Conférences 2019

Mercredi 27 février 2019, 18h, salle 4215

Yvonne Zimmermann (Université de Marbourg) : Media Dispositifs, Screen Advertising, and the Notions of Program and Flow

Despite the high prevalence of screen advertising in the history of cinema and television and despite its (experienced) ever-increasing pervasiveness in the present digital media landscape, the history of screen advertising has been a rather neglected area in media studies. In terms of methodology, the limited number of histories written about moving image advertising has privileged medium, country, or period to approach the topic.

Recent initiatives emerging within the field of useful cinema studies have demonstrated increasing interest in the history and historiography of moving image advertising. My presentation is located within this scholarly context and focuses on questions of methodology. It wishes to inquire the potential of screen advertising to rethink media histories from the margins by revisiting a ‘central’ approach and concept – the dispositif – from the perspective of a neglected object.

Taking Jean-Louis Baudry’s notion of the dispositif as a starting point, the paper (re-) visits two historically and geographically distinctive dispositifs in which screen advertising was and is involved in: post-war cinema in Western Europe and contemporary train platforms in Germany equipped with digital out-of-home screens. Particular attention is paid to the temporal dimension of time-based media dispositifs and to the procedural elements in the positioning process in order to determine screen advertising’s place in the temporal structure of the two dispositifs and to learn more about screen advertising’s role in the process of positioning viewers. To this end, I explore screen advertising as an element in the time structure and chronological sequencing of movement (moving images on the screen, bodily movements of the viewers, and movements of objects) within the above-mentioned dispositifs.This approach directs the focus to the program structure of moving images within specific dispositifs, as well as to the notion of the flow, and to screen advertising’s place in it.

Overall, my notion of dispositif is not that of Baudry’s narrow focus on the cinematic dispositif, but a broadened understanding of the dispositif as the configuration or arrangement of heterogeneous elements, or, as Michel Foucault has put it, the ‘connection that exists between these heterogeneous elements’. Following Frank Kessler, I take the concept of dispositif as a heuristic tool that offers ‘ways to account for the complexities of media (texts) in situational contexts offering, or aiming at producing specific spectatorial positions’.


Mercredi 1er mai 2019, 18h, salle 4215

Thomas Y. Levin (Université de Princeton) : The Cylinder and the Rectangle: On the Agon of Two Foundational Dispositifs in the Media Archaeology of Voice Mail

While sending sound by mail had already become possible with the advent of the phonograph in the final decades of the 19th century, the bulky and fragile cylinders hardly lent themselves to the widespread postal dissemination imagined by Thomas Edison. The first really functional platform for epistolary audio was instead inaugurated in 1905 with the advent of the Phonopostal, a French device for recording and playback of sound on specially coated Sonorine postcards. However, like Edison’s project for a phonographic mail service, the Phonopostal dispositif was also unable to establish itself, albeit for importantly different reasons. This lecture will explore the far-ranging ramifications of the symptomatic failures of what could be described as two foundational dispositifs of voice mail.


Mercredi 22 mai 2019, 18h, salle 4215

Ute Holl (Université de Bâle) : Reconstructing a Genealogy of Cinematic Perception

The aesthetics of cinema can be traced back to the arts of attraction, entertainment and the fun fair, but also to the sobriety of experimental laboratories of the 19th century. There, human senses and sensoria were tested and that also meant at the same time: trained. Measuring instruments, as devised by Étienne-Jules Marey for instance, or by Hermann von Helmholtz, eventually developed into interfaces which connected human vision and hearing with technical devices. These allowed them to perceive their environment beyond the boundaries of human vision and hearing. What we now call media is actually a process of adaptation to these interfaces. Back in the new USSR, a neurologist, Vladimir von Bekhterev, devised a notion of feed-back which connected individuals and masses to technical media operations. One of his students continued to turn this into the basis for a theory and practice of social understanding with the help of the cinematic apperatus: Dziga Vertov. Ramifications of these experiments travelled across the Atlantic to form what was later to develop into the New American Cinema. The presentation will trace the genealogy of cinematic form from the nineteenth century laboratories to experimental cinema of the 20th, using cinematic examples of Dziga Vertov, Maya Deren and Jean Rouch to develop the notion of cinema as feed-back apparatus.