This special section invites submissions that engage with questions of cyclicality, circularity, and recursivity in relation to media. Film history is traversed by the serial logic of production (such as silent serials, B-movies, and ephemeral sub-genre cycles) as well as the embracing of tropes of circularity bound by the Deleuzian time-image. Well beyond this purview, the undoing of the finite work through the logic of migrating content also attests to the creative repositioning of authorship as rewriting and recycling across media, as the multiple rebirths of Irma Vep (as a character and as a concept in 1915, 1996, and 2022) suggest.
More recent developments in predictive computation, algorithmic control, and machine learning have led to a renewed interest in cybernetics and systems theory among media scholars. One key interest in this area is how complex systems can potentially ‘regulate themselves’ through recursive feedback loops. In these accounts, the systemic feedback loop takes on a political efficacy that potentially undermines goal-oriented intentionality of the conscious human subject. This preoccupation also manifests in popular culture. The figure of the loop has become a staple technique of contemporary art. In streaming content such as Russian Doll, Dark, or Black Mirror: Bandersnatch time loops are often deployed to convey the slow violence of unsustainable habits and ‘history in a loop’. What is the meaning of these recursive aesthetic movements? How do the underlying principles of seriality enable these loops? Also: to what extent are serial production and consumption patterns themselves caught in unsustainable loops?
Moreover, the figure of the loop connects cycles of destruction to what one might call cybernetic subjectivities. The cultural figure and meme of the NPC (non-playable character) is a good example of such a cybernetic subjectivity in current media discourse. One may also think of the figure of the sleepwalker that Tony Sampson deploys to think about the nonconscious and repetitive patterns of social media consumption. Recursive media aesthetics are perhaps most clearly present in video games, where gameplay and progression loops buttress logics of optimisation and improvement. Of course, videogames have also begun to reflect on this core dynamic of theirs in titles like Deathloop, Souls-like games, and the increasingly popular genre of rogue-like/lite games (such as Spelunky, Rogue Legacy, Dead Cells, and Hades). Following yet another line of thought, this looped construction of subjectivity can be extended to the digital mediatisation of the so-called cycles of life, through apps that track physiological cycles, such as menstrual or metabolic cycles. What does it mean that subjectivity is produced in and through recursive systems? How does this transform our understanding of subjectivity? Do (digital) media contribute to the articulation of a new, recursive understanding of subjectivity?
If the figure of the loop (often, not always) has dystopian connotations, the notion of the circle or circulation tends to carry utopian potential. Re- or upcycling practices and designs for circular economies are often invoked as ways to ‘break the loop’ of environmental destruction. How and what do media circulate? In what circular movements are media themselves embedded? In what ways can cycles of media production and consumption be said to be open or closed? The cyclicality that underpins posthuman and decolonial thought has echoes in filmmaking across the world from Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017) to Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2021). But the aforementioned also suggests that recursive or cyclical processes cannot be easily distinguished and opposed to linear models of (Western) thought. Capitalism’s insistence on linear progress and persistent growth relies on the operations of extractive cycles which, in turn, feed on natural cycles of seasons and life more generally, for instance in agricultural and livestock farming. How are these linear and recursive logics articulated to function together? What insights – regarding ecological, social, and political problems – can be gleaned from a method that pays attention to the imbrication of cyclical and linear aspects of time? The critical re-assessment of Western and colonial knowledge formations thus involves a reckoning with the linear and nonlinear models of time that support modern extractive economies.
For this special section of NECSUS we welcome contributions on #Cycles in different media forms, including but not limited to:
# cycles of production, distribution, and consumption
# cycles of the Earth, social and political cycles in relation to media
# tracking metabolic, menstrual, circadian and other cycles
# cybernetic subjectivities
# circular (media) economies and re-/upcycling
# recursivity in media and media aesthetics
# time loop media
# gameplay loops and progression loops
# ‘smart’ infrastructures and feedback loops
# new forms of non-linear temporalities in narrative film and media
We also invite submissions on the intersection between academic research and artistic practice – especially ones drawing circularity and/or seriality conceptually or methodologically. We look forward to receiving abstracts of 300 words, 3-5 bibliographic references, and a short biography of 100 words by 15 January 2023 to email@example.com. On the basis of selected abstracts, writers will be invited to submit full manuscripts before 1 September 2023 (5,000-8,000 words, revised abstract, 4-5 keywords) which will subsequently go through a blind peer review process before final acceptance for publication. Please check the guidelines at: https://necsus-ejms.org/guidelines-for-submission/
NECSUS also accepts proposals throughout the year for festival, exhibition, and book reviews, as well as proposals for guest edited audiovisual essay sections. We will soon open a general call for research article proposals for the section Features, which are not tied to special section themes. Please note that we do not accept full manuscripts for consideration without an invitation.