Flow Conference 2018: Media Preservation, Precarity, and Praxis

September 27-29, 2018

With a dynamic slate of roundtable panels and events, the 2018 Flow Conference promises to be an exciting opportunity for scholars to participate in lively conversations about current trends and debates in television and new media studies. The biennial event, organized by graduate students from the UT Department of Radio-Television-Film and hosted by the Moody College of Communication, draws a range of luminaries—including scholars, activists, journalists, and industry practitioners—to consider the past, present, and future of television and media culture.

This year’s conference runs from September 27 – 29, with all events and roundtables taking place in the Texas Union building and the Belo Center for New Media on the UT Austin campus. Faculty, students, and visiting scholars are invited to attend, with free admission open to UT Austin faculty, students, and staff. Registration information and the full schedule of events are available on the conference website.

“Because Flow is such a conversational conference space, it provides a great opportunity to discuss best practices, approaches, and how to build meaningful support networks within our field around these issues,” explained Assistant Professor Suzanne Scott who, along with Associate Professor Alisa Perren, are serving as faculty co-advisors.

"The conference theme—preservation, precarity, and praxis—orbits around a sense of instability, and a desire to bring media scholars together to discuss how we grapple with these issues."
—Suzanne Scott

“Flow is a fantastic opportunity to talk about media—really talk about it,” echoed Cynthia Meyers, associate professor at College of Mount Saint Vincent. “It's more open, less formal, and more dialogical than the conventional conference.” Through its reputed workshop-style model, which privileges conversation over presentation, the atmosphere of Flow is one that scholars and students across disciplinary fields have found fun and enriching.

“The core sensibility of the Flow conference is to level the experience between presenters and audience as well as among the varying levels of academic hierarchies,” explained Boston University Assistant Professor Charlotte Howell, former Flow Conference Coordinator and assistant professor at Boston University. “Graduate students, junior faculty, senior faculty, independent scholars, and practitioners all have equal voice at Flow both during roundtables and outside of the conference.”

Preservation, Precarity, Praxis

This year’s theme, “preservation, precarity, and praxis,” according to Scott, “orbits around a sense of instability, and a desire to bring media scholars together to discuss how we grapple with these issues.” The theme not only reflects the intellectual interests of graduate student organizers, but also represents the “shifting nature of what constitutes ‘television,’" and the event’s “evolving foci on interactive media and audiences” (Scott). The schedule features 31 compelling roundtable panels on such topics as the preservation of television and the precarity of streaming media, theorizations of digital and analog flows, and shifting representations in transnational television.

Two featured events which reflect this theme are open to the public.

Opening Night - TV Treasures from Texas Archives - Open to the public
Thursday, September 27 • 7 p.m.–8:30 p.m. • Belo Auditorium (BMC 2.106)

Kicking off the conference is a screening event, “TV Treasures from Texas Archives,” presented by the RTF department in coordination with the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) and Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI).

In keeping with the conference’s theme, little-seen television artifacts will be screened—including selections from TAMI’s collection of local television programming and clips of Ida Lupino’s Mr. Adams and Eve (CBS, 1957-8) and Erle Stanley Gardner’s proto-true crime series,The Court of Last Resort (NBC, 1957-8) from HRC’s archive. Dr. Afsheen Nomai (Technical Director of TAMI) and Ancelyn Krivah (HRC Archivist) will present these materials and offer nuanced insights about the processes of television preservation.

Presenting, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Preserving Local TV Collections,” Nomai will elaborate on “TAMI's experiences in the acquisition, processing and digitization of a large local TV collection, and the challenges that come along with [restoring] those collections.”

“Without a reliable source of funds to defray the costs of preserving television materials, rare and unseen programs from the early days of broadcast history are in danger of being lost." said Krivah.

Featured Roundtable: Praxis in Practice - Open to the public
Friday, September 28 • 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. •  Belo Auditorium (BMC 2.106)

To jumpstart roundtable conversations, the conference is also hosting a featured roundtable, Praxis in Practice. Media praxis can refer to an array of initiatives designed to merge theory with practice and engage with challenges facing media studies and/or higher education. Panelists—including, Dr. Aymar Jean Christian (Northwestern University), Dr. Lori Morimoto (independent scholar), Dr. Christine Becker (Notre Dame), and Dr. Randolph Lewis (UT Austin)—will discuss how they incorporate praxis into their teaching, research, criticism, and activism.

The panelists' initiatives include: OTV | Open Television, a research project and platform for intersectional television developed by Christian; “End of Austin,” a digital humanities project created by Lewis; “Aca-Media,” a media studies-focused podcast co-hosted by Becker and Dr. Michael Kackman; and “Fan Studies for Fans,” an online lecture series designed by Morimoto. Drawing on these diverse projects, panelists will initiate conversations about new ways to perform scholarship, elevate public intellectualism, and influence media culture.

“I think we are in a cultural moment…there is an imperative for media scholars to speak beyond our silos, reach broader audiences, and strive to make the changes in media culture that we are so capable of critiquing,” said Scott. “I personally hope this Praxis roundtable inspires more of the attendees to try something outside their comfort zone and reimagine what media scholarship looks like moving forward."


Flow’s line-up extends this compelling conversation with topics that speak to methodology, pedagogy, practice, and future directions of media scholarship. Several panels focus on the current state of television and new media preservation and explore its implications for scholars and practitioners. “Working at Turner Classic Movies, my job is heavily rooted in nostalgia, and preserving a nostalgia,” explained Hemrani Vyas, TCM Programming Coordinator and returning Flow Conference attendee. “I am excited to see how scholars and industry practitioners tackle issues of preservation and the importance of contextualizing media that came before us for younger audiences who like myself, are fascinated by the way it has permeated into different generations, yet are so far removed from the original texts.”

Other exciting roundtable topics examine evolving media and TV forms in light of industrial, regulatory, and technological changes. “I'm looking forward to discussing how to talk about television advertising in our pedagogy and our scholarship,” said Cynthia Meyers. In her roundtable, “The Past, Present, and Future of Television Commercials,” she poses the question: “If YouTubers sell cosmetics more effectively than TV commercials, what then can we say about the distinctions between 'programs' and 'advertising'—or have those distinctions collapsed?”

Stay tuned for more!

Anne Major
Ph.D. Student, Radio-Television-Film