Reviewed April 2016
Reviewed April 2016
Molly E. Dotson, Assistant Director for Special Collections
Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University
Mediapolis is an open-access online journal with a broad focus on cities and culture. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, Mediapolis offers a space to explore the function and meaning of media in the city and the city in media. The editors' mission statement unpacks the title, explaining how the "semantic instability" of both terms (city and media) serves as inspiration for their work.
The project is affiliated with the Urbanism, Architecture, and Geography (formerly Urban Studies) Scholarly Interest Group of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. The website also serves as a record of this group's activities. The SIG formed in 2010, and after a series of workshops and events, the group voted to rename itself in 2015. This rebranding reflects the diversity of the SIG's membership and, arguably, the shifting conceptual frameworks at this intersection of disciplines, methodologies, and viewpoints.
Mediapolis launched its inaugural issue on December 5, 2015. The open-access articles appear under the Creative Commons license for attribution, noncommercial use, and no derivatives. In addition, the editors align their project with "middle-state" publishing and "small-gauge" scholarship.
"Middle-state" publications locate themselves in the space between an academic journal and a personal blog. Mediapolis falls closer to the academic end of that spectrum with an emphasis on editorial and peer review. But this journal expands its content categories to include both long- and short-form original research or criticism and essays that review books, events, or current trends in the field. Additionally, email exchanges, conference reports, and in-progress syllabi are also presented as forms of scholarly output.
With "small-gauge" scholarship, Mediapolis acknowledges a pressing need for timeliness and responsiveness in the production of knowledge. Its infrastructure and multimodal content showcase not only new methods but also new goals for scholarly inquiry. Presumably the editors borrowed the "small-gauge" characterization from film studies, where small gauge refers to film sizes smaller than 35 mm. Such films are often associated with amateur or avant-garde filmmaking as well as qualities of accessibility, immediacy, and intimacy.
This publication makes effective use of its web-based platform, incorporating the following elements in a single issue: standalone images, slide shows, embedded video clips, document downloads, hyperlinks, and social media sharing tools. Podcasts and more discussions via comments are outlined as future aims. The clean look of Mediapolis pushes it toward the blog end of the "middle-state" spectrum. (For comparison, see some of the online journals published by Bepress Digital Commons or other "middle-state" ventures such as In Media Res.) With this approachable yet sophisticated design, Mediapolis seeks to engage a diverse audience not only across disciplinary boundaries but also beyond the academy.
Although Mediapolis is a departure from many of the documentary standards of the academic journal, the images paired with its editorial content are artifacts of the printed word. The banner image for the mission statement features wood type densely packed in a case, and the image for editorial policies is a close-up photograph of typewriter keys. Besides the cultural spaces afforded specific technologies, perhaps these images suggest a more fundamental connection between words and architecture. The wood type letterform groupings begin to resemble the syncopated silhouette of a city skyline, and with such a shallow depth of field, the typewriter keys take on the character of identical buildings plotted on a street grid.
The next annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies is scheduled for March 30-April 3, 2016, and one hopes the second issue of Mediapolis will appear soon thereafter.*
*Editors' note: As of press time, a second issue of Mediapolis has been published.