Opening the Vault: Media Industry Studies and its Archives

deadline for submissions: 
November 27, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Spectator / University of Southern California
contact email: 

Deadline for Submission: November 27, 2020

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous scholars have been unable to physically access archival records, locked away for an indefinite period of time. In the present, various media industries—studios, streaming services, talent agencies, and more —have continued to announce deals, make public statements, and present a digital front that veils the story underneath. With continued conglomeration and corporate security practices winnowing access to materials, even smaller stakes questions—even the amount of eyes on any particular work on digital platforms—are becoming increasingly impossible to uncover without records.

This moment of “pause” for many archival documents thus calls us to both reflect and think creatively. Thomas Schatz notes in The Genius of the System, “Hollywood left its legacy not only on celluloid but also on paper.” Contracts, correspondence, policy memos, audits, balance sheets, and more have all been used to generate new insights into day-to-day operations of moving image production and its political, economic, and social consequences. What does the archive, as a collection of documents, a set of practices, and an institution, reveal about the formation and continued domination of industries? What can those attempting to speak truth to power without records do in their absence? 

This issue aims to highlight approaches to archives and methods of employing them in studies of media industries. How have scholars used unexpected collections or unique approaches to interrogate and challenge them? What spaces remain uncovered and unexamined?  We also ask scholars to interrogate their artifacts as objects of material culture, reflecting on their agency, veracity, absence, and their construction of authority in the archives.  Thinking of the legitimacy of certain sources, as well as interrogating those disregarded, will allow a new form of understanding of not just the methodology of media industries studies but also its critical legacy. 

We encourage scholarship from any time period and across the globe, ranging from narrative film production to new media platforms that demonstrate how these routinely used documents inform their arguments. We also encourage archivists who would like to speak from their perspective to current ongoing transitions to submit. We particularly hope to hear from diverse voices examining industries that have remained understudied by the field that can highlight issues that push the field forward. Authors should focus on new avenues of research while reflecting how their particularly sources can bring new avenues of inquiries into power, race, gender, labor, and creativity. 

Possible Topics:

  • Histories with Unexpected Archival Sources
  • Creative Uses of Public Records
  • Reflections on the Transition by Archvisits
  • Reflections on Challenges and Negotiations with Business or State Archives
  • Legal Case Records as Historical Sources
  • Absent and Missing Archives
  • Alternative Sourcing, Classified Documents and “Hacks” (ie. The Sony Hack)
  • Big Data Approaches
  • Interrogating Public Releases and Press Culpability

Proposal Initiative: In this current moment, it is understood that many in academia lack institutional support and mentorship that support individuals in their pathway to publishing. For this special issue, Spectator is offering a “First Look” with feedback on project proposals (with a word count between 300 and 500 words, plus bibliography) sent to the above email before October 1, 2020. The goal will be to help scholars in need by encouraging and refining scholarship before it reaches the desk, providing reflection and support specifically aimed at gearing the work for publication in the journal. While this initiative does not guarantee publication, Spectator hopes individuals who are often discouraged from publication will use this opportunity to receive strong and encouraging feedback.

Spectator is a biannual publication and submissions that address the above topics in the following areas are now invited for submission:

 Include your contact information

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone
  • E-mail

Manuscripts to be considered for publication should be sent to either of the following:

  • By Email (preferred):
  • By Mail: Peter Labuza, 3 Admiral Drive, Unit 472, Emeryville, CA  94608

Manuscripts should include the title of the contribution and the name (s) of authors. As well as the postal address, e-mail address, and phone numbers for author who will work with the editor on any revisions. All pages should be numbered consecutively. Contributions should not be more than 5,000 words. Please include a brief abstract for publicity. Authors should also include a brief biographic entry.

Articles submitted to the Spectator should not be under consideration by any other journal.

Book Reviews may vary in length from 300 to 1,000 words. Please include title of book, retail price and ISBN at the beginning of the review.

Forum or Additional Section contributions can include works on new archival or research facilities or methods as well as other relevant works related to the field.

Electronic Submissions and Formatting. Authors should send copies of their work via e-mail as electronic attachments. Please keep backup files. Files should be Microsoft Word in PC or Mac format, depending on the editor's preference. Endnotes should conform to the Chicago Manual of Style.

Upon acceptance, a format guideline will be forwarded to all contributors as to image and text requirements.