Monthly Archives: October 2010

Screening Prompt: Remixing and Vidding

When these remixes and vids were first introduced into our class discussions, the initial gut reaction I had was that we were examining films made by fanboys and (forgive the implied insult) TV geeks who were producing nothing more than flashes of their favorite science fiction content set to cool music.  However, given the extensive reading and analysis from the first half of the semester I found it impossible to maintain this much-too-simple attitude and was able to apply concepts that we had talked about in early cinema to the read/write content that we have watched in class.
There is undeniably a balance of spectacle and narrative in these vids/remixes similar to that present in early cinema but possibly taken to a whole new extreme.  These vids have a message and they are telling a narrative.  Whether it be about Lex Luther, Scarlett, or Sam “slash” Dean these vids have a narrative carefully constructed by the artist, and diligently analyzed by the viewer.  The message however is fused into the spectacle naturally by the medium.  We have discussed how one of the major criteria for these vids is that they are professionally edited, visually exciting, and set to effective music.  These are all elements of spectacle.  Unlike many of the early films that we watched in the first half of the semester, we do not have films that are purely narrative or purely spectacle, or where we have a narrative that pauses for spectacle.  For these vids and remixes the two are inseparable.
What makes all of this work is the element of audience participation and self-reflection.  Now one way in which this functions is that if you are watching a vid about a particular show it is probably because you are a vidder yourself and a fan of that show.  Right away this engages you as both a fan/viewer/critic as well as an artist/participant.  But what brings this audience engagement to a higher level is that the tools that vidders are using to create both narrative and spectacle are actual pieces of the subject matter and therefore provide commentary of the audience.  By showing a series of clips in rapid secession of the show “Supernatural,” you are illustrating what an audience of that show watches, and are using the medium of vidding to comment not only on the show itself but also on the audience for continuing to watch that show.

Jenkins: The Future of TV?

Jenkins’ article about the future of TV made me feel like I was supposed to be panicking about the uncertainty around the television medium.  Shows are on the internet, alternate reality games exist, DVR’s, Youtube, and Jay Leno Quotes… OH NO!

Okay, so maybe this is an exaggeration, but I still thought it was interesting how huge Jenkins made this shift of transmedia seem.  Are we even using televisions anymore? he asks.  I think that yes we are still using televisions and that yes the medium still exists even if we are taking it in in different ways, maybe everything is just a little more amplified.  Here is what I mean:

When thinking of classic television, the characteristics that I think of are “appointment watching” where people would rush to the TV set to watch their favorite shows at specific times.  While things like Tivo and Hulu have changed that practice, I think the emergence of social networks have helped to maintain the shared viewing experience that used to come from forced scheduling.  People watching Lost live so that they can tweet about it, or community screenings on second life are examples of this.  Another “classic television practice I think of is the TV guide.  While practically no one (except my mother) still reads TV guide, which used to be one of the highest read magazines, there are infinitely more sources for television watchers to read about shows, what is going to air, interviews with actors etc.  While the actual magazine is gone the ideas and practices have just expanded significantly with the freedom of the TV set.  Finally, I think of the idea of people having their favorite shows and forming practices around watching those shows.  Now more than ever uber-fans still have their favorite programs and have tons of practices (i.e. blogging, vidding, convention-ing etc) to go along with those favorites of theirs.

I agree that we may not be using the TV tube any more, but the practices of television are still alive more than ever

Normative: Remix Culture’s Evolution

While it was a little bit boring watching this video the day after watching Lessig’s Webside presentation (considering all of the clips and points that the former made were present in the latter’s).  That said, I do find his points valid and entertaining.  I also find the comments on youtube that follow to be quite funny; the way in which some people really do enjoy just hating on people who put their ideas out for the public.  Many of the commenters point out that they believe the Lisztomania example that normative uses is not in fact remix and nothing is original about it.  They would rather see an epic Girl Talk vid to show what a remix is.  I think that the cause for this anger is that their definition of remix is too narrow-minded.  It is true that the three videos that normative shows are all set to the same, unmixed soundtrack, but you cannot deny that each video is different in its own way and evokes different emotions while at the same time building on each other and giving a nod back to the video that came before it.

I think what makes normative’s video so relevant is not that he is giving a definition of what a “remix” is (which I think is what many of these angry commenters were looking for), but rather he is illustrating how the new remix culture has become a part of our culture.  The Brat Pack Lisztomania example is simple but really does get at the heart of what he is trying to show, which is communication, dialogue, creativity, and homage.

DJ Spooky

Both of the assigned activities from DJ Spooky had a common characteristic for me.  His article and his interactive audio/visual remix machine were two things that I thought were probably kind of cool, probably had an interesting message, but both I did not fully understand and was put-off by how confusing and alternative they were.  I am sure that with a careful analysis or maybe somebody flat out telling me the significance of either/both I would find them very cool and interesting, however I was kind of hoping for something more to the point.

This made me think about some of the other stuff we have looked at in class.  Remix videos with images flashing at me at rapid speeds, “Supernatural” vidding, and meta on top of meta articles/blogs.  I was thinking that sometimes I (and maybe other curious internet users out there) ever get bogged down by the way in which these auteurs get too complicated when presenting their argument.  If your remix vid that is trying to describe the significance of remix vids is so complicated and confusing that i don’t get it or don’t want anything to do with remix vidding, doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose.

With DJ Spooky’s poetic academic analysis I would have much rather enjoyed a brief straight forward description of what he was talking about and then a sample of is image-heavy poetry.  When he combines both into one it makes me not care about either.

Rettberg: Chpt. 1&2

When starting Rettberg’s book about blogging I could not help but be bored and unimpressed with the descriptions of what a blog is and what the different types of blogs are.  Then came the very long description of the history of the printed word.  Once again I was pretty bored.  Then I had the realization that this shift from printed word to online text is a very significant one.  Looking back at the history of the printed word made me think of the significance that it might be on its way out.  I also realized that the reason I was so bored with the first chapter about blogging is because I am more or less fluent in the language of blogging.  This is not something that has always been the case.

I started to think about children growing up today who are learning how to blog, video post, listen to podcasts etc. at a time when I was simply learning how to read and write with good grammar.  It dawned on me that we really are in a different generation where the word “literacy” means and entirely different thing.  I understand that this realization is kind of a ‘DUH!’ realization but nonetheless it blew (a small part of) my mind to think about it.

This was the most interesting takeaway I got from Rettberg’s first two chapters, although it did make me feel kind of old and uncool that I had to read a description of what blogging is and how it works instead of being fully immersed in the cool new culture of already being completely literate in the language of online writing.

Supernatural Screening Prompt

The two episodes of Supernatural screened for class are two hours of television filled with self-referencial humor and a very “meta” analysis of fan culture.  In this fashion, the episodes address the relationships between the viewers and the producers of both Supernatural specifically and fan culture in general.  The easiest concepts to pick out are the ways in which the episodes poke fun at fan and producer alike.  Instances like the characters Sam and Dean scoffing at and not taking seriously the fans of their fictional selves, or when the author of the Supernatural books, Chuck, proclaims that he must be some kind of God who has cursed Sam and Dean to live out “bad writing.”  In these two examples, both the fans and the writers are belittled and laughed at.  It is necessary for both parties to have a sense of humor for these themes to go over well.  On the other hand there are definitely ways in which both viewer and producer are elevated and empowered.  The fact that the author, Chuck, ends up being a prophet protected by archangels illustrates the importance of the author, and the way in which multiple fictional Supernatural fans end up helping out Sam and Dean gives fans not only a feeling of empowerment but it is also a nod to the ways in which fans can function in a participatory way with the show (this occurs literally in the episodes, but can be seen for as a metaphor for fan participation outside of the episodes).

What are the repercussions of the way in which these cultures are imagined?

I think that there is a definite gender divide as a result of the representation of fandom in the show.  Women fans are represented as swooning girls in love (and often times sexually charged) with the fictional characters, whereas the men are depicted as wannabes who can only get happiness from (very poorly) imitating and living out the lives of other people.  I think in both cases, these gendered definitions of fans are insulting.

I think that another result of the themes from the episodes are an approval of certain types of fans but not others.  The only fans that are really accepted by the characters Sam and Dean (and maybe the producers of the show) are the two fans who end up helping Sam and Dean save the day, claiming some generic comment like “We had to help, it’s what Sam and Dean would have done,” and explain to Dean what the true meaning of the books are.  In this manner fans that appreciate the show, appreciate the message, and support the characters are fans that are appreciated.  Other fans, like the ones who make Sam/Dean sexual websites, or who only like to bash the books in public forums are put down in the two episodes.  In this sense, the show is really illustrating which kind of fans are respected and which ones are not.

Rowlett: A thesis about what?

In the Epilogue of Rowlett’s article “They’re Letting You Write Your Thesis About That?” she says “Perhaps this is all a folly… Do metaphors of the organic incorrectly a connectness (this isn’t a real word) to human processes?”  After reading her work about how fan-fiction operates like a human stomach all I can respond with is: YES!  I did not think that the metaphor was at all necessary and personally I do not think that it applies and that it makes her whole argument/description very confusing.

What I would have enjoyed was a nice summary of what the different types of “fanfics” were, how they operate in online culture, and perhaps some examples.  These are things that she kind of includes in the article but all of that interesting stuff is hidden amongst a sea of stomach metaphors.  This was such a problem for me that I finished the reading without really understanding the point of it.  I now know that Xena online culture exists.  I know that there are fans of different genres of “fanfic.”  I know that there are fans on top of fans.  But that is all I really know.

I hate to be mean about someone’s thesis, but her actual thesis better be much more clear and interesting than this little description otherwise she probably got a D on it.

Felschow: Supernatural fans

As someone who has only ever dabbled in the art of cult fandom, I found it fascinating how in depth Felschow went in analyzing the fan culture of Supernatural.  To be perfectly honest (and maybe a little judgmental), I could not help but feel that this person who was clearly a big Supernatural fan was using long-winded, academic sounding, and source heavy writing to justify and legitimize her fandom.  I am fully aware that there is valid reason to investigate the cultural practices of cult fandom, I just am always filled with a little bit of hesitation when an actual fan writes about the amazing power that fans have and try to pass it as impartial academic analysis.

All that said, after watching the two episodes of Supernatural for our screening most of the references that I picked up on about fandom were seeming to make fun of fans.  Felschow made me think about the other side of the coin which is the way in which the references make nods or empower the fans.  After reading this article rethinking about the episodes I think that there definitely are elements of empowerment in addition to the jesting, the only problem is how do you do both without inevitably upsetting a large group of your fans?

I think that the difficulty that the Supernatural writers had with fan backlash was due to how in-your-face the references were.  Unlike fan cultures like Lost (which Felschow mentions), were fan participation occurs mostly online or through ARG’s where fans can choose to participate or not participate, the episodes of Supernatural forced fans to take a look at their own fandom.  My guess is that some fans do not like to look that closely in the mirror.

Fuller: Chpt 9 & Conclusion

Fuller concludes her book by discussing the writings of University of Chicago students in the late 1920’s.  Her last chapter analyzes the changing desires of students as they grew older and the way in which they took in cinema.  This concept of learning how to take in a media is one that is important but not necessarily addressed much.  Much of the writing that gets done about a given medium is coming from the point of view of someone who grew up with that medium and is looking back on his/her experiences.  Today media like video games or the internet are ones that generations were born into and know how to use just like they know how to speak a language.  What has been fascinating about learning about the first 20 years of the cinema was that it was a medium that was not inherently learned by the public.

Throughout the first two or three decades of cinema there was a constant “discussion” between the industry and the viewer about what role cinema would play in the United States.  Wether it be content, presentation, or participation it was a language that had to be solidified.  Fuller finishes her book with a conclusion talking about the coming of the talkies.  While I agree with Fuller’s last sentence, that the “discussion” between industry and viewer would continue after the introduction and acceptance of the talkie films, it is my general feeling that the coming of sound film also represents a time when the film industry finally had a good grasp on what they wanted, what the viewers and fans wanted, and the best ways to meet both their needs.

Singin’ in the Rain Response

Singin’ In The Rain is a film that provides both incredible entertainment, as well as a sophisticated self-examination of Hollywood culture both in a modern and historical sense.  The film illustrates an uneasy time in the history of cinema, when both fans of the film world and the industry itself were unsure where things were going in the business.  This uncertainty is a theme that has not really been shown in any of the other films we have screened so far this semester and it tells a lot about both fan culture and the industry of the time.

Unlike Movie Crazy, Prix de Beaute, and Purple Rose of Cairo where fan characters are illustrated as being caught up in the magic of cinema, Singin’ In The Rain shows a time in cinema history where studio heads, producers and actors alike were terrified of losing fans and unsure about what the future held for them.  Much like Juddery describes in his article, “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” silent film stars were losing their careers, screenwriters and directors were lost, and nobody knew what technological advances would stick and what would only be a brief fad.  Singin’ In The Rain does an excellent job of evoking nostalgia of the silent film era, and showing a scared, uneasy, and even sympathetic Hollywood.

The fans play an important role in the dynamic of the film.  Again, as Juddery describes, and as we have discussed with the start of fan magazines in the late 1910’s and early 1920’s, fans beginning to learn more about the actors and actresses that they saw on the screen represents a major shift in the Hollywood dynamic.  The character Lina represents the story of many silent film actors who struggled to maintain their image when their voices were recorded.  The idea that fans have a certain idea of what an actor/actress is like in real life, and that that idea affects how they respond to them on screen is one that is worth considering in modern times with the presence of gossip columns, celebrity blogs and sources like TMZ, but Singin’ In The Rain is very significant in that it provides commentary on this practice during the time in cinema history when this was most important.  The introduction of sound let the fan in even closer to the industry and its stars, and the shift had a huge effect on how fans appreciated/participated with cinema, and how the industry changed their content/production methods.