Berkeley Film & Media Seminar

A TV still of someone playing ping pong ball

The Ideology of Alternation: Ping Pong, Narration, and Contemporary TV

Wed, Apr 17, 2024, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm

Nestrick Room, 142 Dwinelle

Jeff Scheible, King’s College, London

Berkeley Film and Media Seminar Series presents:

Jeff Scheible, King’s College, London

“The Ideology of Alternation: Ping Pong, Narration, and Contemporary TV”

This talk examines the recurrence of ping pong across recent television—including The Morning Show, I May Destroy You, Atlanta, and The Americans—to consider how the game and its iconography participate in what Martin Brückner, Sandy Isenstadt, and Sarah Wasserman have recently described as “modelwork,” whereby material objects “bridge the gap between the tangible and the abstract.” Ping pong’s modelwork in these instances conjures a long history of the game serving as a ‘test object” during moments of media in transition and lending moving-image artists and designers a simple, familiar, and easily-programmable form from which to try out the potentials and limits of new technologies and apparatuses. I consider how ping pong’s appearance in these televisual contexts aligns contemporary “quality” television with this media history of aesthetic innovation. At the same time, while the game is always already a model of tennis and the sport’s televisualization as Serge Daney has claimed, in the instance of these contemporary TV shows, I suggest that ping pong and its aesthetics of alternation more specifically model ways of narratively managing sites of ideological surplus.

Jeff Scheible received a PhD and MA in Film and Media Studies from University of California, Santa Barbara and a BA in Film and Media Studies from Swarthmore College. He previously taught at SUNY Purchase (New York) and before that was a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at Concordia University (Montreal).

Much of his research is located on cinema’s boundaries, considering its relationship to other media, forms of textuality, and cultural practices. His first book, Digital Shift: The Cultural Logic of Punctuation (2015), examines how punctuation and typographical marks have been redefined and have become increasingly ubiquitous across visual culture and everyday life since the emergence of networked computing. It received the Media Ecology Association’s Susanne K. Langer Award. His co-edited collection with Karen Redrobe, Deep Mediations, explores legacies, operations, and valuations of concepts of “depth” and deepness in cinema and media studies. In 2022, it received the Best Edited Collected Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

His writing has appeared in Feminist Media Histories, World Records, Film Quarterly, American Literature, Canadian Journal of Film Studies, and many other journals and books.