A wee little ethnography of ICA 2016

by Scott Rodgers on September 12, 2016

ica-ethnography-airport-cropped-adjustedI’ve gone and done something I always wanted to do: write an ethnography of a conference; to be precise, one of the 2016 ICA conference in Fukuoka, Japan. Now, straight away, the proviso I’d make is that I’ve written one that is quite short and modest (UPDATE: and certainly it doesn’t merit the title of ‘ethnography’, as one rightly commented already in Twitter, if tongue-in-cheek). The piece is for the Counterparts section of Mediapolis, which is essentially just supposed to be a ~1300 word conference report. It’s just that I made my life difficult, perhaps, and insisted on writing it in this vignette-y way.

Since I knew in advance I was going to write it, though, it did sometimes make for a kind of alternate reality conference experience. I could be listening into the most mundane conversation, on the periphery, and thinking, well that’s sort of interesting. Or I could be outright bored, waiting for one thing or another, and in the deep mire of that boredom realise that I find something rather curious about it (I guess the best example of this is my tortuous wait in a lunch buffet line, my starting vignette in the piece).

More than anything, though, writing this just made me realise how much more deeply one could analyse these sorts of events. Many do so already. For example, Gabriella Coleman has published great ethnographic work on hacker conferences (opens a PDF – I must tip my hat to Giancarlo Sandoval for recently reminding me of this work). Indeed, the editorial board member who refereed and then edited the piece, Floris Paalman, did a wonderful job of pointing out all sorts of potentially interesting emergent themes, especially related to thinking about the spatial politics of the conference. While it’s too bad the length – and time available – prevented me from really exploring those themes, I hope that there are still some points which are recognisable and interesting to the academic conference goer, whether frequent or sporadic, ICA or otherwise.


bombe1024px-2My second essay within the special Mediapolis roundtable on ‘small-gauge’ scholarship, which has been running over the past few weeks, has now been published. It’s been a really interesting exchange which tries to confront and tease out the emergent notion of small-gauge scholarship, a term contained in the founding mission statement of the journal.

If you want the larger context, Brendan Kredell’s roundtable introduction is the place to start, as well as the nice roundup of the first set of essays by Erica Stein. The second essays from Kevin Allen, Jennifer Heuson and Carla Nappi, have also been published in the last few days.


preiser600pxOver at the Mediapolis journal, I have published a short essay as part of a roundtable on the emergent notion of ‘small-gauge’ scholarship. The notion of small-gauge was alluded to in the founding mission statement of this new and experimental journal, and has since generated some substantial interest and debates. This roundtable tries to tackle these debates and interests head-on, with essays that explore possible emergent meanings and practices of small-gauge scholarship. The link above leads directly to my piece, but it may make more sense to begin with Brendan Kredell’s roundtable introduction, following by the essays from Kevin Allen, Jennifer Heuson and Carla Nappi, which preceded my own.

Next week there will be some further essays from the editors and contributors, including me, in response to the issues that have been raised so far.


The media-urban nexus: histories, stakes, possibilities (text of keynote paper)

May 31, 2016

Below is the text of a keynote paper given on Sunday 29 May 2016 for the ‘Mediating cityscapes’ symposium, held as part of the Artists’ Film Biennial at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. It was an informal paper, in which I mainly was asked to open out some issues for the symposium. So I deliberately […]

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Mediating cityscapes symposium at the ICA

May 27, 2016

This Sunday, 29 May 2016, I will be presenting a keynote paper for ‘Mediating cityscapes’, a symposium being held as part of the Artists’ Film Biennial at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. My paper – titled ‘The media-urban nexus: histories, stakes, possibilities’ – will be an attempt to open up some broad themes around what […]

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Yuk Hui at Birkbeck on ‘For a Realism of Relations: The Case of Digital Objects’

May 23, 2016

Very unfortunately I won’t be able to attend this seminar at Birkbeck (though, fortunately, it’s because I will be talking in my first visit to Japan). Looks like an excellent discussion will be had. Full details are below. Yuk Hui – For a Realism of Relations: The Case of Digital Objects The Vasari Research Centre […]

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Event: What things are, what things do

May 17, 2016

Next week, on Friday 27 May, Güneş Tavmen and Hannah Barton are organising what looks to be an interesting interdisciplinary seminar titled ‘What things are, what things do’. The event – sponsored by Birkbeck Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture – will host a set of debates around the ‘structuring structures’ of media culture: in […]

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Event: Digital Us: Are We ‘Together’ in a Networked Culture?

May 12, 2016

At the very beginning of Birkbeck Arts Week 2016, on 16 May 2016, I will be taking part in an event which touches on familiar themes, but perhaps from new angles and through a juxtaposition of fairly different contributors. While I am going to draw upon some recent small-scale qualitative research I’ve undertaken on the […]

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Urban media tour: 18 May 2016

April 24, 2016

After a two-year hiatus, Joel McKim and I are pleased to again lead our (evidently) popular urban media tour of West End London, this year as part of Birkbeck Arts Week 2016. As always, we’ll be not only visiting a range of buildings and neighbourhoods associated with major media industries, but also we’ll be discussing […]

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Tentative techlocalities: paper abstract for forthcoming GeoMedia Speaker Series

March 15, 2016

Exactly one month from today, I will be fortunate enough to give an invited paper to the GeoMedia Research Group at Karlstad University in Sweden, as part of their GeoMedia Speaker Series. Karlstad University is a quite special place for thinking and talking about the relationships of geography and media since, as far as I […]

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