ASCA Cross-Media Research Seminar 2021-2022 ‘Infrastructure and Experience’
Organizers: Sudeep Dasgupta, Abe Geil, Markus Stauff
Dates: March 4, April 22, June 3 (Semester 2, 2022)
Credits: 6 ECTS
What can infrastructures of contemporary media culture tell us about the (im)possibility and (in)equality of experiences? The efforts to structure collective life through the creation and standardization of vast technical systems that combine material, political and symbolic elements are both powerful and fragile. The term “infrastructure” focuses on the vast systems that are often hidden from sight, used in a habitualized manner, instantiate and combat power in material and symbolic ways. A number of scholars have highlighted the fragilities and frictions that characterize infrastructures. Infrastructures that are habitualized for some become a problem for others (Susan Leigh Star); the allegedly “culture-less” qualities of infrastructures and their constant maintenance differentially distribute privileges (Lauren Berlant; Ruha Benjamin); the assumption of an invisibly working infrastructure may only hold for a small part of the world population (Paul Edwards). Instead of analysing and comparing individual infrastructures (transport vs communication, broadcast vs network, cable vs wireless etc.), it seems appropriate to focus on the ongoing “infrastructuralization” of media and culture more generally. As black-boxes they seem to withdraw themselves from experience and yet they need to be considered a constant presence in and even condition of possibility for experience. By moving beyond, though connecting with, a strict focus on media texts, infrastructures provide an increasingly important vantage point from which to approach dimensions of media experience. The substantial history of “experience” as a philosophical concept (Martin Jay), field of media study (Walter Benjamin, Raymond Williams, Miriam Hansen, Vivian Sobchack) and focus of cultural analyses (Joan Scott, Sara Ahmed, Jacques Rancière) has, and can be further enriched from the perspective of infrastructures and technology.
The experiential side of infrastructures takes on a particular urgency now given the proliferation of discourse of the “experience economy”, affective marketing and the politics of embodied protest. Bringing the two dimensions of infrastructure and experience together from a historical perspective and in the contemporary moment can enrich our understanding of both as they loop back and forth into each other.
Dates and Readings
In the 2nd semester the Cross-Media Research seminar will again have three meetings discussing the topic of “Infrastructures and Experience”. The dates are March 4, April 22, June 3 (all Friday 15-18h Belle van Zuylenzaal; Universiteitsbibliotheek C1.13, Singel 421-427, 1012 WP Amsterdam).
In the next meeting we will focus on postcolonial perspectives with the following readings, which already lead us toward the question of platform as infrastructures – which we will take up later again in more detail.
- Larkin, Brian. 2013. “The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure.” Annual Review of Anthropology 42 (1): 327–43. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-anthro-092412-155522.
- Sundaram, Ravi. 2020. “Hindu Nationalism’s Crisis Machine.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 10 (3): 734–41. https://doi.org/10.1086/712222.
- Sundaram, Ravi. 2015. “Post-Postcolonial Sensory Infrastructure.” E-Flux Journal, no. 64. https://www.e-flux.com/journal/64/60858/post-postcolonial-sensory-infrastructure/.