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For all its usefulness and currency, the word 'media' conceals as much as it reveals.
Charlie Bertsch and Jonathan Sterne, issue editors

Issue #74, December 2005

In one way or another, Bad Subjects has been concerned with media since its inception in 1992. An experiment in alternative publishing and an attempt to articulate a new voice and space in left politics, Bad Subjects was involved in figuring out what it means to publish online, and to create a dynamic and changing website. Yet as the years have gone on, the internet has caught up to us. With the proliferation of regularly appearing (and often for-profit and for-pay) online publications, the expansion of the blogosphere as a space for rough-and-ready commentary, and the advent of podcasting, many of our initially avant-garde strategies are now common practice online. It seems like a good time to rethink our relationship to media, no mean feat.

Intermedia Cover Graphic For all its usefulness and currency, the word "media" conceals as much as it reveals. The transition from one medium to another, even within the same device – mobile phones are a perfect example as they move easily from sound to text and back again – is fraught with complication. Even within what passes for a single medium, such as weblogs, the need to manage the coupling and uncoupling of conversation partners has created a demand for levels of internal mediation, whether through the proliferation of aliases or through technical means, like “friends” lists on livejournal. With digital video recording, fan groups and Bittorrent, podcasts and satellite radio, the boundaries between broadcast and boutique, between transmission and storage, become less and less meaningful as television sets, computer networks and portable hard drives “mediate” one another. Many of the most interesting developments in contemporary culture center on the spaces between media and the fissures within media. While contemporary critics decry the ever-increasing concentration of media ownership (and while we join them in their concern), media cultures, whether in or around media, continue to morph and change in often unpredictable directions. Others have lamented these developments as the “death” of a common culture, but in a culture where few control the means of expression to the many, one wonders what was truly “common” or shared.

Indeed, all of our contributors explore media as contested spaces. Mikita Brontman’s explores Christian attacks on expressions of sexuality online. Current BadEditor Mike Mosher mounts a moving defense of Mail Art and, indeed, the postal system in the digital age. Former Badeditor Steven Rubio’s essay critiques new claims for the cognitive and moral power of television. Kyle Conway and Elizabeth Galewski explores the emergent practice of microcinema, which looks like movies, but has the values and expenses of an alternative medium. Carrie Rentschler notes the strange appearance of the confederate flag in east Montreal, and considers what it might mean outside the context of the American South. Emily Raine examines the politics of barista labor in coffeeshops, and questions the automated politeness built into everyday service industry work. We have also included two interviews, both conducted by Jonathan Sterne. In his interview with Marc Raboy, Raboy discusses the controversy surrounding CHOI, a Quebec radio station accused of broadcasting hate speech. In the other, Sterne interviews Lawrence Grossberg about his new book on America’s War on Youth.

Intermedia is thus a mélange of registers, questions and ideas. We hope you enjoy it. This issue also marks the departure of longtime BadEditor Joe Lockard. Joe contributed so much to collective over the years and his name is all over our website. We thank him for his work and wish him well in his future endeavors, we encourage you to look through his massive ouevre if you have not yet had the pleasure.

Charlie Bertsch is a member of the Bad Subjects Production Team and an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he specializes in twentieth-century American prose, cultural studies, and the history of aesthetics. He also teaches film. At present, he is working on two books, one about the significance of punk aesthetics and another that seeks to revitalize the concept of the political novel in post-WWII American fiction. Jonathan Sterne is a member of the Bad Subjects Production Team and Associate Professor at McGill University where he directs the Graduate Program in Communication Studies and teaches in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies and the History and Philosophy of Science Program. He is author of The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction and numerous articles on media, technology, and the politics of culture.

Copyright © 2005 Charlie Bertsch and Jonathan Sterne. All rights reserved.