Networked Utopias and Speculative Futures

Special Issue for the Fibreculture Journal: Networked Utopias and Speculative Futures :: Editors: Susan Ballard, Zita Joyce and Lizzie Muller :: Call for Proposals — Deadline: February 20, 2011

Since most of history’s giant trees have already been cut down, a new Ark will have to be constructed out of the materials that a desperate humanity finds at hand in insurgent communities, pirate technologies, bootlegged media, rebel science and forgotten utopias. — Mike Davis “Who Will Build an Ark: The Utopian Imperative in an Age of Catastrophe” in Telepolis

For many centuries the dawn of the new millennium – the year 2000 – epitomised the future to come. The twentieth century raced eagerly towards this most dazzling of dates fuelled by the cult of modernity and the turbo-charged transformations of globalisation and digital communication. Now, a decade past the threshold of what was meant to be the future, we look up, blinking, and find ourselves gazing at a terrifying void. This particular set of historical circumstances means that we are living in a time where our present actions are steadily destroying our own future. This issue of the Fibreculture Journal asks, as we struggle to imagine what the next decades may bring, is this any time to think about Utopia?

The rhetoric of utopia is well-worn territory, explored from one magnificent boundary to the other, and now requires new treatments according to the impact of networked cultures and digital media. Historically, utopian societies are often portrayed as physical spaces, bordered and isolated in some way from other social structures. However, the utopian effort to make things better has been a core activity for networked communities and social groups operating both on and offline. In the techno-utopian world of the 1990s communities formed around the emergence of the world wide web. These moments of intensive thought formed genealogies for our current dreams of the network. New tools of networked cultures and digital media open up possibilities for imagining, mapping, reaching towards, narrating, and critiquing models of the future. In the space between ever-hopeful techno-futurism and the realities of a world forever changed by the pursuit of the resources required to fuel it, how can the concept of networked utopias help us speculate on the future?

This issue of the Fibreculture Journal brings together studies in networked communities with novel, historical and creative approaches to utopia in order to examine the productivity of future-thinking from our present location. The network may be technical and interpersonal, a mesh of servers and routers, connectivity, participation, creation, and support. It may exist in the physical location of its infrastructure, in a shared no-place of communication, or both. It is as much a body as an event. What then is the relationship between an idealistic transcendent no-place, and the embodied realities and contingencies of the changing world in which our selves and our technologies are actually located? How have current practices broken down this opposition between virtual and real? We ask: is it possible to create more sustainable narratives out of the current moment, and explore imaginative solutions on the verge of near-future crisis?

We invite papers that look at the convergence of technology and foresight; forethought, imaginings, and speculation. We seek research that explores the future worlds, experiences, technologies, peoples and events of networked technology. We are romantics dreaming of wishworlds; networked utopias and connections hovering between time, place, and being.

Topics and papers might include discussions of:

– internet DIY
– experimental communalism (on and off-line)
– economic collectivism
– studies in prototypes
– speculation on alternative futures in media arts
– grass roots community organisation: free software, DIY, neo-liberalism, survivalist modes
– the technological sublime
– the Internet of Things
– communities and architectures formed around media technologies
– radio as a harbinger of things from the future
– technofeminist utopias / cyberfeminism / feminist science fiction
– social / ethical / experiments
– the technosublime
– studies in futurism (past/ historical/ present)
– speculation and future imagining
– digital speculative objects, prototypes, thought experiments etc.
– the deficiency of the actual
– the space race
– dystopia
– hope
– cloaning, cloaking and invisibility
– deferring the future
– apocalypse
– curation of/ for the future
– speculative social / ethical / technological experiments – either real (lived) or imagined, fictionalised or proposed
– networked community formation or disintegration
– the angel of history – historical networked utopias
– dreams of ubiquitous connectivity, of communication and connection
– transcendent myths of wirelessness
– Web 3.0, 4.0 5.0…
– re-enactments and wistful thinking
– imaginary museums
– industrial utopias: the Ford Motor company, The Bata shoe factory, Phillips’ forbidden city
– The EPCOT centre
– cold war science fictions
– incomprehensible technologies
– robots
– military research & development
– information design
– open-source cultures and ‘free’ media
– biospheres
– cities of the future
– optimism and cynicism in post war culture

All contributors and editors must read the guidelines before working with the Fibreculture Journal.

Important Dates:

Abstract deadline: February 20, 2011
Article deadline: May 30, 2011
Publication aimed for: November, 2011

email correspondence for this issue:

Susan dot Ballard at op dot ac dot nz
lizzie at lizziemuller dot com
zita dot joyce at canterbury dot ac dot nz

Nov 20, 12:47
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