Vincent Kancans

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Department of German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch
425 FolH
9 Pleasant St SE

My research within media studies has focused on music videos and concept albums of the 70s-80s. These multimedia forms allowed the artist to create paratexts whose individual components (cover art, video, timbres, lyrics) reinforce each other, creating a vocabulary of motifs for interpretation. One such motif is the mask or 'persona', which has manifested in clothing, music, and literature throughout western history. In the 20th century, assembly lines and digital computing gave the organic human subject a mechanical veneer. The groundbreaking electronic band Kraftwerk portray this new mask in their 1978 album Die Mensch-Maschine. In alignment with McLuhan's theories, electronic media as such had a technological message. Kraftwerk raised questions of human identity in response to mechanical encroachment. Other salient themes of the late Cold War included space travel, nuclear fission, environmentalism, and personal computing. Siegfried Kracauer's critique of mechanization and Ernst Junger's worker typus inform my reading of technology. Similarly, Jacques Ellul underscores the dual utopian and dystopian potentials of modern machinery. As Peter Schilling sings in Major Tom: "Control is not convinced, but the computer has the evidence." Manmade catastrophes such as the 1986 Challenger shuttle explosion and Chernobyl meltdown reinscribe the earlier discourse on technology. Kracauer already considered the effects of Taylorism on society in the 1930s: "[People] do not become masters of the machine but instead become machine-like" (The Mass Ornament, 70). As several hostile powers vie for nuclear dominance and scientists contemplate editing the human germline in the 21st century, the discourse of the previous century is no less relevant.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • BA: German, summa cum laude, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 2015.
  • MA: Germanic Studies, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 2020.


  • sound studies
  • philosophy of technology; theories of modern technology
  • 20th century German literature and culture
Courses Taught
  • GER 1001 (Fall 2019)
  • GER 1002 (Spring 2020)
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Music & Sound Studies Graduate Symposium: "Electrifying the Organic in Mort Garson's Plantasia" , April 2018
  • Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Conference: Culture, Space, and Technology in Contemporary Germany , April 2015
  • Summer Research Project: “Radio-Aktivität and the Technological Potentialities of the Cold War” , August 2019
  • GDGSA Sound Studies Conference at UW Madison: "Radio-Aktivität" , November 2019


  • Special Events Committee: 2018 - 2020
  • Mears Legacy Fellowship, 2018 - 2019
  • Mary and Wilhelm Seegers Supplemental Fellowship
  • GNSD Summer Grant, 2019