Special issue: "The Allure of Obsolescence"

deadline for submissions: 
June 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Artifact & Apparatus: Journal of Media Archaeology

We are excited to announce the launch of and call for papers for a new peer-reviewed, open-access online journal, Artifact & Apparatus: Journal of Media Archaeology. We invite scholars, curators, and practitioners from art history, film and media studies, library and information science, science and technology studies, and related fields to contribute articles on the history, theory, aesthetics, and practice of media objects, broadly conceived. From digital information networks to early electrical communications tools; from closed-circuit video surveillance systems to mechanical typewriters; and from pre-cinematic optical toys to virtual reality artworks, we invite contributors to reconsider the material objects that record, store, transmit, and reproduce texts, images, sounds, and information.

Why "artifact and apparatus"? We want to harness these words' multiple meanings to encourage a revision of media history grounded in its material artifacts and technological apparatuses—both physical and virtual objects (lantern slides, video files, wax cylinders, newsprint) and the traces of their mediation and marks of their materiality (signal loss, bit-rot, deterioration, decomposition), as well as the instruments, machines, devices, and equipment (computers, cameras, cables, projectors) and their functions and dispositifs.

For our inaugural issue, "The Allure of Obsolescence," planned for publication December 2021, we invite contributors to think about the meaning of "obsolescence" in the writing of media history. Playing on the title of Arlette Farge's The Allure of the Archives, we encourage media artists, archivists, and archaeologists to explore our collective preoccupation with "obsolete" media formats and technologies: What is their hold on us? Why do some people feel compelled to save and collect outdated technologies? How can we safeguard their continued existence? Should we? and, if so, whose responsibility is it? What treasures and secrets do these objects hide, and what can they reveal about past and present media cultures? Is "obsolescence" a productive lens through which to write and read media history?

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:
• The preservation, collection, and maintenance of obsolete media and technology.
• Media forensics and the reverse-engineering of now-obsolete media technologies.
• The use of obsolete media in artistic practices (photochemistry, analog media).
• Obsolescence and/as fetishization.
• The resurgence and recommodification of obsolete media (polaroids, vinyl records).
• Planned obsolescence.
• Obsolete institutions, jobs, and practices.
• Archives and media-archaeological collections.
• Historical time, chronology, and alternative media-technological temporalities.
• Obsolescence and/as loss of history and cultural memory.
• Migration, remediation, and digitization.
• Obsolescence and/as nostalgia.
• The thrill, joy, and wonder of playing with obsolete media objects.
• Histories and traces of matter and material culture.
• New materialist and/or object-oriented-ontological approaches to obsolescence.

We invite academic articles in the 4,000-6,000-word range, as well as experimental essays, demonstrations of artifacts and apparatuses, artists' manifestos and portfolios, personal recollections and reflections, along with other forms. If you'd like to propose an alternative format, please reach out to the editor at journal@artifactapparatus.com.


Submissions and timeline

 We are happy to work with contributors to develop their articles, and welcome you to get in touch with us to discuss ideas and receive feedback at any point before the deadline. Contributors may submit a 250-word proposal and short bio to journal@artifactapparatus.com by April 15 for early feedback; OR to submit a full 4,000-6,000-word article by June 30. Contributors should expect to receive feedback from peer-reviewers by September 15, and revised articles will be due November 1. The inaugural issue of Artifact & Apparatus is scheduled for publication in December 2021.

Submissions should be 4,000-6,000 words, formatted in 12pt Times New Roman, paginated, double-spaced. Citations should adhere to Chicago Manual of Style (Notes and Bibliography) guidelines. Please include a 100-word abstract and short bio. Submit your paper as a Microsoft Word or other preferred word-processor document. Any figures or illustrations should be submitted separately as high-resolution JPEG or TIFF files.

Submission does not guarantee publication. Papers will go through a double-blind peer-review process. The editorial board reserves the right to reject any submission that does not follow these guidelines, unless prior approval has been granted. If you have any questions, please contact the editor at the above email address.


About the journal

Artifact & Apparatus is a peer-reviewed, open-access online journal, and will publish one themed volume annually. The first issue, "The Allure of Obsolescence," is planned for publication in December 2021.



media archaeology; media materiality; media archives; media art; digital media; material and visual culture.