Format Matters. Theories_Histories_Practices

Mainz, Germany, 7.-9. December 2017

Interdisciplinary Conference
Mainz, Germany, 7.-9. December 2017

The conference Format Matters at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz brings together international scholars from a variety of disciplines to explore the cultural meaning, social dynamics and aesthetic effects of media formats.

“Format” can refer to a great range of very dissimilar objects, practices and cultural registers: From the size or folding of a book to the shape, color and “weight” of a film; from the durational rhythms of a television program and syntactic orderings of a computer file to formalized ways of recordkeeping, cataloging and description. Formats are historically specific modes of organizing sensory experience that inscribe the economic, technological and cultural conditions of a particular age into concrete objects. Format is the categorizing instrument that allows us to meaningfully understand the hierarchy of cultural and material gradations by which “tabloid” is related to “broadsheet”, or 8mm film is differentiated from a Laserdisc.

Despite the central role it plays for film, television, media and literary studies, questions of format have thus far remained subordinate to form, content or genre. Only recently, with the appearance of a number of case studies across various media, the study of formats began experiencing increased urgency, with media historian Jonathan Sterne even suggesting the necessity of a field of ‘format theory’. Building on this important previous work, Format Matters aims to further the methodological and theoretical concerns and contribute towards a deeper understanding of the function of formats in media culture.

Thursday December 7, 2017 (Atrium maximum, University of Mainz campus)

Ramon Lobato (RMIT University Melbourne): “Formats and formalization in digital advertising”
Wanda Strauven (Goethe University Frankfurt/University of Bologna): “Let’s Dance: GIF 1.0 versus GIF 2.0”

Friday December 8, 2017 (Conference center Erbacher Hof, Mainz)

Axel Volmar (University of Siegen): “Formats as Media of Cooperation. Some Thoughts on Format Theory”
Carlos Spoerhase (Bielefeld University): “Radical Re-formatting: Schiller’s Drama of Scale”

Markus Stauff (University of Amsterdam): “The Sports Highlight as Cross-Media Format: Technology, Aesthetics, Property”
Florian Hoof (Leuphana University of Lüneburg): “Rumble in the Format Jungle“: On the Instability of Live Broadcasting Formats”

Margarete Pratschke (Humboldt University of Berlin): “Landscape or Portrait. An Art-historical Approach to Digital Displays”
Oliver Fahle and Elisa Linseisen (Ruhr University Bochum): “Format reflects Film History. HD’s Grand Narrative or SD’s Resistance through Low Resolution”

Monika Dommann (University of Zurich): “At the Margins of Formats. A Historical Ethnography of Logistics”
Lori Emerson (University of Colorado Boulder): “The Undersea Life of Other Networks”

Saturday December 9, 2017

Johannes Gfeller (State Academy of Fine Arts, Stuttgart): “Format and Historicity. CRT and Helical Scan as Major Cultural Technologies of the 2nd half of the 20th Century”
Erika Balsom (King's College London): “Photochemical film: Medium or Family of Formats?”

Jennifer Horne (University of California, Santa Cruz): “Format, the University, and the idea of Intellectual Freedom”
Kalani Michell (Goethe University Frankfurt): “Cinema Journal in Your Ears: Podcasting Media Studies”

Alexandra Schneider, Marek Jancovic and Nicole Braida
Institute of Film-, Theater and Empirical Cultural Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

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