Media @ McGill

Sterne, Jonathan


Professor, James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology

Interest and Bio: 

Jonathan Sterne’s work is broadly concerned with the cultural dimensions of communication technologies, especially their form and role in large-scale societies.  One of his major ongoing projects has involved developing an adequate history and theory of sound in the modern west.  Beyond the work on sound and music, he has published over fifty articles and book chapters that cover a wide range of topics in media history, new media, cultural theory and disability studies.  He has also written on the politics of academic labor and maintains an interest in the future of the university.  His new projects consider instruments and instrumentalities; histories of signal processing; and the intersections of disability, technology and perception.  He continues to support emerging scholarship in sound studies.

As a researcher, he employs historiographic, philosophical and interpretive methods, and in more recent work, long-form interviews and participant observation.  In addition to his books and articles, Sterne has published online since 1994, experimenting with multimodal and open access approaches, which are now gathered under the “digital humanities” umbrella. 

Sterne has held fellowships from the Mellon and Woodrow Wilson Foundations, the Smithsonian Institution, The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and the University of Southern California. He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard and New York Universities, and a visiting researcher in the Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research New England.  His work has also been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Fonds québécois de recherché sur la société et la culture, the Beaverbrook Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, and the Australian Research Council.  He has delivered over a hundred invited lectures and keynotes around the world.

In fall, 2017, Sterne will be a fellow in the Epistemes of Modern Acoustics Group at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany.

Other Affiliations:

Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music, Media and Technology

Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies

History and Philosophy of Science

Centre for Media History (Concordia University)

Centre de recherché sur l’intermédialité (Université de Montréal)


Instrumental imaginations: on the recent history and possible future of the musical instrument; Diminished Faculties: a phenomenology of impairment; The Strange Case of Missile Mail; Signal Processing as Cultural Technology; Esthétique, nouveaux médias et la (re)configuration de l'espace publi



MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Duke University Press, 2012)

The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Duke University Press, 2003)



The Politics of Academic Labor in Communication Studies (Annenberg Press, 2013)

The Sound Studies Reader (Routledge, 2012)

Faculty page: 

Visit Professor Sterne's faculty page here.

Personal website: 

Visit Professor Sterne's personal website here.


Undergraduate: Introduction to Communication Studies History of Communication Disability, Technology and Communication Graduate: Sound Studies Historiography and New Media Historiography and Poststructuralism Media and the Senses Proseminar in Communication Studies Seminar on Repetition


Sound studies; history and theory of media; science and technology studies; new media; disability studies; music; cultural studies