Call for SCMS 2015 Panel Presenters Due August 8th: "Computation and the End Times"

full name / name of organization: 
Ian Hartman and Beatrice Choi / Northwestern University

CFP: Computation and the End Times

As novelist Don Delillo writes in White Noise, computers simultaneously embody the "appetite for immortality" and the threat of "universal extinction," at once promising the transcendental realization of human potential and the apocalyptic dissolution of human civilization (285). From the myriad dystopic tales spun out in science fiction (Dick, Delany) to the utopic yearnings of contemporary transhumanists (Kurzweil, de Grey), from classic critical appraisals of new technologies (Mumford, Postman) to critical theoretical ruminations on the radical potentials of digital media (Galloway, Thacker), computers have been consistently written and rewritten as the prime movers of epochal collapse and transformation.

This panel is premised on the notion that such desires and fears derive neither from the neutral affordances of new technologies nor from the disembodied projections of the "popular imaginary," but rather from the emergent and variable material practices that exist at the juncture of culture and design. Instead of addressing computational media as either representational or representable objects, this panel therefore solicits submissions that consider the multimodal histories of computational practices as generative of the pluripotent apocalyptic and salvific imaginings that circulate around and through them.

The interlocking historiographic and theoretical questions the panel seeks to address include: How and why do engineers, programmers, policy-makers, experts, and users ascribe to computational media the power and the resources to make, remake and obliterate worlds? In what ways are such fantasies and anxieties shaped by the exigencies of political, military, or industrial design, as well as the dynamics of race, class, and gender? What, moreover, can such histories tell us about the politics and ethics of contemporary computing? Do untold histories of computational practices signal the persistence of misguided fantasies of techno-utopian liberation, or can they furnish alternate models of cultural production that thwart the biopolitical constraints of the historical present?

Possible topics include:
Computers and the military-industrial complex
Intersections of computing and the counterculture
Situated histories of inventors, designers and visionaries
Viruses, leaks, safeguards, and security
Alternate genealogies of computing
Archaeologies of forgotten computational media
Ethnographic approaches to computational practices/communities
Hegemonic and counter-hegemonic computing

Please send abstracts of 250-300 words and a brief bio to Ian Hartman at by August 8. All submissions will receive a response by August 12th or earlier.