Residual Media


Charles R. Acland, editor

Explores what happens when new media become old news

Exploring recycled, neglected, and trashed media, Residual Media combines theoretical challenges to media history with ideas and technology that have been left behind.

Contributors: Jennifer Adams, Jody Berland, Sue Currell, Maria DiCenzo, Kate Egan, Lisa Gitelman, Allison Griffiths, James Hamilton, James Hay, Michelle Henning, Lisa Parks, Hillegonda C. Rietveld, Leila Ryan, John Seibert-Davis, Collette Snowden, Jonathan Sterne, JoAnne Stober, Will Straw, Haidee Wasson.

Residual Media, a rich and varied anthology, provides an important corrective to the prevailing rhetoric of new media.

Jay Bolter, Georgia Institute of Technology

In a society that breathlessly awaits “the new” in every medium, what happens to last year’s “new”? Ample critical energy has gone into the study of new media, genres, and communities. But what becomes of discarded media? In what manner do the products of technological change reappear as environmental problems, as “the new” in another part of the world, as collectibles, as memories, and as art?

Residual Media grapples with these questions and more in a wide-ranging and eclectic collection of essays. Beginning with how cultural change bumps along unevenly, dragging the familiar into novel contexts, the contributors examine how leftover artifacts can be rediscovered occupying space in storage sheds, traveling the globe, converting to alternative uses, and accumulating in landfills. By exploring reconfigured, renewed, recycled, neglected, abandoned, and trashed media, the essays here combine theoretical challenges to media history with ideas, technology, and uses that have been left behind.

From player pianos to vinyl records, from the typewriter to the telephone, Residual Media is an innovative approach to the aging of culture and reveals that, ultimately, new cultural phenomena rely on encounters with the old.

Contributors: Jennifer Adams, DePauw U; Jody Berland, York U; Sue Currell, U of Sussex; Maria DiCenzo, Wilfrid Laurier U; Kate Egan, U of Wales; Lisa Gitelman, Catholic U; Allison Griffiths, CUNY; James Hamilton, U of Georgia; James Hay, U of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana; Michelle Henning, U of the West of England; Lisa Parks, UC Santa Barbara; Hillegonda C. Rietveld, South Bank U; Leila Ryan, McMaster U; John Seibert-Davis, Alfred U; Collette Snowden, U of South Australia; Jonathan Sterne, McGill U; JoAnne Stober, National Archives, Canada; Will Straw, McGill U; Haidee Wasson, Concordia U.

Charles R. Acland is associate professor and holds the Concordia University Research Chair in communications studies at Concordia University, Montreal.

Residual Media, a rich and varied anthology, provides an important corrective to the prevailing rhetoric of new media.

Jay Bolter, Georgia Institute of Technology

Adds to the growing media literature that is based on the cultural studies paradigm.

Communication Booknotes Quarterly

This interdisciplinary collection investigates what Acland, in his thoughtful and wide-ranging introduction, calls ‘reconfigured, renewed, recycled, neglected, abandoned, and trashed media technologies and practices.’ In a field where too often the designation ‘new media’ indicates a break with or rejection of older forms of media, these essays will expand important historicizing work. Recommended.


Residual Media provides an important corrective for current discussions/debate regarding new media and its disassociation with the past.


This book is a must-read for scholars of media.

Journalism History

A conceptually ambitious, richly researched, and often provocative collection.


Residual Media comprises nineteen scholarly essays examining our relationships with media technologies that no longer could be characterized as ‘mainstream.’ Editor Charles Acland does a superb job of laying the foundation for these essays in an introduction that not only previews the work of each author, but builds a sophisticated, thoroughly researched, and theoretically unifying argument about society’s fascination with media that have fallen out of use. He argues persuasively that residual media give important clues as to who we are and what we value in the present.

Technology and Culture

To the child in me, this book is the equivalent of a free run through a candy store with the promise of a well-earned stomach ache at the end of the sugar rush: so much to digest, so little time to do so. But as a normal adult, this reviewer views this book as tapas, full of inviting morsels to taste before moving on to something equally tempting.

Technology and Society

At first glance, the book appears to be a collection of essays about such outdated tools of communication as handwritten letters and vinyl records. As intriguing as these subjects are, they are really just the hook for an examination of the people who give these obsolete things a second life. There is an entire culture devoted to repurposing and appreciating abandoned media, and the stories about these quirky folks are what make the book so special.

Residual Media is one of the most interesting books I have come across in quite some time.