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dr. Marek Jancovic


Assistant Professor, Faculty of Humanities, Art and Culture, History, Antiquity

Assistant Professor, CLUE+

Research

Dr. Marek Jancovic is Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His research is centered around the materialities of the moving image, film preservation practices, media and the environment, and format studies.

He is the principal investigator of CINEAGRI: Agriculture and the Global History of Celluloid Film Manufacturing. This 3-year research project (2024-2027) will develop a cartography of historical trade routes in agricultural materials involved in early celluloid film production, such as camphor, gelatin and nitrate, with particular geographical focus on the region around the East China Sea. The project is funded by the Dutch Research Council’s VENI Talent Program.

Marek is the author of A Media Epigraphy of Video Compression: Reading Traces of Decay (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023); together with Jimi Jones, the author of The Future of Memory: A History of Lossless Format Standards in the Moving Image Archive (University of Illinois Press, under contract) and, with Axel Volmar and Alexandra Schneider, the editor of Format Matters: Standards, Practices, and Politics in Media Cultures (Meson Press, 2020).

Marek's wider research interests include the politics of infrastructure, electricity and the electromagnetic spectrum, animal-media interactions, as well as the interstices between queer studies, disability studies and STS. He has published on topics ranging from the history of film frame rates to the preservation of web video formats, animal spectatorship and animal media practice, the violence of media-technological standards, the environmental ramifications of streaming video, or the mediality of Covid-19. His writing has been translated into Spanish, Finnish and German.

Together with Dr. Ivo Blom, he coordinates the MA program in Arts & Culture: Comparative Arts and Media Studies.

 

Books

A Media Epigraphy of Video Compression: Reading Traces of Decay

Video compression makes the media world go round. Without it, there would be no television, no streaming platforms, no digital cinema. There would be no amateur video, no smartphone recordings. No YouTube, no Netflix, no TikTok. Compression is at work on a massive projection screen as well as in the animated memes we exchange on our phones. But compression also reaches beyond these familiar configurations of the moving image, causing headaches for neurologists who work with digital images, and to film archivists who try to preserve our audiovisual cultural heritage. And still: this is only a fraction of the effects that compression has on art, science, our physical environment and even on our bodies. The effects of video compression, once you begin to notice them, manifest in such strange and unexpected situations as the wardrobe of newscasters, the frequency of epileptic seizures around the world or obscure nineteenth-century mathematical controversies.

Bringing into conversation science and technology studies, media archaeology, disability studies and queer theory, this book situates compression in a nexus of epistemic, technological and visual practices spanning from late 18th-century mathematical techniques to the standardization of electrical infrastructure and the development of neurology throughout the 1900s.

The manuscript builds on my award-winning doctoral project Misinscriptions, conducted at the University of Mainz, Germany.

“This is the book I've been waiting to read! Jancovic’s exciting method of media epigraphy draws, out of a still image, deep histories of mathematics, technologies, power, embodiment, and energy. [...] An ontological struggle lodges in our squinting eyes.”

—Dr. Laura U. Marks, Grant Strate University Professor, School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver


“With A Media Epigraphy of Video Compression, Marek Jancovic combines key lessons offered by media archaeology, science/technology studies, and forensics and he pushes all three of these fields forward with a new approach he calls 'media epigraphy.' [...] Through his deep-seeing analyses of media inscriptions such as compressions, format changes, and standards, he reveals not only how these inscriptions are deeply material but how they have deeply material effects on the physical world, from environments to human bodies. This is a must-read book for anyone looking for a model of how to successfully undertake a detailed, nuanced, and layered materialist study of even the most seemingly immaterial process."

—Dr. Lori Emerson, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Intermedia Arts, Writing, and Performance Program at University of Colorado at Boulder, and Founding Director of the Media Archaeology Lab


“Marek Jancovic’s erudite tracing of that liminal threshold where visuality is just about to blur and to glitch is a magnificent take on the cultural politics of perception.”

—Dr. Jussi Parikka, Professor in Digital Aesthetics and Culture at Aarhus University, and Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton

 

Format Matters: Standards, Practices, and Politics in Media Cultures (open access)

From TIFF files to TED talks, from book sizes to blues stations—the term “format” circulates in a staggering array of contexts and applies to entirely dissimilar objects and practices. How can such a pliable concept meaningfully function as an instrument of classification in so many industries and scientific communities? 

Comprising a wide range of case studies on the standards, practices, and politics of formats from scholars of photography, film, radio, television, and the web, Format Matters charts the many ways in which formats shape and are shaped by past and present media cultures. This volume represents the first sustained collaborative effort to advance the emerging field of format studies.

 

The Future of Memory: A History of Lossless Format Standards in the Moving Image Archive 

In co-authorship with Jimi Jones, my latest book documents the standardization of digital video formats across audiovisual archives in West Africa, Europe and North America, focusing especially on the social, political and material factors affecting the development and adoption of archival format standards.

Through the video compression and wrapper formats JPEG2000, FFV1, MXF and Matroska, our book makes visible the changing character of present-day archival work, and with it the larger struggles for social legitimacy: Who counts as a professional archivist? What does digital archiving even mean? Should access to standards be free?

Drawing on interviews with archivists and standards developers, this is both an oral history of an important decade in audiovisual preservation, as well as a snapshot of a field undergoing a tremendous transition.

 

Teaching

Marek teaches in the MA program Arts & Culture: Comparative Arts and Media Studies and the BA program in Media, Art, Design and Architecture. I have taught a wide range of classes in media studies and media archaeology, film studies, cultural analysis, film production practice, and dramaturgy. Some of the recent ones include:

  • Materialities of Media: Elements, Infrastructures, Environments (MA)
  • Transmedia Storytelling (MA)
  • Filming Animals: Media Practices After the Human (MA)
  • Agnès Varda and the Essay Film (MA)
  • "Data-driven Storytelling"? Algorithmic Cultures of Narration (MA)
  • Ludwig Berger and German Cinema in Exile (MA)
  • Approaching Visual and Material Culture (BA)
  • Formats (BA)
  • Research Methods in Media, Arts, Design and Architecture (BA)

 

Ancillary activities

Marek is a board member of the Environmental Humanities Center Amsterdam, a member of necs, RMeS, SMPTE, SCMS and the Europeana Network Association. He was a guest researcher at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (2018-2019) and associate member of the German Research Foundation research group Configurations of Film (2017-2020).

As a documentary film producer, he has produced several award-winning films, dealing primarily with community, freedom, and systems of oppression and resistance. Among others, the documentaries Mama Agatha, I'm Not Afraid and 26 de Diciembre have been shown at hundreds of festivals worldwide. His own audiovisual works have been exhibited by art institutions such as the Finnish Museum of Photography, the Fotomuseum Wintherthur in Switzerland, Frascati Theater in the Netherlands, and others.

 

dr. Marek Jancovic

Keywords

  • media history, science, technology and society, media archaeology, history of te...

Publicaties

Uitgelichte prijzen

  • NWO Veni Talent Programme research grant: CINEAGRI - Global Elements of Cinema -...