Katja Lee teaches Communication and Media Studies at the University of Western Australia in Perth and has co-edited two volumes, Contemporary Publics: Shifting Boundaries in New Media, Technology and Culture (2016) and Celebrity Cultures in Canada (2016). Her research explores strategic identity performances across media (particularly memoirs and magazines), the history of celebrity cultures in Canada, and the gendered conditions of fame. She is also a Managing Editor of the open-access journal Persona Studies.
This essay cluster begins with an ending. Specifically, it began with the ending of Patrick Collier’s “What Is Modern Periodical Studies?,” which concludes with a provocation to find a new way to read and study modern periodicals. In order to develop coherent methodological approaches to modern periodicals, Collier argues, we need to resist the urge to “decid[e] in advance where [a] periodical’s value lies.” Instead, he urges us to “start with only one assumption: that the periodical is valuable simply because it exists—because it once performed some desirable functions for some number of people—and set as our first conceptual task reaching some hypotheses on what those functions were.” The seeming simplicity of this provocation—read without having deciding the value of what you’re reading in advance—belies its theoretical and methodological complexity. If modern periodicals are best known for the sheer size and heterogeneity of their archives, then an approach that provides no framing in advance, no specific path for navigating that archival scope, is daunting to say the least.