What is Videographic Criticism?

Since the introduction of the study of film and other modern media into academia, scholarship on those topics has typically been presented and published in the same fashion as in other fields of study – in books and critical essays. But the dramatic evolution of media technology over the past two decades affords boundless possibilities for presenting of humanities scholarship, especially scholarship whose object is media itself – motion pictures, television, and other electronic audiovisual forms. The core challenges facing this emerging mode of scholarship are not just technological, but also pedagogical and rhetorical. But most scholars are not trained to conceptually engage with moving-image media as a mode of scholarly rhetoric, and academic fields have not reconciled how to position such work as part of systems of research, professional development, and peer-review. This workshop offers a unique opportunity for film and media scholars to learn digital techniques to innovate within this new mode of academic rhetoric and presentation.

What is neorealism? from kogonada on Vimeo.

In 2014, MediaCommons and Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, the official publication of the Society for Cinema Studies, joined to create [in]Transition, the first journal devoted exclusively to peer reviewed publication of videographic scholarly work. The leaders of this workshop are co-founders of [in]Transition, and will discuss the publication and peer review process, as well as reflect on the pedagogical opportunities of teaching videographic criticism. For more reflection on the form of videographic criticism, see: Christian Keathley, “La Caméra-stylo: Notes on video criticism and cinephilia,” in The Language and Style of Film Criticism, ed. Alex Clayton and Andrew Klevan (New York: Routledge, 2011); and Catherine Grant & Christian Keathley, “The Use of an Illusion,” Photogenie 0, 2014.

The Workshop Model

Over the course of each two-week workshop, participants will immerse themselves in the forms of videographic criticism by viewing examples and learning the craft of creating such work. As we explore the possibilities for this form, we will consider not only rhetoric, but aesthetics as well, for using moving images and sounds inevitably engages non-linguistic representations and thus draws upon a range of potential styles and affects. These videos, which range from the explanatory to the poetic, will offer useful models to consider as participants undertake their own projects.

In advance of the workshop, each participant will select familiar media objects (films, television episodes, new media pieces) on which they would like to work during their time at Middlebury. In the first week, participants will be given a short videographic production assignment that will involve their selected media objects each day; these will then be screened and discussed together. These assignments will introduce participants to specific formal elements (e.g., image manipulation, sound/image recombination, split screen, voice over, etc.) and encourage new discoveries within your source text. Just as importantly, these exercises will get participants practicing and working with image and sound manipulation on the very first day. Throughout this first week, we will also convene technology workshops offering instruction in the software platforms used to produce their digital scholarship. No prior experience with video editing software will be expected, as all the needed technical skills will be taught and supported through the workshop.

The second week of the workshop will feature presentations and conversations around key issues related to this form, including copyright and fair use, peer review and academic validation, and pedagogy. The bulk of this week will foreground individual work time, with primary emphasis on participants starting work on a substantial videographic critical essay on a topic of their choosing. The workshop directors, staff, and guest mentors will be available for consultation and technical instruction. In mentoring participants’ work, we will emphasize the distinction between a traditional essay with moving illustrations, and the more integrated and innovative form of videographic scholarship we hope to inspire. The workshop will conclude with participants presenting their works-in-progress to the group in a critique-style setting. It is expected that every participant will leave the workshop with at least one piece of videographic criticism well on the path toward publication.