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CfP: Media Homes Conference, Amsterdam

Call for Papers – Media Homes: Material Culture in Twentieth-Century Domestic Life
Friday June 29, 2012 (University of Amsterdam)

Picture by Foxtongue on Flickr

During the early‐twentieth century, a raft of media technologies emerged against the backdrop of
urbanization, industrialization and rationalization. At the same time, the private dwelling developed into a centerpiece of modern conceptions of everyday life. While the domestication of media and their adoption for everyday consumption became one of the crucial factors for constructions of private and public space (Morley 2000), the same holds true for the mediation of the domestic, as new visions and representations of the home invaded magazines, movies, radio broadcasts and TV programs (Spigel 2001).

The conference seeks to explore the close – but rarely discussed – entanglement of these two phenomena in the context of recent debates on materiality in the humanities. Older tensions between approaches focusing on immaterial ‘representations’ on the one hand, and material ‘social practices’ on the other, now seem to have been replaced: firstly, by a common interest in representations and, secondly, by a growing concern for the significance of materiality in social life more generally. ʹMedia homesʹ can thus serve as a test case for investigating the new possibilities created by this situation.

Participants are invited to reconnect the strands between media and material culture, as framed within the locus of the interior and domestic life. Both the concept of ʹmediaʹ and of ʹmaterialityʹ are approached from two angles: the different media used to convey new visions of domestic material culture should be analyzed in their function of not only representing but also molding and creating the ‘home’. At the same time, all media – be it books, radios or personal computers – are material objects in themselves that conquer the private home and give it new meaning as a space of media consumption. The home itself thus emerges as ‘mediated’ in two ways: as a represented – imagined and conceptualized ‐ social space and as a space shaped by the material presence of media.

Against this background a set of key questions can be raised: how are old and new media technologies given meaning within everyday life and family relations? In what ways do domestic dwellers engage with media discourses concerning domestic lifestyle and home improvement? To what extent are categories of class, gender and ethnicity bound up with media consumption and related cultural practices within the home? What are the sensory, embodied dimensions to media consumption within the domestic sphere (visibility and audibility, as well as touch, taste and smell)? In what ways did the onset of digital media encourage a rethinking of the domestic sphere (as ʹhome theatreʹ or smart home)?

Themes for the conference may include, but are not limited to:

  • Media representations of the home, domestic life and ʹconspicuous consumptionʹ
  • Home recording and amateur media practices
  • Memory practices and forms of collecting based on media and the domestic sphere (diaries, scrapbooks, mementos)
  • Trends such as miniaturization and portability, with new constructions of the interior or domestic in public life (e.g. mobile technologies in the car, mobile phones, portable stereos)
  • The relationship between private and public forms of media consumption (cinema‐going, portable stereos)
  • Paradigmatic shifts in conceptualizations of the home and domestic life, and the challenge of periodization for researchers
  • The relationship of the ʹmedia homeʹ to urban, regional, national, and international or transnational identity categories

Please send abstracts (max. 500 words) and a short CV before 20 January 2012 to Natalie Scholz /Carolyn Birdsall A publication related to the conference is planned for February 2013.