be reviewed and a shortlist of contributors approached by 1 February 2006.

The anthology theme draws upon the Cultures of Reproduction seminar, chaired by Jenny Sundén, held at the ACSIS (Advanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden) conference 2005, Norrkoping, Sweden, and on the body of research under development by Rolf Hughes and architect Pablo Miranda in the research project “Auto-Poeisis and Design: Authorship and Generative Strategies”, funded by the Swedish National Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) 2005-2007. The anthology will be co-edited by Rolf Hughes and Jenny Sundén.

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 9 January 2006. Response from editors: 6 February 2006. Final drafts due: 24 April 2006. Please mail proposals (as a Word or Adobe PDF attachment) to: rolf . and . Or hard copy to: Dr. Jenny Sundén, Media Technology and Graphic Arts, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Lindstedtsvägen 7, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden. , Phone: +46 8 790 60 11

Rolf Hughes is senior researcher at the School of Architecture, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, for the project Auto-poiesis and design: authorship and generative strategies. He holds the UK’s first Ph.D. in Creative and Critical Writing (funded by the British Academy) from the University of East Anglia and has co-edited two collections of interdisciplinary essays: The Book of Models: Essays on Ceremonies, Metaphor and Performance (Open University, UK: 1998, reprinted 2003) and Hybrid Thought (Open University, UK: 2003). His research interests include interdisciplinary methodologies, practice-based research, authorship and automated or generative forms of cultural production, and the challenge of innovation within the culture of the copy. He is currently co-editing a collection of essays on “Architecture and Authorship” for the collaborative research project Architecture and its Mythologies with Katja Grillner and Timothy Anstey, and teaching a course at Konstfack on originality, identity and experience design with Ronald Jones, artist and professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, entitled “The End of Me: Innovation and Post-Human Creativity”.

Jenny Sundén is Assistant Professor in Media Technology at the School of Computer Science and Communication, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm. She received her Ph.D. from The Department of Communication Studies, Linkoping University. She was a visiting scholar at The Department of English, University of California at Berkeley in 1998-1999, and received in 2003 a postdoctoral research grant from STINT (The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education) to stay at INCITE (Incubator for Critical Inquiry into Technology and Ethnography), University of Surrey, UK. She has published primarily on new media, cultural studies, cyberfeminism, virtual worlds, online ethnography and digital textuality. She is the author of “Material Virtualities: Approaching Online Textual Embodiment” (2003, Peter Lang), as well as a co-author of “Digital Borderlands: Cultural Studies of Identity and Interactivity on the Internet” (2002, Peter Lang).

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