Syncing… Subject, Media, Society.

tingel-tangel_line2BCNM is thrilled to co-sponsor the 25th Annual Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference, “Syncing… Subject, Media, Society,” which will take place this February 24th and 25th.

“Not all people exist in the same Now,” claimed Ernst Bloch in his seminal 1932 book Erbschaft dieser Zeit (“Heritage of Our Times”). The rhythms of modernity had fractured society into isolated temporal worlds. While individuals occupied the same space, he argued, they lived ungleichzeitig – out of sync. Synchronism speaks to a temporal relation, a shared rhythm, or attunement between subjects, media, and societies; it emerges (or does not) at points of contact: at the threshold or the border and in networks of communication and exchange. More so than simultaneity or contemporaneity, synchronism holds the promise of a collapse of separation, a coming together of disparate objects or states of being. Yet the promise of synchronism is also an aporia, always pregnant with the threat of its own negation or of stagnant homogeneity.

Grown out of our hyper-networked society that is simultaneously polarizing on concepts of nation, citizenship and freedom – on what it means to be in sync – this conference interrogates the promise inhered in synchronization through interdisciplinary panels, workshops and media presentations. Keynote addresses will be delivered by philosopher and art theorist Christoph Cox (Hampshire College) and cultural historian Helge Jordheim (University of Norway).

In the lead-up to the conference, the Department of German will host an interdepartmental reading group featuring texts from philosophy, media studies, affect theory, sociology and on. Please contact if you would like to participate.

Co-sponsored by the Department of German, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Townsend Center for the Humanities, the Department of English, the Department of History, the Department of Film and Media, the History of Art Department, the Institute for European Studies, the Folklore Program, and the Berkeley Center for New Media. In collaboration with the Program in Critical Theory and the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies.

Learn more about the event here.


Jessica Ruffin (German Studies) recaps this year’s graduate student-led conference, Sycing… Subject Media, Society.

The 25th Annual Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference, Syncing… Subject, Media, Society – co-sponsored by BCNM and twelve other departments and institutions,* and co-chaired by myself and Paul Hoehn, graduate students in the Department of German – took place Feb 24th and 25th, 2017. The conference featured presenters from across the country and the globe theorizing and exploring synchronism and synchronization on numerous temporal and material valences. I recap the conference and provide a couple takeaways below.


Over the two days, we heard from eleven emerging scholars on a variety of topics, including the body as a medium of self-surveillance; the function of “snapping to the grid” in music editing software; the rhythms and temporalities of the divine and predictive algorithm data flows; and the critical theoretical promise of Twitter and Instagram. Adhering to our commitment to thinking and working across disciplinary lines, the conference included two keynote addresses; Christoph Cox (Hampshire College) presented a paper entitled “Synaesthetics? Sound, Image and Materialism,” which called for a consideration of sound on an equal plane with image, arguing that such a turn in aesthetic practice and theory allows for an embodied and materialist experience of the transcendent. On day two, Helge Jordheim (University of Oslo) presented “The World In and Out of Sync: Looking Back at the Long 18th Century,” in which he asked us to consider how the method of producing synchronistic historical tables, laying out times of people and nations side by side on the same temporal axis, might counter-act or disrupt myopic narratives of national progress. Jordheim, along with four of his colleagues from the University of Oslo, also lead a morning workshop on François Hartog’s recent book Regimes of Historicity: Presentism and Experiences of Time (2015), asking workshop participants to consider what in our present medial environment might have led Hartog to declare it a moment of crisis, lacking past and future.

DSC_0409Something that has stuck with me over these last couple of weeks was proposed by Karen Feldman (Department of German) during the concluding roundtable discussion: “Perhaps there can be no theory of immediacy.” While criticality seems to demand stepping outside of systems of mediation, de-synchronizing oneself in order to bear witness, over the course of the conference, papers and discussions continually drew us to recognize that there is no outside. Critical theories and practices arise out of orienting towards media, through attuning to their unique temporalities and rhythms as material temporal objects, and ultimately colliding and remixing them. Though Hartog laments our Now as a moment of “presentism” and crisis propagated by a proliferation of mediations and the splintering of communities and societies into multiple temporal regimes, we may choose to recognize this proliferation as an opportunity to reconstitute the ever unfolding present. The challenges to such an approach became most clear in our many discussions about social media. We may critique social media from the outside, calling attention to its disorienting and deleterious effects on the social fabric, or we may choose to recognize that social media constitute their own societies and histories uniquely pregnant with potentialities for dérive and détournement. Our present (and any hope for the future) seems to demand such a turn towards, and into, media as both temporal and material.