From the Editors’ Desk: On the Visible

Visibility underpins much of the discourse on media and the city. It is embedded in discussions of surveillance and the security state, referenda on mapping and territoriality, debates on urban design and use, considerations of media and/as architecture, and especially conceptualizations and periodizations of urban modernity and postmodernity. It is so endemic to the many fields that intersect around the “media/polis” that scholars and practitioners interested in other sensorial experiences of space must often devote at least part of their methodology to dislodging vision from its hegemonic position. The question of visibility, of course, also attains to issues of labor, representation of raced and gendered identities, and social justice, especially as they are manifest within the urban ensemble.

This second issue of Mediapolis attends to the central problematic of visibility in multiple ways. First, this issue offers three revised and expanded panel descriptions, bibliographies, and presenter abstracts submitted to and accepted by the upcoming 2016 meeting of the Society of Cinema and Media Studies. These three panels – on horror films and the urban, cities as screens and sites of spectatorship, and race and mediated place making – all explicitly inquire about conditions of visibility in the city, from the city as vision to those images and personal visions often erased from the urban landscape. Moreover, these panels themselves represent a form of labor within the academy that is often relegated to invisibility: as the sophisticated project descriptions and deeply thought bibliographies show, conference submissions are the result of significant intellectual work, particularly in terms of linking and juxtaposing topics and methods. Such labor, however, regularly remains invisible to all but programming committees, a condition this issue seeks to reverse.

Second, pedagogy, especially the preparation and evolution of course materials and structure, has a similar condition of invisibility. In this issue, Nathan Holmes provides a critical introduction to two different versions of his “Cinema and the City” syllabi, taught five years apart and for two diverse populations. Holmes’ introduction, as well as the syllabi themselves, makes visible the development of thought, instructional skills, student engagement, and changes in disciplinary literature that drive the preparation of course planning. Third, the formations of both syllabi and conference presentations are informed by the present and past state of the field or specialty, context that is often invisible as such due to its ephemeral and subjective status. In order to make visible the evolution of film and media studies’ engagement with the urban, in this issue we continue to collect and publish the list of all panels, workshops, and presentations on the topic given at SCMS from 2008 onwards. In this issue we cover 2010.

Finally, visibility has recently been one of the struggles and tools of the discussion around and activist response to the brutal intersection of policing, race, and (especially public) urban space. We are excited to debut a new feature called Roundtable, in which participants from a variety of disciplines and positions inside and outside of the academy respond to a particular topic, their thoughts published over a period of several days and collected within a single post on MediapolisIn our first Roundtable, a panel of academics, journalists, historians, and activists consider the relationship between policing and media, using Chicago as their case study. In a city with a long and bloody history of police violence, how have changing media practices and new media objects forced a reconsideration of the proper role of the police?

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