Life-Streaming Working Group

Life-Streaming Working Group

Next Meeting: Wednesday, February 21 5:30pm-7:00pm

Location: GEM Lab, FB 630.15, Concordia University

Organized by: Patrick Brodie, Weixian Pan, Joaquin Serpe

When Michael Naimark envisions "All Live Global Video" in the rise of webcams, Youtube, and mobile devices in the late 90s, he couldn’t have foreseen the complex life-worlds that emerge from different technologies, streaming platforms and across geopolitical contexts. As the architecture of the Internet has shifted from a peer-to-peer to a one-to-many content distribution paradigm, streaming has taken shape as one of the primary forms of media practice and consumption. How do we engage with these platforms, infrastructures, interfaces, and communities that are built around them? How do we understand global media culture as pertinent to a particular (live) time and space, but also to a historical and geopolitical genealogy? How are issues of gender, race, informality, ethics engineered into a liberal-optimism of liveness/lifeness (Kember and Zylinska 2014)?

Building from these questions, the life-streaming working group aims to bring together a cluster of student research/project that focuses on different forms of media - from live event streaming sites, video platforms (subculture/pornography), digital archives to mobile gaming, dating apps, chat rooms, social media sites etc - to explore some key tropes of questions:

  1. Understand the technical infrastructures, software, and logistics of different digital research "sites", which not only means at the theoretical levels but at a practical level of how to use various tools to conduct research.

  2. Diversify the spectrum of social and political formation of various living communities around these sites - from the type of communities (users, broadcasters, digital labor, activists), the level of formality (institutions, social groups, at-risk community, the commons, the “grey internet”) to the geopolitical specificities.

  3. Troubleshoot the methodological and theoretical challenges of "digital ethnography" - for instance thinking about what kind of practice can we ourselves do (as researchers, as part of the online community), and what kind of ethnography can we perform. What are the problems with using media infrastructure to talk about community? What are some different kinds of research output?

  4. Several of the pilot research projects are particularly interested in the “grey Internet”, and hopefully gravitate around similar research that addresses questions such as: How do we articulate material, aesthetic, affective, and political dimensions revolved around issues of formality and legality? How do informal social infrastructures build robustness, interact with formal structures, and combat the in-built precarity of the “unofficial”? How are interfaces designed and what kind of sociality created across informal communities?

Working group format:

The main mandate of this initiative is to create a research community and encourage collaborative and collective approaches to media research performed through online/digital sites and platforms. Group members will meet every three weeks, with one presenter (or group) circulating a few methodological/theoretical/practical questions related to their project to the group at least a week before the meeting. The meeting will be organized in a workshop format. The presenter will introduce their research, its progress, and problems. Members of the working group will troubleshoot the pre-circulated questions collectively, with the idea that progress updates will be given at later meetings so that continuous feedback to the project can be given over the duration of the workshop.

One of the proposed outcomes of the working group is a digital archive of these obsolescent and ephemeral platforms, websites, and online communities as a long-term GEM lab research project. Using materials gathered and studied during and in preparation for workshop sessions, we hope to document and archive the messy landscape of digital media streaming, as the dream of an “open internet” is continually revised, frustrated, and foreclosed. Members are encouraged to develop the research together and explore the equipment in the lab outside the group meetings.

In addition to the regular research workshops, another goal is to host a one-day symposium for members to present their work to a wider audience in Montreal, with one or two invited speakers and correspondents. The projected date for the symposium is Fall 2018.

Schedule for Winter 2018:

First meeting: January 24

#2 meeting: February 21 - Digital archive and feminist practices

#3 meeting: March 21 - TBD

#4 meeting: April 18 - TBD