Seth Watter

Undergraduate Discipline

Film History

BA, Binghamton University. PhD, Brown University. Author of The Human Figure on Film: Natural, Pictorial, Institutional, Fictional (SUNY Press, forthcoming), as well as articles in Grey RoomJCMSCamera ObscuraFilm InternationalMillennium Film JournalEffectsNECSUS, the volumes Seeing Science: How Photography Reveals the Universe (Aperture, 2019), and Holisms of Communication: The Early History of Audio-Visual Sequence Analysis (Language Science Press, 2021). Special interests in film theory, media theory, cultural techniques, nonverbal communication, and the history of the behavioral sciences. Currently at work on a book called Nothing Never Happens: The Study of Interaction Since 1900, which was supported by a NOMIS Postdoctoral Fellowship at the eikones – Center for the Theory and History of the Image, University of Basel, Switzerland (2020-21). Previous appointments include Brooklyn College, School of Visual Arts, and Pratt Institute. SLC, 2021– ​

Previous Courses

Film History

Body, Gesture, Cinema

Open, Lecture—Fall

Almost all films contain persons, bodies; they have filled up the frame since the medium’s inception. But the human figure on film is always a variable object of inquiry, changing in accord with its investigator’s purpose. This course offers a survey of approaches to the conception, analysis, and measurement of the filmed human figure. The course consists of four units broken down by key concepts: natural history, picture composition, social institutions, and fictionality. In doing so, we will also view a diverse set of films: scientific research films, avant-garde films, ethnographic films, and mainstream feature films. By a combination of weekly reading, viewing, and independent research, students will become attuned to new aspects of the human figure—to styles of performance, styles of making films, and the different ways of “reading” both. Previous familiarity with formal film analysis is useful but not required.


Media Theory and Cultural Techniques

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

“Media determine our situation,” Friedrich Kittler wrote in 1986. More than 35 years later, media theorists and historians continue to debate the significance of Kittler's claim. What media are, how they influence our actions, how they interact with each other in shifting configurations...these are some of the questions that media theory considers. In this course, we will read some of the fundamental texts in media theory and criticism, a form of inquiry distinct from both film studies and communication studies. While we will explore the histories of the classic “storage media”—writing, photography, the cinema, and sound recording—we will also expand our understanding of media to include things as diverse as courts, canoes, telescopes, even clouds. Special emphasis is put on the relatively recent concept of “cultural techniques,” a materialist approach to media that sees any medium as the result of interactions—between humans and things, humans and other humans, humans and the environment they shape and reshape—and, in so doing, reinvent their “humanity.” We will also explore the overlap of contemporary media theory with fields such as science and technology studies (STS), surveillance studies, and ecocriticism.