Call for Submissions 

Call for Submissions: At the Edge

Media Fields Journal

University of California, Santa Barbara

Deadline: September 28, 2018

While researching the Hells Angels in the 1960s, Hunter S. Thompson wrote “The edge…there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” Conceiving of the edge as both a site of orientation and a sharp drop-off, Thompson gestures towards its dual denotations: as “the line where an object begins or ends” and “the cutting side of a blade.” Thus, the edge can act both as a form of speculative orientation that provides boundaries or points of entry, and as a threshold that offers the possibility of “going over.”

As contemporary media scholarship continues to think through the proliferation of internet and screen cultures, their edges remain crucial to a comprehensive understanding. Scholars such as Adrian Mackenzie, Lisa Parks, and Mel Hogan have explored media technologies at or beyond their edges, asking how edge environments or experiences might alter their ‘typical’ use. Edward S. Casey writes that edges supply “a species of boundaries, that is, porous edges that take in as well as give out—in contrast to borders, which act to delimit institutions and concrete practices in the life-world.” Casey’s provocation suggests that studying media at the fringes or peripheries of society necessitates a discussion of the edges that construct their marginality. Additionally, edges establish relationalities between entities through their capacity to connect the nodes of distributed networks and complex systems. In this way, exploring media technologies and practices ‘at the edge’ can help locate imagined horizons and connections that inform the boundaries of identity, community, and globality.

Explicit academic engagement with the edge has thus far been situated in sociology, wherein ‘edgework’ came to be known as the study of risk-taking within recreational contexts. Stephen Lyng describes in the introduction to Edgework how leisure practices centered around risk are paradoxically treated as a form of individuality and resistance to a neoliberal society that itself demands economic and social precarity more and more often. Despite this paradox (or perhaps because of it), both individual and systemic risk—living on the edge—can be viewed as a means of exploring broad cultural spaces and their boundaries, such as those between safety and precarity, inclusion and exclusion, and life and death.

The edge as a heuristic thus brings together scholarly work on mediatized practices and spaces by examining exactly how their boundaries actively (re)imagine and (de)construct the dimensions of their existence. In consideration of the utility of the edge to rethink conceptualizations of spaces and boundaries, this issue of Media Fields Journal explores what happens ‘at the edge.’ We invite consideration of sites, works, practices, and systems via the constitution of the edge and its role as a permeable, although perhaps invisible, entity. We welcome work that attempts to locate edges, and/or engages with the (potentially traumatic) experience of having ‘gone over.’ We further welcome attention to the sociological methodology of ‘edgework’ and how it might productively extend to media studies, perhaps involving industry norms of precarity and the never-ending quest for production on ‘the cutting edge.’

Dimensions of media ‘at the edge’ might include (but are not limited to):

  • Cinematic/Televisual Concerns: Elimination of the visual/sonic edge via wider screens, surround sound, 3-D enhancement, etc.; consumption of the image in edge spaces; representations of ‘going over the edge.’
  • Computational Concerns: Edges and nodes; edges as active and mediating sites; the edges of interfaces or platforms such as the Samsung Galaxy Edge or Microsoft Edge; imagined digital spaces and boundaries.
  • Environmental Concerns: Edges of communities, societies, and/or shared identities; mediating territorial edges; ecological impacts of edgeless or wireless media; media in edge environments such as data centers, server farms, media waste, etc.; edges of technological reach and possibility.
  • Experiential Concerns: Immersive media: virtual reality, augmented reality, and the quest for ‘edgelessness;’ risk-taking individuals and practices as a cultural tradition or rebellion; technologies that mediate risk experiences; sexual practices of ‘edging.’
  • Industrial Concerns: Precarity of media labor and innovation practices; economic motivations to produce on ‘the cutting edge;’ speculative horizons of media.

For any inquiries, please contact issue co-editors Jeremy Moore (jmoore@umail.ucsb.edu) and Nicole Strobel (nstrobel@umail.ucsb.edu). Email submissions to submissions@mediafieldsjournal.org. For more information and submission guidelines, please visit http://www.mediafieldsjournal.org