Electricdreams - Between fiction and society II / The (Post)human Condition in Times of Crisis: The Interplay between Artificial Intelligence, Otherness, and Environmentalism
Call for papers for an international in-person conference on speculative fiction, science fiction and fantasy fiction to be held in Milan, Italy, October 18-20, 2023. The conference is organized and hosted by IULM University of Milan, in collaboration with Complutense University of Madrid and the HISTOPIA research group.
Fields of interest: literature, cinema, TV series, comics, games/videogames, new media, cultural studies.
The international conference Electricdreams - Between Fiction and Society II invites a discussion on speculative fiction, science fiction and fantasy fiction across different media to examine the link between human, posthuman and transhuman within contexts of crisis. The call aims at investigating how our society looks toward the future and thematizes utopian or dystopian "multiple horizons." Literature, film, TV series, comics, video games, and new narrative media have always imagined the relationship between naturalia and artificialia and told the world through the lens, often twisted, of several embodiments of one of the most beloved and feared posthuman archetypes in history: the Frankenstein monster. Robots, androids, cyborgs, sentient computers, and other products endowed with human-like intelligence have crowded and still crowd popular culture. The advent of a new digital understanding, achieved by the development of forms of artificial intelligence, has rapidly transformed human society, becoming an increasingly widespread everyday presence. Where AI can be seen and conceived as an opportunity to improve human life, such as in the medical or technological fields, concern persists that it may replace human values and undermine our independence and our ability to make choices. The new relationship between humans, machines, and algorithms has raised important ethical issues related to: data collection and privacy control, impact on employment, human responsibility, cognitive bias, moral automation, environmental impact, biological evolution, and international crises. Popular culture has always played a key role in helping people understand these and other complex situations: it provides tools for resistance, as even the darkest narrative can invoke awareness, mobilization, challenge to the status quo, and imagination of a utopian future. In this sense, popular culture can be seen as a means of emancipation and building a better world. As Stuart Hall states, "popular culture is an arena in which ideologies, power relations and social identities are negotiated and contested: it is able to give voice to minorities, offering alternative representations and challenging dominant discourses, contributing to the construction of a new reality."
Therein, the posthuman represents a dream and a nightmare, a possibility of progress and a sentence, a medium of freedom or an act of exploitation. It embodies both an otherness to be embraced and an enemy to be feared. Rosi Braidotti envisions "the posthuman turn as an incredible opportunity to decide together what and who we are capable of becoming and a unique opportunity for humanity to reinvent itself affirmatively, through creativity and strengthening ethical relationships, and not just negatively, through vulnerability and fear. It is an opportunity to identify new possibilities for resistance and empowerment on a global scale." The posthuman could become, therefore, a game, more or less material and more or less philosophical, to reflect upon diversity, to study the heterogeneity of the world and open up new paths of integration, fusion, empathy and respect, as in the works of Isaac Asimov (The Bicentennial Man, I, Robot, ....) and Greg Egan (Teranesia, Schild's Ladder, ...), in the films of Neill Blomkamp (Chappie), in video games such as Detroit: Become Human. At the same time, however, going beyond the human could imply dangers and new problems and even lay the groundwork for unprecedented social upheavals. As many dark fantasies have shown us, from Metropolis to Westworld, via Blade Runner and Deus Ex, oppressive, hypermechanized and dehumanized realities could also await us, in which the Homo Sapiens and the Machina Sapiens could blur into one another or find themselves opposites, in serious conflict. How do novels, short stories, films, television series, comic books, video games, and other hybrid narrative forms depict the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence and what solutions do they propose in this regard? How do the concepts of posthuman and transhuman shape culture and the collective imagination? How have speculative fiction, science fiction, and fantasy changed during and after the advent of machines and algorithms in our everyday lives and what impact have they generated on the world around us? These are just some of the questions that the international conference will try to address. Proposals may cover the following topics, although they are not limited to them:
Co-evolution of AI, science fiction, and humanity: how the relationships between these entities are addressed within the collective imagination;
Posthuman and transhuman imaginaries;
Machines and algorithms: histories, fears, and solutions;
Posthuman postcolonial and neocolonial: critiques of dominant/Western canons;
Artificial intelligence as a tool for environmental problem solving;
Climate justice, technologies, and migration;
Bio-technological hybridizations and the role of the cyborg;
Solar punk narratives: sustainability, terraforming and geoengineering;
The posthuman and transhuman as embodiments of otherness: politics of gender, queerness, ethnicity, disability, nationality, religion, migration, ...;
The interface between AI and virtual reality in art and entertainment;
Popular culture as a means of social transformation.
The conference will be held in English and in-person. We will be happy to consider proposals from researchers and scholars at any level of career advancement. You may send proposals containing an abstract (maximum 300 words) for a 20-minute presentation, a brief biographical note (maximum 100 words), and affiliation and contact information to email@example.com June 18, 2023. Whole panel proposals consisting of three/four talks are also welcome: please include a brief introduction about the theme of the proposed panel, along with abstract and brief biography of each participant. At the end of the conference, an award will be given to the three most original presentations.
Abstract submission deadline: June 18, 2023
Notification of acceptance: July 2023
The international conference will be held in-person on October 18-20, 2023 at IULM University in Milan, as part of the "Sognielettrici"/Electricdreams International Film Festival (October 16-21, 2023).
Conference registration: 40 €
Social dinner (optional): 20 €
Criteria for the award for the most original research
Contextualization of the subject of study
Novelty of the proposed topic
Well-designed and scientifically structured argumentation
Active participation in the conference sessions
Elisabetta Di Minico
Francisco José Martínez Mesa
Juan Pro Ruiz