Each year the Center designates a theme that lends itself to multidisciplinary study as the subject for its research. Around this theme we present a full program of public lectures, seminars, symposia, and conferences.

Image for Dark Side of the Digital conference

At least since the 1980s, the digital has been the occasion for enthusiastic, often utopian, dreams. In almost every area of human and nonhuman endeavor—finance, consumer culture, technoscience, education, medicine, communication, or the arts—digital technologies have been heralded as revolutionary if not redemptive.

But there has always been a dark side to such digital enthusiasm: dark places that scholars of the digital tend to overlook as they illuminate new fields and paths, dark practices that intensify social inequalities and accelerate environmental destruction, and dark politics that often remain obscure to global media users.

Devastating labor conditions at factories like FoxConn in China are exacerbated by the appetite for next generation iPhones or iPads. Securitization and data mining are fueled by the eagerness of contemporary media users to share their search patterns, location, and affective labor. And the environmental destruction from disposing the hazardous waste of still functioning but outmoded media devices, or mining for the precious metals that the continued production of these new devices require, is mostly invisible to the consumers of new tablets, mobile phones, HD monitors, and netbooks.

The Dark Side of the Digital seeks proposals for critical, historical, and theoretical papers and creative presentations that shed light on some of the dangerous but overlooked consequences of the 21st-century transformation from mechanical reproduction to digital remediation. We are especially interested in work that pays particular attention to the conjunction of neoliberalism and socially networked digital media, in order to offer some suggestions about how the digital can best move forward in the 21st century. In particular we seek papers and presentations that pursue instances of specific digital technologies in such realms as

  • surveillance and security
  • cyberwar and drone warfare
  • technoscience
  • media, arts, or culture
  • communication
  • education
  • economy and finance
  • energy, resource, and waste management
  • medicine and healthcare

Proposals should also address strategies for resisting some of the more perfidious elements of the digital, including those that emerge from and must remain in the interstices of the 21st century networked society of control. We invite contributions from practitioners of digital arts and sciences, media theorists and philosophers, historians, cultural critics, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and other analysts of digital technologies and culture.

Plenary speakers

Sandra Braman (Communication, UW-Milwaukee)

Micha Cárdenas (Media Arts and Practice, USC)

Julie Cohen (Law, Georgetown University)

Greg Elmer (School of Media, Ryerson University)

Lisa Nakamura (American Culture, University of Michigan)

Rita Raley (English, UC-Santa Barbara)

McKenzie Wark (Culture and Media, New School)

Andrew Norman Wilson (Artist)

Conference website

Dark Side of the Digital Schedule (PDF)

Dark Side of the Digital Schedule (online)

Opening night reception: Best Place at Historic Pabst Brewery

Workshop with Micha Cárdenas: Building Local Autonomy Networks

Student Volunteers Needed! We need help setting up the conference venue, working the registration desk, helping out at lunch and coffee breaks, and more tasks like those. In return you'll get to be part of an exciting, cutting edge conference, can mingle at the conference's welcome reception, and a nice line item on your CV. For more information . . . (PDF)

Call for Papers (CFP) CLOSED

Please send your abstract (up to 250 words) and a brief (1-page) CV by Friday, January 4 to Richard Grusin, Director, Center for 21st Century Studies,

Conference CFP flyer (PDF)


Videos of Plenary Talks

David Golumbia's review, Postcolonial Digital Humanities blog

(David Golumbia's review is also available on the C21 blog)

Marc Perry's review, Chronicle of Higher Education

Also of interest

Conference report: The Re/Turn of the Nonhuman in the Study of Culture

Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany, May 27-28

C21 director Richard Grusin provided introductory remarks and chaired a panel. Other UWM faculty presenters were former C21 fellow Jason Puskar (English) and Benjamin Campbell (Anthropology). Former C21 guest lecturers Jussi Parikka (Southampton [UK]/Turku [FIN]) and Ursula Heise (UCLA) delivered keynote lectures.

Call for Conference Proposals

The Center seeks proposals that will further its mission of promoting cutting-edge research and encouraging dialogue across disciplinary boundaries in the humanities, arts, and humanistically informed social sciences. Topics should have the potential both of appealing to a broad range of researchers in and around UWM and of having a wider impact on scholarly debates in the humanities nationally and internationally. Any topic that falls within the humanities, broadly conceived, has interdisciplinary appeal, and does not duplicate recent conferences may be proposed. Descriptions and some programs of recent conferences are available below.

Past Conferences

The Nonhuman Turn (May 3-5, 2012)

Embodied Placemaking in Urban Public Spaces | Fall 2010 (October 8, 2010) | Spring 2011 (April 29, 2011)

DEBT (April 28 - May 1, 2010)

Since 1968 (October 23-25, 2008)

In Terms of Gender: Crosscultural and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (May 4-5, 2007)

In/Dependence: Disability, Welfare, and Age (April 7, 2006)

Art of the State: Sovereignty Past and Present (October 21-22, 2005)

Routing Diasporas (April 8-9, 2005)

Museums and Difference (November 14-15, 2003)

9/11: Reconstructions (October 4-5, 2002)

Just Feelings: Citizenship, Justice, and the Emotions (April 27-28, 2001)

Representing Animals (April 13-15, 2000)

Knowing Mass Culture/Mediating Knowledge (April 29 - May 1, 1999)

Anthropology, Genetic Diversity, and Ethics (February 12-13, 1999)

Public Showing (April 16-18, 1998)

Biotechnology, Culture, and the Body (April 24-26, 1997)

Women & Aging: Bodies, Cultures, Generations (April 18-20, 1996)

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