Keynote: Dr Matt Hayler

Editors’ note: In his video keynote, Dr Matt Hayler discusses the ‘relationship between us and our things, the entanglement between our minds, bodies, objects and environments’, how ‘to be human is to be wrapped up in a life of stuff that often does its most potent work when we forget about it, and we think that we are working alone.’

Technology – digital, analogue, yet to be invented forms – he argues, can never be neutral. ‘Politics is built into the structure of things and the way they are used’. But this led us to think: are these politics built by the user, or by the creator? We feel like we make spaces ourselves, curating friends’ lists on Facebook, following the right people on Twitter. But remember how Facebook owns our content, how Twitter is notoriously slack at cracking down on abuse? How much can we shape the technologies we use?

Dr Hayler also reflects on how our media is changing the way we consume the written word. He reminds us of Jane Austen’s appeal to her reader, ‘that we might note from the tell tale compression of the pages before us’ that Northanger Abbey is coming to a close in our hands. He asks us to wonder, ‘what new signifying forces based on the materiality of phones and tablets might come to be referenced by third, fourth of fifth generation’ of writers and users? What new forms of reading and writing might emerge, prompted, forced, or suggested by our new ways of looking, of holding? Digital does not mean ‘not-embodied’, after all.

Share your ideas, reactions, and questions below, or on twitter @stillpointldn.


Dr. Matt Hayler is a lecturer in post-1980 literature at the University of Birmingham specialising in bringing together insights from the digital and cognitive humanities with (post)phenomenology and object-oriented philosophy in order to better understand the entanglement of humans and their technological artefacts. His work tends to use e-reading, contemporary experimental literature, and transhuman body modification as case studies for exploring how cognition, knowledge, and materiality become intertwined across human and non-human actors.

Matt spent two years as Network Coordinator for the AHRC-funded Cognitive Futures in the Humanities research network and now acts as a UK Management Committee Member and Working Group Leader for the COST-funded European E-READ research network. He is also CO-I on the AHRC-funded Ambient Literature project and has worked with the Royal Shakespeare company on developing a digital “Theatre Book” with support from the AHRC’s REACT programme. His first book, Challenging the Phenomena of Technology, came out in 2015 and he has since co-edited two volumes on Research Methods for the Digital Humanities alongside Professor Gabriele Griffin, Research Methods for Reading Digital Data in the Digital Humanities and Research Methods for Creating and Curating Data in the Digital Humanities (EUP 2016).

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