Crafting the Long Tomorrow

Crafting the Long Tomorrow: New Conversations & Productive Catalysts Across Science and Humanities Boundaries as the Global Emergency Worsens

Crafting the Long Tomorrow is a three-day, small-scale conference at the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 near Tucson, Arizona. Biosphere 2 has emerged as a leading site for arts, sciences and humanities dialogues. This meeting, which coincides with the 101st anniversary of the death of the world’s last Carolina Parakeet, will encourage innovative and inventive presentations and conversation, with an eye toward public-facing engagement outcomes. It will take place Feb. 21-24, 2019, and is currently sponsored by the University of Arizona (Office of Research, Discovery and Innovation; College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; College of Science; College of Humanities; the Insitute of the Environment; the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy; School of Natural Resources and the Environment; and the Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill), the KTH Royal Insititute of Technology in Sweden, Arizona State University's Center for Science and the Imagination, and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society/Ludwig Maximillian University and the Deutsches Museum, Munich, which provided initial seed money. Additional sponsors are, we hope, forthcoming.

The physical sciences tell us civilization and the biosphere face extreme consequences from global trends humans have set in motion, especially climate change. Multiple disciplines can illuminate both the global emergency and the long tomorrowcrafting approaches, some likely deeply unsettling, that could extend the lifespan of our species and others. Some still deliberate about the messiness of what used to be called the two cultures of arts and sciences, even as scholars have usefully blurred those boundaries. However, disciplinary divides both continue to be breached in welcome fashion by collaborations in such emerging fields as “art/sci,” “environmental humanities,” “geohumanities” and more. (If you haven’t heard those terms, however, you are not alone, and we’re speaking to you too.)

Still, reflexive attitudes toward technology and economics, in particular, can sometimes foreclose debate and discussion. Such lacunae help no one. Neither do the insufficiencies of jargon, those specialized terms or methodological assumptions that are not shared outside fields.

How might a geographer talk to a particle physicist about the kind of future we (which “we”?) want to craft? How might a poet talk to a climate engineer? A theorist or a philosopher to a conservation biologist or a geneticist—especially about the Anthropocene’s multiple challenges? Science and technology studies scholars certainly have built bridges among humanities/technological/scientific fields, but those of us not in STS might have our own ways of crossing. How do we breach jargon and present perspectives and solutions for the wider publics of policy-makers and others? How do we involve diverse publics? How can we craft a socially equitable future in the time we have left, given the complexities of global capital and grassroots efforts at various forms of equity, from orientation to ethnicity? Can the latter affect the former in ways to fulfill visions of a socially conscious capitalism?

This conference is designed to be more conversational than presentational and so we have some particular approaches to presentations that are rather out of the ordinary. We are discouraging traditional paper readings and/or PowerPoint slide-shows in favor of shorter, more energetic talks and more innovative visual formats. It will be a single-track conference so that everyone attends all sessions.
 
We also encourage artists in all disciplines--performance, visual, literary and hybrid--to submit proposals for individual presentations and/or panels that intersect with and illuminate the questions this conference poses. What kind of agency is distributed to audiences who witness work that is inflected with Anthropocene concerns? How do artists--dancers, singers, photographers, poets and more--create work that occupies the present moment and gestures back to deep time and signals forward to the long tomorrow? We are interested in presentations that both offer artistic material--excerpt from a dance or a series of songs or selected photos or so on--and that offer self-critique along these or other vectors.
 
We also hope to have videos of different artistic practices that are inflected with Anthropocene concerns playing on continuous loops during the conference.
 
We will ask those interested in attending to offer a 500-word “idea pitch” for a talk that would be no more than 5-7 minutes long. (Option 1). We want to discourage formal reading of traditional papers in favor of grouping individuals (and pairs/teams of attendees) into panel discussions. The idea pitch could include a brief precis of one’s research (a research briefing) but mostly should focus on questions and concerns regarding the topics of the conference. The conference will have two broad themes: 1) Arts/sciences or, simply, multi-disciplinary developments and opportunities in research, creative activity, teaching and community engagement across multiple, sometimes previously unlinked fields as we face tremendous social, political and environmental changes. 2) Specific technologies and approaches (such as climate engineering, ecomodernism, dark ecology, science fictional thinking, etc.) to the present-day and the looming future.
 
We will encourage presenters to bear in mind the broad diversity of the audience and to avoid jargon or, at least, explain clearly what particular terms, methods, etc. mean. Also to that end, we also seek 500-word proposals for short slide Pecha Kucha presentations on KEY WORDS and KEY CONCEPTS in the arts, humanities, engineering, sciences, etc. (Option 2). We see these presentations as critical to establishing the relevance and understanding of such terms as risk, theory (as used by scientists), critical theory in the humanities, entropy, transgression, intervention, ecosystem services, the new materialism, hybridity, social construction, biodiversity, epigenetics, wildness, the land ethic and so on. As you can see from this list, we are casting a wide net. We hope the Pecha Kucha talks will give us a common ground, a bit of playful informality despite the importance of the topics and spark discussions. Don’t know what a Pechu Kucha is? That’s cool. Look it up. They’re fun and illuminating. Maybe you want to do both Option 1 and Option 2?
 
Meals, lodging, registration and transit to and from Biosphere 2 and the airport will be provided free of charge, at no cost to participants.
 
We wish to cultivate synthesis among specialists and create work among old and new collaborators to make a public-facing difference in how we are imagining and making the future of cultures and creatures across the Earth. We will ask presenters (individuals or teams) to craft and present a plan by February 2020 for doing at least two of the following: an innovative non-expert engagement project; an article in a well-read public venue; curriculum developed for a team-taught course; a book proposal; a scholarly journal article; grants; other informal community dialogue; a library or museum display; and so on. In order to encourage this rather ambitious outcome activity, we will be seeking additional funding to serve as post-conference fellowships. The award will be contingent on completion of the outcomes. The stipend level will depend on additional funding. We see this as part of a permanent post-conference networking development.
 
Organizers will also select a series of presentation materials from the conference to publish as a mini-proceedings in a relevant venue. Videos of talks and conversations will be posted on the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society webpage and YouTube channel, as well as relevant University of Arizona channels. Conference organizers will use social media to drive traffic to these once they are public. We envision at least one public dialogue and/or talk held at B2.
 
That said, the conference will be on the smaller side—between 60 and 100 participants—in order to foster a respectful and challenging community.
 
We especially encourage interest from graduate students and junior faculty and those from non-Western backgrounds and institutions. Proposals due: Oct. 22, 2018. Please send no more than 500 words for each talk option, with additional 100-word biographies of presenter(s). E-mail proposals or questions with Crafting the Long Tomorrow in the subject heading to Christopher Cokinos, University of Arizona: cokinos@email.arizona.edu
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences