“Flickers of Sunlight”: The Year That Was

Hotel Yucca, Las Vegas

The year-in-review piece is as much a staple of the season as resolutions and ball drops. And, indeed, as we close the cover on the second volume of Mediapolis and officially enter our third year, there is much to review. This was a year in which we experimented with new formats in the journal, to great success: our roundtables were more varied and more numerous, we introduced new sections and new formats to each issue, and we expanded our approach to the “media” part of our name, running essays on (for example) electronic music and comic books, while publishing our first audio piece as well.

However, from the very first articles we ran in 2017, it was clear that the tenor of our journal had changed. One of our founding principles was to create a forum that enabled academics to respond to issues of the day in a manner that was more timely than the constraints of traditional academic publishing allow; with enormous upheaval in the air – and particularly the international rise of right-wing populism – it was clear that our contributors (and our editors) were interested in a conversation that was much more explicitly political. This was reflected also in our readership, as many of our most circulated essays were also those that were particularly timely and/or political in dimension.

Of course, the political change that 2017 brought with it wasn’t often met favorably in these pages. Indeed, the very first sentence of the first article we published this year – Christopher Holliday’s report from a conference organized at King’s College London – heralded the year that was to come:

Cities and their inhabitants can be displaced and impacted by a number of competing catastrophes.

As the year drew to a close, however, we were determined to not give in to the temptation to catastrophe-mine. This isn’t to say that we expect volume three of this journal will be any less political than volume two was. But rather that, as the calendar turns over from 2017 to 2018, we might do better to focus our energies on those things worth remembering about the year that just passed, rather than underscore the collective sense that we all just survived an annus horribilis for the ages.

In that spirit, we reached out to a motley group – members of our editorial board, past Mediapolis contributors, and new voices alike – and asked a simple question: what were the moments or ideas from this past year that you want to shine a light on, that we should not lose sight of in spite of a desire to tear the 2017 page from our calendars and skip right over it in our collective memory? Or, in the much more evocative words of Hunter Vaughan, one of the contributors: what were the “brief flickers of genuine sunlight in the cheap neon Vegas motel room that was 2017?”

The responses we got back were across the cultural map, though predictably, many directly engaged with the politics of culture (or the culture of politics, in some cases; the distinction between the two has never been less clear). Over the following week, then, we proudly share those reflections on the year that was, in hopes that the year that will be is one better worth remembering.

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