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Brían Hanrahan

The Coming of the Dial: Crisis Historiography and Network Visualization (08.07.2014)

Misled by the naïve formalism of contemporary diagrammatics, we tend to conceive of network visualization in an abstract and ahistorical way. The lecture challenges this tendency through an analysis of cinematic representations of the "coming of the dial" to the telephone network: the rapid introduction, in the 1920s and 1930s, of the dial interface and associated technologies of automatic switching and call routing. In dialogue with Rick Altman's notion of a "crisis historiography" of media, and drawing on an archive composed – among other things – of recruitment, training and instructional films, documentaries on cable repair and network history, and comedies of telephone operators in love, I underline the materiality, heterogeneity and historicity of telephone networks, and reveal the political stakes of their representation.


Brían Hanrahan

Visiting Assistant Professor at the Department of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University.


Main Research:Hanrahan.jpg

  • Film and cinema studies
  • Acoustic media & auditory culture
  • Weimar culture
  • Media theory


  • Traces of War: Gas Shell Bombardment, 1918, Sounding Out!, July 2014
  • “Live on the Air, Live on the Ground: the Chamberlin Flight as Spectacular Event, June 1927,” in Thomas O. Haakenson and Jennifer Creech, eds., Spectacle. Peter Lang: German Visual Culture (forthcoming 2014).
  •  “The Mobilization of Weimar Radio: Traveling Microphone and Radio-Film,”
    Transfers: Journal of Mobility Studies, vol. 3, number 2, summer 2013, 4-23
  • “For Future Friends of Walter Benjamin,” Los Angeles Review of Books. July 2012.
  • “June 13, 1930: German radio broadcasts Walter Ruttmann’s Weekend, a film without images,” in Jennifer Kapczynski and Michael Richardson, eds., A New History of German Cinema. (Rochester: Camden House, 2012), 264-272.