Information Overload, 4-5 September 2014, Deadline: 16 June 2014

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University of Edinburgh
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"The question... is not whether we will have the storage capacity to accumulate copies of every book, film, song, conversation, e-mail, etc. that we amass in a lifetime (yes, eventually) but how do these accumulations, these massive drifts of data, interact with irreducible levels of lived experience?"
– Matthew Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms, 2009

In recent years, information overload has become a popular term to describe the psychological, emotional and physical consequences of living in a culture defined by the increasing density of data and reach of communication technologies. We invite contributors for a two-day conference exploring the reverberations of this bloom of data in cultural, artistic and academic practice. Aiming to trace an aesthetics of information overload, this event seeks to analyse how different environments and their consequent effects, both real and projected, public and personal, have engendered artistic forms. We encourage participants to experiment with a range of presentational formats, testing new ways of sharing information as well as discussing its conceptual ramifications. The conference aims to prompt conversations between new and perhaps unexpected perspectives on contemporary art, literature, media and culture, opening discussion to a wide range of disciplines, approaches and theoretical frameworks. How have authors and artists interrogated information overload, diagnosed its symptoms and hypothesised its cure? Are there benefits to conceptual overload? What aesthetic forms have been developed to represent or counteract the effects of overload?

As well as seeking to conceptualise and historicise the impact of information overload within aesthetic representations, we wish to re-examine responses in academic practice and critical discourse. While digital technologies have provided new ways of modelling and distributing research, these can also present new challenges for scholars when conducting studies and publishing their findings. The conference will integrate presentations and workshop discussion sessions (see below), offering a forum to debate practical, political and theoretical issues emerging within contemporary scholarly and artistic practice.

Scholars, researchers and practitioners, at any stage of their career, are invited to contribute work that responds to the concept of information overload. The following is an indicative, but by no means exhaustive, selection of the kind of questions we hope to address:

- What qualifies as 'information', and do different notions of information change our conception of overload?
- Are certain environments and/or media particularly susceptible to information overload? How have specific artistic and literary genres been challenged or invigorated by the rise of information culture?
- What are the assumed politics of information overload? How do ideas about overload intersect with open access culture, the ethics and politics of accessibility and transparency, or issues of technological inequality?
- Has data saturation shaped audiences psychologically and intellectually, and if so, have authors and artists adapted their work to accommodate or challenge this new audience?
- How can we differentiate information and knowledge? What patterns and systems emerge as data is processed, and how can these be affected by noise, glitches or failure?
- Are terms such as 'originality' or 'authenticity' significant in an information-saturated culture? How have stylistic techniques such as quotation, sampling and genre-bending been used to confront or represent the informational environment?
- How do projects within the digital humanities and other emerging research areas deploy new technologies and innovative practices to consider the problematics of information overload?
- What are the cultural and social significances of giving or receiving 'too much information'? What would a resistance or protest against overload look like?

What would you add to this list? Let us know @infoload2014,, or email


This event is open to academic researchers and artistic practitioners at any stage of their career. If you are interested in contributing a paper or presentation to the conference, please email a 300 word proposal detailing your topic, along with a brief bio, to We encourage experimentation with representational formats, which might include discursive 20 minute presentations, pecha kucha, installations, practice-led demonstrations and artist talks.

Workshop/Discussion Leaders

The conference will integrate themed workshops and group discussion sessions as part of the programme. These are intended to provide a forum for further debate and exchange of ideas among all participants.

In addition to invited contributors, we are issuing an open call for anyone interested in leading a workshop or discussion session. Prospective leaders should submit a proposal (max 500 words) detailing the theme or topic of their session, a brief outline of any necessary equipment/resources, and a biography indicating relevant expertise. Please email or visit to submit a proposal or for more information. All workshop/session leaders will receive a bursary towards travel and accommodation.

Deadline for proposals: Monday 16th June 2014

For more information please visit the conference website:

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Papers & Presentations:
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This conference is organised by Dorothy Butchard, Andrew Campbell and Rob Lederer. It is funded by an AHRC Collaborative Skills Award and the University of Edinburgh Researcher-Led Initiative Fund.