Intersections 2004: Error 404: File Not Found - What is Broken or Missing in Communication and Culture

Registration | Call for Papers | Panels | Abstracts |Contact | Information for Attendees



Registration costs for Intersections 2004:

  • $10 for participants who preregister. Please e-mail Roberta in order to arrange pre-registration.
  • $12 for tickets purchased at the door.

For information on Toronto, York Univeristy, accomodation, and transportation, click here.



Friday, March12th

4:00 pm Opening Remarks

4:30 pm Interrupting Images: Art, Icon and Interpretation
Panel Chairperson: Ruth Panofsky

  1. The Falling Man of September 11, 2001: Discordant Appeals for Ethics and Identity
    Andrea Fitzpatrick, Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University
  2. New Internationalism? - A Case Study of Xu Bing’s Art
    Doris Sung, Visual Arts, York University
  3. Unveiling the Gaze: Artists Reconstructing Representations of Muslim Women
    Farheen Haq, Visual Arts, York University
  4. Compressed Time, Space and Art: The Theories of Virilio and the Paintings of Murakami
    Matthew Tiessen, Cultural Mediations, Carleton University

6:00 pm Wine and Cheese Reception


Saturday March13th

9:00 am Opening Remarks (coffee, tea, and light snacks provided)

9:30 am Broken Links: Politics, Media and Malfunction
Panel Chairperson: David Skinner

  1. American Empire and Cultural Imperialism: Theory, Practice and Politics
    Tanner Mirrlees, Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture, York University
  2. Student and Program Evaluation as Prevention of Agency in Adult Literacy
    Valerie Ashford, Faculty of Education, Queen’s University
  3. More Power to You: Thinking About Autonomy Through Foucault
    Jeff Barbeau, Faculty of Education, Queen’s University

11:00 am Film Found and Not Found: Investigating Silences in Cinema
Panel Chairperson: Monique Tschofen

  1. “Men With Brooms” Plays with the Big Boys: The Dilemmas Surrounding a Canadian Attempt to Create
    a Film with Market Appeal.
    Matt Flisfeder, Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture, York University.
  2. The Big Lebowski: A Mass-Produced Fantasy for Wimps
    Sean Springer, Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture, Ryerson University
  3. Queering Film Theory
    Stephanie Clare, English, University of Victoria

12:30 pm Lunch (provided)


1:30 pm Mixed Media: Digital Technologies and Disruption
Panel Chairperson: Jody Berland

  1. Those Brave Girls: What Can You See Through the Webcam?
    Roberta Buiani, Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture, York University
  2. Interfacing with the Nation: Space and Citizenship in Canada's Information Society
    Naomi Fraser, Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture, York University
  3. Lifted Loops and Broken Beats: Sample-based Music and the Revenge of the Cut
    Owen Chapman, Communication Studies, Concordia University

3:00 pm What Error 404 is For - Systems, Error and Reclaiming Rupture
Panel Chairperson: Beth Seaton

  1. The Community of Not Belonging
    Jack Sinnot, Faculty of Education, Queen’s University
  2. Contigency, Paradox and Communication: Luhmann’s Second-Order Systems Theory
    Robert Rutland, School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University.
  3. Hermetic Communication or Open-Ended Ontogenetic Drift
    Stephanie Kale, Institute of Political Economy, Carleton University

4:30 pm Conference Closing Remarks



The Falling Man of September 11, 2001: Discordant Appeals for Ethics and Identity
Andrea Fitzpatrick, Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University

An infamous image by photojournalist Richard Drew was captured on September 11, 2001 depicting a man falling to his death from the World Trade Towers. When it was circulated in newspapers around the world immediately after the catastrophe and when it was exhibited at the World Press Photo exhibition in Toronto one year later, uproar ensued. Paradox, ambivalence and lack of consensus twisted the trajectory of the controversy. In accordance with the unprecedented events of that horrific day, the media and the viewing public demonstrated an unusual concern for an ethics of representation. But how did these "ethics" play themselves out and what did they reveal? Should he be named or remain anonymous? Did reactions to the image indicate a proximity to the "everyman" or a distance from the "other?" Should we bear witness or should avert our eyes, refusing the spectacle? Is identity valorized or exploited by the display of this liminal moment suspended between life and death? As a foil to Drew¹s image, I will discuss a series by American artist Sarah Charlesworth in which she appropriated news photographs of people falling to their deaths in order to exhibit them, decontextualized, as high art.

I will describe the vexing circumstances in which aesthetics corrupt the function of ethics, reducing an analogue, historical image of specific identity to a nameless, silent spectacle. I will also reveal how identities of falling figures, those who died within the public¹s field of vision, are contingent upon the conflicting political and personal investments of spectators, artists, journalists and family members, such that identities are alternately claimed or erased, commemorated or disavowed.

New Internationalism? - A Case Study of Xu Bing¹s Art
Doris Sung, Visual Arts, York University

This paper is an attempt to investigate the notion of "New Internationalism" as a current discourse in post-modern culture through the works of Chinese artist Xu Bing.

New Internationalism spins from the idea of "multiculturalism", a concept of a promising and harmonious global relation in which cultural exchanges between power centres and the peripheries are open-minded and equal. With today¹s rapid change in geo-political situation around the world, we see a drastic shift of politics in the cultural milieu. Within the arts institutions, there is a gradual change in perception of the art of the other. However slow this process is, we are witnessing a change from the concept of "ethnicity" to "cultural diversity" to a present engagement with the concept of "international". However, the discourses of this so-called inclusion have always run along the axis of the western centres and the peripheries. What I would like to question in this essay is: are we going beyond the naïve adoption of the notion of multiculturalism, which always turns into some kind of segregated nationalism or regionalism that cannot escape the fate of becoming a dogmatic government position? Does it reflect yet another cultural exchange concept that stays on the level of chop suey and fried rice? Is this banner of New Internationalism another catch phrase coming from the pressure of post-colonial political-correctness?

"Unveiling the Gaze: Artists Reconstructing Representations of Muslim Women"
Farheen Haq, Visual Arts, York University

There should be a multitude of writings and images of Muslim women ­ as diverse as all the countries and lands that Muslim women occupy. However, the veiled, repressed subject still stands as the emblem for Muslim women everywhere. Western hegemony over the world is often played out in literature and in the arts upon the bodies of Muslim women. The paper I am submitting examines the structure of looking at Muslim women and how artists can deconstruct and mediate the gaze through artistic practice and visual representation.

To achieve this double task I firstly draw upon the theories of feminist film critique, specifically the work of Laura Mulvey and her use of Freud¹s "scopophilia" to describe the passive gaze that men enjoy while watching representations of women. Since power differentials of Western colonialism play out in the representations of Muslim women, I will also look to postcolonial analysis, chiefly the work of Edward Said as well as Homi Bhabha.

My goal is to show how artists can use specific strategies to break down the passive or voyeuristic gaze; close in distance between viewer and subject and call forth a more complex reading of Muslim women. I will use the works of contemporary Iranian-American artist Shirin Neshat and my own art practice as a Muslim Canadian artist to illustrate how artists deconstruct the gaze. Neshat creates work where the viewer becomes physically part of the work. I employ text as a way to create narratives in my photobased work and thus create an interruption to the sensual gaze that can rest on the body. Both Neshat and I use universal allegorical themes that draw the viewer in. In deconstructing the gaze directed at Muslim women, both Neshat and I become agents working for a transformation of how we see ourselves and others ­ and in this fragmented, politically polarized time ­ in that lies the potential for great social change.

Compressed Time, Space and Art: The Theories of Virilio and the Paintings of Murakami
Matthew Tiessen, Cultural Mediations, Carleton University

Paul Virilio describes our world as being driven by a "need for speed." Virilio¹s dystopian world is one compelled by a technological imperative that seeks to compress, conflate and flatten distance and duration.

This flattened world, devoid of depth and breadth, becomes claustrophobic, stifling, and, ultimately, devalued. It is a disembodied world wherein speed and technology have become ends in themselves.

But how is this technologically flattened world described by Virilio being responded to by the artist, specifically the (often) non-technological painter?

To answer this question I turn to the observations of Steven T. Zevitas ­ editor of the respected bimonthly art journal American Paintings. Zevitas observes that the paintings of young contemporary artists are, increasingly, featuring flat shapes, flat colours and a flat depth of field. He goes on to suggests that the plethora of young, contemporary painters expressing themselves through the use of flat surfaces and colours are producing work that is symptomatic of the physically, metaphorically, and culturally flat world in which they grew up.

As a case study about the relationship between flat paintings and flat culture turn to the work of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. Murakami describes his art as "Superflat." He suggests that the "superflatness" of his artwork reflects the "superflatness" of Japanese culture. He also suggests that since Japan is a technologically advanced society, the world of the future might come to look like the Japan of today ­ superflat. How Virilianþ.

American Empire and Cultural Imperialism: Theory, Practice, and Politics
Tanner Mirrlees, Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture, York University

The new dynamics of American empire and imperialism have been intensively researched, theorized, and critiqued by a number of scholars (Panitch and Gindin 2003; Harvey 2003; Chomsky 2003; Gowan 2002). Absent from most of these discussions, however, is an account of how communication, media, and culture can play a significant role in the ideological maintenance and reproduction of the American state¹s global hegemony (and the global capitalist system in general). This absence (or "Error 404") has been accompanied by the refusal of many contemporary "cultural globalization" scholars to acknowledge and critique the American state¹s ongoing use of its communication, cultural, and media industries to imperialistically "win the popular consent" of its subjects, both at home and abroad (Featherstone 1991; Appadurai 1996; Tomlinson 1999).

This paper re-furbishes the (Marxist) theory of "cultural imperialism" and then historicizes and critiques American cultural imperialism as a contemporary hegemonic practice. The first section of this paper synthesizes the Marxian theory of American cultural imperialism with Nicos Poulantzas¹ conception of the capitalist state after addressing cultural globalization studies¹ challenges to these theories. The second section of this paper locates, historicizes, and critiques forms of American cultural imperialism in the three-year period following the terrorist attacks of 911. Under the auspice of the Bush regime, the American state re-funded and re-constructed its Office of Public Diplomacy (its Cold War propaganda apparatus), recruited the nation¹s advertising and public relations sectors to "brand America" to the "Muslim world," worked with Hollywood and other cultural industries to produce pro-war and pro-American commodity-content, and built a massive Global Office of communications to generate and globally disseminate positive representations of America around the world. The American state¹s concentrated effort to ideologically imperialize global culture, however, was met with widespread opposition and different forms of political resistance both at home and abroad, thus highlighting the incomplete, contested, and contradictory terrain of empire and imperial culture in the era of global capitalism.

Student and Program Evaluation as Prevention of Agency in Adult Literacy
Valerie Ashford with Dr. Magda Lewis, Faculty of Education, Queen¹s University That schooling and its practices, such as curriculum development, program delivery and student evaluation, is a political enterprise is not always self-evident to those on the frontlines of school environments. Particularly, teachers in adult literacy are often faced with conflicting demands that constrain their teaching practices; trickle-down theory and trickle-down politics can turn the adult literacy classroom into a site for the steady production of powerless constituents.

The question of "literacy/illiteracy" is an important political mechanism. "Literacy/illiteracy" references everything from political knowledge to text-decoding skills. However, if we understand the term as a political tool, constructed for political purposes, it can be understood as a means by which states manipulate and control levels of social and labour participation.

In this paper, we aim to show how the social construction of "literacy/illiteracy" as a personal achievement‹rather than a national project‹is manufactured through the processes of student evaluation. While these conditions of evaluation impact on student outcomes at all levels of schooling, nowhere is it more immediately apparent than in the lives of adult learners in literacy programs. The effect of this focus on the processes of program delivery and evaluation is to obscure some larger questions concerning the politics of "literacy/illiteracy" as a central component of social control within advanced capitalist nations. Through a close examination of literacy evaluation processes and how they are invoked and used, we propose to analyze how adult literacy programs are sometimes used to satisfy national political and economic needs, while holding individuals personally responsible for their success or failure in literacy programs.

More Power to You: Thinking About Autonomy Through Foucault
Jeff Barbeau, Faculty of Education, Queen¹s University

In the space of three decades, neoliberal discourse has become an important way of thinking about the development of public policy in Canada. The promotion of private-sector solutions has forced Canadians to confront the inadequacies of public provision and the benefits of those reforms that promise to empower citizens to take charge of their lives. Government provision of services has become a problem: familiar terms such as Œfreedom,¹ Œchoice,¹ and Œempowerment¹ have been used to justify the reconstruction of public services such as education and health care along the lines of private enterprise. Empowerment, in this context, refers to the adoption of social policies that limit the scope of government involvement in society to ensure the personal freedom of all citizens. Doing away with the notion that power by necessity seeks to negate individual expression, enables us to appreciate the multiple and changing ways that power relations constitute particular ideals and practices of citizenship. Near the end of his life, Foucault suggested that his objective had been to Œcreate a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects.¹ It is important to interrogate how neoliberal policies have produced a model of what it means to be an effective citizen, and to explore a notion of real autonomy through Foucault that expands currently limited notions of freedom and democracy.

Men With Brooms Plays with the Big Boys: The Dilemmas Surrounding a Canadian Attempt To Create a Film with Market Appeal
Matt Flisfeder, Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture, York University

Is it possible to understand Canadian cultural production and, hence, Canadian culture, without either essentializing our culture or producing a culture that is compensatory for one that lacks on the global scale?

Also, is Canada, as has been suggested by people such as Andrew Wernick, truly a postmodern nation? If so, has Canadian culture managed to manifest such an ethos, and has it done so successfully? These questions become forefront in the crisis over the discovery of Canadian National identity, most prominently in its cultural industries. The "Error 404 file not found," which I propose to surface, has largely to do with the dilemmas in defining a Canadian National identity, but also surfaces the paradoxical dilemmas that arise when Canadians attempt to manifest such and identity in cultural productions.

Bearing this in mind, I shall analyze Paul Gross¹ 2002 (Canadian) "Blockbuster-flop," Men With Brooms; a film that was supposed to be an answer to the dilemma of Canadian identity and Canadian popular cultural production. In doing so, the issues mentioned above will be evaluated in relation to a greater dilemma: on how the influence of both American and Global capitalist hegemony has influenced the production of Canadian cultural artefacts.

What follows, then, is an evaluation of some of these dilemmas in considering the problems surrounding a Canadian attempt to create a film with market appeal, which can, as Paul Quarrington, co-writer of Men With Brooms, suggests, speak "loudly to the people in the country where it was made, and after that, to the people around the world." With this purpose, I shall argue that the film stands out as a prime example of a work that can and should be measured through both essentialist and compensatory paradigms, as they have been discussed by Will Straw. In addition, through this analysis, it shall be made evident that the production/manifestation of Canadian culture, let alone Canadian identity, proves to be a most difficult task; especially for a nation that is supposedly postmodern.

"The Big Lebowski: A Mass-Produced Fantasy for Wimps"
Sean Springer, Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture, Ryerson University

According to several sociologists, contemporary American males are experiencing heightened feelings of anxiety, because they live in an era of dwindling opportunities for male achievement. In response to this "crisis of masculinity," these American males have attempted to restore their masculinity by advocating the American male who asserts himself both aggressively and sexually. This phenomenon has been expounded upon by a number of film theorists, who see in Hollywood films of the past 15 years the widespread glorification of the virile, ambitious, and self-made male protagonist. Counter to this trend, however, an alternative masculinity has simultaneously emerged in popular culture, one in which male protagonists are celebrated for their wariness of self-assertion. Through these characters, television shows such as Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The Larry Sanders Show and films such as Election, American Splendour, and Being John Malkovich suggest that the routes towards manhood have crumbled to a point where the American male should remove himself from society completely. In particular, Joel and Ethan Coen¹s The Big Lebowski (1998) is presented as a guide to the American male who does not wish to assert himself, but who nevertheless wants to be accepted "as a man." The main character, the Dude (Jeff Bridges), successfully satisfies these desires by never asserting himself and by also stoically enduring physical torture and sexual humiliation ‹ two rites of passage on the path towards American manhood. In the process, he attains masculine stoicism and autonomy without having compromised his wimpy, sluggish, and idle identity.

Queering Film Theory
Stephanie Clare, English, University of Victoria

Both feminist film criticism and lesbian and gay film criticism constrain desire in identity. In response, this presentation argues that especially given the properties of film, desire and identity can be radically separated. I turn to Elizabeth Grosz¹s figuration of desire in Space, Time and Perversion because it provides a model of desire outside identification and identity. This opens a space for the analysis of homoeroticism in spectatorship, no matter the sexual identity of the actual spectator. Thus, while it may seem that Hollywood cinema reinforces heterosexuality, this cinema is simultaneously disruptive to the straight mind: it may encourage queer spectatorship. My presentation is not only concerned with the spaces opened yet silenced in Hollywood cinema but also with haunting presences in feminist film criticism. Feminist film criticism alludes to, while eluding homoerotic desire. Although many such theories detect elements of homoerotic desire in (heterosexual) female spectatorship, feminist film critics emphasize identification, collapsing what could be homoerotic desire into male identification. This obliterates the possibility of lesbian desire. On the other hand, lesbian criticisms focus on homoerotic desire in spectatorship. However, these analyses, for the most part, limit their scope of interest to those spectators who identify as lesbian, similarly constraining desire in identity. My presentation suggests a queer model of spectatorship that does not replace these other models, but that nonetheless may act alongside them to provide a more complete account of film spectatorship, one that foregrounds desire over identification.

Those Brave Girls: What Can You See Through the Webcam?
Roberta Buiani, Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture, York University

What type of collective imagination hides behind the "webcam"? What reaction does the term "webcam girl" produce?

Much ink has been spread by journalists and scholars since the appearance of the first website that chronicled and documented lives and interests of young women, who consensually exposed themselves to the indiscrete lens of the web camera. Jenny, Ana, Izzi, are only a few names that can be found in the ever-growing list of webcam sites disseminated all over the cyberspace. These sites have constantly been viewed and judged from a moralizing, often sexist perspective that privileged the point of view and the interest of the external observer, identified with the voyeur. However, if we consider the phenomenon from the perspective of the camgirls themselves and their fans we might discover some unexpected elements that will unveil great novelties in terms of structure and community construction.

As the phenomenon of the webcam girls is a product of the Internet, it can be considered both cultural artifact and culture. On the one hand, it tends to be subordinated to a repressive imperative, while accepting conservative and traditional methods of representation. On the other hand, it embodies a move towards the affirmation of hybrid and multiple subjectivity and the formulation of new forms of collective aggregations.

Through the analysis of two exemplar websites, this paper will assess the ­normally unnoticed and repressed‹novelty that the camgirl sites strive to propose in terms of representation and community construction. This very novelty will also inevitably unveil the presence of the paradoxes and the cultural assumptions that threaten it.

Interfacing with the Nation: Space and Citizenship in Canada¹s Information Society.
Naomi Fraser, Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture, York University

As the spaces of our everyday lives are increasingly oriented towards an information-based model of society through the use of new information and communications technologies (ICTs), the influence of trans-national production and relations of global capital, considerations for our membership and participation in these spaces, whether they be local, national or global, arise. As a result, the construction of citizenship and the ways in which new and altered spaces organize this relationship is of fundamental concern. Recent evaluations of the Canadian government¹s ICT policy celebrate its successful transition into the "knowledge society." However, a closer examination of these policies raise questions concerning how Canadian citizenship is framed and how they formulate models of "interfacing" with the nation on-line.

This paper will critically examine the relationship between technology and the spatial expressions of social organization, attending to the ways in which changes to both our physical and conceptual interactions with space influence an understanding of citizenship. I will begin with a discussion of various theoretical positions of space and citizenship, addressing how these notions have been reformulated in the context of the information society. I will then apply this discussion to an examination of the Canadian government¹s approach to constructing political space on the Internet through its Government On-Line (GOL) Initiative. Finally, I will consider how this discourse intersects with "unofficial" models of citizen-participation emerging in both on and off-line contexts, contributing an alternative framework for constructing political space in the information society.

Lifted Loops and Broken Beats: Sample-based music and the revenge of the cut
Owen Chapman, Communication Studies, Concordia University

There is a pervasive opinion within the literature on audio sampling that it is a practice that sidesteps a certain number of musical conventions like copyright, or established rules for studio production and mixing. This rebellious spirit is combined with accounts of enhanced aural control through new digital remixing technologies to suggest that sample-based music is at the forefront of a new musical avant-garde. It is as though sound in the digital age has become "utterly malleable" (Miller, 1996: 185), leaving only the sound selector and manipulator as the all-powerful source of creativity, of individual musical genius.

However, these narratives leave out a crucial aspect of sample-based musical production‹one that drastically contradicts any rhetoric of utter control. This is the role of the sampled-sounds themselves in the practice of composition. My paper will focus on demonstrating the latter through the use of musical examples as well as excerpts from interviews with a selection of sample-based composers from Montreal.

Miller, Paul D. a. k. a DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid. 1996. "Cartridge Music." Parkett. No. 46.

The Community of Not Belonging
Jack Sinnot, Faculty of Education, Queen¹s University

Are "Error 404 File Not Found" messages necessarily sources of "great frustration"? Might they also or instead be heralds of good fortune? Might these ruptures in communication and culture, be the cyberage¹s metaphor nonpareil for what Giorgio Agamben describes as the unrepresentable common space of humanity that is properly called "ease"? For "ease," Agamben reminds us, "in fact designates, according to its etymology, the space adjacent (ad-jacens, adjacentia), the empty place where each can move freely, in a semantic constellation where spatial proximity borders on opportune time (ad-agio, moving at ease) and convenience borders on the correct relation." Ease, he says, is the very place of love, of "the coming community."

Through the rupture, the ease, created by this question, the proposed paper will will engage conference participants in a critical examination, queer if you will, of an autoethnographically-inspired reconceptualisation of community as an Error 404 open space of not belonging‹multivocal, cacophonous, polyamorous not belonging, where one¹s identities are fluid and intersecting‹rather than as a closed space of belonging‹univocal, euphonious, monogamous belonging, where one¹s identities are fixed and asymptotic. Community thus reimagined, I will posit, interrogating the stale discourse of community that suffuses elementary, secondary and postsecondary education, is home to education as the practice of freedom and justice, not to schooling or training as the practice of discipline and punishment. Community-making thus reimagined converges wondrously with identity-making and learning in unending response to and fulfilment of Jerome Bruner¹s poignant challenge for education to facilitate a "subjunctivizing" of reality, a "trafficking in human possibilities rather than in settled certainties."

Contingency, paradox and communication: Luhmann's second-order systems theory
Robert Rutland, School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University.

Over the last fifty years or so, a fascinating convergence has occurred between the physical and social sciences in the area of systems theory as an explicit attempt to theorize complexity. In particular, the emphasis on the self-referential and recursive nature of complex systems in second-order cybernetics, along with its rejection of the subject/object distinction in favour of a system/environment approach, has provided a provocative model for social theories which take seriously the contingent nature of communication. Furthermore, it has developed as a theoretical approach that foregrounds the epistemological problematic of the relationship between observer and observed. The most elaborated systems theory approach to communication is found in the work of German sociologist Niklas Luhmann. His appropriation of the theory of autopoiesis from Chilean biologists Maturana and Varela provides the conceptual framework for a theory of social systems which begins by asking how meaning can possibly emerge given the inescapable contingency of communication. This approach to communication foregrounds the paradox of self-reference, a problem that ­ inter alia ­ is expressed in dualism, hermeneutics and post-structuralism. Second-order systems theory attempts to deal with paradox by explicitly including itself within its own theoretical framework, while suspending all transcendental claims. I will argue that the attention it gives to the epistemological "problem" of self-reference, its insistence on the contingency and immanence of meaning and, above all, its ability to observe itself is a useful and intellectually rigorous way of looking at communication, one that embraces rather than avoids paradox.

Hermetic Communication or Open-Ended Ontogenetic Drift
Stephanie Kale, Institute of Political Economy, Carleton University

Ruptures in communication are often defined as Œbroken¹: a malfunction, either in the constitution or understanding of the involved subjects or a flaw in the system itself. In the following paper, I wish to present recent scholarship in systems theory, particularly the work of Maturana & Varela, who consider this situation of imperfect communication from an alternative perspective. Building upon their theory of autopoiesis ­ self-producing systems situated in a fundamentally circular relationship to an infinitely complex environment ­ I wish to attend to issues concerning external complexity and systemic perturbations, often referred to as Œnoise.¹

In this respect, disruptions in the circuit of communication are viewed not as a Œbreak,¹ but rather as uncontrollable instances of environmental complexity which confront the boundaries of the system. In a process of ontogenetic structural drift ­ survival by processes of chance selection rather than evolutionary determinism - perturbations must either be internalized into the system by structural coupling of the system with the emergent frictional elements of the environment, or rejected as decidedly detrimental to the maintenance of the system¹s autopoietic functions - that of continued self-production. Such autopoietic systems may include cognitive and social systems, both of which demand the discussion of the consensual domain of language and symbols as the dominant forum of informational exchange, and how information which outlays the consensual domain affects systemic stability.

In conclusion, this paper will demonstrate that there is no Œbreak¹ in communication, but inherent in the nature of communication itself lies the perpetual emergence of noise ­ a continuous flow of phenomena which cannot be immediately computed by the system ­ resultant from a lack of historical reference within the pre-existing consensual domain of language and symbols. What then remains of interest is the manner in which a particular system, albeit cognitive or social, re-stabilizes its autopoietic functions through the process of structural coupling: how responses to external stimuli become Œnaturalized.¹ It is this patience with systemic disorder that permits for greater observation and understanding of these temporal fissures in communication processes.


Call For Papers

The deadline for papers has now passed. Successful applicants will be notified via e-mail.

A Graduate Student Conference hosted by the students of the Joint Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture
York University and Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
March 12-13, 2004

“Error 404 file not found” is the notorious message that appears on our computer screen when a website is missing, or broken:  The “Error 404” message can cause great frustration for the user.

Although this error message is part of Internet lingo, its significance extends far beyond. It indicates a flaw in a system, a malfunction, something that has been unexpectedly or intentionally neglected and that, therefore, requires maximum attention.

If we interpret this message in a broader sense, then the entire world is filled with “Error 404”  messages. Rather than simply clicking the back button, we are challenged to look deeper at broken or missing elements within the study of communication and culture and offer alternative perspectives, paths and solutions. The intersection of what works and what does not in communication and culture can reveal much about the nature of
our world and how we understand it.

Open to all graduate students, this interdisciplinary conference is accepting contributions that address, whether literally, metaphorically, politically or theoretically what is broken or unfound, hidden or overtly disruptive. In other words, the “Error 404s” in our society.


Topics and Themes

We invite both traditional papers as well as creative or artistically oriented scholarly research (i.e., multimedia work, film, video, performance) that relate to the following general themes:.

Media and Culture
Topics could include (but not limited to) subjectivity, popular and visual culture, media studies, cultural consumption and production, media democracy, representations of sexualities/race/ethnicity, gender studies, portrayals of social class, depictions of ability/disability, semiotics and linguistics, cultures of cities, space and place.
Technology in Practice
Submissions in this category might address (but are not limited to) questions regarding technology's emergent role in theoretical and practical debates surrounding art, authenticity, and aesthetics, negotiations of accessibility and identity, race and gender, explorations in the concepts of the cyborg, the post-human, and technoculture.
Politics and Policy
Potential areas of focus could include (but are not limited to) strategies of resistance, questions of structure and agency, deliberations about the communication and culture and the public sphere, sovereignty, accessibility, cultural policy, citizenship, globalization, copyright and intellectual property, privacy and surveillance, media ownership in Canada.


Submission Format/Deadlines

Please submit an abstract in Microsoft Word format of no more than 250 words (approx. 1 typewritten page, double spaced). Name and contact information should not appear on this page.

Please include a separate page with the following information:
1. Title of paper as it appears on your abstract
2. Name
3. Affiliation (program and university)
4. Level and year of study (ie., Master's, 2nd year)
5. Phone number
6. E-mail address
7. Mailing address
8. Any A/V requirements (ie. Overhead projector, computer/projector, film projector, VCR, etc.)

Deadline:  Friday, January 16th, 2003

Please e-mail submissions to

For inquires and info e-mail:



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