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What is Universe? Communication • Complexity • Coherence

Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 9:00am to 8:00pm

White Stag Block
70 NW Couch Street, Portland, OR 97209

The eighth annual "What is…?" conference-experience will examine communication, complexity/simplicity, coherence/incoherence and how they may or may not contribute to “a pluralistic universe”—networks of relationships. It addresses some of the most pressing issues of our time, including how do societies move forward when there is simultaneously less and more shared agreement about the nature of our world, the problems confronting it, and/or the solutions necessary to improve it?


What is Universe? (2018) builds on builds upon the previous two years' themes. What is Media? (2016) elaborated a transdisciplinary notion of medium/media with special attention to its material, historical, and ecological ramifications. What is Life? (2017) investigated how communication/media constitute and permeate all avenues and forms of life by examining our lifestyles and lifeworks, emphasizing the lifeworlds we live in.


Scholars, practitioners, and other participants will explore universes—from reality bubbles, immersive virtual environments, and alternate histories, to agential realism, media genealogy and archaeology, to bio-inspired, urban and ecological design, to universal rights, disabilities studies, multicultural communities and cosmologies. With definitions of “universe” continuing to expand, important questions abound. We will address a sweeping range of issues in April at the University of Oregon in Portland.


Keynote: Robert T. Craig (University of Colorado Boulder)

Plenary participants include: Bruce Clarke (Texas Tech University / European Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts), Klaus Krippendorff (University of Pennsylvania), Eileen Meehan (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale), Julianne Newton (University of Oregon), Scott Pratt (University of Oregon), Sheldon Renan (Founding Director Pacific Film Archive), Mark Unno (University of Oregon), Téwodros Workneh (Kent State University, Ohio), and Kaliya Young aka Identity Woman (University of Texas at Austin).


More information: 

Plenary sessions will be available on a livestream at: