Is speculative imagination a myth? A critical theory take on the power of anticipatory logics to limit thinking differently about digital tech futures

A Digital Humanities Seminar. With Annette Markham, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.


Why do we speculate about the future endlessly but without really imagining things very differently? In this talk, Professor Annette Markham talks about the power of anticipatory logics on our (in)ability to think outside the box about digital futures. While still hopeful about the potential and ethic of speculative thinking, Annette’s talk focuses on how everyday conversations about digital tech can close off alternatives and foster a sense of inevitability. To challenge this process of ‘discursive closure,’ Annette gives examples from research practices developed as part of the Museum of Random Memory, a three year arts-based intervention where a team of researchers and activists sought to build provocations that would enable participants to open up alternative thinking.


Annette Markham is a Professor of media and communication in the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia). internationally recognized for developing epistemological frameworks for rethinking ethics and research methods for digitally-saturated social contexts. A long-time member of the internet research community, Annette conducts critical sociological and ethnographic studies of how identity, relationships, and cultural formations are constructed in and influenced by digitally saturated socio-technical contexts. Her ethnographic studies of identity practices and cultural formations through digital media are well represented in her pioneering book Life Online: Researching real experience in virtual space (1998, Alta Mira).

Her more recent research focuses on critical approaches to algorithms and datafication, speculative methods for building better ethical futures, data literacy and critical pedagogy, and rhetorical analysis of human-machine communication through automated, algorithmic systems. She is founder and director of the Museum of Random Memory arts-based digital literacy initiative, the annual Skagen Institute for developing creative and transgressive methods, and the international Future Making Research Consortium. Annette is also a Professor MSO (on leave) in the Department of Information Studies and Digital Design at Aarhus University, Denmark.


Digital Humanities