2016-2017: Media and the Environment
In the shadow of anthropogenic climate change, questions and contests over ecological responsibility, environmental justice and the transformation of unsustainable economies have moved to the centre of cultural, political and intellectual attention globally. Media are deeply implicated in these questions, and this implication has a long history, extending back at least to the role of communication and transportation media in the establishment, representation and operation of imperial and colonial extractive economies and networks.
Our conceptions and experiences of nature, environment and ecology are bound inextricably to mediation, to the technologies, practices and aesthetics of communication by which we inhabit relationships with human and non-human others. Contested practices of discourse and representation frame and carry the politics of the environment. Media technologies and the industries and practices they support are resource and energy-intensive, and leave massive environmental footprints. The question of media and the environment is thus simultaneously symbolic and material. It is also political: the unequal burdens of environmental degradation are indexed to geographic location, class, racialization and gender, and both this inequality and struggles against it are mediated culturally. Emerging themes in the arts, humanities and social sciences – new and vital materialisms, extractivism, indigeneity, infrastructure, anthropocene, post-humanism, mobilities, infrastructure, energy humanities, elemental media – challenge and enlarge established critical vocabularies for thinking with and through the couplet “media and the environment.” In naming its theme for 2016-2017 in this way, Media@McGill intends to take up these challenges and contribute to this enlargement.