Conference: Digital Intimacies 2016

December 2016. I will present a paper at: ‘Digital Intimacies: interrogating the interface between intimate lives and calculative digital media platforms’ this month.

University of Queensland (Brisbane), December 12 and 13, 2016

Following last December’s Digital Intimate Publics symposium at UQ we are again hosting a small, single-panel, two day symposium that continues our efforts to navigate the interplay between intimate lives and the logics of digital media.

We are very pleased to announce that Associate Professor Tania Lewis (RMIT University) will join us as a keynote speaker. Tania Lewis is a media and cultural studies scholar with a wide range of empirical research experience and expertise and is Deputy Dean of Research in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT.

Symposium Themes:

From ephemeral everyday image play on Snapchat, to hook-up and dating apps like Grindr and Tinder, to the exploration of bodies, affects and identities on Tumblr, to the depiction of domestic life by Instagram influencers, intimate lives are being performed, recorded, analysed and commodified through the digital.

Digital media platforms can be understood as engineering projects that seek to calibrate and modulate human capacities driven by the commercial demands of sponsoring brands. They publicise and promote certain kinds of intimacies and bodies. Young, female, and heteronormative bodies are more likely to be made visible by the commercially-driven technical architecture of digital media. At the same time, these digital spaces are also sites where ‘nondominant’ people and bodies flourish as ‘‘a porous, affective scene of identification among strangers that promises a certain experience of belonging and provides a complex of consolation, confirmation, discipline, and discussion about how to live as an x’ (Berlant 2008, p. viii).

In this juxtaposition we encounter the ambivalent nature of intimacy and publicity on digital media: a site of promise and a site for the emergence of new logics of control. Our intimate and everyday lives are lived in relation to the calculative, algorithmic and promotional logic of digital media systems. Careful attention to the entanglements between lived experience and the media architecture that is a material fact of everyday life is critical in an era where the sensory and analytic capacities of media are expanding dramatically alongside the living out of our intimate lives.

Sarah Banet-Weiser (2012) argues that ambivalence is a critically important affect in the interplay between ourselves and commercial media and brand culture. This ambivalence is in part the product of life lived in a media and cultural formation that thrives on the creative, critical and affective capacities of users.

With this in mind, the symposium seeks to explore the interface between the intimate and the calculative:

How do digital media calibrate and commodify the human capacity to affect one another?
What kinds of calculations do users make about the algorithmic brokering of visibility and attention by digital media platforms?
What possibilities are generated by the ambivalent entanglement between users and the digital?