CFP: MMLA Panel on Science, Technology, and Networks
This session invites proposals that bring a vibrant range of science, technology, and network perspectives to the Midwest MLA 2021 conference theme, “Cultures of Collectivity.”
How do various technologies and scientific practices engender physical and affective collectives? How are networks — flows of information and resources — imagined in poetry and prose? What do complex machines and scientific conventions reveal about collective efforts? How are attempts to build democratic and equitable resource, work, and energy cooperatives included in these considerations?
The panel invites interdisciplinary thinking about diverse nets and myriad works contributing to the broader “network turn” in the arts and humanities. Here, we offer a few further ideas about materialist, theoretical, and socio-historical frames that could prove helpful.
From the electromagnetic telegraph to today’s Reddit forums, technologies and networks have engendered new identities and facilitated new forms of community and collaboration. Recent scholarship has explored the various ways networks function in novels such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Henry James’s In the Cage (1898), and Frank Norris’s The Octopus: A Story of California (1901). In addition to specific material technologies like the telegraph, the telephone, or smartphones, how are collective bodies depicted in literature? From rural electricity co-ops to collaborative lab work, collective bodies build and support various infrastructures and ecologies of participation. While we invite fresh perspectives of canonical texts and well-known webs, we are also keenly interested in studies centering the work of other organic and indigenous networks that have often been unduly marginalized. We also invite papers that apply Actor-Network Theory, Social Network Analysis, or other investigative lenses to literature and the humanities.
How are heterogeneous collections of artists, engineers, scientists, bureaucrats, audiences, and publics merged into formal or informal networks? How might the resilience of marginalized communities point to their intelligence about and familiarity with prioritizing network health and analyzing systems of mutual aid? How do infrastructures and protocols facilitate or restrict choices and behaviors? What do present-day Indigenous communities know about interconnected existential modalities? What have they always known? Where do we find meaning and even beauty in the warp and weft of these networks?
Finally, submissions might address how fictional representations of networks have impacted our recent political and socio-historical landscapes.
How has engagement with the works of George Orwell, Philip K. Dick, Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Alan Moore, Colson Whitehead, and others influenced our current movements such as Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, and Fridays for the Future? Where is knowledge of network science evident in the speculative fiction of Indigenous authors? How might representations of networks in science fiction and socio-technical imaginaries impact the formation of political networks and our collective pursuit of social, economic, and climate justice?