SCMS Panel CFP: The Unreproducible

deadline for submissions: 
August 10, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Andrew Lison
contact email: 

Call for Panelists: The Unreproducible

Mediation is predicated upon the reproduction of sensation; without reproducibility, or at least its semblance, we could not speak of films, recordings, books, performances, or software programs as coherent objects. Yet, for a variety of reasons, media objects themselves are not always perfectly reproducible. Radio and television programs, especially in the early broadcast era, may have never been recorded. Alternately, they may have been captured only to be subsequently overwritten by other programming in order to conserve storage media. Legendary performances such as the debut of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring may be known only through reports, while wax cylinder recordings may exist, yet be too fragile to play any longer. In short, the material exigencies of mediation confront the drive toward ubiquitous reproduction exemplified by our contemporary, digitally-networked moment in what anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing has described in a very different context as the “friction” between the particular and the universal, the local and the global.

This proposed Society for Cinema and Media Studies 2020 panel seeks to bring scholars working on a variety of media forms together to discuss the limits of reproducibility within mediation and media studies. Topics may include, but are not limited to, empirical considerations of “lost” media objects, “dead” formats, or technological obstacles to digitzation and theoretical reflections on mechanical reproduction (e.g., Walter Benjamin), its electronic successors, or, ultimately, loss as it relates to mediation in either technical (compression) or psychoanalytic (mourning/melancholy) registers. How do such cases challenge and/or illuminate the push to render virtually all media globally available online, a trend increasingly indistinguishable from the larger tendency toward universal equivalence under global capitalism? In this regard, we are especially interested in proposals addressing challenges to digital reproducibility from with the realm of digital media itself (e.g., unemulatable systems, collector hoarding of “rare” games, etc.) and those focused on technologies or objects that are over a century old and/or of non-Western origin.

Interested panelists please submit a 250-300 word abstract, a 50-100 word bio, and a 4-5 entry bibliography to by August 10, 2019. Those who do so will be notified of the panel's constitution by August 14, 2019.

Andrew Lison is Assistant Professor of Media Study at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.