If we believe the ongoing hype, then our times are characterised by ‘big data’ and ‘digital humanities’, by algorithmically-based research into large bodies of digital material. This trend also begs the question what is being left behind and potentially forgotten if we follow this direction too willingly. The call for submissions for the Spring 2016 special section ‘Small data’ consequently asks for methodological, theoretical, and historical considerations regarding the value, function, and aesthetics of the small, the miniscule, the miniature, the diminutive.
Historically, the humanities have been concerned with the seemingly marginal detail, the remote and the tiny. No matter if hermeneutics or deconstruction, many methods and approaches have demonstrated how the small can become significant and determinative beyond the sheer question of scale. How has this attention for the small shaped the field of media studies? How can we make this concern productive in times when we have easy access to large quantities of data?
Even though the digital trend seems to favor large bodies of quantifiable data that can be harvested, a number of emergent formats do exhibit a tendency toward miniaturisation: the SMS, the Tweet, the post, the comment, the emoticon, the hashtag, the keyword, the GIF, the hyperlink, the clip, the pic. Condensation and polarisation are characteristics of such forms that illuminate the spontaneous thought and the possible, the contingent and the utopian. The short format can be also seen as a collateral effect of modularity and seriality – small parts that can be combined and reconfigured frequently and at will show how a new culture of connectivity has emerged that might be large in effect, but that is based upon the possibility to link the smallest fragments. In fact, all traffic on the Internet relies on the packaging of data into small formats that are then sent separately and reassembled at the point of arrival. This media theoretical argument might be made productive for new forms of inquiry into emergent formats and novel media products.
The short format also has relevance for television studies, with serial episodes being defined in part by their condensed length in relation to feature films – the small screen in relation to the big screen. Commercials, or breaks, can also be seen as small data, as short interventions that transmit bite-sized messages. In cinema, short films of all genres and styles have often been undervalued by both audiences and critics. Trailers also represent a potential area of investigation in relation to small data, as do credit sequences, as well as the digital codes that structure cinema in the 21st century. Finally, screens are becoming smaller, to be carried in pockets or placed on wrists. Relocation means re-sizing, and often in smaller dimensions.
Submissions may relate but not necessarily be limited to the following:
– The epistemological value of the small format: how have investigations into details engendered large-scale results?
– Chaos theory
– The recombination of small parts into larger units: modularity, serialisation, connectivity.
– Histories of the small vis-à-vis larger formats: aphorisms and novels, miniature paintings, sound shorts, jingles.
– Microhistory, as it has been defined and discussed in the work of Carlo Ginzburg and Jacques Revel, among others, as the investigation of the single unit or event and a way to renew the writing of history.
– Miniaturisation: games of scale, striking dimensions, visual contradictions challenging optical perspective and human centrality within visual representations.
– Nanotechnologies as a means to explore, record, and convey detailed information and achieve unprecedented outcomes.
We look forward to receiving abstracts of 300 words, 3-5 bibliographic references, and a short biography of 100 words by 1 September 2015 at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org. On the basis of selected abstracts writers will be invited to submit full manuscripts (5,000-7,000 words, revised abstract, 4-5 keywords) which will subsequently go through a double-blind peer review process.
NECSUS also accepts abstract submissions on a rolling basis throughout the year for a wide variety of articles on a number of themes related to media studies, in addition to proposals for festival, exhibition, and book reviews, as well as audiovisual essays. Please note that we do not accept full manuscripts for consideration without an invitation. Access our submission guidelines at https://www.necsus-ejms.org/test/guidelines-for-submission/.