The international conference Format Matters at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany brings together scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds to explore the cultural meaning, social dynamics and aesthetic effects of media formats.
“Format” can refer to a great range of very dissimilar objects, practices and cultural registers: From the size or folding of a book to the shape, color and “weight” of a film; from the durational rhythms of a television program and syntactic orderings of a computer file to formalized ways of recordkeeping, cataloging and description. Formats are historically specific modes of organizing sensory experience that inscribe the economic, technological and cultural conditions of a particular age into concrete objects. Format is the categorizing instrument that allows us to meaningfully understand the hierarchy of cultural and material gradations by which “tabloid” is related to “broadsheet”, or 8mm film is differentiated from a Laserdisc.
Despite the central role it plays for film, television, media and literary studies, questions of format have thus far remained subordinate to form, content or genre. Only recently, with the appearance of a number of case studies across various media, the study of formats began experiencing increased urgency, with media historian Jonathan Sterne even suggesting the necessity of a field of “format theory”. Building on this important previous work, Format Matters aims to further the methodological and theoretical concerns and contribute towards a deeper understanding of the function of formats in media culture.
Marek Jancovic, MA
Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz
Institute of Film, Theater and Empirical Cultural Studies
Medienhaus, Wallstraße 11
55122 Mainz, Germany