A Mostly Screen-Free, Zine-Full, Remote-Participation Conference on Experimental Methods for Research and Research Exchange
(Thank you for your submissions! We've received over 80 pitches and hope to complete the jury process in the first week of June.)
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 via an optional Twitter hashtag.
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.
Prospective participants will submit approximately 300-500 word pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 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.
May 15, 2022 - Deadline for pitches
May 23, 2022 - Conference acceptances distributed
June 9 + 14, 2022 - Zine drop in help sessions
July 11, 2022 - Zines due to conference team (posted/emailed)
Aug 15, 2022- Zines mailed out to participants
Sep 19, 2022 - The conference day
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.
Submit pitches (300-500 words) to email@example.com
Deadline: May 15, 2022
Potential Questions Participants Might Address
What political and epistemological legacies do we inherit with conventional disciplinary methods, and how might these methods be hacked or repaired to guide research to more feminist/anti-colonial/anti-racist/anti-ableist ends?
What open-source hardware, protocols, or systems of collaboration have been key to executing your research and doing so ethically?
How does the incorporation of more-than-discursive modalities of inquiry (i.e. research-creation, arts-based research, critical making, and more) impact the character of your research outputs and wider research community?
What might you or your colleagues accomplish with new methods of exchange and communication? How could our work evolve if our professional communities understood research as more than a process of generating conference papers and peer-reviewed writing?
What tools or methods might be required to produce lower-carbon forms of research and research exchange?
Potential Formats Participants Might Use
A traditional conference paper, in booklet form.
An instructional manual or field guide
Comics, flipbooks, illustrated/photo essays, and other experiments in image + text
A chapbook with field notes, vignettes, archival fragments, and methodological reflections thereon
Who is this conference open to?
All scholars with an interest in interdisciplinary methodologies, from grad students to senior faculty.
What makes a good pitch?
A good pitch will tell us both:
what your zine will achieve conceptually (will it contain an extended analysis of a fieldwork encounter, practical instructions on building a piece of hardware, or an essay analyzing the history and politics of a methodological norm?) and,
how it will come together practically (i.e. a roughly 20 page 8.5 x 5.5 inch book made in Illustrator; a series of four A4 8-folded booklets drawn by hand; a set of collaged cards on heavy cover paper with images on the recto, text on the verso, etc.).
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.
Can I submit more than one idea?
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.
What kinds of things can you print?
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.
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.
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). This allows us to spoof CYMK printing, though not without some constraints. 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).
You can learn more about riso printing methods and constraints at:
The conference team will also produce video tutorials on different print formats we can handle. If you’re aiming for something ambitious, keep in touch with us so we can troubleshoot potential print problems together.
What if you can’t print the very cool but unconventional idea we have for our zine?
We’ll reimburse you for the costs of printing it yourself, and then mailing it to the conference team.
I don’t know how to make a zine / I am worried about not being artistic enough. Can I still participate?
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 have two days with drop-in help sessions to provide support to participants with troubleshooting questions.
You also can find guides and templates here:
Single page, 8x fold booklet (one might create a few of these and bundle them together)
We will also be publishing video tutorials on designing for risograph printing in particular.
Can teams participate?
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.
What if I live somewhere where the mail is unreliable?
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.
I have access needs that make mail/printed text tricky. What should I do?
Contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can very likely work out accommodations.
I’m not ready to contribute a zine, but I would like to receive them. Can I still participate?
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, and the Twitter hashtag will help facilitate conference dialog.
How will pitches be evaluated?
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.
How many zines will be accepted into the conference?
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 15-40 seems likely.
Low Carbon Methods
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.