The impetus for Mediapolis began with a simple observation: that to live in our particular historical moment is to grapple with, on the one hand, the ever more inextricable role that media play in our everyday lives, while on the other, the seemingly inexorable urbanization of the world around us. Inside and outside of the academy, across the humanities and the social sciences, and even transcending global divides, we find instance after instance where the complex interrelationship between media and the city becomes mutually constitutive. Indeed, it is hard to imagine the modern city independent of its representations in media, just as so much of our understanding of media practices is bound up in urban culture.
As the portmanteau indicates, our goals for Mediapolis are as simple as the impetus that inspired it. We aspire to create a venue for discussion at the intersection of these two phenomena, placing urban studies and media studies into conversation with one another. In doing so, we adopt an understanding of our terms that is purposefully vague; given that the categories “city” and “media” have been productively stretched, contorted, and blurred in recent years, we embrace this semantic instability as a welcome indicator of a moment in flux, deserving of greater scholarly attention.
Mediapolis is born into a digital age, and we seek to exploit the possibilities afforded by our medium to enable a more responsive, robust, and inclusive debate around issues concerning media and urban issues. We feel strongly that the best traditions of scholarly publishing are well worth keeping, and Mediapolis retains many of the features of the traditional academic journal. Everything that appears on the site has been rigorously edited by subject-area experts, and original research articles have also been submitted for peer review.
Yet this is not a traditional journal, and we see our role within the broader ecosystem in very different terms. We believe strongly that the issues covered on this site are vital and of broad interest, and therefore it is important to us that our work be accessible to as wide an audience as possible. Our goal with this project is to further the discussion of urban media issues, and in doing so we aim to help develop an audience for such research that connects interested researchers within and beyond the academy.
Following in the tradition of open-access scholarship and middle-state publishing, we conceive of Mediapolis occupying a space between a personal blog and a peer-reviewed research journal. Instead, we imagine Mediapolis as a site for what we think of as “small-gauge” scholarship, in recognition of the fact that ideas circulate faster today than they ever have, but our publishing models struggle to keep pace. We envision a site where a timely reflection on a current television program runs alongside a research note excerpted from a work-in-progress on the contemporary street art scene. A site where participants from a conference panel on the shifting geographies of urban newspapers can reconvene for a moderated roundtable discussion of issues emerging from their papers, and where interviews with cultural policymakers and filmmakers and community activists and practitioners of all stripes belong. A site where educators can consult teaching materials, workshop their own ideas, and contribute to the conversation around a specifically urban pedagogy. Above all else, we envision a site that responds to the interests of its readers, and to that end we encourage you to share your ideas, your opinions, and your scholarship with us.
Mediapolis is supported by the Urbanism, Architecture, and Geography Scholarly Interest Group at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, and the Resources section of this site also serves as a repository of the group’s documents and resources. These include syllabi, teaching resources, and extensive documentation of the history of urban-related presentations at the annual meetings of the Society. We welcome contributions from readers who would care to share their own materials with our readership.
In our first issue, we feature a critical introduction to and the full text of the accepted workshop developed by the Urbanism, Architecture, and Geography Scholarly Interest Group (formerly the Urban Studies Scholarly Interest Group) for submission to the 2016 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference. The issue also features a selection of posts that document the history of the SIG since its founding in 2010, highlighting evolving trends in the study of urbanism, architecture, and geography within the largest cinema and media studies conference in North America. In a useful counterpart to these pieces, Josh Gleich (University of Arizona) offers a look at the experiences of a media scholar at the annual meeting of the Urban Affairs Association in the first of our ongoing series of conference reports. Gleich’s piece is one of three that offer an unusual look at a crucial point of intersection of urban and media studies. Amy Corbin (Muhlenberg College) contributes a critical introduction to her syllabus on “the inner city” for On Teaching resources section, while Josh Glick (Hendrix College) relfects on his role as part of the research and curatorial team that composes a multi-media museum exhibit on Coney Island. Finally, we are thrilled that this issue features the first of what we’re calling Deep Dives – peer-reviewed, longform articles showcasing current research in the field. Here, Nilo Couret (University of Michigan) reflects on the role played by city symphonies in the civic celebrations of Rio de Janeiro’s 450th anniversary. Collectively, these posts represent the breadth and depth of the kind of resources, formats, approaches, and topics we hope Mediapolis will offer. We welcome you to our first issue.