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Podcast: Haidee Wasson, “Do-it Yourself Cinema: Portable Film Projectors as Media History”

Haidee Wasson explores the long and vibrant place of portable film devices in the history of small media, repositioning the “movie theatre” as the singular or even central figuration of film presentation and viewing.

Hosted with MIT Arts, Culture, and Technology and The Boston Cinema/Media Seminar.

Introduction by Lisa Parks, Professor, CMS/W

Haidee Wasson’s talk explores the long and vibrant place of portable film devices in the history of small media, repositioning the ‘movie theatre’ as the singular or even central figuration of film presentation and viewing. From its earliest days, film was – in a sense – born portable. Yet, our attention to and affection for the movie theater has obscured our view to the parallel and paradigmatic development of a far more numerous and arguably more significant development: the international, post-war proliferation of portable projectors. These small devices were used widely and for a sizable range of purposes: political, industrial, artistic, cultural. They fundamentally changed the conditions in which films could be seen — and ultimately imagined — as complex projected, often interactive and highly applied, forms. Drawn from a book-length study, this paper will highlight the productivity of “portability” as a concept and practice for opening up our understanding of film history as media history, identifying key insights that expand our understanding of what cinema has long been, a highly iterative media form.

Haidee Wasson is Professor of Film and Media in the School of Cinema, Concordia University, Montreal.  She is author or editor of four books, including the award-winning Museum Movies, Inventing Film Studies (with Lee Grieveson) Useful Cinema  (with Charles Acland) and Cinema’s Military Industrial Complex (with Lee Grieveson). She is the founder of Fieldnotes, an oral history project on the history of film and media studies, and the recent recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, Society for Cinema and Media Studies.  Her current research investigates the design and expansive use of film projectors by industrial, military and government sectors, exploring the transformation of cinema from an entertainment machine into a highly diversified display and performance device.

Andrew Whitacre
Written by
Andrew Whitacre

Andrew directs the communications efforts for CMS/W and Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education. A native of Washington, D.C., he holds a degree in communication from Wake Forest University, with a minor in humanities, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College.

This work includes drawing up and executing strategic communications plans, with projects including website design, social media management and training, press outreach, product launches, fundraising campaign support, and event promotions.

Rachel Thompson
Written by
Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Anthropology and Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Her honors thesis explored literature’s evolving role in the digital age through an ethnographic study of an online literary magazine. She also co-founded and directed the Harvard Organization for Prison Education and Reform, a network of eight volunteer groups that tutor in prisons across Massachusetts and work on advocacy initiatives relating to mass incarceration and education.

Before joining CMS, Rachel worked in Boston-area art museums — the Harvard Art Museums and the Peabody Essex Museum — with a focus on developing teaching curriculum for makerspaces as well as integrated digital media experiences for visitors.

At MIT, she worked as a Research Assistant in the Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab under the direction of Lisa Parks.

Thesis: Incomplete Sentences: Exploitation and Empowerment in American Incarceration Media

Andrew Whitacre Written by Andrew Whitacre
Rachel Thompson Written by Rachel Thompson