Prototyping the Past and the Early History of Magnetic Recording with Jentery Sayers



We have a series of exciting events coming up the week of April 17 with University of Victoria’s Jentery Sayers, who is doing some amazing and thought provoking work in Digital Humanities. One introduces the idea of creating material prototypes of objects from the past using 3D printing, and the other is a “hidden history” of early magnetic sound recording that has implications for how we approach the storage of digital media today.   In between, you can hear Jentery discuss his work on Bytemarks Cafe on Weds. April 20 at 5 PM.

Please make the time to come to one or both of the events!  Both will take place in the brand new iLab innovation center (Building 37, between campus Center and the Art Building).  The second will include a hands on workshop on 3D printing.  

First up in the iLab, on Tuesday from noon to 1:30 we have “Magnetic Recording before the 1900s: An Early History.”  While many people associate early magnetic recording, especially magnetic audio, with the proliferation of tape during the 1940s, it dates back to at least the 1870s. In many ways, this early history is interesting in and of itself. It expands how we frame the legacies of sound reproduction. Yet early magnetic recording also gives us ways to think about today’s digital cultures, especially how data is written and circulated. This talk walks audiences through various moments in early magnetic recording to then articulate how they shape our present moment. Key to this articulation is not only a historical shift from “inscribing” to “impressing” information onto storage media but also a gesture to imagine sound (and not just print or the codex) as fundamental to how we approach electronic text and other new media from the 1980s forward.

On Thursday afternoon, from 3-4 PM, again at the iLab, Prof. Sayers will present “Remaking Old Media with New Technologies, or Prototyping the Past,” which will be followed by a hands-on workshop on 3D printing rather than the usual Q&A.  In his presentation, Sayers asks, “What might histories of media and technology gain from remaking obsolete instruments?” From re-conducting early experiments? From fabricating machines that existed only on paper as fictions? Based on work conducted by the University of Victoria’s Maker Lab in the Humanities, this talk explores such questions, with particular attention to how we might prototype the past by prototyping absences and hyperbole in the historical record. Put this way, the aim of prototyping the past is not to create exact reproductions of what we already have at hand. It is to conjecture about possibilities, test them, and interpret what was and was not plausible.

Both events are are made possible by the generous support of the The Dai Ho Chun Endowment for Distinguished Lecturers of the Colleges of Arts & Sciences