The seventh annual “What is…? ” conference-experience will engage communication, media, and nature by examining everyday life — our lifeworks and lifestyles — emphasizing the lifeworlds we live in. It will investigate how communication and information constitute and permeate all avenues and forms of life — from scale, pace, and pattern to the public, private, and organic. By building bridges through multidisciplinary networks, the event emphasizes how communication is instrumental in and for living systems. What is life and how is life mediated?

What is Life? (2017) builds on last year’s conference, What is Media? (2016), expanding a transdisciplinary notion of medium/media with special attention to its material, historical, and ecological ramifications. It marks the second collaboration with scholars from the natural sciences (physical and life sciences) and the arts.

Papers/presentations already accepted address: the value of human life, algorithms and e-waste, biodiversity, science journalism/communication, sustainable design and apps, Chinese rural experience, microbial ecology, women and work, STS and automation, responsibility and integrity. What is Life? invites scholars, government and community officials, industry professionals, alumni and students, as well as scientists, artists, filmmakers, grassroots community organizations, and the public to collaborate. We welcome submissions for paper presentations and panels, roundtables, and art installations.

Presentations/panels/installations may include the following topics (as well as others):

Communication and Media
• What is media life? How is life mediated? How is life a medium? How do media shape everyday life’s habits?
• How do science communication and ecology inform each other? What is public and/or solutions journalism?
• What are approaches to civic media, engagement, and action for the environment? What is ecosophy?
• How do media draw attention to and motivate certain lifestyles and livelihoods (e.g. crowdsourcing)?
• What ways do technology/media act as life-support/sustaining systems? What is life in an “always-on culture”?
• How do apps, games, and immersive worlds help us to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of mediated life?
• Where are boundaries (dis)integrating between databases and life (e.g. social media and/or bioinformatics)?
• How are language, meaning, mind, and thought grounded in life processes? What is new materialism?
• What are relationships between media archaeology and nature (A Geology of Media and Insect Media)?
• Is life an algorithm (materially and/or symbolically) in big data and data visualization?

Media and The Environment
• How are ecological education and media related (e.g. ecomedia, ecocriticsm, ecodesign, and/or ecoliteracy)?
• How are communication/media and the natural and life sciences coming together (e.g. ecosystem analysis)?
• How is media metabolized (e.g. e-waste)? How can we repair the world (e.g. bio-remediation)?
• What are emerging issues in environmental humanities research? What is biomedia and/or bioart?
• How are place and space (environments) related to media and life? What is life enhancement (H+)?
• How does an embodied (material) account of media and science/art contribute to integrative thinking?
• What are indigenous peoples’ rights and issues (e.g. natural resources, autonomy, environmental degradation)?

Sustainability, Responsibility, and Beyond
• What are sustainable cities and livability? What is biourbanism? What is social ecology?
• How do sustainable housing and/or placemaking foster habitats? What are DIY (design) & SLOW (e.g. food)?
• How can sustainability cultivate more diversity and inclusivity (e.g. gender, race, age, socioeconomic class)?
• How are sustainable business and systems thinking intertwined (e.g. triple bottom line, biomimicry)?
• What is corporate social responsibility in public relations? What is social entrepreneurship (e.g. L3C, B-corp)?
• How does advertising enhance/obsolesce sustainability trends (e.g. life-cycle assessment, greenwashing)?
• What are incubators for social, economic, and political change? What is an evolutionary political economy?
• How are collaborative and cooperative projects facilitating ecological praxis (e.g. open source ecology)?
• Are there accounts of aesthetics and ethics that can assist in our understanding of life processes?
• What comes after sustainability? How do we differentiate sustaining from thriving (communities of practice)?

Emergence, Synergy, and Regeneration
• What is biodiversity? What is biocommunication, biosemiotics, bioculture, or bioethics?
• What is biopower, biopolitics, bioeconomics, and/or biosecurity? What is ecofeminism and/or ecospirituality?
• What is artificial life/intelligence and/or synthetic biology? How is life being incorporated?
• How do microbes change our conception of life? How does microbial health relate to the built environment?
• What are black swan events? Who controls life, death, birth and aging? What is integrative medicine?

Send 100-150 word abstracts/proposals by December 13, 2016 to:
Janet Wasko •

Conference Organizers:
Janet Wasko and Jeremy Swartz (University of Oregon)

University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, 97403-1275, USA