How can we take stock of “the digital” within the context of American Studies? This question was at the core of the 48th annual conference of the Austrian Association for American Studies. The conference took place in October 2021, for an extended period online as well as on-site in Graz.
In addition to exposing a variety of vulnerabilities (the topic of the 2020 AAAS conference), the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made us all all-too aware of our entanglements with digital technologies, as seemingly never-ending video calls and remote teaching have joined technologies that feel nearly antiquated by now: emails, literature searches in databases, writing your latest manuscript in a word processor, drafting the budget for your next project in spreadsheets, preparing the slides for your next (online or face-to-face class)—our work is, in many respects, interconnected with the digital.
While the “digital turn” has had a tremendous impact on academic work, it has also led to the emergence of new objects of inquiry and methodologies, ranging from the digital humanities and questions of digital literacies to video games, social media, slacktivism, and streaming platforms.
The conference “Digital Americas” sought to take stock of “the digital” within the context of American studies. We regarded “America” broadly here—the United States, the Americas, and the Americas’ global entanglements. We were thus interested in contributions on digital pedagogy, digital methodologies, digital culture and digital media as objects of critical inquiry, and digital scholarship.
Accordingly, topics may include (but are by no means limited to):
- social movements and/vs. slacktivism;
- digital politics/the politics of the digital (e.g. cybercrime and cyberattacks, disinformation, election interference, the weaponization of social media);
- augmented realities and the re-conceptualization of American cities;
- video games, American myths, and “Americanness”;
- the digital and the changing character of American sports (e.g. e-sports, virtual crowds);
- film/television, digital visual effects, and the (re-)construction of space;
- cyberlabor and the digital divide separating the US/Canada from Latin America;
- moving through digital archives;
- cyberpoetry and media affordances;
- digital media, fan labor, and performance (e.g. vlogging, vidding, influencer culture);
- teaching history and/with virtual reality;
- streaming, performances, and the ongoing pandemic;
- digital media/networks and ecological questions (e.g. Google’s fiber optic subsea cables);
- digital media and/vs. representing/simulating nature;
- the cancelation of the EU-US Privacy Shield and impacts on transatlantic data transfer, data ownership, and data security (e.g. concerning research collaboration);
- digital technologies and techno-fixes to contemporary ills (e.g. de-extinction as an antidote to mass extinction, online counseling);
- Netflix parties and similar remote film/TV viewing experiences;
- and the digital divide (nationally, regionally, and/or globally; age-based, class-based, etc.)
Pre-recorded video presentations from slides with voice-overs and “talking head” videos to video essays, anything were permitted. Videos had to be 15 minutes max. (We screened videos and returned/rejected videos that failed to comply with the 15-minute max.). Scholars were asked to consider questions of accessibility and at least provide subtitles/captions (or your scripts) to accompany their videos. Texts with illustrations/slides Max. 1,500 words and 10 illustrations.
Thematic Tracks, Round tables, and On-Site Workshops
Scholars were invited to submit pitches for thematic tracks, round tables, and/or on-site workshops. If your pitch is accepted, we will put you in charge of recruiting/selecting speakers.
- No more than a third of the contributors of a given track, roundtable, or workshop were allowed to come from one institution. Workshops, roundtables, and tracks with too many participants from one institution were canceled/rejected.
- Max. two thirds of the contributors were to be from one country (in terms of affiliation or—if independent scholars are involved—place of residence).
Confirmed Keynote Speakers
- TreaAndrea Russworm (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) virtual
- Sharon Block (University of California, Irvine) virtual
- Martin Paul Eve (Birkbeck, University of London) virtual
- Ignacio Siles (University of Costa Rica) virtual
- Michael Fuchs, University of Oldenburg, Department of English & American Studies
- Roberta Maierhofer, University of Graz, Center for Inter-American Studies
- Stefan Rabitsch, University of Graz, Center for Inter-American Studies
- Barbara Ratzenböck, University of Graz, Center for Inter-American Studies