Media@McGill approaches media as historical materialities — as modes of representation, communication channels, broadcasting/ narrowcasting mediums (including newspapers, magazines, prints, radio, TV, mail, the telephone, the internet, and new media), but also as the compound of information providers, journalists, industries and institutions which is at the core of democratic public culture. Media encompass practices of transmission, circulation, storage, memory and meaning—and, importantly, media materialize the failure of all of these as well. This is a complex terrain into which Media@McGill intervenes.
Media@McGill defines media as social practices and social structures of communication, “where structures include both technological forms and their associated protocols, and where communication is a cultural practice, a ritualized collocation of different people on the same mental map, sharing or engaged with popular ontologies of representation,” as media historian Lisa Gitelman puts it (Always Already New, 2006, 14). It insists on the fact that the properties of media are never self-defined: designers, engineers, programmers, journalists, artists, investors and audiences produce and consume media within specific social contexts that make these very practices of production and consumption possible. Critical of any deterministic understanding of media, it nevertheless attends to how the materiality of media (their physicality, structure, form, aesthetics and processing of data) offers new possibilities for communication, circulation, connection, collocation, community formation, politics, policy, and art, while foreclosing others.
For 2012-2017, Media@McGill will be focusing on the question of Media and Democracy, following a five-year program tentatively structured around the following themes:
Media@McGill is based in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University, but its projects are interdisciplinary in nature and involve scholars from other fields as well as non-academics.
Media@McGill’s activities are supported by McGill University and most notably by the Beaverbrook Fund for Media@McGill, created by a generous gift from the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation.