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Seminar: "From Cyberspace to Mobile Phones: A History of Expanded Television"

Thursday, January 16, 2014
12:00 AM
1014 Tisch Hall

Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies <br> Thursday Speaker Series <br> Thomas LaMarre, McGill University

Seminar with pre-circulated readings (link to access PDF version).

Seminar features Thomas LaMarre (presenter, McGill University), Megan Ankerson (commentator, University of Michigan), Lisa Nakamura (commentator, University of Michigan), and Leslie Pincus (chair, University of Michigan).

Abstract: Media and technology studies have increasingly focused attention on the need to produce workable dialogues or analytic sites between two definitions of media: the “old materialisms” associated with infrastructures, institutions, and policies; and the “new materialisms” associated with ontologies of process, immateriality, and affect.  This shift comes partly in response to a prior emphasis on looking at historical transformation primarily at the level of technological devices, which tended toward narratives of rupture and remediation: each new medium (centered on a technological device or object) was seen to break with prior media while striving to generate their effects within itself.  Infrastructures were almost exclusively evoked in terms of the ubiquity of networks, with a sense of the inevitability of networks and networking. The challenge has thus arisen of addressing the materiality or “mediality” of infrastructures without reducing them to something purely extensive, just out there, or seeing them as entirely “in here,” that is, embodied in technological devices and experienced as such.

The history of expanded television in Japan affords a prime site for considering material transformations in media forms, technologies, and infrastructures, as well as in media experience.  Expanded television refers (a) to transformations in television infrastructures that have enlarged and altered its scope (broadcast, cable, satellite, DTTV), (b) to transformations in screen ecology (plug-ins such as console games and VCRs as well as companion devices such as computers and mobile phones), and (c) and media forms (new formats such video release, web release, programming, media mix). I will trace the continuities and discontinuities between two configurations of “infrastructure experience” associated with expanded television. The first configuration comprises the historical co-emergence of cyberspace, television plug-in screen ecologies, and Original Video Animation (OVA). The second configuration includes wifi, computers and mobile phones as second TV screens, and video-game-related late night animation.  Because I wish to highlight the history of media experience in conjunction with infrastructures, I will explore how cyberspace transforms from a site in which to stage outer space adventure to one of exploration of inner space and identity, at the same time that cable plug-ins gradually lose their threat of violence to body.  Such transformations allow for expanded television to transform into a site of media attunement (wireless connection) to increasingly self-contained televisual worlds that oscillate between protection from and exposure to catastrophe.

Featured Guest: Thomas LaMarre teaches in East Asian Studies and Communications Studies at McGill University.  His books include Uncovering Heian Japan: An Archaeology of Sensation and Inscription (2000), Shadows on the Screen: Tanizaki Jun’ichirô on Cinema and Oriental Aesthetics (2005), and The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation (2009).