MLA ROUNDTABLE | Philadelphia 2017

“The old idea that media are environments can be flipped; environments are also media.”
—John Durham Peters, The Marvelous Clouds

The term “media ecology” suggests a more inclusive approach to media studies than the merely technological, yet the “ecology” in question has not, until recently, tended to include features of the natural environment in its account. This is rapidly changing. Books such as John Durham Peters’ The Marvelous Clouds (Chicago), Jussi Parikka’s Geology of Media (Minnesota), and Tung Hui Hu’s Prehistory of the Cloud (MIT) reveal a new interest in the capacity of natural ecologies to signify and encourage us to see continuity between natural and technological environments. As Alenda Chang writes in “Environmental Remediation,” “environments are also media, able to transmit, conceal, and come between other entities in significant ways; so too, our usual media are environments, which inevitably frame our understanding of the natural world and thus have the capacity to remediate beyond their representational margins” (electronic book review). In this roundtable, sponsored by the MLA’s MS Forum on Visual Media, we will consider intersections, collisions, tensions, opportunities, and affordances that arise in the discussion of “Natural Media,” both broadly and in particular areas of research.

nature, environment, technology, media, ecology