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Vol. 12, No. 1
November 1999

Mercurial Matters

Old and New Media

News of Members

Editorial: Seduced by a "First”

2000 in Munich

Nina Wormbs wins Robinson Prize

Information Networks and Urban Spaces

Book Review:
Science in Public

Lemelson Center Fellows Program

News of the Field:
Printing History on the Web

Audio History Library

Westinghouse Films from 1904

What can "Old Technologies" Teach us about Digital Culture?

Recent and Upcoming Conferences

Journal of Radio Studies

New Edition of Bibliography


Telephone Collectors International

SHOT Session Query: Mechanical to Electrical

A Victorian Internet?

Contact Us

Mercurians Back Button

What Can “Old Technologies” Teach Us About Digital Culture?

"The Usable Past: Historical Perspectives on Digital Culture” will address issues of digital culture by examining histories of the social integration of previous new technologies and linking them to present conditions. Precedents for our own digital concerns might be found in technologies as recent as 30 or 100 years ago or as distant as the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment, the invention of movable type and the Renaissance, or the invention of paper and Classical Antiquity. This interdisciplinary research seminar will be held June 12-29, 2000, at the University of Iowa Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, Iowa City, Iowa. The director is Lauren Rabinovitz, Professor, American Studies and Film Studies.

A distinctive focus on four interrelated fields of knowledge will provide important touchstones: (1) audiovisual cultures’ challenges or resistance to print, (2) cultures and politics of new information technologies, (3) perception and human experience, (4) the metaphysics of appearances and artifice. By focusing on historical models, each seminar participant will be able to contribute reflections on technology, ideology, and culture—past and present.
Scholars with a Ph.D. or comparable professional degree from all fields are invited to apply. Applicants should be ready to produce original, previously unpublished work for publication and to participate in lively, fast-paced sessions on readings, individual papers, visitors’ lectures, and special events. Participants will be chosen in part to provide sufficient range for a published collection of essays. Some fellowships are reserved for University of Iowa scholars.

There will be ten fellows selected, who will receive $2,700 stipends, plus $500 for travel/housing expenses for visitors. Services will include offices, personal computers, internet access, library service, technical support, copying, meeting rooms. For full information and application requirements, see

All applications must contain three collated paper copies of the following: 1) application cover sheet (see website) and one-paragraph project abstract; 2) letter (maximum 2 pages) which explains how your proposed seminar project relates to your on-going work and will be enhanced by the interdisciplinary seminar; 3) draft of the essay you would present in the seminar (maximum 35 pages) or a detailed prospectus of the essay or project you would prepare for the seminar; 4) curriculum vitae (maximum 3 pages). Also send one copy of a completed project: a published journal article, book chapter, slides, video, CD-ROM, as appropriate. Applications are due at the Obermann Center by Wednesday, January 26, 2000.

Address applications and inquiries to: Jay Semel, Director, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, N134 Oakdale Hall, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242-5000;