CfP: Media Fails: What Flops, Fiascos, and Bungles Tell us About Media History

Deadline: 1.12.2015

edited by Phoebe Bronstein and Carol Stabile (via fembotcollective.org)

Media histories are generally told from the standpoint of industrial successes: the VHS and DVDs rather than Betamax and LaserDiscs; Skype and Facetime rather than videophones; the Nintendo Entertainment System rather than the Nintendo Virtual Boy; the iPhone rather than the Newton; and so on. Market successes, however, tell only one side of much more complicated stories about technological, industrial, and cultural change and innovation.

Alternative technologies and programs that were never introduced, introduced only to fail, that failed during the period in which they were introduced, but, like Arrested Development, Firefly, and Veronica Mars, had second lives, provide rich counter-narratives that allow us to understand media history as a site of struggle and tension. This history is one built on epic failures, failures that later became successes, and failures that speak of untimely aspirations. In this collection, we hope to consider the role that failure plays in creating conditions for what ultimately succeeds, as well as failure’s potential as a site of imagination, innovation, and despair.

This collection sees failure as a productive site of inquiry for media studies in and of itself. Defining media studies broadly, the essays we seek will address what media failures can tell us about a given cultural, political, economic, and/or industrial moment. This volume is interested in the extent to which failure can be valuable in and of itself, as an analytic framework or way into considering the limits of specific historical moments. While we are asking that all contributions address the role of failure (whether economically, culturally, or politically) in the twentieth or twenty-first centuries, the editors are soliciting articles that address a wide range of topics for this collection including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Television shows that were never produced or that ran for less than one season;
  • Television pilots that were never produced;
  • Films that flopped or were never produced;
  • Technological devices like the videophone or Google Glass;
  • Massively multiplayer online games that tanked;
  • Films or television shows that flopped;
  • Films or television shows that were never produced;
  • Social media that did not really take off (Napster, MySpace, Friendster, Google Plus).

Completed essays should be no more than 5,000 words in length, inclusive of notes and bibliographies. Please send 500 word abstracts and short bios to cstabile@uoregon.edu and phoebe.bronstein@lmc.gatech.edu by Dec. 1, 2015.

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