Extended Call For Papers

DRAFT CFP: CODE - A Conference on Media, Games & Art:

21 to 23 November 2012, Swinburne University, Melbourne Australia.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Jussi Parikka - media theorist and Reader at Winchester School of Art. His recent books include Digital Contagions (2007), Insect Media (2010), and What is Media Archaeology? (2012). He has co-edited such books as The Spam Book (2009) and Media Archaeology (2011). His blog/site is at http://jussiparikka.net

Christian McCrea - essayist writing on videogame materiality and popular digital arts. He has recently published work such as 'We Play in Public: The Nature and Context of Portable Gaming Systems', 'Games and the Modern University' and 'The Art History of the Present'. He is the Program Director for Games at RMIT University. His website is http://www.christianmccrea.net

The recent wave of critical new media studies has focused attention on the complex politics of interaction and subjectification in online and videogame spaces, from the re-conception of the prosumer as a form of consensual user labour to the critique of the growing corporate interests that now control and mandate a major section of games and the web. What has been less remarked upon is that which underpins these social and political shifts – the ‘material turn’ in media studies and the nascent field of software studies provides the impetus for a consideration of the underlying architecture of the digital: code.

And yet code is not inherently tied to the contemporary games and media apparatus - code permeates all aspects of society, now and then; from codes of conduct and practice to institutional orthodoxies, from semaphores and ciphers to digital hardware and software, from linguistic codes to legal codes and copyrights. Implying both process and product, for this conference we understand code to be a simultaneously material and semiotic force that operates across media culture, and invite papers that seek to uncover this otherwise hidden dimension. Key areas of consideration include but are not limited to:

‘Thresholds of materiality’ (apologies James Murdoch): code and the invisible. Code is the invisible force at the heart of contemporary media and gaming culture, often routinely obscured by the interface and gadget obsessions of tech production and marketing and embarrassingly unremarked upon by media studies thanks to what Matthew Kirschenbaum (2008: 34) calls the discipline’s ‘screen essentialism’ or preoccupation with formal appearance. Along with Kittler’s analysis of software as a simulation, such critiques perhaps suggest that the ‘participatory’ or ‘interactive’ nature of new media is a fallacy. Does code operate analogously to ideology as Alexander Galloway (2006) and Wendy Hui Kyong Chun argue, or is code ideological in itself? How might the old post-structuralist obsession with cultural codes illuminate this and similar issues? Papers that explore the ways in which code is hidden academically and culturally are thus welcome, but so too are those that focus on how it is made visible – via the aesthetic strategies and accidents of glitch and error, for instance, but also through programming activism, DIY coding and game exploits, as well as a range of other measures.

Coding the disciplines: media and games studies. How do these two closely related fields account for their conditions of existence and their epistemology? What ‘common codes’ might they share, and at which points do they depart? What aspects of either’s ‘cultural code’ might exclude certain forms of inquiry or subject areas? How might media and games studies contribute to current discussion of the 'digital humanities'? Can we ‘transcode’ media and games, as cultural and intellectual objects, or do they need to remain distinct? How might media studies and games studies rewrite each other’s codes and produce new kinds of thinking? Papers analysing these and other disciplinary quagmires are welcomed.

New codes for media studies: software studies and platform politics. Software studies is a new kind of cultural theory that explores the processes of software and its deep interweaving with contemporary culture, looking at how the logics and materialities of algorithms, codes and data seep into and (re)build everyday life. Platform politics is a growing area of interest in net theory that seeks to understand the specificity of the apps and portals that are becoming the dominant means of access to digital media today, which is often constrained to stratified and proprietary forms. What insights might these disciplines bring to media and games studies, and how might we analyse the ways in which politics is increasingly controlled and disrupted through the design and programming of software and platforms? We seek papers that explore or apply these nascent areas of scholarship and/or consider their implications for new media studies more generally.

The prehistory of code: analogue and digital. ‘As sequences of signals over time,’ Kittler notes, ‘[codes] are part of every communications technology, every transmission medium’ (2008: 40). As a media archaeological endeavour, we invite papers that unearth the various dimensions of the deep prehistory of code’s dominance today via computer technology. Possible topics include code, cybernetics and early computing; encryption and cryptography; as well as considerations of pre-digital games and their linguistic, behavioural and social codes. Papers that seek to find resonances or links between earlier and more recent forms of code are particularly welcomed.

Postal codes and public privacy: Contemporary media theory argues that emerging forms of socio-technical practice reconfigure the public and private spheres to produce what has been called ‘public privacy’ (Kitzmann, 2004; Senft 2008; Boyd, 2010; Lovink 2011). This term gestures to the ways in which subjects use public signifying systems, such as social networking sites and the diverse media forms of celebrity production or reality programming, to articulate highly personal messages. Yet such rhetorical strategies are not unique to distributed digital platforms. After all, the eighteenth century epistolary network, often called ‘The Republic of Letters’, was responsible for reformulating the public and private domain (Cook, 1996; Goodman, 1994). We invite papers that respond to the following possible topics: What are the historical, legislative, technological and cultural settings for the emergence of a public privacy? Does the ‘intimate public sphere’ (Berlant, 2008) obscure women’s political and cultural agency? Post Haraway, to what extent does the @ sign function to locate meaning, destination and geopolitical identity?

‘Code and other laws of media’: the continuities and discontinuities of different codes. Lawrence Lessig’s 1999 book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, presciently argued that digital code, as instantiated in technical manifestations such as Digital Rights Management, may disastrously overextend the limited protections of copyright and intellectual property as dictated by legal codes. In doing so, he called attention to the incongruity or contradictions of different codes as they come into contact. Similarly, we invite papers that explore these issues from the perspective of copyright and distribution as well as others, that analyse what happens when the digital reproduces, alters or fails to approximate legal, social, behavioural and other such codes.

Security codes. Hackers both compromise and contest the integrity of networked information, communication and entertainment environments. Systematic phone hacking by News International journalists in the UK stands alongside interventions into global affairs-of-state by Wikileaks to set the scene for rethinking established media codes of practice. Similarly, hackers associated with Anonymous have paved the way for new forms of software-based protest and agitation. In a different context the games industry has been shadowed by a history of hacks and cracks: for example, the recent compromise of PS3 console security for both ‘homebrew’ and piracy purposes, and the massive breach of Sony’s PlayStation Network (PSN) in April 2011 that resulted in data theft from 77 million users. These seemingly disparate situations signal the inherent vulnerabilities of data and code. They raise the spectre of a whole new form of risk society operating at the level of code and through its breaches and accidents. We welcome topics that call into question the relationship between control, security and forms of hacking across media, gaming and other digital contexts.

Failures of code – Much of the power of code lies in its invisibility, a transparency that leads to a socio-cultural embedding as the 'common sense' of everyday life. But what happens when code fails, socially, culturally, politically or technologically? What happens when someone, or something, refuses to obey the rules? Comedy, subversion, disruption and even revolution all find their origin in their failure to adhere to certain codes.Such disturbances are informative precisely because they highlight the fragility and artificiality of the taken for granted, and we therefore welcome contributions that explore such failures.

Code as Art Practice Code is a pervasive language that has become central to our relationship with personal computing and communications; its computations embedded in the minutae of the everyday. Code operates, as if by stealth, beneath the materiality of networked media performances, code and software art, games, mobile apps, locative and social media.But code also presents artists, performers and creative practitioners with opportunities to construct innovative hybrid media forms that can extend our understanding of contemporary art practice. From video installations in the 1960’s, through to sophisticated interactive media and augmented reality applications, artists have arguably been at the forefront of innovation, adopting the language of the computer to forge new creative frontiers. We invite contributions that examine the creative potential of code, including but not limited to, the implications of code for contemporary art/ists, code as art and/or performance, code as avant-garde, virus and anti-art.


Abstracts due 31 May 2012 to xxxxemail

Individual 20 minute papers: 500 word abstracts
Self Organised Panels: 500 word abstract of theme, 250 words of panel contributions

Artists and Creative Practitioners

We invite creative practitioners to respond to the conference theme through blah blah
(Dean and Troy!?!)

Notice of acceptance: 30 July 2012

Conference Organisers:

Esther Milne (Chair)
Akshaya Borkar
Steven Conway
Laura Crawford
Jane Felstead
Lawson Fletcher
Troy Innocent
Dean Keep
Jenny Kennedy
Ramon Lobato
Anthony McCosker
James Meese
Mike Skolnik
Justin Westgate



Berlant, Lauren (2008) The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture. Durham: Duke University Press.

boyd, danah. (2010) ‘Social Steganography: Learning to Hide in Plain Sight’ http://bit.ly/iBQwam

Cook, Elizabeth Heckendorn. (1996) Epistolary Bodies: Gender and Genre in the Eighteenth-century Republic of Letters. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Galloway, Alexander. (2006) ‘Language Wants to be Overlooked: On Software and Ideology’, Journal of Visual Culture 5(3): 315-331.

Goodman, Dena. (1994) The Republic of Letters : A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Haraway, Donna. (1997) Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan©Meets_OncoMouse™: Feminism and Technoscience, New York: Routledge.

Kittler, Friedrich. (2008) ‘Code’, in M. Fuller (ed.) Software Studies: A Lexicon. Cambridge: MIT Press. 40-47.

Kitzmann, Andreas. (2004) Saved From Oblivion: Documenting The Daily From Diaries To Web Cams. New York: Peter Lang.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew (2008) Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Lessig, Lawrence (1999) Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. New York: Basic Books.

Lovink, Geert (2011) ‘Unlike Us: Understanding Social Media Monopolies and their Alternatives’. Research Project, Institute of Network Cultures: http://bit.ly/qyoGVd

Senft, Theresa M. (2008) Camgirls: celebrity & community in the age of social networks. New York: Peter Lang.

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