Applied Comics Network

Invitation: Costumed Visions Network, 16th Sept 2015

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The Costumed Visions Network is having its inaugural meeting on 16th September at the Manchester Meeting Place to discuss the treatment and ethics of enhancement, drawing on comics’ long trajectory of enhanced heroes, superheroes and villains.

The ambitious remit of the Costumed Visions Network is to not just critique the use of enhancement and costumery within comics. This is an opportunity for fans, scholars and creators to bring together the reading, writing and studying of comics with some very pressing real-world debates about medicine, warfare, crime and justice, cybernetics, nanotechnologies, etc.

For more information, contact David Lawrence (david.lawrence @ manchester.ac.uk or Shawn Harmon (shawn.harmon @ ed.ac.uk). The first Costumed Visions Network meeting will be on September 16 2015 at the Manchester Meeting Place. The event is free, but ticketed through Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/costumed-visions-of-enhanced-bodies-tickets-16885777816. There’s also more information about the meeting on the Mason Institute website.

Read more below from Shawn Harmon introducing some of the network’s conceptual frameworks…

Finding and Sharing New Frames for Enhancement Discourses?

By Shawn Harmon

One of the central frames for the ethical discourses around technology-instigated enhancements in human beings has been that of ‘human nature’.  This frame is often allied to competing imaginaries, some utopian and others dystopian.  While science fiction has long exhibited scientific ambiguity, often conveyed through dystopian imaginaries, it has also been one of the best and more nuanced means of exploring the nature of the changes that face us, sometimes in the context of personal stories and challenges, and sometimes against grander backdrops implicating broader public issues.  In relation to human enhancement, consider Gibson’s Neuromancer (1983), Bear’s Blood Music (1985), and Morgan’s Altered Carbon (2002).  Superhero comics have also sought to explore futures or alternative realities where some individuals are enhanced, although they often concentrate on the human ideal; the costumed—and often handsome/beautiful—übermensch, and their struggle for justice, often the prevailing status quo.  (Here note Wolf-Meyer’s (2003) consideration of Marvel’s The Avengers and DC’s Justice League of America.)  In Finlay-Day and Gibbons’ Rogue Trooper (1981), the creators arguably offer a more useful case insofar as the main character and his comrades are deliberately designed to achieve specific ends, and their expanded lifespan has some critical trade-offs (much in the manner of those portrayed in Morgan’s Altered Carbon).

Despite these rich considerations, very little support has been available for scholars to come together in wider and more open groups to discuss and critique these treatments of enhancement, and to both imagine and create popularly accessible works that explore the ethics of enhancement in diverse frames and balanced ways.  The Costumed Visions Network hopes to not just critique comic book treatments of enhancement, but also to encourage a broader social debate about how enhancement technologies might engage our socio-moral values and potentially meet some of our social needs; we hope to go beyond dystopian/utopian imaginaries (for surely whatever reality emerges will be more mixed and fluid), and encourage our members to engage with complexity, to consider how technologies might be regulated and marshalled to achieve ethical ends.  On 16 September 2015, at the Manchester Meeting Place, the Costumed Visions Network will have its first meeting.  Information on the meeting is available on the Mason Institute website.  Attendance at the meeting is free but ticketed, and registration is through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/costumed-visions-of-enhanced-bodies-tickets-16885777816.  If you wish to join the Costumed Visions Network, please contact David Lawrence (david.lawrence @ manchester.ac.uk) or Shawn Harmon (shawn.harmon @ ed.ac.uk).

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