CALL FOR PAPERS: INTERFACE

For the next issue of Soapbox we invite young researchers and established scholars alike to submit academic essays or creative work that critically engages with the theme of interface. We are inviting extended proposals (500-1000 words) that follow the MLA formatting and referencing style to be submitted to submissions@soapboxjournal.net by December 14th, 2021.

An interface is a space of contact and interconnection. Thinking within but also beyond a media studies framework, we can understand our lives to be constantly mediated by interfaces of one form or another. They can be understood to serve as an intermediary between individuals and cultural objects, or alternatively, between experience and infrastructure. Interfaces mediate between a body and its environment, the private and public, subject and object. In each instance, the interface enables interaction and activity. Consider the movement from print to digital media, the structural design of spaces and buildings, or the format of an academic paper: as we move through the world we encounter and interact with a range of interfaces that delineate the possibilities of experience and knowledge in profound ways. As such, interfaces are cultural as well as political: they connect us to a matrix of histories and structures while their imbrication in power can afford and advance the needs of one group at the expense of another. 

Mediation by Murray Gibson, 2020. Gobelins tapestry, wool and cotton, 25 x 25 cm.
Image courtesy of the artist: murraygibsontapestry.com


WITHIN AND BEYOND A DEFINITION

Interface (noun/verb)
in·​ter·​face |  \ ˈin-tər-ˌfās \

[Mediation] 

In a highly mediated world, the most immediate image of an interface is as a programmed screen or device that facilitates a connection between a real-time user and a digital non-user. Media ecologist Marshall McLuhan describes the interface as a place of interaction between two systems (1967). In computing, a mediator pattern defines an object in such a way as to establish a behavioural directive for its interaction with other objects. In each case, the interface becomes a site of communication and interaction, but also the boundary that differentiates bodies, spaces, and phases.

We invite you to think through and beyond the somatechnic view of the interface, allowing perspectives that explore the material, aesthetic, affective, and political dimensions of the interfaces that give shape to contemporary experience.

[Affect and Materiality]

Interfaces mediate the aesthetic experience of cultural objects. Turning our focus towards the materiality of the written page, a digitised book, the cinema screen, or a streaming service, can inflect our reading of their content and our responses in illuminating ways. Affective experiences and attachments, for example, are intimately tied up with the materiality of these interfaces. Historicising these entanglements, we can ask, how are affective attachments to interfaces disrupted by medial changes (Pressman)? And how and why do we form attachments to some interfaces and not others (Felski)?

[Infrastructure and il/literacies]

Interfaces connect us to infrastructures and systems: front desks, government websites, a border checkpoint. In these instances, the interface acts as a threshold, and questions of access, dependence, and trust arise. Who can become adept at interacting with interfaces and by what means? How does the connection between interface and infrastructure shape the routes we take, and the experiences we make? Relatedly, il/literacies with interfaces are central to the formation of political communities. The role of the book and the newspaper in the emergence of nationalism provides a historic example (Anderson). Contemporary interfaces are thus entangled with local, national and global (pre-)formations in complex ways.

[Sense and ecology]

The touch of a palm on damp grass, the sounds of typing on a keyboard, the taste of something sweet at the tip of your tongue: what is the interface and what is becoming interfaced? These are questions that are at once ethical and political. Amanda Boetzkes draws attention to the inevitable aporia that exists between the elemental world and the representational frameworks that we bring to it. This symbolic world is also necessarily material in its implications, and thinking through the interface allows us to probe the kind of relationships that we have constructed towards the elemental. How to move away from an incorporative logic that constructs “nature” as mere “tap” (resources) and “sink” (waste) (Moore)? Artistic practices that create “receptive surfaces” provide one such example of an ethical turn towards the elemental that aims to acknowledge and uphold fundamental alterity (Boetzkes).

We encourage submissions relating to the themes above, as well as, but not limited to, the following: 

  • Engagements with cultural objects that critically explore the concept of the interface.
  • Reflections on the interconnections between genre, narrative modes, and the aesthetic experience enabled by different interfaces.
  • Platforms and streaming services: economic imperatives and aesthetic possibilities.
  • Il/literacies, agency, and the politics of access.
  • The interface as a verb: what does it mean to interface with space, others, the world, and beyond?
  • Engagements with social interface theory and German media theory (Kittler et al.)
  • Meaning-making and translatability: the interface as a vessel for signs. 
  • Epistemology and/of the interface: the interface as a hermeneutic tool.
  • Interfaces and perception of self/identity formation.
  • Biometrics and technology in border and domestic policing.
  • Interfaces in contemporary work environments and labour practices.
  • Interfaces in architecture, design, and AI.
  • Knowledge production and interdisciplinarity. 
  • Devices, screen culture and history.
  • Remediation.

We invite extended proposals (500-1000 words) that follow the MLA formatting and referencing style to be submitted to submissions@soapboxjournal.net by December 14th 2021. Final papers will be around 5000 words long and the editing process will take place over winter and early spring 2022. Submissions should be sent as an email attachment and the content of the file should be anonymised. Please also let us know in your email where you came across our CFP.

Guidelines for creative submissions are more flexible and can be finished works, but please keep in mind spatial limitations: there is usually room for one longer or two shorter pieces in the print version. A sense of the formatting possibilities can be garnered from previous issues (open-access pdf versions are available on our website).

If you have any questions regarding your submission, do not hesitate to contact us at info@soapboxjournal.net.

Soapbox Journal does not charge author publication fees.

Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso Books, 1983. 

Boetzkes, Amanda. The Ethics of Earth Art. University of Minnesota Press, 2010. 

Felski, Rita. Hooked: Art and Attachment. University of Chicago Press, 2020.

McLuhan, Marshall, Quentin Fiore, and Jerome Agel. The Medium Is the Massage. Bantam Books, 1967.

Moore, Jason. Capitalism in the Web of Life. Verso Books, 2015.

Pressman, Jessica. Bookishness: Loving Books in a Digital Age. Columbia University Press. 2020.



Call for Papers: 5.0: SWAMPED! Muddied Environments and the Ecology of Being Bogged Down

January 17, 2023

Call for Papers: 5.0: SWAMPED! Muddied Environments and the Ecology of Being Bogged Down

For the upcoming issue of Soapbox, a graduate peer-reviewed journal for cultural analysis, we invite young researchers and established scholars alike to submit academic essays or creative works that critically engage with the theme of swamped. We are inviting extended proposals (500-1000 words) that follow consistent and complete formatting and referencing style to be submitted to submissions@soapboxjournal.net by February 21st, 2023.


While it may first be thought of as a space of stagnation, the swamp is also a transition zone. A space in which water and land merge, swamps have long represented an area in which the earth resists being controlled, and have functioned as areas of resistance in many Indigenous epistemes and folklores. Swamps, then, are areas that resist human control, and epitomise agency of the natural world, doing so too on a conceptual level (Wilson 1). At the same time, it has been co-opted semantically, as the term “swamped” has become associated with systems, both of society and signification, that are overwhelmed - whether in terms of a job market being swamped, or in the politically loaded draining of “the swamp” as a network of corruption. Where the former strand of signification uses the swamp to highlight agency, the latter points out a lack of it. As a result, swamps have become spaces of contestation and transition both as physical environments, and as linguistic ones. How do these strands of meaning diverge, and where do they come together?


Swamps as they exist in cultural imagination(s).

Swamps speak to the imagination. They feature prominently in folklore and provide fertile soil for myriad mythical creatures: from the nine-headed hydra in ancient Greek mythology, to the South-African grootslang, to the numerous global configurations of the will-o’-wisp. These narratives largely hinge on the swamp’s liminal positioning that makes it hard to traverse, inhabit, or otherwise tame. To this day, when swamps are featured in pop-culture, they are often mythologized to house the monstrous or, at the very least, the off-beat (e.g. Shrek, or the Man-Thing in Marvel comics, or the entire cast of characters in Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!). 

In addition to housing imagined creatures, the swamp is also a famously rich archeological site where we can find many well-preserved traces of past human life. Most notable are the so-called bog bodies, eerily intact corpses that date back as far as the holocene. These findings add to the swamp’s mythical appeal, but are also hypothesised to, in some cases, originate from it. A particularly large amount of bog bodies dating back to the iron age were found in Northern Europe, and the bulk of these corpses bear traces of ritualistic human sacrifice. This has led historians to believe that, at the time, the swamp was seen as a transition space, not just between land and water, but also as a gateway between different worlds (Randsborg). 

So, the swamp is charged with a rich cultural history and subject to wide-ranging meaning-making practices. We invite you to delve further into this and open it up. What stories do we tell about swamps? Which narratives are remembered? And, what does that ultimately say about us? 

The swamp as it appears in political rhetoric.

Since its first use in 1881 by Helen Hunt Jackson in her polemical text, A Century of Dishonor, the concept of the swamp as an area to be overcome has resurfaced repeatedly as a powerful metaphor in the arena of political discussion and rhetoric (most often in the context of US federal politics). Arguing against the so-called ‘Indian Appropriations Act’ of 1871, which rendered Indigenous peoples as wards of the state and, therefore, eligible for forcible relocation, Jackson argued that such panacean responses were immoral and did not address the needs and concerns, of Native peoples, nor did it strive towards the reparations that Indigenous nations deserved. Rather than debate the specifics of individual policy decisions, Jackson argued that ceasing to cheat, rob, break promises, and extending ‘the protection of the law to the Indian's rights of property’ (342) would be the most appropriate first course of action. To illustrate this, Jackson presented the following scenario:

When pioneers in a new country find a tract of poisonous and swampy wilderness to be reclaimed, they do not withhold their hands from fire and axe till they see clearly which way roads should run, where good water will spring, and what crops will best grow on the redeemed land. They first clear the swamp. So with this poisonous and baffling part of the domain of our national affairs — let us first "clear the swamp”. (341).

This metaphorical call to clear, or to drain, the swamp was then exercised by socialist and left-leaning politicians and political commentators such as Winfield R. Gaylord and Victor L. Berger who petitioned for draining the swamp of capitalism (Gaylord 8, Berger 107). In 1966, civil rights activists A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin employed the phrase in A Freedom Budget for All Americans, a policy proposal that, among other things, sought to eradicate poverty (14-15). Ronald Reagan’s use of the phrase in 1982 when authorising the Grace Commision (which investigated inefficiency within the Federal Government), dragged the phrase across the political aisle. Where it had once illustrated a progressive politics, it henceforth became tethered to conceptions of government waste, cronyism and distrust in Capitol Hill, a claim bolstered by the fact of Washington, D.C.,’s construction on supposed marshlands between the Potomac and the Anacostia rivers. From Reagan’s usage  onwards, calls to drain the swamp were almost exclusively directed towards Washington, D.C., as a locus of political venality. The phrase’s most recent, and perhaps most memorable, usage was by former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly uttered the phrase at rallies, during interviews, and in countless tweets. 

The invocation and the power of this phrase can be seen across various areas of cultural and political discourse and analysis; its intent and meaning wavering from progressive to reactionary throughout its history. So begs the question, what does it mean to drain a swamp? Metaphorically speaking, what is the impact of identifying spaces as swamps to be drained? Who does the draining, or the promise of draining, serve? In reality, what are the implications of identifying and draining a swamp? Who does the draining itself? Think of the thousands of people displaced by Benito Mussolini’s draining of the Pontine Marshes, and the many more thousands of workers who were subject to backbreaking manual labour and exposure to malaria and disease (Snowden 155-6). What bubbles to the surface when we delve into the history, use, and the real-world implications of this charged phrase?


The affective experience of being swamped.

But to be swamped is also to feel swamped; to be overwhelmed with work, a sensory overload, stress and clutter. Infrastructures can be swamped; systems too; and spaces can swamp you with stimuli. How does one endure a state of swampedness, feel one’s way through it, resist it or find rest in it? Can objects or texts be swamped? To disconnect, go offline, turn to self-help books, and take time off work – all these are responses to feeling swamped. But then: who can afford to respond like this, and who is unable to withdraw? Or can information overload – to stay with the swamp – be creatively productive or critical? This is the muddy matrix that feeling swamped opens in theory; a space of excessive encounter between ecologies and affects, where swamps become metaphors, and metaphors swamp. 

Thought on the feeling of being swamped and its social-political relationalities are everywhere: from Jonathan Crary’s 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep to Byung-Chul Han’s The Burnout Society to Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism. So too the desire to escape overwhelm has recently been re-conceptualized in edited volumes like Politics of Withdrawal. But “swamp” as a metaphor has not yet passed the floodgates. We invite you to think with this swamp, feel through its conceptual implication. 


We encourage submissions relating to the themes above, as well as, but not limited to, the following: 

  • Critical engagements with/investigations into environments that could be described as marshlands, wetlands, fens, bogs, moors, etc. 
  • Practices of re-wilding and re-swamping.
  • Cultural ethnographies of muddied environments.
  • Environmental humanities and ecocritical approaches to swamps.
  • Investigations into swamps as liminal, transitional, or mutable sites.
  • Swamps as sites of decay (e.g. die-off and algal bloom) and repair (e.g. as fertile sites of regeneration).
  • Socio-cultural explorations of what it means to feel swamped, its implications, and who this affect can belong to.
  • Socio-economic approaches investigating issues such as: 
  • Who is relegated to the swamp?
  • Who has access to the swamp?
  • What are the social impacts of swamped environments on individuals and groups?
  • Investigations of the function of swamps in political rhetoric.
  • Pieces that investigate swamps as veiled, uncharted, or otherred locales or those that approach swamps as spaces to be traversed.


We invite extended proposals (500-1000 words) to be submitted to submissions@soapboxjournal.net by February 21st 2023. Following conditional acceptance, an initial draft version (3000 words) will be due two weeks after receiving the acceptance email. The editing process will take place throughout Spring/Summer 2023. If you have any questions regarding your submission, do not hesitate to contact us at info@soapboxjournal.net. Editing and peer review guidelines will be sent to authors individually upon acceptance of their submission. For full submission guidelines, see our website.


Guidelines for creative submissions are more flexible and can be finished works, but please keep in mind spatial limitations: there is usually room for one longer or two shorter pieces in the print version. A sense of the formatting possibilities can be garnered from previous issues (open-access pdf versions are available on our website).


We also accept submissions for our website all year round. We encourage a variety of styles and formats, including short-form essays (around 2000 words), reviews, experimental writing and multimedia. These can engage with the theme of the upcoming issue but are not limited to it. Please get in touch to pitch new ideas or existing projects that you would like to have published by reading our submission guidelines and filling in the form.



Works cited.

Berger, Victor L. Berger’s Broadsides, Social-Democratic Publishing Company, 1912.

Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Duke University Press 2011.

Crary, Jonathan. 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. Verso, 2014. 

Gaylord, Winfield R. “Gaylord Makes a Statement.” Daily Northwestern [Oshkosh: WI], 10 Oct. 1903, p. 8.

Han, Byung-Chul. The Burnout Society. Stanford University Press, 2015.

Hesselberth, Pepita., and Joost de Bloois, editors. Politics of Withdrawal: Media, Arts, Theory. Rowman and Littlefield, 2020.

Jackson, Helen Hunt. A Century of Dishonor: A Sketch of the United State’s Government’s Dealings with Some of the Indian Tribes. New York, Harper & Brothers, 1881.

Randolph, A. Philip, and Bayard Rustin. A Freedom Budget for All Americans: A Summary. A Philip Randolph Institute, 1967.

Randsborg, Klavs. Roman Reflections: Iron Age to Viking Age in Northern Europe. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.

Snowden, Frank M. The Conquest of Malaria: Italy, 1900-1962. Yale University Press, 2006.

Wilson, Anthony. Swamp: Nature and Culture. Reaktion Books Ltd, 2018.




WARP Conference Special Edition: Call for Papers

December 7, 2022

Walking-with Amsterdam: Reflections on Walking as Research Practice (WARP Conference special edition)

Call for papers

The WARP Research group in collaboration with Soapbox journalinvites all interested in walking as research practice to contribute to the upcoming publication ‘Walking-with Amsterdam: Reflections on Walking as Research Practice (WARP Conference special edition)’ edited by Soapbox and the WARP Conference organising team.

This publication comes after the Walking as a Research Practice (WARP) Conference, a two-day conference that brought together scholars from many different fields in the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts, as well as creative practitioners, for a transdisciplinary dialogue about the capacities of walking practices as research. With its emphasis on the body, the senses, placemaking and becoming, walking is inspired a critical rethinking of traditional methodologies and perspectives. 

Aiming to share and disseminate the results, reflections, collaborations, and outcomes born out of the Walking as Research Practice (WARP) Conference 2022 we invite all participants of the WARP Conference to submit a paper, and we also welcome contributions by non-presenting members of the conference. We also hope that members of the WARP Reading Group will feel motivated to contribute, as well as those in the wider walking as research community.   

Read the full Call for Papers

OPEN BOARD POSITIONS 2022

We are currently looking to expand our team. Soapbox is a student-run journal focused on promoting voices that creatively engage with concepts and cultural objects in the broadest sense, through publishing academic, artistic, and interdisciplinary works. Soapbox is a collaborative effort in gaining experience and experimenting with running a small publishing platform. All members take part in actively shaping what Soapbox is by weighing in on editorial decisions and take part in any aspects of publishing (both online and in print). 

In general, the time commitment expected is between four and six hrs/week, including a weekly two-hour meeting. The journal is run on a voluntary basis. For all roles, applicants should be based in the Amsterdam area and available for at least the remaining academic year (until June 2023).

If you're interested, please email info@soapboxjournal.net with any particular role(s) you would be interested in.

Deadline: October 31st

Editor-in-chief

  • Act as representative of Soapbox with third parties.
  • Keep an overview of and manage/coordinate/delegate all the practical aspects of the journal both print and online (finance, distribution, PR, events, funding, etc).
  • Communicate closely with the Administration person and the other teams; hold others to deadlines.
  • Chair the weekly meetings. 

Managing editor 

  • Delegate and oversee all matters relating to the publication and production of the print issue.
  • Facilitate discussion on the issue’s theme and content; produce and distribute a call for papers; organise and manage a submission and selection process; set the editorial calendar.
  • Move content through stages of production: communicate with authors, assign editors, organise peer review, contact scholars for a foreword/afterword, arrange a proofreading process.
  • Liaise with designers and printers.
  • Communicate closely (including setting deadlines) with the administration team, the funding team, and the issue’s editors.

Funding 

We would like to stress that we need applicants for this position to commit to being consistent and reliable for the duration of the editorial timeline of one issue, which tends to take one year.

  • Researching grants, and applying for grants, which includes writing application letters and budgets, sourcing additional documents, and asking for letters of recommendation.
  • Maintaining contact with various institutes for funding per year/event, providing the team with regular updates.

Web coordinator

  • Managing the web email and the web drive folder.
  • Overseeing the submission process and the editorial process.
  • Communicating closely with the Administration person, the (web) Editors and PR and communication. 
  • Delegating Reader 1 and Reader 2 for each submission.

Finance and distribution

  • Keeping track of ingoing/outgoing expenses via bank account and spreadsheet, approving transactions.
  • Paying invoices.
  • Keeping track of journal sales and posting orders, sending out free copies to contributors, responding to email orders.
  • Managing the journal’s Big Cartel account and associated payment systems (Stripe, PayPal, iDEAL).
  • Keeping an inventory of stock.
  • Reaching out to bookshops who might be interested in stocking the journal, taking copies to them and checking-in with sales.

PR and communication

  • Creating, writing, and sharing social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Sharing content for events.
  • Disseminating info about events, open positions, and Calls for Papers.
  • Contacting designers.
  • Contacting advertisers.
  • Serve as the contact person for other third parties.

Events and collaborations

  • Coming up with ideas for and planning events such as issue launches, film screenings, any other relevant events.
  • Writing copy and coordinating communication with PR.
  • Organising production aspects of events, coordinating with the finance team.
  • Liaising with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Researching events related to the current/upcoming issue, Soapbox, and/or cultural analysis, include these in the calendar and communicate to PR.

IT

  • Keep track of website analytics.
  • Sorting out any website or email related issues (communicating with web designer, working through the website’s backend (Webflow), and sorting out Google domains and hosting).
  • Uploading content to the website.

Administration

  • Assisting the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, and Web Coordinator with planning and taking minutes of meetings. 
  • Creating Trello tasks and voting polls. 
  • Managing all inboxes.

Podcast

  • Assisting the podcast team with scripting, recording and sound editing. 
  • Coordinating episode production and releases in tandem with the journal calendar. 
  • Acting as a point of contact with funding and communication departments. 

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