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New Website: Ecocinema and Media

2015 May 6
by Steve Rust

Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann have just created a new website – Ecocinema and Media – to further promote ecological cinema and media and ecocritical approaches to the genre film and media.

The site features a link to their popular blog, Ecocinema and Film Genre, information about their four books in the field, contact information, and more. The site looks to be another great addition to our growing field of discourse.

CFP: Humanities and Technology Review

2015 April 30
by Steve Rust

Humanities and Technology Review is currently accepting papers of 4000-6000 word length for its 2015 issue   This year’s specific theme is, “Technology and Politics”, but papers addressing any area of technology studies or the intersection of technology and some area in the humanities (especially environmental studies) are welcome.

For more information or to see previous issues of the HTR:

Deadline for submissions is Wednesday, July 1st 2015.

All submissions must conform to APA, 6th edition guidelines.  For details see,******

The HTR is an interdisciplinary, refereed journal published annually in the Fall.  All decisions on submissions are made by blind review.

Please address inquiries to:

Seán Erwin, PhD

Editor, Humanities and Technology Review
Assistant Professor Philosophy
Barry University <>

Conference Report: “Media Waste and Space Junk: SCMS 2015″

2015 April 25

This report on SCMS 2015 was contributed by Nicole Seymour

“Media Waste and Space Junk: SCMS 2015”

The 2015 meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) in Montreal was a watershed moment for ecocinema studies on several levels. Having become official, the Media & Environment Scholarly Interest Group, or SIG, was able to sponsor 8 panels and hold its first meeting. In addition to the SIG-sponsored panels, several other panels and papers took up ecocritical and environmental humanities concerns – from Lauran Whitworth’s “Radical Faeries, Radical Film: Queer Pastoralism in the Films of James Broughton” to Brian Jacobson’s “Studio Fires, Containment Infrastructures, and the Ecology of Profilmic Environments.” And if one managed to escape from the massive Queen Elizabeth Hotel complex where the conference was held, one could experience a unique instantiation of media and environment, the Satosphere. As the conference program touted, “Channeling the techno-utopianism of Expo 67, the Satosphere Dome is a state-sponsored, permanent environment dedicated to large-scale moving image and sound experimentation. With a screen that is eighteen meters in diameter … you can sit back … and ponder a distinct mode of spectatorship, immersion, and art.”


I was able to attend 4 of the SIG-sponsored panels: “Media Waste: Technological Systems and the Environment” (Joseph Bookman, George Vollrath, Kyle Stine, and Jon Crylen presenting), “Excess Hollywood: Economies of Waste in Media Industries” (Kyle Edwards, Hunter Vaughan, Daniel Herbert, presenting, and Karl Schoonover, responding), “Cinema in/of the Anthropocene” (Janet Walker and Selmin Kara, presenting), and, of course, my own panel, “Engaging Ecocinema: The Affects and Effects of Environmental Documentaries” (Salma Monani, Alexa Weik von Mossner, and Nicole Seymour, presenting, and Adrian Ivakhiv, responding). Several major themes and concerns emerged in these panels, and I will attempt to briefly summarize and explore them here.


First, the concept of the “The Anthropocene,” not surprisingly, loomed large. But more than simply invoking it, presenters smartly questioned it, staging debates around its periodization, implications, and value as a critical and activist heuristic. For example, in a paper on Beasts of the Southern Wild and Gulf Coast geomedia, Janet Walker drew on geographer Kathryn Yusoff’s work to explore the idea of humanity as a geological object, not just a geological force. That is, while the concept of the Anthropocene helps us see ourselves as uniquely shaping the geological record, Walker and Yusoff urge us to also see ourselves as having something in common with other life forms – that we might become fossils, too. In this sense, Walker’s paper, along with many others, implicitly took up questions of temporality and time scale.


Second, many of the papers engaged with what Karl Schoonover referred to as the “emerging frenzy in the humanities to talk about waste.” In particular, the “Media Waste” and “Excess Hollywood” panels discussed industry waste production and the in/visibility of waste. Presenters on both panels invoked the first and only report on industry waste, UCLA’s “Sustainability and the Motion Picture Industry” (see, as well as relevant, related works such as Jennifer Gabrys’ Digital Rubbish, Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller’s Greening the Media, and Nadia Bozak’s The Cinematic Footprint. Both panels also raised the work of Irish artist John Gerrard, who famously used a helicopter to capture images of Google’s massive data center at Pryor Creek, Oklahoma (see’s-“farm”/). Gerrard’s work speaks to Hunter Vaughn’s point about the fallacy of our pervasive idea of the digital image as non-commodity, as immaterial. While fellow panelist Edwards declared that “Stories of waste tend to stay hidden,” Vaughan reminded us that, with the rise of documentaries on waste, and artwork such as Gerrard’s, “Film [and media] fulfills its potential in showing the unseen.” Selmin Kara’s paper on films such as Gravity and Snowpiercer added another dimension to this larger discussion. Focusing on these films’ inclusion of techno-industrial waste such as “space junk,” she suggested that we now have such cinematic “waste fantasies” because cinema may be becoming waste, due to emerging and competing media. Kara thus characterized such films as “postcinema.” But cinema has been concerned about its status from the very beginning, as scholars such as Paul Young (The Cinema Dreams Its Rivals: Media Fantasy Films from Radio to the Internet) have shown. Thus, we might consider that cinema has always been postcinema in its imagination – or, perhaps better, considering the materialist claims of many presenters, that cinema has always been a cinema of waste.


Finally, all panels in some way took up the question of complicity vs. action. During the Q&A for “Media Waste,” for example, Stine invoked cinema’s inherent destructiveness, drawing on Heidegger to propose it as “a setting-upon the world as exploitable.” Similarly, an audience member during the Q&A for “Cinema in/of the Anthropocene” declared, “we’re complicit with the energy structures as media scholars.” (This point was well-taken, as projectors continued to project, overhead lights hummed, and laptops glowed.) In noting that our “Engaging Ecocinema” panel collectively identified alternative strategies to dominant documentary modes – from animation to irony – Ivakhiv as our respondent was somewhat more positive. He declared that “We need all these [alternative] strategies and more – strategies that build the “we” that can take it all [environmental crisis] on, and strategies that question the ‘we.’” I objected, however, that I worry about the question of what film can do in the face of environmental crisis because of how that question instrumentalizes art; the same, I believe, can be said for the question of what scholarship can do.


Overall, these panels represent an interest in shifting cinema and media studies critique beyond what’s onscreen, to a larger view of industry practice and how that practice intersects with social systems of ideology and value production. While, on the one hand, this interest suggests that the activist tendencies of ecocriticism have effectively made their way into cinema and media studies, it also reminds us of how cinema and media studies has always been good at thinking extratextually, with reception studies, studio history, and industry studies (among others) forming important subspecialties of the field. Ecocinema studies thus seems primed for further exploration of the triangular research model that Hunter Vaughan proposed – “Media – Value – Waste” – and of many other pressing questions as well.


Editor’s Note: For more information about the SCMS Media and Environment Special Interest Group or if you are an SCMS member interested in joining the group, visit:


Nicole Seymour is Assistant Professor of English, California State University Fullerton and Carson Fellow Alumnus, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society (2013-14). Her 2013 book, Strange Natures (University of Illinois Press) has recently been nominated for and ASLE book award. It can be ordered at:

Kindle edition:

Conference CFP: New Directions in the Humanities

2015 April 24
by Steve Rust

The Humanities community is pleased to announce the Call for Papers for the Fourteenth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities. The Humanities Conference will be held 8-11 June 2016 at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Student Center East. We welcome submissions from a variety of disciplines and perspectives and encourage faculty and students to jointly submit proposals, discussing the humanities through one of the following themes:
Conference Themes:
• Critical Cultural Studies
• Communication and Linguistic Studies
• Literary Humanities Civic, Political, and Community Studies
• Humanities Education
“Nature at the Crossroads: New Directions for the Humanities in the Age of the Anthropocene”

2016 Special Focus: ‘Nature at the Crossroads: New Directions for the Humanities in the Age of the Anthropocene’

The purpose of the various fields of the humanities is to reflect on the human condition. One of the fundamental questions of our times, and one that is increasingly central to the question of our human condition, is the condition of nature. In this regard, there is a growing concern that our very species’ existence is now under threat as a consequence of human activity. The age of ‘the Anthropocene’ is characterized by the blowback of a ‘great acceleration’ in human impacts upon nature: modern industry, population growth, and increasing per capita consumption. These have resulted in human-induced changes to global temperatures, sea levels, CO2 in the atmosphere, to name just a few consequential eco-systemic changes.

The special focus for the Fourteenth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities – Nature at the Crossroads: New Directions for the Humanities in the Age of the Anthropocene – is to explore the conceptual and historical framing of the Anthropocene. How does this reconceptualization of natural history demand new approaches to the work of the humanities? How in this frame of reference is self positioned in relation to community and nature? What is the ontological basis of knowledge, autonomy, and freedom as interpretative perspectives on human action in the natural world? How do we read the symbolic and its distinction from or imbrication with, the material? What is the unique character of human history and its contra-distinction with natural history, of geological time compared to human time? How should the humanities and the natural sciences relate to each other as we address the challenges of the Anthropocene?

Proposal Submissions and Deadlines

The current review period closing date for the latest round of submissions to the Call for Papers (a title and short abstract) is 7 May 2015*. Please visit our website for more information on submitting your proposal, future deadlines, and registering for the conference.

If you are unable to attend the conference, you may still join the community and submit your article for peer review and possible publication, upload an online presentation, and enjoy subscriber access to The Humanities Collection.

*Proposals are reviewed in rounds adhering to monthly deadlines. Check the website often to see the current review round.

Happy Earth Day!

2015 April 22

For Earth Day 2015, Salma Monani and I have co-authored a blog post for the Routledge Press Earth Day Hub. We’ve titled it “Digital Technologies and the Global Environment.”

We’d love it if you’d read it … and then promptly turn off your computer and go outside :)

Environmental Photography and Humanities Symposium

2015 April 18
by Steve Rust

If you happen to be in Sweden next week …

“Environmental Photography and Humanities – Contributions to Research and Awareness”

An international symposium held at Valand Academy 23-24 April 2015. All are welcome, please register by email to

– in collaboration with the Hasselblad Foundation

“Environmental Photography and Humanities: Contributions to Research and Awareness”
23 – 24 April 2015
The Aula at Valand Academy, Vasagatan 50

This symposium aim to bring together cross disciplinary questions, practices and studies within humanities, social sciences, art and the natural sciences regarding aspects of perceptions of the land, how nature has been valued and used and how human activities and cultures act as part of, or against earths eco-­system and the future consequences of those different approaches.

Shifting cultural views has over time through exploration, exploitation and colonisation and shifting political focus, changed not only ideas and perceptions of the natural world but also the relation with terrestrial and marine areas and its inhabitants.

The current state of the earth is critical with the remaining pockets of natural resources being explored with possible consequences ranging from a massive extinction of animal species and ecological disasters to acts of war between competing nations and large migrations due to lack of food, water and fertile soil.

The issues of the impact of our industrialised culture with its current economical system are our times most important issues in regards to the future of our existence in a world as we still know it. Facing the concept and consequences of the Anthropocene is a great challenge for humanity and it is of great importance to identify and understand the rapid changes in our environment to be able to prepare for the future to come. The symposium wants to address the need to develop collaborations between science, humanities and the arts.

Subhankar Banerjee, photographer, writer and activist, USA.
Joni Adamson, Professor Environmental Humanities, Arizona State University, USA.
Daniel Schrag, Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology and Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering and director, Harvard University Center for the Environment, USA.
Anders Wijkman, Co-­president Club of Rome, Sweden
Mark Klett, Professor Photography, Arizona State University, USA.
Anne Noble, Professor Photography, Massey University, New Zeeland.
Per Holmlund, Professor Glaciology, Stockholm University.
Jem Southam, Professor Photography, Plymouth University.
Heidi Morstang, Lecturer Photography, Plymouth University.
Liz Wells, Professor in Photographic Culture, Plymouth University.

Ethics, Agency, and Aesthetics in the Anthropocene: A Symposium

2015 April 17
by Steve Rust

If you happen to be in the California Bay Area today…

Ethics, Agency, and Aesthetics in the Anthropocene: A Symposium

Conference/Symposium | April 17 | 10 a.m.-6:15 p.m. | 315 Wheeler Hall


Timothy Morton, Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English, Rice University; Joan Roughgarden, Professor of Biology, Emerita; Adjunct Professor, Stanford Univeristy; University of Hawai`i

Department of English, Townsend Center for the Humanities, James Joyce Working Group, Materiality Working Group, Stanford’s Environmental Humanities Project, Stanford’s Program in Modern Thought and Language


Even as the concept of the Anthropocene has gained increasing acceptance, expanding the scales of human agency by naming humans a geologic force implicated in global climate change and a looming sixth mass-extinction, the new critical fields of Posthumanism, New Materialism, and Object-Oriented Ontology have aimed to reconfigure “agency” as a property belonging not only to humans, but also to nonhuman animals and to inorganic objects. How can aesthetics represent these new forms of agency? What are the ethical implications of these new environmental aesthetics?

In a day-long series of featured addresses and panel discussions on ecological ethics and aesthetics across the human/nonhuman divide, this symposium explores how we might construct an ethics proper to this strange time in which humans are considered both the primary force driving ecological destruction and merely one kind of agent among a universe of nonhuman actors. How might we live ethically with animals and objects, and what ethical demands do they, as agents, place on us?

Featured speakers include Timothy Morton, Rice University; and Joan Roughgarden, Stanford University, and Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), University of Hawai’i.

American University’s Classroom in the Wild

2015 April 6
by Steve Rust