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Research seminars and events

The department hosts a range of research seminars and events:

Curating Machines: Creating and Curating in the Digital

Media Arts, Royal Holloway University of London, is pleased to announce the research series Curating Machines: Creating and Curating in the Digital. We will host five events from January to June 2018, each consisting of a three-hour long workshop, followed by a public lecture. The outline of the events is presented below. More information on each event can be found further down in the email, at the series' Facebook page and on the department's website. Please save the dates!

Room 1-02 Senate House, University of London, Malet St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HU

Workshops: 2-5 pm
Lectures: 6-8 pm

Workshops are open to everyone with priority given to PhD students. Public lectures are open for everyone to attend. 

To book a place and all other enquiries please email: publicresearch.mediaarts@rhul.ac.uk 

Organised by Olga Goriunova, Lilly Markaki and Chris Townsend

January 25

Erica Scourti, artist
Workshop & Lecture: Speak Through You: Automating Embodiment.

In this workshop and lecture, Erica Scourti will explore the quantification of embodied affect through her work with digital archives and voice-activated media, to ask who speaks, and who is spoken, when writing a performative autobiography through and with non human agencies. Drawing connections between medieval mysticism, the gendering of artificial intelligence, and the automation of affect through new technologies of vocal coding, the lecture will foreground these concerns through some of her works, while the daytime workshop will involve hands-on experimentation and demonstration of her working methods.

Please note that a fully-charged smartphone is required for participation in the workshop! 

Erica Scourti was born in Athens, Greece (1980) and is now based in London. Her work draws on personal experience to explore life, labour, gender and love in a fully mediated world. She has exhibited recently in More Than Just Words at Kunsthalle Wien, Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond at the Wellcome Collection; as well as Niarchos Centre, Athens, CTRL+SHIFT, Oakland, Microscope Gallery, New York, The Photographers’ Gallery, Hayward Gallery, Munich Kunstverein, EMST Athens, Autoitalia and Banner Repeater. She has presented performances and talks at Tate Modern, ICA London, Whitechapel Gallery, South London Gallery, Transmediale, Southbank Centre, Royal College of Art, Goldsmiths College and Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam. In 2015 Erica was in residence at Wysing Arts Centre and the White Building, London, and she is currently a resident of Somerset House Studios. She has published essays in Documents of Contemporary Art: Information (2016, MIT Press) and Fiction as Method (Sternberg, forthcoming November 2017).

February 22

Annet Dekker, surator, archivist
Workshop: Version Control and Archive Freedom.

Version control systems (VCS) check the differences between versions of code or text. By archiving (by means of a timestamp and the name of the author) and making available ongoing versions of a project, VCS allows multiple people to work on elements of a project without overwriting someone else’s text. Changes that are made can easily be compared, restored, or, in some cases, merged. Finding a coherent and structured way to organise and control revisions has always been at the core of archival practices, but it became even more urgent, and complex, in the era of computing.

Wikipedia is perhaps the most well-known example of using version control in its ‘page history’. Using ‘QuickDiff’, which is based on character-by-character analysis, it allows users to check the differences between new and previous versions. In 2005 Linus Torvalds developed Git, a source code management system, or a file storage system. Git makes it possible to write code in a decentralised and distributed way by encouraging branching or working on multiple versions at the same time and across different people. Most importantly to our research it facilitates tracking and auditing of changes. In 2007 Github started hosting Git repositories (or repos). Interestingly, Git used on Github evolved the environment into a site of ‘social coding’ (Fuller et al. 2017). Rather quickly the collaborative coding repositories became used for widely diverse needs: from software development to writing license agreements, sharing Gregorian chants, and announcing a wedding – anything that needs a quick way of sharing and improving information. As mentioned by Github founder Tom Preston-Werner: ‘The open, collaborative workflow we have created for software development is so appealing that it's gaining traction for non-software projects that require significant collaboration’ (McMillan, 2013). Whereas Wiki’s VCS is a simple way of version control that is useful for project documentation and self-organised, or agile, software collaboration, Git provides a more comprehensive approach to collaborative working and sharing.

This workshop will explore the different usage of Git and Wiki, focussing on capturing change. Through collaborative experimentation we will analyse how VCS can be effectively integrated in the practice of archiving. Alongside some practical experimentation, and to gain a better understanding of the underlying, but omnipresent, structures that support these environments, we will discuss how we can use these platforms for archival purposes by answering the following questions: what is the value of concepts such as provenance, appraisal and selection in GitHub and Wiki, what is the function of metadata in these systems, and how stable and secure is the data in a version controlled archive? 

Knowledge of Wiki/GitHub is useful, but not necessary!

Lecture: Between Light and Dark Archiving

Some people argue that the digital archive is an oxymoron (Laermans and Gielen 2007) or that it is more akin to an anarchive (Ernst 2002, Zielinski 2014). Derrida mentioned the word anarchive to signal that ‘what remains unvanquished remains associated with the anarchiv.’ Ernst relates this notion to the digital archive and describes how the anarchive is something that cannot be ordered or catalogued because it is constantly re-used, circulated, expanding and dynamic, and is thus only a metaphorical archive (Ernst 2002). Similarly, Foster describes how the ‘anarchival’ is about obscure traces rather than absolute origins, emphasising the incomplete which may offer openings to new interpretation, projects or documents, or ‘points of departure’ as mentioned by Foster (Foster 2004). These various descriptions implicate that digital archives, and in particular Web-based archives, function less as a storage space and more as a recycling centre in which the material (the archival document, if one can still use this term) is dynamic. In other words, as many of these media theoreticians and critics argue, the default of the digital archive is re-use instead of storage, circulation rather than centrally organised memory, and enduring change versus stasis. This beckons the question how to capture and retrieve all this data, information and documents that are ‘archived’ on the Web? In the presentation I will pay attention to works by, among others, Erica Scourti, Olia Lialina & Dragan Espenschied and Harm van den Dorpel, who in various ways explore the challenges of archiving and archival systems on the Web. In the process answering the question how the transformation of the archive into a networked device is changing how archives are curated, experienced and preserved. Arguing that it’s between ‘light’ and ‘dark’ archiving that new potentials can be found. 


Annet Dekker is Assistant Professor Media Studies: Archival and Information Studies at the University of Amsterdam and Visiting Professor and co-director of the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image at London South Bank University. Recent publications include, among others, Lost and Living (in) Archives (2017), Speculative Scenarios, or What Will Happen to Digital Art in the (Near) Future (2012), Archiving the Digital (2011) and Archive 2020: Sustainable Archiving of Born Digital Cultural Content (2010). Previously she worked as an independent researcher, curator and writer for, among others, Tate, London as Researcher Digital Preservation (2014-6), and Fellow at The New Institute, Rotterdam (2014-6), she was a Core Tutor at Piet Zwart Institute, Master Media Design and Communications (2011-6), Web curator for SKOR (Foundation for Art and Public Domain), programme manager at Virtueel Platform (2008-10), and head of exhibitions, education and artists-in-residence at the Netherlands Media Art Institute (1998-08). http://aaaan.net

March 15

Kristoffer Gansing, Artistic Director of Transmediale
Lecture & Workshop: Curating and the Post-digital. 

Abstract to follow


Kristoffer Gansing has been the artistic director of the Transmediale festival since 2012. As a curator and researcher he is interested in the intersections of media, art, and activism. He is co-founder of the festival The Art of the Overhead (2005) and from 2007-2010 was an editorial board member of the artist-run channel tv-tv in Copenhagen. From 2001-11 he taught the theory and practice of new media at the K3 School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University. In 2013 he completed his PhD thesis, entitled Transversal Media Practices, a study dealing with media archaeology, art, and technological development.

May 24

Katrina Sluis, curator of the Digital Programmes at The Photographers’ Gallery
Workshop: Imaging Machines: Google Image Search

Combining advances in machine learning, computer vision and high performance computing, Google Image Search represents the latest stage in a much longer history of human attempts to grasp the visual world, from Warburg’s Mnemosyne to Malraux’s Le Musée Imaginaire. Like all search engines, its role is to mediate knowledge, moderate online traffic, and generate new vectors of meaning. By temporarily unifying groups of disparate images hosted on remote web servers, Google Image Search operates as a networked, protological vision machine. However, its exact architecture and ranking algorithms are remain a mystery, concealed by a simple user interface which generates streams of images in exchange for search queries.

As a contemporary imaging machine, what is the image that Google Image Search produces? Is it an archive, a camera, an artwork? What are its limits and aesthetics? In exploring these questions, the workshop will explore a number of artists’ projects which approach the autopoiesis of image search, its logic and technicity. These projects raise questions concerning the semantic gap between human and machine vision, and the recursivity and hyperrelationality of photography in the 21st Century. Through this collective exploration we will ask what is at stake in such systems and the relations between vision, information and knowledge.

Lecture: Desperately Seeking Audience: Hypercuration and the 21st Century Museum

Whilst there is presently an ongoing semantic war being waged about the usage of the term ‘curate’, it is worth considering how ‘curation’ has been both diffused and operationalised in computational culture. This lecture will explore on the annexation of curating by social media marketers, and the parallel embrace of content marketing and Google Analytics by contemporary cultural institutions. Through the discourse of contemporary digital marketing, I argue that the digital museum is being re-imagined as a highly branded content channel whose reputation, relevance, and visibility is secured via the hypercirculation of fresh content optimized to keyword searches. 


Katrina Sluis is Curator (Digital Programmes) at The Photographers’ Gallery and Senior Lecturer at London South Bank University where she is a founding Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image. With a background in systems administration, her research critically addresses photography’s relationship to computation, its social circulation and cultural value. Her exhibition projects include Born in 1987: The Animated GIF (2012), Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied: One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age, For the LOL of Cats: Felines, Photography and the Web (2012) & James Bridle: Seamless Transitions (2015). Her recent writing has featured in publications including Art in Amercia, Aperture, Photographies, Philosophy of Photography and Photoworks.

June 14

Nicola Triscott, Artistic Director of Arts Catalyst
Curating the Co-Inquiry: Working across Disciplines 

In this workshop and lecture Nicola will give an overview of curatorial strategies and interests of Arts Catalyst. Arts Catalyst is one of the UK's most distinctive arts organisations, distinguished by ambitious art commissions and its unique take on art-science practice. Arts Catalyst plays a leading role in the development of artists' engagement with science, and critical discourse around this field.


Nicola Triscott is a cultural producer, curator, writer and researcher, specializing in the intersections between art, science, technology and society. She is the founder and Artistic Director/CEO of Arts Catalyst, and Principal Research Fellow in Interdisciplinary Art and Science at the University of Westminster. Arts Catalyst is one of the UK’s most distinctive arts organisations, distinguished by ambitious artists’ commissions that engage with science, including notable projects by Tomas Saraceno, Ashok Sukumaran, Aleksandra Mir, Otolith Group and Critical Art Ensemble. Nicola lectures and publishes internationally, including books on art and technology in the Arctic, art and space, and ecological art, and blogs at www.nicolatriscott.org


Chris Townsend, I Can’t Live at Top Gear…. The Motor Car as Punitive Instrument in Modernist Literature and Film Between the World Wars. 

Wednesday, 24th January, 5-6pm in WIN04. ChrisTowsend_Research Seminar_2018

James Bennett's Inaugural Lecture entitled Television as Digital Media

Thursday, 22nd March, 6.15pm, Boiler House Lecture Theatre

The digital revolution has long promised the ‘death of TV’. However, over the last 20 years television has become the digital media form par excellence, dominating our internet experiences and even slaying some of its supposed interactive executioners. This lecture explores what television’s formation as digital media means for the medium itself and digital culture more widely.

Please reserve your tickets by booking via: online listing here


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