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The Dick Bubble

Yesterday I gave a talk at an all-day symposium, “Philip K. Dick in the OC: Virtually Real, Really Virtual,” the opening segment of the 2016 Acacia Conference on Dick. I had been looking forward to it greatly, and there were a good many informative moments, such as a talk by UC Riverside’s Lisa Raphals on Dick’s use of Asian characters and tropes, which mainly focused on his use of the I Ching. My own paper drew on my background in techno-arts and forgery studies to look at the relationship between art, techne, and authenticity in the writings of Dick and William Gibson.

I thought I’d post about it here because in several respects it was unlike any symposium I have ever participated in. Overall, it was a strangely airless event in which few references were made to anything outside of what I came to think of as the Dick Bubble. Apart from my own talk, only one other addressed more recent writers or events—an interesting joint talk by UC Riverside’s Sherryl Vint and UC Irvine’s Jonathan Alexander on post-9/11 allusions in the TV version of The Man in the High Castle. I connect this restricted field of discussion with the fact that there was almost no direct criticism of Dick’s writing apart from Lisa Raphals, who brought up the superficiality with which Dick sometimes referred to Asia, and brief references by Sherryl Vint and myself to issues with Dick’s depiction of women. (At one point I touched on the link between female puberty and violence in Luba Luft’s murder in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and someone approached to me afterwards about this precise section of my paper—but only to ask why I had left out an extremely minor detail.) I am no specialist in science fiction, and I found myself wondering where were the science fiction scholars who could have upped the critical-historical-theoretical ante on Dick’s writing? Perhaps they’re attending the next phase of the Acacia Conference, taking place today at Cal State Fullerton; at least I hope so.

The whole event had a distinct aura of hagiography, which may have been partly due to the number of people present who had known and liked Dick—at least four by my count, and probably more. During the post-talk Q&A sessions, commenters often opened with some variation of “Phil Dick once said to me…”—and these tangential remarks left little space for substantive dialogue. The only women science fiction writers I can recall being mentioned during the entire day— James Tiptree, Jr., and Ursula Le Guin—were brought up in some context having to do with how they knew Dick rather than anything they wrote. It was as if science fiction as a field ended in 1982 with Dick’s death.

Just as troubling in a different way was the panel during which one of Dick’s former wives, Tessa Dick, and one of his former lovers, Grania Davis, shared friendly reminiscences about life with Philip Dick. Their remarks were fairly disjointed, and for the most part they steered away from discussing the writing itself, instead detailing patterns of daily life and sharing anodyne anecdotes. I could sense no real interest in the women themselves—both of whom are writers in their own right and have already published plenty of Dick reminiscences elsewhere. It was hard not to conclude that they were present as living databases that might, with luck, spew forth a hitherto unknown nugget of Dick lore that could be embedded in somebody’s thesis on Agoraphobic Constructions: Habitat in the Writing of Philip K. Dick (or whatever). At one point it was suggested that to reduce audience confusion over all the insider name dropping, a chronological list of Dick’s five wives be written on the whiteboard above Tessa Dick and Grania Davis—and that this would be a terrific photo op. Later someone reminded the audience that the two women would be speaking again today at Cal State Fullerton, saying: “I’m sure they haven’t used up all their gossip.”

So: if you’re a male academic/writer and knew Dick, you’re an authority on his life and work; while if you’re a woman who knew Dick, you’re a gossip?

DAC 2009

The international Digital Arts and Cultures conference is being held at UC Irvine this year, Dec. 12-19. Subtitled “after media: embodiment and context” it looks like being an exciting event. Among the dozens of presenters and session leaders are Nell Tenhaaf,  Andrea Polli, Nina Czegledy, and Katherine Hayles. There is an associated exhibition at the Beall Center for Art and Technology, as well as a concert. Come one, come all…

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Virginia Tech Conference on Gender, Bodies, and Technology

CFP also here
Virginia Tech’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program welcomes you to
GENDER, BODIES AND TECHNOLOGY.

This upcoming conference, scheduled for April 22-24, 2010, at the historic Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia, will showcase scholarship that explores the role of technologies, broadly defined, in constructing, reinforcing and destabilizing gendered bodies. As an assemblage of people and technologies, we view the conference itself as an enactment of this theme. Proposals for presentations, including performance art and new media as well as traditional text-based formats, are welcome from scholars in all disciplines. The topics that we anticipate exploring include, but are by no means limited to: new media and feminist aesthetics; gendered in/security and technologies of surveillance; technologies of development and eco-feminism; and the gendered production, design and deployment of technologies. (See the Call for Proposals for more information.)

The conference includes a keynote address by Jennifer Terry; a new, one-woman performance piece on aging and body image featuring Sue Ott Rowlands; and a plenary showcasing examples of new media and performance art that engage gender, bodies and technology through….gender, bodies and technology. The conference format is designed to be inclusive, provocative, and sociable. Continental breakfasts, buffet lunches, and evening receptions are included in the registration fee.

The Gender, Bodies and Technology conference grows out of a new, interdisciplinary research initiative at Virginia Tech, sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, which brings together scholars from Computer Science, Education, English, Science and Technology Studies, Sociology, Theater Arts, Visual Arts, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Our research interests include, among other topics, gender and aging bodies, flexible laboring bodies and immigrant workplaces, performance and new media as technologies for destabilizing gendered embodiments, gendered access to technology fields such as engineering, and writing as a technology of power. We envision the conference as a means to expand our lively internal discussions to a wider group of scholars.

For more information about substantive aspects of the conference or the Gender, Bodies and Technology initiative, please contact:

Barbara Ellen Smith, Director
Women’s and Gender Studies Program (0227)
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Email: smithbe@vt.edu

For more information about conference registration and accommodations, please contact:

Dinah Girma , Virginia Tech Conference Registrar
Continuing and Professional Education
702 University City Blvd. (0364)
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Email: dinah@vt.edu

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Gender on Ice

Gender on Ice (great title) is an upcoming conference at Barnard College, New York (Nov. 20-21) focusing on “the intersection of science, policy, race, and gender in the way the Arctic and Antarctic are studied, represented, inhabited, and imagined.” Participants come from an unusually wide array of disciplines — photography, women’s studies, astronomy, filmmaking, philosophy, art history, geography, environmental studies, science writing — so it looks to be an interesting conversation at the very least.

The conference kicks off with a screening of True North, a film about Matthew Henson, the first African-American to explore the Arctic with Robert Peary in 1909. For more information, check the Gender on Ice website.

Anyone going to CSCW or AAA?

Going to Computer Supported Cooperative Work 2008 in San Diego next week and interested in meeting up?

Going to American Anthropological Association in SF Nov 19-23 and want to meet up?

Email blogladies [at] differenceengines.com and we’ll set something up! Exciting, nerdy, and hopefully productive conversations about feminism, technoculture, sts, design, and research awaits!

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National Center for Women and Information Technology meeting Nov 6-7 in Irvine

If you’re around Irvine, NCWIT is having their bi-annual meeting focusing on the multiplicity of pathways that can lead to successful IT careers. See the program and RSVP

The talks will mix research findings and practical anecdotes and its unlikely that the participants are reading much feminist theory, but this community is one of the places that is trying to think through and change access to higher education in technical fields so they matter and probably have some practice-based knowledge.

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Traversing digital boundaries: HASTAC III announced

The Humanities, Arts, and Sciences Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) has announced its third conference, themed traversing digital boundaries. It will take place April 19-21 at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne.

What kinds of “digital boundaries” do people seem to recognize as consequential?

There’s the whole online/offline thing which privileges one sort of authentic embodiment over another form of interaction. There’s class, which Eszter Hargittai and danah boyd have investigated in MySpace and Facebook. There’s the promise of racial boundaries being rendered inconsequential by the New Yorker’s cartoon “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” and Lisa Nakamura’s arguments that racial types are alive, well, and being reproduced on the internet.

This should be an interesting conference.

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