Lecture: Brian Hochman, The Ethnographic Origins of Modern Media: A Brief History, in Color

December 9, 2014
3:00 PM
Mann Assembly Room, Paterno Library

The DCMI speaker series in Critical Media and Digital Studies features speakers invited to visit Penn State. Its goal is to present critical, rather than merely celebratory perspectives on the study of digital culture and media; to explore emerging perspectives on the politics of the technology industry, software engineering ethics, and the legislative regulation of data collection and analysis; and to integrate with the study of digital culture and media the study of social class, race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, disability, and postcoloniality, as well as non-Western cultural perspectives.

On December 9, 2014, Brian Hochman joined us to deliver a lecture entitled “The Ethnographic Origins of Modern Media: A Brief History, in Color.”

Event flyer

Follow-up interview (December 2014–January 2015)

Description of presentation

“The Ethnographic Origins of Modern Media: A Brief History, in Color” examines the history of color photography and early color media, which emerged in the early twentieth century out of the effort to preserve the world’s disappearing cultures. It’s a talk that looks, more generally, at how new media become “new.”

Speaker bio

Brian Hochman is Assistant Professor of English at Georgetown University, where he also serves on the faculties of American Studies and Film and Media Studies. He is the author of Savage Preservation: The Ethnographic Origins of Modern Media Technology (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), and he is currently working on a new book on the history of wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping in the United States titled The Wiretapped Nation: An American History Overheard.

Description, from publisher’s Web site

How ethnographic encounters shaped audiovisual media in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America

Brian Hochman shows how widespread interest in recording vanishing races and disappearing cultures influenced audiovisual innovation, experimentation, and use in the U.S. Drawing extensively on seldom-seen archival sources, Savage Preservation offers a new model for thinking about race and media in the American context — and a fresh take on a period of accelerated technological change that closely resembles our own.

Savage Preservation is an eye-opening account of the mutually entangled origins of ethnography and the meanings of modern media: recorded sound, color photography, documentary film. Not only does Brian Hochman enrich his readers’ sense of culture as a concept available to historical change, he demonstrates convincingly that North American media studies remains haunted at its core by the racial ‘science’ of earlier generations.” —Lisa Gitelman

Other resources


Publisher’s Web site for Savage Preservation: The Ethnographic Origins of Modern Media Technology

Brian Hochman, “Hearing Lost, Hearing Found: George Washington Cable and the Phono-Ethnographic Ear,” American Literature 82.3 (September 2010): 519–551

Brian Hochman, “Ellison’s Hemingways,” African-American Review 42.3–4 (Fall/Winter 2008): 513–532

Brian Hochman Web site

Brian Hochman on Twitter