Conference reflections: July 2008

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I had the pleasure of representing RCID and Clemson University during two conferences this summer, one in the peaceful Tuscan countryside city of Prato and the other in the fast-paced urban hub of Helsinki (Helsingin). My presentations at these conferences represented the four letters of RCID; while Prato and Helsinki are two vastly different worlds, the international nature of both conferences was truly representative of McLuhan’s concept of the “global village.”

Information Design

Monash University Centre hosted the Third International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences. The goal of this annual conference is to examine the nature of disciplinary social sciences in light of interdisciplinary practices. My presentation, “Coping with Multimodal Environments: Conceptions of the Digital Marketplace,” fit perfectly into the practical and dynamic aim of the conference. I presented on the often-neglected affective aspect of information design, arguing that information designers need to keep the multimodal appeal of users in mind as they design products in the digital marketplace.

While my presentation helped to determine the functionality of information design, it was my collaboration with other RCID presenters that helped to make this panel a tour de force–including Michelle Dacus-Carr’s presentation on the social rhetoric of the Barack Obama campaign. In the extensive Q & A that followed, we were able to work together as a team to discuss the impact of information design on various products. My stay in nearby Florence (Firenze) was marked by visits to the Uffizi and Accademia d’Arte, and all I could think of after the conference was the way that information design is reflected in the elegance of these incredible museums.

Rhetorics and Communication

The journey from Italy to Finland consisted of a quick economy jet ride to Stockholm followed by a lumbering boat voyage across the chilly waves of the Baltic. Upon landing in the port at Helsinki and taking a tram to my hotel, blaring trumpets and a large crowd in Senate Square greeted me–well, not me, exactly, but rather the army troops that reenact the liberation of Finland on a given basis.

And with that, the 11th International Conference of the International Society for the Study of European Ideas (ISSEI), hosted by the University of Helsinki, was underway. The first day of the conference was tiring yet fascinating, with a 9:30am workshop (“Language and Power: Political Discourse, Identity, and Politics” followed by my 1:30pm workshop (“Technics, Technology, and the Post-Human”). I should briefly add that all conference attendees were invited to a reception at City Hall hosted by the mayor of Helsinki; at this elegant yet relaxed gala, I was able to personally engage with presenters from the first panel, including one political scientist at the Nicholas Copernicus University in Turin, Poland.

Given the highly current nature of technics, it made sense to argue the importance of postmodernist approaches to studies of the post-human during my presentation. This panel, as well as others, was enlightening in that I was able to interact with other researchers in an interactive workshop. Technics proved to be a vital part of the discussion that followed, as all of our presentations focused on answering the question, “what is the role of the post-human in contemporary, postmodern society?” Together, we pondered the work of Stiegler, Haraway, and Levinas–all names that have come up continuously in RCID colloquia and seminars.

The next morning greeted me with my second presentation, “Sophistic Impressions of the Hermaphrodite as Dissident Intellectual through Danilo Kis.” Noting that the topic of my second panel (Primvm Graivs Homo Mortalis: The Greek and Roman Invention of European Arts and Sciences) would deal with the contributions of the ancients, I had something in mind early last November as I began preparing for this workshop. This “something” would develop into my dissertation focus, which I presented at this workshop. The turnout was higher than expected, and I received many questions and compliments during the Q & A and the break. The day finished with a refreshing hike through the lakes and forests of nearby Nuuksio National Park.

Both conferences were huge successes. It is difficult to determine the highlights of each city, but the graceful strength of the Statue of David and the 13 onion domes of Uspenski Cathedral (the largest Byzantine church in Western Europe) are definitive touristic highlights. And of course the interdisciplinary nature of these international conferences was undeniably great (I presented at a conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia in March that was also helpful in terms of learning about world politics and rhetorics). It is my hope that opportunities like this are open to all of us in the RCID community

~ Dev Kumar Bose ~

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