Liam Cole Young is a specialist in media history and theory with a Ph.D. in Media Studies from The University of Western Ontario. He previously completed an M.A. in Popular Culture at Brock University and two B.A.s (History; International Relations) at University of Calgary.
Prior to joining the School of Journalism and Communication, he was Assistant Professor (Limited-Term) at Trent University’s Department of Cultural Studies and also taught at Western University’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS).
I study the infrastructure of culture and civilization – the way that human societies communicate, cooperate, and otherwise hold together across time and space. This leads me to research and teach across a broad range of phenomena and historical periods—from early modern double-entry bookkeeping and state bureaucracies to 20th century pop music charts, contemporary just-in-time logistical networks, Silicon Valley’s corporate culture, and the North American fur trade of the 17th and 18th centuries. I argue that connecting seemingly-divergent phenomena and time periods helps shed light on the documents, techniques, formats, and protocols through which culture is made and by which it circulates. Such connections also help to cast media history into longer, civilizational timescales, and to complicate conventional narratives about the ‘newness’ of digital media.
This approach is informed by thinkers associated with what is sometimes called the ‘Toronto School’ of communication—Harold A. Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Lewis Mumford, et al. My recent publications map connections between this tradition and recent debates in media archaeology and German media theory. I argue that that concepts and methods developed in the Canadian tradition of the mid-20th century have a lot to say about the nonhuman spaces and times of contemporary media, and we’d do well to read these texts with fresh eyes.
My first book, List Cultures: Knowledge and Poetics from Mesopotamia to BuzzFeed (Amsterdam University Press, 2017) explores these themes by tracing the list as a cultural technique of administration and imagination. My next major project focuses on the infrastructural turn in media and communication studies and casts Innis’s early economic histories into contemporary debates. I am also chipping away at long-term project on the history of salt, which positions sodium chloride as a medium of culture and civilization.
I explore the above themes with students in courses on digital and mobile media, contemporary media theory, and on paperwork and power.
General research and teaching interests: media history and theory (emphasis on German and Canadian traditions); cultural techniques and media archaeology; paperwork; information and documentation studies; epistemology and histories of knowledge; technology and modernity; war and media
Young, Liam C. 2017. List Cultures: Knowledge and Poetics from Mesopotamia to BuzzFeed. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Young, Liam C. 2017. “Innis’s Infrastructure: Dirt, Beavers, and Documents in Material Media Theory.” Cultural Politics 13, no. 2.
Young, Liam C. “Wolfgang Ernst’s Media-Archaeological Soundings” in Wolfgang Ernst, Sonic Time Machines (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2016).
Young, Liam C. (2015). “Cultural techniques and logistical media: Tuning Anglo-American and German media studies.” M/C Journal 18, no. 2 (Feature article in special issue on ‘Technique’)
Young, Liam C. (2013a). “Un-black boxing the list: knowledge, materiality, and form,” Canadian Journal of Communication 38, no. 4.
Young, Liam C. (2013b). ‘On lists and networks: An archaeology of form.’ Amodern 2 (special issue on Network Archaeology).
Young, Liam C. (2013c). ‘Files and the material history of the law.’ Review essay of Cornelia Vismann, Files: Law and media technology (Stanford University Press, 2008). Theory, Culture, and Society 30, no. 6 (special issue on ‘Cultural Techniques’).