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Technologies of History: Visual Media and the Eccentricity of the Past

Visual Media and the Eccentricity of the Past

Steve F. Anderson

Publication Year: 2011

Technologies of History is an engrossing and innovative consideration of how history is constructed today, exploring our most basic relationship to history and the diverse contributions of visual and computational media to conceptions of the past. Embracing the varieties of history offered by experimental film, television, video games, and digital media, Steve F. Anderson mines the creative and discursive potential of this profane and esoteric historiography. He offers a highly readable and consistently fascinating discussion of historiography in visual media, with an emphasis on alternate or fantastic histories, including Star Trek time travel episodes, fake documentaries, films created from home movies and found footage, and video games about cultural traumas such as the siege at Waco and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Examining artifacts from the most commercial Hollywood product to the modernist avant-garde, this bold and ambitious polemic seeks to address historians, media scholars, and general readers alike, encouraging all to recognize, engage with, and perhaps even learn from these heterodox histories and the powerful sway they hold over our historical consciousness.

Published by: Dartmouth College Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v

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pp. vii

This is a lungfish of a book. It was born in the great oceans of celluloid, Mylar, and broadcast media of the previous century but adapted itself to life ashore on the vast beaches of computational media, games, and networks; this evolution, with its richness as well as eccentricities,...

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pp. 1-16

Each generation of media technology brings with it the potential to reimagine our relationship to the past. Conventional wisdom holds that visual histories are most effective at bringing the past “to life,” inviting audiences to reexperience events and encounter historical figures as living people. But this rather limited view obscures far broader and more interesting...

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1: Fantastic History

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pp. 17-48

If you were a TV watcher in 1968, you might have seen an episode of the original Star Trek (NBC) series titled “Patterns of Force” in which Captain Kirk and his half-Vulcan first officer Mr. Spock visit the planet Ekos. There, they discover that a renegade Federation historian named John Gill has re-created a facsimile of Nazi...

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2: Cultural Memory

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pp. 49-67

On Memorial Day weekend 2001, the world watched with anticipation as the first blockbuster of the summer film season, the Disney-owned Touchstone Pictures’ Pearl Harbor, opened nationwide. Boasting the largest initial production budget in Hollywood history, Pearl Harbor promised to exemplify the kind of immersive, hyper-stimulating...

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3: Found Footage

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pp. 68-87

Opening title cards identify the setting as the Yucatán Peninsula in 1931, where Sylvanus G. Morley, a legendary archeologist who began studying Mayan artifacts in 1904, is teaching a Mayan woman to speak English. The young woman stands in front of a pyramid dressed in traditional Mayan garb and phonetically pronounces these words: “We are dressed as our...

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4: Home Movies

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pp. 88-100

Some of the most provocative forms of history writing take place in the least expected places. This is nowhere more true than in the realm of amateur film and videomaking—the massive body of work that we call “home movies” or “home videos.” This chapter focuses not on home movies themselves but rather on a range of...

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5: Materialist History

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pp. 101-121

Not all history films strive to recapture a sense of lived experience from the past or emplot historical data into narratives to be readily consumed by passive viewers. For some filmmakers, past and present are always already mutually implicated through the material and textual nature of historiography. While some films...

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6: Digital Histories

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pp. 122-161

It is a truism of the post-Foucauldian world that the very existence of categories of knowledge and institutionalized disciplines shapes what and how we think. Just as the emergence of the photographic apparatus altered nineteenth-century perceptions of the world,1 increasingly powerful digital tools...

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pp. 162-170

Without doubt, some of the most compelling histories in technocultural studies focus on moments of a technology’s emergence or its corollary evanescence.1 Still others that are close to the heart of this project derive insight from the provocative juxtaposition of temporally disparate technologies, such as Lisa Gitelman’s...


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pp. 171-193


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pp. 195-201


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pp. 203-210

E-ISBN-13: 9781611680089
E-ISBN-10: 1611680085

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2011