Discursive Space Conferences 2013 (20-23 June 2013, Ryerson University and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada)

Dates: 20-23 June 2013
Location: Ryerson University and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
Deadline for submission of abstracts: 15 January 2013
Submit to: jmacalik@ryerson.ca
Website: www.discursivespace.com

With the theme “Discursive Space: breaking barriers to effective spatial communication in museums”, the conference provides a forum for deliberation concerning the integration of art, design, and architecture in the creation of memorable and immersive museum experiences, while balancing the public’s expectations of self-directed expression and engagement.

Today’s society is continuously challenged to break down barriers; barriers that stand to separate individuals and ideas. Art and design in their truest forms are created to fracture barriers and initiate dialogue with individuals, internally and socially. How does one make an emotional connection, effect communication, and immersively engage a museum audience with an experience when there are these barriers to be overcome? The issue of how cultural institutions can reconnect with the public and demonstrate their value and relevance in contemporary life has been at the forefront of discussions between scholars, designers and professionals in recent times. In order for the conference to have relevance within the museum community, it has to have relevance for those who work in or study museums, but also to those who visit museums; to those who design museums; and those who see museums as an educational resource.

Conference Organization:

Prof. Jana Macalik, Ryerson University, Canada
Deborah Wang (Adjunct), Ryerson University, Canada
Dr. Jonathan Hale, University of Nottingham, UK
Dr. Laura Hanks, University of Nottingham, UK
Suzanne MacLeod, University of Leicester, UK
Gillian McIntyre, Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada
John Fraser, New Knowledge Organization, New York, US

The conference is hosted by the Ryerson University, School of Interior Design and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

In the past decade alone, several engaging and provocative exhibitions with a global significance have been staged within museums. Museums have reinvented and reinvigorated themselves in order to attract visitors and survive economic turmoil. Creating spectacle has become an inherent part of both the curator’s and exhibition designer’s repertoire, but there has also been a need to reconnect with the visitor and to design more personally meaningful exhibitions. This refocusing — achieved by the production of exhibitions addressing key societal and historical issues — allows for the elaboration of the museum as a social instrument, as a participant in a dialogue with the visitor and hence as a discursive space.

While it appears that current visitors to cultural institutions desire a more sense-rich, personally engaging and relevant experience, the rise of social media has also altered people’s expectations of what makes experiences meaningful or engaging. People expect to be allowed the privilege of identifying and redistributing cultural content, not just examining it. Through self-direction and in response to the increasingly interactive media they consume, they seek opportunities for creative expression. They want their unique identities and interests to be acknowledged,, while they recognize and connect to likeminded communities around the world. These shifts are changing the way that cultural institutions of all types, public or private, from museums to libraries to experiential environments, express themselves to – and communicate with – their ever more demanding audiences.

Discursive spaces within museums can be established and created through the rhetoric of difference, allowing the participants to affect existing narratives and to reflect on their own particular circumstances. The inclusion of one’s own identity within the experience of the museum is likely to promote the culture of the people rather than the traditionally dominant culture of the institution itself. Thus a space of discourse might therefore be created where multiple dialogues can begin to take place – between the institution, the spaces and the people within.

Possible themes include, but are not limited to:

+ Temporal and spatial barriers
+ Barriers of thought
+ Barriers of gender and other forms of difference
+ Barriers of participation and barriers of culture
+ Barriers of technology, media and education

Building on the success of – and with input from the organizers of – two previous conferences in this area, Creative Space (2005) and Narrative Space (2010)*, Discursive Space invites designers, museum professionals and design researchers to explore breaking barriers to effective spatial communication in art, design and exhibitions.

Discursive Space invites participation from contributors that challenge traditional conference expressions, as alternative and novel papers/ presentations will receive additional consideration.

We invite the submission of abstracts of 400 words (excluding references) by 15 January 2013.  Authors of selected abstracts will subsequently be invited to submit full papers (4000-5000 words) by 29 April 2013.

All submissions must be in English. All submissions are subject to double-blind peer review. Accepted contributions should be revised according to the review reports.

Important dates
1 December 2012: Submission system opens
15 January 2013: Abstract submission deadline for:
– Full papers
– Exploratory papers
– Exhibition artifacts/installations/performances
– In gallery discussions
– Workshop proposals (workshop participation will be advertised later)
– Panel presentations
8 March 2013: Author notification
29 April 2013: Submission of final version

*Both of these events were hosted by the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, the latter being part of an ongoing collaboration with the Department of Architecture and Built Environment at the University of Nottingham. Publications arising directly out of these conferences included edited volumes in the Routledge Museum Meanings book series.

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About Fil Salustri
I'm a design methodologist and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. Adjectives that describe me include: secular humanist, meritocrat, and long-winded. Some people call me a positivist too, as if that were a bad thing. Go figure. My real home page is http://deseng.ryerson.ca/~fil.

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