[ISEA2011] Panel: Sheena Calvert – Col­lat­eral Dam­age: Clouds, Criminality and Chatbots

Panel Statement

Panel: Without Sin: Taboo and Freedom within Digital Media

“The prob­lem of lan­guage is at the heart of all the strug­gles be­tween the forces striv­ing to abol­ish the pre­sent alien­ation and those striv­ing to main­tain it… Under the con­trol of power, lan­guage al­ways des­ig­nates some­thing other than au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence.” _All the King’s Men, Sit­u­a­tion­ist In­ter­na­tional, 1963

This paper takes the po­si­tion that the lan­guage[s] of tech­nol­ogy, and the ap­pli­ca­tion of lan­guage within dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ments, con­tinue to be in­ti­mately en­twined with the on­go­ing strug­gle against “the pre­sent alien­ation”, as well being im­pli­cated in the un­der­min­ing of au­then­tic­ity (the lack of a true iden­tity). Sup­ported by Adorno’s ob­ser­va­tion that “[O]bjects do not go into their con­cepts, with­out leav­ing a re­main­der…”, (Neg­a­tive Di­alec­tics), the ways in which lan­guage frames ex­pe­ri­ence, iden­tity, and po­lit­i­cal and so­cial re­al­i­ties, in on­line con­texts will be thought through. If, as Adorno sug­gests, lan­guage is a total sys­tem which re­sults in con­cep­tual clo­sure, and mis-di­rects ex­pe­ri­ence, where might we glimpse the lin­guis­tic ‘re­main­ders’, with their po­ten­tial for rev­o­lu­tion/re­de­f­i­n­i­tion, within the dig­i­tal con­text? A close read­ing of All The King’s Men, and other texts on lan­guage and power, will be pre­sented along­side a se­ries of ex­am­ples which high­light the prob­lem of lan­guage. If we are col­lat­eral dam­age to the con­tin­ual tyrrany of lan­guage, how do we re­sist this, in the new in­for­ma­tion en­vi­ron­ments and play­grounds we in­habit?  If the per­sis­tent  taboo which haunts lan­guage is mak­ing any at­tempt to stand out­side it, in order to as­sess its in­flu­ence, how do we break out of this dou­ble-bind?

  • Dr. Sheena Calvert has over 20 years ex­pe­ri­ence in graphic de­sign and ty­pog­ra­phy; art and crit­i­cal the­ory, gained in both in the UK and the US. She is a se­nior lec­turer in Crit­i­cal The­ory within the Vi­sual Com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­gramme at the Uni­ver­sity of West­min­ster (UK), and has taught at var­i­ous uni­ver­si­ties and art schools, in­clud­ing U.Mass Dart­mouth, Rut­gers, New Jer­sey (USA), CSM, The LCC, Uni­ver­sity of Hert­ford­shire and Nor­wich School of Art (UK). Her pro­fes­sional prac­tise in­cludes the es­tab­lish­ment of a New York-based de­sign stu­dio, whose clients in­cluded Vi­sual Aids, Verso pub­lish­ing, the Lin­coln Cen­ter, The Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Nat­ural His­tory, and the Jew­ish Women’s Archive. In the UK, she runs her own de­sign prac­tice, is a fel­low of the In­sti­tute of Con­tem­po­rary Arts and Sci­ences, and has ex­hib­ited her work in­ter­na­tion­ally. In 2010, she par­tic­i­pated in the b-side Mul­ti­me­dia Arts Fes­ti­val, as an in­vited artist. Her un­der­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate work at the Cen­tral school of Art and Yale Uni­ver­sity in­volved in­ves­ti­ga­tions of ty­pog­ra­phy and its re­la­tion­ship to var­i­ous ex­per­i­men­tal forms of lit­er­a­ture, and philoso­phies of lan­guage. Her PhD work looked at the in­ter­con­nec­tions be­tween art/lan­guage, para­dox, and mean­ing, ar­gu­ing for a ‘sen­sual logic’. She has a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in let­ter­press print­ing as an ex­per­i­men­tal/crit­i­cal medium, and runs her own let­ter­press stu­dio, the .918 press, in Hack­ney, Lon­don.

Full text (PDF) p. 328-334