edited by Dr. Maria Vélez-Serna and Dr. Markus Stauff
Connecting infrastructures and logistical mediation
Ports – the harbours that allow and regulate circulation across land and sea and the interfaces that connect electric devices with peripherals – are places of especially intense mediation and thus of heightened socio-technological drama. The seaport is the condition for transport and hence for capitalism, inseparable as it is from the ongoing histories of slavery and colonialism. As infrastructure that connects infrastructures, ports offer scenes of rigid standardization (from shipping containers to EU standards for phone chargers) and of unruly movement (whether of people, drugs, data or viruses). Ports enable media convergence and globalisation through increasing heterogeneity and local fixes, permitting or impeding movement along social and cultural hierarchies.
As sites of mediation, ports actualise technical compatibilities, political discourses, and the taming of nature with an imaginary and symbolic layer in which the visibility and legitimacy of different kinds of circulation get negotiated. Often, ports are a black-boxed machinery, yet they produce visible moments of labour when dock-workers strike or when the slides on your laptop won’t connect to the local projector at a conference. Their drive for efficiency, flow and ‘plug-and-play’ produces spectacles of scale and frictionless movement, but also moments of resistance and stoppage.
As the industrial version of the beach, ports undermine and re-organize established cultural binaries, and have given media culture some of its most memorable scenes. Farewells and reunions, contraband and intrigue, escapes and new beginnings all unfold amidst the sea-going ships, the outsized cranes and mazes of container stacks. Some ports left behind by the changing tides of global logistics have found new uses as studio lots or media quarters, as part of seaside regeneration schemes favouring creative industries. In documentary and factual media, ports are key sites in stories of labour, migration, protest, war, logistics and thus play a particular role for the visualization of otherwise abstract relations and thus contribute to cognitive mapping. Their scale and choreography also appeal to non-theatrical and experimental media’s interest in process and infrastructure.
The technical dramas and cultural representations call out for critical contextualisation, as ports are nodes in networks of capital and trade, as well as interfaces between human and non-human worlds. Ports and media are also in specific and concrete relation through practices of circulation. Throughout the 20th century, for instance, American films arrived in Europe through its port cities, which were at the vanguard of cinema culture. Disruptions in shipping such as those caused by war made ripples in European film industries. Electronic components and devices have arrived in containers to enable the adoption of mass media and the rise of digital cultures, also dependent on the fossil fuels shipped directly to European power stations. The mounting waste from ever-faster consumer cycles gets shipped out through the same docks, allowing Europe to externalise the costs of capitalism. At the same time, the spectre of China’s increasing dominance of all types of ports is harnessed to call for European infrastructure projects. Finally, by enabling the installation of undersea cables, ports are integral to the infrastructure of the internet. They are themselves heavily mediated sites, reliant on computer vision for automated container handling within just-in-time operations organised from across the world.
This special section seeks to explore the multiple functions of ports in media cultures, understood both in a specific geographic sense (e.g. the port cities of Europe as objects and subjects of mediation) and in a more expansive way (e.g. the connecting requirements of device culture), thinking about material processes of mediation, commodification and transport. It centres the port as a site of relation, enabling the circulation of people, things and ideas, but also enacting colonial practices of extractivism, bordering, and exploitation. Thinking about these sites thus offers opportunities to think about European media in a relational way, as well as benefitting from the infrastructural and materialist approaches that are emerging in media studies.
We welcome contributions on any aspect of the media-port nexus, both historical and contemporary, including for example:
# Ports and/as media infrastructures
# Ports as scenes of regulatory, technical, and economic conflict, ambivalence, and negotiation
# Protests at port facilities and activist media
# Ports in film and TV narratives, or in industrial media
# Representations and aesthetics of labour and the ‘logistical sublime’
# Media industries and the urban transformation of seaside towns
# Ports as chokepoints and as symbolic sites in media coverage of migration and refuge, of war and disaster
# Shipping of media from film reels to media adapters
# Hardware ports and software porting in gaming and digital media
# Electronics commodity chains, e-waste and environmental impacts of media circulation
# Speculative media and interdimensional ports
We look forward to receiving abstracts of 300 words, 3-5 bibliographic references, and a short biography of 100 words by 15 August 2022 to firstname.lastname@example.org. On the basis of selected abstracts, writers will be invited to submit full manuscripts before mid February 2023 (6,000-8,000 words, revised abstract, 4-5 keywords) which will subsequently go through a double-blind peer review process before final acceptance for publication.
Please check the guidelines at: https://necsus-ejms.org/guidelines-for-submission/
NECSUS also accepts proposals throughout the year for festival, exhibition, and book reviews, as well as proposals for guest edited audiovisual essay sections. We will soon open a general call for research article proposals not tied to a special section theme. Please note that we do not accept full manuscripts for consideration without an invitation.