Digital history & historiography

Hybrid Histories: Historicizing the Home Movie Dispositif

In media historiography, there have generally been two approaches to historicize past media technologies and their practices. Whereas media historians generally focus on historical changes by maintaining a diachronic perspective on how media technologies and practices develop over time, media archaeologists commonly adopt a synchronic perspective in (re)constructing parallel or alternative histories. This chapter aims to explore and propose a third approach to media historiography, which departs from the notion of “hybridity”: the intermingling and co-existence of old and new media technologies, user practices, and discourses as evolving in an ongoing process. Building on some of the empirical and conceptual results of my research on the home movie as a twentieth-century family memory practice, I develop the argument that a “hybrid media historiography” enables one to grasp the complex interrelations and dynamics between media technologies, user practices, and discourses in more precise and comprehensive ways by maintaining both a diachronic and synchronic perspective in studying media transitions. By looking specifically at how the transition from amateur film to home video gradually constituted a new home movie dispositif in the 1970s and 1980s, I will underline the heuristic potential of hybridity as analytical lens in media historical research.