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Peter Krapp

Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies/Visual Studies, University of California, Irvine; Program Faculty Member of Arts Computation Engineering, University of California, Irvine

Peter Krapp

Peter Krapp is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies/Visual Studies at UC Irvine, where he is also a member of the Departments of English and of Informatics. He was director of the PhD Program in Visual Studies that includes faculty from Film & Media and from Art History, and currently chairs the University Committee on Planning and Budget for the UC Academic Senate at its headquarters in Oakland. He is the author of Déjà Vu: Aberrations of Cultural Memory (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2004) and editor of Medium Cool, a collection of contemporary media theory (Duke Univ. Press, 2002: Southern Atlantic Quarterly 101:3). His interests in research and teaching include the history & theory of gadgets, games and simulations, motion study, information theory and secret communications, and the cinematic and digital representations of north and south pole regions.

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Research Sample: From Déjà Vu: Aberrations of Cultural Memory (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2004)

[...] “Distraction, attention deficit, or lack of concentration are common, in the visual field as well other fields of perception, as a defense against overstimulation; forces of habit or automatism are widely regarded as normal, as inference in the somatic field; and the peer group exerts an influence, creating a common libidinal bond which is a kind of suggestion [...] From the vantage point of a dialectic of attention and distraction, any appeal against forgetting is an attempt to dictate what people should think. If I tell you not to forget something, I am really making an ill-concealed attempt to divert your attention from something and onto something else — or inversely, to distract you from one thing and have you think what I want you to think about. If we live in an attention economy, it is paramount to protect our freedom of decision on how attention is ‘paid,’ and to observe closely how manipulations of the parameters of memory aid a ‘culture’ industry. At the same time, this critical watch is concerned with the perils and payoffs of forgetting. [...] Distraction and forgetting, as Benjamin writes citing Goethe, are closely related, and may appear as two sides of the force of habit: one that habitually overlooks what is hidden in plain sight, and one that hides desires and wishes from conscious awareness in order to preserve and protect the regularities of habitual behaviour. While the former is a necessary weakness that Benjamin also addresses in his text on Easter egg hunting, the latter is more directly aligned with the defensive structures of modern existence. It is just as well that what is forgotten cannot be entirely recovered, Benjamin warns, for if it were to be recovered fully, the shock might be so great that it would interrupt our understanding of desire. Inversely, the more deeply our desire is sunk into oblivion, the better we understand it – thus distance becomes a function of interpretation. [...] Indeed distraction will prove to be a crucial concept: as soon as some attention is directed to the question, the small differences will be apparent; as long as attention is diverted from small differences, one can be deceived. [...] Yet the pleasantly diminished returns (in the modes of distraction and entertainment) that serve to screen over certain unpleasant returns (such as the involuntary one to the caesura of memory that is trauma, or the intentional invocation of a painful memory in the scene of forgiveness) are not, properly speaking, ways to move on. Nor can the dialectics of forgetting and memory be sidestepped in the gratuitous returns of popular culture. While communication serves to bridge and shrink time and space, entertainment distracts us from time and place. In either mode, the value of information still depends on its time and place, and media studies must address these layers of experience and processing.”

  Peter Krapp, 04.26.05

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