A group of University of Michigan faculty members have set out to ask critical questions about how today’s digital environment affects personal and societal well-being, perceptions and livelihoods.
In other words, what does it mean to be alive in the digital age?
That question is the focus of “Living a Digital Life,” the 2019 Michigan Meeting scheduled for May 9-10 at the Rackham Graduate School. The two-day symposium brings together more than 30 experts in their fields to discuss topics such as digital selfhood, automation, activism and social justice.
Organized by faculty from LSA, the School of Information and the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, the conference is free and open to faculty, students, staff and the community.
“Digital culture has fundamentally reshaped the way we live, work, think and relate to one another,” said Adam Fure, assistant professor of architecture at Taubman College and a co-organizer of the event.
“We are living in the aftermath of the digital revolution. Our lives are constantly mediated by technologies with networked connectivity that often goes unnoticed. The (Michigan) Meetings are a chance to consider what this means for who we are as a global society, both now and in the immediate future.”
Keynote lecturers are:
• Sarah Sharma, associate professor and director of the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto, 1:30 p.m. May 9.
• Adam Greenfield, author of “Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life” and founder of Urbanscale, 4:30 p.m. May 10.
Faculty and industry panels will address the impacts of digital technologies on identity, health, environment, entertainment, labor, policy and society.
The event is the culmination of a year of courses, colloquia, visiting lectures and conversations that critically engage with the big issues, urgent consequences and radical possibilities for grappling with the meaning of life in this era of digital ubiquity.
“We are purposefully playing with the term ‘alive’ to initiate a different kind of conversation about digital ubiquity,” said Sarah Murray, assistant professor of film, television, and media in LSA, a faculty member of LSA’s Digital Studies Institute, and an event co-organizer.
“In a networked world, definitions of ‘life’ are embedded in the power and value systems of automation, artificiality, data, gig labor, the demands of productivity and the possibilities for digital activism. When we ask, ‘What does it mean to be alive in the digital?’ what we’re really asking people to think about is quality of life for all users.
“How do we foster meaningful progress in light of pervasive anxieties about identity theft, hacking, online harassment, oppressive algorithmic systems, migrant digital labor, smart surveillant cities, and drone warfare? We want event attendees to feel empowered to have this conversation through shared content and open dialogue.”
The Michigan Meetings are an annual event, supported by the Rackham Graduate School, that build on the school’s tradition of encouraging interdisciplinary scholarship by providing faculty a forum to address social issues on a local, national, and global scale.
Co-organizers of the 2019 Michigan Meeting are: Ellie Abrons, McClain Clutter and Adam Fure of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning; Megan Sapnar Ankerson and Paul Conway of the School of Information; and Sarah Murray and Lisa Nakamura of LSA.