Shawn VanCour
GSE&IS 229
300 North Charles E. Young Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1521

P: (310) 825-7809

Shawn VanCour

Assistant Professor of Media Archival Studies


  • Ph.D., Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • M.A., Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Teaching and Research Interests

  • Media history and preservation
  • Critical historiographical methods
  • Media and cultural theory
  • Media industries and media labor
  • Sound studies and audio culture
  • Moving image media
  • Media collecting and collectors
  • History and theory of new technologies

Shawn VanCour’s research explores the industrial, technological, and aesthetic histories of U.S. radio and television, their relationships with neighboring sound and screen media, and their transformations in the digital era. His first book, Making Radio: Early Radio Production and the Rise of Modern Sound Culture, traces the development of dominant production practices and performance styles for early U.S. radio and their impact on adjacent fields of film and music recording. He is currently working on a second book on the professionalization of below-the-line production workers during U.S. television’s initial postwar expansion period. His scholarship has appeared in Media, Culture & Society, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Journal of Material Culture, Modernist Cultures, Journal of Radio & Audio Media, and various anthologies, as well as online forums such as Sounding Out!, Flow: A Critical Forum on Television & Media Culture, and Antenna: Responses to Media and Culture. He also serves as Assistant Director of the Library of Congress’s Radio Preservation Task Force, working with archives throughout the country to improve preservation and access to historical audio materials.  Regular courses include IS 30: Internet & Society, IS 281: Historiographical Methods, IS 289: Theory & Politics of Collecting, IS 480: Introduction to Media Archival Studies, IS 484: Sound Technologies & Society, and IS 291C: Theories of Technology.


Select Publications

“Radio and Sound Studies,” in Oxford Bibliographies in Cinema and Media Studies, ed. Krin Gabbard (Oxford University Press, 2019)

Making Radio: Early Radio Production and the Rise of Modern Sound Culture (Oxford University Press, 2018); also available through Oxford Scholarship Online

“Watching Radio: Early Newsfilm Collections as Alternative Radio Archives,” chapter in Rediscovering U.S. Newsfilm: Cinema, Television, and the Archive, ed. Mark Garrett Cooper, Sara Beth Levavy, Ross Melnick, and Mark Williams (AFI, 2018)

“Inventing American Broadcasting,” chapter in A Companion to the History of American Broadcasting, ed. Aniko Bodroghkozy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018)

“An Archaeology of Early Radio Production: Doing Sound Historiography without the Sound,” OUP Blog (Oxford University Press), September 11, 2018

“Revisiting ‘War of the Worlds’: First-Person Narration in Golden Age Radio Drama,” chapter in Orson Welles in Focus: Texts and Contexts, ed. Sidney Gottlieb and James Gilmore (forthcoming, Indiana University Press, 2018)

“Eat What You Hear: Gustasonic Discourses and the Material Culture of Commercial Sound Recording” (coauthored with Kyle Barnett), Journal of Material Culture 22.1 (March 2017)

“From Radio to Television: Sound Style and Audio Technique in Early TV Anthology Dramas,” chapter in The Routledge Companion to Screen Music and Sound, ed. Miguel Mera, Ron Sadoff, and Ben Winters (Routledge 2017)

“Media Diffusion: Understanding How New Things Happen,” article in The Sage Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods, ed. Mike Allen (Sage, 2017)

“Locating the Radio Archive: New Histories, New Challenges,” accepted for publication in Journal of Radio and Audio Media 23.2 (Fall 2017)

“Spectacular Sound: Classical Music Programming and the Problem of ‘Visual Interest’ in Early U.S. Television,” chapter in Music and the Broadcast Experience: Performance, Production, and Audiences, ed. James Deaville and Christina Baade (Oxford University Press, 2016)

“Norman Corwin on Television: A Transmedia Approach to Style Historiography,” chapter in Anatomy of Sound: Norman Corwin and Media Authorship, ed. Jacob Smith and Neil Verma (University of California Press, 2016)

“Educating Tomorrow’s Media Workers: Television Instruction in American Institutions of Higher Learning, 1945-1960,” Critical Studies in Media Communication, 33.1 (2016)

“Early Radio Listening as Modernist Practice: Ambient Radio and the Aesthetic of Distraction,” Modernist Cultures 10.1 (2015), Special Issue on Modernism and Radio

“Ghost Stories and Dirty Optics: Notes on the Hilmesian Close-up,” Antenna: Responses to Media and Culture, June 10, 2015

“The Informal Economy of the Amateur Archive: Collectors as Cultural Intermediaries,” Flow: A Critical Forum on Television and Media Culture, Vol. 21 (Special Issue on the Radio Preservation Task Force), May 19, 2015

“New Directions in Media Studies: The Aesthetic Turn,” Antenna: Responses to Media and Culture, February 11, 2013

“Norman Corwin: Radio at the Intersection of Art and Commerce,” Sounding Out!, July 30, 2012 (Series on life and work of Norman Corwin)

“TV Music and the History of Television Sound,” chapter in Music in Television: Channels of Listening, ed. James Deaville (Routledge, 2011)

“Arnheim on Radio: Materialtheorie and Beyond,” chapter in Arnheim for Film and Media Studies, ed. Scott Higgins (Routledge AFI Series, 2010)

“Popularizing the Classics: Radio’s Role in the American Music Appreciation Movement, 1922-1934,” Media, Culture and Society 31.2 (March, 2009)

“Network Nation: Writing Broadcasting History as Cultural History,” chapter with Michele Hilmes in NBC: America’s Network, ed. Michele Hilmes (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007)