For: PhD and select Graduate Students
Dates: Semester 1: 25 September / 30 October / 11 December; Semester 2: 12 February / 18 March / 22 April / 3 June
Organizer: Markus Stauff
This years’ Cross Media seminar will take up the dialectic of transparency and opacity as a means to conceptualize the politics of media. Transparency has long been held as a fundamental political good within a liberal democratic framework. More recently, however, a number of counter-political movements have utilized strategies of opacity to thwart and call into question transparency as a political ideal. Thinking through this tension necessarily involves a consideration of media. Media are necessarily (and on different levels) ambivalent with respect to transparency and opacity. If the ideal of transparency implies an escape from the distortions of mediation, the impression of immediacy must itself be produced through specific applications of media forms and media technologies. At the same time, this mediated production of transparency requires various modes of self-erasure which have led theorists as diverse as Marshall McLuhan and Bruno Latour to conceptualize media in terms of their opacity–as “black boxes” that shape culture through invisible or habitualized procedures. The aesthetics of media are ever shifting between immediacy and hypermediacy (Bolter/Grusin), between scientific objectivity and spectacle.
In this seminar we will trace the historical genealogy of ideas and practices of transparency and opacity – e.g. Rousseau’s dream of the transparent soul, the Avantgarde’s project of transparent architecture, the deliberately obfuscating techniques ranging from modernist art to film and television melodrama, the links between complexity in media texts and the obvious, often transparent showcasing of such opacities. In the course of the seminar, participants can suggest relevant readings and examples.