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Facilitator: Dr Adi Kuntsman, Reader in Digital Politics, Manchester Metropolitan University

Date: March 30 2023
Time: 13:00 - 15:00, followed by discussion and drinks

The relations between digital communication technologies and memory have changed rapidly in the last two decades and continue to change – and so do our academic debates about digital memory. From fascination and obsession to save everything to considerations of how social media practices may distort our memories; from discussions of platformisation of memory to concerns about digital amnesia and decay; from controversies of permanent digital footprints to demands of the right to be forgotten. Some of these debates prioritise a systemic socio-political view (i.e. focusing on legal frameworks; or on the role of governments and corporations). Others privilege the phenomenological and the ethnographic (i.e. experiences, practices, interpretations); and yet others foreground the techno-cultural (i.e. software, platforms, and increasingly also the role of algorithms and AI). How can we weave these strands together? How can we account for the economic, social and political forces, while looking at everyday practices of digital memory? And perhaps most crucially, how can we combine the attention to non-human forces with a sensitivity for human subjecthood and experience?  

The purpose of this masterclass will be to use the framework of figures and figurations to inspire digital ethnographic research that is attuned simultaneously to both the techno-political and the human side of digital memory. Nearly 25 years ago, in her work on the material-semiotic relations of technology, culture and politics, Donna Haraway coined the term “figurations”, defined as ‘condensed maps of contestable worlds’ (1997: 11). In Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium, Haraway defined figures as tropic, rather than literal and self-identical. Writing some years later, Claudia Castaneda further developed the idea of figuration ‘as a descriptive tool is to unpack the domains of practice and significance that are built into each figure’ (Castañeda 2002: 3). Drawing on Haraway, Castañeda, and my own work, this masterclass will encourage the participants to search for figures in current ecologies of digital memory, and discuss ways these figures can help us grasp the present and future of this field. 

To make the most of this Figures and Figurations master class, participants are asked to read three short texts in advance. You will receive these texts after registration:   

  • Castañeda, C. (2002) Figurations: Child, Bodies, Worlds, Duke University Press. Introduction: pp 1-11 
  • Haraway, D. (1997) Modest _Witness@Second_Millenium: FemaleMan _ Meets _ OncoMouse™:  Feminism and Technoscience,  Routledge. ‘Syntactics’, pp 1-16 
  • Kuntsman, A. (2009) Figurations of Violence and Belonging: queerness, migranthood and nationalism in cyberspace and beyond, Peter Lang. Introduction 

Dr Adi Kuntsman is Reader in Digital Politics at the Department of History, Politics and Philosophy at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. Their recent work focused on the politics of ‘opting out’ of digital communication; and on environmental impacts of digital technologies. Adi is the author of multiple books and edited collections, including Digital Militarism: Israeli Occupation in the Social Media Age (with Rebecca Stein, Stanford University Press, 2014); Paradoxes of Digital Disengagement: In Search of the Opt Out Button (with Esperanza Miyake, University of Westminster Press, 2022) and Digital Politics, Digital Histories, Digital Futures (with Liu Xin, Emerald 2023). Adi is currently setting up a new book series on digital technologies, sustainability and the environment, and working on a number of projects exploring smart cities; digital memory; and digital environmental harms.