Jonathan Sterne

On September 17 and 18, SoundStudies@UW will host media historian and cultural theorist Jonathan Sterne, who is Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology in the Art History and Communication Studies Department at McGill University.

Keynote Lecture
“The Strange Case of Missile Mail: A Drone Archaeology”

Thurs. Sep. 17, 4:00pm – 5:30pm, Elvehjem 140.
On June 8, 1959, the U.S. Post Office collaborated with the U.S. Navy on an experimental mail missile launch from a submarine off the coast of Florida. Missile mail represented an extension of the Post Office’s long-term strategy of adopting new transportation technologies for the movement of mail and an orchestrated attempt to domesticate missiles and encourage U.S. citizens to understand technologies of warfare in other terms, as normal parts of commerce and everyday life. In this keynote lecture, Jonathan Sterne considers missile mail as the post office’s last grab at transportation innovation, before they turned their focus to information technologies like ZIP codes and optical character recognition. He will also consider the 1959 launch as a historical allegory that can help us understand attempts to commercialize and popularize “unmanned” drones today.

Brown Bag Session
“Histories of Sound, Media and Signal Processing”

Thurs. Sep. 17, 12:30pm – 2:00pm, 8411 Social Science.
For the last decade, Sterne has been studying the cultures and institutions that have developed around digital audio technologies. In this brown bag talk, sponsored by the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, Sterne will discuss that work in progress, focusing on the centrality of signal processing to contemporary music, and what it might tell us about broader changes in media and technological cultures. A Q&A session will follow.

“Sound Pedagogy: A Seminar for Sound Teaching”

Fri. Sep. 18, 10:00am – 12:00pm, University Club Room 212.
While sound has long been central to various academic disciplines, audio brings its own distinct challenges and opportunities as a tool to teach with and through. The recent emergence of Sound Studies as an interdisciplinary field of study, however, has spurred increased attention toward sound as a tool for teaching and engaging with new generations of students. In this collaborative workshop hosted by the Borghesi-Mellon Workshop on Sound Studies, Jonathan Sterne will lead participants in a discussion about their sound-based courses, as well as share syllabus and assignment ideas for teaching sound-based theory and practice courses. (Participants should RSVP to and read Sterne’s “Sound Pedagogy” article before attending the workshop).