Media Studies at the Crossroads

On Nov. 10, Film and Media Studies will be hosting the Victor Blau Memorial Lecture on New Media. The featured lecturer will be John T. Caldwell, a professor of cinema and media studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, who will give a talk entitled “Disruptors, Influencers, Makers: Media Studies at the Crossroads.” The lecture will begin at 4:00pm in the Hurst Lounge (201) in Duncker Hall, with a reception to follow.

“Professor Caldwell's talk focuses on the contemporary mediascape where surveillance, cross-promotion, and data-mining align neatly with the ‘big data’ and ‘distant analysis’ favored in the digital humanities. In other words, he is investigating the implications of the commercial digital media enterprise in its adoption and mainstreaming of the very terms that arts and humanities scholars have employed to analyze it,” explains Gaylyn Studlar, director of WashU’s program in film and media studies. “What does it mean that Madison Avenue and transmedia marketing firms now pose as a cultural vanguard by trafficking in issues of ‘disruption,’ ‘crowd-sourcing,’ and ‘maker’ media?”

Victor Blau, the namesake of this lecture, enjoyed a long and immensely successful career poised at the convergence of the film and music industries during the heyday of the studio era. This kind of convergence anticipated a key characteristic of 21st -century media. He joined Warner Brothers Pictures and its music publishing subsidiary, Music Publishers Holding Corp. (“MPHC”) in 1933 in New York City, where he later became head of the copyright and music clearance departments. In 1939, Blau moved to Warner’s Burbank studio to run MPHC’s west coast office, before being named the head of the Warner Studio’s music department and Executive Vice-President of MPHC. In 1965, Blau returned to New York where he became Vice-President of Warner Brothers Pictures, and President of MPHC, assuming senior responsibility for all of Warner’s music publishing and record companies. He retained these positions until his retirement in 1968. Blau also served on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) from 1965-1969.

Blau’s rich life and career illustrate a passion for innovation in media, an aspect this lecture hopes to explore and memorialize. Advancements in terms of interactivity, aesthetics-reality relations, control of transmedia communication via commerce, as well as convergence, instantaneousness, and globalization are often used to distinguish "New Media" in the 21st century. An intellectually rigorous approach to New Media is both timely and necessary.

“Digital media forms saturate modern life and situate us as human beings well beyond the arenas of art and entertainment. We may intuitively grasp that New Media is impacting our lives in profound ways—personally, politically, socially, and economically—but how deeply are we thinking about the implications?” Studlar continued, “Our hope is that lectures like this one on Nov. 10, will raise issues about contemporary media from fresh perspectives to address a critical subject that should be of interest to students, faculty, and the community.”

The Victor Blau Memorial Lecture on New Media, titled "Disruptors, Influencers, Makers: Media Studies at the Crossroads" will be held Nov. 10 at 4:00pm in Hurst Lounge.