Signal Effects: Digital Ecologies and the Anthropocene

The Media Convergence Research Centre at Bath Spa University is proud to host the first Signal Effects symposium titled Digital Ecologies and the Anthropocene, which will take place on Friday April 28th 2017. We are interested in submissions from researchers, artists, filmmakers, writers and theorists whose work connects with the overall themes and strands of the symposium. 

Media Convergence Research Centre, Bath Spa University

One-Day Symposium: Friday April 28th 2017

In August 2016 the International Geological Congress declared that a new geological epoch known as the Anthropocene needs to be declared due to the fact that the human impact on the earth is now so profound. Timothy Morton uses the term ‘hyperobjects’ to discuss some of the characteristics of the anthropocene and why it is often invisible to the human: he notes that hyperobjects are 'so massively distributed in time, space and dimensionality' that they defy our perception, let alone our comprehension, therefore the condition of the anthropocene is easily ignored. Among the examples Morton gives are climate change and radioactive plutonium. 'In one sense [hyperobjects] are abstractions,' he notes, 'in another they are ferociously, catastrophically real.'

Another of these ‘hyperobjects’ relates to the human relationship with machines and we can trace their impact on the earth back to the invention of the steam engine in 1781 by James Watt and its deposits of carbon on the earth’s crust. But today’s contemporary technologies appear to be different and are crucial to enabling human life and culture to function as well as realising the production and distribution processes of capital. They also provide us with useful tools for visualising processes such as climate change and tracking the earth’s own movements and seismic activity.

However, the notion of these technologies being ‘clean’ or ‘virtual’ is soon unraveled by tracing their material realities which are made up of complex meshes of human and non-human moving parts. Today’s machines are heavily enabled by the extraction of raw materials, the use of fossil fuels and the production of material waste at sites such as Guiyu, China which has been called ‘the electronic graveyard of the world’.

In her book Digital Rubbish, Jennifer Gabrys notes that the electronic extends from technologies to markets and to modes of waste, decay and disintegration, articulating the relation between the signal and the thing and how they are bound into a shared material process. The history of the internet and today’s pervasive media technologies is also closely tied to the study of the earth and an observation of the ecological. It emerges from the development of military and nuclear technologies, the conception of cybernetics and the design of self-governing computer systems with built in feedback loops. These machines and systems end up as actors within a complex mesh of networks, hyperobjects, production processes, waste disposal and notions of deep time.

In terms of responses to these conditions Christophe Bonneuil describes the 'shock of the Anthropocene' as a space for generating new political arguments, new modes of behaviour, new narratives, new languages and new creative forms and this symposium is focused on bringing some of these emerging discourses to the surface across theory and practice.

Building on these issues, proposal topics may address, but are not limited to:

  • The Anthropocene and forms of waste
  • Digital ecologies, hyperobjects and new materialities
  • Deep time and new temporalities
  • Creative strategies and approaches

Please send proposals (300 words approx.) for all papers, artworks or screenings – outlining their aim and form – along with a short biography to the symposium coordinator: Charlie Tweed ( by no later than Friday 24th February 2017.

The Media Convergence Research Centre interrogates the creativity, culture and enterprise of the media in the changing landscape of convergence, re-thinking the potentials of merging media practices, representations, technologies, industries and audiences everywhere. The Centre operates around four research clusters: Digital Materialities, Film & Social Context, Play, and Transmedia Industries.

Published Jan. 24, 2017 5:54 PM - Last modified Apr. 1, 2020 12:42 PM