This page is your main resource for the 2020 version of the CyberPunk Culture Conference, it gathers all pages of the original conference postings:
Welcome to CPCC20
Dear participants, dear presenters,
welcome to the first digital-only CyberPunk Culture Conference. It is an unusual format and—in a sense—a test of how digital our understanding of work and life has really become. With the Corona virus putting strong and unforeseen limitations on how we will be able to run physical conferences, the move to fully digital will be one that we all need to engage with.
As the co-editor of The Routledge Companion for Cyberpunk Culture I am keenly aware of the urgency of cyberpunk as an imaginary of our times, and we will be exploring this theme in various ways throughout this conference. When the book came out in January 2020, my co-editors, Graham J. Murphy and Anna McFarlane, and I wanted to share the timeliness of our book with the science fiction studies community and suggested a roundtable at the July conference of the Science Fiction Research Association, which was to be held in Bloomington, Indiana. A lot of our contributors would be there and it would be an ideal venue not just for a book launch celebration but also to further engage with the ideas and important issues of the book. It would let us move forward the scholarship and the conversation of why it is that a small literary movement of the 1980s had become the most poignant way to describe much our reality in the 2020s. Why are we living in cyberpunk times? What does cyberpunk tell us about how we engage with our lived reality?
Well, Corona overtook us and it seems another imaginary—that of the zombie/viral outbreak—is fighting for dominance over our lived reality now. We’ll see how that goes. Nonetheless, cyberpunk is still very relevant in that it provides us with many of the images needed to describe the new status quo and the structures that govern our world. We are living in cyberpunk times, and this conference is a testament to that more than anything else.
Veronica Hollinger, one of the editors of Science Fiction Studies and an eminent member in the club of cyberpunk culture scholarship, was so kind as to provide a testimonial statement, which I would like to include here—in full—as a symbolic opening address and short introduction to the importance of this conference.
I love the idea of this conference. First and foremost, the CyberPunk Culture Conference is a meta-conference. How often do we have the opportunity to participate in a meeting that is exactly constituted in/by its own scholarly focus, i.e., cyberculture? This also means an opportunity to test-drive our critical posthumanism, to be aware of the intriguing complexities of our material participation in this entirely digital scholarly meeting. In response to the physical isolation of the current global pandemic—a hyperobject if there ever was one—we are driven more deeply than ever into the dematerializations of digital networks, and this will only accelerate as a feature of our new normal. Here we are (again) in the future-present. While the future is already here, just not evenly distributed, to recall William Gibson, the “we” who will participate in CPCC20 find ourselves in a major technological distribution zone right now, whether we like it or not.Veronica Hollinger, Professor emerita of Cultural Studies, Trent University
Scholars need communities. While we often work in conditions of isolation that are their own form of social distancing, we rely on our interactions with others’ thinking to feed our own thoughts. The CPCC will provide a virtual space for a community of decidedly embodied techno-subjects to share their ideas and questions about the multiplex cultural formation whose “origins” we retrospectively identify with first-generation cyberpunk. Things changed then (did they?). And they have changed again since then (have they?). What meanings might we retroactively find in early cyberpunk, from our own rather apocalyptic moment? What are some of the many and varied ways in which early cyberculture has become folded into our own moment? What can we learn about ourselves as (critical, ethical, political, gendered, racialized) subjects of contemporary cyberculture through our participation in a cyber-conference? What with one thing and another, the CPCC will be very good to think with.
Veronica speaks to many of the things that I had thought about when confronted with the cancelation of all physical conferences for the foreseeable future. I wanted the conversation about cyberpunk to continue, to share ideas and see what others around the world were working on. That is how the CPCC20 was inaugurated. That is why we are meeting online. But seeing how schools and colleges worldwide scrambled to move classes online in what seemed to me the blink of an eye, another thing became apparent: How “our material participation” in digital worlds, as Veronica points out, cannot be ignored. Schools did not ask students about their material realities but assumed technological access as a given. When whole families have to share an old laptop with 4 or 5 people or bandwidth where they live is not enough to support live video conferences, then access to life under Corona was impossible. When the world moves to digital, in work, in education, even in social aspects, then technological access is a necessity of participation.
And what, if not cyberpunk, has shown us what happens when technology becomes the key for success in this world, where having the latest and best tech gives you an edge over others. In Germany, where I hail from, we can already see that money creates an inequality of access to education that will only worsen through digital teaching. In the US, we starkly realize, as Gerry Canavan recently noted on Facebook, “the divide between a managerial class that can be shifted to work from home and a worker class, low-paid, without significant savings, and (in the United States) even lacking health care benefits that must nonetheless put itself at daily risk of infection.” Technology is a dividing factor—who has access to it and who controls it.
That is cyberpunk as a lived reality. And it is what has driven me to try to make this conference as accessible as possible. There is very little I can do about online access, but all presentations (with the exception of the roundtable discussion) are asynchronous. Presenters can present either by pre-recorded video or by pre-written text—and the presentations will be online as long as my money for hosting this site doesn’t run out. The discussions will be held via a chat app, Discord, which requires a login but not an installation, it can run via browser. And the discussions will be text based and remain open for longer than the conference, allowing asynchronous interaction. And they will be archived with the presentations, meaning that what normally happens “in the room” after a talk, now becomes part of the resource for scholars to continue the conversation.
Cheers, Lars Schmeink