The Paperology Reading and Activity Group will take place during the 2020-2021 academic year. While the most common of everyday materials, paper has received less critical attention than it deserves. The objective for this group is to engage with the emerging research and growing literature on paper as material. In working towards an expansive approach to paper, we are less invested in what is on the page than we are in the page itself (Stamm, 2018). Instead, we want to better understand the material histories, forms, practices, and possibilities of paper. Paper has been of interest to artists, art historians, and book historians, but it has been surprisingly under examined as media and technology from the broader perspective of fields such as media and communication studies. The recent surge of publications on paper reflects an effort to fill this gap. This includes research on paper as substrate (Dworkin, 2015; Calhoun, 2020); environmental stories of papermaking through case studies of the pulp and paper mill industry (Baxter, 2020); works interested in the phenomenologies and affective experiences of paper (Michelon, 2016; Barnes, 2017); considerations of artefacts and practices that accompany paper (Garvey, 2013; Robertson, 2019; Senchyne, 2020) —and much more.
The Paperology RAG will be engaging with paper as material through a variety of literatures that consider how paper is made, how it is used, and the practices it affords. This includes thinking through an assortment of paper-based artefacts with texts from various disciplines. As a way to start, we offer the following questions: What exactly is paper? What experiences are unique to paper? In what ways is paper valuable? Why paper now? Is paper still a relevant technology? How has paper in its various permutations given rise to specific things, systems, and cultures, including certain formats and genres (e.g. the pocket book, the file, the greetings card), artefacts (e.g. the rolodex, the paper shredder), and activities (e.g. paperwork, burning, scrapbooking, marbling)? As we move through the readings, questions such as these will serve as signposts to foster a space for exploration, for engaging with novel ways of thinking paper, and for formulating new questions around media and materiality.
We will meet monthly to discuss readings organized around themes, which might include: history; ecology; infrastructure; bureaucracy; sorting and storing; destroying; ephemera; value; intimacy; the senses; cutting up; aesthetics; labour; gender; or others. The reading list for each month will be a book-length collection of articles, chapters, or short works. An indicative bibliography is included below, but we will confirm the schedule, including themes and readings, in light of participants’ expressed interests.
Organized by Artefact Lab and Atelier -30- in the Department of Communication, Université de Montréal
– Juliette De Maeyer, Associate Professor
– Aleksandra Kaminska, Assistant Professor
– Alysse Kushinski, Postdoctoral Researcher
– Ghislain Thibault, Associate Professor