two cfps on spaces

Two CFPs have been announced that ask participants to consider “space” or “place”:

7th Annual Louisiana Conference on Language and Literature: On and Off the Page: Mapping Place in Text and Culture

and

Special issue of Technical Communication Quarterly: New Technological Spaces: Mastering the Literacies of Thinking and Doing across Multiple Modalities.

Descriptions below.


7th Annual Louisiana Conference on Language and Literature: On and Off the Page: Mapping Place in Text and Culture (deadline Oct. 31)

In recent years, the idea of place has emerged as a central concept in literary and cultural discourse. Always a powerful organizing idea in the texts and other cultural artifacts born out of the American South, the concept of place can now be seen to underlie a disparate set of topics at work in the academy. In the trend toward globalization, for instance, not only are people and ideas brought closer together but so are the places which they inhabit and under whose conditions those very ideas originate. At the same time, the proven profitability of the “authentic” has led businesses, governments, and communities to seek out what makes their places unique – and therefore outside of such modernizing influences – in order to brand them and market them to cultural tourists and other consumers.

Investigations into the function of place as a force in contemporary culture inevitably reveal a long history of the interplay between place and cultural product, between ‘context’ and ‘text’. Just as traditional cultures mythologize sacred spaces, so too has Western culture sanctified its own places through its literature. Imagined places such as Faulker’s Yoknapatawpha become the focus of conferences and festivals; authors’ homes, birthplaces, and gravesites are transformed into sites of pilgrimage; locales created for television shows and movies become actual businesses catering to a public for whom the line between fantasy and reality is increasingly blurred; the tension between “tourist” and “traveler” is contested based largely on destination; and persisting through the great cultural shifts of the past two hundred years is the popular and romantic notion that words, performances, narratives, and even national identities are always in some way an expression of the places in which they are created and set. The Louisiana Conference on Language and Literature will provide a “place” in which these complex ideas may be interrogated.

Special issue of Technical Communication Quarterly: New Technological Spaces: Mastering the Literacies of Thinking and Doing across Multiple Modalities (deadline Dec 14).

We live in an age of unprecedented information abundance, where more information is available to us in a greater variety of modal forms and in a greater number of places than ever before. Richard Lanham views this abundance as symptomatic of life in an information age, where people are just as interested in information about things as they are in the things themselves. In The Economics of Attention, Lanham writes that “[w]e have always had information as a perspective on stuff, to be sure, and toggled back and forth between the stuff and the information that informs it [but] [t]he information economy leaves the toggle switch in the information position.” Keeping the toggle in the information position are vast ecologies of technological agents (e.g., texts, computer interfaces, information kiosks, signs, etc.) that ceaselessly generate information about the world around us. These technologies help fashion an information space, comprised of many streams of multimodal information, lying over a physical space.

We can describe both the physical and the overlying information spaces as having architectures, structured arrangements of resources and allocations of space designed to support particular kinds of activity. To most of us, the division between information space and physical space is functionally imperceptible. When those spaces are effectively designed and implemented, our experiences of them are seamlessly mediated by information residing there. Consider, for example, how automatically we interact with the signal devices we encounter at crosswalks and intersections and whether it is possible to separate our interactions with the space from our interactions with information about traffic flow. Just as physical spaces support and shape social interaction, hybrid physical/information, and virtual spaces do so also. We draw on this information to create texts that mediate locally-meaningful activities. Often, the texts are narrative-like in their construction, threading fragments of information together to tell a story about an object of work and to script the identities and relationships of the human and non-human agents whose interactions are coordinated around that object of work. However, the information for constructing these narratives is available in different modal forms, each imbued with different potentials to communicate and to persuade. Thus, participants in those spaces must adapt existing and acquire new literate skills to engage in the activities those spaces support. These literacies and the settings where they are developed are the subjects of this special issue.

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