A gif with the phrase "Contested Freedoms" being twisted and distorted in various ways, then returning to normal.

May 10, 2022 | Vancouver and online

The first annual CONDUITS Conference took place on May 10, 2022. CONDUITS was made possible thanks to the support of the faculty and staff at SFU's School of Communication, the caterers, internet technology professionals, and other support staff at SFU's Harbour Centre campus, and most importantly, the work of the members of the Conference Organizing Committee. This year's Conference Organizing Committee was led by Mark Dunn. 

2022 Conference Organizing Committee member names, programs, and areas of focus:

Mark James Dunn, MA student, conference leader, vibe curator and chief mixologist

Thomas Dickson, MA student, outreach coordinator, event producer, reviewer, and DJ

Prem Sylvester, MA student, writer

Ryland Shaw, MA student, graphic designer, motion designer, web designer and photographer 

Melanie Vidakis, MA student, graphic designer, event producer and reviewer

Catherine Jeffery, MA student, graphic designer, web designer and reviewer

Julia Werkman, MA student, writer

From left: Ryland Shaw, Mark Dunn, Thomas Dickson, Melanie Vidakis, Prem Sylvester, Cat Jeffery

The 2022 Call for Proposals document can be found here

Thank you to everyone who presented at and attended the 2022 CONDUITS Conference. The schedule of events, presenter bios and abstracts, and other information is listed below. 






KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Dr. Vincent Mosco

Freedom, Utopia and the Metaverse


Narratives, Beauty & Embodiment

Panel Chair: Dr. Victoria Thomas

“Pure complexion, firm flesh, and mental delicacy”: 

American Tracks
Ryland Shaw, Simon Fraser University

Public transit versus the auto industry. Foreign collectivism versus American individualism. The twentieth century hosted a vicious, secret battle for the American daily commute. Using archival footage and kinetic editing, this short documentary investigates the orchestrated disappearance of mass transit and how it mediated a larger cultural shift in the American identity. 

Ryland received his bachelor’s degree in Communication and Documentary Studies from the University of Utah in 2020. As a graduate student at SFU, his work concerns visual narratives of climate change, locative media and hybrid spaces, and emerging digital methods. Outside of his studies (but oftentimes still informing them), he enjoys photography, film production, woodworking, and other creative endeavors.

Tell it how it could be: The potential for narrative environments to increase embodied relationships to the effects of climate change
Amy Harris, Simon Fraser University

As the 'information deficit model' has generally been accepted as deficient in provoking any real changes in society's relation to global warming, recent trends in climate change communication have been to try to create authentic connections between the general public and its direct impacts. This includes having peer to peer conversations (Shaw & Corner, 2017), community consultations (Whitmarsh, O’Neill & Lorenzoni, 2013), and appealing to specific values that a person considers important (Gunster, 2017). Emotional responses have been demonstrated to elicit strong, lasting impacts on people's connection to issues (Sommer et al, 2019), which are particularly evoked through the arts. In considering several narrative environments; the podcast, the public art installation, the album, and the storytelling festival, this preliminary research delves into the extent to which affective responses are evoked and how those responses can be sustained and replicated. By understanding the degrees to which these media elicit particular affective responses, this project can identify where there are opportunities to connect to the public to a greater degree, in order to suggest mechanisms by which lasting changes in effective behaviour can be sustained. Preliminary work will examine the existing scholarship on these media, and the case study of an art exhibition of climate change related art will be observed to ascertain some basic demographics using grounded theory. It is anticipated that there will be a spectrum of responses evoked, but if there are commonalities, or particularly resonant themes that emerge, these findings could be significant in creating a more meaningful engagement with the impacts of climate change. 

Originally from the UK, Amy has now lived in Vancouver, BC for 11 years and is undertaking an PhD in Communication at Simon Fraser University. Her academic background was in English Literature, but following an unfulfilling career in personal finance prompting a change of scenery to Vancouver, she discovered a passion for Communications and is now researching how embodied experiences impact our relations to climate change. She worked in the field of communications for 7 years before pursuing a Masters which she completed in Spring 2020, and is now excited about her current program and thesis direction.

The Social Network of Female Body/Skin: Intimate Peopled Infrastructure
Reina Yuan, McGill University

A series of voyeuristic incidents on subway galvanized nationwide attention on China’s media platform Sina Weibo to what women’s rights advocates have called a growing problem in China: a deep-rooted misogynistic attitude men – despite of age and class, oftentimes hold against women but attempt to claim and exploit women’s bodies in public and blame a victims at the same time due to societal constraints. This paper investigates how urban Chinese women and women-founded designer brand RUI use female bodies as a medium for female empowerment and communal dissent on (re)defining freedom. I consider how the elasticity of the fabric, shaped through the interaction between body and garment, rearranges what constitutes a small-scale assembly in the production of social space. The salience of materiality of naked skin hence interrogates and refines the boundary of freedom within a female body. The female body, in return, peers out at the surrounding world through slit in cloth and becomes a medium that drapes around the idea of domesticity, femininity, and familial value in the face of new forces – independence, self-empowerment and neoliberal self-care. By looking closely at the convoluted cultural and social politics of women’s underwear in China, I will connect the notions of peopled infrastructure and its (re)definition of freedom, respectively, to what has been conceptualized as the art of the weak and the sensibility of alternative mode of sociality for women in new age. 

Reina Yuan is currently a Communication Studies graduate student at McGill University. She is interested in theories of space, worldbuilding, and urban microhistory. Her current research examines how the notion of ‘counterpublics’ as developed in Michael Warner’s writing shifts and widens as it comes into contact with urban imaginaries, disjunct modernities, and compulsory heterosexuality in urban China.

Platform Action & Agitation 

Panel Chair: Dr. Enda Brophy

Computed Discontent: The Agitational Style in Authoritarian Politics
Anthony Glyn Burton, Simon Fraser University

Much ado about fascism online. But let’s start from the errors and go down the hole: Richard Spencer, the visible medievalist neo-Nazi and one of the more obvious grifters in our moment, came up with the term “alt-right”, and the necessities of centrism made it a hit. Putting aside the lack of creativity, sticking to the alt-right as a categorical description gives more coherency to the movement than it has. The grab bag of anti-Semites, race scientists, dilettante intellectuals and nootropic grifters that make up this categorical phenomenon don’t have anything in common politically besides their reactionary posture. But we’re also talking about something, obviously. What is it?

In this presentation, I argue that what the phrase “alt-right” is trying to identify is less a coherent ideological substrate and more a style arising from the environs of computational capitalism. From this argument, I make two interventions into the study of contemporary fascism. The first is a comparative analysis of Lowenthal and Guterman’s theory of the fascist agitator and contemporary “alt-right” leaders through case studies of videos by Lauren Southern and Faith Goldy. The similarities allow us to see the historical contingency of these techniques, as well as the authoritarian tendencies arising again through the contradictions of capitalism. After the similarities, however, the obvious differences: in the second part of this essay, I take up the role that contemporary digitality plays in the presence and proliferation of this agitational style. This is twofold: it’s both the cultural affordances of platforms and online spaces (4chan as the Nazi zines of the 1920’s; YouTube as a pulpit) and the increasingly computational nature of the circulation and mediation of capital, especially as it is reduced to the bare form of informational exchange via computational mediation. The former provide analogous functions to the construction of the agitator’s role; the latter make up the *form* of contemporary agitation: a manifestation of what Jonathan Beller calls the “computational unconscious”, where “rationalism”, universalism, and the state of being “correct” or “right” in an argument is the agitator's path to victory in the culture war.

Anthony Glyn Burton has worked as a dockmaster, bartender, hockey referee, baby food marketer, driving range ball picker-upper, journalist, editor, cultural events producer, and digital researcher. He is now a SSHRC Joseph Armand Bombardier Ph.D. scholar at Simon Fraser University’s Communications Department and a doctoral researcher at the Digital Democracies Institute. Anthony joined SFU after finishing his master’s degree at York and X University’s Joint Program in Communication & Culture, where he first joined the Infoscape Lab and the Open Intelligence Lab (OILab). He received his H.B.A. in English and Philosophy from Victoria University in the University of Toronto and continues to research computation, politics, code, and rationality.

“Add oil!”: Preserving cultural citizenship in Hong Kong via curatorial activism
Kayli Jamieson, Simon Fraser University

Following the implementation of the National Security Legislation (NSL) in Hong Kong in 2020, the resulting consequences for HK alternative media outlets and challenges to memory institutionalization have compelled media scholars to place their focus on the decreasing political autonomy and press freedoms in HK. This paper continues the trend in analyzing the networked activism that furthered the reach of the HK pro-democracy movement in 2019. I place a marked focus on the digital archiving methods of HK activists and how their participation in such informal archival work reinforces the ‘imagined community’ and ‘long-distance nationalism’ of Hong-Kong diaspora located worldwide (Anderson, 1983/1992). I argue that archiving by HK activists and diaspora act as a form of curatorial activism that seeks to preserve the cultural citizenship that sets them apart as ‘Hong Kongers’ (HKers). This direct challenge to the state or Hong Kong and Mainland governments is a constant process of negotiated power-relations that serves as a form of what Foucault would describe as ‘counter-conduct’. Informal digital archives have emerged to store protest footage related to police brutality, documents, and pro-democracy publications and videos, such as those removed from Apple Daily. I looked at user-generated archives emerging from the 2019 pro-democracy protests hosted on platforms such as the Wayback Machine, Google Drive and other cloud-based storage platforms, the r/hongkong subreddit, and even Blockchain. In challenging these governments through the preservation of materials the states wish to eliminate, the HK diasporic activists are carrying out curatorial activism, acting as “rogue” digital archivists.

CMNS Master's student with research interests in news media analysis, East-Asia, networked activism, and disinformation. Outside of academia I'm employed at Burnaby Public Library and enjoy discussing books, politics, & podcasts. Advocate for Long Covid awareness and improved sci-comm in provincial public health.

How new media has changed activism: From platform activism to connective actions
Nastaran Saremy, Simon Fraser University

In this study, I aim to explore in what ways social media platforms have changed activism and social movements over the last decade. In so doing, I want to address two related issues: how new, network media contributes to reproduce the post-hegemonic logic of neoliberalism by critically examining the ideological signification of platform capitalism and “taken-for-grantedness” of its guaranteed pluralistic function. At the same time, I tend to explore in what ways networked media practices are capable of challenging this ideologic state and its associated system of believes and behaviors in the practice of ideological struggle. 

Thereby, I will first use Greet Lovink’s and Wendy Chun’s views on social media and software as ideology, to critically investigate the seemingly neutral mechanisms in which media platform operates. I will be using the term “platform activism” to critically draw on the paradigm of media activism in the age of social media.   However, to avoid overgeneralization, also to track the counter-hegemonic media practices, I tend to contextualize the new media practices in terms of the power¬ coordinates in which these networked relations are historically constructed. Looking through different examples of connective-actions, Internet critical culture, I will draw on this question that to what extent the networked publics/actions of new media practically deviate from the dominant, ubiquitous ideological configuration of network media as the ideological market apparatus.  

I  majored in Philosophy and Aesthetics and have been working as an art critic and an interdisciplinary researcher in the field of cultural and social analysis. I have attempted to conduct several researches on Iran's contemporary socio-cultural landscape over the last six years. Recently I am exploring the aesthetics of the social praxis in social movements of MENA, by focusing on the media and communication role in social transformation. In the PhD project I will explore how memory practices along with methods of networking in new media reframe the reference framework of social movements in recent years.

Feminist Fissures: On Online Activism in Iran
Hoornaz Keshavarzian, Simon Fraser University

This paper studies the sociopolitical significance of Instagram as the only authorized social media platform in Iran and examines the intersection between identity, gender politics, hegemony, and online self-representation. Iranian women can be regarded as discursive figures upon whom power structures are solidified and constantly reproduced. Their bodies have been regulated and securitized in a hierarchical policy-making manner resulting in the institutionalization of hegemonic decency. In the absence of the disciplinary gaze and the patriarchal monopoly of the public sphere, Instagram provides an opportunity for Iranian women to reclaim space for self-expression and to fashion personas that are difficult to maintain otherwise or elsewhere. While present online, Iranian women inhabit cultural contexts that are different from the ones in which they physically reside.

Their milieu on Instagram is dominated by a climate of postfeminism—saturated with the rhetoric of individualism and self-empowerment. However, the online visibility that is afforded to the overlooked and under-sphered is not an uncontested notion and women’s self-representation is fraught with arguments around resistance, exploitation, and male gaze, to name a few. Young women as the core users of this image-based platform turn themselves into aesthetic subjects and practice empowerment through self-exposure. This online resistance is in keeping with the tone of liberal and popular feminism which celebrates commercially driven self-love and body positive discourses, equating these with overcoming gender asymmetries. While these upbeat, visually-oriented, and seemingly superficial practices are not deemed subversive in the context of western feminism, I will make an intervention to nuance the political hopes that we attach to postfeminism by introducing potentials to the visual regimes of Iranian femininity and ask how a focus on tangential political expressions through affirmation of visibility can shift some of these dynamics. By moving the discussion towards transnational feminist media studies, I will account for the pluralistic manifestation of both gendered oppression and emancipation from it. To do so, applying a critical visual discourse analysis allows us to triangulate between users, Instagram posts and the historical, cultural, and political climate of the Iranian context.

Hoornaz Keshavarzian is a PhD candidate in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. Her work centers around the notions of online activism, the Middle East, feminism, mediated identities, gender politics, and social media. She studies the ways in which Iranian women resist hegemonic decency and the patriarchal disciplinary gaze through expressing and fashioning alternative selves online.





Mediated Economies

Panel Chair: Dr. Peter Chow-White

All style, no substance: Promises and pitfalls of the digital fashion ‘revolution’
Maria Sommers, Simon Fraser University

The global fashion industry is amid a self-proclaimed reckoning. Faced with longstanding criticisms of pollution, exploitative labour practices, and inaccessibility, industry leaders are rapidly looking to the metaverse as both a panacea for its problems and an untapped revenue stream. Artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), digital game platforms, and blockchain technologies are being positioned as tools of radical disruption in service of a more sustainable, ethical, and accessible fashion future. However, a closer look at the systems that fortify this style rebellion reveal the ways the industry’s analogue failures are not eliminated but rather replaced by those that accompany the digital at the level of design. This paper will interrogate the rising popularity of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) in fashion and the ways the industry leverages blockchain’s guarantee of transparency to obfuscate familiar hierarchies of power and uneven distributions of capital. Predicated on blockchain’s purported democratic affordances, fashion NFTs appear to offer affordable and stylish apparel without the problem of physical waste, open access, and protections from intellectual property theft from independent designers; yet more critical explorations indicate this infrastructure is wasteful, expensive, and operates on an unregulated market. By looking at two of the industry’s most popular Web3 marketplaces—The Dematerialised and DressX—this paper will highlight how the infrastructure of the fashion industry’s digital revolution facilities a reinscription of a rigid and exploitative social order.

Maria Sommers is a first year MA student in Communication at Simon Fraser University. While completing her BA in Communication at Simon Fraser University, she found herself increasingly interested in digital games, feminist media studies, digital labour, and fashion communication. Her thesis research looks at fashion in the metaverse with a focus on how it intersects with sustainability, labour, and gender, and it's foundation in game production.

Facebook’s Facelift Turns Faceplant
Hannah Block, Simon Fraser University

Facebook Inc.’s rebrand to Meta Platforms Inc. strategically exploits the communication tactic of rebranding—seeking freedom from responsibility. Concealing and evading corporate social responsibility in this way can be characterized as an act of social, regulatory, and political violence.

​​Actions comparable to historical cases such as Philip Morris Companies and Dow Chemical underscore the highly strategic work of brand maintenance, while this public deception illustrates the paradox of rebranding—pursuing liberation from outstanding obligations.

Synonymous with economic success, brand is the cornerstone of a company’s public image and identity—foundational features in today’s reputation-obsessed society. The pervasiveness of this identity-based fixation informs and guides corporate practices. A site of budding discontent, Facebook Inc.’s recent (October 28, 2021) rebranding to Meta Platforms Inc. is a timely example of the employment of this profit-driven, success-based practice. 

Committed to the future, Meta must be equally indebted to its past and confront its missteps, otherwise its cosmetic rebrand will remain superficial—ultimately progressing a double standard agenda—promoting and advancing freedom in the online space while a conflicting internal corporate desire for freedom from responsibility persists.  

The rebrand ignores critiques and instead utilizes the communication tactic as a conduit for freedom from actively abandoned responsibilities via disownership and a shifting of public attention. 

A current MA student in The School of Communication at Simon Fraser University (SFU), Hannah holds a Bachelor of Arts (Distinction), majoring in Communication with a double minor in Print and Digital Publishing, and Curriculum and Instruction from SFU. Her research interests include the adoption of communication and information technologies. With 5+ years experience in agency and in-house marketing and public relations, and as a past member of Canada‘s national rock climbing team, Hannah brings a uniquely informed approach to her Graduate studies.

Making markets mainstream: Finance according to robo-advisors 
Catherine Jeffery, Simon Fraser University

Since the 2008 financial crisis, trust in traditional financial services have eroded and new financial technologies have emerged as supposedly disruptive forces in the financial sector. This paper explores how one such innovation—the robo-advisor—contributes to understandings and imaginations about financial markets. Robo-advisors, often available in web and mobile app formats, allow users to invest in a diversified portfolio with low fees and minimal knowledge of the principles of responsible financial management. The paper examines two Canadian robo-advisors in particular: CI Direct Investing and Wealthsimple Invest, both of which promote mainstream assumptions about personal finance and ultimately position stock indices as representative of the market. Simultaneously, user discussions about such apps in virtual forums suggest that there is a wide range of debates and uncertainties that take place on the consumer side of robo-advisory. Although many participants buy into common financial conventions, others advocate for contrarian investing techniques. The paper argues that robo-advisors, in contrast to their branding as democratizing and disruptive, currently serve to depoliticize the market and enhance the power of already-dominant market actors. In response, building on user interest in philosophies of investing and orienting discussion to more political ends could allow for deeper public dialogue about how stock indices shape the world in their image and how this dynamic might be transformed. 

Catherine Jeffery is a second-year MA student at SFU’s School of Communication. Her research focuses on financial technology and economic imaginations, with an interest in how robo-advisors shape users’ understandings of financial markets and how users discuss these apps in online forums. Catherine also works as a graduate peer facilitator specializing in qualitative data analysis software and a teaching assistant.

YouTube (De)monetization: Public Self-Accountability Practices in a Private Media Space
Anna Parkhurst, University of Washington

An interrogation of YouTube’s current monetization policies reveals how corporate interests restrict content production on the platform, despite the platform’s reputation as a democratic digital space. My investigation focuses on YouTube’s Self-Certification guidelines launched in 2019 that require creators to determine the advertiser suitability of their own videos. These guidelines sustain myths of a self-regulating Internet in order to justify the reallocation of monetization labor as a viable and economic solution to the problem of mass content moderation. Inspired by John Caldwell’s groundbreaking work on production culture that foregrounds how media laborers understand their own position within a larger industrial context, I interviewed YouTube creators about their experiences performing Self-Certification. Attuned to the ethnographic method of self-theorizing, my analysis of these interviews demonstrates that Self-Certification practices enact a fundamental paradox, whereby creators must serve as their own censors. Making creator profits contingent upon self-censorship has significant consequences for both aesthetic and cultural expressions on the platform. These interviews shed light on how a neoliberal rhetoric of democratic individualism and self-accountability circulated by the platform’s managers and users alike reinforces the precarity of creator labor, and discourages the production of content that cannot be monetized. I propose that this “platform paradox” characterizes not only YouTube, but other social media platforms as well. 

Anna Parkhurst is a second year PhD student in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. She has a MA in History and Literature from Columbia University, and an MA from L’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Arts, Literature, and Language. While her previous research has investigated the intersection of cinema and the philosophy of logic, her current work addresses digital media labor culture and practices. Her other interests include Hollywood cinema, game studies, and analytic philosophy.

Culture & Justice

Panel Chair: Dr. Kirsten McAllister

All Jokes Aside: Aziz Ansari, Louis C.K., and #metoo as Cultural Contestation
Rosie Long Decter, Concordia University

In her 2021 book On Freedom, Maggie Nelson writes that she resents “being invited to scoff” at comedian Aziz Ansari’s “penchant for oral-digital play” (80). What Nelson leaves out is that the “oral-digital play” to which she refers took place in a context of sexual pressure, according to the anonymous Grace, who told her story about Ansari to Babe.net in 2018. Nelson thus joins a chorus of writers who defend Ansari’s sexual freedoms while ignoring Grace’s agency. 

This paper, adapted from my in-progress MA thesis, examines the public discourse around the #metoo movement, focusing specifically on the cases of comedians Aziz Ansari and Louis C.K., in order to understand how #metoo is popularly imagined and narrativized. I focus on comedians because of comedy’s status within the arts as a protected sphere, enabling comedians to transgress and offend under the guise of playful humour, and because of Ansari and C.K.’s positionings as progressive auteurs.

Using discourse analysis, I argue that pundits and critics frame #metoo as a moment of simultaneous liberation and constraint, wherein feminist acts of naming violence clash with dominant sexual and artistic norms. I trace the emergence of an anti-feminist backlash to #metoo, which positions the movement as a threat to male freedoms. #Metoo here becomes a cultural contestation over competing understandings of sexual violence. These debates open up space for rethinking art and violence, while also revealing the ways in which freedom can be mobilized to protect the already powerful. 

Rosie Long Decter is a Master’s student in Media Studies at Concordia University. She holds a BA from McGill University in Joint Honours Cultural Studies and Political Science. She has five years of experience working in independent media and is currently the music reviewer at Maisonneuve Magazine and a contributing editor at Reader’s Digest Canada. She is also a member of Concordia’s Digital Intimacy, Gender & Sexuality Lab (DIGS). Her research interests include taste formations, affect theory, digital media labour, queer and feminist comedy, and #metoo.

“You have no sovereignty where we gather”: Questioning the open internet in an age of platform control and problematic information
Jeff Donison, York University

The open internet aspires to be a space where people communicate with one another outside political or governmental impediment. Yet as online platforms increasingly host users, the platforms become gatekeepers of information based on policy and design that oppose the open internet’s democratic ideal of unrestricted speech. Platform control through an approach like content moderation is important for organizing a wide variety of information online and addressing potentially problematic information sources. Algorithms help moderate a large amount of information efficiently and humans help moderate information with a nuanced understanding of the cultural and social norms of users. Yet with this increased platform control through moderation, user free speech may be infringed on, even accidentally. How are platforms balancing the need to moderate problematic, unsafe, and false information online while maintaining the democratic ideal of the open internet? This paper relates to the conference themes of “freedom in the platform age” and “(re)defining freedom in the digital age” by evaluating the pros and cons of platform control via content moderation and how these tactics might impede or elevate a variety of online speech moving forward. Synthesizing research from scholars like Sarah T. Roberts, Tarleton Gillespie, and Latanya Sweeney, this paper considers if platforms can support free speech online while simultaneously moderating problematic, unsafe, and false information despite platform control’s conceptual opposition to the open internet’s ideal of user freedom.

Jeff Donison is a Ph.D. candidate in the Communication and Culture program at York University in Toronto, Canada. His current research focuses on participatory cultures and digital technology. His dissertation deals with race, identity and representation in Canadian podcasting and the use of sound as a primary epistemological tool for decolonizing historical narratives.

Fan Frictions in Accessibility: Fan-based citizenship in covid-era live music events
Ben Scholl and Tvine Donabedian, Simon Fraser University

This paper explores two live musical events (Tomorrowland Around the World and BTS Permission to Dance LA) exemplifying the potential democratizing effects of pandemic responses via digitalization and fannish self-regulation; digitalization addresses issues of geolocality, inflated pricing, and ticket scarcity, while fannish self-regulation makes for safe in-person concerts. Notably, approaches to digitalization and fandom as democratizing forces against marginality remain reductive and, as this paper suggests, impertinent towards accessibility in covid-era live music events. 

Among the overlooked axes of marginality in fandom, posited by Scott (2017), accessibility to fan spaces and experiences remains an ongoing issue. Recent efforts towards understanding fan-based citizenship (Hinck, 2019) may address the dearth of knowledge surrounding this axis by illuminating modes of civic action emergent from identification with a fandom. According to King (2021), artists worked with organizers to promote the well-being of participants and create ‘sacred virtual spaces of unity’. While the global pandemic saw multiple instances of unification and civic action emerging out of fandom, a dialectic analysis of the fan-organizer relationship reveals that fan-based citizenship, in the context of covid-era live music events, is more conductive to creating privileged proximity to the fan-object than generating accessibility to it. 

Autoethnographic data collected from attendance at both events underlines the co-constructive concessions made to build faithful fan experiences around health regulations. Yet, this interaction between fan-based citizenship and global citizenship holds significant points of friction, exemplifying sites and discourses of freedom during COVID-19, some at the expense of marginalized fans. We find that during times of moral ambivalence, obligations to global citizenship circumscribe obligations to fandom and thus co-construct fan-based citizenship that furthers systems of inequality.

Ben Scholl (he/him) is a Ph.D. student in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University and holds an M.A. in Communication and Social Justice from the University of Windsor. As a researcher at the Digital Democracies Institute, his goal is to inform policy for a more diverse and egalitarian video games and esports industry. His broader research interests include affect, placemaking, and materialism in virtual environments.

Tvine Donabedian (she/her) is a queer writer, and poet, as well as a music and fan-studies scholar. Her research situates itself within the frameworks of musical affect and relational labour, focusing on individual healing practices among music fans, who are informed by fan communities and their idols. She recently defended her master’s dissertation on the subject at Simon Fraser University’s (Vancouver) School of Communication, and holds a BA in anthropology from Concordia University (Montreal). Her creative and academic work has been featured in a variety of publications including Asia Marketing Journal, Arc Poetry magazine, and Nectar Publications. A chapter written by her will be included in the forthcoming edited volume “New Queer Television: From Marginalization to Mainstreamification.”.


Rethinking Sociotechnics

Panel Chair: Dr. Stephanie Dick

The Social Construction of What, Exactly? or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology might Benefit Each Other, Again
D.W. Kamish, Simon Fraser University

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a scholar in possession of a sound intellect must hold that technological determinism is erroneous. This doctrine, that technology is a rational, scientific realm insulated from extrinsic influence that progresses in a linear fashion according to its own internal logics and, in turn, dictates the shape of society, subjectivity, and history, has long been discredited—largely by the work of the social construction of technology (SCOT) school. SCOT was born unto a field of STS, however, whose constitutive repression of technological determinism has proven untenable and detrimental to scholarship. Repeating SCOT’s founding synthesis while acknowledging, rather than disavowing, materiality allows scholars to recover useful concepts from the sociology, philosophy, and history of science that have been left behind and are demanded by the contemporary debates on materiality in communication and media studies. Reincorporating the repressed element of materiality is the most promising way to equip SCOT with the conceptual apparatus to think technological determinism head-on.

D. W. Kamish conducts research in the history and philosophy of technology, Marxism, and critical infrastructure studies.

Metaverse? No thank you, I’ll have the pluriverse: A low-to-no bandwidth web methodology
Mel Racho, Toronto Metropolitan University

As the landscape of online sociality continually evolves, being on the World Wide Web means being increasingly under the digital surveil of platforms and corporations. The infrastructures that bring us online are privy to the same big tech machinations of power and profit: most commercial, large-scale hosting environments are owned by corporate entities, storing data and other assets in unknown environments, served from undisclosed physical locations. What if we could be free(er) of this vague and ubiquitous cloud-based reality? What if we seized the current technological moment, powered our own nodes, and created our own networks? Instead of a metaverse, what if we turned to contexts that favour a pluriverse? In this paper, as part of my work with York University’s Digital Justice CIRC, I demonstrate a methodology for building scalable, online presences that are secure, do not rely on a high-bandwidth Internet connection—web applications that could, at any time, be booted from a directory with no online connection—and are easily accessible from a modern mobile or desktop browser. 

From a digital justice frame, the premise for this methodology stems from the need for persistent, distributed access to potentially sensitive data and information. Having a low-to-no bandwidth website frees site-owners from a traditional hosting environment, decoupling data, assets, and other content from a commercial server. If a host goes offline in situations of war or other causes of unforeseen infrastructural failure, a low/no-bandwidth website assures data and content persistence. Applications where this implementation would be useful include rural, Indigenous, and other equity-seeking communities, where network infrastructure is non-existent or wholly inequitable. Having the ability to disseminate knowledge online regardless of a traditionally hosted connection ensures a path to share potentially critical information when the context requires.

Mel Racho (he/him) is a queer, trans POC Internet researcher enrolled in X and York Universities’ jointly administered Communication and Culture PhD program. His research interests include the leaky and data-insecure infrastructures of the Internet, data feminism and the successive ‘versions’ of the WWW.

Connecting to Logistical Space: Notes on Network Unfreedom
Prem Sylvester, Simon Fraser University

Geofencing, which, simply put, embeds a (static or dynamic) digital perimeter or ‘fence’ in a real-world geographical space remains an underappreciated deployment of location-based media technologies. This is especially useful for tracking and tracing systems that enable the planning, organization, and control of logistical processes, such as fleet and freight movement, through supply chains and their various constituent ‘linkages.’ Deployed as locative media, then, geofencing belongs to the “media of logistics.” Geofencing technologies therefore establish connections between digital systems that delineate geofenced areas, such as borders and warehouses, and the mobile objects, such as commodity-carrying trucks, which are of interest to tracking and tracing systems. 

This presentation stresses, then, the ways in which connectivity is an imperative even in spaces typically considered nondigital. I draw on work that posits the convergence of logistics and the network form as exemplary of the Marxist conception of circulation as spontaneous interconnection. I therefore also interrogate the popular discourses around disconnection or digital detoxes as enabling a sort of freedom from the pressures of digital capitalism. I hope to show, then, that our politics cannot name freedom as an exit from network space, but requires a confrontation with the unfreedom inherent to the network form. 

Prem Sylvester is an MA student in the School of Communication and researcher at the Digital Democracies Institute at Simon Fraser University, Canada. Prem’s interests lie in the production of (cyber/urban)space, networked politics, the materiality of new media, and infrastructures of counterpower.

Film & Visual Interventions

Panel Chair: Dr. Zoë Druick

Liberating visions: GAN+CLIP images and imagination
Chrys Vilvang, Concordia University

Natural languages and classification systems impinge upon imaginative freedom in visual perception – channeling a myriad of interpretative possibilities into finite structures of words and categories. When a computer vision AI is trained to identify objects or subjects in images, the limiting functions of categorization and natural language become embedded within non-human agents ¬– causing vision machines to replicate these restrictive and often reductive processes. By foregrounding human imagination as central to the production of meaning through images, the iconic turn in visual culture seeks to liberate both images and individuals from the fixed perspectives favoured by AI and prevalent in areas such as semiology or art history. Computer vision AI has understandably been largely shunned by scholars within the iconic turn for its tendency to reinforce dominant visual hierarchies and favour literal or practical image interpretations, but the emergence of Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) and CLIP (Contrastive Language Image Pre-training) may profoundly transform the fractious relationship between AI and visual culture. As a class of machine learning AI capable of generating realistic yet uncanny images from nothing but a text input, GAN+CLIP neural networks offer a glimpse into what has been described as the imagination of AI (Miller, 2019). These distinct images can help to identify new visual principles unencumbered by the perceptual biases ingrained in human ways of seeing, reinvigorating the role of imagination in the interpretation of images and liberating the individual to think beyond the restrictive functions of categorization and language.

Chrys Vilvang is a media artist and Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University. He is currently exploring the impact of Artificial Intelligence on Visual Culture through personal photography platforms. His research-creation practice looks at the production of memory through images and how these processes are being transformed by tools that intervene, remediate, and alter our relationship with our photographic pasts. He is a member of the Post-Image Cluster and the Digital Intimacy, Gender & Sexuality Lab at the Milieux research institute for new media arts, digital culture and information technology.

Uncharted Streams: Bill C-10 as a Case Study in Canadian Film Policy
Thomas Dickson, Simon Fraser University

While online subscription video-on-demand services offer consumers an abundance of content to choose from, overseers of cultural policy around the world are concerned that platforms like Netflix aren’t adequately supporting local cultural industries, and that a substantial percentage of the content offered by these services is American (Lobato, 2018, pp. 244, 247). Historically, the Government of Canada’s attempts to cultivate and regulate its domestic feature film industry has been characterized by scholars as inadequate and underwhelming; much of the scholarly and journalistic discourse around Canadian film policy concerns the uncertain objectives of film policy and the target audiences of Canadian films (Urquhart, 2012, pp. 24–25). In November 2020, the Government of Canada tabled Bill C-10 to include online streaming platforms like Netflix under the regulatory oversight of the CRTC (Department of Justice, 2020). While Bill C-10 was commonly criticized by parliamentarians and journalists as vague and unclear (Coyne, 2021; Government of Canada, 2020), this uncertainty is arguably mirrored by academic discourses attempting to grapple with the implications of online film consumption. In this presentation, I will present the progress of a critical discourse analysis that I am conducting for my MA thesis, chronicling the parliamentary deliberation process of Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, and utilizing a theoretical framework drawing from theories of governmentality, neoliberalism, and Canadian nationalism.

Thomas Dickson is an MA student from the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. As a researcher, Thomas is interested in Canadian political discourses, cultural policy, free speech, Canadian cinema, and online platforms. His MA thesis will focus on the Government of Canada’s ongoing review of the Broadcasting Act and its implications for Canadian film policy and the online video streaming industry.

Forest as Medium: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cinematic Liberation
Karen Zhiyi Ren, McGill University

Due to its geographic location and tropical climate, the forest is a recurring element and a representative space to depict historical traumas and social movements in Southeast Asian cinema. Thai filmmaker, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, also incorporates the mysterious jungle in his cinematic world as a significant motif of the narrative. Therefore, this paper investigates how the forest is an artistic medium that interconnects the film narratives and the liberation protests locally and globally across Apichatpong’s cinematic world from three perspectives. First, I argue that in Tropical Malady (2004), the forest mediates between Apichatpong’s personal homosexual experience and the transmission of Thai cultural-specified queer consciousness and suffering. The unnerving forest in this film hence delivers Apichatpong’s call for gay liberation and equal rights. Moving further from this subcultural depiction to a national identification, I suggest that the forest in Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) brings in the Thai historical trauma and violence, namely the communist resistance in the Isaan area. It allows the precarious jungle to echo Apichatpong’s political calling against the military dictatorship in order to regain freedom in Thai society. Finally, I analyze Apichatpong’s latest film, Memoria (2021), regarding its staging of the 2021 Colombian Protest against corruption and the 2021 Thai Protest against the reforming of the monarchy. The contemplating “transnational” forests thus relate the totalitarianism in both countries. Together with the film crew’s public demonstration at Festival de Cannes, Apichatpong’s films speak to the idea that digital media can serve as promotors in liberation movements. 

Karen Ren is a 1st year MA student in the Department of East Asian Studies at McGill University. She completed her BA at McGill University in Psychology, Behavioral Science, and World Cinema. She is interested in the slow cinema genre in Taiwan, including filmmakers such as Tsai Ming-Liang, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang and Chung Mong-Hong. She aims to examine the relationship between Eastern aesthetics and the slow cinema genre, especially regarding Taiwanese history and youth culture.

Challenging Hegemonic Masculinity through Iranian Cinema
Mozhgan Fazli, Simon Fraser University

The cultural regularity of Iran's society has undergone enormous evolution which has changed the Iranian society into a multi-discourse society. According to the central position of men in Iran's power and political system, the hegemonic dominance of any discourse may have different orientations. After the Islamic Revolution (1979), the discourse of resistance against western modernity became the dominant power and the media became the means of reproducing it, but some cultural products would challenge the values of this discourse, especially the new wave of Iranian cinema. This research aims at studying how Farhadi tries to challenge the hegemonic masculinity. It will also study how he portrays his ideal masculinity. 

My name is Mozhgan and I am interested in gender order and media.