Commons Conversations

Media Ruins: Infrastructural Restitution and Building Futures in Post-Conflict Cambodia

Commons Conversations
02 Mar, 2023

Media Ruins: Infrastructural Restitution and Building Futures in Post-Conflict Cambodia

with Maggie Jack (Syracuse University, The School of Information)

Presented by the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society (CSTMS), and the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM) is co-sponsoring.

UC Berkeley, 470 Stephens Hall

This talk describes the ways that Cambodian new media creators commemorate lost artists and an imagined better way of life through finding, repairing, and disseminating historical film, photography and cinema artifacts from before the Khmer Rouge period, often using digital tools. Reconstructing such media artifacts through a process of infrastructural restitution is a mode of healing from decades of national conflict and a form of subtle political action in an increasingly authoritarian Phnom Penh. Building on theory at the intersection of infrastructure studies (Star and Ruhleder, 1996; Larkin, 2013) and media’s relationship to memory (Gordon, 2008; Larkin, 2008; Richards, 1994), the concept of infrastructural restitution allows us to (re)integrate the importance of memory, the affective, and the spiritual into scholarship of infrastructure. This case gives new insight into the tension in transnational technology use between creative appropriation and the problematic political economy of mainstream platforms. The empirical sections of this talk are based on my historical and ethnographic research in Phnom Penh beginning in January 2014, including 20 months of full-time research from June 2017-January 2019.

About Maggie Jack

I am a postdoctoral scholar on the NSF-funded project “Creating Work/Life” with a team spanning Syracuse University (PI: Ingrid Erickson) and University of California, Irvine (PI: Melissa Mazmanian). I am a research affiliate at the Digital Life Initiative at Cornell Tech in New York City and an adjunct professor at NYU Tandon, teaching “Transnational Technology” in the spring of 2022. I hold a PhD in Information Science (2020) from Cornell University, where I had a minor PhD concentration in Anthropology and was an active member of the Southeast Asia Program. I use my past professional experiences in the technology industry in Silicon Valley and the international development sector and my academic background in the History of Science (BA Harvard University; MPhil University of Cambridge) to approach questions of contemporary computing with both scholarly and practical lenses. My writing is published in the Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing (CHI), Interactions Magazine, The Information Society, Global Perspectives, Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), and elsewhere. My book-in-progress Media Ruins is in the spring 2023 catalogue in the Labor and Technology series at the MIT Press (Katie Helke, editor; Winifred Poster, series editor).


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