Launching the EML and Heliotrope


Write toward the light.

Submit here:

The Environmental Media Lab (EML) at the University of Calgary is seeking submissions on a rolling basis for Heliotrope: Writing toward the light, a space for publishing short think-&-feel pieces. Heliotrope is a space for scholars and practitioners to explore and share your work — and to ask new questions.

The EML invites a wide range of submissions from anyone who studies topics at the intersection of:  1) media and technology 2) environmental humanities 3) special topics (currently: bioinformatics and genomics)

Submissions should be between 500 (min) and 1500 words (max). We also welcome accompanying video and audio pieces, although we do not currently have space to host them ourselves. Please get permission for your images as needed. We prefer that references be hyperlinked, but please also include citations at the end (in whatever style you prefer). We encourage you to end your piece with a set of questions, prompts, or provocations. Let us know if a component of this work is published elsewhere.

Environmental Media engages an array of media texts, discourses, and objects, to understand the mutual entanglements of media and environment. We look at documentary films and podcasts, media campaigns, advertisements, etc., to understand and analyze representations of naturecultures. We look at the lifecycle of our current global communications infrastructures, from mining rare earth minerals, imperialism and colonialism, e-waste, sensors and towers, data centers, the cloud, 5G, — to everything that connects the ‘wired’ world. We look globally at how ‘natural’ disasters, racism, pandemics, genomics, climate change, mass food systems, and pollution have become inscribed into the environment, and how nature itself becomes medium and message.

To launch Heliotrope, we welcome submissions that explore our special topic – bioinformatics and genomics – in unexpected and creative ways. Consider the idea of interludes—the moments in between, the pauses, the spaces of anticipation and hesitation, the creative and kinetic potential in the moments of stillness at the eye of a storm. Wanting just as much as our writers to embody practices of curiosity, generosity, and imagination, our editorial team is committed to providing constructive feedback to all submissions.

Accepted pieces will be published regularly and on a rolling basis, starting September 2020.

Write to Heliotrope’s co-editors, Mél Hogan, Crystal Chokshi and Tessa Brown, at

Publication: Making and Doing

This volume brings together a range of papers that fruitfully engage with the theme of the 2017 Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, held in San Diego, California: Interventions. Here “intervention” points to a range of communication practices that engage with a political event, social phenomena, industrial or socio-cultural practice, in order to alter and disrupt events and the norms and practices that contribute to their occurrence. Interventions prohibit events from proceeding in a “normal” course. Interventions approach or critique practices and phenomenon resulting from tensions or absences occurring in: events, structures, (institutional governmental, media industry), discourses, and socio-cultural and subcultural events. Intervention presents the opportunity to explore boundaries, assumptions and strategies that appear to be different or irreconcilable, viewing them instead as possibilities for productive engagements. Communication interventions-in both research and practice-insert insights from diverse voices, marginal positions, emerging organizational practices and digital technologies, to broaden and enrich dialogue. Interventions bring complex reframings to events and phenomenon. Interventions seek to alter a course and effect changed practices in a range of spheres: governmental and social institutions, cultural and nongovernmental groups; industry and organizational life, new media and digital spaces, socio-cultural environments, subcultural groups, health environments, affective and behavioral life, and in everyday life.


Editorial 47: Loss

Welcome to #47: this is the LOSS issue.

LOSS, as in:

– The fact or process of losing something or someone

– Uncertain as to how to proceed

– Unable to produce what is needed

– Destruction, ruin

– The state or feeling of grief when deprived of someone or something


In this issue:

Cover photographer Jah Grey is a self-taught photographic artist primarily focused on portraiture, whose work, as the artist explains, seeks to educate and encourage society to unlearn the teachings that act to separate us in order to advocate for a more fluid and diverse world. Grey’s digital portraits remind us of the similarities we share, despite our differences. (Interview forthcoming! See for more).

Safiya Umoja Noble offers us a powerful reflection on intersectional Black feminism, the loss of Black life, and the need for recovery. On Losing Black Lives, Noble lays bare the despair that is felt when the powerful entrenchments of racism and sexism at both structural and personal levels engulf one’s daily encounters. “Grief is a holding pattern” writes Noble, “a place we keep circulating through, with each new headline of violence or loss of life.” The burden of intersectional Black feminism is to seek out a love that might start to define the terms of Black feminist struggle for lives that are rich with joy and gratitude for the experience of life itself.

Sarah T. Roberts and Ryan P. Adserias share an intimate conversation about their long-term friendship in the face of the loss of a generation of their community, and the looming presence of HIV/AIDS. In Dancing with the Survivors: A Conversation Between Two Friends, Roberts and Adserias articulate the grief of HIV/AIDS, what they describe as “the people who aren’t here and haven’t been for you, and for me, in our adult gay lives.” Roberts and Adserias describe a constant state of loss that foregrounds their lives and interests.

In A Heart beyond Cure, Mark Ambrose Harris contemplates dying, familial homophobia, and pronounced feelings of intimacy that are only possible in the first moments after death. Harris ruminates on the effects of caregiving on mental health, and the ways in which we navigate loss, regret, and other stark reminders of our own and others’ mortality.

Dina Georgis explores Morehshin Allahyari’s recent exhibit, Material Speculation: ISIS shown at Trinity Square Video in March 2016 in Toronto. Georgis consider how in this work, technology offers speculative possibilities in the aftermath of environmental and cultural destruction. In reading reparation through a psychoanalytic perspective, Georgis reflects on what it might mean to create life not against destruction or aggression but by noticing it, understanding its place, and by negotiating its impulses.

In Open to Television – Can television open us to ourselves? Lisa Henderson juxtaposes clips from “Louie” (2013) and “Freaks and Geeks” (1999) to invite us into sweetness and recognition, a usually suspect accomplishment of television on any platform. Henderson’s video essay provokes us to consider longingly missed opportunities and solitude, and in a way that derives a kind of pleasure from absence.

In Always Already? Queer Cultural Production and the Subject of Marriage, Vincent Doyle draws inspiration from the question posed by Judith Butler’s essay: “Is Kinship Always Already Heterosexual?” It asks: How is the subject to whom same-sex marriage is addressed produced? By what affective means? Drawing on which cultural resources? By exploring these questions in the video essay, Doyle excavates his own and others’ subjective investments in marriage and its associated representational strategies at a time when, as Butler argues, it is becoming increasingly difficult to think of and represent coupling and kinship outside of the narrow norms that legitimated and legalized marriage makes.

As always, huge thank-you to Tamara Shepherd (our amazing copy editor), to all the NMP regulars, contributors past and future, and to readers and supporters of the project in so many ways.

Andrea Zeffiro, Mél Hogan and M-C MacPhee

Critical Karaoke at ICA 2015, Puerto Rico

Lisa HendersonCritical Karaoke

ICA Proposal
Lisa Henderson and Josh Kun, Co-organizers and Co-chairs

Short blurb:

“Critical karaoke” is poet and critic Joshua Clover’s phrase for re-signifying cultural material through the eye and voice of the critic. Critics always re-signify, but can we, like Clover, integrate our perspectives with cultural forms, rather than speaking separately about them? Can we use speech, gestures, sound, image, editing, rhythm, and even improvisational moves to communicate analytic and affective meanings? We think so, and invite the audience to join us in this experiment in performative scholarship.


“Critical karaoke” is poet and critic Joshua Clover’s phrase for re-signifying cultural material through the eye and voice of the critic, and presenting that gesture alongside cultural material in a consciously performative way. “The conceit,” said Clover, “was this: you get to talk about a single song, for the length of the song, while the song is playing behind you.” Clover debuted critical karaoke at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

Critics always re-signify, but can we, like Clover, integrate our perspectives with cultural forms, rather than speaking separately about them? Can we use speech, gestures, sound, image, editing, rhythm, and even improvisational moves to communicate analytic and affective meanings? Buoyed by rehearsal and experimental spirit, can we mix modes of address, hail our audience, and work out the effect of critical form on content? Does our work change when we change how we talk about it?

Last year, four of our seven proposed panelists presented an ICA session titled “Research Creation,” which theorized and illustrated the convergence of cultural scholarship and production. This year, we walk the walk, as scholars who’ve long attended to form in music, film, video, dance, and television and have also largely relied on well-worn conventions of academic address in public. Those conventions claim authority, precision, dispassion, specialization, argument, and the bright line between research and affective ways of knowing. We do not revile or dispense with those claims, but experiment gently in order to locate ourselves differently in the fields of academic and cultural production. With such an experiment, we know to expect uncertainty and exposure, and our willingness to endure those qualities in the name of process is no guarantee of depth. But, we learn by doing. Here, we “do” with a range of popular and populist forms, including web art integrated into a web series that pushes the boundaries of relationships on screen (Christian); off-center situation comedy about the lost opportunities of male friendship (Henderson); science cinema and taking back the dialogue on evolution and climate change (Boulton); dance as the embodiment of a city’s racial histories (Arzumanova); hoarded digital archives as signs of sociality (Hogan); self-produced documentary as critique of cultural policy in Puerto Rico (Diaz Hernandez); and collaborative musical activism (Kun). We want to see how our group of critical karaoke sets might re- shape expression in the spirit of intervention and participatory pedagogy, and we invite the audience to join us in this experiment in performative scholarship.

Additional Rationale:

While our substantive topics are broad, we hope it is clear from our Abstract that our proposed presentations are integrated by (1) “critical karaoke” as formal experiment, and (2) a commitment to critique in the name of social and cultural solidarity and change, a commitment long developed and curated in the Popular Communication Division. We intend this proposal as a follow-up to last year’s success with “Research Creation” (though have added three new presenters) and as an opportunity to keep research creation alive in the ICA. Like last year’s panel, each presentation will be 7-8 minutes worth of tightly prepared material (with short clips narrated in real time). This allows us to include 7 participants in this high-density roundtable.



Through the eyes of an algorithm: Spy on the city

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.30.00 PM
I tested out the Autographer camera today – the wearable cam with a fisheye lens that doesn’t let you control the snapshots. I wore it during my bike ride down to IIT.

Later, when I connected the camera to my computer, and looked at the images, I thought they were kind of boring… typical, bad photos.

But after an hour or so, when I zoomed out, something happened.

I started to see shapes — not content.

A different narrative, about movement and pavement and cracks and stripes.

I think I saw what the algorithm sees.

I desaturated all the images to enhance that effect / affect. What it reveals is pretty magnificent, I find.

I have a few projects in mind for this gadget, with Laura Forlano, and I imagine we’ll continue to document the process at the Critical Futures Lab once it’s up and running…

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.26.43 PM