Wondering at Then-New Media

Phenakistoscope
Phenakistoscope
The countdown is on, the ball is dropping—I am almost ready to holler “Happy New (School) Year!” and head into the classroom. I am teaching a Reading Popular Culture course this semester, and, so between rounds of rubric and syllabus design have been wracking my brains to figure out how to get my students engaged not only with new media, but also with old media.

Alan’s most recent post got me wondering how to get my students to engage with Victorian and twentieth-century media in a way that helps them see a medium as new, cutting edge, the Google glasses of its time (or indeed, perhaps more exciting than Google glasses. The glasses seem, by and large, to be met with a world weariness: “Another gadget? They look so terribly uncool”). Alan, quite rightly, warns against being sucked in by nineteenth-century newspapers’ celebratory accounts of then-new media. That said, while I would Continue reading “Wondering at Then-New Media”

How to write (and how not to write) a scholarly book review

I’m sure I speak for all of us at the Floating Academy when I say how grateful I am to those academics who commit their time and energy to the various volunteer roles of editors, advisory board members, and manuscript readers, and thereby help create the forums where we can read the work of other scholars and publish our own research. In recent conversations with friends and colleagues in editorial roles, however, I have detected a pattern that concerns me and it relates to all the ways that we scholars, the very ones who benefit from this volunteer labor, make an editor’s role more challenging than it needs to be. Whether through missing deadlines, not responding to queries in a timely way, or not being as careful as we might be in our writing and documentation, many of us add untold hours and stress to our colleagues working in editorial roles. Continue reading “How to write (and how not to write) a scholarly book review”

The Victorian new media demo as a performance genre

As I’ve been finishing off the manuscript for my book The Shakespearean Archive: Experiments in New Media from the Renaissance to Postmodernity, I’ve been realizing that a spin-off project could explore the new media demo as an emergent performance genre with a cultural history of its own. This should be a familiar genre thanks in part to Steve Jobs’s sense of theatricality in his Apple rollout presentations, which serve as a kind of technology theatre. Another famous tech demo from the era of modern computing is Douglas Englebart’s so-called “Mother of All Demos,” which gave the world its first look at now-commonplace features like a windowed GUI, a computer mouse and pointer, word processing, hypertext, real-time collaborative document editing (think GoogleDocs), and teleconferencing — and this was in 1968 (!!). (There’s plenty of surviving video of this particular demo, which is worth a look.) Considering this kind of event as a cultural and social phenomenon — and as a performance susceptible to critical interpretation — is something I often do with my students, and someday I’d like to teach a course on the cultural history of the tech demo at U Toronto’s iSchool. Continue reading “The Victorian new media demo as a performance genre”