Are We Living in an Age of Distraction?

Birkbeck Institutes Annual Graduate Conference Programme

Friday 8th June

9.00-9.45am: Registration (Coffee & Tea provided)

9.45-10.00: Introduction by Esther Leslie (Birkbeck)

10.00-11.00: Keynote: Carolin Duttlinger (Oxford)

11.00-11.15: Break

11.15-12.45: Session 1 (Distraction & Aesthetics). Chair: Carolin Duttlinger

  • Nickolas Lambrianou (Birkbeck): An aesthetics of distraction: Encounters and Interventions in contemporary art
  • Lawrence S. Wang (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität): An Aesthetic Phenomenology of Boredom
  • Zoe Louizos (Birkbeck): The phenomenon of canned laughter in the 20th c

12.45-14.00: Lunch (Provided)

14.00-15.30: Session 2 (Distraction & Politics). Chair: Dr. Rowan Lubbock (Birkbeck)

  • Arianna Bassetti (QMUL):  Engaged Comics for Migratory Publics: Zerocalcare’s Kobane calling
  • Cindy Guo (Indiana): (In)visible Individuals: Exploring the Distracted Narrative of Ha Jin’s War Trash
  • Aytekin Kaan Kurtul (Middlesex): Online Lèse-majesté: Silencing Dissent in the “Age of Distraction” and the Example of Turkey

15.30-15.45: Break

15.45-17.15: Session 3 (Historicism/ Psychology). Chair: Esther Leslie

  • Katy Maydon (Birkbeck): Jewish Passivity in Academia and Cinema: Peter Hayes and The Son of Saul
  • Eleonora Antonakaki Giannisi (Kingston): Distraction and Censorship
  • Tom Fielder (Birkbeck): Are You Distracted? Following Freud in his Interpretation of Dreams, Slips of the Tongue, and Neurotic Symptoms

17.15: Ending & Drinks reception


Saturday 9th June

9.00-9.45am: Registration (Coffee & Tea Provided)

9.45-10.00: Introduction by Felicity Callard (Birkbeck)

10.00-11.00: Keynote speech- Sophie Jones (Birkbeck, English). Inscrutable Objects: Minimalist Literature, Attention Deficit Disorder, and the Problem of Knowledge

11.00-11.15: Break

11.15-12.45: Session 1 (Education, Digital Media & Post-Truth). Chair: Felicity Callard

  • Jessica Massonnié (Birkbeck): Good multitaskers suffer less from noise in classroom settings
  •  Octavia Reeve (Birkbeck): Digital Media: Paying Attention and the Cost of Distraction
  •  Anamaria Popa (Warwick): Post-truth: An Arendtian approach

Lunch: 12.45-14.00 (Provided)

14.00-15.30: Session 2: Mind-wandering, ADHD & Contemporary Art. Chair: Sophie Jones

  •  Alessandra Cianetti (Curator): Mind-wandering in action:  the power of the distracting performative body
  •  Felicity Callard: Tracking down day-dreams

15.30- Ending: Felicity Callard

Drink and Refreshments provided

Keynote bio

Carolin Duttlinger: Ockenden Fellow and Associate Professor and Tutor in German, Wadham College, Oxford. Prof Duttlinger teaches papers on German literature, film and culture from the eighteenth century to the present, as well as translation. Her personal research interests are in twentieth-century and contemporary German literature, thought and culture, with particular emphasis on the relationship between literature, visual culture and the history of perception.

Sophie Jones: Sophie Jones is a Wellcome ISSF Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English and Humanities, researching the politics of the body in post-1945 American literature and film. Her first book, The Reproductive Politics of American Literature and Film, 1959-1973, is due out next year with Edinburgh University Press, and her new research project examines neurobehavioural diagnosis and contemporary literature.


Esther Leslie: Professor in political aesthetics and co-director of Birkbeck Institutes. (Birkbeck, English).

Felicity Callard: Professor of Social research and director of Birkbeck Institutes for Social Research. (Birkbeck , Psychosocial).


Age of Distraction presents Kai Syng Tan’s photographic series BADGE-WEARING MIND WANDERER IN ACTION (M.I.A), 2017, through an exhibition curated by Alessandra Cianetti.

Dr Kai Syng Tan FRSA SFHEA is an artist, curator and researcher. Currently a Research Fellow at Leeds College of Art and AHRC Peer Review Member, Kai completed her PhD at the Slade School of Fine Art in 2014. Her performances, papers and installations have been shown at exhibitions like dOCUMENTA and Biennale of Sydney, and sites including MOMA, ZKM and Dom Muzyki.

Alessandra Cianetti is a London-based curator, creative producer, and writer. She has worked internationally on multi-disciplinary live and visual art projects across the UK, Europe and Southeast Asia. She is the founder of the research platform ‘performingborders. conversations on live art | crossings | europe’.




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