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Contemporary Literature, Information Technologies, and Participatory Culture

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Organizer: Aarthi Vadde

Co-Organizer: Jessica Pressman

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This seminar has two objectives. The first is to explore the transformative effects of information technologies on the making of contemporary literature and literary culture in a global context. The personal computer, mobile devices, the cloud, the server farm, the search engine, the algorithm, and the network are indispensable parts of daily life. We wish to understand the consequences of their ubiquity on specific developments in the contemporary literary field – its aesthetic forms, medial substrates, institutional sites of canonization, and informal sites of readership.
Informal sites of readership, in particular, underpin our second objective, which is to re-evaluate our specialist methods for studying contemporary literature in light of the participatory cultures of Web 2.0. How would literary history and literary value change if the discipline paid more heed to the collaborative reading and writing practices of social media, online reviewing culture, and self-publishing platforms? Much has been made of computational methods for reading large corpora, but how might the migration of popular reading culture online also impact the methods and objects of digital literary study?  For example, how would the study of fandoms, peer-to-peer file sharing networks, subcultural literary communities, and even literary advertising/promotion redraw the boundaries of the contemporary literary field?
We invite papers from across the geographical and linguistic spectrum, though, we are restricting our periodization of contemporary literary culture to post-2004 to correspond with the rise of Web 2.0.
Questions for consideration:
- How does contemporary literary culture register and respond to the growth of an information society?  Formal, medial, and sociological approaches are all welcome here, but position papers are preferred to close readings of single works.
-  What do philosophical and media historical/theoretical approaches to information technology have to offer literary studies? Conversely, what does the discipline of literary studies have to offer philosophies and histories of information technology?
-   How can sharing, crowdsourcing, and gig platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Wattpad, and Amazon Mechanical Turk be incorporated into literary history?  Another way of asking this question: How can scholars write literary history to account for an internet era that regularly blurs amateur and professional readers, practices, and institutional platforms?
-   How have literary genres responded to global surveillance, precarious labor conditions, and the circulation of misinformation as a condition of contemporary life?  In turn, how have paraliterary genres - the edges of the avant-garde, but also the edges of professional brochures, policy documents, corporate culture, etc.— responded to these conditions and reframed "the literary" as a concept, sphere, or art form?

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