Susan Murray is a media studies scholar and historian who uses television as an entry point to analyze post-war era technology, culture, design, aesthetics, and industry. A 2021 Guggenheim fellow, her research has also been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the NYU Center for the Humanities, and the American Association of University Women. She is the author of Bright Signals: A History of Color Television (Duke University Press, 2018), which was awarded the 2019 Katherine Singer Kovacs Book Award by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and the 2019 Michael Nelson Book Prize by the International Association for Media and History, and Hitch Your Antenna to the Stars: Early Television and Broadcast Stardom (Routledge, 2006). Her work has appeared in journals such as Public Culture, Screen, The Journal of Visual Culture and Technology and Culture as well as popular outlets such as The Atlantic.
She is currently writing a history of the development and use of closed-circuit television as essential infrastructure and form of automation for a set of diverse fields such as medicine, education, business, manufacturing, and the military. The aim of this work is to better understand the technology as an aid to the expansion of U.S. post-war consumer society, industrial science, and social reform, as well as to consider it as a pre-history to our current moment of increasingly expansive and invasive deployment of digital-based surveillance and our even more recent reliance upon digital video connection for social distancing. It will also elucidate the functions and implications of failed or temporary technological applications and the historical role that media technologies and their accompanying promises of revolutionary change have played in industry and institutions.
- Closed Circuits, Distant Bodies: A History of the Operational, Instructional, and Surveillance Strategies of CCTV (working title), in progress.
- Bright Signals: A History of Color Television, Duke University Press, 2018.
- Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture, co-edited with Laurie Ouellette, NYU Press, 2004 & 2009.
- Hitch Your Antenna to the Stars: Early Television and Broadcast Stardom, Routledge, 2006.
Listen to Susan's interview with Steven Johnson about TV technology on an episode of American Innovations.
Recent articles and chapters
- “The New Surgical Amphitheater: Color Television and Post War Medical Education,” Technology and Culture, vol. 61, no.3, July 2020.
- “Medical School of the World: Education and Public Service through Postwar Medical Television,” Television History, the Peabody Archives, and Cultural Memory, ed. Jeffrey Jones and Ethan Thompson (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press) 2019.
- “The Politics of Reality TV,” Media and Society, 6th edition, eds. David Hesmondhaugh and James Curran (London: Bloomsbury) 2019.
- "Reviving the Technical in Television Histories," Companion to the History of American Broadcasting (New York: Blackwell) 2018.
- "Never Twice the Same Color: Standardizing, Calibrating and Harmonizing NTSC Color in the early 1950s," Screen, vol. 56, issue 4, Winter 2015.
- "Reality Celebrity: Branded Affect and the Emotion Economy," co-authored with Laura Grindstaff, Public Culture, vol. 27, issue 1: Winter 2015: 109-136.