The DLAC Network has recently undergone an expansion. This post is part of a series in which new DLAC members introduce themselves and their research interests in digital culture. This time it is Edward King, Lecturer in Portuguese and Lusophone Studies at the University of Bristol.
A strong interest in Latin American digital cultures has been a connecting thread through all my research projects since I first looked into the subject during my PhD. That project explored the use of science fiction conventions in literature and visual culture from Argentina and Brazil during the postdictatorship period of the 1990s and early 2000s to think through the social and political shifts bound up with technological change in the region. I was particularly interested in how tropes borrowed from the subgenre known as cyberpunk were used to explore the effect of networked digital technologies on memory. I found that writers and artists including Ricardo Piglia, Marcelo Cohen and the comic book artists Carlos Trillo and Lourenço Mutarelli constructed narratives about human-technological couplings not as a way of eliciting fear of technological colonisation but of exploring changing social configurations facilitated by digital technologies.
My last project on graphic novels in Latin America returned to my interest in human-technological couplings. In the book that resulted from this project, Posthumanism and the Graphic Novel in Latin America (published Open Access with UCL Press, 2017), which I co-authored with Joanna Page (University of Cambridge), we argue that the graphic novel form has become an important platform for the articulation of emerging posthuman subjectivities, which are constituted both in conjunction with developments in digital technologies and through a growing awareness of the interconnections between humans and the planet’s ecological systems. Graphic novels and comic book cultures more widely constitute an important platform for the experimentation with the inter-medial conjunctions that are proliferating in digital cultures.
My current research continues this interest in the inter-mediality of the digital age through a study of photo-textualities in Latin America, with a particular focus on the photographic artist’s book and its connections with the archival and connective logics of the internet. The recent boom of photobooks across Latin America is bound up with developments in digital culture. The popularity of self-publishing, one of the main driving forces behind the increase in photobook publications, has been facilitated by ecommerce while a growing number of apps offer to simplify the process of production by using algorithms to coordinate layouts and template selection. In practice, rather than a bulwark against the ways that digital culture are transforming photography, the rise of the material form of the photobook has become an important critical frame through which to view these transformations, whether to interrogate the culture of self-surveillance that has quickly become normalized through the popularity of online image-sharing platforms (for instance, Pulsão Escópica (2012) by João Castilho), to expose the ideological biases of image-searching software (see Aprox 50.300.000 (2017) by Felipe Abreu), or to forge new technologically-mediated affective communities (see Tcharafna (2014) by Gui Mohallem, pictured). I am really excited to be able to develop this project in dialogue with the Digital Latin American Cultures Network.
— Edward King