Opaque Media: A Workshop

deadline for submissions: 
December 1, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
UC Irvine Humanities

Opaque Media: A Workshop 

University of California, Irvine

April 6-7, 2018

Keynote Address

Michelle Murphy, University of Toronto


“Opaque Media: A Workshop” aims to bring scholars from the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Library & Information Sciences to bear on the theoretical and methodological questions that emerge from encounters with grey media; i.e., media produced outside of commercial or academic channels and pertaining to the work of government agencies and departments, NGOs, private companies, consulting firms, and university centers (to name a few). Grey media encompasses the production and circulation—in print or electronic form—of a wide range of objects, including working papers, policy documents, technical specifications, environmental impact assessments, and contracts.

This interdisciplinary workshop will interrogate the ways in which greyness mediates scholarly understandings of government, bureaucracy, archives, and other units of administration. In addition to the ways in which disciplines like history, anthropology, informatics, and media studies have used such objects to understand the aims of various institutions, we hope to consider the psychic, cultural, and political dimensions that subtend the very production and reception of grey media.

By foregrounding the opacities grey media effect, this workshop will attend to the affective sense of boredom, slowness, and frustration that often accompanies close analysis of, for example, user agreements, institutional memoranda, and workflow software. Simultaneously, we aim to reflect on the contributions different disciplinary approaches can make to the study of grey media, as well as how these objects complicate the perspectives of the workshop’s participants.

The workshop will include two sessions organized around pre-readings and four sessions of participant presentations. Submissions may address but are by no means limited to the following topics:

  • Problems of the Canon: Grey Media as Information, Ethnographic, and Cultural Object
  • Grey Media Infrastructures: Storage, Transmission, and Cultural Memory
  • Comparative Approaches to Standards, Certification, and Measurement
  • Seeing like a State: Greyness, Opacity, and the Limits of Democracy
  • The Greyness of Mass Media: Censorship, Regulation, Visibility
  • Problems of the Archive: Identification, Retrieval, Management
  • The Psychic Life of Greyness: Paranoia, Control, Cartography
  • Bureaucratic, Corporate, and Administrative Productions


All theoretical and methodological orientations are welcome. We are accepting abstracts for individual presentations of 15-20 minutes in length. Abstracts should be no more than 300 words and include your name and institutional affiliation.

 Submit abstracts to OpaqueMediaWorkshop@gmail.com by Friday, December 1, 2017.

For more info: OpaqueMediaWorkshop.wordpress.com