“Declining Russian Media Theory” — Ben Peters at Digital Aesthetic Workshop


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.

More info:

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.

Images of Discorrelation, MECS Lecture July 3, 2019 (Video)

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On July 3, 2019, I delivered a talk related to my forthcoming book, Discorrelated Images, at Leuphana Universität’s Institute of Advanced Study on Media Cultures of Computer Simulation (MECS), during my fellowship in Lüneburg. The video is now online, and can be viewed here (or the direct link to YouTube).

Thanks to Florian Hoof for the kind invitation, and for everyone at MECS and the Center for Digital Cultures for hosting me this summer!

The Algorithmic Nickelodeon

Yesterday was the first event on my trip to Germany and Switzerland: the symposium Videographic Criticism: Aesthetics and Methods of the Video Essay, organized by Kathleen Loock, and with talks/screenings from her, Allison de Fren, Chloé Galibert-Laîné and Kevin B. Lee, Liz Greene, David Verdeure, and myself.

Above, you will find my video contribution, “The Algorithmic Nickelodeon,” which builds on work started at the Duke S-1: Speculative Sensation Lab during my time there as a postdoc. The video is offered as proof-of-concept for an experimental approach to videographic theory–using video not (only) as a vehicle for theoretical expression but as a more radically transductive medium of media-theoretical exploration and transformation.

Desktop Horror: Screening Fear/Fearing Screens — JFK Institute, Freie Universität Berlin


On June 26, 2019, I’ll be giving a talk titled “Desktop Horror: Screening Fear/Fearing Screens” at the Culture/Literature Research Colloquium at the JFK Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin. Thanks to Frank Kelleter, Alexander Starre, and everyone else involved for inviting me and making this happen!

The Horror of Discorrelation—Kristiansand, Norway


This week, thanks to a kind invitation from Julia Leyda, I have been in Trondheim, Norway, where I’ve led two workshops on videographic scholarship and pedagogy with Kathleen Loock and, today, gave a talk on “Screen Time.” Tomorrow, March 29, 2019, I will head down south, where I will be speaking on “The Horror of Discorrelation” at University of Agder in Kristiansand, Norway. Thanks to Ahmet Gürata for inviting me!

Can Computers Create Meaning? — N. Katherine Hayles at Digital Aesthetics Workshop


Coming up in a few weeks: N. Katherine Hayles will be joining the Digital Aesthetics Workshop to present some of her latest research. This session will take place in the Humanities Center Board Room, on Tues. Feb 12, from 5-7 PM. Her event is entitled Can Computers Create Meaning? A Cyber-Bio-Semiotic Perspective.

We anticipate a full event, so you must RSVP to this google form link. We will circulate Hayles’s paper, which she will briefly introduce and then invite conversation around it. Here is her abstract:

Can Computers Create Meaning? A Cyber-Bio-Semiotic Perspective

N. Katherine Hayles

One of the promising areas to understand how computers cognize is biosemiotics, a field that draws on C. S. Peirce’s semiotics to argue that all living organisms generate and understand meanings appropriate to their contexts, even plants and unicellular organisms.  Although these approaches by such theorists as Jesper Hoffmeyer, Wendy Wheeler, and Terrence Deacon have considerable explanatory power, they share a common blind spot in arguing that such signifying capabilities apply only to living organisms, not computers.  However, many of their objections to networked and programmed machines creating, disseminating and understanding meanings become moot if the relevant unit is considered to be human plus computer rather than either alone.  The human species, this paper will argue, is in the midst of entering into a deep symbiosis with computational media. Still incomplete, this symbiosis is akin to endosymbiosis, where previously independently living organisms unite into a single entity, as happened for example with the absorption of mitochondria by eukaryotic cells.  The paper will conclude by exploring the implications of this symbiosis-in-progress.

Out Now: Serial Figures and the Evolution of Media in NECSUS

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The latest issue of NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies has just come out. As always, it is freely accessible as an open-access publication, and it is chock full of articles, reviews, audiovisual essays, and a special section on “Mapping.”

Among the feature articles is an article I co-authored with Ruth Mayer on “Border Crossings: Serial Figures and the Evolution of Media” — a text that outlines some of the topics we covered in our research project within the DFG Research Unit on “Popular Seriality” from 2010 – 2013. This is a slightly revised translation of a text that first appeared in German in Frank Kelleter’s edited collection Populäre Serialität: Narration – Evolution – Distinktion. Zum seriellen Erzählen seit dem 19. Jahrhundert. We are happy to see this text made available in English, and especially happy that it found a home at NECSUS, which is the perfect venue for this transatlantic and interdisciplinary kind of media studies work.

Check out the whole issue here!