Hands On History: Exploring New Methodologies for Media History Research
8-10 February 2016
Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD
“Media Scholars and Amateurs of All Countries and Disciplines, Hands-on!” *
Recent years have witnessed a growing turn to experimental historical research in the history of media technologies. In addition to archival investigation and oral history interviews, historians and enthusiasts are increasingly uncovering histories of technology through hands-on exercises in simulation and re-enactment. Equipment lovingly restored by amateurs, or preserved by national heritage collections, is being placed in the hands of the people who once operated it, provoking a new and rich flood of memories.
The turn to experimental research raises profound methodological questions. The unreliability of narrative memory is well proven, but what do we know about the limits of haptic and tactile memory? To what extent is it possible to elicit useful memories of technological arrays when parts of those arrays are missing or non-functional? How do the owners of old equipment shape the historical narratives which are stimulated by their collections?
Hands-On History is a colloquium designed to facilitate discussion of these issues between historians, users, curators and archivists (amateur and professional) who are making use of and taking part in these historical enquiries. In addition to a series of keynote presentations by leading scholars in the field, the event will also include stimulating workshops on specific focus areas. While the focus of the event will be on media technologies, broadly defined, we invite contributions from other areas of technology and from other academic disciplines.
This colloquium aims to make a decisive intervention in this emerging area of academic interest. It is part of the ADAPT project, a European Research Council funded project investigating the history of television production technologies through hands-on simulations. Research conducted by ADAPT will form a key case study for the colloquium. In order to facilitate productive discussion, numbers will be limited. It is expected that papers presented will form the basis of an edited collection focused on hands-on historical research.
* Andreas Fickers and Annie van den Oever, “Experimental Media Archaeology: A Plea for New Directions” 2013