Literature, Media History, and Information Cultures

“Hello there!” Those were the first words that the Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf uttered into the microphone when he recorded his voice for the first time on a wire recorder in 1950. But whom did Ekelöf address? Himself? An unknown listener in the future? A ghost in the machine?

By chance “Hello” was also the first thing that Thomas Alva Edison said to the phonograph after inventing it in 1877, and this anthropomorphic gesture reveals something of the ambivalence, fascination, and uncanniness that new technical media evoke in culture and everyday life. They are almost human, but at the same time something else. They are machines that operate both within and beyond the limits of human perception, consciousness, and culture.

This circumstance has fueled my own research in comparative literature, which has traversed a field between literature and the other arts as well as the space between technical media and aesthetics. Most notably I have taken an interest in the avant-garde tradition during the last hundred years and how a technological, but also social and political, modernity has been processed and problematized in this context.

For example: In what way did the possibility of recording voices affect notions of voice, subjectivity, and representation in poetry and novels? How can apparatuses such as photography or phonography offer alternative historiographical or “media archaeological” accounts of the past? To what extent did the early computer and the possibility of storing information as binary code and electric signals affect the textual space of literature during the second half of the 20th century? Or, vice versa, how might the multi-medial interfaces of contemporary computers be studied through earlier aesthetic forms and methods such as collage and visual poetry?

My current research branches into a number of projects – an investigation into the tape recorder as an aesthetic technology during the Cold War; articles on the media technological transformations described above as well as on reading, passivity, distraction, and sleep; research into questions of digitalization and the post-digital. The latter is performed within the frames of a research project that I run, called “Representations and Reconfigurations of the Digital in Swedish Literature and Art 1950–2010” – or RepRecDigit, for short, financed by the Swedish Research Council (see further: blog.liu.se/reprecdigit). I have also initiated a collaborative project with Datamuseet (The Computer Museum) in Linköping on the construction of a Media Archaeology Lab – a space for methodological challenges, interdisciplinary research, artistic practice, and public humanities.

Apart from this, I also lead the Linköping University-based research group Literature, Media Histories, and Information Cultures, (LMI), which aims at exploring intersections between literature, art, and the media ecology taking shape during the last century through film, phonography, radio, television, and digital media. The potential field of investigation covers, for example, questions of archives and databases, distribution and transmission, noise and meaning, inter- and trans-medial art, media technologies and cultural memory, media technologies and the history of the senses, bio-media, appropriation and remediation, trans- and post-literacy. See further LMI.

A crucial question to be confronted in this context is how technical media affect and change the theoretical and methodological thinking about literature and art. To what extent do they invite alternative modes of analyzing and describing aesthetic practices and the past? Do they force out or require other forms of reflection and narration that correspond to their ambiguous position between the human and what is beyond the reach of an anthropocentric culture?

The activity of the group Literature, Media Histories, and Information Cultures consists of doctoral and senior research projects as well as seminars, workshops, and conferences on the field.

Since spring 2017 I am also program director of the interdisciplinary research program The Seed Box. A Mistra-Formas Environmental Humanities Collaboratory at Linköping University. The Seed Box

Research Projects

LMI: Literature, Media History, and Information Cultures

I lead the Linköping University-based research group LMI, which is engaged in research on the relationships between literary and artistic practices, on the one hand, and the history of media, on the other. Apart from myself the group consists of PhD candidates Solveig Daugaard, Jakob Lien, Ragnild Lome, and Mira Stolpe Törneman.

See also Sensorium

RepRecDigit – Representations and Reconfigurations of the Digital in Swedish Literature and Art 1950–2010

I lead the research project RepRecDigit, financed by the Swedish Research Council, 2013–2017. The project investigates the effects of digitalization on the fields of Swedish literature and art during the years 1950–2010. The other researchers in the project are associate professors Jonas Ingvarsson, Skövde University, and Cecilia Lindhé, University of Gothenburg, and PhD candidate Jakob Lien, Linköping University.

See further RepRecDigit

The Media Archaeology Lab, The Computer Museum, Linköping

This research project, which I started in 2015, looks into the possiblities of establishing a ”media archaeology lab” at the Computer Museum in Linköping, for research into and with older digital media, in conjunction with artistic practice and public humanities work on the same field. This is explored in collaboration with international scholars and artists such as Lori Emerson, Garnet Hertz, and Jussi Parikka. The initialization of this project has been funded by Riksbankens jubileumsfond.

Medialiseringstider/The Times of Mediatization

This is a research network financed by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and connected to the group "Vardagslivets och kulturens medialisering" (The Mediatization of Culture and Everyday Life). I am a member of this network that will, during the coming years, 2013-2016, explore the temporal dynamics of the mediatization processes.

The Algorithm Studies Network

This is a research network funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and organized by STS-researchers Francis Lee and Lotta Björklund Larsen at the Department of Thematic Studies: Technology and Social Change at Linköping University. The network is engaged in exploring the impact of algorithms in contemporary culture, society, and everyday life. I am a member of this network.

For further information, see The Algorithm Studies Network.

Mnemonics: Network for Memory Studies

Mnemonics is a recently launched international network with the aim of organizing annual conferences for doctoral students within the field of memory studies. The network consists of partners from the Ghent University, Goldmith’s, University of London, Columbia University, Goethe University Frankfurt, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University, Stockholm University, Linköping University, and Södertörn University College.

For further information, see Mnemonics.

The Nordic Network of Avant-Garde Studies

The Nordic Network of Avant-Garde Studies aims to support and coordinate small and dispersed national centres of research, help promoting the exchange of knowledge about differences and similarities among the avant-garde currents and research in the Nordic countries, and make Nordic avant-garde research visible in a European and international context.

For further information about the activities, see The Nordic Network of Avant-Garde Studies

Research

Publications

Teaching, collaboration and social media

Teaching

Teaches at the Research School for Language and Culture in Europe and in Comparative Literature.

Collaboration

Social media

Twitter: @jesperoliu

Blogg: blog.liu.se/reprecdigit



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