Compositions Across/Between Edges, Surfaces and Materialities


A one-day symposium at UC Los Angeles
December 8, 2016
the event will be live streamed here


This symposium explores compositions that happen, emerge, or are partly enacted at edges, between surfaces and across materialities, scales and modalities. These kinds of compositions–narrative, artistic, scholarly, political, infrastructural, etc.–demand a reorientation of established knowledge models, critical stances, vocabularies and infrastructures. They shift our attention to their architecture – conceptual and material – and the very process of composition as argumentative, narrative, and strategic media ideations. The symposium aims to develop further understandings of these compositions and partake in the imagining of new practices based on prolonged conversations, a range of concrete examples and thematic interventions.

Questions addressed include: What compositions might be possible (and not possible) in contemporary – complex and multimodal – information ecologies? What tools and narrative/material strategies would be necessary to enact them? How can we go beyond “edged” thinking and practice (and contemporary compositional regimes)? How can we learn from earlier and contemporary work on materially complex compositions? What is the compositional significance of the edges? How do they affect material relations of power? How can they be used to enact social and cultural shifts? Participants bring expertise from a range of fields and practices including literary studies, design, scientific visualization, digital humanities, media studies, art history, classics, media arts, and information studies.

The format of the symposium will be conversational (plenty of time for dialogue) and experimental, and take place in two attractive spaces at UCLA. There will be a beach p.arty in the evening.

Confirmed invited participants

This list will be updated until early December. Participants who register for the event may be asked to contribute (as invited participants).

Steve Anderson, UC Los Angeles [personal website]

Anne Balsamo, University of Texas at Dallas [personal website]

Anne Burdick, Art Center College of Design [personal website]

Ricardo Domínguez, UC San Diego [personal website]

Jeremy Douglass, UC Santa Barbara [personal website]

Johanna Drucker, UC Los Angeles [personal website]

Kate Durbin, writer and artist [personal website]

Kate Elswit, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama [personal website]

Carter Emmart, American Museum of Natural History [personal website]

Catherine Griffiths, University of Southern California, [personal website]

Zach Horton, University of Pittsburgh [personal website]

Erkki Huhtamo, UC Los Angeles [personal website]

Chris Johanson, University of California at Los Angeles [personal website]

Viola Lasmana, University of Southern California [personal website]

Peter Lunenfeld, UC Los Angeles [personal website]

Mark Marino, University of Southern California [personal website]

Élika Ortega, Northeastern University [personal website]

Rita Raley, UC Santa Barbara [personal website]

Tracy Stuber, University of Rochester [personal website]

Preliminary program

The morning session (until lunch) will take place in the Charles E. Young Research Library main conference room (room 11360) and the afternoon session (after lunch) will take place in the Visualization Portal (5628 Math Sciences Building, directions).

Livestream the first half of the event (9:30am-12:40pm, PST)

Livestream the second half of the event (1:50pm-5:00pm, PST)

09:30 Introduction
Élika Ortega, Miriam Posner, Patrik Svensson (the organizers)
David Schaberg, Dean of Division of Humanities, UCLA
Jonathan Furner, Department of Information Studies, UCLA

09:45 An opening conversation
Distributed, pre-recorded participants (Jeanne Jo, Fred Turner and Erica Robles-Anderson) + context.
Statements from Anne Balsamo, Ricardo Domínguez, Johanna Drucker and Zach Horton followed by a conversation among these four and with the rest of the participants.

10:45 Coffee

11:15 Perspectives
“Knitting Together, Tearing (A)part: Composing in the Contrapuntal” Viola Lasmana
“Cracks in an Unbounded Surface – Panoramas and Discontinuities” – Erkki Huhtamo
“Not an Image but a Breakdown: Rephotography as Theory, Method, and Pedagogy”, Tracy Stuber

12:15 “Mars as Composition”, Carter Emmart

12:40 Lunch (and moving to the premises for the afternoon sessions, see above ) [Lunch info

1:50 pm “ABRA: A Living Text”, Kate Durbin

2:15 Pair conversations
Surfaces: Rita Raley – Élika Ortega
Edges: Steve Anderson – Kate Elswit
Materialities: Chris Johanson – Anne Burdick

3:30 Coffee (in the room)

3:40 Crit session
Jeremy Douglass and Mark Marino: “Reading Project”
Catherine Griffiths: “The Computational Fourth Wall”
Peter Lunenfeld: “City on the Edge of Forever”

4:40 Wrap-up discussion
Miriam Posner (and the other organizers and participants)

5:00 End of symposium

List of materials

Resources will be added to this list in the period leading up to the symposium. Please feel free to suggest materials to Patrik Svensson (see contact information below). Such materials should be freely available on the web.

Anderson, Steve. 2016. “Mapping ‘VR'”. Technocinema.

Back, Maribeth, Gold, Rich, Balsamo, Anne, Chow, Mark, Gorbet Matthew G., Harrison, Steve R., MacDonald, Dale and Minneman, Scott L. 2001. “Designing Innovative Reading Experiences for a Museum Exhibition.”

Crupi, Gianfranco. 2016. “‘Mirabili visioni’: from movable books to movable texts” Vol. 7, n. 1 (January 2016).

Drucker, Johanna. 2011. “Humanities Approaches to Interface Theory”.  Culture Machine, Vol. 12.

Emmart, Carter. 2010. “A 3D Atlas of the Universe”. TED Talk, February 2010.

Horton, Zach. 2013. “Collapsing Scale: Nanotechnology and Geoengineering as Speculative Media” in Shaping EmergingTechnologies: Governance, Innovation, Discourse. IOS Press.

Huhtamo, Erkki. 2002.  “Global Glimpses for Local Realities: The Moving Panorama, a Forgotten Mass Medium of the 19th Century”.

Ortega, Élika. “Textual Environments”. Monograph description.

Raley, Rita. 2013. “Disintegrated Reading”. Digital Dialogue talk, Maryland Institute of Technology in the Humanities, February 24, 2013.

Robles-Anderson, Erica and Svensson, Patrik. 2016. “One Damn Slide After Another”: PowerPoint at every Occasion for Speech” . Computational Culture, Issue 5, 2016.

Registration and Venue

The workshop will take place at University of California at Los Angeles.

There is no cost for the event, but registered participants are expected to turn up or cancel their reservation no later than a week before the event. There is limited seating.

Please register here by December 1, 2016.

The day will start at 09:30 am and end at 5:00 pm.

“Encoding Diversity”: UCLA Digital Humanities Seminar, Dec 9

Please note that there will also be a UCLA Digital Humanities Seminar on “Encoding Diversity” on December 9, 10 am-12. This event is separate from the workshop but synchronized in the sense of hopefully giving participants the opportunity to attend both. Among invited participants for the seminar on December 9 are Safiya Umoja Noble, UCLA, Élika Ortega, Northeastern University, Ursula Heise, UCLA and Todd Presner, UCLA. No registration is required for the seminar. More information and updates will be posted here. Please contact Patrik Svensson for information about the seminar series.

Organizing committee

Élika Ortega, Northeastern University
Miriam Posner, UC Los Angeles
Patrik Svensson, Umeå University and UC Los Angeles


Please contact Patrik Svensson (), Miriam Posner () and/or Élika Ortega ().


The event has been generously supported by the Baltic Group (through the Multiple Screens as Material project), the Wallenberg Foundation (through Patrik Svensson’s chair), Umeå University and UCLA (The Division of Humanities – including the Digital Humanities Program – and the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies). We would also like to acknowledge the valuable help and support from the Charles E. Young Research Library and the Institute for Digital Research and Education (IDRE) and the IDRE Sandbox.

Photo credit: Patrik Svensson.