chapter  1
Early Film History and Multi-Media: An Archaeology of Possible Futures?
Pages 13

The spectre stalking film history is that of its own obsolescence. It is widely assumed that the digital convergence between image-, audio-and print media-and thus the practice of multi-media-must inevitably modify and eventually overturn our traditional notions of film history. But this assumption rests on several unstated premises both about this convergence and about film history. What is evident is that the electronic media do not fit neatly into a linear or chronologically conceived film history, focussed on film as text or artifact. However, it is not at all obvious that digitization is the reason why the new media present such a challenge, historically as well as theoretically, to cinema studies. l Perhaps it merely forces into the open inherent flaws and contradictions, shortcomings and misconceptions in our current picture? Does the digital image constitute a radical break in the practice of imaging, or is it just the logical-technological continuation of a long and complex history of mechanical vision, which traditional film theory has never fully tried to encompass? Is film history vulnerable, because it has operated with notions of origins and teleology that even on their own terms are untenable in the light of what we know, for instance, about early cinema? This paper wants to put the latter question as its working hypothesis, and in order to do so, I want to start with identifying a number of what I take to be typical attitudes among film scholars when it comes to responding to the (digital) multi-media.