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Utrecht Centre for Television in Transition


3 November 2014

Jeroen Post on Media and social movements, and tape

At the November TViT seminar, Jeroen Post, external PhD candidate, will present his research project on media and social movements. He will specifically talk about the challenges for historical research when primary sources are not or no longer available, with a specific focus on the use of tape by civil movements in the ’70s and 80s.

“In time video recorders will be competitive with television as well as being an alternative to the cinema — and completely beyond the control of the Reds. That is, in fact our weapon in the battle for an independent culture. We anticipate yet another victory over the authorities’ monopoly” (Radio Free Europe, 1986)

Compared to digital media, we might consider tape as unwieldy, with its physicality, loss of quality, limited durability, and its mechanical complexity. Everything we now judge to be problematic was once considered a virtue. Tape was used to evade censors in the Cold War, to publicize the plight of the miners in the Miners Strikes. In the Iranian Revolution messages would be recorded over the telephone to individuals who would then telephone other individuals with their tape recorders, to quickly disseminate, duplicate and circulate political messages.

While the characteristics of tape have often been examined, the cultural meaning of tape in relation to social-political change has been underexplored. However, an examination of shared beliefs about the promise of tape is not easy. Social movements and their relation to media are difficult to explore, amongst others due to suppression and problematic access; and the challenges only multiply when examining historical cases.

As academic scholars we usually prefer primary sources. However, when primary sources are rare and secondary sources are made some period after the events, questions about methods, motives, content, and consistency arise. By describing some of these conflicts my presentation will give an overview of my current research paper, which is part of my research dealing with changes and continuities in the relation between media and social movements in connection with the digital turn.

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