Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

Media Studies Forum 2018

Becoming-media: Rethinking Media History in East Asia and Beyond

Fri, April 27, 2018 | GAR 1.102

9:30 AM - 12:00 PM


 Media Studies Forum 2018



Rethinking Media History in East Asia and Beyond


Organizers and Conveners:

Xuefeng Feng, Jia Liu, and Caitlin McClune


The Department of Asian Studies


The Center for East Asian Studies

Thurs, April 26 (SAC 1.118) & Fri, April 27 (GAR 1.102)


Forum introduction

The theme “becoming-media” indicates our hope to initiate a conversation among a variety of theories and approaches in media studies, and by doing so to combine analysis of media content, representation, and semantics with an investigation into the techno-discursive, or material-discursive, aspects of media. In this light, the theme “becoming-media,” on the one hand, embraces historical, contingent, and local events that transform mundane objects into forms of media starting to select, store, and process relevant data and to generating meanings. On the other hand, it pays considerable attention to the epistemological structure of media that enables conditions of meanings and representations in the first place.

Thanks to emerging technologies and innovations in media and communication industries the field of media studies is now being overwhelmed by scholarship featured with the keywords “new media.” However, numerous so-called "old" media and their specific histories have been kept largely in obscurity. Moreover, the “abyss of nonmeaning in and from which media operate” (Bernhard Siegert, 2015), in contrast to the enormous investment in textual and cultural analysis, has barely registered with scholars in East Asia media studies. Responding to the peculiar indifference expressed in the dominant approaches of East Asia media studies in the English-speaking world, this forum hopes to direct attention to some underexplored questions concerning the event-character of media, its epistemological structure, and potential world-making effects emanating from the events of becoming-media. This last point should be read in light of a McLuhanesque understanding of media, that any mediatization, or becoming-media, “entails a change not only in the world but of the world.”(Matthew Engelke, 2010)


Forum Schedule

Thursday, April 26 (SAC 1.118)

9:30- 9:40 Opening remarks

9:40- 11:00

Speaker: Briankle G. Chang (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Title:Untimely Media

Moderator: Jia Liu


11:20- 12:40

Speaker: Xiao Liu (McGill University)

Title: There Are No Media

Moderator: Xuefeng Feng


12:40- 2:00 Lunch break


2:00- 3:20

Speakers: Thomas Looser (New York University)

Title: Digital Liquidity and the Signs of Empire

Moderator: Yunfei Shang


3:40- 5:00

Speakers: Yongwoo Lee (New York University)

Title: Taxidermy of Time: Tigers as the Chronotope of Continual Coloniality in Korea

Moderator: Caitlin McClune


Friday, April 27 (GAR 1.102)

9:30- 12:00

A roundtable with invited speakers, UT faculty members, and graduate students

Sponsors: the Julian Suez Endowment in Chinese Studies, POSCO Chair in Korean Studies, Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. Endowment, Endowment for Chinese Studies, Taiwan Studies Program, the Center for East Asian Studies, and the Department of Asian Studies.

Abstracts and Speakers

Untimely Media


If media mediate, they are necessarily opaque, remaining in the dark or refusing to shine forth.  This is how they keep themselves, and in keeping themselves in this way, they mediate things and make possible their phenomenonality. Keeping media as a constant concept, I begin by drawing the distinction between “message or content” and “container.”  Media will henceforward be understood as “containers.”  However, since the idea of “container” is easily and usually understood on the basis of discrete “objects,” it reproduces the confusion of content and container.  To work through this problem, I will discuss what might be called the “becoming media,” using television as an example.  My purpose is twofold: first, to show how and to what extent media arrive at their meaning après coup--after certain events that the alone cannot make possible, and second, to show how an understanding of the becoming of media clarifies what we mean by “media effects.”  It is by remaining opaque, I argue, that media achieves their effects.  And it is by unraveling what is elsewhere called the “container principle” that we can free media effects studies from its textualist program.

Briankle G. Chang is an Associate Professor in the Communication Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is the author of Deconstructing Communication: Subject, Representation, and Economies of Exchange (Minnesota 1996), and the co-editor of Philosophy of Communication (MIT 2010) and Thinking Media and Beyond: Perspectives from German Media Theory (Routledge 2018). His recent publications include "Benjamin's Travel" in a special issue on Walter Benjamin in Positions (2018).

There Are No Media


What are media? Today as computers, iPhones, and other “smart” devices are invested with game-changing powers that bring human beings into an unprecedentedly networked world, “media” loom large as both the objects of fascination and an expanding field of inquiry. Revisiting an episode of the “qigong fever” from the 1980s and early 1990s in China, this paper examines how this meditative practice based on ancient Chinese cosmological and epistemological order was revived and reframed as a way to reposition the human body in an information environment that were rapidly transforming with networked communication technologies. Foregrounding the politics of the body, this paper proposes a move away from the fixation on media as given, discrete objects and substrate, and a shift to the study of mediation processes instead. This is because the focus on reified media objects not only induces a dichotomy that posits the “dead junk of the hypomnemata” against the human, but also risks reinforcing the fetish of technological objects that contributes to what Vincent Mosco calls the “digital sublime.” This shift to the processes of mediation, therefore, suggests an approach to media studies without media, in the sense that the concept of static, transhistorical media objects would give way to an examination of the material and social forces that are reassembled for the production and reconfiguration of relations, as well as the “becoming” of media in historically specific circumstances.

Xiao Liu is an Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies at McGill University. Her articles have appeared in venues such as Grey Room, Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation, and Culture, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, and Frontier of Literary Studies in China. Her book, Information Fantasies: Precarious Mediation and Postsocialist Imaginations in China is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press.

Digital Liquidity and the Signs of Empire


This paper seeks an alternative genealogy for the materiality of an image (or sign)—and for materiality itself—especially as might be discovered within digital media environments. To get to this, my starting point is a questioning of the recent turn toward sound within cultural studies, and an argument for considering sound in relation with what might provisionally be called liquid materialities. These questions are located within a broader media history of visuality and sound, but also within the modern history of Japanese empire (a cultural “content”). The ultimate aim is to consider what an alternative media genealogy might also tell us about the recent history of imperial subjectivity.

Thomas Looser is an Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at New York University. His areas of research include cultural anthropology and Japanese studies; cultural, economic, social and aesthetic geographies of early and late modern capitalism; art, architecture and urban form; new media studies and animation; and critical theory. He has served on the editorial boards of journals such as MechademiaDigital Asia, and Asian Diasporic Visual Arts, and has published in a variety of venues.

Title: Taxidermy of Time: Tigers as the Chronotope of Continual Coloniality in Korea


This essay is mainly focusing on conceptualizing the subject of non-human and animality issue through the representation of tiger images in colonial and postcolonial Korea. The portrayal of animals and the concept of ‘animality’ has been reflected in the various stages of collective memories in the formation of Korean modernity, throughout the history of Japanese colonialism, the Korean war, anti-communism and Americanism and Korea’s Vietnam War in the Cold War era. In this sense, the representational problem of non-human and animistic subjectivities in postcolonial Korea casts several seminal questions on the formation of colonial modernity which can be traced back to the time of the Japanese occupation period and postwar dictatorial governmentality through biopolitics by highly racialized tropes and ethicized cultural discourses. Yet, the epistemological dichotomy still embedded in the collective memory of Koreans as a form of racism and xenophobia. Through overviewing theoretical and critical analyses on the subject of human-animal, discourses of animality and the images of tigers questioning the relationship between the concept of present-past as the primordial, and animal as chronotope of colonial modernity, I will discuss the imaginary mono-ethnic nationalism, symptomatic tropes within the formation of Korean modernity, and its collective unconscious in the postcolonial era through the representation of tigers.

Yongwoo Lee is an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow of East Asian Studies at New York University. His primary research interests focus on media and cultural studies of modern Korea, critical theory, popular culture in East Asia, film studies, critical musicology, the intellectual history of wartime Japan and postwar Korea, contemporary art and post/colonial historiography.

Sponsored by: Julian Suez Fellowship, Mitsubishi Fellowship, POSCO Fellowship, China Endowment and Taiwan Studies Program

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