Report on A Clockwork Green

Report on A Clockwork Green: Ecomedia in the Anthropocene, A Nearly Carbon-Neutral Virtual Symposium

By Christy Tidwell, Bridgitte Barclay, and Shannon Davies Mancus

This past summer, from June 14-30, the ecomedia working group hosted a digital conference sponsored by ASLE. A Clockwork Green: Ecomedia in the Anthropocene endeavored to be nearly carbon neutral and achieved this goal by hosting the symposium online in partnership with the University of California, Santa Barbara. A white paper put together by Ken Hiltner of UC Santa Barbara about the “Nearly Carbon Neutral” (NCN) format that the conference used notes that “Air travel to conferences, talks, and meetings can account for a third or more of the carbon footprint for a typical scholar or university,” while NCN symposiums “[reduce] greenhouse gas emissions by a factor of 100.”

In the call for papers, interested scholars were asked to consider recent lines of inquiry about the power and function of environmental media by Stacy Alaimo and Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann, as well as Andrew Hageman’s provocation in his essay from which the symposium drew its name: “What can film, given its ideological constraints, do to advance ecological knowledge, attitudes, and behavior?”

The ensuing selection process resulted in 55 accepted presentations arranged into 18 panels, spanning topics ranging from “Ecohorror on and off the Screen” to “Energy Politics” to “Ecomedia Pedagogy.” The conference also featured two keynote speakers: Alexa Weik von Mossner gave a talk entitled “How We Feel about (Not) Eating Animals: Ecomedia, Emotion, and Vegan Studies,” and Sean Cubitt presented on the topic of “The Anthropos in the Anthropocene.” The 84 participants in the symposium were invited not only to “attend” the individual talks and panels but also to participate in vigorous conversations with the panelists and fellow attendees in discussion threads attached to each panel. In an attempt to replicate the aspects of conferences that allow scholars to meet and talk to each other in more informal spaces, the symposium also offered social experiences that participants could engage in remotely, including virtual happy hours and film screenings.

A survey conducted after the conclusion of the conference revealed that many participants felt the advantages of the Nearly Carbon Neutral model went beyond the obvious environmental and monetary benefits. Several respondents observed that the engagement around individual talks and panels were increased due to the longer time span, with one participant noting, “I loved being able to watch the talks as many times as I wanted” and another observing that there was a “significantly higher quantity and quality of comments and follow up discussions than in traditional in-person format, due to both opportunity to think and the time period over which conversation occurred.” Everyone surveyed said that they would attend a nearly carbon neutral conference again, with one respondent observing, “…the broad range of presentations from all over the world was an example of how powerful ‘carbon free’ conferencing can become on a permanent basis.”

The Clockwork Green conference website remains live and has the recorded talks publicly available, so interested parties should feel free to view the talks and read the Q&A sessions.

If you are interested in learning more, you can contact the organizers of the conference: Bridgitte Barclay ([email protected]), Christy Tidwell ([email protected]), and Shannon Davies Mancus ([email protected]).