I wonder what happens to geography and time when you hold your conference virtually? Part of the excitement of a conference or other meetings is the promise of the destination with new people and new adventures. Whether 2020 is a pause between in-person meetings, a moment when everything changed, or some combination is yet to be determined but perhaps ISEA2020 will be a harbinger.
I received a June 10, 2020 notice (via email) with the latest news about ISEA2020,
Montreal, June 10, 2020 — ISEA2020 from October 13 to 18, 2020 goes entirely digital, with an innovative experiential format.
The worldwide COVID-19 outbreak has forced ISEA2020 in Montreal to be postponed to October 13 to 18. The physical distancing measures put in place in many countries and the travel restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the pandemic mean that we cannot all be physically present in Montreal. Montreal Digital Spring (Printemps numérique) – the organizers of ISEA2020 – have thus decided to make the symposium a 100% online event. Our team is currently working on the platform that will allow us to come together, connect, and exchange knowledge and practices, despite the physical distance. We worked with our partners and collaborators, experts in art, design, science and technology to (if only begin to) reinvent the format of academic interdisciplinary conferencing!
Our main strategies for ISEA2020 Online:
Programming: ISEA2020 is a full week of research and creation, 100% online, with more than 300 international speakers and artists from over 40 countries.
Connecting: We are working on the online platform to ensure we meet ISEA’s core values of encouraging and promoting creative exchanges between diverse groups; of creating opportunities for networking and informal meetings, in addition to ensuring the good flow of panel sessions.
Programming for all the time-zones: From October 13 to 16, conference presentations will unfold over 16 consecutive hours each day, in order to include participants in all the time zones, from East Asia to the west Americas.
Reduced registration fee: The registration fee has been reduced. In addition to saving travel costs, ISEA2020 Online is accessible at a significantly reduced fee, hoping it will attract a larger number of participants, including more students and independent artists.
Live Q&A: All presentation sessions, including keynote sessions, will include live Q&A periods, mediated by invited delegates.
Art Programming: We are working with artists and partners on strategies to showcase the selected projects and special programming.
While we regret not seeing you in Montreal, the new format will make ISEA2020 accessible to a larger number and will certainly contribute to a broader discussion on how to produce and transfer knowledge and showcase art through connected digital communication platforms. Our team is committed to ensuring the high standard of creative and academic contributions that is paramount to ISEA.
We look forward to seeing you online this fall!
You can now purchase your ISEA2020 Online Pass at the Early Bird rates of CAD $99 (regular) and CAD $69 (students), offer valid until August 13 .
NEW DEADLINE TO REGISTER (for presenters)
The deadline to register, to upload the camera-ready papers, and to fill in the Zone Festival form is July 27 at 11:59 pm (GMT-5).
We updated our website. Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ page. If you have a specific question, please contact: email@example.com for academic presentations / firstname.lastname@example.org for artworks / ISEA2020@printempsnumerique.ca for general questions/registration.
How we got here
The academic chairs have written this statement,
ISEA2020 ONLINE: WHY SENTIENCE?
OCTOBER 13-18, 2020
The academic chairs’ statements regarding the ISEA2020 online turn:
Since last August  when we established the ISEA2020 theme of “Why Sentience?”, life on Earth has been dramatically transformed. Our belief in concepts like proximity, justice, equality, indeed, the very concept of the future itself, has been radically uprooted. As cultural organizations worldwide scramble to adapt, the ISEA2020 team has decided to reimagine the event for the anytime/anyplace zone of digital space and to transform it into an online experience. But we have also realized that there is no need to adjust the theme to make it more “responsive” to our current conditions. Despite their almost cataclysmic impact on the political-economic-social-cultural-ecological fabric of the world, the triumvirate forces of the coronavirus pandemic, its disastrous economic consequences, as well as systemic racial injustice have now acutely amplified ISEA2020s question: “Why Sentience?” These conditions sharpen the need to stop, pause and re-examine what it means to be sentient, “the ability to feel or perceive.” They help us reformulate our notions of what the world is with us and beyond us. They give us a front seat perspective on the corporeal and ecological entanglements between power and knowledge, animals and humans, machines and environment, oppression and liberation. They pointedly demonstrate that difference—social-economic-cultural—resonates through the sentient world. The virus—a 120-160 nm in diameter entity that is invisible to our human senses and considered neither living nor dead but ontologically somewhere in between [emphasis mine]—is thus perversely a great teacher and provides us lessons on how the modern splitting up of the sentient and inanimate worlds increasingly makes no sense.
ISEA’s mission aims to foster interdisciplinary academic discourse and exchange among culturally diverse organizations and individuals working with art, science and technology. As we write, ISEA2020 should have already passed into history. The new digital space of ISEA2020 will link the local community in Montreal with the international one beyond so that we can collectively rethink the form of such an event. The new platform will also allow us to examine close up these new and, at the same time, ongoing historical set of conditions; conditions that demand a response if we are to live in the coming (post)-pandemic world.
Christine Ross – McGill University (Montreal, Canada)
Chris Salter – Concordia University/Hexagram (Montreal, Canada)
There is a conference trailer for this new ‘virtual’ version of the 2020 conference,
Montreal Digital Spring (Printemps numérique) produced both the English language version and this one in French***, Note: Video [credit]: Guillaume Guardia,
I’m not sure why the French language version is so much shorter*** (maybe I found an abridged version?), in any case, the content is quite different and you may want to check out both trailers.
***ETA June 22, 2020 at 1550 PDT: The answer to my question as to why one trailer was shorter? Two different (but this year related) events. I failed to note that the second trailer was for “MTL Connect.” Here is Manuelle Freire’s description (academic programme manager of ISEA2020, Printemps numerique) of MTL Connect,
The latter is an annual event organised in Montreal by Printemps numérique, consisting of different thematic pavilion. This year ISEA2020 is the art and creativity pavilion of MTL Connect, so part of a larger endeavour that is affected by this online turn in its entirety.
As for MTL Connect, there’s this from the homepage,
BRINGING TOGETHER DIGITAL MINDS, DIGITALLY
6 DAYS OF PROGRAMMING • +400 SPEAKERS • 50 COUNTRIES REPRESENTED • +10,000 ATTENDEES • THOUSANDS OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTERACTION
That’s it for the correction. ***
Meeting technology, cyber security, and local involvement
I emailed (Friday, June 19, 2020) a couple of questions to the organizers which they have kindly answered.
- Are you going to be using Zoom as the technology for virtual
attendance? Will there be security measures for attendees?
- [A]re there going to be any local (Vancouver, BC) virtual or in-person get-togethers? By October it might be possible to have small groups (with appropriate precautions) meet in person for ISEA2020 discussions/participation in virtual events held elsewhere. (Just a thought)
They responded by Sunday, June 21, 2020). That is quickly. The short answer to both questions is: “We don’t know yet.”
More specifically, Manuelle Freire (Printemps numerique) had this to say,
I will have to forward your first question regarding the technology of the platform, specifically cybersecurity, to the platform development project manager. Cybersecurity is an important matter that we have discussed internally and will be included in the FAQ and the IEA2020, as soon as we have stabilized the different features of the platform and we are ready to release.
As for the second question,
In what comes to small groups meeting in person. It is indeed possible that groups [might] be able to meet in October , but at this stage, with social distancing and travel restrictions in place, we are still facing degrees of uncertainty. While we regret not meeting everyone in Montréal, moving the symposium 100% online seemed the only safe and certain solution. No in-person activities are scheduled for now.
The questions were also sent to Philippe Pasquier, a locally based (Vancouver, BC) member of the ISEA2020 academic committee and he had this to say about the possibility of local, in-person get-togethers,
As for (2), this is a good idea. Let’s wait and see what will be possible and revisit this idea closer to the date.
The responses have made me happy. Hearing that they take cybersecurity seriously is downright musical and learning that they are open to local, small, in person get-togethers is spirit-lifting.
In 2009, I attended an ISEA being held in Northern Ireland and Ireland and asked one of the organizers if any of their symposia had been held in Canada. Yes! Montréal, my source raved at length, hosted a great meeting.
The next Canadian ISEA host was Vancouver in 2015 and guess what? Someone in a lineup was raving about the Montréal meeting. It seems that 1995 meeting has taken on a legendary glow.
It was a privilege being able to attend two meetings in person. Legendary, problematic, or good, the meetings bring together exciting talent and disturbing and/or mind-expanding ideas and experiences. Given the circumstances, the organizers find themselves dealing with, I wish them the best of luck although I’m confident that despite all the obstacles, ISEA2020 will be an extraordinary affair.
On a practical note, the $99 (or less) fee for the online pass is a good deal. (I know because I had to pay for mine when they were here in Vancouver in 2015. By the way, I’ve never regretted a penny of it.)