‘Ecologies of Justice’ symposium to highlight issues of waste, consumption

Discard studies expert Max Liboiron to deliver keynote

March 14, 2023

Residents of Arizona are no strangers to the notion of their state’s landscape being barren and harsh, however misguided it may be.

What the idea does do is make way for important conversations that address the impact problems such as waste, disposability, production and consumption have on social, environmental relationships and health, all of which will be a part of the "Ecologies of Justice: Wasteland, Wastewater and Human Disposability" symposium to be held March 23–24 at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. Portrait of Max Liboiron. Discard studies expert Max Liboiron will deliver the keynote at the "Ecologies of Justice: Wasteland, Wastewater and Human Disposability" symposium. Photo courtesy Max Liboiron Download Full Image

“The Sonoran Desert provides an apt environment for these discussions, as the desert is often imagined as a wasteland. It has also been subjected to many kinds of wasting — water, nuclear, plastic and, last but not least, the wasting of life itself,” said Lisa Han, an assistant professor in the Department of English.

The symposium was developed by Mako Fitts Ward, Han and Celina Osuna, and is part of an Institute for Humanities Research Seed Grant. It is co-sponsored by the Institute for Humanities Research, the film and media studies program in the Department of English within The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Social Transformation Lab.

“The lab is thrilled to co-sponsor the symposium,” said Fitts Ward, director of the Social Transformation Lab and an assistant professor of African American and women and gender studies in the School of Social Transformation. “Using a justice lens to address how environmental crises impact people and the planet will allow participants to move beyond disciplinary boundaries to innovate new ideas, concepts and strategies toward meaningful social impact.”

“The (symposium) centers waste as a vehicle for ecologies of justice because of the way issues of trash, pollution and disposability cross boundaries and borders between humans and nonhumans, lands and waters, as well as local and global scales of research,” Han said.

The two-day event will feature a public keynote presentation by Max Liboiron, a professor in geography, author and leading expert in developing and promoting anticolonial research methods in a wide array of disciplines and spaces.

Liboiron has influenced national policy on plastics and Indigenous research and invented technologies and protocols for community monitoring of plastics. They are the author of “Pollution is Colonialism” and co-author of “Discard Studies: Wasting, Systems, and Power.”

“We are especially looking forward to welcoming Dr. Max Liboiron back to ASU for the keynote presentation, as their work in discard studies, Indigenous studies, and science and technology studies illuminates the dangers of plastic pollution and provides important anti-colonial methods for scientific research that influence how humanists and social scientists can approach as models of justice,” said Osuna, a postdoctoral scholar with the Social Transformation Lab.

Liboiron is the founder of Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), an interdisciplinary natural and social science lab dedicated to the environmental monitoring of plastic pollution. They will discuss the problems of waste and disposability in their research and speak to collaboration within the ASU community and beyond that can work to address these issues.

“This talk draws on case studies from plastic pollution research and activism that use muddy concepts of justice to show three things: a range of concepts of justice at work in activism and science; how the conflation or combination of some forms of justice can cause harm; and to ground a call for fellow researchers to use a more intentional and systematic approach to evoking models of justice in our work,” Liboiron said.

The symposium will also feature workshops and collaborative working sessions led by international scholars in literature, literary arts, design and geography.

The workshops seek to advance interdisciplinary research and demonstrate how disposability and waste coexist to establish a practice of management, surveillance and enclosure that define safety in terms of exclusion and disposability through humanities-oriented approaches that can be applied across academic disciplines.

“As the workshops will consist of students and faculty, we are hopeful that the conversations around waste and human disposability will provide all participants with the opportunity to create a shared language with which to address these issues in their own work,” said Osuna.

The keynote presentation featuring Liboiron will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 23, in the Memorial Union, room 228, on the Tempe campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Visit stl.asu.edu/news-events/events for more information about this event and to RSVP.

Marketing and Communications Coordinator, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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ASU teaches tech used in 'The Mandalorian' to film school students

ASU is first film school to offer students the tech used in 'The Mandalorian'
March 14, 2023

Virtual production, using giant LED screens, is the future of the industry

Audiences who are streaming the current season of “The Mandalorian” have seen the main characters fly through space and probe the murky mines of Mandalore thanks to the ground-breaking virtual-production technology that was invented for the show.

Virtual production not only generates richly detailed sets that are displayed on gigantic LED screens rather than blank green screens, it also saves money by making production more efficient and accurate. Since “The Mandalorian” debuted in 2019, the technology has also been used in the movies “Dune” and “The Batman.”

Now, students at Arizona State University have access to this cutting-edge technology to tell their own stories. The Sidney Poitier New American Film School offers virtual-production technology with extremely high-resolution LED wall and floor screens made by Planar Studios at the ASU California Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The Media and Immersive eXperience Center in downtown Mesa will offer the technology starting in the fall semester, according to Jake Pinholster, founding director of the MIX Center and executive dean in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“In a few short years this has become one of the most explosive and transformative trends in the movie production industry because it has huge positive ramifications,” he said.

“It cuts on post-production time. It makes it easier to pre-visualize and know what a shot will look like before you turn on the camera,” he said.

“Actors can see the environment and respond to it. You can shoot a dawn scene all day long.”

Industrial Light and Magic, the special-effects production company founded by George Lucas, released a video explaining how it created the technology for “The Mandalorian” so that the world-building can be adjusted in real time and saved. The method streamlines the work that was previously done in the pre-production, production and post-production timelines.

The environments are created digitally and loaded onto the giant screens, where the actors can interact with what the audience will see. Previously, actors would work in front of a blank green screen and the digital effects would be added during post-production.

Because ASU is the only film school offering the technology, Pinholster and Nonny de la Peña, founding director of ASU’s Narrative and Emerging Media program, are helping to set standards for teaching the method. They are on a working group of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

“To a certain degree, there is no industry standard in how to do this because it’s still very much an experimental process,” Pinholster said.

“We are one of the first universities training people in what will become the major production technique.”

Coursework in virtual production will be included in both the Narrative and Emerging Media program in Los Angeles and the undergraduate program at the MIX Center in Mesa.

De la Peña’s grad students in Los Angeles have been working with the Planar screens to do both fiction and nonfiction storytelling.

“We’re using new technologies in all kinds of ways,” she said.

“We have students walking around carrying iPads scanning the building, and how do you tell the story with what you’ve scanned?”

The scans are run on game-engine technology and, once uploaded to the giant LED screens, the effect is immersive. Her students are working on stories involving Shakespeare, drug abuse, water issues and baseball.

De la Peña sees virtual production as the future not only for movies but for narrative journalism.

“You can have a reporter on the scene without being at the scene,” she said.

“If we want to make sure we have students prepared for the future of storytelling, we need to teach them that now.”

A crucial part of embracing new technology is determining how to use it ethically. She and Mary Matheson, director and a professor of practice in the film school, teach a class called “Diversity and Ethics in Emerging Media.”

“The students are learning now about how (artificial intelligence) is trained, which is, if nothing else, sexist and racist,” de la Peña said.

One of de la Peña’s students, Cameron Kostopoulos, debuted “Body of Mine VR,” an immersive virtual-reality experience, at the South By Southwest festival  March 12–14, which won a jury prize. The experience places the viewer into another body for an exploration of gender dysphoria and trans identity.

Kostopoulos used a combination of several technologies, including the Planar screens plus VIVE, to create “Body of Mine VR,” which combines body, face and eye tracking with audio interviews.

Kostopoulos, a cisgender gay man, grew up in Texas.

“Being in the closet for basically my entire K–12 experience, looking back, I know how having certain spaces could have helped me,” he said.

“So because of that, I’m passionate about creating those spaces and those experiences for other queer youth who could benefit from them. And for cisgender people to learn about the trans experience and gain empathy.”

“Body of Mine VR” uses full-body motion capture and eye tracking, so at one point, the viewer looks into a mirror and sees themselves blink.

“I put all that together for a more intimate VR experience than what you would normally get with controllers,” said Kostopoulos, who is a writer, director and developer based in Los Angeles.

Combining all the new technology at the ASU California Center was a challenge.

“It’s basically supergluing a lot of cutting-edge stuff into our own makeshift tracking system,” he said.

“Because all of the pieces of tech exist in isolated pockets, there aren’t many experiences that combine everything to do a fully immersive embodiment of a body in VR,” he said.

“There are not a lot of tutorials I could follow and not a lot of people who have worked with it.

“But getting it to finally work was totally worth it and it ended up super cool.”

Top image: ASU Local students Kara Smith and Bryan Daniels check out the new Planar Studio screens in the ASU California Center building in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Deanna Dent/Arizona State University

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News