Seminar 1: Media Infrastructures

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lunch – 1:00 - 1:30 PM
Seminar – 1:30 - 3:00 PM

Mortara Center | 3600 N St NW, Washington, DC 20007

Media, in its earliest uses, was an "intervening agency, means or instrument," and only later came to mean "mass communication." Drawing upon the etymology of the term, this seminar seeks to understand how media acts materially in changing transnational contexts, insisting on the ways "mass communications" are made possible through social and technical infrastructures. In this way, we seek to examine the underpinnings of global communications through case studies that highlight how media comes to be shorthand for diverse and changing networks of humans and nonhumans. We then ask how media infrastructure might be used to analyze these relations and the power dynamics they incorporate.



Featuring Distinguished Presenters:

Lisa Nakamura is the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor in the Department of American Cultures at the Univeristy of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is the Coordinator of Digital Studies at the University of Michigan and serves on the Steering Committee of the FemTechNet Project, a network of educators, activists, librarians, and researchers interested in digital feminist pedagogy. She has been writing about digital media since 1994. 


Lisa Parks is Ph.D. is Professor and former Department Chair of Film and Media Studies (2008-2011) and served as Director of the Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS) at UC Santa Barbara from 2012-2015. Parks has research expertise in the areas of media history and theory, media and globalization, media arts and activism, digital cultures, experimental methodologies, and feminist criticism. She has written extensively about satellites as cultural technologies, and her current research is focused in two related areas: media infrastructure studies; and media, security and surveillance studies. An interdisciplinary scholar rooted in the humanities, Parks’ research engages with fields of geography, international relations, science and technology studies, communication, and art. Parks is the author of Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual (Duke UP, 2005), Coverage: Vertical Mediation and the War on Terror (Routledge, forthcoming), and Mixed Signals: Media Infrastructures and Cultural Geographies(in progress). She is co-editor of: Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures (U of Illinois, 2015), Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries and Cultures (Rutgers UP, 2012), Undead TV (Duke UP, 2007) Planet TV: A Global Television Reader (NYU, 2003), and another in progress entitled Life in the Age of Drones (under contract, Duke UP). 


Caetlin Benson - Allotz is is Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University and Core Faculty Member in its Film and Media Studies Program. She is the author of Killer Tapes and Shattered Screens: Video Spectatorship from VHS to File Sharing (University of California Press, 2013) and Remote Control (Bloomsbury Press, forthcoming January 2015). Her work in film theory, exhibition technology, spectatorship studies, and gender studies has appeared in the Atlantic, Cinema Journal, South Atlantic Quarterly, the Journal of Visual Culture, Jump Cut, Film Quarterly, Film Criticism, the Quarterly Review of Film and Video, and Feminist Media Histories, among other journals, and multiple anthologies. Her doctoral dissertation won the Society for the Cinema and Media Studies Best Dissertation Award in 2009. After winning Film Quarterly's 50th Anniversary Review Essay Competition in 2008, she continued to write for the journal and became a regular columnist in 2011. She is currently working on a book-length study of six significant objects in contemporary media culture—the VHS cassette, the DVD, the cruise ship, the gun, alcohol, and marijuana—and shows how these are shaping current spectatorial practice and popular perceptions of gender, race, political history, and citizenship in the US. She teaches courses on film history and theory, histories of new media, gender and technology studies, and the horror genre.


Katherine Chandler is a critical theorist and Assistant Professor of Culture and Politics in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  Her teaching and research interests draw on science and technology studies, media theory, geography, political theory and art practice. Her current research, "Drone Flight and Failure: the United States' Secret Trials, Experiments and Operations in Unmanning, 1936-1991," studies the pre-history of contemporary pilotless technologies to interrogate conditions that gave rise to their current use by the United States Military in the War on Terror.  She asks how the socio-technical relations formed by drone aircraft map onto and transform the questions of who or what is human? who or what is machine? who or what is an enemy?  The history of these socio-technical networks is one just as much of failure as it is of innovation.  She argues for an account of unmanned systems that links visibility and invisibility, as well as security and failure. These relations are tied to how geopolitics has shifted in the 20th century.