Obsolescence Research Workshop

Obsolescence: Media history, policy and aesthetics Project

1 & 2 October 2009
University of Wollongong

Some international scholarship has taken obsolescence as a focus, but this workshop aims to provide a focus for those whose concerns go beyond the world of the “early adopters”. Speakers are interested in how technologies age, how old technologies survive, and in the shadings and gradations between the latest thing and yesterday’s gadget, between retro-chic and junk.

Obsolescence raises questions on a number of fronts, which this workshop will address. In aesthetics: how do technologies and texts pass from the sublime “new”, to the ugliness of obsolescence, to the recovered beauty of the collectable and the antique. In policy terms, what of the large numbers of people struggling on with obsolete communication technologies, on obsolete networks? Is policy biased to early adopters? In terms of more critical views, how does the constant contemporary production of obsolescence square with an ethics of waste? Does the distinction accorded to early adopters reveal something about other divides – the city and the country, class, gender?

Importantly, the focus on obsolescence means that conversations at the workshop will be cross-media. For accounting obsolescence demands that we chart the emergence of the new in relation to the passing of the less-than-new, and the redundancy of the old.

This workshop will provide a focussed forum for a development of the obsolescence as a focus for investigations of media history in Australia.

Participants will be asked to prepare short presentations addressing obsolescence as it relates to their research focus.

In advance of the workshop, our aims would be to facilitate:

Interested participants should contact Jason Wilson at jasonw@uow.edu.au.