Dissertation Defense Nadia de Vries: Digital Corpses: Creation, Appropriation, and Reappropriation

Nadia de Vries | University of Amsterdam | Digital Corpses: Creation, Appropriation, and Reappropriation

Supervisors: Prof. Esther Peeren and Prof. Ellen Rutten

Now that everyday human life, including dying, is increasingly intertwined with digital technologies and online cultures, it is important to understand how this entanglement affects existing social norms, including those that relate to death. These social norms do not only pertain to our mourning practices (the honoring and remembering of lost loved ones on Facbook and Instagram, for example) but also to the ways in which we encounter – and engage with – images of death. Due to the large-scale shareability and malleability of online images, however, such images of death are also vulnerable to various forms of abuse. This research project focuses on three forms of such abuse – creation, appropriation and reappropriation – and investigates the power dynamics between living bodies and dead bodies that these forms of abuse reveal. Who, for instance, is the owner of a dead body once that dead body is turned into a digital image? Who is responsible for what happens to this dead body – as ‘corpse-image’ – as a result of its digitization? And what does the ease with which such a ‘digital corpse’ is created, appropriated or reappropriated say about the agency that the dead themselves have in a digital context? Through an analysis of six digital images of dead and dying bodies, found on social media and online shock sites but also in contemporary art and journalism (such as the infamous Falling Man image that was published in the aftermath of 9/11), this dissertation offers an answer to these questions.

Defense date:

Wednesday 2 December 2020, 14:00, Aula – Oude Lutherse Kerk (Singel 411), University of Amsterdam

Nadia de Vries is a writer and cultural researcher. Between 2016 and 2020, she conducted her PhD research at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). She is the author of the critical memoir Kleinzeer (Uitgeverij Pluim, 2019; in Dutch) and the poetry collection Dark Hour (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2018; in English). She also frequently writes essays, poems, and stories for a variety of literary platforms. Her debut novel will be published by Uitgeverij Pluim in 2021.

New PhD: Sanaz Afshin, An Exploratory Study on Theatre Interventions with Refugees in the Netherlands

This research project revolves around the use of theatre as a tool for supporting the process of integration of refugees. Doing an in-depth examination of applied theatre projects made with/by/about refugees, the main goal of the research is to explore to what extent these projects have been effective in terms of facilitating refugees’ integration. By focusing on four case studies that took place in the Netherlands, this research will address issues around the evaluation strategies, aesthetics, challenges, and ethics of these projects in order to provide a better understanding of applied theatre interventions with refugees. An important attempt of the research will be to integrate the voices of refugees themselves within this debate by listening to their reflections about their participation in such projects.

Dissertation Defense Nadia de Vries: Digital Corpses: Creation, Appropriation, and Reappropriation

Now that everyday human life, including dying, is increasingly intertwined with digital technologies and online cultures, it is important to understand how this entanglement affects existing social norms, including those that relate to death. These social norms do not only pertain to our mourning practices (the honoring and remembering of lost loved ones on Facbook and Instagram, for example) but also to the ways in which we encounter – and engage with – images of death. Due to the large-scale shareability and malleability of online images, however, such images of death are also vulnerable to various forms of abuse. This research project focuses on three forms of such abuse – creation, appropriation and reappropriation – and investigates the power dynamics between living bodies and dead bodies that these forms of abuse reveal. Who, for instance, is the owner of a dead body once that dead body is turned into a digital image? Who is responsible for what happens to this dead body – as ‘corpse-image’ – as a result of its digitization? And what does the ease with which such a ‘digital corpse’ is created, appropriated or reappropriated say about the agency that the dead themselves have in a digital context? Through an analysis of six digital images of dead and dying bodies, found on social media and online shock sites but also in contemporary art and journalism (such as the infamous Falling Man image that was published in the aftermath of 9/11), this dissertation offers an answer to these questions.

Defense date: Wednesday 2 December 2020, 14:00 | Aula – Oude Lutherse Kerk (Singel 411) | University of Amsterdam

Nadia de Vries is a writer and cultural researcher. Between 2016 and 2020, she conducted her PhD research at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). She is the author of the critical memoir Kleinzeer (Uitgeverij Pluim, 2019; in Dutch) and the poetry collection Dark Hour (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2018; in English). She also frequently writes essays, poems, and stories for a variety of literary platforms. Her debut novel will be published by Uitgeverij Pluim in 2021.

New PhD: Florence Evans, Imaginative Visions of Traumatic Heritage in Argentina

The project is concerned with showing how memory is performed and productively re-visioned by artists, cultural producers and spectators belonging to a generation born after Argentina’s last civil-military dictatorship (1976-1983). Tracing across cultural forms of heritage and memory practices, I seek to prove a relationship between certain aesthetic practices in the 21st century and coeval engagements with codified ideations of trauma, witnessing and perpetration that are rooted in catastrophic events of the dictatorship era. The results of my study will contribute to understandings of the transferral/reception and imaginative refashioning of memory in the “postgeneration”.

“We are all in this together” – Connectivity and Community in Isolation

“We are all in this together” – Connectivity and Community in Isolation

ASCA Workshop 2021, 23-25 June 2021, (Wed to Fri).

Organizers: Jori Snels and Lok Yee Wong

Keynote speakers

  • Prof. dr. Lance Bennett, University of Washington
  • Dr. Alexandra Segerberg, Uppsala University
  • Prof. dr. Iris van der Tuin, Utrecht University
  • Prof. dr. Sally Wyatt, Maastricht University

As our global crisis continues, it seems that the social order and our sense of self is changing. We celebrate family birthdays via Skype, demonstrate for social justice on Instagram, and visit art exhibitions in Animal Crossing; meanwhile, we are condemned to living twenty-four hours a day with our partners, roommates or alone, in a home turned office, habituated to uncertainty and fear. Through this experience, we have become keenly aware of both digital technologies’ previously untapped potentialities for connecting us and their seemingly unbridgeable boundaries; we are learning to live in and with entrapment, experiencing both unprecedented distance and closeness.

How can we mourn, how can we protest, how can we engage deeply, when we cannot show up with our bodies, when we cannot step out of our homes? As David Harvey stated in ‘We need a collective response to the collective dilemma of coronavirus’: “I am in a frustrating position of personal isolation, at a moment when the time calls for collective forms of action.”

We want to use this moment to start thinking about how to overcome or reconfigure distancing and isolation from the perspective of embodied connectivity and the embodiment of connectivity. Bennett and Segerberg’s (2012) studies on social connectivity shed insightful light on people’s civic and political participation with digital media as organizing agents. In today’s world, apart from mass protests, connectivity pervades our everyday practices. More than a logic to organize and coordinate online actions, it is increasingly intertwined with our offline world, including our affectivity and bodily experiences. As Van Dijck has stated (2013), the layer of platforms influences human interaction on an individual and a community level, as well as on a larger societal level, as online and offline worlds are increasingly interpenetrating (p. 4). How does embodiment, in its entanglement with connectivity, prompt us to rethink ourselves and our societies for the future ‘new normal’?

In the 2021 ASCA workshop, we seek to interrogate the notions of connectivity and community in all facets of society – both empirically and theoretically – through four broad, interconnected themes: 1. technology, 2. mobility, 3. activism, 4. creativity. We zoom in on these four themes to reimagine power structures, technological infrastructures, and social systems, and to explore what we may learn from the creative forms of embodied connectivity and embodiment of connectivity we encounter as we move into the future. We welcome papers from all fields within the humanities and social sciences, including artistic research.

Please submit your abstract (max. 300 words) and bio (max. 100 words) via the submission form by 30 November 2020. (If you have trouble accessing the submission form, you may instead e-mail your abstract, bio, and contact information to ascaworkshop2021@gmail.com.)

We intend to hold the workshop in the physical space of Amsterdam, but if this is not possible due to COVID-19 related restrictions, the workshop will take place in online or hybrid form. In any case, we are going to try our best to find creative ways to connect, to communicate, and to be together.

Themes:

  1. Technology

How is sociality affected by and how does it in turn affect rising technologies and platforms such as TikTok, Zoom, 5G, and virtual reality? How are technologies used or adapted to support the emergence of a stay-at-home economy? What roles do technologies play in supporting or thwarting connectivity in times of crisis? Who is included and who is excluded in mediated connectivity? In what ways are social identities and communities determined by the technological tools that sustain them, and how is the future of technological connectivity imagined?

  1. Mobility
    How are subjectivities re-determined by (im)mobility? Who is excluded when governments restrict mobility? How does a lack of mobility change the definition of what it means to connect? What forms of mobility between physical and virtual communities have been developed? What can we learn from the relation between (im)mobility and connectivity for the globalized world of the future?
  2. Activism

In what ways is activism changing in these times of crisis, when the possibility to make embodied connections is limited? What ways have activism movements found to get around those limitations? What role do online platforms play in supporting activist communities in times of a pandemic? How do online protests and bodily protests in the street connect with each other? What forms of intersectional activism have been able to grow?

  1. Creativity

How have cultural institutions, artists, performers and content creators been able to form, sustain, or improve connections with their communities when meeting in person was not possible? What roles can cultural institutions play in providing online places for respite or engagement? What new forms of being together are conceptualized through creative encounters?

The 2021 ASCA International Workshop is organized by Lok Yee Wong (yveswly@gmail.com) and Jori Snels (j.snels@uva.nl).