VIU Arts and Humanities series probes nature of communities

February 16, 2010 - 8:29am

There is a scene in the Oscar-nominated film Up in the Air where two corporate

high-flyers compare the merits of various airline and hotel loyalty plans

before romance and inevitable complications ensue.

The plans, with their easy to use membership cards, are one example

of the evolving types of communities that are being examined by faculty of Vancouver Island University’s Media

Studies Department, English Department, and Graphic Design Program and Creative

Writing student Alison Pitcher.

“It’s an exercise to think about what is changing in our

culture and our society,” said Doug Stetar, chair of Media Studies at VIU and

one of the presenters of the Arts and Humanities colloquium Process over Product : : Collaboration and

Machine Communities.

“We look at the Internet and social media and the way people

travel now and we see groups and communities forming that never could have

formed in the past,” Stetar said. “At the same time, we feel our local

communities are under threat.”

VIU’s Literary Theory Research Group and the Datastream

Media Collective are collaborating to examine the nature of communities through

a variety of inter-disciplinary approaches. The inter-disciplinary approach to

the colloquium is one of the key ways to break down barriers and allow the

participants to take a broader perspective at societal issues.

“We need to have a conversation about what’s going on in

society and how much we know about what is going on,” Stetar said.

Participants will provide a look at their works in progress

at VIU’s Library Boardroom 10 to 11:30 am Friday, Feb. 19. The presentations

are free and open to the public. The projects will be shown in more complete

form in May.

The collaborations between theorist/writers and digital

artist/practitioners are inspired by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben,

author of The Coming Community. The

concept of “machine communities” reflects the kinds of associations created by

corporations, governments and others that use technology such as databases. 

Among the works are:

Desire & Machines: Auralizing Community by English

professor Daniel Burgoyne, Digital Media Technology professor Robin Davies, third-year

English and Creative Writing student Alison Pitcher, and Digital Media

Technology professor Marian van der Zon. Examples of historical and

live aural machine communities will be used to show human-machine interactions and

their impact.

Knitting: A Community

by Graphics Design

technician Kevin Mazutinec and English professor Frances Sprout. This explores how the

ancient craft of knitting is influenced by the evolution of online websites

such as where old-fashioned knitting circles have been replaced by

a database with more than half a million members.

 Archival Machine Communities & the

State of Exception
by English professor Richard Lane and Digital Media

Studies chair Doug Stetar. This collaborative video probes themes such as

forces colliding, shifting rules and the horrific example of community evident

during the Shoah or Holocaust.


For more information, contact Katharina Rout (

or Helen Brown (

Tags: In the Community

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