In all the rush of practical considerations, I'd never stopped to think much about the themes for the SCMS Conference. After last year's conference, I complained that imposing a theme led to an increasing number of papers clearly reverse-fitted into the topic. This time around, whether intentionally or not, the organizers seem to have opted to sidestep the problem with vague language:
“SMCS at 50/Tokyo: Mobilizing the Future/Screening the Past,” and “SCMS at 50/LA: Archiving the Future/Mobilizing the Past.”
Mind you, retrospection or prognostication could serve as a focused theme. But in widening the topic into a rubric anyone can speak to (what historical media scholarship is not about "screening the past"?), the organizers are defeating the purpose of a conference theme to begin with. I do wonder if SCMS even needs annual themes, but if they choose to have them, the themes should derive from current ares of theoretical/methodological/topical interest in the discipline(s). The Screen conference would be a good model in this regard.
What's more, I don't know exactly what terms like "mobilizing the past" or "archiving the future" mean. They sound neat, but are highly metaphorical, some might argue nonsensical.