The Velvet Light Trap

Call for Papers: Issue 72


Useful Media: Industrial, Educational, Institutional


Submission deadline: September 15, 2012


As breakthroughs in digital technologies compel scholars to address media consumption outside the traditional contexts of the theater and the home, media historians remind us that audio/visual materials have always proliferated in other places: city halls, churches, courtrooms, classrooms, hospitals, union halls, corporate offices, factories, and laboratories. Within such alternative venues, media function as tools of education, justice, agitation, advocacy, professionalization, strategy, training, and proselytizing. These frequently overlooked uses of media, beyond art and entertainment, remind us that the patterns of production, distribution, and consumption commonly invoked by terms like “the movies” or “television” represent only certain configurations within the broader field of media practice.


Recent developments in the accessibility of educational and industrial media–through the Internet Archive, YouTube postings of leaked training videos, and DVD anthology collections (e.g., Treasures from American Film Archives)–have brought these other media venues and practices to a new prominence. Likewise, an increase in scholarly attention paid to “useful” media, as in the recent anthologies Useful Cinema (Acland and Wasson, 2011) and Learning with the Lights Off (Orgeron, Orgeron, and Streible 2012), encourages us to revise our assumptions about how media function in everyday life and rethink the very definitions of media forms that scholars often take for granted.


In that spirit, The Velvet Light Trap seeks essays for an issue on “useful” media. We welcome submissions concerning the production, distribution, exhibition, and/or reception of educational, industrial, and other institutional film, video, television, audio, and new media, past and present.


Topics and approaches may include, but are not limited to:


Examples of educational, industrial, and useful media:

          media used by religious institutions, civic organizations, NGOs, unions, libraries, governments, and prisons

          training films, videos, and software

          closed-circuit television in educational contexts

          sponsored films and institutional advertising

          ambient music within institutional settings (malls, factories, restaurants, waiting rooms)

          audio/visual materials in museum and factory tours

          medical films

          other institutional uses of sound media (records, podcasts, etc.)

          audiovisual and applied media in scientific and social scientific research


Approaches to studying useful media:

          reception, compulsory viewing, and resistant readings

          audiovisual aesthetics and stylistic trends

          useful media and emotional engagement

          production cultures of industrial media

          histories of key practitioners and production houses

          policy and educational media

          useful media and ideology

          representation in educational and industrial media

          educational and industrial media as “found footage”

          institutional media, architectural design, and spatial politics


Submissions should be between 6,000 and 7,500 words (approximately 20-25 pages double-spaced), in Chicago style. Please submit an electronic copy of the paper, along with a one-page abstract, both saved as a Microsoft Word file; remove any identifying information so that the submission is suitable for anonymous review. The journal’s Editorial Board will referee all submissions. Send electronic manuscripts and/or any questions to All submissions are due September 15, 2012.


The Velvet Light Trap is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal of film, television, and new media studies. Graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Texas-Austin coordinate issues in alternation. Our Editorial Advisory Board includes such notable scholars as Charles Acland, Richard Allen, Harry Benshoff, Mia Consalvo, Radhika Gajjala, Darrell Hamamoto, Joan Hawkins, Scott Higgins, Barbara Klinger, Jon Kraszewski, Diane Negra, Michael Newman, Alisa Perren, Yeidy Rivero, Nic Sammond, Beretta Smith-Shomade, Cristina Venegas, and Michael Williams.

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