HUMlab Media History Seminar

I am please to announce that together with my colleague, Johan Jarlbrink, we have started working with the HUMlab Media History Seminar, to be launched this fall. The idea, in short, is to historicize new media formats, contemporary digital technologies or the media history of the web – not to mention the notion of ’the digital’ itself. The purpose of the HUMlab Media History Seminar is to become an international, multidisciplinary conversational platform for scholars interested in historical perspectives on media, the ’digital’ and/or media perspectives on history. More information will follow – our sketch at present runs as follows:

Digital technology by nature always seems to be directed towards the future. New forms and formats replace older ones in a constant – and recurring pattern. Media is always already new. As a consequence technological amnesia often becomes a distinctive feature of today’s debates around ”new” media. A prevalent digital imperative, in short, reduces a number of (media)historical insights to be gained. In addition – and broadly speaking – (new) media studies has tended to focus contemporary issues, by ad large reducing media history to a scholarly neglected field. There are of course exceptions. The concept of media archaeology has, for example, during the last decade emerged as one way of addressing the history of media without the limitations of teleological media trajectories and linearities. Nevertheless, historicizing the computer, new media formats, contemporary digital technologies or the media history of the web – not to mention the very notion of ’the digital’ itself – is a to important task to be overlooked when dealing with new media technologies.

The purpose of the HUMlab Media History Seminar is to become an international, multidisciplinary conversational platform for scholars interested in historical perspectives on media, the ’digital’ and/or media perspectives on history. As is well known, the development of digital media today opens for new ways of understanding the past, but exploring media history is also a way of historicizing our current situation. The rapid digitization of cultural heritage, of historical newspapers and audiovisual media, for example, makes new research possible, with new methods. Yet, the bias of digital media is reciprocal. Like filesharing it always involves transitions moving both ways. Consequently, old media today can be understood completely different through digital media forms. In addition, with the blurring of boundaries within today’s digital media landscape – i.e convergence of both hard and software – there is a need to redefine the very concept of media itself. If media today can be reduced to lines of code – with all media analyses gravitating it seems towards software studies – a broader definition of media can also be deployed historically. It might (and should) include media forms beyond traditional mass media, such as exhibitions and panoramas, typewriters and tape recorders. With the inclusion of such formats, media history (again) alters its appearance.

The idea behind the the HUMlab Media History Seminar is, hence, to open for a wide range of topics and themes, audiences and technologies, as well as contents and contexts. Perspectives will vary and be both theoretical, empirical and/or methodological. The seminar will be held at HUMlab twice every semester – occasionally organized in co-operation with scholars interested in similar issues. Funding is secured for at least ten seminars between 2014 and 2016. International guest will dominate the seminar; invites will predominantly come from Europe – with a slant towards non-native English speakers. The first seminar will be held in September/October 2014.

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