As the past years have proven, the methods for conducting and distributing research that we’ve inherited from our disciplinary traditions can be remarkably brittle in the face of rapidly changing social and mobility norms. The ways we work and the ways we meet are questions newly opened for practical and theoretical inquiry; we both need to solve real problems in our daily lives and account for the constitutive effects of these solutions on the character of the knowledge we produce. Methods are not neutral tools, and nor are they fixed ones. As such, the work of inventing, repairing, and hacking methods is a necessary, if often underexplored, part of the wider research process.
This conference aims to better interrogate and celebrate such experiments with method. Borrowing from the spirit and circuits of exchange in earlier DIY cultures, it takes the form of a zine ring distributed via postal mail. Participants will craft zines describing methodological experiments and/or how-to guides, which the conference organisers will subsequently mail out to all participants. Feedback on conference proceedings will also proceed through the mail, as well as during optional workshops and discussion sessions on Zoom during the zine-making process.
The conference itself is thus an experiment with different temporalities and medialities of research exchange. As a practical benefit, this format guarantees that the experience will be free of Zoom fatigue, timezone difficulties, travel expenses, and visa headaches. More generatively, it may also afford slower thinking, richer aesthetic possibilities, more diverse forms of circulation, and perhaps even some amount of delight. The conference format itself is part of the DIY experiment.
2023 Theme: The act of circulating research through zines invites participants into the “gift economy” of zine culture, where knowledge is shared within a system of reciprocal generosity and pleasure in opposition to hierarchical and capitalist forms of knowledge exchange. As zines cut through the often strict and inaccessible boundaries of traditional, peer-reviewed publications, they also allow for the circulation of research to broader audiences, making knowledge more accessible. As such, academic zines transform research into a gift to be shared amongst unknown peers, while also situating the mobilization of knowledge as care work.
And so, while we are excited to receive abstracts around diverse themes and across disciplines, we ask participants to think about knowledge as a gift and research as care work during their zine-making process. How do these visions of knowledge and research mobilization affect how you view your research, others’ research, and/or yourself?
Prospective participants will submit approximately 300-500 word pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 15th, describing their proposed topic and format. These submissions will be juried, with conference acceptance determined through a combined assessment of potential analytic merit, aesthetics, and the viability of the project plan.
Completed zines will be due in July. Participants will have the choice of either printing and mailing copies of their zine to the conference team, or sending in a print master or digital file to the conference team for print production. Printed zines will be packaged and mailed en masse to all conference attendees in August, along with pre-addressed envelopes and a subsidy for postage to help you craft replies to your fellow participants. A digital volume containing all the zines (the conference proceedings, if you will) will also be published online via the Low-Carbon Research Methods Group’s website, allowing for wider circulation and archiving. Let us know if you would like to receive an update once conference proceedings have been published online.
The conference is free. There are no costs for registration, though we will have a restricted number of contributing participants.
We will cover the printing costs for zine reproductions. Participants that choose to print copies of their own zines can apply to have those costs reimbursed. A rough guess at the printing costs of particularly unusual and expensive formats should be included in the pitch.
Dr. Anne Pasek, Marc Fischer, Craig Campbell,
Stephanie Sadre-Orafai"Print Politics: An online conversation for multimodal anthropologists about the power of print," CoMMPCT , 14 July, 2023.
Sidney Drmay, "Low Carbon Methods are Greening Academia with Zines," Broken Pencil Magazine, 15 September, 2022.
All scholars with an interest in interdisciplinary methodologies, from grad students to senior faculty.
A good pitch will tell us both:
We’re especially interested in projects that think about how the aesthetics and format of the zine will work to support its ideas and reception/circulation. This doesn’t necessarily mean that only the most artistically adept projects will be selected; you don’t need to be an artist to participate, nor does your execution need to be in any way sleek, professional, or tidy to succeed in communicating your ideas in an interesting way. All that we ask is that you think about, and discuss, how and why your work will look the way you want it to look.
Yes. Feel free to send in as many separate pitches as you'd like. However, we're probably only going to pick one per researcher/research team.
The short answer: Most anything you can make out of 8.5 x 11 or 8.5 x 14 inch paper and a photocopier, roughly 20 pages or less.
If you have a conventional print job, we’ll send it to a local print shop in Peterborough. Just send us a PDF and print instructions. To help us best bring your vision to life we ask that these zines are kept to standard 5.5 x 8.5, 8 x 8, 6 x 6 inch sizes for smoothest production.
If you want to print with a risograph machine, we’ll do it in house. For this latter option, a restricted colour palette based on black, yellow, pink, blue, and red inks will work best. Colour-separated PDF files, or Photoshop/Affinity files, are preferred. To help us best bring your vision to life we ask that these zines be kept to a 5.5 or 7 x 8.5 inch size (i.e. a folded piece of letter or legal sized paper) for smoothest production.
The long riso answer: The conference team has a risograph machine at their disposal with Black, Yellow, Fluorescent Pink, Bright Red, and Medium Blue ink cartridges (hex colour codes: 000000, FFE800, FF48B0, F15060, 3255A4). Full bleed images and precise multi-colour registration can cause printing problems with the riso, and so are best used sparingly on the page.
We can work with analog masters (i.e. you draw/paint/collage a real-sized page, one for every colour you want to print in) or digital files (Adobe and Affinity are both supported in our print lab, but greyscale PDFs, separated out for each colour, are best).
If you’re aiming for something ambitious, keep in touch with us so we can troubleshoot potential print problems together. You can learn more about riso printing methods and constraints at:
We’ll reimburse you for the costs of printing it yourself, and then mailing it to the conference team.
Absolutely! Zines come with an august tradition of amateur attempts, authentically rough-around-the-edges execution, and plain text entrants. The basic skills are easy to learn, and the conference team is keen to support the acquisition of new tricks.
We will offer drop-in help/co-working sessions and zine design workshops/co-working sessions to provide support to participants. You also can find guides and templates here:
Absolutely. We welcome multi-/collectively-authored projects and will make sure all members get personal copies of the conference materials. Just mention your head count in your pitch.
Reach out and let us know how best to navigate your local mail system (i.e. special instructions, preferred carriers, and more). We’ll do our best to make sure your conference package reaches you in a timely fashion. We’ve also built a very spacious schedule to allow for variable mail delivery times.
Contact us (email@example.com) and we can very likely work out accommodations.
To keep shipping costs under control, only contributing participants will get physical mail. But digital versions of the zines will be available online for all to read and cite. Let us know if you would like to receive an update once conference proceedings have been published online.
We will assemble a jury to evaluate proposals and determine the conference list. Jury members will have expertise in both a wide range of research methods and experimental media.
This will depend on the number of submissions we receive and the technical challenges/workload of printing the projects we select, but something in the ballpark of 20-30 seems likely.
The Low-Carbon Research Methods Group is a loosely affiliated network of scholars interested in examining how climate change not only stands to alter what we study, but how we do so.
Its founding hypothesis is that an energy transition for academic methods—like energy transitions everywhere—offers opportunities to re-examine long-held assumptions and to redistribute benefits and harms (for both good and for ill).
Working across different methodological traditions, as well as discursive and nondiscursive forms of inquiry, the research group seeks to explore the social and institutional prospects of decarbonizing academia, as well as the equity and epistemological gains that might be won thereby.
The research group is founded and coordinated by Anne Pasek of Trent University.
Read more about research groups and other projects at the Low Carbon Research Methods website.
You can also follow @LowCarbonMethod on Twitter for updates and upcoming events.
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