The Vollmer Fries Distinguished Lecture, delivered by John Durham Peters from Yale, will be held on Thursday, April 6, at 5 p.m. at EMPAC Studio Beta. The event is sponsored by the Provost’s Fries Lecture endowment. The lecture is titled “From Miracles to Meteorology: Weather and Media Theory.”
Peters is Professor of English and film and media studies at Yale University. His latest book is titled The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media (Chicago, 2015). The book offers an original perspective on communication today, bringing together the humanities, arts, and sciences in a unique way.
“On its face, weather sounds like the most banal and mundane thing possible,” Peters wrote. “When people talk about the weather, we usually take that as a sign of nothing to talk about, of intellectual emptiness. This talk aims to show that this is hardly the case in the age of climate change, and even dangerous. The history of human interaction with weather is also a history of cultural techniques and media technologies. Dramatists and divines have sought meaning from atmospheric events. Reading the skies is one paradigm case of human-nature interaction, and studying weather can stand in as part for whole as an inquiry into the environments humans have made or unmade. The history of modern weather forecasting is also a history of the militarization of the sky and oceans, and is co-extensive with the history of modern telecommunications and computation.
“Weather raises two questions of profound interest to recent media theory: how mundane infrastructures are full of meaning and how vaporous or evanescent entities can be tracked, recorded, and programmed. In this way, studying the weather is a special case in media theory’s more general study of how media help constitute the world.”