Summer 2010 Newsletter

SCMS Urban Studies Scholarly Interest Group

Summer 2010 Newsletter


– website

– CFPs: SCMS/New Orleans 2011

– update on proposed essay prize

– Interested in becoming more involved in the Urban Studies SIG? Here’s how…

– CFP: Spaces and Flows (Los Angeles, December 2010)

1. Website

One of the most discussed topics at our inaugural meeting was the possibility of establishing a web presence for the SIG, as a way to aggregate resources, share knowledge, connect people, etc. As many of you already know, SCMS is undergoing a web redesign, and we are hopeful that new opportunities will become available as a result of that. In the meantime, though, we’ve established a provisional web home, at At the moment, the site is skeletal, although we are adding content to it as quickly as we can.

Ultimately, the site will only be as rich as the community that supports it, and to that end we encourage your participation. We’re experimenting with a number of different approaches right now, and could use all the feedback we get. So please visit often, and tell us what’s wrong so that we can make it better. At this point, everything is negotiable (including the name – any suggestions for a catchier or more inclusive domain name are particularly welcome), so your input will help us quite a bit in making the site more useful for scholars working in this field.

Even better, help out the cause by contributing some of your own materials. At present, we’re collecting syllabi for courses topically related to our SIG, in addition to titles for the ever-growing bibliography. In addition, we hope to be able to publicize upcoming scholarly meetings on media/urban studies related issues, and also to serve as a repository of conference reports for those who were unable to attend but are interested to follow from afar. If you have anything to contribute, please forward it to our attention and we will include it on the site with proper credit. Any additional ideas are, of course, welcome. Also, if you are interested in becoming a contributing editor for the website, please read section 4 below, as we could use your help.

2. CFPs: SCMS/New Orleans 2011

As mentioned in our previous email, now is the time to think about what the presence of our group will be at next year’s SCMS in New Orleans. We anticipate sponsoring a number of workshops and panels, but in an effort to give maximum flexibility to individual members, we propose the following:

– For members who have convened panels/workshops that fit within the umbrella of the SIG’s focus, and would like to have their panels designated as “sponsored by the Urban Studies SIG” in the SCMS program, please copy us on your submission to SCMS.

– For members who are interested in convening a panel/workshop but who are looking for additional panelists, please share your ideas with the group. We’ve included a couple of proposed panels at the bottom of this section, and will forward additional ideas as we receive them. Interested members are encouraged to contact the convener directly.

– Following from the conversation we had in Los Angeles concerning definitional and methodological issues, we would like to propose a special workshop to continue that discussion about what we mean when we talk about an “urban” approach to cinema and media studies. The call for that workshop is also posted below; interested members can respond to Sabine directly with a short proposal outlining their proposed contribution to the workshop.

Proposed Panels/Workshops

Workshop: Towards an Urban Approach to Cinema and Media Studies

Contact: Sabine Haenni, Cornell University (

While much of cinema and media studies has been organized according to categories of genre, region or nation, “urban studies” appears to be a somewhat different, by definition interdisciplinary way of organizing the field:  what are the promises and difficulties of the category? how does it intervene into more conventional ways of organizing cinema and media studies? what are its relation to interdisciplinarity? to the local and the global? to forms of production, circulation and consumption? to the larger categories of time and space?

Panel: Sound, City, Citizenship

Contact: Shannon Mattern, The New School (

This panel will address sound media and media infrastructures, both historical and contemporary, that have created conditions for or against (in keeping with the “Media Citizenship” conference theme) “urban citizenship.” Drawing on the work of many key urban theorists — including Henri Lefebvre, Thomas Bender, Saskia Sassen, James Holsten, and others — who strive to expand the dimensions of what constitutes “citizenship,” this panel will welcome work that addresses such issues as “rights to the city,” public spheres, civic and participatory media, everyday performances of citizenship, etc. Sonic case studies might include low-powered radio, public address systems, mobile media, public sound art, personal audio technologies, local music scenes,… Collectively, we will consider the sounds of urban citizenship, and the role that media play in creating, recording, transmitting, broadcasting, filtering, muffling, bleeping, or silencing those sounds.

Workshop: Urban Informatics, Geographic Data, and the Media of Mapping

Contact: Shannon Mattern, The New School (

The past several years have seen increasing corporate and educational interest in, and major funding for, projects that make urban histories, knowledges, data, etc., accessible, visible/audible/tangible, and, ideally, intelligible to various urban publics. This roundtable discussion will focus on a few of these projects, critically addressing their rhetorical and aesthetic strategies (in particular, the widespread commitment to “making the invisible visible,” which occasionally results in collapsing “the urban” into “the visible”) and examining their utility as platforms for research, as pedagogical resources, and as political tools for civic engagement.

Panel: Cities, Affect, and Citizenship

Contact: Hollis Griffin, Northwestern University (

Looking at questions of proximity and closeness as organizing feelings about ‘belonging’ in urban space.

3. Update on Proposed Essay Prize

After much discussion at our March meeting, it was decided that one of the uses that we would like to put our annual allocation from SCMS towards is the funding of a graduate student essay competition. While the details of that competition were not sketched out in full in March, we had sufficient agreement that we felt comfortable presenting the idea to the SCMS Executive Board for their approval. Unfortunately, the Executive Board won’t approve this use of the funds, for several reasons – there is a desire to maintain the primacy of the awards that SCMS itself gives each year, and a concern that the smaller SIGs might quickly exhaust the available pool of willing readers, making the administration of such awards logistically difficult. So, good idea though it may be, it sounds like (at least for now) we’ll have to find other uses for the funds. We’re already working on some of the other suggestions that the group had, and will keep you updated with information as it becomes available.

4. Interested in becoming more involved in the Urban Studies SIG? Here’s how…

We were frequently asked during and after SCMS how people could become more involved in the Urban Studies SIG. At the time, we didn’t have a very good answer, considering that we’d only just started it, but it’s a bit clearer now what the most effective uses of your energies would be should you be interested in volunteering. Most especially, we need the help of several contributing editors to assist us in building the website out. This doesn’t require any special knowledge of computers or web design (though that would be handy if someone was so qualified and inclined) – instead, we could really benefit from the work of people committing to help edit the content on the site. This would include, but is not necessarily limited to:

– maintaining and expanding the bibliography of urban studies related texts

– writing reports on conferences of interest to the Urban Studies SIG membership

– collecting and publishing calls for papers from conferences of interest to the Urban Studies SIG membership

– collecting and publishing syllabi on related coursework for publication on the site

– writing occasional blog-style posts for publication on the site (publication announcements, etc.)

– general website maintenance

Knowledge of the WordPress content management system is a big plus, but certainly not a prerequisite. Please send Brendan an email ( if you are interested.

In addition, while next year’s SCMS is still quite a ways off, we will likely need some help with organizing any events that the Urban Studies SIG might sponsor at that meeting. Already some of the membership has been helping out with this, and we are most appreciative – if anyone else is interested in participating in those efforts, please let us know. (In this case, those with special knowledge of New Orleans are particularly sought after.) We’re working on several ideas at the moment, and will hopefully have something to report in the next newsletter.

5. CFP: Spaces and Flows (Los Angeles, December 2010)

Finally, we wanted to pass along word of an upcoming conference for members who might be interested in attending [ed. though the message mentions a deadline of 13 May, a new round of submissions is being considered with a deadline of 22 July]:


University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, USA

4-5 December 2010

This conference aims to critically engage contemporary spatial, social, ideological, and political transformations in a transitional world. In a process-oriented world of movement, the global north and global south now simultaneously converge and diverge in a dialectic that shapes and transforms cities, suburbs , and rural areas. This conference addresses the nature and mapping of these forces and the dynamics that propel these changes. The conference also examines and defines the myriad of different spaces that make up our contemporary world, including urban, edgeurban, de-urban, micro-urban, greenfield, and off-the-grid.

In addition to plenary presentations, the Spaces and Flows Conference includes parallel presentations by practitioners, teachers, and researchers. We invite you to respond to the conference Call-for-Papers. Presenters may submit their written papers for publication in the peer reviewed ‘Spaces and Flows: An International Journal on Urban and Extraurban Studies’. If you are unable to attend the conference in person virtual registrations are also available which allow you to submit a paper for referring and possible publication. You also have the ability to upload your presentation to the Space and Flows YouTube channel.

The deadline for the next round in the call for papers (a title and short abstract) is 13 May 2010. Future deadlines will be announced on the conference website after this date. Proposals are reviewed within two weeks of submission. Full details of the conference, including an online proposal submission form, may be found at the conference website: .

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