The rise of photography and cinema in the second half of the nineteenth century had a tremendous effect the shaping of twentieth-century conceptions of modernity. In his highly popular 1907 book, Creative Evolution, philosopher Henri Bergson drew on his understanding of these new media technologies to characterize in general the processes of human thought. He wrote, “Instead of attaching ourselves to the inner becoming of things, we place ourselves outside them in order to recompose their becoming artificially. We take snapshots, as it were, of the passing reality, and, as these are characteristic of the reality, we have only to string them on a becoming abstract, uniform and invisible, situated at the back of the apparatus of knowledge, in order to imitate what there is that is characteristic in this becoming itself. Perception, intellection, language so proceed in general. Whether we would think becoming, or express it, or even perceive it, we hardly do anything else than set going a kind of cinematograph inside us. We may therefore sum up what we have been saying in the conclusion that the mechanism of our ordinary knowledge is of a cinematographic kind.” [Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution (Dover: Mineola, N.Y., 1998), p. 306.]

While Bergson felt that cinematographic understanding was false and timeless, Walter Benjamin, a sympathetic critic of Bergson, was not convinced. In his unfinished Arcades Project, Benjamin drew on cinematographic ways of creating and communicating meaning as a method for exploring the particular character of modernity.

The purpose of this website is to provoke readers to re-assemble their understandings of the experience of modernity through a cinematographic method, inspired in part by Walter Benjamin’s methodology in the Arcades Project. By taking quotations, film clips, and images out of groundbreaking texts and contexts within twentieth-century modernity I am reducing language at times to an almost aphoristic quality and intensifying what Bergson identifies as its cinematographic qualities. By juxtaposing these quotations as one might juxtapose shots in a film, or snapshots in an album – but at the same time tagging them creatively in a database driven system – I hope to think through the particularities of what we might consider a hybrid cinematographic-cybernetic modernity in the twenty-first century.

I am a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto. My research interests include the history of technology, globalization, and twentieth and twenty-first century aural, visual, and audio-visual culture. In my dissertation, “Miniature Modernity: The Pocket Transistor Radio in American Culture, 1954-1965,” I am exploring the influence of mid-twentieth century new media forms on the development of modern American cosmopolitanism.

I have previously studied at the University of Cambridge, Columbia University, and received my Master’s Degree in new media from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where I specialized in videography and game design. While working on digital humanities projects at Columbia University, I presented a paper to the Digital Resources in the Humanities Conference on “Multiple Meanings and Interpretation: Capturing Digital Discourse in the Humanities”. Having previously published articles on the role of information in wartime decision-making during the Second World War, I have widened my interest in the mid-twentieth-century development of cybernetic systems to examine their meaning for postwar forms of cosmopolitanism. I am working on the preparation of course called “The Twentieth Century History of Speed.” Deeply committed to interdisciplinary approaches to the study of history and culture, I am currently writing two articles, “Teaching Machines, Learning Machines, and the Redemption of Humanity” and “Marketing the Global Flat: The Politics of Widescreen Technicolor Cinema in American Feature Magazine Images, 1954-1965.” I presented a paper at the International Sociology Association/UNESCO Conference on Twenty-First Century Cities in Tokyo, Japan, in December 2008, called  “Bearing Through the Poisoned City: Tsai Ming-Liang’s Cosmopolitan Vision”.