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Photo: © Mary Borgo Ton

Media Archaeology in the Age of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly shifting conversations about scholarship and artistic practice. What new possibilities (and perils) does AI create for media archaeologists? This keynote situates emerging computational approaches to magic lantern shows and other pre-cinema ephemera as part of longstanding traditions within media scholarship and performance studies. By focusing on the processes of archiving, analysis, and artistry in both analog and digital contexts, I describe new directions for media archaeology that use computation to promote collaboration and new forms of communication. In doing so, I propose that media archaeology in the age of AI pays homage to Werner Nekes by using both curation and creation as pathways for navigating the intricate terrain of past and present media landscapes.


Mary Borgo Ton, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor and Digital Humanities Librarian at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research uses digital approaches to study screen-based media in the global south with a particular focus on nineteenth-century missionaries who traveled to Africa and Oceania with a magic lantern. She received her Ph.D. in British Literature from Indiana University with concentrations in Victorian Studies and the digital arts and humanities. As part of international digital humanities projects, including Livingstone Online and the Mesoamerican Archive, she has collaborated with stakeholder institutions around the world to remediate historic slides, manuscripts, and cultural objects in order to increase access to these materials, critique the limitations of current digitization practices, and foreground perspectives from the global south through digital collections.