The Digital Studies Institute at the University of Michigan is excited to host its third annual Digital IDEAS Summer Institute. This year’s theme, Digital Physical Entanglements addresses the intertwining relations between digital and physical with a focus on impacts to environments, bodies, and space. If, at one time, the digital or virtual was understood to be an immaterial realm distinct from our pedestrian, physical one, much scholarship over the past decade has attuned us to the complex networks of relationships that simultaneously constitute both. The ambient hum of ubiquitous digitality pervades every sphere of life, giving rise to and shaping new forms of physical space and embodiment, while the deficiencies of physical infrastructure and the specter of climate collapse bridle digital access and development.
During the Summer Institute, we’ll continue critical examinations of these entanglements and focus our conversations on the asymmetrical power relationships and spatial manifestations embedded within. We’ll take a broad understanding of environment, encompassing the places we live and work, IRL and online communities, and climate systems precariously on the edge of collapse. We’ll think of spaces and bodies as situations of exchange, mutually constituted and transformed by digital and physical structures. Drawing from the guidance of our keynote lectures, panel respondents, and each other, we’ll work to consider questions such as: Is the internet sustainable, or will limited physical resources threaten virtual ones? Have digital platforms remade the city? What happens to us when we, and our environments, are over-quantified? What, to the body, is the digital self? How have digital technologies affected bodies of labor and the workplace/space? What are the harms and opportunities that occur when pre-existing environments and exchanges are overlaid with code?
Too often, the technological transformations affecting our world and our selves at a dizzying pace are hidden from clear view, occurring in the black box of the algorithm or the board room. Digital Physical Entanglements brings together eminent scholars, artists, and practitioners working to illuminate the interconnected forces that structure digital technology and its critical impact on our material lives. The summer institute will engage these ideas through intentional conversation, reflection, workshopping, and community.