Beyond the boundary: vernacular mapping and the sharing of historical authority
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For the past ten years, a substantial international community of cinema historians has been drawing attention to factors that traditional cinema studies had a tendency to overlook: first, that wherever cinema attendance is a social habit, it is not exclusively or even strongly shaped by the content of films themselves, but by the attractions and distractions of public cultural participation; and second, that what is social is also inevitably spatial. Surviving evidence of the mass commercial orchestration of cinema as a cultural practice has offered digital historians a gold-edged invitation to count, to measure, to analyze, to aggregate, and above all to map. Several project teams internationally, some of which are featured in this book, have spent years developing large-scale digital collections of historical data related to cinemagoing and have been doing so in a way that increases the potential to share commonly managed data across collections. The potential of this kind of global collaboration in the humanities is dazzling; it tempts us to imagine an “histoire totale” of cinema attendance founded on rigorous analysis of statistically significant changes to the routines of commercial, political, and social regulation of cinema markets worldwide, over more than a century. The opportunity to build capacity for this kind of panoptic overview is surely equal to those in which we have treated the history of films and their production as matters of industrial scale or presumed wide cultural impact.