Call for Papers

Ruins: 2017 Media Fields Conference

University of California, Santa Barbara

April 6-7, 2017


Keynote speakers: Marwan Kraidy (Anthony Shadid Chair of Global Media, Politics, and Culture and Professor of Communication, University of Pennsylvania) and Rahul Mukherjee (Dick Wolf Assistant Professor of Cinema and New Media Studies, University of Pennsylvania)

The Media Fields Editorial Collective at the UCSB Department of Film & Media Studies is seeking proposals for its upcoming biennial conference. We are soliciting papers that address this year’s theme, Ruins:

Although media texts and technologies are often enthusiastically wedded to discourses of speed, futurity, and modernity, they are also haunted by loss and decay. If forms like the photograph, phonograph, and moving image once served as audiovisual guarantors of the progress of Western history, they did so partly by translating vast worlds of living difference into ossified documentary traces. Similarly, while recent media technologies have proffered new modes of perceptual experience, the pulses and shocks of modernity have drastically reconfigured the parameters of social interaction and knowledge production. Whatever velocities or futurities our media may offer, they remain inextricably tethered to the prospect of ruin.

This focus on ruination has intensified within our discipline in recent years. In the shadow of protracted ecological calamity, we are inundated with images of waste and “natural” disaster, even as our image-making devices rely on highly contentious forms of labour exploitation, resource extraction, and territorialization. As the impermanence of computer memory is exposed and our obsolete devices toxify lands and bodies across the Global South, the futurist euphoria once yoked to the digital is waning. As emergent and entrenched war machines lay waste to ancient icons, ruined terrains are mobilized as potent symbols of foreign barbarism, ideological (im)purity, and humanitarian crisis. At the same time, processes of ruination embedded in junk, piratical, and informal economies are flourishing not only in the interstices of social life, but also at the core of highly codified media environments. Such alternative economies compel a rethinking of the aesthetic, technical, and infrastructural dimensions of mediation, pointing to new ways of seeing and hearing in worlds where things break but are rarely fixed and where obsolescence, crisis, and collapse have become both habitual and idiomatic.

Centering these and other concerns, the Media Fields Collective invites proposals that address the deteriorations and afterlives of media texts, technologies, and architectures. Rather than framing ruin, decay, and breakdown as merely negatives to technological progress, we aim to interrogate various ruins on their own terms and consider epistemological, methodological, aesthetic, and disciplinary questions. Presentations may address but are not limited to:

  • Media archaeology and artifacts
  • War, revolution, and postwar reconstruction
  • Climate change, extreme weather, and ecological disaster
  • Catastrophe, social breakdown, and dystopia
  • The extraction, manufacture and distribution of media technologies
  • Abandoned architectures and spaces of media encounters
  • Waste, pollution, and rot
  • Memorialization, trauma, and loss
  • The destruction and reshaping of global geographies
  • Technological obsolescence, failure, and degradation
  • Salvage, repair, and maintenance
  • Archives and preservation
  • Junk mail, storage, and digital excess
  • The politics of media infrastructures
  • Speculative and new materialist approaches to media
  • Iconoclasm and image destruction
  • Media afterlives and zombie media
  • After media; the post-cinematic, post-photographic state of film and media studies

Panelists will have 15-20 minutes to present their papers. We also invite experimental presentation formats and screenings. If you have an unconventional proposal in mind, we ask that you provide a brief summary of your planned format. Please email a 250- to 300-word proposal and a brief bio (both in Word format) to by January 15, 2017. For any inquiries, please contact the conference organizers: Tyler Morgenstern (, Lisa Han (, and Daniel Grinberg (