Saturday, August 06, 2005

IVSA conference, dublin

park-bench, originally uploaded by INCITE.

I have just spent two days at the IVSA - International Visual Sociology Association - conference held at Trinity College in Dublin. The theme this year - Re-viewing Bodies: Embodiment, Process and Change. It was a smallish conference, contained in three rooms in the Arts building in the College, which meant there was a good chance to meet, talk to and regularly run into people whose projects, writings and images provide much inspiration for my current wrangling with concepts of visual representation in the context of sociological methods, analysis and presentation. Highlights for me included;

- meeting, talking and eating with David Gauntlett- known for his many web projects via - Theory Action figures, Trading Cards, A drawing a day, Lego theorists. Unfortunately his paper (about work that encourages people to make their own visuals) and my flight coincided on Thursday afternoon. But we found other time to talk about, amongst other things, the making of sociological objects and I discovered that even though I often slip a little origami into my bus work, he somehow gets to play ‘seriously’ with lego. very cool.

-Elizabeth Chaplin’s paper posed a challenge to the ways in which images are embedded in sociological theory. She introduced, through the books of W.G Sebald, the idea of the caption-less image, and argued that the released image derives new meaning from surrounding text, engaging in different forms of dialogue when it is unrestrained. Discussion about this idea emerged in other panels during the conference, some people openly challenged by it, others interested in pushing it further still. I interpreted it in the context of electronic rather than traditional publishing. In calling for the embedding of the image in text, the layout and design become much more important – something I became acutely aware of when working on my site and blog.

- Dona Schwarz presented her In the Kitchen photo project, now in its third year, which documents the mundane, everyday and wonderfully ordinary activities that occur in her kitchen.

Caroline Knowles and Doug Harper presented in tandem, words and images, voices and interpretations, delicately interwoven in the presentation and in the research about how we 'do' race and ethnicity in post colonial landscapes.

- Beckie Coleman and Monica Moreno of Goldsmiths (who were part of the recent INCITE design/sociology collaboration experiment) also gave papers. Beckie presented images assembled by girls in her studies about bodies and media images. And Monica powerfully argued against showing images of bodies of Mexican women in her analysis of practices of racism.

I presented a paper -Visible bodies, Invisible technology: the making and shaping wifi in the city - which explored how the body, physical place and digital space are configured in visual representations of wifi zones. It is the first paper I have given that relates to my new studies - the first to move away from more familiar bus territory - so it involved a reasonably anxious build up (thank you to both Kris and Nina for listening to me drivel on about it up till the day before) and an adrenalin/relief high to finally give it and receive supportive feedback from the audience.