IR12 Seattle & taking punk to the masses

I’m just back from Seattle – and jet lagged – after the IR12 conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (Aoir).

This year, the theme was Performance and Participation and I gave a paper on Tuesday (11 October) about Web crawling, network narratives and performing political identities. I talked about the mapping of a feminist network provided by Issue Crawler and the ethnographic account of that same network, and what performativity means in each of the two approaches.

Seattle was beautiful and the weather was relatively friendly to us – the conference was great and there were many interesting papers and discussions – too bad I missed the queer social on Thursday night though. I did get to visit the Science Fiction museum and the Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses exhibition, which was pretty cool in terms of historical material from the northwest scene – and especially Bikini Kill and Sleater Kinney posters and zines.

In IR12, of particular interest were the “Affective Networks” panels that approached network technologies and culture through “affect” & “affective labour” frameworks – reformulating concepts like Sara Ahmed’s “stickyness”. For instance, Sharif Mowlabocus worked through Lauren Berlant’s “cruel optimism” to frame the labour of men consuming online porn. It’s interesting that “affect” occupies such a wide and diverse space in scholarly work looking at the internet – there were of course many papers that examined digital networks from a Deleuzian perspective, for example Alex Cho who analyses Tumblr as a trace or echo of queer intensities – interesting but perhaps, as Mary Bryson noted, not helpful politically. Mary Bryson presented in that same panel a paper I very much look forward to reading – entitled Mapping Affect & Nomadic Mobilities: The Queer Biopolitics of Feeling Cancer.

There was a feminist blogging panel as well – and perhaps not suprisingly, one on femininity and blogs. I liked Frances Shaw’s paper of feminist blogs as spaces of “aversive democracy” where discursive micro-politics (may) happen. The discussion I think tends to become over-celebratory when it comes to feminist blogs and carnivals and perhaps too much focused on personal empowerment and girlhood – nevertheless it’s good to have such discussions.

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