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Media Homes : Material Culture in Twentieth-Century Domestic Life

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Lundi 30 janvier 2012

Media Homes : Material Culture in Twentieth-Century Domestic Life Friday June 29, 2012 (University of Amsterdam)

During the early-twentieth century, a raft of media technologies emerged against the backdrop of urbanisation, industrialisation and rationalisation. At the same time, the private dwelling developed into a centrepiece of modern conceptions of everyday life. While the domestication of media and their adoption for everyday consumption became one of the crucial factors for constructions of private and public space (Morley 2000), the same holds true for the mediation of the domestic, as new visions and representations of the home invaded magazines, movies, radio broadcasts and TV programmes (Spigel 2001).

The conference seeks to explore the close – but rarely discussed – entanglement of these two phenomena in the context of recent debates on materiality in the humanities. Older tensions between approaches focusing on immaterial ‘representations’ on the one hand, and material ‘social practices’ on the other, now seem to have been replaced : firstly, by a common interest in representations and, secondly, by a growing concern for the significance of materiality in social life more generally. ’Media homes’ can thus serve as a test case for investigating the new possibilities created by this situation.

Participants are invited to reconnect the strands between media and material culture, as framed within the locus of the interior and domestic life. Both the concept of ’media’ and of ’materiality’ are approached from two angles : the different media used to convey new visions of domestic material culture should be analysed in their function of not only representing but also moulding and creating the ‘home’. At the same time, all media – be it books, radios or personal computers – are material objects in themselves that conquer the private home and give it new meaning as a space of media consumption. The home itself thus emerges as ‘mediated’ in two ways : as a represented – imagined and conceptualised - social space and as a space shaped by the material presence of media.

Against this background a set of key questions can be raised : how are old and new media technologies given meaning within everyday life and family relations ? In what ways do domestic dwellers engage with media discourses concerning domestic lifestyle and home improvement ? To what extent are categories of class, gender and ethnicity bound up with media consumption and related cultural practices within the home ? What are the sensory, embodied dimensions to media consumption within the domestic sphere (visibility and audibility, as well as touch, taste and smell) ? In what ways did the onset of digital media encourage a rethinking of the domestic sphere (as ’home theatre’ or smart home) ?

Themes for the conference may include, but are not limited to :
- Media representations of the home, domestic life and ’conspicuous consumption’
- Home recording and amateur media practices
- Memory practices and forms of collecting based on media and the domestic sphere (diaries, scrapbooks, mementos)
- Trends such as miniaturisation and portability, with new constructions of the interior or domestic in public life (e.g. mobile technologies in the car, mobile phones, portable stereos)
- The relationship between private and public forms of media consumption (cinema-going, portable stereos)
- Paradigmatic shifts in conceptualisations of the home and domestic life, and the challenge of periodisation for researchers
- The relationship of the ’media home’ to urban, regional, national, and international or transnational identity categories

Please send abstracts (max. 500 words) and a short CV before 20 January 2012 to Natalie Scholz / Carolyn Birdsall . Travel funds will be available for a limited number of participants. A publication related to the conference is planned for February 2013.