Posted on 2nd Mar, 2015 in Projects.
For the last few weeks, I've been shifting the focus on my research into the history of multicultural media in Canada from gathering archival material to thinking about how to synthesize and present my findings. It isn't quite fair to keep these as fully separate steps, but as I've started to work on the later stages of the project in more detail a few things have started to cross my mind. Some of these are ideas that developed as part of work I've been doing over the past few years about cultural studies and forms of publication (some of this was published in an issue of New Formations in 2013.)
One of the central claims of my research on multicultural media is the significance of space within how such media are organized. There is a significant body of literature (the work of Morley and Robins comes to mind) that raises these issues from the point of view of national and diasporic identity. I've long been interested in the relationship between such spatial imaginaries and the institutions and policies of media. For this reason, I had decided early on to adapt some of the approaches developed by people like Vicki Mayer and her team at the MediaNOLA project and the Going to the Show project at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Both of these projects are models for the kind of collective, publicly-engaged research that I aspire to with this current project. They are also models in their use of the map as a frame for organizing the volume of material that they have gathered.
What I find most interesting about these project, though, is the complex relationship between the map and the archive that they develop. If the map is best for mapping space, it is less effective at mapping transformations across time. The project that I'm working on focuses on the transition from film and print toward television and video as the dominant modes for the distribution of media within various cultural and linguistic communities across Canada. It's a project that covers the period between the late 1960s and the early 1990. For this reason, I'm interested in finding ways of thinking about the ways in the spatialization and temporality of various communities intersect and overlap. The history that I'm documenting is filled with examples of individuals, sites, and institutions that play different roles in different communities at different times. As a result, I find myself struggling to document and, of equal importance, to represent the ways in which the map and the timeline are interconnected.
It is on this note, and in preparation for some presentations and writing that I'm hoping to do in the coming weeks and months, that I've come to think more about what it means to publish, or make public, the findings from such a project. This has lead me to think more about the relationship between the document and the essay. There is a long history in bibliographic research that has raised questions about the nature of the document. This has become even more prominent with the rise of the kinds of intermediality that are permitted with the rise of digital media. There have also been occasional attempts to revive the experimental origins of the essay as a genre. It is here that I currently find myself, exploring the relationship between the document (as practice and object) and the essay (as genre) in order to find a form (or format) that is suited to the intersection between the map and the timeline that my project is currently working through.
More about this soon, but these are some of the broader conceptual issues that I'm currently working on.