search the archive
search the archive
VLT Issue 75: Media Distribution
full name / name of organization:
The Velvet Light Trap
Although distribution has long been known as the economic linchpin of the media industries, it remains the least studied aspect of that industry, conjuring images of dour economists combing through dusty ledgers. But scholarly attention is shifting.
As recent technologies upend older distribution models, they both facilitate alternative media cultures and drive traditional stakeholders into new conflicts. Media distribution, once the invisible link between production and exhibition/reception, increasingly reveals the major struggles over cultural and economic power that have long invigorated the field. Scholars studying contemporary media have energetically responded to the implications of the rapidly transforming landscape of media distribution, where new agents reroute industrial circuits and burgeoning networks of often “illicit” circulation form. As a result, the study of distribution now encompasses a range of methods and approaches including not only economic analysis but also cultural criticism, ethnography, and geo-mapping.
The last decade’s upheavals have sensitized media historians to the long-standing effects of and struggles over distribution. Scholars have re-explored historical subjects with newfound contemporary relevance, such as the emergence of copyright, film libraries, labor’s attempts to intervene in licensing content, and Hollywood’s analysis of its audiences. Moreover, new research tools have provided access to new sources and methods that encourage us to scrutinize received wisdom about the emergence of the commercial film industry, classical Hollywood’s mass audience and easy domination of world markets, and the formation of broadcast networks, as well as the historical existence of alternative distribution networks.
Issue #75 of VLT, “Media Distribution,” seeks to further address the complex effects of and determinations shaping forms of media distribution. The editors are particularly interested to bring together historical and contemporary case studies, as well as theoretical work, investigating the implications of struggles to control the conditions under which media circulates. To that end, we invite submissions that explore the economic, political, social, and aesthetic effects of media distribution.
Suggested topics include, but are by no means limited to:
About the Journal
Graduate students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of Texas at Austin coordinate issues in alternation, and each issue is devoted to a particular theme chosen by the graduate-student editors. VLT’s Editorial Advisory Board includes such notable scholars as Charles Acland, Richard Allen, Harry Benshoff, Mark Betz, Michael Curtin, Kay Dickinson, Radhika Gajjala, Scott Higgins, Jon Kraszewski, Diane Negra, Michael Newman, Nicholas Sammond, Beretta Smith-Shomade, Jacob Smith, Jonathan Sterne, Cristina Venegas, and Michael Williams. VLT’s graduate-school editors are assisted by their local faculty advisors: Mary Beltrán, Ben Brewster, Jonathan Gray, Michele Hilmes, Lea Jacobs, Derek Johnson, Vance Kepley, Charles Ramírez Berg, Thomas Schatz, and Janet Staiger.
Recent & Forthcoming in VLT
No. 72 - Useful Media: Industrial, Educational, Institutional (Fall 2013)
No. 73 - Media Cultures of the Early Cold War Era (Spring 2014)