deadline for submissions: 
February 17, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Department of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago


The 18th Annual Graduate Student Conference, April 28-29, 2023

Department of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago


"Causes explain because causes make the difference between the phenomenon occurring and its not occurring. This is connected to the idea of control, since we control effects through causes that make a difference, causes without which the effect would not occur."

-Peter Lipton, What Good is an Explanation?


For good reason, Cinema and Media Studies focuses on effect. What do media objects do? What impact do they have? The object of the effect may change. Is it on the viewer? An idea? Culture(s)? We even have the tools to discuss the effects of an entire medium down to the effect of a particular shot. These observations hold great value in building a categorical and ontological understanding of media’s forms and objects. However, there is still an explanatory gap. As Peter Lipton puts it, “knowing that something is the case is necessary but not sufficient for understanding why it is the case." Launching from Lipton’s description of what constitutes a “good explanation,” we aim to reframe the discussion by seeking accounts for why media, in its various forms, has the influence it does. What we gain in good explanations is a path to understanding and agency. 


The guiding point of Cause/Effect is less a kind of topic than an aim—to account for what causes and creates our media experiences. Why do some films elicit tears time and time again? Why does a video go viral? Why does some propaganda work and others not? The goal of the conference is to center on the causes that generate identifiable effects of media forms in order to further our understanding of the medium and its objects, and so gain a sense of the points of control. In explaining such points of control, we may attend to the structures of influence at play—both internally and externally–within film and media. 


Potential topics include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Propaganda, state media

  • Radicalization 

  • Counter radicalization, inoculation

  • Documentary

  • Educational Media

  • News

  • Fake news 

  • Viral phenomena 

  • Social media platforms

  • Fan attachments

  • Memes

  • Film genres

  • Film canon

  • Technological infrastructures

  • Algorithms

These may be tackled in explanatory manners that include methods of formal, social, cultural, and political analysis, cognitive studies, and philosophical approaches as a means for identifying the causes that bring about effects we witness and experience. Abstracts should be no longer than 500 words and should include a bio of no more than 150 words. Submissions should be sent by February 17th to