The predicament of technology: fixing and circulating the ephemeral - recording devices, data carriers, and the enabling of circulation and appropriation of cultural elements 
Johannes Mueske (Deutsches Museum)
Thomas Hengartner (University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, Zurich University of the Arts)
Ute Holfelder (Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt)
Lossi 3, 425
Start time:
3 July, 2013 at 10:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

The panel asks for the predicament of technology - (digital) recording devices enable the flow of "culture" by apparently fixing them at the same time. The panel focuses the interplay of technology, reproducible records, and related implications for both everyday practices and ethnographic research.

Long Abstract

To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed" - the quote of Susan Sontag stresses the role of storing devices that enable practices to fix sound, light and sound, and written words. Whereas cultural analysis has often critically stressed the conjuncture that reproductive technologies "freeze" and de-contextualize cultural elements, our panel wants to give weight to the potential of technology to enable new practices of (re-)appropriation of "culture" by putting the materials at disposal of various actors in various contexts. Thus, recording technology does not only hinder flows but also enables the free circulation of (ethnographic) knowledge or other ephemeral phenomena. The panel seeks papers that apply an empirical-ethnographic approach; proposals can focus on one of the following subjects, or related topics:

- (Storing) Technologies and media convergence: How have cultural practices concerning the handling of sounds, images, or the like changed with technology and how does media convergence influence these processes?

- Issues of (Re-) Appropriation: How do technologies enable actors to use, re-use, or re-contextualise, in general: appropriate and re-appropriate "contents"? What significance do reproducible data unfold in everyday practices of actors, concerning, e.g., communication, identity politics (cultural heritage/property), the appropriation of places?

- Theoretical and methodological Implications: The history of the ethnographic disciplines is related to collection efforts which tried to freeze (rural) culture. Did/Do these projects lead to the circulation of ethnographic knowledge among society (and if so: how)? Does digitization influence issues of access, or even agendas of ethnographic research itself?

Accepted papers: