2/2024: The new lapidary

(CFP: February 1–29, 2024)

Brevity is the new goal of contemporary media culture. We would like to take a closer look at GIFs, memes, snaps, posts, short games, emojis, copypastas, tweets, tiktoks and other lapidary media forms shaping today’s communication practices. Their penchant for conciseness seems surprising given the speed and the capacity of the modern web. Nevertheless, it is brevity that is currently perceived as effective, functional and intrinsically related to the hypertextual nature of media environment driven by two-sided emergence. On the one hand, it is the specificity of applications and algorithms organising content on the basis of (in)visible data and the rapidly changing conventions. On the other hand, it is shaped by users forced to be increasingly creative when processing and implementing new formats. Despite the foundations behind the modern data storage technology, data durability and possibility of extraction at any given time (which releases our memory and shapes our awareness), the emerging concise forms are often short-lived. Because of their ephemeral character they tend to be underappreciated while, in fact, the ‘seemingly “simple” and “shallow” communicative practices have always come to matter, not in and by themselves, but for their embeddedness in everyday and community life’ (Schellewald). Where is this growing need for brevity coming from? What are its implications? How is ‘the new lapidary’ organising our everyday life? How does it fit into modern media platforms? How is it influencing our creativity, communication, language, education and forms of expression? Which genres are emerging as the most characteristic, and how will they develop in the future? How should they be studied, and what methodological challenges could we expect in the process?

3/2024: Slavery

(CFP: April 5 – May 6, 2024)

In this issue we will try to reconstruct the historical trajectory of the concept and its designations: from concrete facts (the historical truth and its subsequent interpretations) to the metaphor (the discursive conceptualisation and rhetorical device in the languages of politics and social criticism). Bearing in mind the socio-cultural context slavery emerged from and its shameful spectre that is haunting the world of newly born civil liberties, we would like to expose the ideological, artistic and affective filters employed by the modern West to describe human trafficking. Our intention is to explore how the memory of slavery is managed by contemporary societies in former dependent territories through narratives and practices which construct their current identity by, as Stuart Hall said many years ago, ‘retelling history.’ We are also interested in the most recent reinterpretations of the concept in the political, artistic and academic discourse and in the mechanism in which it generates phantasms often detached from the historical sources of slavery itself. Another interesting aspect is the possible (mis)use of the term in social and political debates where the metaphorically defined slavery is frequently exploited purely as a rhetorical argument.

4/2024: AI in culture. Stories, narratives, practices

(CFP: July 1–31, 2024)

With the question ‘Can a machine think?’ from his paper published in Mind in 1950, Alan Turing prompted a public debate on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The term was coined five years later by the American computer scientist and cognitive scientist John McCarthy, who used it to describe ‘intelligent machines’ with opinion systems. As automated machines programmed to perform specific tasks and functions without human supervision proliferated, this new field of study began to influence the cultural notions of instrumental thinking based on algorithmic systems of data acquisition, processing and analysis. Since that time the boundaries of computing power have been constantly pushed, with new conceptualisations of AI generated all the time. While most of them, Kate Crawford argues, highlight its disembodied and abstract nature, ‘AI is neither artificial nor intelligent. Rather, artificial intelligence is both embodied and material, made from natural resources, fuel, human labour, infrastructures, logistics, histories and classifications.’ The phrase ‘artificial intelligence’ seems to serve today as an umbrella term that covers a variety of ideologies, expectations and fears. As physical infrastructure, says Crawford, AI is reshaping the world and how it is seen and understood. The last decade of advancement in AI and the popularity of Chat GPT-4 as its most recent pinnacle inspire reflection on what has been accomplished thus far. With this in mind, we would like to invite representatives of the humanities and social sciences to reflect on ideas, attitudes and conjectures related to AI, its applications and consequences of use. How does our understanding of AI and its usage shape our perception of the reality and categories such as humans, machines, technology, intelligence and culture? Our focus is on stories referring to both the past and the future of AI, cultural narratives emerging about it and around it, AI-related practices and cultural, social, economic and political conditions, both in the global dimension and in terms of our everyday life.

1/2025: Academic culture

(CFP: September 2–30, 2024)

The premise of academic culture, both written and implied, includes notions such as the pursuit of the truth, knowledge sharing, caring for our well-being and searching for more in-depth and comprehensive ways of understanding the world. There are many reasons for the current crisis in the academia and the present situation where the voices of discontent and criticism do not have sufficient clout. By putting emphasis on bibliometrics and competitiveness of accomplishments to measure academic success, we are losing the human factor, embodied by both the scholar and the student, to the system of science. The civilisation based on knowledge and technology requires increasingly algorithimised actions, promoting the question: Is there still room for thinking in science? Florian Znaniecki believed that exceptional individuals, recruited also from the world of science, should shift us away from materialism and towards a conflict-free world of spiritual growth and free creation. Adopting a historical perspective to scientific development, Karl Jaspers argued that universities make societies aware of the epoch they live in. In today’s criticism of the university, particularly two aspects are coming to the fore. First, it is the belief in certain fundamentals of general education as the foundation of all specialist knowledge. Second, it is the image of the university perceived not only as a formal institution but also as a community of scholars and students. Both aspects contribute to the call for preserving and defending the autonomy of the university and its independence from the economic, political and ideological forces. What role do academics play in creating the academic culture and preventing the system from suppressing what is valuable in science? What changes can ensure academic freedom and the free operation of universities? What chances do universities have? How can we shape the future of science and scholars so that creativity and academic thinking do not stay behind the closed doors of the academia?