Infrastructures of Mobility, Networks of Power
The Birth of a Mobile Cinema: Protoautomobility and the Phantom Ride, 1897-1906
My presentation will begin by examining the two films released in 1897 that compete for the distinction of being the first phantom ride film – Départ de Jérusalem en chemin de fer [Leaving Jerusalem by Railway], a Lumière Brothers production shot by Alexandre Promio, and The Haverstraw Tunnel, shot by an uncredited filmmaker and released by Casler and Dickson’s American Mutoscope and Biograph Company –and end with an analysis of what most historians describe as the last phantom ride film: A Trip Down Market Street, photographed by Harry J. Miles, and shot just four days before the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
Moving Power: For a Media History of Portable Generators
From the earliest times of itinerant cinema exhibition, it became obvious that one of the important problems was that projectors required electricity. In rural or non-Western contexts, exhibitors had to bring along their own power generators, as no electric infrastructure was available. During the early period, they would often exhibit these sometimes enormous engines beside their screening room, as attractions in their own right. But this history of the power generator doesn’t stop at the end of the early cinema era. Whether in 1920s French provincial schools or in post-colonial Africa or Indonesia, rural projection depended on generators. Still today, they remain required everywhere the electric infrastructure proves unreliable (Nigeria) or at the geographical borders of that infrastructure – in the Indigenous lands of Northern Canada for instance. Power generators are integral to a history of mobile cinema, as soon as a wider geography is considered. They are decentralization tools and belong to the periphery. In fact, their presence qualifies the periphery as such, reveals the frontiers of infrastructures. Simultaneously, as media historians now turn to questions of energy (Cubitt) and environmental impact of the media industry (Vaughan), portable generators allow for a material history of mobility fully grounded in these problems on a global level.
The Eyes of the War. An Archaeology of WW1 Aerial Apparatuses between Panoramic and Telescopic Vision
Defined by Virilio as “the extreme way to see”, aviation showed a widespread relation with the cinephotographic devices since its earliest uses. The outbreak of WW1 represented a moment of exacerbation of this bond, which however has its roots in earlier scientific and spectacular traditions, e. g. the photogrammetry. The contribution aims to describe the main aerial cinematic apparatuses used in the Great War, contextualizing their technological depth in light of two paradigms of vision: the panoramic and telescopic ones, retracing therefore the military importance assumed by aviation by the search for an all-embracing gaze capable of reaching never-before-experienced distances.
WIVES, WACS, WAVES, SPARS and GOCS! Domesticating Homeland Defense Systems in WWII
During WWII, in the Air Warning Service, thousands of civilians watched the skies for enemy aircraft across the US and called in their sightings to centers where volunteers tracked the flights. This “sociotechnical system” (Edwards 2003) integrated civilians into both a social and technical military network of observation and global surveillance (Farish 2010, 2016; Packer 2013; Packer and Reeves 2013, 2020). The tensions between those networks rearticulated militarized domestic airspace, or the “vertical field” (Parks 2018), by imagining a sky colored by constant vigilance, threat, and tedium, debates which continue to shape the contemporary national defense and the security state (May 2011).