CFP: Media in Transition 6: stone and papyrus, storage and transmission

it's baaaack! another call for papers for the 6th media in transition conference. i thoroughly enjoyed the 2005 meeting, which focused on the "work of stories," and this one looks like it will generate yet another excellent collection of papers and presentations

Media in Transition 6: stone and papyrus, storage and transmission

International Conference
April 24-26, 2009
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


In his seminal essay “The Bias of Communication” Harold Innis distinguishes between time-based and space-based media. Time-based media such as stone or clay, Innis agues, can be seen as durable, while space-based media such as paper or papyrus can be understood as portable, more fragile than stone but more powerful because capable of transmission, diffusion, connections across space. Speculating on this distinction, Innis develops an account of civilization grounded in the ways in which media forms shape trade, religion, government, economic and social structures, and the arts.

Our current era of prolonged and profound transition is surely as media-driven as the historical cultures Innis describes. His division between the durable and the portable is perhaps problematic in the age of the computer, but similar tensions define our contemporary situation. Digital communications have increased exponentially the speed with which information circulates. Moore's Law continues to hold, and with it a doubling of memory capacity every two years; we are poised to reach transmission speeds of 100 terabits per second, or something akin to transmitting the entire printed contents of the Library of Congress in under five seconds.

Such developments are simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. They profoundly challenge efforts to maintain access to the vast printed and audio-visual inheritance of analog culture as well as efforts to understand and preserve the immense, enlarging universe of text, image and sound available in cyberspace.

What are the implications of these trends for historians who seek to understand the place of media in our own culture?

What challenges confront librarians and archivists who must supervise the migration of print culture to digital formats and who must also find ways to preserve and catalogue the vast enlarging universe of words and images generated by new technologies?

How are shifts in distribution and circulation affecting the stories we tell, the art we produce, the social structures and policies we construct?

What are the implications of this tension between storage and transmission for education, for individual and national identities, for notions of what is public and what is private?

We invite papers from scholars, journalists, media creators, teachers, writers and visual artists on these broad themes.

Potential topics might include:
  • The digital archive
  • The future of libraries and museums
  • The past and future of the book
  • Mobile media
  • Historical systems of communication
  • Media in the developing world
  • Social networks
  • Mapping media flows
  • Approaches to media history
  • Education and the changing media environment
  • New forms of storytelling and expression
  • Location-based entertainment
  • Hyperlocal media and civic engagement
  • New modes of circulation and distribution
  • The transformation of television -- from broadcast to download
  • Cosmopolitanism backlashes against media change
  • Virtual worlds and digital tourism
  • The continuity principle: what endures or resists digital transformation?
  • The fate of reading
Abstracts of no more than 500 words or full papers should be sent to Brad Seawell at seawell@mit.edu no later than Friday, Jan. 9, 2009. We will evaluate abstracts and full papers on a rolling basis and early submission is highly encouraged. All submissions should be sent as attachments in a Word format. Submitted material will be subject to editing by conference organizers. Email is preferred, but submissions can be mailed to:

Brad Seawell
MIT 14N-430
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139


scenes from an election

tuesday afternoon, 11/4, along walnut street, from university city to west philly, a group of girls - ranging in age from 8, 9 years old up through high school ago, holding an obama/biden banner, and matching signs and chanting impromptu cheers, waving at passers-by and getting high-fived by strangers


three ten-year-olds playing a hybrid dodgeball/soccer game on the grounds of a high school respond to a joking question about whether they voted with a serious answer: of course! then, in unison, "obama!!!!" they return to playing their game, grins on their faces.


ms. edwards, a veteran resident of the neighborhood, known and loved (and possibly feared) by all, stands with a kind and menacing air and addresses each voter as he or she passes through the doors of the high school. she is very concerned with the condition of everyone's teeth and is overjoyed when she sees a beautiful set of pearly whites on one young man who has come to vote. she dotes on him, as only a (grand)motherly figure can do, on his way and on his way out. he grins wider, giving her more reason to continue her praise. "you made my day just now," says the young man, who was born in new york and whose parents emigrated from africa. he walks away with bounce in his step.