How can we write the history of media technologies and highlight their impact on aesthetics and knowledge without relapsing into deterministic or apocalyptic modes of thinking? And how can we write the histories of media without privileging cultural semantics over the technical materialities of media? What constitutes the materiality of a medium: its technological apparatus, the epistemic conditions of its gradual emergence and evolution, or its appropriation and use in various cultural practices? How do disciplinary epistemologies shape or impede our understanding of media? To what extent do media write and conceive of their own history and evolution?
In the last two decades the history and materiality of media have become central analytic issues within the humanities and social sciences. The inextricable link between the study of media and the means and methods of writing history calls for revising the conflicting priorities of various fields that range from the philosophy of history to the history of technology. This conference aims at examining and juxtaposing the competing paradigms that delineate the field of media history. The rise of media archaeology in Germany has spawned a distinctive tradition, whose influence is only beginning to be felt in North America. But in this tradition, the study of media histories was originally pursued not for its own sake but to reconceptualize the histories of literature, science, and aesthetics through an analysis of their dependence on media. In the same period in the U.S., early cinema emerged as a new paradigm in film studies; art historians began to conceptualize material transformations of sensory perception, and historians of science set out to highlight the material agency of technologies. Disciplines as diverse as architecture, anthropology and literary studies, have also begun to stretch our conceptions of the discursive and technical origins of media technologies.
The international symposium will bring together scholars from both sides of the Atlantic and from these various disciplines to assess the differences and commonalities that constitute the historical study of media. Taking place from March 24 to March 26, 2011 on the campus of Columbia University, the conference is organized by the Columbia University Seminar on the Theory and History of Media (Stefan Andriopoulos, Brian Larkin), the International Research Institute for Cultural Technologies and Media Philosophy Weimar (IKKM Weimar; Lorenz Engell, Bernhard Siegert), the Program in Media and Modernity and the Aesthetics and Media Track of the German Department at Princeton University (Thomas Y. Levin, Nikolaus Wegmann), and the Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University (Reinhold Martin).
The conference will be opened with a keynote lecture by Jonathan Crary and feature an evening lecture by Joseph Vogl. Four panels will juxtapose and contrast different approaches to an overlapping set of materials and questions.
Anna Kenoff Laura Frahm
(Buell Center) (IKKM Weimar)
aks2117 [at] columbia.edu laura.frahm [at] uni-weimar.de