Obsolescence. (2/13-2/15/2010)

full name / name of organization: 
Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference
contact email: 

The fifth annual Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee seeks submissions for "Obsolescence," a graduate student conference to be held February 13-15, 2010, in conjunction with the Center for 21st Century Studies and its research theme for 2009-2011: "Figuring Place and Time."

This year's theme calls upon scholars to interpret and consider various notions of "obsolescence." According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online, the word "obsolescence" derives from the classical Latin obsolescere: "to fall into disuse, fade away, sink into obscurity." Obsolescence thus presents a sense of expiration or decay; it represents some act, object or idea that is out of its own time. In contemporary life we hear much of technologies and their life-spans, often in terms of the fast-capitalist invention of "planned obsolescence." Public life is also informed by the mainstream media's focus on the immediate present or future; we are perpetually asking or being asked: what's hot?—who's now?—what's next?

Given these observations, we are interested in exploring the theoretical, historico-cultural and political ramifications of identifying an act, object or idea as "obsolete." In doing so, we expect to question the economic, political and cultural implications of temporality as tied to objects and media and to interrogate the assumption that value is inherently contingent on usability. However, we also wish to engage the concept of "obsolescence" as an active state of being, as a performative, and/or as indicative of political value. We aim to engage in a multi-day, interdisciplinary exploration of persistent tensions within the concept of obsolescence as well as in its obverse—utility.

Submissions that explore "Obsolescence" from a diverse range of fields and disciplines are encouraged. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

* Desire, Nostalgia and the Fetishization of Obsolescent Media (vinyl, Viewfinders, pre-digital cameras,
typewriters, the retro gaming movement, Stereo 8)
* Storage and Transmission of the Past (packrats and hoarders, archives, museums, cemeteries)
* Discourses of Marketing: the "new and improved!!," the (required) upgrade
* Obsolescence & Fashion, Style, Mode
* Cultural Panic and Obsolescence: Y2K, Digital Amnesia, Future Shock, "digital natives"
* Planned Obsolescence and Disruptive Technologies
* Transitional (Non-)Places (airports, dead malls, nuclear sites, junkyards, antique stores, Atari Landfill)
* Transportation, Obsolescence & Space/Place (repurposed tracks and canals as bike/hike paths, suburban sprawl and fuel prices, raising and razing of superhighways in downtown areas)
* Architectural augmentation, retro-fitting, efficiency and "greening"
* "The Post-s" (a post-racial America, post-modernism, post-gay, post-feminism, post-colonialism)
* Traditionalist Notions, Practices, and Spaces of Academic Study; the Tenure-Track academic
* Aesthetics and Un-useful Objects (knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, novelty stores, gift shops)
* Obsolescence & Ecology, Extinction, Conservation

This year's keynote address will be presented by Matt Coolidge, founder and director of the Center for Land Use Interpretation.

Please submit a 250 word abstract, with title, for a 15-20 minute presentation as an MS Word file attachment (.doc or .docx) to: grad-conference@uwm.edu. Panel proposals for 75 minute sessions will also be considered (comprised of three presentations); please submit an abstract for each presenter and indicate that you are proposing a panel.

Deadline for Submissions: October 1, 2009

For more information, visit our website at: http://pw.english.uwm.edu/~migc