Monday, April 16, 2018

Cultures of Participation: Arts, Digital Media and Politics

I'm looking forward to presenting this week at a conference titled Cultures of Participation – Arts, Digital Media and Politics at Aarhus University in Denmark. Here's the conference blurb:
Over the last decade cultural participation and cultures of participation have received increased (and renewed) attention within different academic disciplines, cultural institutions and societal sectors – and over time also more critical reflection. On policy levels, citizen participation and engagement are emphasized as key components of democratic societies and these policies are currently being practiced and put to work at cultural institutions and cultural houses, in artistic production, in architectural and urban ‘smart city’ designs and various digital media spaces. But what are the characteristics of cultural participation and how do these manifest themselves in cultures of participation?
There are some intriguing-sounding presentations listed, including keynotes by Lisanne Gibson on "Museums and Participation – Who Goes (and Who Doesn’t)?," Shannon Jackson on "Civic Re-Enactment and Public Re-Assembly," and Zizi Papacharissi on "Affective Publics: News Storytelling, Sentiment and Twitter."

Here's the abstract for my talk, part of the session "Body, Health Technologies and Participation." 

Imagination, Inoculation and the Cosmopolitics of Co-immunity 

Shadowpox is a research-creation doctoral dissertation testing a science fiction fantasy framework for young adults' imaginative civic engagement and public health problem-solving. Its participatory storyworld posits a new disease, a virus composed of living shadow. Augmented-reality technology projection-maps the fictional pathogen onto the actor’s body using live-animated digital effects, and an online video portal, the International Shadowpox Research Network, chronicles the testing of a new vaccine at the height of a pandemic, through the eyes of laboratory trial volunteers whose stories are co-created by drama students in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

The Shadowpox project explores co-immunity (also called community or herd immunity), a participatory biomedical effect created when enough individuals in a community are vaccinated to make it difficult for a disease to travel from person to person. This population-level protection is achieved not by the actions of a single hero, but by the dragon-slaying courage of hundreds of thousands. Yet public participation in co-immunity has been undermined in recent years by a polarized social media debate over the validity of the scientific consensus on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, rooted in a complex mix of ancient fears and modern anxieties.

The first half of this talk critically reflects on the procedural rhetoric of phase one of the project, Shadowpox: The Antibody Politic, a full-body video game exhibited during the 2017 World Health Assembly in Geneva. Then, moving from the casual participation of gallery game-play into the more complex augmented reality role-play of the current second phase, Shadowpox: The Cytokine Storm, the presentation will interrogate the superhero genre as a storytelling and narrative analysis framework for young adults’ exploration of affect, belonging, and the cosmopolitics of voluntary participation in the collective good.

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