The Digital Beyond: Living, Dying and Impossible Futures

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Arts West, Digital Studio (Level 2), the University of Melbourne


(Doors open from 12:30pm till 2:30pm)


How do we experience death or imagine our future in the digital realm? This seminar offers insights from two distinguished scholars in digital humanities, Sarah Pink and Michael Arnold. Taking completely different perspectives, their research projects explore how traditional human practices transcend across digital and real worlds making digital immateriality matter.

In Assoc. Professor Arnold's presentation, social life, biological life, and personhood are loosely coupled concepts. The biologically dead have long continued to be active in the lives of the living through memory, or material legacy; the biologically living may be socially dead; humans may or may not be persons and persons may or may not be human. Focusing on the contemporary milieu, where many social interactions occur online, the presentation examines the cultural foundation and technical infrastructure which seek to widen the gap between social life, biological life, and personhood, and to relegate the body and its status as living or dead, to a social irrelevancy.

Professor Pink's presentation: Should we care if AD cars can kill us?: Trust, hope and (im)possible digital futures reflects on how digital futures are debated and imagined in the anticipatory modes of contemporary public discourses and academic inquiry. However, she argues that these debates are important ethical sites for investigation: she asks how we might address the uncertainties and possibilities that contemporary and emerging technologies invoke by attending ethnographically to the anxieties and experience that matters to people in the digital-materiality of our ongoing emergent everyday lives.

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Sarah Pink is Distinguished Professor and Director of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT University, and International Guest Professor in the IT Department at Halmstad University, Sweden. Her current research focuses on emerging technologies, automation, wellbeing and digital futures and is developed through partnerships in Australia, Sweden, Brazil and Spain. Her most recent books include Anthropologies and Futures (2017), Making Homes (2017), and Theoretical Scholarship and Applied Practice (2017).

Michael Arnold is Associate Professor and Head of the History and Philosophy of Science Programme at the University of Melbourne. With colleagues from Information Systems, Media Studies and Anthropology, Michael has co-authored more than a dozen papers on the use of digital media to commemorate the dead. A research book titled Death and Digital Media will be published by Routledge later this year.