CFP: Digital Culture, Technologies, and Failure (MIGC 2013)

Monday, December 10, 2012 - 1:00am


Hi, HASTAC community! The Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference (MIGC) is welcoming submissions for its 2013 conference (Feb. 15-16) themed FAILURE. I've been involved with planning this conference for a few years now, and this year I'm hoping to form a high quality panel that would be representative of DH, media studies, and any/all related fields. The conference, held at UW-Milwaukee, is small and selective, and we're excited to host J. Jack Halberstam as this year's keynote address. Below is the panel-specific CFP I wrote, but you can find the overall conference CFP here.


Deadline for submissions: December 1 December 10

J. Jack Halberstam introduces The Queer Art of Failure by suggesting that “failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world” (2). He goes on to powerfully claim that paying attention to failure “prompts us to discover our inner dweeb, to be underachievers, to fall short, to get distracted, to take a detour, to find a limit, to lose our way, to forget, to avoid mastery” (121). In light of the conference theme, this panel will seek to forge better relationships with things (specifically machines and information media) by re-considering the role of failure in 21st-century digital culture or, more broadly, technoculture throughout history. Given our contemporary culture’s emphasis on success and mastery, as well as the tendency to treat technologies as handy tools that ought to simply “work right,” we may actually benefit from “learning how to fail better” (Halberstam 24). How might we productively combine new media studies, communication, software engineering, information science, the philosophy of technology, or the digital humanities with failure-friendly analysis? What and how do technological failures mean? How can we release our “inner dweeb” while working under the pressure of job markets, coherency imperatives, unified identity requirements, and other social, material, or political bounds?

Some possible areas this panel could explore:

  • Hacking and hacktivism; Anonymous and DDoS attacks; cybercrime, bullying, and fear
  • Successful aspects of computer viruses and worms
  • The New Aesthetic and fascination with glitches and technical malfunctions
  • The Digital Humanities and failure; willingness to tinker and explore; openness and possibility
  • Experimental, nontraditional, or deformed texts; “Systems that break other systems, [namely] the Deformed Humanities [which] tears apart existing structures and uses the scraps” (Sample 2012)
  • Failed or confused readings; getting lost in a text; losing vs. winning a game
  • Keeping pace with paradigm shifts in a digital age; “The greatest mistake we could make, at this point, would be to suppress, deny, or discard our errors and our failed experiments” (Unsworth 1997)
  • Network and systems theory as it relates to failure; “A network fails when it works too well, when it provides too little room for change” (Thacker and Galloway, 2007)
  • Ways of using technology that enforce or resist “normalization, routines, convention, tradition, […] regularity” (Halberstam 7) and other disciplining techniques
  • Philosophical approaches to mastery and malfunctioning technologies (Heidegger, Latour, Derrida, and others)
  • Tactical media or critical art practices that risk failure and ephemerality in order to succeed at disruption (Raley, 2009); “creative destruction” (Liu, 2004)
  • Failure to verify or clarify identity; problems/concerns regarding identity on the web
  • The internet and its structure of ordered chaos; failed memes; trolling
  • Digital archives and forgetting; failure to record or inscribe
  • Reassessing technological naiveté or ignorance; questioning geek culture and exclusionary practices
  • Educational technologies such as Learning Management Systems (LMSs) and robot essay graders as failures or responses to failure in our institutions of learning
  • Pedagogical failures or stumbling blocks involving the use of technology in the classroom

The eighth annual Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference (MIGC) will be held at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee February 15-16, 2013, in conjunction with the Center for 21st Century Studies. Please submit an abstract of 300 words or less outlining your presentation. Include your institutional affiliation, department, and whether you are an MA or PhD student.

You can send submissions to me ( or to If you are traveling to Milwaukee from another state, we will likely have some monetary awards available to offset your expenses.

Let me know if you have any questions!



Hi Rachael!

Not sure if you remember, but we met a couple of years ago at SUNY Buffalo for prospectives week. I was excited to see a familiar face here on HASTAC. Thank you for posting this CFP--failure is actually a topic I've been interested in for a while now. I delivered a paper a while back at the Electronic Poetry Festival here in Buffalo on the culture of fail memes. I am now very tempted to submit a proposal to this conference (despite a shortage of travel funds). Is this a particular interest of yours as well? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Hope things are going well in Milwaukee!


Hi, Heather! Good to hear from you. I still enjoy listening to my BLAIR album -- you were playing it at some point during our Buffalo visit, and I ran out and bought it later!  I am sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to your comment. I *just* finished my prelim exams earlier this week!  PHEW.

So, yes please submit an abstract! The deadline is now Dec. 10, but I can tell you that we are reviewing abstracts on Dec. 15, so if you get it to me on or before Dec. 14, that would be OK. The review will be blind. We always have some small (like $250 or $300) amount of money to defray travel costs for out-of-state presenters. I think this year we are starting a process of having accepted presenters apply for the travel funds, so it won't just be randomly assigned by us.

I would love to have the subject of fail memes come up at the conference. The FAIL BLOG is the very first thing I thought of when we were discussing failure as a conference theme. The prez debates have also spawned lots of fail moments, coming especially from the Mitt side.

Currently this topic is definitely one of my research interests. I've been getting particularly wrapped up in the idea of reading experimental lit (poetry especially) as failed or erring texts.  As you know, so much e-lit is really difficult to read, if it's legible at all, so I've been making lots of connections to modern and neo-avant-garde folks like Stein and Cage, who LOVED writing almost-impossible-to-read things.


Hi again Rachael,

That sounds really interesting--I never thought of the connection with Cage, but that makes a lot of sense. I'm in the process of trying to put together a proposal (in the midst of the usual end of semester craziness), but I hope to get it to you in a few days. I'm not sure if it's exactly what you're looking for, but after reading the general description of the conference I just can't resist. It's just such a great concept! 


hello! I JUST saw this today and noticed that you indicated the deadline for abstracts has been extended? Just wanted to check, because I'm definitely interested in submitting something (about large-scale book scanning and failure, both mundane/work-process related and in the vision/aspirations motivating projects like Google's..). So - December 10?



Hi Melissa. Thanks for your comment! I realize now that I did not indicate the deadline extension clearly, so I made changes to the original post accordingly. I am totaly thrilled to hear about your proposal idea. Not only do I think it answers the call of the CFP well, but (selfishly) I am also obsessed with The Art of Google Books tumblr and the little scanning failures that sometimes surface. Would love to hear analysis of scanning technology and its consequences/implications/instabilities.


posted this twice by accident...