Public Keynotes RMeS Summer School 2024: Environmental Media: Imagination, Infrastructure, Intervention

Wednesday 19th June 2024

Susanne Knittel (Utrecht University) | 10:00-12:30 | Drift 21 – room 0.05 (Sweelinckzaal)

Ecocide in the Cultural Imagination

Ecocide and large-scale environmental harm raise fundamental questions regarding the way we think about guilt, responsibility, and repair. How do we acknowledge human and non-human victims and give voice to their stories? How do we determine who is responsible and how do we hold them to account? What is the power of a concept such as ecocide? In addition to legal, political, and theoretical challenges, ecocide also presents a fundamental representational challenge: the processes and actions that constitute ecocide are highly complex and occur at a scale or temporality that is difficult to picture. In this lecture I will explore how artists, writers, filmmakers, and theater directors often turn to cultural repertoires, forms and conventions that are familiar from representing and commemorating genocides and other acts of large-scale violence against humans. Moreover, as I will argue, these cultural forms are able to reveal the historical, structural and discursive links between crimes against humanity and crimes against nature.

Susanne C. Knittel is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Utrecht University. She holds a PhD in Italian and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, New York (2011). Her research centres on the question of how societies remember atrocities — specifically how they deal with the uncomfortable issues of guilt and responsibility — and what role literature, art, film, and other cultural representations play in this process. Her current project focuses on the contemporary cultural imagination of genocide and ecocide. Susanne explores how art and culture can help reveal the historical and structural links between violence against humans and violence against the environment that usually remai unseen. Her publications include: The Historical Uncanny: Disability, Ethnicity, and the Politics of Holocaust Memory (Fordham UP, 2015), The Routledge International Handbook of Perpetrator Studies (2019), and the special issues Double Exposures, The Journal of Perpetrator Research 2.2 (2019) and Memory after Humanism, Parallax 23.4 (2017).

Register VIA THIS LINK before 17 June 2024

Thursday 20th June 2024

Rachel W. Jekanowski (Memorial University of Newfoundland) | 10:00-12:30 | Drift 21 – room 0.05 (Sweelinckzaal)

Green Extractivism and Just Energy Futures: Speculative Media in Newfoundland’s Energy Transition

In recent years, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador has found itself on the forefront of North America’s green transition. With some of the greatest wind resources on the continent, the island of Newfoundland is facing a boom in commercial wind developments designed to meet Europe’s energy needs and facilitate the global transition to a low-carbon, post-oil economy. World Energy GH2’s Project Nujio'qonik, the first of such developments, is a multibillion-dollar project set to construct over 300 wind turbines in rural communities on Newfoundland’s West Coast to generate green hydrogen and ammonia for international markets. This talk examines the uneven experiences of energy transition in rural communities and conflicting ideas of a “just” future through media about Newfoundland’s proposed wind-to- hydrogen projects. I argue that World Energy GH2’s public relations videos, press releases, and environmental impact assessment report can be understood as examples of speculative
media, which adopt the aesthetics, future-oriented discourses, and narrative techniques from utopian and science fiction—what Aimee Bahng calls “the speculative mode of the ‘What if?’” (2018: 13). Sponsored and public relations media about Project Nujio'qonik offer an important site to explore societal and political tensions within the “just transition,” including practices of green extractivism, the distribution of risk and benefits from renewable developments, and whose futures these speculative infrastructures permit. This work builds upon energy humanities and environmental media scholarship, while exploring the continuities and ruptures between contemporary and historical energy developments on screen. My talk also reflects upon my experiences as a film and media scholar conducting community-engaged, interdisciplinary research and how we might reimagine the university’s contributions to more livable futures.

Rachel Webb Jekanowski is an interdisciplinary scholar researching cultural histories of energy and resource extraction in Canada and the United States, with a particular focus on film, media, and infrastructure studies. Dr. Jekanowski works as an Assistant Professor of English at Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus in Western Newfoundland, Canada. She is also affiliated faculty at Grenfell’s Environmental Policy Institute. She completed her PhD in Film and Moving Image Studies at Concordia University, Montreal. Her award-winning research has been published in Canadian Journal of Film Studies, Canadian Journal of Communication, and Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies, as well as several edited collections, most recently The Interactive Documentary in Canada (McGill-Queen’s Press, 2024) and Cold Water Oil: Offshore Petroleum Cultures (Routledge, 2022). Dr. Jekanowski’s current research explores arts-based approaches to sustainability, labour equity, and energy transition within and beyond academia. She is the co-PI on a Natural Resources Canada-funded project exploring social and cultural impacts of spruce budworm outbreaks in Gros Morne National Park. Dr. Jekanowski is Reviews Editor for Journal of Environmental Media and Co-Editor of The Goose: A Journal of Arts, Environment, and Culture in Canada. She is also actively involved in her faculty union and committed to pan-union organizing to improve working conditions in academia.

Register VIA THIS LINK before 17 June 2024

Thursday 20th June 2024

Benedetta Brevini (New York University) and Patrick Brodie (University College Dublin) | 14.00-16.30 | Drift 21 – room 0.05 (Sweelinckzaal)

Talk and workshop: Political Economies and Ecologies of ICT Infrastructures and AI

Benedetta Brevini | New York University
Between Power and Nature: An Eco-Political Economy of AI

Benedetta Brevini’s talk will advocate the term “an Eco-political economy of AI” (Brevini, 2021; 2022; 2024) to comprehend the complex elements involved in assessing AI’s environmental harms. This approach entails examining three crucial segments of the extractive global production and supply chain of AI to account for its environmental costs: mining and resource extraction; consumption, energy use, and carbon footprints; and digital waste. Moreover, it involves integrating theories from various disciplines such as media and communication, geography, computing, and engineering, while also incorporating indigenous concepts and environmental justice paradigms.

Patrick Brodie | University College Dublin
Data Centres and the Environmental Contradictions of AI Growth

Patrick Brodie’s talk will situate the forms of carbon calculability emerging within what he refers to as the “political ecologies” of digital data, in conversation with an emerging interdisciplinary subfield concerned with the increasing integration of the “twinned transitions” of digitalization and decarbonization technologies. In particular, he will demonstrate the ways in which we need to move beyond an “impact” model of environmental politics of data and towards one that contends with the ecological stakes of an already-existing green, digital capitalism.

Register VIA THIS LINK before 17 June 2024

Friday 21st June 2024

Sebastian Scholz (VU University Amsterdam) | 10:00-12:30 | Drift 21 – room 0.05 (Sweelinckzaal)

Sensor-Media-Milieus: Responsive Environments and So-Called “Nature”

As hyperphenomenal spatio-temporal processes, most aspects of climate change and the manifold environmental crises associated with it elude direct human sensory perception. Unfolding too slowly or on imperceptible micro or macro scales, phenomena such as rising sea levels, massive biodiversity loss, ocean acidification or desertification (to name but a few) pose undeniable challenges to human perception and comprehension. Ubiquitous and pervasive micro-technologies of sensing have emerged as primary tools for detecting, monitoring, and ultimately comprehending these multiple environmental crises. Sensors, in other words, have become one of the dominant media of contemporary knowledge production. Sensor-media produce the data necessary to substantiate and validate climate models, monitor current states as well as detect processes and patterns of change within specific environments. Deployed in oceans, forests, cities, agricultural land and domestic spaces, attached to or inserted in animals, plants or human bodies, sensor-media continuously monitor current states and conditions of the environments surrounding them – which, at the same time, constitutes these environments as distinct milieus of sensing in the first place. The imperceptible ‘hyperphenomenality’ of climate change is (inevitably) addressed, analyzed and managed through interconnected sensor-media that operate on an equally imperceptible micro-temporal and micro-scale level. The subsequent translation of data generated in the process to intelligible and perceptible information (account, graph,
image, narrative etc.) becomes thus an urgent aesthetico-political question of human interfacing with so-called ‘nature’. For developing an understanding of sensor-technologies as media in a broad conceptual sense, i.e. beyond their mere instrumentality, prosthetic qualities or technical affordances, it is necessary to conceptualize sensor-media as agents of implementing and activating a more-than-human sensorium within contemporary technoecological infrastructures. Rather than being passive tools or mere extensions of the human sensory apparatus, sensor-media
actively participate in redefining and problematizing what it means ‘to sense’ under conditions in which media become increasingly environmental while at the same time environments become massively mediated. Sensor-saturated responsive environments create specific milieus of ‘sensing’ that operate on their own scales and temporalities, transforming environments into milieus of mediation and ‘medianaturecultural’ sites of
experimentation, intervention and manageability. The keynote aims to delineate the onto-epistemological challenges posed by sensor-media under conditions of intensified global computation, technological interconnectedness, and the emergence of technoecological milieus with their respective temporalities and (an)aesthetics of experienced time.

Sebastian Scholz is Assistant Professor Media Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He is currently conducting research on ‘sensor-media’, environmental media and emerging ‘technoecologies of sensation’. His research is situated at the intersections of media and science & technology studies, contemporary media theory and cross-media aesthetics. Scholz received his PhD in Media Studies from Goethe-University Frankfurt and his MA from Ruhr-University Bochum. He is the author of the book Epistemische Bilder. Zur Medialen Onto-Epistemologie der Sichtbarmachung (Bielefeld 2021) and has published articles on media theoretical and onto-epistemological challenges of sensor-media: “Sensing the ‘Contemporary Condition’: The Chronopolitics of Sensor-Media” in Krisis Vol. 41, No. 2; “Sensormedien-Milieus und Technoökologien der Wahrnehmung. Navigieren in/mit ‘more-than-human’ Infrastrukturen” in Navigationen 22, H.1, 2022.

Register VIA THIS LINK before 17 June 2024