Hands on Media History : A new methodology in the humanities and social sciences book cover
1st Edition

Hands on Media History
A new methodology in the humanities and social sciences

Edited By

Nick Hall


John Ellis

ISBN 9781138577497
Published October 8, 2019 by Routledge
256 Pages

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Book Description

Hands on Media History explores the whole range of hands on media history techniques for the first time, offering both practical guides and general perspectives. It covers both analogue and digital media; film, television, video, gaming, photography and recorded sound.

Understanding media means understanding the technologies involved. The hands on history approach can open our minds to new perceptions of how media technologies work and how we work with them. Essays in this collection explore the difficult questions of reconstruction and historical memory, and the issues of equipment degradation and loss. Hands on Media History is concerned with both the professional and the amateur, the producers and the users, providing a new perspective on one of the modern era’s most urgent questions: what is the relationship between people and the technologies they use every day?

Engaging and enlightening, this collection is a key reference for students and scholars of media studies, digital humanities, and for those interested in models of museum and research practice.

Table of Contents


Introduction: What is hands on media history?
John Ellis and Nick Hall

Part I: Media Histories

1 Why hands on history matters

John Ellis

2 Bringing the living back to life: what happens when we re-enact the recent past?

Nick Hall

3 A blind date with the past: transforming television documentary practice into a research method
Amanda Murphy

4 (De)Habituation Histories: How to re-sensitize media historians
Andreas Fickers and Annie van den Oever

5 (Un)certain Ghosts: Rephotography and Historical Images
Mary Agnes Krell 

Part II: User Communities

6 Photography Against the Anthropocene: the Anthotype as a Call for Action
Kristof Vrancken

7 On the Performance of Playback for Dead Media Devices
Matthew Hockenberry and Jason LaRiviere

8 The Archaeology of the Walkman: Audience Perspectives and the Roots of Mobile Media Intimacy
Maruša Pušnik

9 Extended Play: Hands On with Forty Years of English Amusement Arcades

Alex Wade

10 Enriching 'hands on history' through community dissemination: a case study of the Pebble Mill Project
Vanessa Jackson 

Part III: Labs, Archives, and Museums

11 The Media Archaeology Lab as Platform for Undoing and Reimagining Media History
Lori Emerson

12 Reflections and Reminiscences: tactile encounters and participatory research with vintage media technology in the museum

Christian Hviid Mortensen and Lise Kapper

13 A Vision in Bakelite: Exploring the aesthetic, material and operational potential of the Bush TV22
Elinor Groom

14 Hands on Circuits: Preserving the Semantic Surplus of Circuit-Level Functionality with Programmable Logic Devices

Fabian Offert

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Nick Hall lectures in film, television and media technologies at Royal Holloway, University of London. His first book, The Zoom: Drama at the Touch of a Lever, was published in 2018. He has also been published in the journals Technology & Culture and the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television.

John Ellis is a professor at Royal Holloway, University of London. He wrote Visible Fictions (1982), Seeing Things (2000) and Documentary: Witness and Self-Revelation (2012). Between 1982 and 1999 he ran the independent production company Large Door, making documentaries for Channel 4 and the BBC.


What can obsolete, discarded communications technologies tell us about past media practices? How did human-machine interactions require and cultivate particular skills and build communities of practice and knowledge? In this wide-ranging and provocative collection, Hands On Media History lays out how media archeology, as a method and a mindset, can retrieve the expertise, ingenuity and joy that accompanied pioneering media forms. Certain to open up rich new conversations about doing media history.

Susan J. Douglas, Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor, The University of Michigan