Imagining the Social Change: the Czech Discourse about Contemporary Art After 1989


Session Title:

  • Media Histories: Europe

Presentation Title:

  • Imagining the Social Change: the Czech Discourse about Contemporary Art After 1989




  • This paper is a sociological study of the process of mediatization of the cultural field of contemporary art. Its aim is to challenge the assumptions which saturated specialized discourses in 1990s in the context of media change. We can identify in then literature similar ways of expressing the claim that the Internet (and new technologies in general) will enable a radical social change [Holmes 2005].

    In this paper I will focus on the emergence of the concept of new media in Czech discourse about contemporary art in 1990s. This period of Czech history was characterized by social and political transformation from communist to democratic regime after the revolutionary year 1989. In this historical situation the dominant narrative of information revolution [Winston 1998] was met with enthusiastic atmosphere of frequently discussed transformation. New media were considered as one of the tools that would help not only with constituting the new democratic social system, but also with democratization of contemporary art. With the emphasis on its interactive potencial, new media art was supposed to assist in „building a bridge between the contemporary art and the public“ [Hlavacek 1997].

    The paper stems from sociology of technology and discourse studies. It is based on the assumption of social constructivist approach that technological change is driven by social processes rather than technological logic [Wajcman & MacKenzie 1999]. I will reflect the situation of media change as a social process, which has been already investigated in connection with electricity [Marvin 1988; Bazerman 1999],  wireless [Douglas 1987] or even aviation [Corn 1983]. I will analyse the Czech discourse about new media in specialized art journals from 1990 to 1999, focusing on narrative about information revolution in the context of social and political transformation. As I will argue, because of the assimilation of the concept of new media to the existing traditional discursive practices of contemporary art, the possibility of intended social change was in fact undermined.

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