Messenger pigeon released from a British tank during WWI

Dead Media Poster Presentation

Assignment Overview:

  • A research poster presentated in class
  • Students should work together in pairs
  • Due on Friday, January 25
  • Claim your dead medium by signing up here (be sure to pick the sheet for your section of the class!)
  • 10% of total grade


In “Imagining the New Media Encounter,” Alan Liu suggests that “The déjá vu haunting of new by old media is clear enough.” New technologies and new modes of communication draw, both technically and metaphorically, from older modes—including “dead media” that have, to all surface appearances, entirely disappeared.

To better understand this haunting, you will work in pairs to research a historical new medium and/or technology that flourished and then faded from popular view: some might call this “media archaeology”. These new media might be very old or relatively new: new textual technologies have emerged since the invention of writing, while some popular technologies introduced as recently as a decade ago are already obsolete.

How ‘Dead’ is Dead?

I would ask that you employ a relatively strict, but not pedantic, definition of “dead media”: it should mean less than “completely and totally banished from human culture” and more than “no longer hip.” To put this idea another way: a tiny community of dedicated enthusiasts should not rescue a technology from our calling it “dead media,” while still-widely-accessible technology ignored by cutting edge users (think CDs, perhaps) should escape the label “dead media” for the purposes of this assignment.

Resources for Finding a Medium

You might consider this list from the original Dead Media Project or from the Dead Media Archive as you plan your topic. When choosing your medium, opt for the unfamiliar and the strange if at all possible—try to find a medium you suspect your classmates have never heard of, or perhaps one they will think they know until its reality surprises them.

The Poster

You and your partner will prepare a conference-style poster to present your “dead medium” to your classmates and instructors. If you’ve never created a research poster, consult the references on the “poster session” Wikipedia page for writing and design tips. Your poster should address on the following questions:

  1. How did this medium innovate, diverge, or respond to even earlier media? What precisely was new about it when it was the “new media?”
  2. What were the cultural effects of this medium during its heyday? Did it produce substantive changes in domestic life, politics, art, or other spheres?
  3. Were there competing media that attempted to meet the same needs or fill the same niche as your chosen medium?
  4. How and why did your medium decline in importance?
  5. What were the lasting effects or products of your medium? Was it a media “dead end” or did new media evolve from it? How does your medium linger in descendants, images, or language?

You should not attempt on your poster to tell us everything that you might say about your chosen medium in a written paper nor explain its every nuance. When designing think CONCISE, INFORMATIVE, and CREATIVE. The idea here is that the form’s restriction (paradoxically) promotes your creativity, as some might argue the formal restrictions of certain poetic forms force the poet toward ever-more-deft feats of language.

We will hold our “dead media” poster session on Friday, January 26.