The remaining Media History seminars for 2020 have been canceled because of Covid-19. We’ll do our best to reschedule the talks by Rebecca Roach and Joseph Howley for the 2020-21 series. Stay healthy, everyone!


Rebecca Roach on Media Lives and the Archive

Rockefeller image

Please join us at the next Media History seminar for Rebecca Roach’s talk ‘Media Lives in the Rockefeller Archive: or, How the Humanities Invented Modern Computing’. We’ll be meeting on Wednesday March 18 at 6pm. The meeting will be held at Birkbeck (43 Gordon Square WC1H 0PD). Everyone’s welcome!

‘Media Lives in the Rockefeller Archive: or, How the Humanities Invented Modern Computing’

In these days of dwindling funding for the arts and humanities, I look back to the start of the digital age to argue for the significance of their contribution to the invention of modern computing. I examine the role of mid-century institutions such as the Rockefeller Foundation and specifically its Humanities Division, in supporting early research into theories of communication—theories which would prove vital to the post-World War Two development of computational technologies. Looking to the institutional, biographical and media lives that my research has revealed, I argue for the value of humanities-based models of technological innovation.

Rebecca Roach is Lecturer in Contemporary Literature in the Department of English at the University of Birmingham. Her first book, Literature and the Rise of the Interview, was published by Oxford University Press in 2018. She is currently working on a second book examining the intersection between literature and computing since the Second World War. You can find out more about her here:

This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.

Media History Study Day 2020 CANCELLED

We regret to announce that Media History Study Day 2020 is cancelled.

The decision to cancel the event was made for two reasons: several participants are no longer able to attend, and caution regarding the emerging and uncertain Coronavirus situation.

Every effort will be made to reschedule the Study Day in the coming academic year.

We apologise for any inconvenience the cancellation may cause.


Media History Study Day 2020 is an opportunity for postgraduate students (PGRs) and early career researchers (ECRs) working on any aspect of media studies to share and discuss their work in a collegial, multidisciplinary environment. ECRs/PGRs working on media from any time period, social/cultural context, or perspective are invited to participate, including, but not limited to, those examining book history, broadcast media, electronic media, ephemera, film, journalism, media theory, newspapers, periodicals, or print culture. 

DATE: CANCELLED (March 18, 2020)       
TIME: TBD–19:30
LOCATION: Birkbeck, University of London, 43 Gordon Square, London
KEYNOTE: Dr. Rebecca Roach, University of Birmingham, 18:00–19:30

ABSTRACT DEADLINE: February 1, 2020

The Study Day’s theme, “MEDIA LIVES,” broadly considers the concept of life in the media, embracing everything from interviews, influencers, and self-representation to the lives and lifecycles of old and new media. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Agency
  • AI and the Lives of Machines
  • Autobiography/Biography/Diaries/Media Identities/Self-Representation/Life-writing/Subjectivity
  • Blogging/Microblogging/Bots
  • Celebrity
  • Collaboration
  • Data-driven Subjects/Dividuals/Black-boxing
  • Dis/ability
  • Gaming lives
  • Influencers
  • Interfaces
  • Interviews
  • Invisible labour or participants
  • Lifespans of media and technologies
  • Lives in the media archive
  • Long Runs/Short Runs of newspapers, periodicals, serials, or series

While PGRs/ECRs are encouraged to share work that resonates with the theme, submissions on all media-related subjects are welcome. Participants will give 10-minute presentations on their works-in-progress followed by a 5-minute discussion of a question/problem related to their research. Research posters or presentations in alternative formats will also be considered. 

The Study Day is free. It will include a workshop on the ethical implications of conducting research in digital environments/on digital topics facilitated by Dr. Rebecca Roach from the University of Birmingham. Coffee, tea, and lunch will be provided by the Study Day’s sponsors. Participants are responsible for their own travel costs.


ABSTRACT DEADLINE: Early career researchers and postgraduate students interested in participating in Media History Study Day 2020 should submit a 100-word abstract and 40-word bio to before midnight on February 1, 2020. If you would like to share a poster or use an alternative presentation format, please include details along with your abstract. 

For more information, please visit or contact Ann M. Hale,


Media History Study Day 2020 is sponsored by Media History, an interdisciplinary journal that focuses on media and society from the fifteenth century to the present; the Media History Seminar, a London-based interdisciplinary group working on a range of media including print, radio, film, and digital communications technologies from various time periods; Queen Mary University of London; the Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies; the Institute of English Studies; and the Institute of Historical Research.

Bernard Geoghegan on AI and Orientalism


Please join us at the next Media History seminar for Bernard Geoghegan’s talk ‘AI and Orientalism: From Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to von Kempelen’s Chess-Playing Turk’. We’ll be meeting on Thursday Nov 21 at 6pm. Because of the ongoing strike at Senate House, the meeting will be held at KCL (Virginia Woolf Bldg 3.01, 22 Kingsway, London WC2B 6LE). All are welcome!

‘AI and Orientalism: From Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to von Kempelen’s Chess-Playing Turk’

Through an analysis of the Chess-Playing Turk built in Vienna in the 1770s, and its subsequent reimagining into the present, this talk looks at how difference and alterity, be it racialized, gendered, or bodily, have shaped efforts at figuring, imagining, and building thinking machines.

Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan is a Senior Lecturer in the History and Theory of Digital Media in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. He previously taught in Berlin, Paris, New Haven, Coventry, and Evanston. You can find out more about him here:

This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.

Maurice Lee on Mass Print + Numbers


Please join us at this year’s first Media History seminar for a talk by Maurice Lee. This event, a joint session with the Nineteenth-Century Studies seminar, will start at 6pm on Tuesday October 15 in Birkbeck Room 106 (the entrance is at 43-46 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD). All are welcome!

‘Mass Print + Numbers = Information (Enchantment ÷ Anxiety)’

As mass print culture developed in the nineteenth century, observers conceptualized the proliferation of texts using statistical methods. The entanglement of literary and numerical discourses, what I call “the accounting of literature,” is evident in a range of domains—from sociological studies of reading practices, to data gathered in the publishing industry, to the application of statistical thinking to literary judgment and interpretation. The accounting of literature is typically set in anxious opposition to aesthetics: the subjectivity and enchantments of literature remain, we are told, incompatible with the objectivity and logic of numbers. There are, however, nineteenth-century counter-narratives that have gone largely overlooked, and adventure fiction is one example of how the accounting of literature inspired not only worry but wonder. Taking Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island as a case study, and projecting counter-narratives forward using Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, we can see how aesthetics in an age of information and mass media need not always fear the ascendency of numbers.


Maurice Lee is Professor of English at Boston University, where his work focuses on nineteenth-century American and British literature. He is the author of Slavery, Philosophy, and American Literature, 1830-1860 (Cambridge UP, 2005), Uncertain Chances: Science, Skepticism, and Belief in Nineteenth-Century America Literature (Oxford UP, 2012), and Overwhelmed: Literature, Aesthetics, and the Nineteenth-Century Information Revolution (Princeton UP, 2019). He has also edited The Cambridge Companion to Frederick Douglass (Cambridge UP, 2012). Professor Lee has received awards from the Melville Society, Poe Studies Association, and the Association of College and Research Libraries, as well as fellowships from the NEH, ACLS, and Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. You can read more about him here:


This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.


Media History Seminar Programme 2019-20

We’re pleased to announce the provisional schedule for this year’s Media History Seminar. Because of the ongoing strike at Senate House, the seminars will take place at various locations in central London. Everyone is welcome!

“Media History” Programme 2019-20:

Session 1 (Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 6-8pm):

Prof. Maurice Lee (Boston University)

Birkbeck Room 106

43-46 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD

This event will be a special joint session with the Nineteenth-Century Studies Seminar (

Session 2 (Thursday, November 21, 2019, 6-8pm):

Dr Bernard Geoghegan

KCL, Virginia Woolf Bldg 3.01

22 Kingsway, London WC2B 6LE

Session 3 (Wednesday, 18 March 2020, 6-8pm):

Dr Rebecca Roach (University of Birmingham)

Birkbeck, University of London, 43 Gordon Square, London

Session 4 (Thursday, 7 May 2020, 6-8pm):

Joseph Howley (Columbia University)

Location TBD

This seminar is generously supported by the Media History journal, Queen Mary University of London’s English Department, the Institute of English Studies, and the Institute of Historical Research.

VENUE CHANGE: Media History Seminar on Editing Reference Works on Print Media (12 Mar 2019)

PLEASE NOTE that the location has changed:
Tuesday, March 12, 2019, 18:00
King’s College London
Room 6.01, Virginia Woolf Bldg
22 Kingsway, London WC2B 6LE

Join us at the next Media History Seminar featuring Prof. Andrew Thacker and Prof. Andrew King on the subject of editing reference works on print media.

Andrew Thacker,  ‘The Magazines of Modernism: Challenges and Perspectives’

This talk will address some of the issues that came up when editing the original 3 volumes of the Critical and Cultural Histories, particularly around selection of magazines, periodisation, scope, and the organisation of the volumes overall; also about the next series of volumes, on Global Modernist Magazines, the work for the first volume of which (on magazines in South America and the Caribbean) is nearing completion.

Andrew King, ‘Switching: Creating Reference Works for Nineteenth-Century Serials’

When we consult a reference work instrumentally, we want help to find something we think might exist. The text, however discursive it may appear, is usually organised as a set of categories that lead from the more general to the more precise, and the reader is encouraged by a hierarchy of “switches” or choices to find what she wants. The question that we must address concerns how the reader uses the switches we supply: do we, as initiators of reference works, want the user simply to accept them by making them invisible and effortless, or do we want to highlight the difficulties that each switch actually involves and ask the reader whether the answers she is searching for might result from a casual assumption of the deja connu? Must we choose ourselves choose the switch between rapid but problematic positivism and hesitant, clunky theory, or is there a way to combine them? The talk explores these questions by first discussing the standard reference works on nineteenth-century serials and then outlining the processes that went into the creation of The Routledge Handbook to Nineteenth-Century British Periodicals and Newspapers, its companion volume Researching the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Press: Case Studies and the as-yet-under-construction Work and the Victorian Press and

NOTE: The March 2019 meeting location has changed to King’s College London, Room 6.01, Virginia Woolf Bldg, 22 Kingsway, London WC2B 6LE (map)

All welcome. Further information about the seminar and this year’s schedule is available on the Media History blog (
King’s College London / Virginia Woolf Building Map: