CFP: Velvet Light Trap issue on technological change

Call for Papers: VLT Issue #76 - Case Studies in Technological Change

Submission deadline: August 17, 2014

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To paraphrase Robert Allen and Douglas Gomery in Film History: Theory and Practice, media depends on machines. Technology contextualizes industrial and stylistic change, reveals and obscures sites of cultural negotiation and meaning, and enables new modes of media production, circulation, and reception. The significance of technology to media studies has only become more acute with the proliferation of digital technologies, which have changed the methods and tools of our scholarship—to say nothing of the object of that study.

Too often, however, scholarship relegates technology to the background, rendering it less an object of study in and of itself than a cause of, or context for, broader situations. While useful and often necessary, this tendency can have unintended consequences. It risks the assumption that technological changes automatically engender concomitant changes in our “real” object of study, when representations and practices that endure despite technological change offer equally important insight. Similarly, focusing on broader trends may steer us away from failed efforts at technological change, where entrenched structures of cultural or industrial design are exposed and tested, while treating technology as the agent of change can ignore the roles of cultural and industrial demands in technological advancement or stasis.

This issue of The Velvet Light Trap specifically seeks case studies of historical and contemporary technological change that privilege technology itself as the object of study. We wish to focus the issue’s attention on specific technological changes in context rather than theories that explore how technology in broad terms is changing media and culture. We especially welcome studies that reexamine accepted histories of technological change, reveal little-known changes worthy of attention, or show important continuities despite technological change.

Potential topics include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Digital production, distribution, exhibition, transmission, and retail formats
  • Technology in media preservation, archiving, and historiography
  • National cinemas’ transitions to sound, widescreen, and color
  • Technology and marginalized producers or audiences
  • “Invisible” technological intermediaries: labs, servers, antennas, and codecs
  • Processing power, graphical interfaces, software, hardware, hacking, and modding in video and computer gaming
  • New formats, old media, nostalgia: reissues, videotape, and internet video
  • Craft practices, production cultures, labor, new and obsolete professions
  • Experimental and avant-garde media
  • Changing technology and representations of race, class, gender
  • Panchromatic stock, HD, FM: film, television, and radio style
  • Revising assumptions about the workings of technology
  • Failed, obscure, or forgotten technology
  • Technologies of fandom and fandoms of technology

For full call and submission guidelines, see the Velvet Light Trap's website.


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