Backwards Glances 2019

deadline for submissions: 
July 1, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Screen Cultures

Backward Glances 2019: REBOOT

The Screen Cultures Graduate Student ConferenceDepartment of Radio/Television/Film, Northwestern University

September 27 & 28, 2019

Keynote Speakers: Professors Susan Murray and Reem Hilu

Submission Deadline: July 1, 2019

Fuller House, Twin Peaks, Spiderman, Roseanne, The Twilight Zone, Tomb Raider.Our popular film and television landscape is inundated with those media properties now popularly known as reboots. Whether the proliferation of reboots constitutes a true revival, giving new life to old texts, or an aesthetic emergency signaling the end of originality, it prompts us to ask what the notion of the reboot has to offer in considering the relationship between present and past. Backward Glances, Northwestern’s biennial graduate student media and historiography conference, invites submissions addressing the theme of “reboot” in all its many valences.

A reboot may mean a restart or a reinvention. It can involve rearticulating a previously existing topic, recreating a pre-existing work, or revisiting a long-forgotten idea. It may be a reimagining of something we think we understand, or a re-dissemination of a message that older generations have heard and that newer ones have yet to receive. A reboot may be a renewal, but in the age of endless remakes, the utility and cultural work of the reboot must be called into question. What does the rebooted text reveal about its past and present context? Does our theory need a reboot as much as our childhood favorites?

Like so many neologisms, “reboot” comes to us from the world of computing. An electronic system is “booted up” when the hardware is switched on and ready for use, and we reboot our tech when our protocols glitch, when we update our operating system, or we want a clean technological slate to get our programs running smoothly. Media theorists have often revisited technology as model and metaphor for gender, race, ability, and mechanisms of power. How might the concept of the “reboot” help us understand not only aesthetic and industrial cycles, but larger shifts in culture, politics, and power?

Further topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Remakes vs. Sequels vs. Reboots

  • Casting and labor

  • Memory and nostalgia

  • Cross- and transcultural remakes

  • The social, political, and cultural implications of reinvention

  • The history of reboots

  • Authorship and fandom  

  • Zombie media and hacking

  • Reimagining genres and aesthetics

  • Cultural and political cycles

  • Intertextuality/paratextuality/multiplatform storytelling

  • Franchises

  • Racial difference, racialized identity, and racism in remakes

  • Multigenerational viewing

  • Remixing and reappropriation

Our keynote speakers will be Susan Murray and Reem Hilu. Dr. Murray is a professor in the department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. She is the author of Bright Signals: A History of Color Television (Duke University Press, 2018), which has been awarded the 2019 Katherine Singer Kovacs Book Award presented by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and the 2019 Michael Nelson Book Prize (biennial) presented by the International Association for Media and History. Her work has appeared in journals such as Public Culture, Screen, The Journal of Visual Culture, and Technology and Culture as well as popular outlets such as The Atlantic and Newsweek. She is also the author of Hitch Your Antenna to the Stars: Early Television and Broadcast Stardom (Routledge, 2005), the coeditor of Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture (NYU Press, 2004; second edition, 2009) with Laurie Ouellette, and is currently in the process of researching her next book project: a history of the development and use of closed-circuit television in a range of contexts such medicine, education, industry, policing, and the military. She is associate faculty in Cinema Studies, sits on the advisory board of the NYU Center for the Humanities, and is a Peabody Awards faculty judge.

Dr. Hilu is an assistant professor of Film and Media Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. She received her Ph.D. in Screen Cultures from Northwestern University in 2017. Her work focuses on the history of digital media and the relationship between gender, domesticity, and technological change. She is working on a book that explores the shifting norms and practices of intimacy and sociability that were catalyzed by the introduction of computers into domestic space and family life in the 1970s and 1980s. This project attempts to expand our understanding of computers in the home by not only considering desktop machines and video game consoles, but also researching everyday objects like toys and appliances that were embedded with computer chips during this period – helping computers to become entrenched into intimate relations between family members in daily life. Her article on voice, girlhood, and digital media entitled “Girl Talk and Girl Tech: Computer Talking Dolls and the Sounds of Girls’ Play,” is published in The Velvet Light Trap (Fall 2016). Professor Hilu has also taught at Northwestern University and McGill University. Her research interests include the history and theory of video games, digital media and computing, feminist media history, children’s media culture, educational technology, and interactive television.

We invite scholarship from across disciplines and methodologies, backward-, forward-, and present-facing. Please send an abstract of up to 300 words and a bio of up to 100 words to by July 1, 2019. Participants will be notified by mid-July. More information about the conference can be found at