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Existential Terrains explores the existential dimensions of digitalisation, focusing both on the possibilities for existential meaning making online, and the potential deficiencies, challenges and vulnerabilities of our digital lives. The programme hosts a transdisciplinary network for discussions on digital media and existential issues and challenges (DIGMEX).

”Existential Terrains: Memory and Meaning in Cultures of Connectivity” (ET) (2014-2018), was a research programme headed by Amanda Lagerkvist, who as Wallenberg Academy Fellow founded the international research field of ‘existential media studies’. The programme was the first media studies project in the world that researched the existential dimensions of digitalization, both empirically and theoretically. In a unique way, it problematized ‘what it means to be human’ (and mortal) in an age of digitalisation and automation, by drawing inspiration from the philosophy of existence for approaching digital culture. Lagerkvist’s work and forthcoming book Existential Media, contracted with Oxford University Press, provides for an empirically founded and theoretically original perspective on digital technologies as both resource and risk. It submits that our lives are increasingly digitally “thrown” (to borrow the language of Martin Heidegger and Søren Kierkegaard before him) into a highly connected, fast changing, increasingly automated and quantifying world that threatens to leave us displaced and vulnerable, but also with the fundamental task to navigate these new terrains and make them meaningful. 

The programme also created the DIGMEX network, which organized two successful international conferences: ”Digital Existence: Memory, Meaning Vulnerability” October 2015 (http://et.ims.su.se/files/Program-Digital-Existence.pdf ) and ”Digital Existence II: Precarious Media Life” October 2017 (http://et.ims.su.se/activities/#2017-11-01). The main outcome of the conference events is the anthology Digital Existence: Ontology, Ethics and Transcendence in Digital Culture, (Ed. Amanda Lagerkvist, London: Routledge, 2019), which introduces the field. A book launch and a panel for this volume took place at the ISMRC Conference, Boulder, Colorado, USA, August 8-11, 2018: “ Existential Media Studies: Probing Technologies of Life, Death and Beyond” with John D. Peters as our respondent. https://www.colorado.edu/ismrc/conferences/conference-media-religion-and-public-scholarship . One of Amanda Lagerkvist’s articles from the ET programme was used in the course “Philosophy of Digital Media” at Yale University, taught by John D. Peters: ”The Netlore of the Infinite: Death (and Beyond) in the Digital Memory Ecology,” The New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia. Vol 21, issue 1-2, 2015. As a team, ET succeeded in publishing the findings in leading peer reviewed journals in both Media Studies and Death Studies: New Media and Society, Feminist Media Studies, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, The New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, Thanatos and OMEGA: The Journal of Death and Dying.

From January 2019, Amanda Lagerkvist and the DIGMEX network have a new base in the Department of Informatics and Media at Uppsala University. For more information about the research and network, please contact: amanda.lagerkvist@im.uu.se

Funding

  • Stockholm university
  • Knut och Alice Wallenbergs Stiftelse
  • Wallenberg Academy Fellows
  • Stiftelsen Marcus och Amalia Wallenbergs Minnesfond

EXISTENTIAL TERRAINS is a research programme funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (2014-2018) and by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation (2015-2017) headed by Amanda Lagerkvist, PhD., Associate Professor and Wallenberg Academy Fellow at the Department of Media Studies, Stockholm University.