What is Information? (2020) investigated conceptualizations and implementations of information via material, representational, and hybrid frames. The cyberconference considered information and its transformational effects and affects—from documents to data; from facts and fictions to pattern recognition; from differential equations to physical information; and from volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity to collective intelligence and wisdom.

The tenth annual What is…? examined tapestries, temperaments, and topologies of information, including social and technical, mathematical and semantic, physical and biological, economic and political, cultural and environmental information. Information can thus be understood as physical, for instruction, and about epistemic systems. Scholars, government and community officials, industry professionals, alumni, students, as well as scientists, artists, filmmakers, grassroots community organizations, and the public are invited to collaborate.


The CYBERCONFERENCE commenced Thursday, April 30th with a plenary session featuring Sandra Rendgen (Infographics Group, Germany) and Mark Burgin (Mathematics, UCLA), followed by the grand opening and virtual group tour of the NETWORKS EXHIBITION on Ethnographia Island — extended through August 31st — including collaborations with Gather:Make:Shelter, Street Roots and Mapping Action Collective, Textile Docs, and the UNESCO Crossings Institute.

The event continued on Friday, May 1st with the 2020 Leonardo da Vinci Lecture featuring Ivan Sutherland of the Asynchronous Research Center (Portland State Univ.). Sutherland is widely regarded as the father of computer graphics, and his contributions to human-computer symbiosis include Sketchpad (an early graphical user interface) and the head-mounted 3D display (a pioneering virtual reality system). It was followed by plenaries featuring Zizi Papacharissi (Univ. of Illinois at Chicago) on affective publics and David Ribes (Univ. of Washington) on the logic of domains. The program continued with plenaries on quantum computing by Jamie Garcia (IBM Research), the COVID-19 pandemic by Yaneer Bar-Yam (New England Complex Systems Institute), and the internet as library by Brewster Kahle (Internet Archive and Wayback Machine). The evening continued with an EXPERIENCE in cooperation with the Oregon Historical Society. Keynote speaker, Eliza Canty-Jones, highlighted projects dedicated to the centenary of women’s right to vote, and a panel featuring Linda Long (UO), Jane Marcellus (Middle Tennessee Univ.), and Thomas Bivins (UO), explored the suffrage movement and the Nineteenth Amendment. The evening concluded with a live music performance by Rebecca Conner.

Saturday, May 2nd began with a plenary by Divina Frau-Meigs (Univ. Sorbonne Nouvelle) on information literacy and André Brock (Georgia Tech) on technoculture and race. The afternoon continued with Dan Schiller (Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) on government information, and  Carol Stabile (UO) on challenging Cold War intellectual history. Some noteworthy panels included a session on the Freedom of Information, another on “Putting Information at Play: Reframing Games and Digital Media” featuring Charles Berret (Univ. of British Columbia, Canada), Amanda Cote (UO), Raul Ferrer-Connil (Karlstad Univ. Sweden), Aaron Trammell (UC Irvine), and coordinated by Maxwell Foxman (UO), “Art, Textiles, Photography, & Knowledge” with Caleb Sayan and world-renowned textile artist/collector Andrea Aranow (Textile Hive), non-profit stewards Dana Lynn Louis (Gather:Make:Shelter) and Kaia Sand (Street Roots), as well as many others.The evening highlighted the final plenary by Colin Koopman (UO) examining the politics of data, and concluded with the closing keynote by science historian, George Dyson, discussing his upcoming book—Analogia: The Entangled Destinies of Nature, Human Beings and Machines—in dialogue with Sheldon Renan. The cyberconference concluded with an emerging interactive conversation with Ivan Sutherland, Zizi Papacharissi, George Dyson, and Colin Koopman, facilitated by Jeremy Swartz (UO/SOU).

Some of this year’s cooperative experiences included evenings in partnership with the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) in celebration of Law Day’s 2020 theme, “Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy: The 19th Amendment at 100,” as well as the exhibition with the Oregon Reality Lab (UO Portland).

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