The 2019 Race, Space, Place unConference is the inaugural convening of scholars, practitioners, artists, curators, and community members interested in reimagining scholarship, community, and impact in the digital age. It is a partnership between the Race, Space, Place Initiative, the Institute for Contemporary Art, the Department of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Provost’s Office at Virginia Commonwealth University.


DATUM 2019

The Race, Space, Place Initiative (RSPI) is a multi-year community of thought and practice on race, racism, space, and place in the digitally-mediated society to be convened at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. 

The high point of RSPI’s year-long lecture series is a partnership with the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. The ICA brings together research, practice, art, and experience. This interactive event upends the traditional academic conference format by inviting attendees to experience data and research through all of their senses while playing an active role in the production of the event. What does a social problem feel like? How does a data point sound? How will progress taste? 

An unConference is an event where "attendees actively create the agenda with the assistance of a skilled facilitator where all the sessions become relevant and engaging" ( The RSPI unConference is a two-day event (November 15-17, 2019) where presenters and attendees will collaborate on cutting-edge practices united by a single theme. In the spirit of inclusivity and due to a generous coalition of VCU departments and the ICA, the unConference is free and open to the public. The 2019 theme is “DATUM”. 

DATUM is a single piece of information, as a fact, statistic, or code. It is the singular of “data”. Data has become the basic unit of understanding our increasingly complex, digitized world. We talk about the data we produce through various technologies; the way polities surveil citizens using data systems; we worry about social implications of data that can reshape reality before our very eyes. But data are not the basic building block of understanding our society. Its root word, DATUM, is an invitation to critically interrogate the historical, social and political forces that shape our current society. 



We invite scholars, practitioners, artists and citizens to reflect on their on-going research or everyday experiences: what are the root causes of the social problems that animate the ways you work, learn, build, or resist? We are especially interested in reflections that incorporate the DATUM of race, space, place and their intersections. 

All Attendees will be invited to create and submit work to the RSPI digital archive, a multimedia platform for open access learning materials. The RSPI digital archive is being built in partnership with our partners at the Institute for Contemporary Art as a living, distributed archival community. Learn more here. Attendees that are affiliated with institutions that engage in research, broadly defined, will also be invited to participate in publication workshops held virtually and on-site at VCU throughout the year. 


  1. Please submit a 200 word statement of expertise or experience that summarizes your professional, community or personal interest in the unConference theme. 

  2. Please include any links to websites, social media or accessible works that represent your expertise or experience.

  3. Submissions are due September 1, 2019

  4. unConference acceptances will be reviewed by an interdisciplinary panel of scholars, artists, and community members drawn from the RSPI steering committee. Acceptances are assessed for theme coherence and the possibility for interesting and informative connections for attendees. 

  5. Acceptances will be sent no later than September 19, 2019

  6. Attendees must acknowledge that they will attend the entire convening no later than September 30th 2019. Travel and lodging information will be provided at the time of acceptance. 

  7. unConference facilitators will do preliminary work to connect attendees, based on their areas of expertise/interest, ahead of the event. An itinerary of the convening will be sent to confirmed attendees, complete with locations, meals, and keynote information no later than October 18th. 


An unConference up-ends the usual hierarchies at academic conferences. We strongly encourage works-in-progress that allow you to give as well as receive constructive feedback on your work. Please read more in the Academics unConference Q&A that we have provided for guidance. RSPI organizers are always happy to answer any questions you may have as you prepare your submissions or your unConference materials. 


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