What is Life? Lifestyles-Lifeworlds-Lifeworks Conference

From April 6-8, the 7th annual <span “>What is…? Conference<span “> engaged communication, media, and nature by examining everyday life—our lifestyles and lifeworks—emphasizing the environments we live in at the University of Oregon in Portland. <span “>What is Life?<span “> emphasized how communication is instrumental in and for living systems. What is life and how is life mediated? It built on last year’s conference-experience, <span “>What is Media?<span “> (2016), expanding a transdisciplinary notion of medium/media with special attention to its material, historical, and ecological ramifications.

The event marked the second collaboration with scholars from the natural sciences (physical and life sciences) and the arts. Panels and roundtables presented a wide range of topics including but not limited to: media literacies, complexity, ethics, ecocriticism, data, food, health, economics, rights/privacy, audiences, platforms and living technologies.

The conference-experience continued the focus on an integrated view of communication for the 21st century, and planting the seeds for deeper investigations into complexity in systems, environmental and ecological approaches. In acknowledging art/science, technology, and environments/nature, communication is at an emergent crossroads.

The event featured three components: the Conference, the Experience, and the Exhibition.

1) The Conference: WHAT IS LIFE? LIFESTYLES • LIFEWORLDS • LIFEWORKS involved over 150 regional, national and international researchers, who participated in five plenary sessions and over 30 panels. The conference began on Thursday, April 6, at the UO in Portland, 70 NW Couch Street with the 2017 Leonardo da Vinci Lecture, featuring physicist and systems theorist, Fritjof Capra. Capra’s talk was titled, “What is Life? A Systems View.” This initial event was followed by a reception and the opening of the LIFEWORLDS exhibition (see below).

The conference continued all day Friday and Saturday (April 7 and 8) with plenaries on Ecology and Sustainability, Ecocriticism and Harmony, Ethics and Biology, Political Economy and Platforms, and Media Literacies for a Living World — and concluded with a plenary discussion on Saturday, April 8 at 5:30pm. For a list of featured speakers, see plenary speakers.

2) The Experience: LIFE • LIFEWORLDS • LIFEWORKS was a collaboration with the Portland Japanese Garden. The garden experience (early evening, Friday, April 7) explored the newly opened Cultural Crossing expansion, including the Cultural Village with three LEED certified buildings, designed by world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma, as well as “The Art of Life, A Rebirth in Clay,” a celebration of tea culture in the art and life of Hosokawa Morihiro, former Prime Minister of Japan.

3) The Exhibition: LIFEWORLDS featured a variety of artworks, including a collaboration with the Royal Collection Trust (UK) of Leonardo da Vinci prints of anatomical, botanical, and water vortices, multimedia work by Carla Bengtson (with biologist Peter Wetherwax), masterwork bonsai by Ryan Neil, and photography by Gary Tepfer. The exhibition was featured at the UO in Portland’s Light Court Commons, in collaboration with the White Box Gallery’s showing of MADE IN OREGON an exhibition of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, April 6-9, 2017. The LIFEWORLDS exhibition opened with a reception on April 6 and ran through May 6.

Some featured plenaries included visionaries who study or work on the theme of life, such as:

  • Jörg Becker, Marburg University, Germany
  • Mark Bedau, Systems Science Program, Portland State Univ./Philosophy & Humanities, Reed College
  • Brendan Bohannan, Biology/Environmental Studies/Institute of Ecology & Evolution, Univ. of Oregon
  • Divina Frau-Meigs, Media Sociology, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris, France
  • Renee Hobbs, Communication Studies/Media Education Lab, University of Rhode Island, RI
  • Mark Johnson, Philosophy/Environmental Studies, University of Oregon
  • Antonio López, Communications & Media Studies, John Cabot University, Italy
  • Gabriela Martínez, Media Studies and Latino/a & Latin American Studies, University of Oregon
  • Toby Miller, Institute for Media and Creative Industries, Loughborough University London, UK
  • Salma Monani, Environmental Studies Department, Gettysburg College, PA
  • Jussi Parikka, Technological Culture & Aesthetics, University of Southampton, UK
  • Douglas Rushkoff, Media Studies/Digital Humanism, Queens College, City University of New York
  • Ted Toadvine, Rock Ethics Institute/Philosophy, Penn State University, PA

More information is included at the conference website: http://journalism.uoregon.edu/whatis/life/

Photos, twitter quotes and other material can be found at: http://journalism.uoregon.edu/whatis/life/social/

A pre-conference announcement at the University of Oregon can be found at: https://around.uoregon.edu/content/conference-delves-how-media-permeates-everyday-life


More in Events & Projects