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CFP: Media in Transition 6

International Conference

April 24-26, 2009
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In his seminal essay “The Bias of Communication” Harold Innis
distinguishes between time-based and space-based media. Time-based
media such as stone or clay, Innis agues, can be seen as durable,
while space-based media such as paper or papyrus can be understood as
portable, more fragile than stone but more powerful because capable of
transmission, diffusion, connections across space. Speculating on
this distinction, Innis develops an account of civilization grounded
in the ways in which media forms shape trade, religion, government,
economic and social structures, and the arts.

Our current era of prolonged and profound transition is surely as
media-driven as the historical cultures Innis describes. His division
between the durable and the portable is perhaps problematic in the age
of the computer, but similar tensions define our contemporary
situation. Digital communications have increased exponentially the
speed with which information circulates. Moore’s Law continues to
hold, and with it a doubling of memory capacity every two years; we
are poised to reach transmission speeds of 100 terabits per second, or
something akin to transmitting the entire printed contents of the
Library of Congress in under five seconds.

Such developments are simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. They
profoundly challenge efforts to maintain access to the vast printed
and audio-visual inheritance of analog culture as well as efforts to
understand and preserve the immense, enlarging universe of text, image
and sound available in cyberspace.

What are the implications of these trends for historians who seek to
understand the place of media in our own culture?

What challenges confront librarians and archivists who must supervise
the migration of print culture to digital formats and who must also
find ways to preserve and catalogue the vast and increasing range of
words and images generated by new technologies?
How are shifts in distribution and circulation affecting the stories
we tell, the art we produce, the social structures and policies we

What are the implications of this tension between storage and
transmission for education, for individual and national identities,
for notions of what is public and what is private?

We invite papers from scholars, journalists, media creators, teachers,
writers and visual artists on these broad themes. Potential topics
might include:

• The digital archive
• The future of libraries and museums
• The past and future of the book
• Mobile media
• Historical systems of communication
• Media in the developing world
• Social networks
• Mapping media flows
• Approaches to media history
• Education and the changing media environment
• New forms of storytelling and expression
• Location-based entertainment
• Hyperlocal media and civic engagement
• New modes of circulation and distribution
• The transformation of television — from broadcast to download
• Cosmopolitanism backlashes against media change
• Virtual worlds and digital tourism
• The continuity principle: what endures or resists digital
• The fate of reading

Abstracts of no more than 500 words or full papers should be sent to
Brad Seawell no later than Friday, Jan. 9, 2009. We
will evaluate abstracts and full papers on a rolling basis and early
submission is highly encouraged. All submissions should be sent as
attachments in a Word format. Submitted material will be subject to
editing by conference organizers.

Email is preferred, but submissions can be mailed to:

Brad Seawell
MIT 14N-430
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139

Please include a biographical statement of no more than 100 words. If
your paper is accepted, this statement will be used on the conference
Web site.

Please monitor the conference Web site at
for registration information, travel information and conference

Abstracts will be accepted on a rolling basis until Jan. 9, 2009.

The full text of your paper must be submitted no later than Friday,
April 17. Conference papers will be posted to the conference Web site
and made available to all conferees.