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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Chloe Wilson at 3:48PM
Ulises Mejias.

Blog post by Chloe Wilson, Television-Radio '14, FLEFF Blogger, Ashland, Massachusetts

I got the chance to speak with Ulises Mejias, a new media scholar who will be hosting a workshop at this year's FLEFF! He gave me the scoop on his work and what to expect this year. Read on for more!

Chloe Wilson: How are you involved with this year's FLEFF?

UM: I am part of the group of scholars and writers invited to participate in the festival. I'm going to be giving a talk on Monday about my book, Off the Network. On Friday, I will be giving a lab on alternate reality games, which are simulations that I have been conducting at SUNY Oswego (where I teach) for 4 years.

CW:What are your previous experiences with FLEFF?

UM: I have been involved in the festival before, and I always enjoy the opportunity to share my work and ideas with IC students. I am a Park graduate (BFA '94 and MS '99), so coming back is always a treat. FLEFF wasn't around when I was here, and I think it's a great forum for all of us to come together and learn from each other. It's quite a unique and intellectually stimulating environment.

CW: For those who are unfamiliar, can you describe your new media work?

UM: I guess my work falls under the rubric of "critical internet studies," which means I look at the impact of the internet from the perspective of what is know as "critical theory." In essence, I am interested in the question of how digital networks include and exclude modes and meanings of sociality. In my work, I engage in an examination of the network as a technological template for organizing and determining society, a template that increases participation while simultaneously also increasing certain forms of inequality.

CW: What will your workshop (Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital) be about?

UM: I'm going to be summarizing the argument I make in my book of that same title, which is coming out in June. In the book, I start by looking at how the science of networks informs the development of digital technologies. I then look at how the technologies inform the economics of participation in networks: what kinds of interactions are possible or impossible in terms of socialization, collaboration, activism, surveillance, and so on. I then propose a way to "unthink" the logic of the network, and explain why that might even be something we want to consider. Finally, I make a proposal for opening up spaces for imagining new identities and ways of relating to networking technologies.

CW: If you had to narrow it down to one reason, why should a FLEFFer attend the workshop?

UM: In order to have a healthy diet, you need to understand the basics of nutrition, not just eat what a corporation puts in front of you. Likewise, I am suggesting that in order to have a "healthy" relationship with the digital networks we use --from cell phones to social networking sites-- we need to understand the ingredients, and we need to understand how they interact to cause certain effects. 

CW: What is your interpretation of this year's FLEFF theme of Mobilities?

UM: What I like about FLEFF is how the theme is always open-ended, and how it takes actually takes shape through the various events and the interactions they create. To me, mobilities and immobilities suggests the affordances of technology: what they make possible, but also the opportunities they foreclose. Every technology puts something in motion, but it also arrests certain kinds of movements.

Make sure to stop by Mejias' workshop, Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital, on Monday, April 1st!


Ulises A. Mejias is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Studies department at SUNY Oswego. He holds a doctorate in Technology and Education from Columbia University. He has published in various journals in his field, and recently co-authored a chapter in the book Activist Art in Social Justice Pedagogy about the use of alternate reality games as platforms for learning and activism. His book, Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital World is coming out in June 2013 from University of Minnesota Press. His research interests include critical Internet studies, network theory and science, philosophy and sociology of technology, and political economy of new media.

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