Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Details

Bowles, K. (2013). Beyond the boundary: vernacular mapping and the sharing of historical authority. In J. Hallam & L. Roberts (Eds.), Locating the Moving Image: New Approaches to Film and Place (pp. 221-244). United States: Indiana University Press.


For the past ten years, a substantial international community of cinemahistorians has been drawing attention to factors that traditional cinemastudies had a tendency to overlook: first, that wherever cinema attendanceis a social habit, it is not exclusively or even strongly shaped bythe content of films themselves, but by the attractions and distractionsof public cultural participation; and second, that what is social is alsoinevitably spatial. Surviving evidence of the mass commercial orchestrationof cinema as a cultural practice has offered digital historians agold-edged invitation to count, to measure, to analyze, to aggregate, andabove all to map. Several project teams internationally, some of whichare featured in this book, have spent years developing large-scale digitalcollections of historical data related to cinemagoing and have been doingso in a way that increases the potential to share commonly managed dataacross collections. The potential of this kind of global collaboration in thehumanities is dazzling; it tempts us to imagine an “histoire totale” of cinemaattendance founded on rigorous analysis of statistically significantchanges to the routines of commercial, political, and social regulation ofcinema markets worldwide, over more than a century. The opportunity tobuild capacity for this kind of panoptic overview is surely equal to those inwhich we have treated the history of films and their production as mattersof industrial scale or presumed wide cultural impact.