Transmedia Frictions: The Digital, the Arts, and the Humanities

Transmedia Frictions: The Digital, the Arts, and the Humanities

Transmedia Frictions: The Digital, the Arts, and the Humanities

Transmedia Frictions: The Digital, the Arts, and the Humanities


Editors Marsha Kinder and Tara McPherson present an authoritative collection of essays on the continuing debates over medium specificity and the politics of the digital arts. Comparing the term "transmedia" with "transnational," they show that the movement beyond specific media or nations does not invalidate those entities but makes us look more closely at the cultural specificity of each combination. In two parts, the book stages debates across essays, creating dialogues that give different narrative accounts of what is historically and ideologically at stake in medium specificity and digital politics. Each part includes a substantive introduction by one of the editors.

Part 1 examines precursors, contemporary theorists, and artists who are protagonists in this discursive drama, focusing on how the transmedia frictions and continuities between old and new forms can be read most productively: N. Katherine Hayles and Lev Manovich redefine medium specificity, Edward Branigan and Yuri Tsivian explore nondigital precursors, Steve Anderson and Stephen Mamber assess contemporary archival histories, and Grahame Weinbren and Caroline Bassett defend the open-ended mobility of newly emergent media.

In part 2, trios of essays address various ideologies of the digital: John Hess and Patricia R. Zimmerman, Herman Gray, and David Wade Crane redraw contours of race, space, and the margins; Eric Gordon, Cristina Venegas, and John T. Caldwell unearth database cities, portable homelands, and virtual fieldwork; and Mark B.N. Hansen, Holly Willis, and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Guillermo Gómez-Peña examine interactive bodies transformed by shock, gender, and color.

An invaluable reference work in the field of visual media studies, Transmedia Frictions provides sound historical perspective on the social and political aspects of the interactive digital arts, demonstrating that they are never neutral or innocent.


Marsha Kinder and Tara McPherson

Sparks. Heat. Conflict. This is what friction generates. Using friction as a
catalyst, our event features work produced at the pressure point between theory
and practice. It brings together artists and scholars from different realms, at
different stages of their careers, working both individually and in collaboration
to spark an array of transmedia frictions.


A familiar tale now circulates as an origin story for the emerging field of the digital humanities. In its Wikipedia entry, the story goes like this:

Digital humanities descends from the field of humanities computing … whose origins
reach back to the late 1940s in the pioneering work of Roberto Busa.

The Text Encoding Initiative, born from the desire to create a standard encoding scheme
for humanities electronic texts, is the outstanding achievement of early humanities com
puting. The project was launched in 1987 and published the first full version of the TEI
in May 1994.

In the nineties, major digital text and image archives emerged at centers of humanities
computing in the U.S. (e.g. the Women Writers Project, the Rossetti Archive, and The William
Blake Archive
), which demonstrated the sophistication and robustness of text-encoding for

The term “digital humanities” is widely attributed to the editors of the 2004 volume A Companion to Digital Humanities (Schreibman, Siemens, and Unsworth). That work, like the Wikipedia excerpt, frames the digital humanities in a direct lineage from the computational humanities and “half a century of textually focused computing.” (It also includes a preface by Father Busa which functions rather like a benediction for the field.) The book’s introduction goes on to note that “especially since the 1990s … advances in technology have made it … possible … to embrace the full range of multimedia,” and the . . .

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