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Apocryphal Technologies (Edited Collection)

Categories: Film, TV, & Media, Science, Miscellaneous
Event Date: 2023-11-15 Abstract Due: 2023-05-15

Apocryphal Technologies: An Archeology of Spurious and Nefarious Techniques, Devices, Practices, and Beliefs (edited collection; proposal deadline: May 15, 2023) 

The term “technological imaginary” is often used to describe how technologies are invested with utopian aspirations or dystopian fears, yet these imaginaries often prevent people from sensing real and legitimate disappointments, frustrations, or failures in how technical systems actually work. In contrast, the term “apocryphal technology” refers to technological imaginaries that are explicitly dubious, suspicious, or fraudulent, including technologies designed, built, and implemented toward spurious ends. Openly endorsed by inventors, producers, and retailers, such practical applications are far more common than one might wish or hope, and their proliferation has accelerated in recent years due to the spread of online misinformation and conspiracy theories. The apocryphal nature of these technologies becomes particularly evident when they are used in the service of cryptic, murky, persuasive, or trickster offerings, yet in a sense all technologies are apocryphal at least to some extent, as they all comprise functions or benefits imputed by the beliefs and wishes of people, and these always exceed practical limitations and functionality in the here and now. 

In emphasizing and providing awareness of the apocryphal in technological implementation, discourse, and reality, this edited collection will raise fundamental questions about the reliability and validity of a technological culture—comprising systems, infrastructures, devices, and interactions—upon which we increasingly depend for our survival. In exposing the inadvertent, unwitting, naïve, or willful misinterpretations that surround technological innovations, digital media cultures, and public welfare and development trajectories, the collection will provide a critique of modernist assumptions of progress through the practices and philosophies of engineering. It will also challenge teleological narratives of specifically technological and digital progress by exposing the social, political, and economic forces that determine whether technologies obtain and retain a sense of legitimacy and authenticity in particular cultural and historical contexts. 

The collection will examine these forces by gathering together scholarly, media, and artistic contributions as well as archival materials that describe, highlight, and challenge the beliefs inspired by techno-scientific practices dealing with instrumented realities (“real” physics), media-metaphysics, and faithful communications. Where do these practices intermingle with the psychological, physiological, imaginary, mythic, esoteric, uncanny, or spiritual dimensions of technology? 

Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following: 

-pseudo-scientific devices (for truth verification, bodily enhancement, cognitive/psychic amplification, etc.) 
-technologies for faith and worship 
-occult or ghost-hunting devices 
-deceptive advertising or “bait-and-switch” sales tactics 
-online scams and misinformation 
-dummies, props, and facsimiles 
-technological “red herrings,” “straw men,” or “angel dusting” 
-projections of trust and “public good” in infrastructural politics 
-public health, the pandemic, and spurious medical solutions

For inclusion in this collection, please submit abstracts (200-300 words) and brief biographies (50-100 words) to Jamie Allen (ja@jamieallen.com) and Anthony Enns (anthony.enns@dal.ca) by May 15, 2023. If accepted, completed submissions are expected to be roughly 6,000 words and will be due by November 15, 2023.


Anthony Enns