SLSA 09 shakedown: Decodings
On to the next conference: SLSA (Society for Literature, Arts and the Sciences). The theme this year was Decodings. I presented AstroDime’s work on the Transatlantic Cable of 1858 on a panel called Decoding Technologies of Mediation. My co-panelists were N. Katherine Hayles, who gave a great talk on telegraph codebooks from 1850-1950, and is working on an online telegraph codebook database. I was also presenting with Robert Rosenberger who was doing work on media literacy and television.
Generally, I think I have less patience with the esoterics of literary analysis vs. of that of qualitative research. Since 4s and SLSA were back to back, this gave me a chance to reflect on that. Having said that, there was a lot of great art and literature presentations at SLSA.
Quick summary: Wendy Wheeler gave an interesting talk (although too late at night for me to be really alert) on the idea of biosemiotics. She is working with biologists to develope this idea. She went on to speculate about the semiotics of a species. From there I started speculation about dogs..and what the semiotics of smell might be for dogs. my mind drifted from there..into the next session, Friday AM.
I saw a presentation by my roomate for SLSA Clarissa Lee (science and texts as free play) and John Bruni (a history of popular science in the United States)
From there I went to what was perhaps my favorite panel of the conference: Performance: A method of Decoding/Decoding: a method of performance. This panel talked about Performance Studies as a methodology, which I thought was excellent. Performance artist Katherine Behar talked about her work with BDSM and cybernetics in the context of consumer electronics..take a look at her web site. Frenchy Lunning talked about the concept of KOS-play, drag, and the performance of abjection. Jon Cates did a great presentation on his project OUR080R05, work with sound, video, noise, and performance. All and all a really interesting study of performance as methodology, in a few different contexts.
For the keynote speech on Friday, Ian Bogst talked about Alien Phenomenology. I think my favorite part of his presentation was the metatext created by his numerous slides next to his talk. Interestingly, one of his many ideas was about practice as theory in the context of craftsmenship, which links a bit to some of the ideas discussed in 4S.
Another interesting panel was Visual Decodings I.
Both Drew Ayers and Maria Aline Ferreira talked about DNA portraiture, but from different angles, I thought the talks complemented each other well. Ayers talked about believablity and authenticity and why these images mean so much to people. Ferreira gave an excellent presentation on a number of artists who work with biology and identity. She talked about the idea of “Genetic Determinism” surplanting the idea of Biological Determinism..which is a scary thought. To get a sense of what DNA portraits are go to http://www.dna11.com.
Isabel Wunshe talked about how the images of crystals around the turn of the 20th century potentially influenced Cubist painters, which I thought was interesting.
Christina Nguyen Hung showed her own work..she is a painter, but colaborates with biologists to create tiny images out of proteins as an art medium. She works with researchers in bioengieering department. She has used neuron cells from chick embryos, and gets images of them through a process of microlithography. She works in microscopic environments, essentially. All in all this was another awesome panel which worked together well.
I saw a talk given by Suzanne Black “Giant Molecules through the decades: a content analysis of figures in biochemistry books”... Her talk was great, she was looking at the development of representations of molecules through textbooks in the 1930’s to now. She looked at both figures and tables. I thought it was facinating, and since her background was in biochemistry, she had learned on some of those books. She actually brought the books with her which was amazing considering how heavy they are. This is the beginning of her study but I hope she continues..I love her methods of visual analysis.
There was much more to this..but this is a quick summary. Overall, met some great people and got some good leads for our “Scientific American” INtransit issue.