Next week, on Thursday, November 21, the Digital Aesthetics Workshop will host Ben Peters for our third workshop of the 2019-2020 season, for a talk entitled “Declining Russian Media Theory.” We’ll meet in the Humanities Center Board Room at 5 PM.
A first step toward a larger project, Peters test runs ways to decline, in both senses, the problem of Russian media theory. It is a curious fact that nowhere does there exist today, despite the ample intellectual materials, anything that might be called “Russian media theory.” Other scholars have identified various schools of media thought as distinctively German, Canadian, American, French, and British and yet, while the lumber and ruins are ample, no single school of media thought stands today that is recognizably Russian or otherwise discernibly Slavic. Why not? Peters argues not that some kind of Russian media theory should exist (in fact, he offers several reasons why it should not). Rather it is simply to speculate beyond the curious observation that, given the sustained interest in the subject, no distinctively Russian theoretical approach to media has emerged to date. This brief, in turn modest and immodest, and necessarily speculative essay aims not to articulate such a theory, nor to lament its nonexistence, nor even to call for further commentary in that direction. Instead this talk aims to take a step backwards to reflect on the causes of that curious fact, to navigate some obstacles standing in the way of its articulation, to sound out and explore the declensions of such a media theoretic grammar, and to excavate the pre-dispositional grounds of possibility for a Russian—or perhaps Slavic—media theoretic tradition.
Benjamin Peters is a media scholar interested in plumbing uncharted media histories and theories, particularly in the Soviet century. He is also author of How Not to Network a Nation (MIT Press 2016), editor of Digital Keywords (Princeton UP 2016), the Hazel Rogers Associate Professor and Chair of Media Studies at the University of Tulsa, and an affiliated fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School.