Festival Programme

Our summer research festival took place online (via Zoom) over three days – 14th-16th June.

All events were free to attend.

See the full programme below, or you can download a short festival overview or a PDF of the full programme.

Monday 14th June

Futures festival welcome image

Festival Welcome (09.00-09.30)

A welcome event for the launch of our first research festival, included a few remarks from SWWDTP Director Robert Vilain, and a brief showcase of creative work from three of our students on the theme of ‘Futures’.

 


panel 1 - ecological futures

Panel 1: Ecological Futures (09.30-11.00)

Three conference paper presentations followed by Q&A –

‘Poetry and Ecologically Sustainable Futures’, Domonique Davies, University of Reading

‘Considering the Future, with Moss, in our Troubled Atmosphere’, Hester Buck, Cardiff University

‘Stress testing the climate: designing scenarios for sustainable development goals’, Stavros Pantos, University of Reading

Click on the buttons below to see the abstracts for this event.

 


Tess Gallagher claimed that a poem, like a magnet, ‘draws in events and beings’ from all possible pasts, presents and futures. A poem can communicate across time, enabling pasts to speak to futures that may not have been conceived by the poet at the time of writing. However, can poetry help change or create futures?

Wallace Stevens (1879 – 1955) contemplated the future role of poetry in a changing world, noting that ‘We look from an uncertain present towards a more uncertain future. One feels the desire to collect oneself against all this in poetry […].’ Poetry is a space to reflect the ‘sense of upheaval’ felt when we are ‘threatened’ by current events and their potential consequences.

Stevens’s words resonate with the current ecological crisis that is creating an increasingly uncertain future for the world, and is arguably the greatest threat to life. While ecocritical considerations of Stevens are emerging, yet to be investigated are the conceptions of his theoretical ideas around poetry as a form to consider ecological futures.

Stevens claimed that the poet must be possessed, ‘by the earth and by men in their earthy implications’. The poet and poetry must consider the actions of humans upon the earth to move towards a greater ecological consciousness, or to use Lawrence Buell’s terms, to move from ‘environmental unconsciousness’ to ‘environmental awakening’. My paper will argue that Stevens’s conceptions of poetry position it as a useful form to explore the uncertain future during a time of ecological crisis.

Speaker:

Domonique Davies is a first year PhD student at the University of Reading. Her project focuses on the work of Wallace Stevens in the context of ecocriticsm, aiming to show how Stevens was moving towards a form of ecopoetry. Her research interests are primarily concerned with ecocriticism and American poetry.

The future as a subject of research is not new to architecture or design, yet undertaking research as a form of generative futuring remains underexplored. How can research construct new futures through (re)weaving concepts and deploying experimental methodologies? Informed by Social Invention ( author, year) could we consider this type of research as, an act of spatial design even when nothing is constructed? This paper will attempt to put forward a formulation of architectural research that positions itself as an intervention in the future. I will focus, on a particular example: elucidating an imagined ecological future manifested through the participatory design of a moss wall. Through workshops in Cardiff, London and Bristol, this project deployed a form of living research to test new ways of thinking and working architecturally. Presenting the city as an ecology – defined here as a home, made up of interconnected human and more-than-human beings – the research focuses on how designing with moss can reveal and improve air quality. In the project, the moss breathes, filtering the air as it grows. The wall does not present a solution to poor air quality, but rather turns to nature as a more-than-human guide through the troubled atmospheres we humans find ourselves in. This paper will explore what it means to work with moss as a practice of cultivation and care. The paper will explore the role of the designer and researcher within this process, moving between representations of a condition and intervening to change it as a way of learning together. It will consider how the communities I work with, local, institutional or academic, push back, with anger or apathy, to this way of working, requiring situational adjustment. The project does not present the future as a place or object that we are heading towards, but a process of becoming, learning about our environment, though collectively developing new ways of caring for it.

Speaker:

Hester Buck is part of the critical design practice public works, which occupies the terrain between architecture, art, performance and activism. public works develops briefs through long term relationships with communities, as a form of situated practice. Through her projects she is interested in how planting can be used as a tool to build networks of care within the local community, using events to question perceptions of space, imagine alternative realities and support resident led urban change. She has had the opportunity to explore these ideas during a residence at the Design Museum, as part of Tate Exchange and through her teaching roles at UCA, RCA, CAT, UMEA, CSM and UWE.

The paper composes a critical examination of the effectiveness of climate change scenario  analysis and environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts of financial services towards  sustainable development goals. Specifically, this paper presents a literature review on the  existing regulatory prescribed climate change related stresses and scenarios tests, developed for  financial services in Europe from supervisory authorities. The focus is placed on the Climate  Biennial Exploratory Scenario (CBES) from the Bank of England (BoE) and guidance from  the Network for Greening the Financial System, among other climate change scenarios from  the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),  2 degrees investing and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) from  the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). The aim of the analysis performed is to comment  on gaps identified from existing climate change scenarios in relation to the United Nations  Sustainable Development Goals. The analysis performed adds to the growing literature about  the design of scenario planning for physical, transition and liability climate change related risks,  with focus on sustainability. This eventually is going to complement the exercise of regulators  and supervisors towards the development of policies for a more sustainable and inclusive post  Covid-19 transition for financial services. This research highlights the need of integrating the  17 UN SDGs and ESG factors in the design and development of scenarios to ensure the  resilience of the financial sector.

Speaker:

Stavros Pantos is a first year PhD student in banking law and financial regulation from the School of Law of the University of Reading, part of the Centre for Commercial Law and Financial Regulation (CCLFR) research grouping. Stavros’ doctoral research is focused on evaluating macroprudential measures and policy responses to Covid-19 for the European Banking sector. Stavros has a background in financial economics, with undergraduate studies at Lancaster University, followed by postgraduate degrees from the University of Edinburgh, University of Reading and Copenhagen Business School, with research interests in financial law, risk management, fintech, climate change and sustainability.

Panel 2: Agency & Uncertainty (11.30-13.00)

Three conference paper presentations followed by Q&A

‘New Like Adam: Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, Lefebvre, Soja and the Third Space’, Alex Hubbard, Aberystwyth University

‘Divining the Future with Syriac Books of Magic’, Abigail Pearson, University of Exeter

‘Minors Driving Through Major Change: Marisol looks to the future in Tómbola (Lucía, 1962)’, Rachel Beaney, Cardiff University

Click on the buttons below to see the abstracts for this event.

 


Alasdair Gray’s 1981 novel, Lanark: A Life in Four Books, shifts generic and spatial borders. In this paper, I will be exploring Gray’s conception, exploration and re-invention of space in the novel, framing it as a literary endeavour to realise Edward Soja’s idea of a ‘third space’ that incorporates a multiplicity of voices and in doing so creates an unstable and ever-shifting sense of reality. Soja’s intellectual predecessor, I will then complicate this reading, suggesting that it is not enough for Gray, as it is for Soja, to simply create a sense of space that shifts for different voices. Lanark’s story is one of many interlinked ones, not all of which the reader is privy to. I will draw from Bernard Bosanquet’s argument that whilst each individual may have their own personal, unique, relationship with God, or more broadly their own spiritual journey, these all feed into one overarching unity, or Absolute. This is true in Lanark, too, where by the end of the novel Lanark’s various trials allow him to make peace with his author, and therefore his God. Lanark therefore establishes Soja’s third way, which leads to newness and a re-invention of space, but not for the sake of novelty. Rather, in Lanark, the self leads itself to a future where it is new like Adam.

Speaker:

Alex Hubbard currently lives in West Wales, where he is studying for his PhD in Creative Writing. Previously he has appeared in Prole Magazine, Bandit Fiction, the Wandrian anthology and Abergavenny Small Press Literary Journal among others, and is the 2018 recipient of the Jem Poster Prize. His work uses experimental narrative techniques to explore space, place and identity. This particularly shows in his interest and exploration of the weird and wonderful freedom and dissolvement that comes from entering fiction’s otherplaces.

Syriac magic books from the medieval period describe several different methods of divining the future (as well as the past and present). These methods of divination were used to reveal the whereabouts of lost items, determine the sex of unborn babies, and to diagnose and prognose illnesses, among other things. After an introduction to medieval Syriac magic books, this paper examines one specific method of divination that these books describe, known as ‘arithmology’. I discuss the origins of arithmology in the Greek world and contextualise how this method came to be popular within the Syriac Christian communities of Mesopotamia. The identification of Greek influence challenges the assertions of previous scholars who assumed that the primary purpose of Syriac magic books was to preserve ancient Mesopotamian (i.e. Babylonian and Assyrian) magic traditions. The talk will also include a chance to use the arithmological method to divine your ideal career!

Speaker:

Abigail Pearson (University of Exeter) researches the transmission of technical lore from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Her doctoral thesis examines the extent to which we can trace a continuous Syriac magic tradition from Late Antiquity to the present day, exploring the circumstances which encouraged or necessitated innovations to Syriac magic texts and practices over time. She is also interested in the application of Digital Humanities technologies to Syriac studies, and has helped to develop handwritten text recognition models which can automatically transcribe Syriac manuscripts.

This paper draws on my doctoral research on the representation of the child orphan in child-centred cinema under the Franco regime. The iconic face of the girl who has come to be known as Marisol is, in many ways, the face of the original cine con niño. Pepa Flores, the actress behind the persona, has had a turbulent relationship with the Spanish film industry since her beginnings. Her adorable, angelic aesthetic and impressive signing voice paved the way for numerous iconic performances spanning across the Marisol films from 1960-1985. Alongside Joselito and Pablito Calvo, Marisol has been defined as one of the child prodigies of Spanish cinema. This paper will analyse Marisol as a driving force for change and also her potential for agency in the  film Tómbola (Lucía, 1962). Through a close reading of specific scenes and the application of novel theories from Children’s Geography, I examine the character of Marisol and her harnessing of agency in Tómbola.

A great deal of scholarship has read Marisol as a puppet of the regime, a projection of an ideal European modernity, and, taking into account her life the behind-the-scenes, a victim. Erin Hogan, for example, argues that the plot of Tómbola is the story of the ‘appropriation of the child’s body and voice’ (Hogan, 2018, p. 73). Sarah Wright notes how she was ‘the darling of the Franco regime’ (Wright, 2013, p. 60).  Whilst acknowledging these readings, this chapter will discuss instances of agency present in the narrative. I argue that in Tómbola and through the character of Marisol, we find a nuanced representation of the orphan child that looks to a post-Franco future.

Speaker:

Rachel Beaney

archive image

Break the Archive Workshop: What is the future of archives? (14.00-15.00)

In this fast pace design thinking workshop we will deconstruct the archive and create possible alternatives. Using design thinking tools such as mapping and scenario building we explored how the role of the archive can be reimagined in today’s society. This workshop encouraged all thinking outside of the box and anything weird or wonderful that might come along. The overall aim of the workshop was not to find a concrete solution, but rather to start a conversation around how we might want to rethink the very idea of the archive and the role it plays in preserving our history. Led by Hannah James Louwerse, Newcastle University.


creative image

Creativity in Research Cluster Showcase: Future Methods and Research Practices (15.00-16.30)

How can creative practice-based research methodologies help shape different futures in academia and society?

A series of mini-presentations from members of the SWWDTP Creativity in Research Cluster, showcasing their work. Followed by discussion with Q&A.


equal diverse inclusive

Equal, Diverse and Inclusive Futures (17.00-18.15)

What might an equal, diverse and inclusive future look like? And how can creativity and the arts help us as we seek to bring about such changes?

Presentations, discussion and Q&A with Martin Spafford (Trustee and Volunteer at Journey to Justice), Andrew Ogun (Agent for Change at Arts Council Wales) and Professor Hannah Thompson (Professor of French and Critical Disability Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London).

Find out more about each of these speakers, and their topics of discussion by clicking on the buttons below.


Knowing how ‘ordinary’ people have taken successful action in their own communities can galvanise us to make new futures ourselves.  In our new online projects, widely diverse activists from all over the country share how they have tackled economic inequalities. I will share some of over a hundred stories we are making freely available to all, which look at how and why action has succeeded and how these experiences can equip all of us to make a difference. I will also show how stories from the past have inspired young people, themselves often marginalised, to creative expression and effective action.

Martin Spafford is a trustee and active volunteer with Journey to Justice, focusing on education and training. He is a former secondary school teacher who helped create the UK’s first exam course on migration history.

Andrew Ogun will be speaking on the topic of ‘Alternative Realities’.

Andrew Ogun is a 23-year old musician, writer, creative director and community organiser from Newport. Andrew is the main organiser for BLM Gwent and has recently begun his post as the new Agent for Change for the Arts Council of Wales.

Blindness Gain: On the Advantages of Audio Description

In this talk I will discuss what happens when audio description moves from being an access accommodation to being a literary genre in its own right. Using examples from art and theatre projects I am involved in, I will show how AD functions as an example of ‘blindness gain.’

Hannah Thompson is Professor of French and Critical Disability Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London and an AHRC Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Fellow 2021. She has published widely on nineteenth-century French prose fiction, with particular reference to gender, sexuality and the non-normative body (Naturalism Redressed: Identity and Clothing in the Novels of Emile Zola (Oxford: Legenda, 2004); Taboo: Corporeal Secrets in Nineteenth-Century France (Oxford: Legenda, 2013)). Her third monograph, Reviewing Blindness in French Fiction (Palgrave, 2017), marked the beginning of a new research focus on the intersections between Critical Disability Studies and French Studies. Hannah is currently working on creative audio description in museums, art galleries and theatres and the notion of ‘blindness gain’.

She is the author of the popular blog Blind Spot. Follow her on twitter @BlindSpotHannah.

Film and social event

Short Film and Social Event (18.15-19.30)

Was there machine translation back in the USSR?

In the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, the technological future really seemed to be arriving in the present. The first computers were being designed, and the USSR had been competing with the USA to develop atomic weapons and go into space. Machine translation (MT) was being developed too – but it was nothing like Google Translate! A massive computer could be programmed to translate a single sentence. This approach was unsuccessful; the future held new types of MT, as we will see. Those early MT theorists could see into the future in some ways, though: they anticipated predictive text!

Participants watched this short film, followed by Q&A with researcher Suzanne Eade Roberts and an informal social event.

Speaker:

Suzanne Eade Roberts is a PhD candidate in Translation and Russian Studies at the Universities of Bristol and Exeter, sponsored by the SWW DTP. Her research focuses on the development of Soviet translation theories from 1950 onwards. She previously did Bristol’s MA in Translation, including translation from Russian, French and German, and has done freelance translation work. Suzanne was Submissions Manager for the SWW DTP’s Question journal for issues 4 and 5. She lives in eastern France.

 


Tuesday 15th June

panel 3 - family community society

Panel 3: Family, Community, Society (09.00-10.30)

Three conference paper presentations followed by Q&A –

‘Anxiety about the future: Emotions in the Canning Family Correspondence’, Rachel Smith, Bath Spa University

‘Backwards into the future: Retrospection in nineteenth-century historical pastimes and the value of looking back to get ahead in today’s games industry’, Gavin Davies, University of Exeter

‘Only Time Will Tell: The ethical dilemma of oral histories’, Hannah James Louwerse, Newcastle University

Click on the buttons below to see the abstracts for this event.


Anxiety is an emotion concerned with the uncertainty of the future. What will happen if..What could X say about this…Can I do this… This uncertainty was no less present in the past than in the present. This paper examines an eighteenth-century family that lived through some of the most anxiety inducing events including revolution, war, political crisis, financial difficulties, death and scandal, all exasperated by slow communications via letter.

This paper argues that anxiety is a natural emotion regarding future events and considers ways that the Canning’s dealt with their anxieties in order to prevent them from becoming overwhelming and abnormal. As such, it offers some ways that we today can face the future and manage our own anxieties about what the futures holds.

This paper will be looking at anxiety from various aspects including familial relationships, the communication of anxieties, gendered anxieties and distance as ways of considering a variety of circumstances and types of worry. It will be using close textual analysis as well as considering the object’s materiality to think about how anxiety is an emotion connected to various other emotions, most notably love.

Speaker:

Rachel Smith

This paper will explore the role played by retrospection in Georgian and Victorian board games intended to teach children about English history whilst surreptitiously instilling in them a sense of patriotic fervour for the country’s destination. As will be shown, game creators used their games to espouse the stability provided by a constitutional monarchy as well as the moral prestige that came from Britain’s humanitarian intervention in abolishing the slave trade. The paper will examine how the serendipity of play allowed these board games to portray Britain’s ascendancy to global hegemon as self-fulfilling and inevitable. Concomitantly, the paper is also an opportunity to reflect on the affinities between then and now: how questions raised by these games about the stability of national identity and its touchstones have relevance to today’s post-Brexit climate; the relationship between the past and projections of the future; obviations of events otherwise disruptive to the ideal historical narrative; how the UK’s present games market is reminiscent of then, and how knowledge of one can equip you to enter the other.

Speaker:

Gavin Davies

One of the most difficult things to archive is an oral history. This is because it is a rather unorthodox time capsule. An oral history is someone talking and reflecting on the past in the present; in so doing, they bring parts of the present with them into their reflection. When listening back to an oral history, you are effectively listening to a past talking about the past. You also need to take into consideration meta data such as who the interviewer was or whether the interviewee was having a good or a bad day. In cases where the interviewee is still alive, it is also important to consider whether they still express the same views. People change their mind and reflection is a continuous process.

I have been challenged with building an oral history archive at the National Trust property Seaton Delaval Hall. These oral histories will come from the local community surrounding the hall. It is therefore of utmost importance that these oral histories are preserved in the most ethical way possible, in order to avoid dispute between the party that is giving and the party that is receiving. When put in the context of time, ethics can become rather messy, as oral histories regularly prove, so building a framework or system that is able to handle ethical dilemmas as they arise through time will be extremely difficult but also highly valuable.

Speaker:

Hannah James Louwerse

panel - class and social mobility

Panel 4: Class and Social Mobility (10.45-12.15)

Three conference paper presentations followed by Q&A –

‘No future?: Youth, work and mobility on 1980s Sheppey’, Matt Beebee, University of Exeter

‘Frightening, immobile, and ambiguous: Futures of the precariat’, Jonathan Jones, Cardiff University

‘The Future Of The Past: Futures as Promised by Teen Films of the ’80s’, Megan Mitchell, University of the West of England

Click on the buttons below to see the abstracts for this event.

 


Navigating the long-term process of deindustrialisation in England has often required radical adjustment and adaption in the everyday lives of those directly affected. Most scholarship to date has focused on capturing the experiences of established workers who remained rooted in the place of their former industrial employment. By contrast, this paper seeks to explore how school leavers navigated their way through the rapidly deindustrialising Island of Sheppey in Kent in the early 1980s. Drawing on the archival remains of Ray Pahl’s sociological investigation of Sheppey allows this paper to capture the individual experience of school leavers at the moment of profound industrial change. The paper focuses on how teenagers, in the face of deindustrialisation, contemplated their personal working futures as defined by precarity and uncertainty. What this paper suggests is that, while Sheppey’s school leavers recognised industrial change as a form of “progress” and “modernisation”, they did not necessarily notice this as bringing positive implications for their own lives if they remained in place; geographical mobility and leaving their place of birth became highly attractive prospects as a means to “remake” a stable sense of self, work and place-attachment. Indeed, this paper argues that although a desire to leave Sheppey was a choice, it was often perceived as a necessity and a strategy for “getting by” that was guided by a longing for carving out a future defined by the stability and security they associated with earlier generations.

Speaker:

Matt Beebee is a third-year PhD researcher at the University of Exeter. His current PhD project is exploring the impact of deindustrialisation in England on meanings of self, place and belonging since the 1960s through a comparative study of Tyneside and the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. He previously completed an MPhil in Modern British History at the University of Cambridge, with a thesis exploring how the language of class and community was mobilised against the closure of the Bilston Steelworks in the late 1970s. An article based on this research won the Labour History Review‘s 2019 Essay Prize and was subsequently published in LHR in December 2020.

Those in irregular and insecure employment – often called the precariat – have good reasons to be anxious of the future. Caught between the pressure to be upwardly mobile and continual dangers to their survival, they experience a piercing combination of status anxiety and existential dread.

The neoliberal preoccupation with driving individuals to improve their prospects as an alleged solution to systemic poverty is incompatible with our inherently competitive economic system that cannot provide sufficient opportunities. This approach is increasingly counter-productive, because the stigma, inequality, insecurity and anxiety it promotes tend to decrease people’s chances of success and increase their chances of falling into poverty. Precariat workers are among those under the greatest pressure to be ‘successful’. They therefore must reconcile multiple contradictory narratives and feelings – they must deal with feeling responsible for their own success or failure, whilst simultaneously knowing that their circumstances make failure likely. They must accept their own hopes being supplanted by requirements of employers and ponder why these are at odds with each other. For them, the future is not only frightening, but also a source of cognitive dissonance.

Drawing on postgraduate research using psychoanalytically informed interview methods, this paper will discuss some of the various hopes and fears of the precariat, their discursive dimensions, and the ways in which associated anxieties and conflicts are defended against. It will illuminate neoliberal governance methods and discourses have impacted their lives, and have shaped their imaginings of the future.

Speaker:

Jonathan Jones is a second year PhD student researching precarious workers and perspectives on social mobility, focussing particularly on the psychosocial dimensions of these topics and the influence of neoliberal discourses. Jonathan aims for a career in research that will facilitate tangible social progress – ameliorating social issues by informing and supporting social projects, charities and policy-making. Jonathan’s PhD research combines psychoanalytically-informed interview techniques, co-production methods, and discourse analysis. Jonathan lives in the Rhondda with his fiancée and recommends a walk in the mountains to anyone looking for ways to relieve PhD stresses.

This paper will go beyond discussions of mere representations of possible futures as presented in 1980s teen films, à la Back To The Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985), and examine the multitude of possible futures explicitly and contextually promised through narrative and visual devices which are repeated and inverted across the genre. The possible futures ’80s teen films suggest are often subtle but utopian. John Hughes’ handling of class across his ’80s filmography speaks to a future where class has been flattened out, frictions of the past highlighted but not necessarily resolved, the edges simply taken off.  But nonetheless class-less. Valley Girl (Martha Coolidge, 1983), however, ends with an explicit beginning. A beginning that promises a future that has overcome class – the final scenes bringing together a lower-class Romeo and middle-class Juliet as they physically propel towards a future of their own making free from the restraints of class. This paper will also look at the future as promised by teen girl’s bedrooms, analyzing the mise-en-scene and decor, with a specific interest in the repeated inclusion and use of the Princess telephone across the genre. In focusing on teen girl’s bedrooms the possible futures young women of the era self-constructed and practised for in miniature within these personal spaces can be revealed.

Speaker:

Megan Mitchell is a first-year SWW DTP PhD Candidate researching the role/s of independent cinema in the age of on-demand culture, in partnership with UWE, University of Exeter and Watershed. Megan is the Producer of Matchbox Cine and is a recognised leader and champion of a more accessible film exhibition sector within the UK. She is co-founder of Europe’s biggest and longest-running Nicolas Cage film festival (Cage-a-rama) and the world’s first-ever film festival dedicated entirely to Keanu Reeves (Keanucon). According to Deborah Foreman, Megan is the universe’s foremost Valley Girl (1983) academic.

panel - capitalism and modernity

Panel 5: Capitalism and Modernity (12.30-14.00)

Three conference paper presentations followed by Q&A –

‘“A True Child of the Industrial Revolution”? Distilled Spirits and Early Modernity’, Tyler Rainford, University of Bristol

‘Capitalism and the Very Long Term’, Nikhil Venkatesh, University College London

‘The plural futures of Kiluanji Kia Henda and Edson Chagas’, Catriona Parry, University of Oxford

Click on the buttons below to see the abstracts for this event.


The “future” of alcohol consumption mattered to early modern people. In 1751, William Hogarth produced one of his most infamous and historically enduring prints: Gin Lane. Since then, distilled spirits have often been perceived as a harbinger of modernity. Liquor, we are told, was a socially, economically, and culturally destructive force that offered only anaesthetization and ruin. As scholars such as Wolfgang Schivelbusch suggest: ‘liquor and the mechanical loom worked hand in hand […] to destroy traditional ways of life and labour.’ Not only do such interpretations reek of Whiggery, but they also fail to appreciate the variegated reactions to distilled spirits which emerged prior to 1750. Although a new generation of historians, encouraged by the earlier work of anthropologists, have sought to amend such “drink as despair” interpretations of the history of alcohol, distilled spirits have received limited attention. Spirits had a long and complex history that extends beyond the narrative of moral panic induced by the “Gin Craze” of early eighteenth-century London. By comparing attitudes to liquor production and consumption in early modern England (c. 1650-1750), this exploratory paper will aim to demonstrate that spirit drinking was also seen as an economically lucrative prospect, as well as an act of consumption rooted in a recent historical past. It was not as new and unfamiliar as some have supposed. Ultimately, this paper will demonstrate that distilled spirits were not simply a catalyst for social crisis and historical fatalism, but a culturally contingent aspect of early modern life.

Speaker:

Tyler Rainford is a first year PhD History student at the University of Bristol, funded by the SWWDTP. Prior to starting his PhD, he completed his BA Hons in History at Durham (2013/16) and his MRes in History at Birkbeck (2019/20). Tyler’s research considers the role of intoxicants in early modern England, with a specific focus on how spirits informed notions of social and occupational identity. His current research concerns the influence of sugar on alcohol production and consumption in England, c. 1650-1750. More broadly, Tyler is interested in consumption, work, and identity in the early modern Atlantic world.

‘Since effective altruism is committed to whatever would maximise the social good, it might for example turn out to support anti-capitalist revolution.’ (Srinivasan 2015)

Define capitalism as the economic system in which decisions over production are largely made by private individuals, who are subject to the incentives and constraints of market competition. In this paper I argue that capitalism is likely to be a suboptimal economic system given the considerations emphasised by the branch of effective altruism known as ‘longtermism’. Longtermists believe that the most important effects of present actions are those that bear on the very long-term future: hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of years away. Capitalism is likely to systematically neglect such effects: because it neglects externalities, because it disincentivises preparation for low probability events, and because it keeps large numbers of people from developing themselves, thus reducing humanity’s capacity to solve our biggest problems. These problems may be mitigated by a state that regulates capitalism and intervenes in production in a mixed economy. However, as long as capitalism remains the dominant system, this mitigation will be fragile. Effective altruists, and anyone who cares about the very long-term future of humanity, should therefore consider embracing anti-capitalism.

Speaker:

Nikhil Venkatesh is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at University College London. His research focuses on the moral theory known as ‘utilitarianism’, the idea that we ought to bring about the greatest possible amount of well-being. Though appealingly simple and intuitive, utilitarianism faces some objections that are widely regarded as compelling. Nikhil’s research aims to evaluate and respond to these objections, in large part by bringing utilitarianism into contact with insights from the socialist political tradition. In his paper for this festival, Nikhil aims to show that we should be sceptical that capitalism will bring about the greatest possible amount of well-being when we consider the well-being of people in the far future.

Our imaginings of ‘the future’ are increasingly limited. It is harder than ever to picture credible alternatives to the pervasive logic of neoliberalism. This presentation will explore the ways in which Angolan visual artists Kiluanji Kia Henda (1979-) and Edson Chagas (1977-) use photography to present plural possibilities for futures which exist beyond late capitalism.

The artists’ works directly challenge the neoliberal hegemony that dominates our world. Kia Henda’s Rusty Mirage (The City Skyline) (2013) uses traditional storytelling techniques inspired by the Lunda Tchokwe, an ethnic group from eastern Angola, to highlight issues of poverty and homelessness both in Luanda and around the globe. Chagas’s Found Not Taken series (2008-), and his exhibition Luanda, Encyclopedic City (2012), winner of the Golden Lion for Best National Participation at the 55th Venice Biennale, ascribes value to objects typically cast aside as “waste products” of today’s consumer capitalism. The participatory elements of both exhibitions allow for multiple different versions of these works to exist simultaneously. Each artist thus creates plural tangible futures which incorporate concepts and ideas directly at odds with dominant capitalist ideologies.

In the context of post-civil war Angola – one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and the third largest in sub-Saharan Africa – these interventions defy the state’s “monopoly on Angolan modernity” which considers oil-fuelled capitalism to be the nation’s only viable path to progress (Soares de Oliveira 2015: 19). More broadly, both artists contribute to global efforts to imagine alternative visions for more equal and inclusive futures.

Speaker:

Catriona Parry is a first year DPhil student at the University of Oxford. Her research explores the concepts of cosmopolitanism and difference in contemporary cinema and visual culture from Angola, Cape Verde and Portugal. She previously studied for a BA in Portuguese and Spanish at the University of Cambridge, and a Masters in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. She is funded by the OOC AHRC DTP, the Clarendon Fund, and the Lincoln College Kingsgate Scholarship. 

Obsidian Foundation presents the Future of Black Poetry (14.00-15.00)

Nick Makoha hosted five alumni poets from the Obsidian Foundation as they read poetry and talked about the future of poetry.

Obsidian Foundation is a new foundation launched by award-winning poet Nick Makoha, currently a Creative Writing PhD student at King’s, which runs a one-week retreat for Black poets of African descent, to help them grow as writers. Obsidian Foundation’s mission is to create a safe space for Black poets in the UK and beyond to write with complete freedom but without the burden of identity. The retreat is a long-term, sustainable programme based on the successful model of Cave Canem in the USA. The retreat is open to poets of Black African, Caribbean, Afro-Latinx and African-American heritage and mixed-Black heritage living in the UK.

Find out more about each poet by clicking on the boxes below…


Amílcar Peter Sanatan is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus. His poetry has appeared in BIM Magazine, Caribbean Review of Gender Studies, The Caribbean Writer, Cordite Poetry Review, Gutter, Interviewing the Caribbean, Magma, Moko Magazine, PREE Lit, Sargasso and Sinking City. Sanatan is an alumnus of the Obsidian Foundation’s Writers’ Retreat (United Kingdom, 2020) and the Cropper Foundation’s Caribbean Creative Writers’ Residential Workshop (Trinidad and Tobago, 2019). He has performed spoken word poetry and coordinated open mics in Trinidad and Tobago for over a decade.

Nile Lansana is a poet, journalist, performer and teaching artist from the South Side of Chicago. He holds fellowships from the Rebuild Foundation and Obsidian Foundation. He has won the 2021 Ronald Wallace Poetry Thesis Prize, 2020 George B Hill Poetry Prize, 2018 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Award & was a finalist for the Palette Poetry 2020 Spotlight Award. His work has been published in American Gun: A Poem by 100 Chicagoans, The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, Resisting Arrest: Poems to Stretch the Sky, & elsewhere. He has performed across the country, including Brave New Voices, Lollapalooza, and the JVN Day Festival. He graduated with BAs in Journalism and English – Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin – Madison as a First Wave Scholar. He is a founding member and coach with the award winning Rebirth Poetry Ensemble. He is a proud uncle and the oldest of four Black boys.

Fahad Al-Amoudi is a poet of Ethiopian and Yemeni heritage based in London. He is a Roundhouse Slam 2019 finalist, an alumnus of the inaugural Obsidian Foundation Retreat, graduate of the Writing Squad and member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen. His work is published in Poetry London, bath magg, the Gentian and Ink Sweat and Tears. He is also the current intern for Ink Sweat and Tears and will be editing the forthcoming anthology from Spread the Word’s Runaways Project.

Thembe Mvula is a South African writer and poet. She is an alumna of the Roundhouse Poetry Collective, Barbican Young Poets, and the inaugural Obsidian Foundation retreat. Her poetry often celebrates, unpacks or laments all that is tied to home, relationships and self. Thembe has headlined nationally and internationally, including at the Tate Modern, Oslo Afro Arts festival and has featured at Latitude festival. Her TEDx talk on The Power of Poetry and Vulnerability has been translated into Mandarin and Cantonese. Thembe’s debut poetry pamphlet, We that Wither Beneath,  was self-published in March 2019 and listed in top 52 books of the year by the Poetry School. She has recently had work published in The Black Anthology and Magma magazine and is currently undertaking a masters in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford.

Alexa Patrick is a singer and poet from Connecticut. She holds fellowships from Cave Canem, Obsidian, and The Watering Hole. Alexa was the 2019 Head Coach of the D.C. Youth Slam Team, and has held  teaching positions through Split This Rock, The University of the District of Columbia, and the Center for Creative Youth at Wesleyan University. Alexa  has coached the slam teams of American University and George Washington University for the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational. She is an open mic host at Busboys and Poets, and has performed at The Schomburg Center and the Kennedy Center. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, as well as led her to be selected to participate in Tin House’s Winter Workshop. You may find Alexa’s work in publications including The Quarry, ArLiJo, CRWN Magazine, and The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic.

Nick Makoha is the founder of The Obsidian Foundation. In 2017, Nick’s debut collection, Kingdom of Gravity, was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection and was one of the Guardian’s best books of the year. Nick is a Cave Canem Graduate Fellow and the Complete Works alumnus. He won the 2015 Brunel International AfricanPoetry Prize and the 2016 Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Prize for his pamphlet Resurrection Man. His poems have appeared in the Cambridge Review, the New York Times, Poetry Review, Rialto, Poetry London, TriQuarterly Review, Boston Review, Callaloo and Wasafari. He is a Trustee for the Arvon Foundation and the Ministry of Stories, and a member of the Malika’s Poetry Kitchen collective. nickmakoha.com

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Understanding Change: Futures Imagined and Realised (15.00-16.00)

How does change happen, and why? And can understanding one process of change help us better understand others?  Participants joined the SWW DTP Understanding Change research cluster for an eclectic, interdisciplinary roundtable discussion on how notions of change and the future play out in cluster members’ research. It brought together perspectives from linguistics, literature and music, and explored examples of change ranging from Arthurian glossaries and morphological mystery in Old English to equine encounters in seventeenth-century London and the twenty-first-century evolution of dubstep. It questioned wider theories and approaches to understanding intellectual, political, linguistic, cultural, personal and societal change, and asked how the future is conceived and realised.


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Question: Creating a PGR space in Academic Publishing (16.00-16.45)

Question, the official postgraduate-run journal of the SWW DTP, is now into its fourth year of publication. Since 2017, Question has provided a platform for Arts & Humanities students across the UK and beyond to share their research – from essays to creative writing to visual art collections – all supported by a rigorous peer review process delivered by a dedicated team of SWW DTP students.

This event brought together editors and writers from the team behind Issue 6: ‘Community’ (summer 2021) to share their experiences of Question. Panellists discussed the aims behind this issue, the significance of the ‘Community’ theme and the challenges faced in producing a journal during a pandemic. Most importantly, they shared their ideas for the future of the journal, exploring how Question can continue to pioneer methods of sharing PGR research within the often rigid and hierarchical world of academic publishing.


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Caring for the Future: Developing a Sustainable Future for our Historic Environment (17.00-18.00)

Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s historic environment.

There is a developing realisation that potential impacts of long-term threats to the historic environment are severe and, to some extent, uncertain. For example, even as we work to understand the impacts of predicted climate change, new as yet unknown impacts are likely to emerge as a result of action taken to mitigate or adapt to it.

How do we build a sustainable future for heritage in the face of such uncertainty? This talk examined how we are increasing our understanding of threats and opportunities, working strategically to develop tools and flexible strategies, and carrying out research, for example developing adaptive policy approaches, to help us account for future uncertainty.

Speaker:

Kate Guest is a Senior Policy Adviser in the Strategy and Listing Department at Historic England. She has worked at Historic England for ten years and her current role focuses on threats to the historic environment. She holds an MA in Latin and Ancient History and an MLitt in Ancient History from the University of St Andrews, and an MSc in Museum Theory and Practice from the University of Glasgow.


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Engaging Futures: Games and Play as Critical Method (18.00-19.30)

Feeling innovative? Interested in creative-academic collaborations? And how analogue games can bring research and academic ideas to wider audiences?

With a persuasive power of their own, games offer a unique opportunity to engage others at all stages of our research. In this session we discussed the potential of games and play in terms of both research methods and as research outputs. The workshop, led by Dr Paul Wake (Co-Director of the Manchester game Studies Network at Manchester Metropolitan University and designer of Carbon City Zero) and Matteo Menapace (educator and co-designer of Daybreak), offered participants the opportunity to design games based on their own research within just 90 minutes. At the end of the session, designers had playable prototypes and ideas about how to develop them further.


Wednesday 16th June

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Panel 6: Progress and the Nation (09.00-10.30)

Three conference paper presentations followed by Q&A –

‘Our moral future: human nature and the philosophy of moral progress’, Benedict Lane, University of Exeter

‘“There is no present in Wales/ And no future”: R.S. Thomas, Derrida and learning to live with Wales’s ghosts’, Martha O’Brien, Cardiff University

‘“Race” and “Declinism” in the Midlands, c.1958-1981’, William Noble, University of Nottingham

Click on the buttons below to see the abstracts for this event.


An understanding of human nature and its bearing on morality and moral progress is highly relevant to the moral future of our species. Human nature features centrally in the moral philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, of Kant and Hume, and of modern theorists such as Philippa Foot (2001) and Christine Korsgaard (2009). Discussion of human nature has also seen a resurgence in contemporary literature on moral progress, invoked both as an obstacle to be overcome (e.g., Perrson & Savulescu 2012) and a resource to be exploited (e.g., Sauer 2020). How we choose to characterise human nature, and what conceptual role we assign to it, determines both the substantive content of our moral theory and the very meaning of moral progress itself.

In this paper I will critically outline how human nature has been invoked in several prominent philosophies of morality and moral progress, focusing on the role played by human nature in modern neo-Aristotelian, neo-Kantian, and neo-Humean moral theory, and on evolutionary-biological notions of human nature in theories of moral progress. I will argue that morality shapes our conception of human nature, and not vice versa. ‘Human nature’ in this sense is a flexible construction that is socially learned and enforced – it is ‘built into’ our contingent morality. Contrastingly human nature in an evolutionary-biological sense is a distinct concept with no normative force of its own. Respectively, these two conceptions shape our vision of a more moral future, and inform our path to progress.

Speaker:

Benedict Lane is studying for a PhD in philosophy at the university of Exeter, having previously studied Physics and Philosophy at the University of Bristol. He is interested in moral perception and especially how moral perception changes  over time. In particular, he hopes to adapt ideas from the problem-solving account of scientific progress to answer questions about the moral culpability of past societies, the possibility of moral revolutions, and the role of moral philosophy in the attainment of progress. He can be contacted at bbhl201@exeter.ac.uk and would be delighted for you to get in touch.

R.S. Thomas in his poem, ‘A Welsh Landscape’ claims that ‘[t]here is no present in Wales/ And no future; There is only the past’. Thomas’s poetry has influenced a generation of anglophone Welsh writers and its motifs of loss, decay and the past are littered throughout late-twentieth century and early twenty-first century anglophone Welsh literature. This is reflective of Welsh culture more broadly, which can be seen in many instances to attempt to legitimise the status of the nation through cultural links to Welsh history and tradition. Twenty-first century writers, while still recognising and embracing this tradition, are slowly beginning to deviate from such loss-oriented conceptions of the nation towards new, emergent depictions – though the past still reigns in Wales. Using Jacques Derrida’s theories of spectrality as a framework, this paper seeks to demonstrate the interconnectedness of the past, present and future, and the ways in which our present perception of the past has the ability to shape our present and vice versa. The paper challenges Thomas’s claim of a non-existent future in Wales and suggests that the future shaped by the people of Wales and their culture is one that, in Derrida’s words, is ‘to-come’ – that we will not be able to anticipate nor recognise upon its arrival, and which will present new, unrecognisable conceptions of Wales and its landscape.

Speaker:

Martha O’Brien is a first year PhD student at Cardiff University and the University of Bristol researching spectrality in contemporary Welsh writing in English. She is a co-founder and co-editor of nawr, a magazine showcasing Welsh and Wales-based artists.

In his infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech of 1968, Enoch Powell recounted a claim from an anonymous ‘ordinary Englishman’ that ‘in this country in fifteen or twenty years’ time, the black man will have the whip hand over the white man’. This oft-quoted remark is but one example among many which illustrates how popular discourses of ‘race’ and ‘decline’ in post-war Britain were intertwined. The concept of ‘decline’, frequently invoked in popular and academic discourses in this period, necessarily relies on certain conceptions of both the past and future; the former in some way being held up as a pinnacle from which present society has fallen, and the latter being seen as a nadir in whose direction society is heading.

In this paper I use examples from my current research on 1970s Leicester and other Midlands case studies to discuss the relationships in the period c.1958-1981 between popular discourses of ‘race’ and ‘decline’. Leicester is a fascinating case study; while today it is often seen as a ‘model city’ of multiculturalism, in the 1970s its reputation could not have been more different. Then Leicester was known as the ‘most racist city in Britain’, for its negative response to Ugandan Asian evacuees in 1972, and for its high level of support for the National Front. I draw on the work of writers including Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy and Bill Schwarz to argue that racism and understandings of the future as one of ‘decline’ or ‘crisis’ were mutually dependent on each other.

Speaker:

William Noble is a first-year PhD student in modern British history at the University of Nottingham. His thesis is entitled ‘“Our poor, tired little island just cannot cope”: race, immigration and decline in the post-war Midlands, c.1958-1981’. In his research, William uses several case studies drawn from the Midlands to examine how popular conceptions of ‘race’ and ‘decline’ in post-war Britain were intertwined. The concept of ‘decline’ was frequently invoked in popular and academic discourses in this period and necessarily relies on particular notions of both the past and the future, which often focused on immigration and were deeply racialised.

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Panel 7: Methods for the Future (10.45-12.15)

Three conference paper presentations followed by Q&A –

‘Writing Requiem: Reimagining ancient texts for the future using the text/musical structure interface’, Peter Relph, University of Bristol

‘Quantum Cuts – Dis/continuous practices’, Andrew Philip, University of Reading

‘The value of scenario planning as a futures method in policy making’, Panayiota Georgiou, Cardiff University

Click on the buttons below to see the abstracts for this event.


The text of the Requiem Mass is one which has been set to music hundreds of times over many centuries. What can a contemporary musical setting of this ancient text add to this body of work? How can the text be made relevant today and in the future?

In this paper, I outline the compositional processes behind the writing of Requiem, premiered in Princeton (USA) in 2018 by The Westminster Williamson Voices.1 In particular, there is an emphasis on how the relationship between musical structure (understood as an abstract form derived from the text’s themes and secondary research into those themes, from which harmony, motive and timbral progression have been derived) and text has been explored as a means of reimagining the text of the Requiem Mass. It identifies compositional processes derived from this relationship and proposes future research practices.

1. Relph, P. (2018). Requiem. Chicago: GIA Publications.

Speaker:

Peter Relph is a composer from the North West of England. His music, strongly influenced by medieval chant and the folk music of his home in the Lake District (UK), has been performed across Europe and North America by a number of ensembles. These include Scottish Opera (Glasgow, UK), The Westminster Williamson Voices (Princeton, USA), The Same Stream Choir (Philadelphia, USA), and Magdalene College Chapel Choir (Cambridge, UK). He is founder and musical director of the vocal group Anchorae. His music is published by GIA Publications (Chicago).

Quantum physics troubles given notions of timespace as inherent properties of the universe. However, the feeling that the world functions like a clock, one moment following another, is so ingrained in how we understand and describe the world, it seems impossible to tear ourselves away from this Newtonian causality.

A film, sequential images arranged linearly, tends to function in a way that reifies this classical physics account of the world. The past leads up to the present moment and the future provides resolution. How can this artificial continuity be subverted?

I propose that a film cut is akin to a quantum leap, a dis/continuity that, used well, can attend to the exclusions inherent in any film (as an actualisation of the virtual). As part of my practice as research project, a series of films about my mother getting a tattoo, I seek out ways to figure in the iterations of the past into the present, as well as potential practices programmed to make future screenings indeterminate, dis/continuous, and open to reconfiguration.

My research is inspired by theoretical particle physicist and feminist theorist Karen Barad who suggests the ‘queer’ behaviour of electrons provide a way of thinking through dis/continuity. Electrons, negatively charged particles in an atom, jump from one energy level to another without seemingly being anywhere/anytime in between. The film cut, I argue, functions in the same way and can be used to reconfigure the past and the future, both, after Barad, being open to change.

Speaker:

Andrew I. Philip is a PhD researcher, film practitioner and sessional lecturer at the University of Reading. His theory and praxis attempt to diffract cinematic realism through agential realism, an ethico-onto-epistemology developed by Karen Barad (2007). He is currently producing a series of autoethnographic essay films as part of his doctoral research co-supervised by Lúcia Nagib and Alison Butler, a practice informed by ongoing theoretical inquiries that then feedback into close analytical examinations of the filmmaking process. He has over twenty years’ experience working in the private sector in London and New York, producing, editing and animating award-winning films.

Futures thinking ‘allow us to anticipate dangerous trends, identify desirable futures and  respond appropriately’ (Riedy, 2009:40). This argument seems to be even more prominent  now, after the global financial crisis together with the rapid technological change which  generates increased uncertainty, causing a concern for the future. Indeed, there has been a  growing interest in futures thinking, reflected both in the literature and in practice. In general,  futures studies refer to the broadest possible domain of futures thinking in a structured way  (Van Dorsser et al., 2018). Nevertheless, futures thinking covers various approaches with each  of them embedding very different philosophical positions and assumptions. Although there are  many different ways of thinking about the future, the focus of this paper is placed on a specific  tool of futures studies, scenario planning which composes the most popular tool used in  examining the future within the policy sector. Based on a literature review, the paper discusses the potential contribution of scenario planning as a future method in helping policymakers  design better policies. This paper adopts the position that the contribution of scenario planning  as a practical tool in policymaking is a double-edged sword. This is because while there is a  great value of using scenario planning to inform policymaking in the face of growing  uncertainty and complexity, adopting scenario planning does not result in automatic gains.  Therefore, one should be aware of the associated challenges such as different biases and issues  of inclusivity and exclusivity within the process.

Speaker:

Panayiota Georgiou is a first year PhD candidate in Business Studies at Cardiff Business School. Her doctoral research focuses on community resilience, with her PhD entitled “the Power Community Resilience: a Critical Analysis of Resilience as a Policy Tool in Wales”. Before her PhD studies, Panayiota completed a dual honours degree in Economics and Politics and a masters in conflict, development, and security both at Lancaster University, followed by a master in public policy at the University of Bristol, where she conducted research on co-production in Athens, during the austerity period. Panayiota’s research interests lie in critical policy studies, co-production, innovation, and sustainability.

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Panel 8: Technology and Digital Futures (12.30-14.00)

Three conference paper presentations followed by Q&A –

‘Reimagined Museum Imaginaries: Post-Covid 19 museum practice, futures, and new media’, Sebastian Bustamante-Brauning, University of Bristol

‘The Future-Image: Imagination and Technology from Deleuze to Stiegler’, Glen Melville, Durham University

‘The Future is Now: Virtual Music Performance in the 21st Century’, David Cotter, University of Cambridge

Click on the buttons below to see the abstracts for this event.

 


In 1954, André Malraux conceived of his musée imaginaire (imaginary museum), where  photographic reproductions replaced bricks and mortar museums’ “real” objects. The entrenched  use of new media by museums and heritage organisations, a feature of the “connective turn” in our  memory ecology (Hoskins, 2016, 2011a, 2011b), has dramatically accelerated by the Covid-19  pandemic which necessitated the closure of many museums’ physical spaces. By examining this  acceleration in the uses of new media in heritage organisations, my paper discusses the gains and  losses of replacing physical visits with digital ones. Drawing on longstanding debates around theories of reproductions in museums literature, I dispel the myth that physical museum spaces are  necessarily the more ‘natural’ home for material culture than the digital screen. I look to recent  examples of new media innovation following the Covid-19 pandemic in Latin America to draw  broader conclusions about new media in museology. Although I make a case for the value of digital  reproductions, these cannot, and should not, completely replace the civic space of bricks and mortar  museums. The digital and the physical museum can co-produce engagement with material  culture[s]. The future of new media in heritage has substantially shifted with the pandemic, and now  it is impossible to imagine a future before this shift took place. At this juncture, the role of new media in heritage should be rethought, adjusted, and reimagined.

Speaker:

Sebastian Bustamante-Brauning is a South, West & Wales Doctoral Training Partnership PhD candidate at the University of Bristol & Exeter researching digital memory spaces from Latin America. Sebastian holds an MA in Art History and Theory and a BA in Latin American Studies from the University of Essex and prior to starting his PhD worked as the Assistant Director of the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America where he taught, researched, and lectured on art, politics and the history of Latin America as well as curated displays and organised interdisciplinary symposia, events and learning sessions.  Sebastián’s research interests include photography, art, digital heritage, human rights and memory from Latin America and the interstices between them.

To imagine the future is to form an image of what is yet to come. Barrelling towards climate catastrophe, may we only form apocalyptic images, or can we still project for ourselves better futures? For Bernard Stiegler this forms one of the central questions to which our social and political institutions must respond. It is a question immediately complicated, however, by the accelerated pace of automational technologies, which Stiegler believed could paralyse and erode our imaginative capabilities. If imagination is necessary for the anticipation of sustainable futures, yet placed at risk by automational technologies, then we require a method for at once revitalising imagination and safeguarding it from decay. In his 1985 work L’image-temps [“The Time-Image”], Gilles Deleuze described a mechanism through which automation could in fact allow cinema to provoke creativity. He termed this the « choc sur la pensée » [“shock to thought”]. Cinema, he thought, could displace the limits of imagination by automating the movement of images, and could thereby expand imagination’s ‘range of motion’. Re-integrating Deleuze’s work on cinema into the eco-political problems described by Stiegler, I argue that the cinematic ‘shock to thought’ can serve as a model for the application of contemporary technologies (notably AR and VR design) to the formation of future-images, those which provoke creativity and allow us to project and share in the anticipation of just and sustainable futures.

Speaker:

Glen Melville (they/them) is a PhD student in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University. Their primary research interests include the so-called ‘crises’ of contemporary political imagination, contemporary French philosophy, and the intersection of queer theory and trans* studies.

Writing in 2014, Margaret Barrett observed that ‘Collaborations may occur on a  number of levels and degrees of separation, including those of place, time and  expertise.’1In 2020, the global coronavirus pandemic provoked national lockdowns  around the world, and this in turn motivated a proliferation of remote musical  collaborations. Virtual choirs, orchestras, and ensembles of all shapes and sizes  increased exponentially, using an array of digital technologies to connect performers  across vast physical and temporal distances. However, despite an increasing number  of products designed to address this issue, latency continues to frustrate online  collaborative efforts, and prevents some altogether. Many musicians result to pre recording individual parts, before subsequently stitching musical material together,  but this is far from ‘live’ musical performance.

David Cotter and Marc Estibeiro’s Latent (2021) (for two guitarists and live  electronics) explores the musical possibilities which arise from embracing lag, rather  than embarking on another futile endeavour to eliminate it. A combination of  graphic, musical, and textual notation provide pre-determined parameters for  improvisation. The non-time-critical score allows, and indeed encourages,  interaction between the guitarists and the electronics (a semi-autonomous  SuperCollider patch) in ‘real’ time, without concern for the constraints and  restrictions of latency.

This paper illuminates the approaches taken by creative partnerships operating  remotely, processes of co-performer communication (especially the navigation of  omnidirectional feedback loops in the virtual domain), and the nature of  collaborating ‘online’ in the 21st century.

Speaker:

David Cotter is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Professor John Rink. His research explores co-performer creativity and the guitar as a collaborative instrument. He has presented in Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, The Netherlands, The UK, and The USA. He has also co-organised a conference (University of Cambridge) and built self-playing guitar robots (University of Oslo).

ISCRI - an AI coded by an octopus

ISCRI – An AI coded by an Octopus (14.00-15.00)

Wales-based Digital Research and Design partnership Etic Lab discussed their collaborative project in progress. They are working with artist collective 0rphan Drift and are partnered by the Serpentine Gallery’s Creative AI Lab. The goal is to create an artificial intelligence (AI) that can communicate with an octopus. They talked about how they aim to do this by using artwork based on their research into octopus cognition combined with a non-goal-directed form of machine learning called reinforcement learning, and following a whole-systems approach. This talk introduced Etic Lab’s design philosophy and methods for building collaborative, cross-disciplinary projects.


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Scoping Your Collaborative Digital Project (15.00-17.00)

A consultation with Etic Lab to find out what the possibilities for your research might be! Etic Lab offered consultations to help researchers develop and scope out their ideas for collaborative projects that involve digital technology or creative use of data in some way. Whether you haven’t got a clue, have a barely-legible sketch or a fully developed dream project, we work with you in a small group to start scoping a possible project out. This includes technical and practical advice, drawing on the breadth of the team’s expertise in building collaborative, cross-disciplinary projects enabled or enhanced by digital technology. We pride ourselves on our ability to plan and execute ideas that everyone around you keeps telling you is impossible – test us!

 


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Memory and the Future: Accounting for the Past (15.30-16.30)

Members of the SWW DTP Memory Studies Research Cluster introduced themselves and their research in a roundtable discussion, showcasing the cluster’s strengths and diversity.

Speakers from the research cluster will include: Polly Bence  (University of Bristol), Sebastian Bustamante-Brauning (University of Bristol), Sandy Gale (University of Bristol) and Joanne Rush (Bath Spa). They will speak alongside members of the cluster’s extended network: Mattthew Gault (Queen’s University Belfast), Oliver Hancock (University of Liverpool), Meghan Ison (University of Portsmouth) and Lee Purvis (Queen’s University Belfast)


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The Future of Museums: Culture is Ordinary (17.00-18.00)

Raymond Williams, the son of a railway worker, wrote, “Culture is ordinary, in every society and every mind.”

The UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 states that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the culture life of the community, to enjoy the arts, and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”

An EU 2001 publication states, “A Museum has been described as a way of looking and a way of thinking, a place of stories and ideas. It is a natural and cultural history; a world of objects, memories and the art of living; and a place for debate of all the issues connected with the society we actually live in. The Museum in this sense may exist to some small degree in the building we call a Museum, but most of its resources, it’s nourishment, is to be found outside its walls, mostly in the people in the community in which it is part.”

Suppose these statements are true . . . .

David Anderson, Director of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, gave a short talk on this topic, followed by Q&A.

 


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Festival Close (18.00-18.10)

Closing remarks from the festival organisers and SWWDTP director Robert Vilain


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