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Archive for September 2010

Tenure-track Assistant Professor, Program in Comparative Media Studies, MIT

MIT’s Program in Comparative Media Studies in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Science is seeking a tenure-track assistant professor of media studies to start in the Fall of 2011. Candidates should have a Ph.D. with a record of significant publication (or the promise thereof), research activity and/or experience relevant to civic media. Relevant areas of specialization include the contemporary practice, history, or theory of one or more of the following: user-generated content; forms of civic engagement such as citizen journalism, journalism and new media, and location-based social networks; innovative uses of media technology; media and democracy; youth culture and media literacies. Fluency in a broader array of theories, histories and practices associated with media studies will be considered a plus. Applicants should have teaching experience. Please send a letter of application, C.V., three letters of recommendation, and hard copy samples of your research and publications to Prof. James G. Paradis, Interim Director, Program in Comparative Media Studies, Room E15-331, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139. Electronic submissions may be sent to cms-faculty-apps@mit.edu. The application deadline is December 9th, 2010. MIT is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer.

AoIR 11.0 Gothenburg, Sweden Schedule Available

The schedule for AoIR 11.0, taking place in Gothenburg, Sweden, is out.  Conference organizers recently tweeted:

@ir_11: Schedule for AOIR IR11: Overview http://bit.ly/9cGZb2 or full prog 25pages http://bit.ly/cemZfj #ir11

Looking forward to it.  Conference dates are October 21st – 23rd.

Three tenure-line positions, Communication, Culture & Technology, Georgetown

Technology Studies

The Communication, Culture & Technology (CCT) M.A. program at Georgetown University focuses on the relationship between new computational technologies of communication and areas such as science, scholarship, culture, government, media, business, journalism, and the arts.  The program is developing a new lab, which will be a hub of technology knowledge, discovery and research, connecting CCT and Georgetown to the larger world of practice and innovation in all sectors where technology is central. In particular, the lab will provide a means for CCT to create partnerships with leading private sector information organizations developing innovations in digital media, knowledge management, and Internet applications; to remain at the forefront of research by creating relationships with initiatives in the Digital Humanities and the Information Schools; and push forward the boundaries of knowledge through external support by agencies and foundations such as NSF and Mellon.

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Getting to Grips with Video Gaming’s Past, Present and Future: Exploring “Platform Studies”

A version of this essay originally appeared at http://www.hastac.org/blogs/sarahr/exploring-platform-studies on February 9, 2010.

>verbose
>maximum verbosity.

The  concept of the “platform” has been around for as long as computing, and computer gaming, has existed, underneath, and underpinning, our video games, digital art, electronic literature, and other forms of expressive computing. Int he recent past, digital media researchers and scholars have begun to approach computer language, or “code,”  as a theoretical starting point to situate computers and computing in the culture, but there have been fewer attempts to go even deeper, to investigate the basic hardware and software systems upon which programming takes place, that are the foundation for computational expression and that define our interaction in digital contexts (2).

Just as Alex Galloway has made a call to study the meaning and import of decisions made around protocol (2009), platform studies is proposing similar inquiries to be made around the hardware, on its own and as it interacts with operating systems, as the foundational environments in which we engage with digital media and particularly with games, for it is these constructs and systems that dictate our interactions with the machines and the words they propose to us. This encompasses the worlds the games invite us into, as well as their physical form. When examined from this perspective it becomes clear that there is much to be (un)covered, discovered, and included in under the rubric of “platform studies.”

Contemporary 3D virtual worlds are expansive, taking up the equivalent of thousands and thousands of miles of real-world space. The worlds they render on our screens are highly detailed, with every last shadow, ambient sound, ray of light and potential player interaction calculated and accounted for. Worlds are open to exploration; movement can take place on any vertex.

assasinscreed.png

Actual screenshot of gameplay in “Assassin’s Creed 2,” XBox 360, 2009

As for me, I am old enough to remember what we called the Atari 2600 or, more simply, the Atari, in its first iteration (actually, I remember Pong, too, although I admittedly had access to a 2600 first). When I played Space Invaders or Tank, or any other of the earliest Atari games, I was captivated by my ability to affect movement and interaction with the TV screen for the Atari was hooked to the family TV screen as its video output device. My physical movements with what now seems like absolutely primitive joysticks and paddles took on a mystical, magical and very powerful aura to my child self. Locating the joystick properly in real physical space directly impacted the pixilated battle on the screen; agility and speed were key. I often struggled to direct the missiles to their proper targets, but I was nonetheless entranced by the 4-bit sound and the rich colors displayed on the screen.


The iconic Atari 2600 joystick, a cultural phenomenon in and of itself.

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The Vast World of Vast Narratives, Fandom and Participatory Culture

Originally posted at http://www.hastac.org/blogs/sarahr/vast-world-vast-narratives-fandom-and-participatory-culture on March 22, 2010

What makes a narrative vast, according to the contributors to the recent MIT volume Third Person? Based on the varied content, spread across multiple media, covered by the book, vast narratives receive their designation not only due to the interior nature of the narrative, which may span unusual lengths when measured in years, amount of content produced, number of media in which the world is present, among other features (Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin 2).

Henry Darger’s images of his Vivian Girls, trapped in an otherworldly battle for tens of thousands of pages written by Darger in virtual seclusion over the course of his adult life.

Yet the volume is also vast, as in catholic, given its broad interpretation of what constitutes a narrative: consider outsider artist/author Henry Darger‘s inclusion alongside other constructed worlds and universes of comic books (Ford and Jenkins), traditional paper and pen gaming (Laws), video games, television programs whose mythologies extend beyond the reach of traditional broadcast and into transmedia, such as in the case of Lost (Lavery). (In the interest of full disclosure: Lost is of particular interest to me at present, as I only discovered it last semester, watching five seasons on Netflix while I read about the show elsewhere.)

Alternate reality games bridge the Lost world beyond the confines of the original television medium, endless clues and the constant suggestion of deeper meaning in the shows symbols, comic book-like world and story building with some characters reading comic books on the show allowing viewers a sense of interactivity with/in the narrative. Is a fantasy or sci-fi setting more easily adaptable to a vast narrative? Is it because of the pliability of the rules, so to speak, of physics, time, space and who can populate the narratives in these genres? Is it due to the relative rigidity of their Dorothy-like structure – Oz vs. Alice’s Wonderland (Bartle)? Is it some combination of the two?

These settings and protocols have begun to seep into our understandings of possibility and potentiality for narrative structure, as well as what is doable (Bartle 107). They have developed into understood sets of rules that become so entrenched in cultural material that they are no longer questioned or their origins, traced. Purchase a new fantasy game for Xbox or PS3 and be asked to create a character who is a magic user, fighter, or healer. Choose armor and weapons and prepare for a quest after learning about the characters world and its complex culture and mythology.  These processes are routine and mundane, and the masses have now become conversant in their operation, mechanisms and tropes

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Digital Labor, Cold-War Roots

A version of this essay was originally posted at http://www.hastac.org/blogs/sarahr/digital-labor-cold-war-roots on February 9, 2010.

Doing some reading over the past week, I was prompted to think about, then comment on, a chapter by Friedrich Kittler on Cold War computing technology and the implicit (and explicit) ways in which an examination of so-called “defense technology” comes into direct contact with, and within the purview of, media studies, information studies and labor studies.

Specifically, I am interested in uncovering the history of these technologies and their development, particularly when the when many defense technologies have been considered value-neutral or even as beneficial (and perhaps were, particularly when they moved from the province of military applications to consumer or mass-market ones). Additionally, the process of uncovering the hidden labor embedded in digital and computing technologies and processes, is inextricalbly tied to the critically important task of uncovering their hidden agendas, applications and roots within the military-academic-industrial complex1.

“The SAGE radar display console seen here presents a picture of the air defense situation within its assigned geographic area. Using buttons and switches on the console, the Air Force Airman First Class who is operating the console can request information to be displayed such as speed, altitude and weapons availability and location, and he can direct action to be taken against an attacker. With the light gun in his right hand, the operator selects radar tracks for identification and display on the SAGE Direction Center’s summary board.” Photo Credit: IBM online archive.

Fred Turner, in a talk a few weeks ago at the University of Illinois, referenced SAGE, for example, one of the first interlinked computer systems, and part of the U.S military’s DEW (distant early warning) system. Kittler notes, in the same writing, that the Semiautomatic Ground Environment Air Defense System, was conceived as an answer to the Soviet atomic fleet, and it brought us everything todays computer users have come to love: from the monitor to networking to mass storage (182). Many of these military innovations have found direct applications and homes in the civilian sector, a spin-off called information society [that] began with the building of a network that connected sensors (radar), effectors (jet planes), and nodes (computers) (182). Not only, therefore, has the technology developed by the military, in conjunction with partners in academe and industrial R&D, made its way into daily life, but so, too, have basic concepts of organization, processes and structures. Any study endeavoring to undertake an examination of these organisms must therefore absolutely examine ties to other systems, projects and goals, particularly during the technological boom of (and promulgated by) the Cold War.

I recently undertook a preliminary (to me) study of a state information system in late 20th century France that was developed for civilians and laypeople in the country2. While this system, popularly known as the Minitel, was fundamentally implemented for the populace at large, by tracing the policy development and goals at the root of the creation of the system, I quickly discovered that military and national sovereignty concerns were, in fact, at the core of this massive national technology project. In fact, a desire to be able to calculate nuclear strikes and impacts in simulation on IBM mainframe computers drove then-president and erstwhile war hero Charles de Gaulle to institute a state information policy where previously there had been none. To this end, Kittler’s comment that since 1941, wars no longer needed men, whether as heroes or as spies, but were victories of machines over other machines (182) does not seem like much of a reach at all.

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Call for Papers: The Third Graduate Student Conference on the History of American Capitalism: “Capitalism in Action”, Harvard University, March 4th-6th, 2011

The Third Graduate Student Conference on the History of American Capitalism: “Capitalism in Action”

Sponsored by the David Howe Fund for Business and Economic History at Harvard University.

Keynote Speaker: Jackson Lears

Discussions of American capitalism often uncritically rely on loaded but abstract terms, from “markets” to “capital.” This conference aims to bring together emerging scholars who are interested in interrogating the nitty-gritty details of how capitalist systems have been imagined, constructed, maintained, altered, and challenged by an array of different historical actors in the United States and across the globe. What does “the economy” look like once we shift our focus from intangible market models towards the concrete workings of capitalist society and culture? In this conference, we hope to expand our understanding of American history by analyzing many different moments of “capitalism in action.”

We welcome papers by fellow graduate students from many different fields, such as cultural, social or business histories of capitalism. We encourage papers on a range of diverse topics. Possible paper subjects could include anything from mortgage-backed derivatives, land speculation and the geography of garbage to corporate personhood, consumer branding and the political economy of baseball. We welcome the submission of panels as well.

Interested graduate students should submit a C.V. and a 750-word abstract of their paper (description, significance, sources, current status) to:

History of Capitalism Conference
Charles Warren Center
4th Floor Emerson Hall
Cambridge, MA  02138

The submission deadline is Nov 1st, 2010.  Those selected to present will be notified by Nov 19th and receive a stipend towards travel costs.

For additional information, please see: www.fas.harvard.edu/polecon or email histcap@fas.harvard.edu. For the websites of previous conferences, please see www.fas.harvard.edu/~polecon/conference/ and www.fas.harvard.edu/~histcap/.

Faculty supervisor: Professor Sven Beckert

Organizers: Nikolas Bowie, Eli Cook, Jeremy Zallen and Caitlin Rosenthal

Call: History of the Present, a new journal of critical history

History of the Present, a Journal of Critical History is a new peer-reviewed journal published by the University of Illinois Press. The editors (Joan Wallach Scott, Andrew Aisenberg, Brian Connolly, Ben Kakfa, Sylvia Schafer and Mrinalini Sinha) invite submissions that approach history as a critical endeavor for publication in volume 2 number 1 (summer 2012). We are particularly interested in essays that press the boundaries of history’s disciplinary norms. In that spirit, we also seek submissions from scholars thinking through the past in fields outside of history.
We welcome articles that:

-examine the historical construction of categories of knowledge.

-analyze how relationships of power are established and maintained, and how history has served to legitimize or challenge them.

-are explicitly theorized without being restricted to the discipline’s conventional categorizations of method and subject (i.e. social, cultural, intellectual, legal, or political history).

Manuscript submissions and queries to: editors@historyofthepresent.org

Asst. Professor of Media Studies, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison seeks applicants for a tenure-track position at the rank of Assistant Professor in Media and Cultural Studies, to begin August 2011. Ph.D. in a related field required prior to start of appointment. Candidates will be expected to conduct research, develop and teach courses, and supervise graduate students in the critical/cultural analysis of television and electronic media with a specialization in at least one of the following: global media, gender and/or identity studies, or industry/production studies. Candidates must show potential for excellence in scholarly research and teaching. See also http://commarts.wisc.edu. Please submit a CV and a letter detailing interests and capabilities and arrange to have sent three letters of reference to Professor and Chair Susan Zaeske, Media and Cultural Studies Search, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 821 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706. Electronic applications will not be accepted. The deadline to assure full consideration is November 14, 2010. EOE/AA. Employment may require a criminal background check.

Unless confidentiality is requested in writing, information regarding the applicants must be released upon request. Finalists cannot be guaranteed confidentiality. The Department of Communication Arts is committed to building a culturally diverse intellectual community and strongly encourages applications from women, ethnic minorities, and other underrepresented groups. Questions about the search may be directed to Professor Mary Beltrán at mcbeltran@wisc.edu.

Media and Cultural Studies, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison seeks applicants at either the rank of Assistant Professor, tenure-track, or Associate Professor with tenure in Media and Cultural Studies, to begin August 2011.   Ph.D. in a related field required prior to start of appointment.  Tenure track candidates must show potential for excellence in scholarly research and teaching.  Tenured appointees must have established record of excellence in research and teaching.  Candidates will be expected to conduct research, develop and teach courses, and supervise graduate students in the critical analysis of digital and new media. Those with a demonstrated ability to combine methodological approaches are especially encouraged to apply. The successful candidate will actively participate and teach half of her/his courses in a new interdisciplinary program that seeks to enhance students’ media, visual, technology, and information literacies.  See also http://commarts.wisc.edu. Please submit a CV and a letter detailing interests and capabilities, and arrange to have sent three letters of reference, to Professor and Digital Studies Initiative Chair Robert Glenn Howard, Digital Media Search, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 821 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706. Electronic applications will not be accepted. The deadline to assure full consideration is November 14, 2010. EOE/AA. Employment may require a criminal background check. Unless confidentiality is requested in writing, information regarding the applicants must be released upon request. Finalists cannot be guaranteed confidentiality. The Department of Communication Arts is committed to building a culturally-diverse intellectual community and strongly encourages applications from women, ethnic minorities, and other underrepresented groups. Questions about the search may be directed to Professor Jonathan Gray at jagray3@wisc.edu .

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