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DIY culture and problems of participation

December 13, 2020

I am writing my last ‘lecture’ of the calendar year, based in part on m 2013 book chapter with Caroline Nevejan on the relationship between the new civic culture fostered by the squatters movement and the rise of Amsterdam’s digital culture. I was meant to deliver it as a video clip, but instead I’m constructing it as a kind of digital scavenger hunt. This blog post is one of its ‘breadcrumbs’.

Perhaps it’s a bit easier now in the age of TikTok, but it is sometimes difficult to convey the excitement and seeming radical inclusiveness of the DIY art movements that emerged in the 1970s. Punk, which also featured heavily in the squatters’ movement we’ve been discussing in the lecture is an obvious example. The famous image from the London ‘zine Sideburns No 1 (1977)is pretty much self-explanatory:

I also love to show students a clip of the amazing punk band X-Ray Spex , and ask if they can tell for sure where the band stops and the audience starts.

But creating such participatory spaces often also means bounding them off, or having them be bounded off by social conventions or, as in the case of illegal free radio stations, laws as well. This dynamic is brought home in a great article by my Utrecht colleage Philomeen Lelieveldt & Jitse van Leeuwen where they look at the free radio movement in Amsterdam, and they specifically point to the experimental Radio Proeflokaal Marconi (‘Radio Taster’s Café Marconi’) set up by people from Radio 100. They draw in particlar on work in this article by François Laureys, which quotes Ingrid, one of the DJ’s and instigators of the cafe:

Ingrid, in Laureys, p. 4

But, she pointed out that one of the problems was that the café mostly ‘only attracted marginals’:

ibid. p. 6

A similar dynamic seems to have played out with regard to hacking and digital culture. Indeed XS4ALL and De Digitale Stad were more successful attempts to create broad broad civic engagement with a new medium and with the city itself.

Amusingly enough, the links between squatting and digital participation seem to be a very current theme this week. In that spirit, the next ‘bread crumb’ is here.

And if you want, you can leave a link to your favourite music video or radio station in the comment section below.

In real time

May 4, 2020

Listen: Dr Badenoch has become stuck in time.

Brushing the rust off of this site as an actual blog, lord help us.  My ambition is to do a short series of posts here, some of which will reflect on my past research. You know, in lieu of doing actual research and writing, which is on hold now due to lack of time, due to closed institutions, due to a kind of deer-in-headlights wondering what would be the most relevant work to do.   The ambition even of the blog posts will be challenged by the external factors of juggling working from home with caring for a young child who is out of school, but also internal apprehensions, my own discipline and attention span, plus the fact that my contact lenses tend to gum up by the end of the day during allergy season and I can no longer see the screen very well as I type this.

What I love about my academic discipline is that we try to hold all such disparate factors in the same frame.  To quote from one of my favourite essays by one of my favourite scholars, which feels all the more urgent now:

If we wish to better support the critical work performed by the world’s maintainers, we must recognize that maintenance encompasses a world of standards, tools, practices, and wisdom. Sometimes it deploys machine learning; other times, a mop.  (Shannon Mattern, “Maintenance and Care”)

Maintenance and care have moved more obviously to the forefront of teaching work, and we find ourselves grasping and groping for the necessary standards, tools, practices and wisdom to do that work.  Balancing the need to help keep our students healthy while also keeping ourselves going as sustainably as possible; trying to figure out what it is we absolutely need to salvage from our institutions, our work, and our daily lives takes precedence over any actual course content.  Selective acceptance of crapness is all at once a pedagogical gold standard, a core skill, a desired learning outcome, and a tender mercy.

I am teaching a first-year introduction to media research, and it is now two weeks since the panicked scramble of preparation for the teaching term ended with the digital whimper of zoom meetings.  To keep myself from panicking (I know what it feels like to lose it.  I can tell you with some authority that I nearly lost it) while trying to adapt the syllabus into a digital format, I ended up writing a mission statement of the kind that feels important while you write it, and that most students will probably skip.   Here is the key part (translated from its original Dutch):

One of the biggest challenges in doing media research consists of not seeing our normal familiar media world, media use, and media texts as natural or self-explanatory, but as historically contingent phenomena: how did they come to be?  What are the values behind them?  One of the core questions of our discipline is, indeed: how do the media forms we take as normal become ‘normal’?  Good media research often begins with learning not to see things as normal.  In German it’s called Verfremdung, in English seeing the familiar strange.

The current covid-19 crisis suddenly demands this kind of knowledge about our (media) world from us.  With the disruption of our daily routines sometimes nothing seems normal anymore.  We are suddenly confronted with the specific properties of the media we use, with the meanings and trustworthiness of texts, with our own values and expectations from media, and with the communities we maintain via media [I should have added: or not]

We will explore both the world of now, and the world we knew until very recently, and we will do so with the eyes and ears, the hopes and fears [this does not rhyme in Dutch!], the special attention and increasing distractions of now.  We will do this together, in real-time with the crisis, with the media and the means we have, and do the best we can. We will definitely learn something!  Please be patient with yourself, with each other, and with your teachers.

I sincerely hope I managed to find the right balance between stimulating curiosity and, ummm…. requesting selective acceptance of crapness.

The bit about being “in real time with the crisis” was perhaps one of the most throw-away phrases of the whole thing – a sort of TV news ticker-theme tune to give the ‘make-do-and-mend’ sentiment of the rest of the sentence some sense of urgency and purpose.  Ironically, being in real time has been both one of my most overwhelming sensations of this crisis – and it has little to do with either being purposeful or urgent.

In the last five years, I have become a father, lost a parent, and in between stopped working due to burn-out.   As such, I’d grown used to time contracting and expanding like the accordion in a Piazzolla tango: sometimes vividly reliving parts of my own childhood, sometimes living in a kind of future perfect tense, telling my future self or my future daughter about this time, and sometimes sitting in a deep, aspic-y Now while the rest of the world rushed around getting on with it.   Waiting for a child to be born and for a parent in hospice to die had a lot more in common than I would have expected: it is a life in anticipation of change, the consequences of which are not yet clear.

This crisis has changed that.  For one, the temporal fluctuations I had been experiencing were, in part, based on a disconnection between my time and everyone else’s time.  Major personal events unmoor one from social time; they haunt routine interactions and colour everyday experiences.  Such a global crisis seems to have much the opposite effect. If anything, we seem to have become more strongly tied to collective time by losing our grip on social space.  Time isn’t really marked by place: work, school, leisure are all at home – in my case much of it in front of the computer.  Our plans, as it’s turned out, are cancelled.  In that sense, as an article I saw a few weeks ago and lost again points out, we understand at least one aspect of life as refugees.)  Our horizons of expectation are simply shorter.  On top of that, I, for one find myself constantly doing synchronization work: checking in more often on social media, linking up digitally with other cocoons for work, family, friends.  Every evening 9pm my time/2pm Chicago time, I tune into Shelter Radio, where podcaster and theologian David Dault –  one of my oldest and closest friends –  plays songs on his guitar  He draws heavily on a lot of the music we’ve shared, and form his time playing coffee shops and bars in Atlanta when we both lived there.  But while there is a lot of remembering bound up in this for me, it’s not reliving: it’s really, truly, deeply about being now.  In real time.

Similarly, my memory, too, has become much more egalitarian.  I noted on fb a few weeks ago that I’m suddenly homesick for almost every place I’ve lived besides here.  Even the places I didn’t like that much.  A lot of those around me were having similar sensations.  A friend called of mine made the tie more strongly to time generally, talking about having ‘life flashing before you’ moments, where other times and places of apparently little significance suddenly show up.  The flyover country of my life narrative looms up and I’m re-discovering all sorts of private Idahoes.  So it goes, as it were.

This works, of course, only as long as none of your nearest and dearest have the virus.

And so we go back into the teaching week, selectively accepting the crapness, adjusting as we go.  Having watched enough online ‘live’ concerts where folks who are used to performing on stages suddenly get very nervous when lacking a physical audience (NB at least one notorious public orator had similar issues with radio studios in the 1930s.  This is not new), I was at least a bit prepared for my first lecture’s sickening feeling of speaking into the digital void of students I could silence or even disappear with a click.

The students were patient.

The students were kind.

I ended the lecture with a group scream. Unmuted.  In real time.

Report from EMHIS VIII in Gregynog, Wales, 14–16 May | Entangled Media Histories

July 29, 2019

Source: Report from EMHIS VIII in Gregynog, Wales, 14–16 May | Entangled Media Histories

Follow-up on the Summer School on Transnational Radio History | C2DH | Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History

July 3, 2018

The Summer School was organised in order to offer to the participants, early career researchers who came from everywhere in Europe, and all the way from Russia and from Chile, the opportunity to not

Source: Follow-up on the Summer School on Transnational Radio History | C2DH | Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History

Programm und Anmeldung Jahrestagung 2018 „Materialitäten“ 28.-29.6. in Mannheim | Studienkreis Rundfunk und Geschichte

May 9, 2018

Source: Programm und Anmeldung Jahrestagung 2018 „Materialitäten“ 28.-29.6. in Mannheim | Studienkreis Rundfunk und Geschichte

Jahrestagung 2018 „Materialitäten“ – Einreichungsfrist bis zum 9.4.2018 verlängert | Studienkreis Rundfunk und Geschichte

March 24, 2018

Source: Jahrestagung 2018 „Materialitäten“ – Einreichungsfrist bis zum 9.4.2018 verlängert | Studienkreis Rundfunk und Geschichte

Inaugural lecture December 1: Found in Translation

November 27, 2017

Most who know me will already know the news that since 1 January 2017, I have been appointed for one day a week as Bijzonder Hoogleraar (endowed professor) of Transnational Media the Department of Art and Culture, History, Antiquity at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, attached to the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.

Now I have the pleasure of announcing my inaugural lecture, which will take place this coming Friday, 1 December 15:45 CET in the Aula of the Vrije Universiteit.


The title is:

Found in translation: transnational media and the national archive

(perhaps we could call it: How Dutch is Beeld en Geluid?)

Radio and television have long stood in the service of the nation, as institutions, technology, and as purveyors of shared moments great and small.  National audiovisual archives can serve a similar role, especially in the digital age as their content becomes available for sharing, re-use and re-collection as national memory.   But from their earliest days, these media have also involved flows of people, things, and ideas beyond national borders, often translating them for domestic use.  Now, as archive content is ‘translated’ from the archive into the digital sphere, it enters again into transnational circulation. Taking a transnational view of the archive allows us to see how these past and present processes of circulation and translation can speak to each other.  Looking at rich examples from Sound and Vision’s collection and beyond, we see how by looking more closely at the technical and cultural points of translation we can open up our view both of the nation and the world.

  The lecture is public, please see the official invitation for details.

In addition it will be available to view as livestream at 15:45 or as recording here.

Save the date: The Many Lives of Europe’s Audiovisual Heritage Online – EUscreen

July 9, 2017

The Many Lives of Europe’s Audiovisual Heritage Online: a one day symposium at Utrecht University (The Netherlands) on May 16th, 2018. And a Farewell Symposium Prof. Dr. Sonja de Leeuw: Professor o…

Source: Save the date: The Many Lives of Europe’s Audiovisual Heritage Online – EUscreen

Medienhistorisches Forum 10.-11. November 2017 | Studienkreis Rundfunk und Geschichte

June 30, 2017

Source: Medienhistorisches Forum 10.-11. November 2017 | Studienkreis Rundfunk und Geschichte

Mediale Flieh- und Bindungskräfte. Migration, Identität und Medien

January 23, 2017

Mediale Flieh- und Bindungskräfte. Migration, Identität und Medien

Jahrestagung des Studienkreises Rundfunk und Geschichte in Kooperation mit der Deutschen Welle
8. & 9. Juni 2017 im Schürmann-Bau, Bonn


Deadline: 15.3.2017

Medien spielen eine zentrale Rolle in Prozessen gesellschaftlicher, kultureller und ökonomischer Vermittlung zwischen Migranten und Einheimischen. Ausgehend von den Schlagworten vom ›Jahrhundert der Vertreibungen‹ und dem ›langen Jahrhundert der Massenmedien‹ soll die Rolle der traditionellen Massenmedien bzw. der neuen digitalen Medien bei der Verhandlung von Flucht und Vertreibung untersucht werden.

Wie tragen Medien dazu bei, Raumvorstellungen und das Konzept der Heimat zu modulieren, Vergemeinschaftungen zu verändern und neue Identitäten zu konstruieren? Wie wirkt sich die transnationale Verbreitung des Rundfunks und der Online-Medien auf diese Prozesse aus? Welche Rolle spielen der Auslandsrundfunk, Gastarbeitersendungen, Ethnomedien und Community-Medien? Und wie wirken ein Glaubwürdigkeitsverlust der ›Mainstream-Medien‹ sowie rechtspopulistische Medien integrativen Prozessen entgegen?

Der Studienkreis Rundfunk und Geschichte erörtert die verschiedenen Facetten dieses Themas aus historischer und aktueller Perspektive auf seiner Jahrestagung in Kooperation mit der Deutschen Welle am 8. & 9. Juni 2017 in Bonn und lädt ein, Beiträge einzusenden.

Einreichungen können folgende Bereiche umfassen:

  • In seinen ersten Jahren war die völkerverständigende Kraft des Radios ein viel beschworener Topos. Im Melting Pot des Immigrationslandes USA setzte man massiv auf das Radio als Mittel, einerseits integrativ die nationale Einheit und kulturelle Harmonie zu fördern und andererseits inklusiv der Diversität der Kulturen eine Plattform zu geben. In Europa diente das Radio stärker der Verbreitung, Herstellung und Sicherung nationaler Identitätsmerkmale und damit der Abgrenzung von fremden Kulturen, und verstreute Gegenbeispiele belegen eher die Problematik dieser Tendenz. Welche Rolle spielte das Radio für Migrationsprozesse? Welche infrastrukturellen und programmlichen Bedingungen formten diese Prozesse? Welche Ausnahmen zeigen alternative Optionen jener Zeit an? Wie änderten sich diese Prozesse mit der Einführung des noch stärker national orientierten Fernsehens? Wie wurden Einwanderer repräsentiert und Einblicke in andere Länder gegeben?
  • Auslandsrundfunkdienste, viele schon vor dem 2. Weltkrieg etabliert, sind lange mit Migration und Diaspora verflochten: als ›Stimme der Heimat‹ für Auswanderer, koloniale Migranten, Seefahrer und andere Arbeitsmigranten; als Stimme des Exils in besetzte Gebiete und Länder unter autoritären Herrschaft, aber auch als Arbeitgeber und Treffpunkt für Migranten verschiedener Art, die ihr Herkunftsland im Namen des Zuwanderungslandes ansprechen. Welche Dynamiken entstanden sowohl vor als auch hinter dem Mikrofon oder der Kamera? Wie werden Stimmen und Sprecher räumlich, emotional und kulturell verortet zwischen Herkunfts- und Zuwanderungsland? Welche Rolle spielen diasporische Erfahrungen und Kulturen in den Produktionskulturen des Auslandsrundfunks?
  • In den sechziger Jahren wurden Sendungen für Gastarbeiter in sämtlichen europäischen Ländern, sowohl im Osten als auch im Westen, eingeführt. Beiträge sind erwünscht, die solche Sendungen in der transnationalen Medienlandschaft verorten: wie standen sie im Verhältnis zu Medienangeboten aus dem Herkunftsland, zu einheimischen Medien oder zu Sendungen aus dem konkurrierenden Block im Kalten Krieg? Welche Orientierungs- und Identifikationsmöglichkeiten im neuen und im Herkunftsland wurden angeboten? Wie und durch wen wurde solche Sendungen genutzt, und welche Rolle spielten sie im Alltagsleben von Migranten?
  • Muttersprachliche, auch sogenannte Ethnomedien sind für viele Migranten eine wichtige Brücke zu ihrer Herkunftskultur und haben einen starken Einfluss auf Identitätsprozesse. Muttersprachliche Auslandsmedien und solche, die in den Gastländern z.B. von Migranten produziert werden, wirken unterschiedlich stark in diese Prozesse hinein. Welchen Beitrag leisten heimatsprachliche Medienangebote für Integrationsprozesse? Welche aktuellen und historischen Beispiele sind formatbildend? Welche Schlüsse lassen sich aus diesen Medienkulturen für integrationspolitische Prozesse ziehen? Wie können integrative Effekte gestärkt werden?
  • Nichtkommerzieller Lokalrundfunk und Community-Medien haben eine lange Tradition der Programminhalte von und für Randgruppen, darunter Migranten als Spiegel vor allem urbaner ethnokultureller Durchmischung. Angesichts der fortwährenden Flüchtlingskrise in Europa wird die Frage gestellt, welche Rolle alle Formen von lokalen Medien spielen können in der Aufnahme, Sorge und Willkommenspraxis von Flüchtlingen und Migranten. Erwünscht sind Beträge aus Forschung und Praxis.


Einreichungen zu den genannten und weiteren Fragestellungen des Themas richten Sie bitte an Dr. Veit Scheller, den Schatzmeister des Studienkreises Rundfunk und Geschichte:

Eingereichte Abstracts sollten maximal 3.000 Zeichen umfassen (exklusive etwaiges Literatur-/ Quellenverzeichnis). Dem Abstract selbst ist ein Deckblatt mit den Daten zur Autorin bzw. zum Autor mitsamt Titel des Vortrages voranzustellen (bitte als zwei separate Dateien einsenden). Im Abstract selbst sollen die Autorinnen und Autoren nicht erkenntlich sein, um ein unabhängiges Review-Verfahren zu ermöglichen.

Deadline für die Einreichung: 15.3.2017 Die Veranstalter entscheiden über die Annahme in einem Review-Verfahren. Rückmeldungen sind bis zum 15.4.2017 zu erwarten.

Die Vorträge können auf Deutsch und Englisch gehalten werden; Konferenzsprache ist Deutsch.