In commemoration of the seventieth anniversaries of Trinity, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, and in conjunction with the National Communication Association Conference, several colleagues and I are hosting a one-day academic conference at the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, November 18, 2015. Information and schedule: http://cccnevada.net/2015/09/24/schedule/
Kevin Hamilton and I presented a paper at the University of Durham’s Business of War Photography conference this past summer (2014) on the work of Harold Edgerton and his collaborators in the development of both flash photography and atomic bomb firing during World War II. The abstract reads as follows:
This paper considers the history of EG&G, Inc. in America’s nuclear weapons program. EG&G was co-founded by M.I.T.’s Harold Edgerton, Kenneth J. Germeshausen, and Herbert E. Grier after World War II in order to serve the nuclear weapons timing and firing needs of the U.S. Department of Defense and Atomic Energy Commission. Eventually, EG&G would be responsible for some of the most spectacular images of nuclear fireballs in the U.S. nuclear testing era. Indeed, the partnership of Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier began in high-speed “stroboscopic” photography in the 1930s, became focused on nuclear weapon timing and firing in 1945-1950, and eventually re-focused on high-speed photography in the 1950s. The story of EG&G, therefore, is a story of photography and what we call the “deep media” of timing, firing, and exposure. From the stroboscopic illumination of factory motors through the aerial flashing of enemy troops and the ignition of an atomic bomb, the “deep media” of timing, firing and exposure had rendered the technologies of cameras and nuclear bombs interchangeable.
“Deep media,” at least as we understand it, seems to be uncharted territory in media and technology studies, and offers a distinct means by which to look beyond ‘object’ and ‘artifact’ to the underlying technical processes upon which technological innovation seems to depend. Over the next several years I will be working with Kevin and Chad Wellmon to develop the notion of “deep media” and consider its usefulness for technology and media studies. (For all those worried about by ‘rhetoric’ creds in this, I very much envision deep media as the technical analogs to rhetorical topoi.) If the notion of the “deep media of timing, firing, and exposure” intrigues you and you want to learn more about what we are up to, drop me a note. Our hope is to convene a conference in 2015-16 around the still developing notion.
Kevin Hamilton and I spent recently attended what, for me, is the most weighty academic conference I’ve had the privilege to attend. The Cold War Camera Conference was held in Guatemala the next-to-last week of February 2014. Convened by the University of Durham’s Andrea Noble, the University of Toronto’s Thy Phu, and the Guatemalan photographer, journalist, and activist Daniel Hernandez-Salazar, the gathering began, remarkably, with a day-long “tour” (an inappropriate word for what took place) of several sites in Guatemala City that have been central in the forensic reconstruction of the history of massacres and “dissapearances” that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans during a 36-year conflict spanning the decades of the cold war. We spent time with the people of The Museum of Martyrs from the Popular, Student and Union Movement, The DNA Laboratoty of the Guatemalan Forensic Foundation, The Bone Laboratory of the FAFG, The Guatemala National Police Historical Archive, and The Catholic Church Human Rights Bureau, talking with them about their faithful forensic work. The people of these places have worked, some for nearly two decades, under less than hospitable conditions to piece together–through forensic archival work, forensic anthropology, DNA analysis, legal documentation, or memorialization–the killing history that many in Guatemala do not want to remember, and that the rest of world, especially Americans, has never known to remember. The conference then moved to Antigua, where we heard two days worth of outstanding papers. Each paper was rich in its own terms, but each gained a more saturated hue against the backdrop of our time in the places of forensic recuperation and memory production. Kudos to Andrea, Thy, and Daniel for such an outstanding event.
For the next two years I will be working with a great group of faculty and graduate students at the University of Illinois on the “Learning to See Systems” initiative, sponsored by the Graduate College here under their INTERSECT program.
Our goal is address in an interdisciplinary, collaborative manner the problem of “seeing” systems — especially socio-technical systems. Our collaboration includes graduate seminars, colloquia, and a laboratory centered on exploring and developing digital tools for inquiry into systems. For more on the initiative, see the Learning to See Systems site.