The Rutgers-Camden Digital Studies Center (DiSC) will host its annual R-CADE symposium on April 23-24, 2020. The Rutgers-Camden Archive of Digital Ephemera Symposium (R-CADE) provides funds for hands-on research and creative activity with digital technologies. Accepted panels receive up to $1,000 for the purchase of hardware, software, and other materials. This year's theme is "Repair," and the submission deadline is December 20, 2019. The symposium will feature a full-day workshop led by Darius Kazemi (Feel Train), a keynote presentation by Dr. Lara Houston (Goldsmiths, University of London), and non-concurrent panel presentations.

The R-CADE defines ephemera broadly––nearly any digital artifact can be considered “digital ephemera,” from early videogames like Spacewar! to spam to game consoles to websites like Friendster. Given the pervasiveness of planned obsolescence, there are seemingly infinite technologies that fit the category of “digital ephemera.” Unlike many archives, the R-CADE does not necessarily aim to preserve artifacts, at least not in the traditional sense of this word. Scholars are encouraged to take apart, dissect, and repurpose technologies as they attempt to understand their significance, explore possibilities, and retell the histories of digital technology. While the R-CADE does not preserve in the sense of keeping objects in their “original” condition, the archive is in fact an exercise in the preservation of digital culture. By allowing for the study and exploration of digital ephemera, the R-CADE aims to ensure these digital artifacts a place in our histories and our various scholarly conversations. R-CADE research outcomes may be presented in various formats including papers, lectures, remakes, hacks, performances, art objects, and other media forms.

The 2020 R-CADE Symposium will convene under this theme of "Repair." In "Rethinking Repair," Stephen Jackson argues that repair offers a way to bridge "broken world thinking" that focuses on the fragility and decay of contemporary infrastructure with a healthy appreciation for the ongoing processes by which those infrastructures are continually repaired and restored. Jackson is interested in “the subtle acts of care by which order and meaning in complex sociotechnical systems are maintained and transformed, human value is preserved and extended, and the complicated work of fitting to the varied circumstances of organizations, systems, and lives is accomplished.” Lara Houston’s work has also explored these processes of repair and has focused on their non-linear temporalities. Repair does not necessarily focus solely on “the reproduction of social and material order,” but also opens up space for the “creative, inventive and innovative work that happens in the process of fixing, across human and non-human bodies.” Shannon Mattern has extended this conversation into a discussion of maintenance, offering us a way to historicize and contextualize the work of repair and maintenance. That means avoiding the romanticization of repair while also recognizing “traditions of women's work, domestic and reproductive labor, and all acts of preservation, formal and informal.” A focus on repair means attending to how infrastructures undergo constant breakdowns and repairs and to the systems and people that are part of our vast network of care, maintenance, and restoration. In all of this work, repair is understood as a research method, a creative practice, and an ethical approach to the world.

DiSC invites proposals that address the continuous, ongoing processes of repair, maintenance, and care required of contemporary systems and infrastructures. As in past years, R-CADE will feature a full day of interdisciplinary panels that feature hands-on digital research and creative work. New to this year’s event is a one-day workshop that will occur the day before panels. Darius Kazemi will lead a workshop that focuses our attention on how to address our broken social media landscape by learning how to create and maintain small social networks. R-CADE panels take up a single technology, object, or device from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Possible topics and approaches to this year’s theme include but are not limited to: What does repair offer as a research method? What do we learn in the process of repair that we might miss when deploying other methods? How might we think of repair beyond restoration? What are repair's various outcomes, and what does a system become after it has been repaired? Are there situations in which repair does more harm than good? Should some systems, technologies, and tools remain broken or unfixed? How do we approach systems that are designed to prevent repair? What approaches to repair are left to us when we are faced with black boxes and proprietary systems? What ethical questions can we approach by way of repair? What ethical questions are foreclosed by a focus on repair? How might methods of repair help us break down boundaries between “artistic practice” and “research,” boundaries that U.S. institutions often rely upon in the interest of funding streams and disciplinary identities? How do different academic disciplines approach repair? What can those disciplines learn from one another?

Scholars and artists on accepted panels will work during the months leading up to the conference by examining, researching, and/or repurposing their shared object of study. Each panelist is free to engage the object in whatever way they see fit. They may choose to conduct an analysis of the object or to develop creative work that engages it. Regardless of what panelists choose to do or make, projects should take advantage of the R-CADE’s ethos of hands-on engagement. Researchers and artists should feel free to take apart, remake, reprogram, and circuit-bend objects.