What does it mean to be alive in the digital age?

 

Everyone thinks they know what digital means. So pervasive are digital technologies in the 21st century that it is difficult to find critical distance from this immersive new world of ubiquitous connectivity, social media feeds, smartphones, mobile apps, responsive design, algorithmic recommendation systems, and voice-controlled home shopping assistants. While the question “what is the digital?” is compelling, the more pressing question might be instead: what does it mean to be alive in the digital age?

The 2019 Michigan Meetings will be a year-long event that critically engages with the big issues, urgent consequences, and radical possibilities for grappling with the meaning of life in this era of digital ubiquity. Whether defined as “animated corporeal existence,” “vitality,” or “to continue, to remain,” we see a profound opportunity to approach the digital world through a spectrum of the meaning of life-ness - alive, liveness, animated, lifelike, life-adjacent, consciousness, awareness, attention, awoke.

Digital culture reconfigures the way we know our bodies, our selves, our work, our objects and living spaces, our politics, and our sense of community. Like prior technologies, the digital gives rise to distinct new modes of experiencing time and space. Life is lived through constant network connectivity, GPS positioning, software databases, biotechnologies and wearable activity trackers, ‘smart’ buildings, cities, and homes, migrant digital labor, computational modeling, and the management of unfathomable streams of big data, and artificial intelligence. Subsequently, life is also lived through anxieties about identity theft, hacking, online harassment, piracy, surveillance and drone warfare.

Across campus, these questions will emerge in courses, colloquia, lectures, and informal conversations among students, faculty, staff, and peers. We aim to support meaningful and rewarding work in the technology industries or in academic research by giving students and faculty the history, critical perspective, and rigorous deep-dive into humanistic questions of “new” media life with this 2019 theme.


Michigan Meetings

The Michigan Meeting is an annual event supported by the Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan. The meetings build on the school’s tradition of encouraging interdisciplinary scholarship by proving faculty a forum to address social issues on a local, national, and global scale. Michigan Meetings bring together students, faculty and the larger Ann Arbor community in slate of engaging, and important and events.



Organizers

The 2019 Michigan Meeting is co-organized by...

Ellie Abrons, University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning Assistant Professor of Architecture.

Megan Sapnar Ankerson, University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Associate Professor of Communication.

McLain Clutter, University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning Associate Professor of Architecture.

Paul Conway, University of Michigan School of Information Associate Professor of Information.

Adam Fure, University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning Assistant Professor of Architecture.

Sarah Murray, University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Assistant Professor of Film, Television, and Media.

Lisa Nakamura, University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Professor of American Culture.