The Density of Mountains – Alpine Media Networks

Benita Lehmann


This project explores alpine media networks in and of mountain cinema during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In contributes to understanding our fascination with mountains in film culture by examining the density of networks of alpine media networks. Mountains frequently feature as emblems of untouched, pristine nature, as antidotes to busy-city life, or remote sites of vital resources. Paradoxically, such representations of sublime remoteness emerge from dense socio-cultural, economic, technological, and aesthetic networks.

Rather than viewing mountains as white zones of vacuity or simply as an empty canvas for romantic imaginations, this research project explores mountains as places of accumulated density and as prevailing agents that are deeply embedded and invested with networks. The concept of density, developed in human geography and urban planning, has provided important research perspectives in alpine histories (Mathieu 2011). Jon Mathieu argues that a global or comparative history of mountains need to account for their relations to urban centers. Cities have functioned as transformers and nation-building entities in the alpine environment integrating mountains in larger economic and social networks. Mountains and cities are seen in a dynamic relationship and as densifying each other.

Bringing together a number of interdisciplinary perspectives on density, this project explores alpine networks through cinematic representations of mountains. As so much of our perception of mountains relies on the circuits of mountain images, we can only fully appreciate mountains and their cultural significance if we study the ecological networks that link mountains and media. Cinematic mountains can be considered as network hubs, studying their production, distribution and consumptions can help us to uncover hidden networks that inform our encounters with mountains.

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