2020 Spring Shelfie: Phil Duncan

Phil Duncan is a doctoral candidate in media studies at the University of Oregon. His research explores the environmental media industry, with a specific interest in technology’s influence on the production, distribution, and exhibition of natural history and science communication. This research has manifested in fieldwork at the United Nations headquarters, interviews with filmmakers from the Discovery Channel and the BBC Natural History Unit, and in-depth engagement with archival films and materials from the National Geographic, Library of Congress, and American Museum of Natural History archives. His work on the subject has been published in the Journal of Popular Film and Television and In Media Res. Additionally, Phil is currently co-editing a collection, The Wild: Image and Industry, that takes a transdisciplinary approach to political economy and the environmental humanities.

Phil’s dissertation, in part, engages the “old” media of 16mm film through the lens of new media studies. Specifically, this work is interested in the introduction of portable 16mm camera technology to the field of nature documentary filmmaking in the 1920s and 1930s. To aid in this work, Phil’s bookshelf currently houses thick omnibus collections of Nature Magazine, an outdoors magazine published in the early half of the 20th century. Of particular interest to his project are the advertisements for 16mm cameras targeted toward readers interested in pursuing nature filmmaking both vocationally and avocationally. Early findings suggest that the vocabularies developed to promote these technologies 100 years ago are still used today—in advertisements for GoPros, selfie sticks, camper vans, and sleeping bags.

For anyone interested in contemporary resources that engage with media, technology, and the natural world, Phil suggests:

Playing Nature: Ecology in Video Games, Alenda Chang (2019)
Zoological Surrealism: The Nonhuman Cinema of Jean Painlevé, James Leo Cahill (2019)
Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene, Jennifer Fay (2018)
Carbon Capitalism and Communication: Confronting Climate Crisis, eds. Benedetta Brevini and Graham Murdock (2017)
Developing Animals: Wildlife and Early American Photography, Matthew Brower (2010)

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