John Durham Peters Former Senior Fellow

John Durham Peters
May-July 2018


John Durham Peters is the María Rosa Menocal Professor of English and of Film and Media Studies at Yale University. Before, Peters taught at the department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa from 1986 up to 2016. He received his PhD in Communication Theory and Research in 1986 from Stanford University. In 1990, he was Exchange Professor at the Catholic University of Nijmegen, Netherlands, from 1998-1999 he was Fulbright Professor at the University of Athens, Greece and from 1999-2000 he was Leverhulme Fellow at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He was also Visiting Professor at a wide range of universities, including Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain (2007-2010), Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Winter 2010-11, Winter 2012-13), University of Oslo (January 2012), Leuphana Universität Lüneburg (January 2016) and Freie Universität Berlin (June-July 2016). Peters became the First Beaverbrook Visiting Scholar at McGill University, Canada (2007) and was Maître d’études at EHESS Paris-Marseille, France (2005). He was awarded the Franklyn S. Haiman Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Freedom of Expression by the National Communication Association (2007).

Dated from 2018

Fields of research

media history; media philosophy; communication theory; social theory; liberalism

IKKM Research Project

Gods, Words, Pictures, Data, Sounds: Toward a Media History of Weather

The history of human interaction with weather is also the history of cultural techniques and media technologies. Dramatists and divines have sought meaning from atmospheric events. Reading the skies is a paradigmatic case of human-nature interaction, and studying weather can stand in as part for whole as an inquiry into the environments humans have made or unmade. The history of modern weather forecasting is also a history of the militarization of the sky and oceans, and is co-extensive with the history of modern telecommunications and computation. It took modern systems of telecommunication and time-coordination to make weather both predictable and mundane. Indeed, boring weather is a modern invention. Prior to the eighteenth century, the only weather worth talking about was dramatic. The history of weather is also the history of changing scales between local, regional, and planetary.

Weather raises questions of profound interest to recent and classic media theory such as how mundane infrastructures can be full of meaning and how vaporous or evanescent entities, ones that exist as white noise, can be tracked, recorded, and programmed. The history of worldwide computational infrastructures is a meteorological history, as Paul Edwards has shown. Studying the weather is a special case in media theory’s more general study of how media help constitute the world. This book proposes to be tell this story.

In this book, I plan five interlocking chapters on the media of weather: weather gods, weather words, weather images, weather data, and weather sounds. These five chapters not only invoke the five principal media by which weather and humans have interacted, but also the five main approaches to interdisciplinary media studies as I see it: religious studies, literary studies, visual studies, science and technology studies, and sound studies--all of them, of course, wrapped in a larger theoretical and environmental framework. The book will be eclectic in its sources but will draw widely on recent burgeoning work in the history of science and environmental history as well as more classic literary, religious, philosophical, and technical sources.

Recent publications


Promiscuous Knowledge: Image and Information in Historical Perspective. By Kenneth Cmiel and JDP. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2020.

The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. 416 pp.

Chinese translation, forthcoming, China CITIC Press.
Korean translation, in process, Culturelook Publishing.

Courting the Abyss: Free Speech and the Liberal Tradition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. 309 pp.

Hungarian translation, Wolters Kluwer, 2015.

Mass Communication and American Social Thought: Key Texts, 1919-1968. Eds. JDP and Peter Simonson. Boulder: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004. 531 pp.

Articles and Chapters

“Die Medien des Atmens.” Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft, under review.

“The Charge of a Light Barricade: Optics and Ballistics in the Ambiguous Being of Screens,” Screens Unbound, ed. Craig Buckley, Rüdiger Campe, and Francesco Casetti, in progress.

“Babel and Babble in Benjamin and Burke,” Communication + 1, forthcoming. (By Samuel McCormick and JDP.)

“Babel et bavardage chez Benjamin et Burke,” CNRS publications, trans. Florian Lombardo, in progress.

“The Media of Breathing.” Atmospheres of Breathing: Respiratory Questions of Philosophy, ed. Lenart Škof and Petri Berndtson, Albany: SUNY Press, 2018. 179-95.

“Introduction: Great Things, Small Means.” Introduction to Forum on Mormonism as Media, Mormon Studies Review 5 (2018): 17-25. (By Benjamin Peters and JDP).

“La libertad de expression en el mercado de las ideas.” Persona y Derecho 77 (2017): 353-69.

“The Bubonic Plague.” !0th Anniversary Graduate School of North American Studies, 2007-2017: Conversations, Contestations, and Cross-Cultural Comparisons. Berlin: JFK Institute, 2017. 50-51.

“Am Anfang war die Operation.” Zeitschrift für Medien- und Kulturforschung 8:2 (2017): 193-99.

“‘You Mean My Whole Fallacy is Wrong’: On Technological Determinism,” Representations, 140 (October 2017): 10-26.

Translated as “’O que você diz de toda a minha falácia está errado’: sobre o determinismo tecnológico,” Matrizes 11:2 (2017): 13-33. Trans. Richard Romancini and André Ortega.

“Eternal Increase.” The Kimball Challenge at Fifty: Mormon Arts Center Essays. Ed. Richard Bushman and Glen Nelson. New York: Mormon Arts Center, 2017. 99-111.

“Like a Thief in the Night: Witnessing and Watching.” Testimony/Bearing Witness: Epistemology, Ethics, History, and Culture. Edited Sybille Krämer and Sigrid Weigel. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017. 189-207.<7span>

“Media in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead Trilogy.” The Iowa Review 47:1 (2017): 188-203.

“Norbert Wiener as Pragmatist,” Empedocles: European Journal for the Philosophy of Communication 7:2 (2016): 157-72. (By JDP and Benjamin Peters.)

“Master and Disciple: Communication.” As Iron Sharpens Iron: Listening to the Various Voices of Scripture, ed. Julie M. Smith. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016. 173-7. (By Benjamin Peters and JDP.)

“Recording Beyond the Grave: Joseph Smith’s Celestial Bookkeeping.” Critical Inquiry 42:4 (2016): 842-64.

“Cloud.” Digital Keywords. Ed. Benjamin Peters. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016. 54-62.

German translation in progress.
Portuguese translation in progress.

“Philosophy of Technology 1964/2014.” Södertörn Lecture 11. (Booklet, 58 pp.). 2016.