Jane Hutchinson


Hutchinson, J. 2022. Thesis: A Media Archaeology of Technologies of Enchantment https://pearl.plymouth.ac.uk/handle/10026.1/20162   https://dx.doi.org/10.24382/553

Abstract: This thesis explores how an understanding of an immaterial dimension of human experience was expressed and experienced in the context of nineteenth century engagement with science and technology. Drawing upon methods of media archaeology, it presents examples of visual technologies where apparatus and images representative of scientific and technological objectivity appear to have been appropriated and modified for the purpose of experiencing this dimension, an experience this thesis calls enchantment. The thesis suggests that some period specific behaviours associated with these visual technologies are sophisticated and subtle mechanisms that contribute to the affective and cognitive experience of enchantment. The flickering negative/positive of Daguerreotypes was matched by the uncertain and shifting understanding about the place, status and meaning of photography was part of a broader instability in science and theological thinking during this period characterised by preoccupation with the production and acquisition of material objects and of progress. Photography’s beginnings, and even how to name the process was subject to debate (Batchen, 1997) The thesis argues that studio portrait photography was a significant feature within this context due to the studio being a place where there was deliberate construction of an obvious instability, and perceptual and cognitive dissonance resulting in a synthesis of the technologies of the external physical world and the viewer’s imaginary world. 5 Discussions of the period viewers’ engagement with and experience of these images and associated technologies is often concerned with their materiality. The thesis contributes to this existing scholarship by re-evaluating them in terms of our desire to make apparent a dimension of the human which extends beyond the material. It does this through an examination of the cultural, social and economic context of visual technologies during the second half of the nineteenth century. The thesis presents focused studies of photographic portrait studios and the resulting photographs, Life Model lantern slide shows, phantom rides, and Hugo Münsterberg’s design for a psychotechnical experiment as he developed his film theory, published in 1916 as The Photoplay: A Psychological Study. Through these studies, the thesis shows that the immaterial dimension of engagement with these technologies during the nineteenth century is a quality that endures though studio portrait photographs and is accessible to us as we encounter them now.

Nicole, L. & Hutchinson, J. (2019) Keep your Kodak busy: monuments of the Great War. Mortality, Vol 25:1, January 2020, pp. 69-98 | Published online: 19 Dec 2019, https://doi.org/10.1080/13576275.2019.1682982

Hutchinson, J. (2018). Münsterberg’s Imagination Machine, in Rüdiger Steinmetz, ed,. A Treasure Trove. Friend of the Photoplay – Visionary – Spy? New trans-disciplinary Approaches to Hugo Münsterberg‘s Life and Oeuvre. Leipzig: Leipzig University Press, pp. 163-179.

Hutchinson, J. (2014). ‘Not Me…Not Not Me’: A Restoration of Behaviour in Media Practices, in M. Punt and M. Blassnigg, ed., Media Archaeology and Cognition – Transtechnology Reader 2014/15, Plymouth: Transtechnology Research, pp. 272-279.


Hutchinson, J. (2019) Review of Vital Reenchantments: Biophilia, Gaia, Cosmos and the Affectively Ecological by Lauren Greyson, Leonardo Reviews, [online], June. Available at: https://www.leonardo.info/review/2019/06/review-of-vital-reenchantments-biophilia-gaia-cosmos-and-the-affectively-ecological

Hutchinson, J. (2019) Review of Displaying Time: The Many Temporalities of the Festival of India by Rebecca M. Brown, Leonardo Reviews, [online], February. Available at: https://www.leonardo.info/review/2019/02/review-of-displaying-time-the-many-temporalities-of-the-festival-of-india Also in Leonardo, Volume 52, Issue 5 October 2019,

Hutchinson, J. (2017). To See Without Being Seen: Contemporary Art and Drone Warfare
by Svea Bräunert and Meredith Malone
Leonardo Reviews, [online] May. Available at: https://www.leonardo.info/review/2017/05/review-of-to-see-without-being-seen-contemporary-art-and-drone-warfare.php

Hutchinson, J. (2016). Women’s Views: The Narrative Stereograph in Nineteenth Century America by Melody Davis
Leonardo Reviews, [online] May. Available at: https://www.leonardo.info/reviews_archive/may2016/davis-hutchinson.php

Hutchinson, J. (2015). Sara Angelucci: Provenance Unknown by Emelie Chhangur, Curator.
Leonardo Reviews, [online] October. Available at: http://leonardo.info/reviews/oct2015/chhangur-hutchinson.php  Also in Leonardo, Volume 49, Issue 2 April 2016

Seminar 16 October 2019

Enchantment in the photographic studio: apparatus, images and imagination

Photographic portrait studios were the places where most people in the C19th had their first encounter with the apparatus and processes of photography. This seminar will consider how the enchanting experience of having one’s photographic portrait made is ‘transmitted’ to the viewers of the photograph. To do this, the seminar will ask participants to set aside habitual thinking about the boundaries between what is real, fictional and imagined in order to analyse the fabricated elements of the studio mise-en-scene: the painted backgrounds, paper-mache props and accessories that are visible in so many C19th portrait photographs. This will allow us to consider how these items contribute to the meaning of the experience for the sitters and the viewers of the photographs and to begin to address the problem of locating the quality of enchantment.

Seminar 16 January 2018

Balloon Flights and Phantom Rides:

This seminar will examine still and moving images, made during the 18th, 19th and early C20th, of flight in a hot air or gas balloon and from the front of a moving train; a phenomenon which became known as a Phantom Ride. The seminar suggests that these images indicate an enduring fascination with disrupting the day-to-day experience of the world, that of being earthbound, and of a desire to experience a disconnection from the ground; of being ‘un-tethered’ from the physical and material world. In order for the seminar to explore the circumstances in which Phantom Rides were experienced by their viewers, Guy Edmonds will project a short Phantom Ride made during the first decade of the C20th.

Seminar 18 November 2015

Ephemeral Affections: The Elusive Object: Imagination, Abstraction and Dreams of Utopia

The purpose of this seminar is to explore the extent to which a re-creation or re-presentation of an object or event is able to ‘stand-in’ for the original, whether it was fully realised at the time of its conception or remained in an imaginary form.

It will do this by considering the provisional (re)-construction of Hugo Munsterberg’s [1] apparatus for testing the ”mental constitution” of motormen in order to determine their suitability for the job. The experiment took place at the Harvard Psychological Laboratory during the spring of 1912. The experimental subjects were employees of The Boston Elevated Railway Company. In his initial report [2] Munsterberg provided a detailed account of his design of the experimental process, and the apparatus. He claimed its success was in part at least due to its evoking for his subjects the reality of their working lives.

The seminar is presented in the context of a wider exploration of the value of reconstruction in a media-archaeological research process. Drawings, images and a maquette model that were created during the research process will be presented. These are informed by Munsterberg’s description (see text below).
Participants will be invited to engage with these items in order to explore the extent of their adequacy as ‘stand-ins’ for the apparatus, even if its original form was an imaginary constituent of a thought experiment.

As soon as this principle for the experiment was recognized as satisfactory, it was necessary to find a technical device by which a movement over this artificial track could be produced in such a way that the rapidity could be controlled by the subject of the experiment and at the same time measured. Again we had to try various forms of apparatus. Finally we found the following form most satisfactory. Twelve such cards, each provided with a handle, lie one above another under a glass plate through which the upper card can be seen. If this highest card is withdrawn, the second is exposed, and from below springs press the remaining cards against the glass plate. The glass plate with the la cards below lies in a black wooden box and is completely covered by a belt 8 inches broad made of heavy black velvet. This velvet belt moves over two cylinders at the front and the rear ends of the apparatus. In the centre of the belt is a window 4½ inches wide and 2½ inches high. If the front cylinder is turned by a metal crank, the velvet belt passes over the glass plate and the little window opening moves over the card with its track and figures. The whole breadth of the card, with its central track and its 4 units on either side, is visible through it over of 5 units in the length direction. If the man to be experimented on turns the crank with his right hand, the window slips over the whole length of the card, one part of the card after another becomes visible, and then he simply has to call the letters of those units in the track at which the red figures on either side would land, if they took the number of steps indicated by the digit. At the moment the window has reached Z on the card, the experimenter withdraws that card and the next becomes visible, as a second window in the belt appears at the lower end when the first disappears at the upper end. In this way the subject can turn his crank uninterruptedly until he has gone through the 12 cards. The experimenter notes down the numbers of the cards and the letters which the subject calls.

Munsterberg, H. (1913) Chapter VIII, ‘Experiments in the Interest of Electric Railway Service’, in Psychology and Industrial Efficiency. Boston and New York: Houghtan Mifflin Company, pp. 63-82.
(Also available online at http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Munster/Industrial/chap8.htm)

[1] Hugo Munsterberg (1863-1916) moved from Leipzig to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1992 at the invitation of William James, to become the director of the Harvard Psychology Laboratory, a position he retained until his death. In 1898 he was elected the president of the American Psychological Association. In addition to fulfilling these responsibilities he was a lecturer and prolific writer of books and papers for specialist and general audiences. As an altruistic idealist he developed the academic discipline of experimental psychology to a psychology that could by its practical application solve the ‘problems’ of life.

[2] The American Association of Labor Legislation commissioned the experiment in March 1912. Munsterberg sent his initial report to them less than three months later.


Seminar November 2014 – co-presented with Jacqui Knight

Technologies of Rupture: Machines of Innocence and Oblivion and the Renewal of Reality

This seminar will look at techniques of rupture or ‘estrangement’ (Shklovskij 1991) and assimilation used as a device in artistic photographic practices. Ruptures produce effects such as temporal indeterminism (a ‘stepping outside’ of time), a disorientation before a re-orientation. As such a rupture can challenge expectations of what is normal, logical and causal, countering habituation and automatisation.

The seminar will present selected artworks, including the photographs of William H. Rau of the Pennsylvania Railroad, as examples of the assimilation of the machine into an Edenic ideal, a healing of the rupture. It will also present selected works of artists who re-appropriate or retool objects, materials or technologies, removing them from habitualised use and anatomizing them. By considering differing scales of rupture; such as jokes and magic tricks, accidents and the catastrophic, the seminar aims to reveal something about the underlying ideals, intentions and histories of these technologies or tools.

Barthes, R. (1964) Image Music Text. Translated by Stephen Heath. New York: Harper Collins, 1977.
Marx, L. (2000) The Machine in the Garden: Technology and The Pastoral Ideal in America. Thirty-Fifth Anniversary Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Shklovsky, V. (1991) Theory of Prose. Translated by Benjamin Sher. London: Dalkey Archive Press Campaign.
Van Horne, J. C. with Drelick, E. E. (eds.) (2002) Traveling The Pennsylvania Railroad: The Photographs of William H. Rau. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


George Inness (1825-1894)
The Lackawanna Valley, 1855
Oil on canvas, 86 × 127 cm (33.9 × 50 in)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 

Seminar January 2014

Degrees of Lustre: An Experimental Taxonomy of Manifestations, Marvels and Mischwesen

The seminar will present a brief historiographical review of methods and processes of classification of so-called ‘avatars’. This will include manifestations of the idea as material entity or imagined embodiment; illusory vehicles for experiencing enchantment and the marvelous. The aim is to facilitate the development of an appropriate taxonomy or framework for further study, and through discussion to explore the question set out in the introduction to this seminar series – that is, whether the recognition now of what constitutes an avatar indicates a change or release of a dormant capacity in human cognition or, whether new media and technology simply allows us to experience this phenomenon in a new way.

Texts, images, artifacts and film drawn from the fields of anthropology, literature, theatre and religion, performance and ritual, puppetry and masks, the development of the photographic image and film, and new-media technologies will be presented. You are invited to contribute to the seminar by considering and sharing experiences of encounters with the avatar and how this phenomenon is manifest in your area of research.