Tag Archive: ecocriticism

CFP: SLSA 2013 at Notre Dame

Sadly, I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll be able to make this year’s SLSA, even though the theme of the “postnatural” is right up my alley! Passing the CFP along for others….

The 27th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA)

VENUE: The Campus of the University of Notre Dame
DATES: October 3-6, 2013


SLSA 2013 Site Organizer: Laura Dassow Walls, University of Notre Dame (lwalls@nd.edu)
Program Chair: Ron Broglio, Arizona State University (ronbroglio@gmail.com)


What does it mean to come “after” nature? In 2012, Arctic ice melted to the lowest level in human history; with ice everywhere in retreat, island nations are disappearing, species vectors are shifting, tropical diseases are moving north, northern natures-cultures are moving into extinction. Acidification of ocean water already threatens Northwest shellfish farms, while historic wildfires, droughts, floods, and shoreline erosion are the norm. Reality overshoots computer models of global warming even as CO2 emissions escalate. Yet none of this has altered our way of living or our way of thinking: as Fredric Jameson noted, we can imagine the collapse of the planet more easily than the fall of capitalism. What fundamental reorientations of theory—of posthumanity and animality, of agency, actants, and aporias, of bodies, objects, assemblages and networks, of computing and cognition, of media and bioart—are needed to articulate the simple fact that our most mundane and ordinary lives are, even in the span of our own lifetimes, unsustainable? If we have never been natural, are we now, at last, ecological?

Proposals and papers on the theme or on any other SLSA-related topic are welcome. Proposed topics may take up any work in literature and science, history of science, philosophy of science, science and art, or science studies. “Postnatural” has been chosen as a theme to organize ongoing conference threads and to invite a range of proposals from various dimensions of ecocriticism and environmental literature and history.

Presentation proposals will be accepted through the SLSA website http://www.litsci.org, beginning in February, 2013. Individual proposals consist of a 250-word abstract with title. Pre-organized panels for consideration can contain an additional summary paragraph along with proposed session title.

SLSA MEMBERSHIP: Participants in the 2013 conference must be 2013 members of the Society for Literature Science and the Arts. For more information about SLSA, please visit the organization website at www.litsci.org.

More Reasons to Love ASLE

I was already a fan of ASLE (AZ-lee) before I attended the ninth biennial conference this year in Bloomington, Indiana. After all, one of my very first conference experiences took place in Chichester, England in 2004 with a tiny group of ASLE-UK academics, poets, and environmentalists. At that time, I was busy getting the word out that nature documentary was a genre worth studying in terms of its visual and masking rhetorics, and my best buddy at the conference turned out to be a German graduate student working on Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (I’ll never think of pork in the same way again).

Years later, a couple of veteran SLS and ASLE members approached me after my talk at SLSA 2009 in Atlanta and encouraged me to bring the work to the next U.S. ASLE, at that point nearly two years away. While my co-panelist lovingly described player agency and creativity in Quake through mastery of a semi-hack “strafe” jump for our miniscule audience, I felt a growing dread that my own topic, the representation of scientific principles in digital gameplay (using Will Wright’s game Spore and the evolution vs. intelligent design framework), would seem esoteric at best. So ASLE Pauline, thank you! I was secretly relieved that someone, anyone, actually wanted to hear more.

And that brings me to this year’s ASLE, from which I have just returned, laden down with evidence of the association’s goodwill. Still somewhat concerned that my emphasis on technology would rub the naturalist bent of the core ASLE constituency the wrong way, I was surprised and flattered to receive both a Graduate Travel Award and the Graduate Student Paper Award for best scholarly paper. Though I didn’t get to meet all of them or shake their hands, I’d like to thank paper judges C.A. Cranston, Carmen Flys-Junquera, and Greg Garrard, as well as Awards coordinator Tom Lynch, and the Travel Awards Committee members (Annie Ingram, Sarah Jaquette Ray, Tom Hillard, and Chia-ju Chang). And of course, managing director Amy McIntyre, without whose gentle hint I may have missed the award presentation entirely, and president Ursula Heise.

As if all this was not enough, I was blessed to room with and present alongside Melody Jue of Duke, who spoke about Google Ocean and the experience of diving, and who has given me a long list of wonderful marine-related must-reads. My colleague Danielle Christianson of UC Berkeley was unable to attend at the last minute, but we presented her work on imaging a forest transect in Sequoia and I am always grateful to bend a working ecologist’s ear. Last but not least, I was thankful to share that Birch dorm quad with Katrina Dodson of UC Berkeley, as well, for Katrina was the incredibly open-minded guest editor of the Qui Parle special issue on ecocriticism that just came out featuring a sample of my work on games as environmental objects. It was rewarding for me to see Katrina acknowledged for all her grueling work on that issue, a true labor of love, and I hope that the issue and my own writing make their way into classrooms and instigate new pedagogical approaches.

So as I sit here at my desk in a miasma of toner-scented air, having just printed out a stack of final papers to grade, I am already looking back fondly on the events of the past week and looking forward to the next installment!

Coming Up: Designed Environments Panel at ASLE

If you’re interested in the digital mediation of nature and planning on attending this year’s Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE) conference at Indiana University in Bloomington, come check out the following panel that I put together and say hello:

G13. Designed Environments: Public Landscapes, Digital Ecologies, and the Visualization of Complexity
(Traditional Panel/Scholarly; Stream 11)

Friday, June 24, 2011

8:30 – 10:00AM


Alenda Chang, Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley, “Your Cow is 90% Ready: Back to the Virtual Farm”

Danielle Svehla Christianson, Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley, “Seeing the forest for the trees: Using digital environments in ecological science and education”

Melody Jue, Literature, Duke University, “Google Oceans: Virtually Representing Ocean Space”

Panel Description:

Conventional environmentalism and what Lawrence Buell has described as “first-wave ecocriticism” have generally been susceptible to criticisms that what counts as “nature” or “natural” has tended to exclude designed landscapes as well as modes of mediated interaction that purportedly detract from direct experience of the natural world. However, as populations continue to shift toward urban centers and modern media gain unprecedented entry into everyday life, it seems increasingly vital to turn our attention to nature as a mediated experience, whether that mediation takes the form of the city skyline, the public park, climate models, Google Earth, or popular game environments.

Our panel brings together diverse perspectives—environmental design, game studies, economics, ecology and marine biology, and science education—in an attempt to trouble the often assumed divisions between the natural and the technological (what we could also call the real and the virtual). Chang’s work reveals how the issue of right environmental relations can arise even in the unlikely realms of online gaming, particularly the recent spate of “farm” simulation games. Christianson’s work speaks to how technological visualizations may overlay reality in ways that make it easier, not harder, to understand the complexities of ecological interdependence. And Jue’s work explores the increasing “digitalization” of the world’s oceans through a detailed consideration of Google Ocean.

Our work deliberately juxtaposes these various analog and digital natures in order to demonstrate their often uneasy but just as often gratifying complementarity—the virtuality inherent to the real and reality’s subsistence in the virtual.