KEYNOTE: The Oracle Of La Malvada Cyborg
Constanza Piña Pardo
Reem Hatem, Halim Ramsis , Farah Hallaba
From a toilet in a creative space in downtown Cairo, this panel discusses temporality and space in the Cairene virtual world; namely Instagram. We anthropologically looked closely into the anonymous collective Instagram accounts that aim to creatively express complex realities of the city. Reem also shared her experience of what does it mean for an ethnographer to surf Instagram “lives” and think about temporality. These discussions made us rethink and reimagine archive, space, intimacy and the power of patterns.
MARGINS OF VIRTUALIZATION: DE-STABILIZING ETHNOGRAPHIC ENCOUNTERS WITHIN AND BEYOND
Rebecca Winkler, Adwaita Banerjee, Venkat Nagesh Babu Karri, Tayeba Batool
This panel will explore the shifting social and ecological modalities of being in and with the “virtual”. It attempts to frame the “virtual” as not merely a modality of how the world interacts, but as an idiom that destabilizes how relations, places, and practices are experienced, sensed, moved, cared for, remembered, followed, adapted, or violated. The framing of our daily lives in an increasingly globalized and virtual world, calls for an examination of encounters that pull together theses transient social and ecological conditions. The virtualization deepened by the pandemic has only made it necessary to re-examine and de-stabilize categories of ethnographic encounters. Therefore, virtualization is not only a shift to an “online” presence, but rather the re-making of what we consider intimate and real, and the re-thinking of what can be considered just and ethical. However, the question remains: How do we engage with this “virtual” idiom in an ethnography of landscapes, practices, events, humans, and the more-than-human? What affects, violences, privileges, and compromises emerge with and within the “virtual” and its spaces of exclusion? We bring forth our encounters with media artifacts in Telangana and the reclamation of the rural, the margins of virtual encountering in elephant tourism and ethnography in Thailand, the pornotopia of Mumbai’s urban landscape, and time-spaces of academic work and care to reflect on these questions as part of this panel. In our presentations and discussion, we address the challenges presented by the virtual/real binary by bringing forward critical insights from places and landscapes under-represented (or made virtual) in the dialogue.
Nick Smith, Sharon Jacobs, Sarah Bittel, Akoo-o collective (Nikos Bubaris, Sofia Grigoriadou, Dana Papachristou, Yorgos Samantas)
These four presentations are ethnographically situated in Athens, Greece, and take on different aspects of the question: What is Athens, virtually? We view the “virtual” in a double sense. Firstly, our panel convenes at a time in which Athens is being officially reimagined in the language of post-bailout neoliberal politics, as a contemporary and connected digital metropolis. Secondly, we follow theorists of affect in viewing “virtual” Athens in terms of fields of potentiality that exceed (and problematize) the “actual” city (e.g. Massumi 2002). Thinking through these virtualities in Athens illustrates the oblique politics of effacement and resistance which have come to characterize the city across crises. Throughout Athens’s history, it has been concretely shaped by ideas of what it could be—for European powers, Asia minor refugees, postwar developers, and 21st-century mobile subjects of all stripes. From Hellenistic myth-making processes (Hamilakis 2007) to the austerity and welcome crises (Herzfeld 2002, Cabot 2014), Athens, actually, has been central to conceptualizations and problematics of collective life, virtually. What are the affordances of Athens’s “real”/“actual” sociopolitical history and geography? How do they set it up as a particular “virtual” space? What does Athens look, sound, feel like, virtually? Who resides in “virtual” Athens?
TRANSCENDING PHYSICAL TO VIRTUAL
Karvileena Deka, Janani Ilamparithi, Sonuja Nandinee Barik, Jay Ramteke, Mongfing Lepcha.
Adherence to change is the way forward. In this panel, we present a transcending journey of anthropological context and praxis, bridging the physical and virtual through an interactive discussion among five panelists. This larger theme focuses on four elements namely “Grit, Grind, Praxis, and Cope” through a multimodal media representation. It would follow a structure.
The ‘Grit’, discusses in-depth doing anthropology on field and from home via pandemic dairies of researchers. It would be 15-minute emphasis on limits encountered, conduction of fieldwork in different pandemic phases and shift in nature of anthropological research. These will be highlighted through talk on NGO work by anthropologists, gauging change in the behaviour of researchers and researched (video clip), and the application of mix-method approaches for academic productions (photo elicitation).
A 5-minute audio-visual depiction titled as ‘Pandemic Shot’ would be made to substantiate the ‘Grit’ of anthropology from a student’s perspective.
The ‘Grind’ would tap into digital fieldwork and ethnographic productions for next 15 minutes. Nuances of using digital data, issues of rapport establishment online, pros and cons of acquiring, storing and managing data through virtual medium as sub themes would provide coherence to ‘Grit’.
The ‘Praxis’ would be a 15-minute conversation on virtual spaces as a research field. It pinpoints how we are not just using various tools and techniques but also unlearning, learning, and relearning to go with the best suited possibilities provided by the virtual-scape. Corroborating it with dilemmas of data ethics, validity, and reliability on digital platform with its huge extent of access.
In order to triangulate the above, entire panel would engage in a 10-minute moderated, quick interaction based on physical objects as agency of memories, and understand perceived functionality taking up random virtual objects.
The ‘Cope’ starts with an animation to understand virtualization of social reality and would be a 15 -minute conclusion with focus on the 3Cs – Communication, Connectivity and Conferencing. It will trigger and suggest on grounds of changing meanings to digital socialites, its large-scale adaptation, and strategic alternatives to challenges paced in the academic world.
In the entirety of the session, we would introduce the concept of ‘V-charge’. It includes a 30 second break for every 30 minutes that would help in reviving from screen overdose and to feel active.
The purpose of such a flow is to portray virtualization of anthropology presenting it through multi-media tools and techniques serving the interests of the present conference. And would aim to reflect upon a way forward for such practices that makes virtual conductions more effective and meaningful.
Smiljana Antonijević, Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology; Jelena Guga, Research Fellow, University of Belgrade; Sanja Iguman, Research Fellow, University of Belgrade; Brewster Kahle, Founder and Digital Librarian, Internet Archive; Dave Marvit, Chief Innovation Officer, XLenz; Sara Nikolić, Research Fellow, University of Belgrade; Radomir Stanković, Professor, University of Niš; Jeff Ubois, Vice President of Knowledge Management, Lever for Change
What does it mean to digitally reimagine (even rebuild) a vanished cultural heritage institution and to revive it as a contemporary urban place of cultural life, memory, and dialog? How can a digital 3D library be conceptualized as a cultural institution, an educational environment, a monument, and as a breathing, constantly evolving intellectual space? Which values of the digital age should be incorporated into such a space? How might augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) reshape public memory and the process of recollection?
This panel seeks to answer those questions by focusing on an interdisciplinary project of digitally reimagining National Library of Serbia in Belgrade. Established in 1832, the library held a collection of medieval and later-era manuscripts, maps, prints, journals, letters and other invaluable materials. On April 6, 1941 the library was targeted at Adolf Hitler’s personal order and burnt to the ground in a Nazi Luftwaffe air raid. Today, a hilly pedestrian space in downtown Belgrade, overlooking the Sava and the Danube rivers, hosts vibrant art and cafe life; only a ruin covered in grass exposing a few remaining bricks and tiles reminds strollers that a cultural heritage institution once existed at that spot.
The example of the Serbian National Library is far from unique. In recent years, intentional destruction of cultural heritage has propagated to such an extent that, according to UNESCO, all of Syria’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites have been damaged or destroyed during the civil war. Similar examples abound around the world.
In this panel, we explore how such losses can be turned into the opportunities for intellectual revival, remaking, and rethinking. Instead of creating a virtual replica of a destroyed library, which is the most common approach in contemporary digital humanities, we seek to reexamine and repurpose the involved concepts—library, digital technology, cultural heritage, and cultural memory.
We present a digital prototype and possible theoretical foundations for remembering and reimaging the National Library of Serbia not only as a digital resurrection of the past, but also as living cultural and intellectual artifact, one oriented towards the future. A planned AR/VR mobile application will enable users to digitally walk through the destroyed Library at the site of its ruin, and to interact with the library and digital technologies in novel ways. In addition to electronically checking out and downloading materials in an open access way, users will be able to upload and add their own materials (family letters, photographs, books, etc.) in the participatory knowledge form of public humanities. Instead of imposing prescriptive use of technology, we imagine AR/VR library visitors and application users as bricoleurs approaching technology as situated practice.
The panel will include a short prototype presentation of a planned digital application, and eight multimedia vignettes that will explore concepts of library, digital technology, cultural heritage, and cultural memory from an interdisciplinary perspective of digital anthropology (Smiljana Antonijevic, Professor, Institute of Design, University of Illinois), urban anthropology (Sara Nikolic, Research Fellow, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade), digital art (Jelena Guga, Research Fellow, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade), cultural heritage (Sanja Iguman, Research Fellow, Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade), computer science (Radomir Stankovic, Professor Emeritus, faculty of Electronic Engineering, University of Niš), AR/VR (Dave Marvit, Chief Innovation Officer, XLenz), digital preservation (Jeff Ubois, Vice President for Knowledge Management, Lever for Change), and library and information science (Brewster Kahle, Founder and Digital Librarian, The Internet Archive).
JOY OF GLITCHING
Adham Hafez; Mona Gamil; Adam Kucharski; Ahmed El Shaer
On January 11th, 1983, the first episode of Bob Ross’s “The Joy of Painting” premiered. Ross’s wet-on-wet technique allowed him to complete entire paintings within a 30-minute episode, thus bringing a once highly visceral and embodied experience of painting into the virtual space of the television screen. With the more recent emergence of digital art communities based on the blockchain, even greater abstraction and virtualization has further disembodied the production of art. In what ways does this virtualization constrain, and in what ways does it liberate?
This session is an improvisational imagining of Bob Ross’s iconic show, humorously set in our digital, blockchain-enabled, 8-bit present. Our Bob will create a piece of pixel art in real time over the 90-minute duration and will mint it into an NFT; simultaneously, the other panelists will reflect on the creative possibilities this virtual space posits, and the impact the simultaneous creation of new Web3.0 tools and new artworks could have on artistic practices and the art world at large.
Could the technological promises Web3.0 offer the art world today – from decentralization to ownership and tokenization of digital art – transform both the physical and the virtual artistic communities and markets? Between DAOs, DAPPs, and the Metaverse, this playful panel takes the viewers through a journey that interrogates the virtualization of art-making.