We’re delighted to introduce the 15 Early Career Researchers who have been selected to present their cutting edge research at the AHRC Science in Culture Theme Ignite event on 26th March 2014. The event will be held at the Natural History Museum and limited tickets are still available.

The sixth Science in Culture Theme Ignite Speaker is:

DR ERIC WHITE, Oxford Brookes University, ‘Modernist Avant-Gardes and Speculative Technology’

Eric White-mugshotIn the spirit of Ignite can you describe your topic in 140 characters?

The project explores modernists’ engagements with imagined technologies and connects them to current performance contexts & IT applications.

What would you like people to take away from your Ignite talk?

I would like to challenge preconceptions that pigeonhole creative avant-gardes as detached communities opposed to engaging with science, technology and mass culture. This talk will show how avant-gardes of the early twentieth century were energised by technology, which became a crucial muse, mediator and facilitator of new artistic models. By exploring how researchers and practitioners in the arts, humanities, sciences and technologies have joined forces to bring imagined technologies devised by modernists to life, I hope this project will demonstrate how historical avant-gardes can help propose new solutions to current problems. My Ignite talk will encourage people to consider how radical modes of aesthetic production can probe the limits of technological innovation, and how writers and artists can push it further into fascinating and often unexpected new spaces.

How did you get involved in interdisciplinary research across Sciences and Arts and Humanities?

During my M.Phil research I explored the links between literary modernism and the eugenics movement in the United States. In my doctoral work, I investigated the evolution of avant-garde communities which revealed the crucial role that science, technology and industry played in faciliating experimental literary collaborations (for example, one chapter of my PhD thesis correlated the popular reception of Einstein’s theories of relativity, the rise of the oil industry and the laxative ‘Nujol’ – subjects explored in a special issue of a journal produced by the doctor-poet William Carlos Williams). My experience with IT start-ups and experimental arts has encouraged me to think about the ways in which specialised communities engage with technology, and how that engagement has changed (or remained consistent) over time.

Tell us a bit about your academic background.

I am currently Senior Lecturer in American Literature at Oxford Brookes University. I pursued my undergraduate studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, before beginning my postgraduate work at the University of Cambridge. My first monograph Transatlantic Avant-Gardes: Little Magazines and Localist Modernism was published in the Edinburgh Studies in Transatlantic Literature series by Edinburgh University Press in 2013, and my new book project, tentatively entitled A Machine of Mirrors, investigates modernist avant-gardes, science and technology.

A film of Dr Eric White’s presentation at the AHRC Science in Culture Theme Ignite event is available here.