Academia – Antenna Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What’s New in Media Industries? A Revised Edition of Understanding Media Industries Tue, 02 Feb 2016 15:44:15 +0000 IoC Framework

by Amanda D. Lotz and Timothy Havens

The editorial team at Antenna has generously allowed us this post to speak directly to what we hope is our primary market instead of through the marketing team of our publisher. There is a second, revised edition of Understanding Media Industries available (Oxford University Press, 2017—it’s from the future). If you didn’t know there was a first edition, skip to paragraph three.

This paragraph is for those of you patient enough to bear with a first edition that didn’t turn out exactly as intended and to beseech those of you who considered it but found it too flawed, to please give it another try. There are long and complicated stories about why the first edition turned out as it did that we won’t devote to print, but there were problems, we’re sorry, and we’ve fixed a lot of them.

Teaching media industries classes can be challenging because the object of study refuses to remain constant. Our goal with this project was to create a book that would provide a foundation of study that might manage to stay relevant for a handful of years and to provide a clearinghouse of supplemental material that would be more of the moment.

Understanding Media Industries comes with a detailed instructor supplement that has links to and descriptions of media content to use in classes, applied readings about things in the real world and questions that connect them with textbook concepts, and ideas for assignments and other resources. There are also elaborate weekly discussion section activities (and powerpoints) and lecture powerpoints integrating many of the recommended readings and clips. To access these materials, go to Also, an extended table of contents is available on the OUP site.

The book has an email address and a Twitter feed that we hope to use to build and share more resources. Whenever we come across a new story that illustrates a concept we’ll send a link by Twitter along with a brief suggestion of its relevance and the chapter it fits in. Follow the book @HavensLotzUMI or search #UMI. There are already a few out there. Please send ideas, assignments, and suggestions to or, if you’re not a Twitter person and would like updates pushed by email, send us a note and we’ll distribute updates that way as well.

We’ve learned a ton about the textbook industry in the process and could probably illustrate every point in the book with an example, though that would amuse no one. One of the biggest frustrations has been encountering the perception that a book about media industries isn’t needed because there are so few classes on the topic. Our goal was to make starting such a course, whether a lecture of hundreds or a conversation among a handful, much easier. We’ve been teaching these courses for awhile now and are happy to share our insight. We’ll be presenting a workshop at SCMS and a panel at BEA about the challenges and experiences, and are always happy to chat if you drop us a line.


A Tribute to Barbara Klinger Tue, 03 Nov 2015 15:00:17 +0000 380803_web

This year, Barbara Klinger retired as Provost Professor of Film and Media Studies at Indiana University. Though we’re sure we’ll continue to see superb work from her, we wanted to honor her career to date. Thus we asked several who have worked with her, past and present, to offer some words.


“Cinema’s Contextualist”

from Dan Hassoun (PhD Candidate, Indiana University):

It’s interesting how texts can take on biographical meanings beyond their longer place within a discipline. When I was a college sophomore at the University of Minnesota, dipping myself for the first time into the strange and byzantine world of film theory, I had read virtually nothing of the disciplinary canon beyond the few texts explained in a handful of intro-level courses. In other words, I vaguely knew that there was a difference between signifiers and signifieds, that Hollywood was a culture industry of capitalist ideology, and that spectators identified with some sort of cinematic apparatus that regressed them into babies looking into mirrors (my 19-year-old self was a tad fuzzy on this final point).

It was within this context that Barb Klinger’s Beyond the Multiplex: Cinema, New Technologies, and the Home would stretch and challenge my ideas about what critical cultural scholarship could be. Here was a text, densely thoughtful and accessibly written, that engaged issues of cinephilia, home theater, sharing and memory, repeat viewing – in short, cinema’s receptive contexts – in ways I could immediately relate to. In particular, the book’s use of audience surveys to examine practices of repeat movie viewings was eye-opening for a sophomore who had been learning to associate reception research with the boogeyman of “positivism.” I’m not overstating anything when I say that Barb’s work helped teach me that the empirical, the historical, the theoretical, and the critical need not be exclusive endeavors.

It wasn’t until later that I could place Barb’s work within a longer history of the field. Barb was certainly not the first to write critically on extra-theatrical cinema or everyday (particularly domestic) uses of screen technologies; after all, she belonged to a trajectory of scholarship on media audiences and space that included the work of Ann Gray, David Morley, Lynn Spigel, Anna McCarthy, and many others, some of whom predated and influenced Barb’s work, others of whom were writing alongside her during the 1980s and 1990s. It was also only later that I learned about Barb’s own extended influence in this field, from the many scholars who have cited and engaged her ideas across fan studies, reception, new media, authorship, historiography, and more; to her advisees and colleagues at Indiana University; to the Department of Communication and Culture that she helped to found.

As I write this, the future of critical/cultural media studies at Indiana is uncertain, as Communication and Culture has been dissolved and incorporated into a new Media School dominated by production, design, and social scientific approaches. As a PhD student navigating this new institutional terrain, however, I am grateful to have Barb’s work in my back pocket as a continuing example of what thoughtful research in this discipline can look like. If her work helped to guide me into this line of study, I look forward to it (and her future output) accompanying me into the next phase of my career.


“The Real Deal”

from Chris Holmlund (Professor, University of Tennessee-Knoxville):

Barb Klinger has been a cherished friend of mine for a long time. Her modesty is invigorating, her “can do” attitude exemplary. She makes a point of reaching out to and supporting junior as well as senior scholars: I’ve witnessed her thoughtfulness, based in genuine interest, time and again. I know she loves teaching – and travel – so I very much hope that she will be snapped up for visiting or guest professorships periodically, because it is too sad to think that she will never imitate Princess Leia in a classroom again. (Actually I’m not sure she ever did do that, but I do remember with relish her quick transformation into Leia to illustrate a point at a Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference some years back.)

I am pleased that Barb is now able to concentrate on her research, and to explore Chicago, her new home town. She has done so much fine service, at Indiana University, through SCMS, and for the field, that she deserves a bit of downtime. As a former SCMS President, then Past President, from 2011-2015, I was lucky to work with her as President-Elect, then President. I would be remiss if I did not signal what a great job she did organizing the 2013 Chicago SCMS conference. As President she moved Board meetings along skillfully. Despite long days we got lots done and we enjoyed ourselves, in good part because Barb is organized and gracious. She knows how to create a friendly atmosphere by according everyone their due and periodically adding subtly funny comments that sneak up on you and get you chuckling. She is unfailingly professional, and she is kind. Such a great combination!

Like many, I greatly admire her scholarship and appreciate the way it has evolved. Think about it: she’s gone from melodrama and meaning (her first book on Sirk) to beyond the multiplex. Today she is engaging with 3D and our trans-mediated world. The range of her intellectual engagement is impressive: from cult film to piracy, cable TV to YouTube parodies, transnational TV thrillers, and more. There is good reason why she has twice (in 1997 and 2010) won the prestigious Katharine Singer Kovács Best Essay Award, for articles in Screen and Cinema Journal, respectively. She takes fans and fandom seriously because she has always been intrigued by reception; indeed one of her very first articles, “‘Cinema/Ideology/Criticism’ Revisited: The Progressive Text” (Screen, 1984) engaged with Jean-Luc Comolli and Jean Paul Narboni’s influential 1971 essay.

Over the years Barb has evolved from a film into a media scholar. There is no fear that post retirement she will disappear from view; on the contrary, she will, I am sure, continue to be active. I very much look forward to reading what she writes next and to seeing her as often as possible. Barb Klinger is the real deal, in so many ways.

Kudos to you, Barb, on your retirement, warm thanks for everything, and hugs!


from Gregory A. Waller (Professor, Indiana University):

I don’t think that there has been anything published by my colleague, Barb Klinger, that hasn’t been a model of impeccably researched, theoretically savvy, and carefully wrought, finely tuned scholarship, demonstrating again and again that quantity is never a substitute for quality when it comes to an academic career. And, even without recourse to a citation index, I’d venture to say that Barb’s articles and books have become essential reading across a range of scholarly interests: for starters, 3-D and home theater, Hollywood melodrama and Jane Campion, historical reception studies and transnational fandom. If you know her work largely through Beyond the Multiplex, then you owe it to yourself to read her essays on The Piano, Titanic viewed in Afghanistan, Hollywood’s “adult films” of the 1950s, and The Big Lebowski. If you are not familiar with her current work on the extended afterlife of Hollywood classics like Casablanca, including the role of radio adaptations, rest assured that this research project more than measures up to Barb’s ambitious and exacting standards.

All that you might already know. And you’ve likely encountered Barb in her presidential alter-ego as the major domo of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, an organization that somehow manages to get six years of service out of its top elected official. But unless you’ve been at Indiana University, where Barb spent her entire academic career, you don’t know her as an exemplary department member, principled university citizen, and terrific mentor for graduate students. (And you probably don’t know her abiding fascination with the Rolling Stones and the darkest international televisual crime serials as well as her ability stay cool and on target when conducting a public interview with Meryl Streep in a 3000+ seat auditorium filled with fans and university officials.) These are the very qualities that go far toward making the academy the kind of place we always hope it can be. After I joined her department at Indiana as a chair hired from outside, Barb’s knowledge of the institution, her professionalism, and her smart advice saved me more than once from rashness and folly born of frustration. She’s been all that anyone would want from a colleague, and for me the way she conducted her life as a working academic at a large public university made her multi-faceted scholarship and her contributions to the profession at large that much more impressive.


from Brenda Weber (Professor, Indiana University):

There are many qualities one might praise about Barb Klinger: her ceaselessly excellent scholarship, her all-around pleasantness and good-natured decency, her calmness in sunshine and in storm, but one of the things that has meant the most to me as a colleague and friend is her spot-on advice as a mentor. I began my tenure-track job at Indiana University in the Department of Gender Studies as a literature and media scholar in a domain dominated by people from the social scientists. Don’t get me wrong, these people were (and continue to be) great colleagues and friends, but they weren’t really able to help me think through the intricacies of my projects or to chart out the meanings of the finer points that relate to media theory. By and large, they also weren’t the people I was working with on doctoral committees. My department also didn’t have many senior scholars, and so I found it necessary to outsource my mentoring needs, and Barb was always a steady and reliable voice of thoughtful guidance and support. Indeed, she taught me something quite critical about how to teach graduate students. I remember one occasion in particular when Barb and I served on a doctoral dissertation committee together. I watched in awe as she asked a student to name the five major points of a key book in the field, refusing to give the student any help or encouragement in the answer. Through it all, she never flagged in her insistence that the exam be absolutely rigorous. This was a true watershed moment for me: prior to this point, I had not been willing to push students or to demand that they rise to a level of excellence (mostly being grateful that they wanted to put me on their committee in the first place). I was absolutely gobsmacked at how fearlessly Barb held them to task, and I saw her act as nothing short of courageous since it said to students that female professors needed to be taken as seriously as male professors and that we would hold our students to a level of excellence that allowed those students to know they had been thoroughly and fairly vetted by the protocols of academic benchmarks. Barb taught me through example that I wasn’t doing my students any favors by giving them a “free lift” into ABD status, and I have heard many of them (now long post-PhD) say how grateful they are for her standards of excellence, since those former students who are not professors in their own right can walk into any room or march onto any page knowing that their ideas have been fully vetted and proven. That firmness in a moment when one otherwise might be overly conciliatory taught me much about how to do my job conscientiously and ethically.



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“Bodies” That Matter Tue, 20 Oct 2015 13:42:26 +0000 Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn, contributor Kyra Hunting outlines the anthology's "Bodies" section in order to argue that critical consideration for women's media cultures facilitates a deeper understanding of embodiment in relation to community practices, self-presentation, and technology. ]]> Post by Kyra Hunting, University of Kentucky

As a feminist scholar (and fashion fan) I frequently find myself returning to the problem of the body. Traditional trappings of femininity like make-up and nail polish and “feminized” interests like dance, fashion, and romance offer the body as a site of creativity, pleasure, and identity play but also something that is monitored, shaped, and disciplined. The contributors to the “Bodies” section in Elana Levine’s edited collection Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn: Feminized Popular Culture in the Early Twenty-First Century explores this tension by examining how pregnancy apps, fandom-centered fashion blogs, nail-polish blogs, and televised gospel performances all negotiate the complex intersections of technology, gender and embodiment.

That this section is called “Bodies” (plural) is significant, because–despite looking at very different media forms with disparate relationships to the idea of the body–all four pieces in this section explore an investment in how these media work to provide community for their users. Throughout the chapters in this section there were four key threads: an exploration of how these female-targeted media dealt with tensions inherent to the presentation of the female body, the way in which the imagined user and their investment effected the platform, how the technology interacted with these concerns, and the fostering of a female community around these technologies.



In “Mothers, Fathers, and the Pregnancy App Experience” Barbara L. Ley lists the facilitation of a community of mothers (and to a lesser extent fathers) to-be as an important feature of pregnancy apps, alongside their prominent informational and organizational features. “Dance, Dance, Dance, Dance, Dance, Dance, Dance All Night! Mediated Audiences and Black Women’s Spirituality” by Beretta E. Smith-Shomade looks at how a community based around shared spirituality can share profound religious affective experience through the viewing of gospel and religious performance on television. My own chapter “Fashioning Feminine Fandom” touches on how fashion blogs organized around specific fandoms (Dr. Who, video games, or Disney for example) bring together a community of (mostly female) fans interested in expressing their fandom through sartorial engagement. Some of these communities have become significant enough to hold real-world meet-ups.

Michele White’s “Women’s Nail Polish Blogging and Femininity” also addresses the community dimensions of beauty blogs, exploring how they become spaces for not only creative expression but for communities that guide and support one other’s nail art. White notes that while these communities often discursively emphasize the creative elements of nail art, some advice-giving practices end up reinforcing more problematic gendered messages about the woman’s body as a constant project to be worked on towards a normative “ideal.”



Body Presentation

It is the discussion of the photographing of nail polish bloggers hands that seemed to evoke this disciplining of the female body in White’s work, as the quality of the nails themselves (not their designs) are evaluated. She found one blogger’s advice to others on how to photograph their nails so they did not appear “fat,” indicating that even when the goal was creative artistry it is difficult to present the female body without opening it to such scrutiny.

Similarly, Ley found that while pregnancy apps generally provided their users with helpful prenatal information, health advice, and tools, at times some of these tools, like weight and behavior tracking functions, had the potential to facilitate a similar scrutiny of the pregnant body. Ley, in her focus on reviews of these pregnancy apps, draws attention to a key issue in the analysis of feminized popular culture–the experience of the media’s actual users–when she notes that for most reviewers these trackers were not experienced as disciplinary but rather gave the users a sense of control and made some tasks easier. My chapter looks at how most fan-centered fashion blogs de-center a focus on the body altogether. Unlike the majority of fashion blogs, fan-centered fashion blogs generally present images of outfits without showing wearers of these outfits. Because there is no body being photographed, it is the use of clothing and accessories to express an interpretation of a media character that is evaluated as opposed to the appearance of a woman’s body, the fit of the clothes, etc. I also argue that fan-fashion blogs can function to unmoor characters from their embodied associations by interpreting macho super-heroes as prom outfits or hyper feminine Tinkerbell as athletic wear or androgynous jeans and t-shirts.



Here, removing the image or specific referent of the body allows this form of fashion blogging to play with fashion with minimal discussion of body type, weight, or evaluations of attractiveness. Smith-Shomade’s chapter emphasizes the possibility of the female bodies’ presentation outside of the contexts of objectification and surveillance by looking at how women in Gospel-competition television shows like Sunday Best present an embodied experience of faith that can be shared by viewers.


unnamedTechnological Medium

Smith-Shomade considers the impact the television medium itself has on facilitating an intimate affective connection between the person performing on screen and the viewer allowing them to share an embodied spiritual experience. Here the media form–the television screen–can connect multiple bodies and spirits. Ley’s chapter mentions how the intimacy of the smartphone screen and its visualization of the fetus as separate from the mother’s body through the app can reinforce problematic political narratives about the fetus but also allows the user to “share” her pregnancy with others in a new way through its visualization on the device.

The contrast between White’s and my own chapters also show how the significance of the technological differences between the presentation medium chosen for each blog (posting a photograph vs. building a collage with Polyvore) affects the ways in which the female body is or is not scrutinized.

Thematic Focus

Finally, each contributor considers how the thematic focus of each platform under discussion shaped its relationship to gender and embodiment. For Smith-Shomade the emphasis on faith and spirituality structures the context in which both the viewer and the text present the female singers, understanding them not simply as performers to be scrutinized but as participants in a faith community in which these kinds of spiritual experiences present an important space for African American women to take part. I argue that the emphasis on fandom as the focus that shapes the bloggers’ creative engagement with fashion both allows for fashion blogs that emphasize creativity and interpretation and de-emphasize consumption and beauty paradigms while carving out a space for a femininity and female fans to connect in traditionally “masculine” fandoms gaming culture. Ley attends to this issue by considering how pregnancy apps often marginalize or diminish the role of the father in the pregnancy experience and assume a married, heterosexual, cis-gendered user base, which ultimately has ideological problems and consequences for the apps’ usability for some reviewers (like fathers).

These four threads provide only a glimpse into the pieces featured in the “Bodies” section of the anthology, but they illustrate the significance and complexity of the issues identified in these chapters.



Reimagining Passions, Pleasures and Bad Lady Texts Tue, 13 Oct 2015 13:00:49 +0000 Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn: Feminized Popular Culture in the Early 21st Century, Kristen Warner discusses the "Passions" section, where scholars consider how pleasure functions for women viewers who use female-centric media texts as models for who they want to be and what they want to reject.]]> Post by Kristen Warner, University of Alabama

A benefit of studying so-called bad feminine media objects is that the debates around poetics and quality are vacated leaving us to look at it however we would like. And while some are in the business of (rightly) reclaiming the beauty of the bad text, there’s something almost liberating about letting it be, immersing one’s self in that which seemingly disqualifies it from study. In the case of the category Elana Levine borders around “Passions” in her edited collection Cupcakes, Pinterest and Ladyporn: Feminized Popular Culture in the Early Twenty-First Century, the contributors all honed in on examining the pleasures women experience and navigate through commodified texts targeted to them. Levine’s instinct in putting these pieces in conversation with one another was spot-on in the realization that although all of the contributors analyzed different pieces of feminist media, the connecting tether among them was how they all explored how women used these texts to negotiate their own identities and desires in this post-feminist era.

Imagining that an affective response like pleasure that is not purely founded in celebration of a television show or a book series targeted to them but also in the joy that comes from critiquing those very texts is an act rarely allowed women in twenty-first century media. Our hot takes and think pieces easily reduce nuanced conversation down to simplistic binaries of “if this is good or bad for women” with the notion of a woman liking bad things as revolutionary.

50 shades1

But what if women—all kinds of women—have been enjoying the bad all along? And what if, as posited by Melissa Click in her “Fifty Shades of Postfeminism: Contextualizing Readers’ Reflections on the Erotic Romance Series” chapter, the pleasure for women readers of this book franchise emerge after using this text to think through their own behaviors if allowed to imagine themselves as the heroines of this story?


I submit that the goal of the “Passions” category is to answer that very question. Jillian Baez’s “Television for All Women? Watching Lifetime’s Devious Maids,” maintains that depending on if the female viewer is Latina or white, the question of who they imagine themselves to be in the series generates a bifurcated set of pleasures. I like how Baez notes that, “while most female fans are watching Devious Maids as a source of feminine pleasure derived from its similarities to the generic qualities of Desperate Housewives, Latina fans view the series for its Latina cast and storylines that humanize female domestic workers.” Thus the joy for Latina audiences comes from these characters’ specificity as domestics who are also allowed these fantastical moments of power that transgress the servitude so many Latina women must navigate in their own lives.


Similarly, the piece I wrote, “ABC’s Scandal and Black Women’s Fandom,” takes up the question answering how black women identify with a black character also blurred between the stuff of fantasy and the bodily reality of a black woman enshrined in the spirit of colorblindness. The answer I explored was that through a process of gap-filling online labor from discursively making her hair a frequent topic of discussion to rewriting dialogue in the register of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and writing fanfiction around her being the object of desire between two powerful white men, black women fans are able to cultivate a more dimensional and culturally representative version of Olivia Pope.


The final point I make in the chapter ties to the work Erin A. Meyers writes in “Women, Gossip, and Celebrity Online: Celebrity Gossip Blogs as Feminized Popular Culture.” I end the chapter with a small discussion on a “real person” ship within the Scandal fandom—the Terrys (a portmanteau of the two leads Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn) and how while the desire around this couple is not wholly based in the need for them to be true but rather in how it helps some black female viewers to strategize ways to keep Washington at the center of the fandom. This coupling, largely the stuff of gossip, tethers to one of Meyers’ central tenets of the importance of gossip as communication: “Gossip is not simply the pursuit of truth. It is a process of narrativizing and judging the contrast between the public and private celebrity image as markers of larger social ideologies, particularly around gender, race, sexuality, and class. While such talk is not inherently resistant to dominant norms, the fact that it offers a space where women’s concerns are negotiated and made meaningful makes it, and celebrity culture, important sites of cultural analysis.” The pleasures of what it might mean for Goldwyn, a name that’s a part of Hollywood history to be coupled with Washington, a type that represents the best of black womanhood are more than can be expressed in this piece.

What’s more, Meyers’ article ties us back to Click’s contribution in that both describe the pleasures that accompany the ways women look at female celebrities in the same ways they may look at Anastasia Steele: models for who they may simultaneously want to be and also reject.

Women’s passion told through the lens of women’s pleasure is still in its infancy as an object of research. But I think the pieces here serve as a wonderful start in the study.


Feminized Popular Culture in the Early 21st Century Tue, 06 Oct 2015 18:00:52 +0000 Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn, editor Elana Levine outlines some of the motivations for this collection as well as its guiding theoretical and thematic frameworks.]]> CPL cover

Post by Elana Levine, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The editors at Antenna graciously have invited me to contribute a series of posts upon the release of a new book I’ve edited, Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn: Feminized Popular Culture in the Early 21st Century (University of Illinois Press). The book explores a range of recent media and cultural forms associated with femininity, including investigations of the social and economic forces that shape this culture, the ways such products speak to and about feminine identity, and how audiences, readers, and users engage with and experience such culture. This post focuses on the genesis of the project and its central claims.

The origins of this project come from my experiences as a teacher and researcher. Over the past few years, I have taught a graduate seminar on gender and popular culture several times. While the course inevitably considered some questions of representations of gender IN popular culture, I have always structured it more specifically around how and why various popular cultural forms are gendered and how and why the audiences and users of such forms do or do not identify along gendered lines in their practices of cultural consumption. To me, these were the more interesting and pressing matters, the broader “so what?” to which inquiries about gendered representation point. One trajectory of the course had been to read, contextualize, and extrapolate from the history of feminist scholarship on gendered cultural forms—foundational work on the woman’s film, romance novels, and soap operas, as well as studies on masculinized culture such as sports and video gaming. As the course shifted into the present and the contemporary context of postfeminist culture, however, it was hard to find as substantial a body of work on gendered forms and the experiences of their audiences and users.

At the same time, my research on the history of the U.S. daytime television soap opera was leading me to think about the decline of the soaps industrially and culturally. My hunch was that, while the soaps might no longer be as meaningful to as many viewers as they once were, the needs they fulfilled and the pleasures they delivered had not disappeared—they had shifted into newer cultural forms and experiences. I had my pet theories about where that might be (lookin’ at you, reality TV and social media), but I wanted to know more.

I also wanted to understand how the influences of postfeminist culture, neoliberalism, digital culture, post-structuralism, multiculturalism, queer theory, and transgender theory had shaped feminized popular culture, user experiences of it, and scholarship on it. These were big questions, and the potential sites of inquiry were vast, given the rapid proliferation of media in a digitized and niche-ified world. There was no way I could grapple with all of it on my own. So I sought out colleagues across the worlds of media and cultural studies to help me understand it. Their contributions make Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn a provocative start at reopening this once robust arena of scholarly inquiry.

While I hope you will read the book to better understand my argument about what may have occasioned the scholarly shift away from analyses of gendered culture, suffice it to say that I see two opposing forces at work. One of these forces is the insidious dominance of a postfeminist sensibility, one so powerful, and so common-sensical, as to turn even feminist scholars away from conceiving of culture as gendered. Indeed, the postfeminist sensibility assures us that gender specificity is old-fashioned, that it re-inscribes inequalities that have been overcome. While there are of course notable exceptions to this tendency (I see studies of girl culture as a prime example), I think it has affected scholarship as well as shaping popular culture itself.


The other influencing force is wholly different, in that it is the progressive impact of post-structuralism, queer and transgender theories, and intersectional feminism that have helped us to understand how impossible it is to talk about women or even a more flexible category like femininity in any definitive way. When we accept that a gendered identity is as variable as occupation, skin shade, body shape, personality, and a thousand other traits, both individual and social, it is rather paralyzing to consider it at all. While we need the provocations of these theoretical and political interventions, we might use them not to avoid considering gender as an experiential category but rather to push us to imagine gender differently.

While I went into the project with these principles in mind, as well as with a list of objects for analysis that I was determined to include, it was only through the scholarship of the contributors that I really began to see the ways that early 21st century feminized popular culture was being circulated and experienced. Their work helped me to recognize the three chief ways in which this period of feminized popular culture has been developing. While I have categorized in this way, the book as a whole demonstrates how intricately these categories intertwine.

50 shades

The first of these is “Passions,” meant to characterize the intensive affective and identificatory aspects of feminized cultural experience, whether labeled as fandom or simply as pleasure. This section includes chapters on readers of Fifty Shades of Grey (the “ladyporn” of our title), Scandal fans, Lifetime Television, and celebrity gossip media.

The second category is “Bodies,” given the ongoing conception and experience of femininity as an embodied state, a situation that provides both constraints and freedoms for differently embodied people. This section explores pregnancy apps, fashion and nail polish blogging, and somatic experiences of spirituality.

The third category is “Labors,” the one that I see as most noticeably reflecting the altered social, economic, and political contexts of early 21st century femininity. The chapters cover “chick lit” and economic precarity, reality TV figures Bethenny Frankel and the Kardashians, Pinterest and the “mamasphere,” and the cupcake craze. These cases point to the imbrication of labor and leisure, pressures and pleasures, in the feminized popular culture of the early 21st century.


We now live within and beside all of these cultural forms and experiences; Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn aims helps us to understand them a bit better. In subsequent weeks, several of the book’s contributors will offer examples of the kinds of analyses the book offers. Stay tuned for the delicious details . . .


Videographic Criticism 101 Thu, 09 Jul 2015 13:00:27 +0000 Post by Melanie Kohnen, New York University

Tweet by NicI spent the last two weeks of June at Scholarship in Sound & Image: A Workshop in Videographic Criticism at Middlebury College. A generous grant from the Office of Digital Humanities at the NEH made it possible for fourteen scholars to live and work together for two weeks, resulting in an experience that is among the most rewarding of my entire career.

Tweet by JaapOur hosts Chris Keathley and Jason Mittell, both faculty members in Film & Media Culture at Middlebury, designed a workshop that conveyed technical skills and stimulated discussions about how to craft scholarship in the form of the video essay. The combination of carefully planned exercises and informal conversations at our shared dorm, at the dining hall, or at the computer lab made this a truly unique and intensely lived experience.

sample assignment We spent the first week learning how to use Adobe Premiere (or, in some case, refining existing skills) through a series of five exercises. Starting on Day 2, we spent the mornings in small groups discussing our finished exercises and then usually screened everyone’s videos, followed by receiving our next assignment. Afternoons consisted of learning new aspects of Premiere and starting our video of the day. The assignments included a videographic Pecha Kucha, a trailer, a video with voiceover, a response to someone else’s video using multi-screen technique, and a video using epigraphs (see Jason Mittell’s post Making Videographic Criticism for more details on these daily exercises). Considering that as academics, our attention is often divided between many different tasks, it was wonderful to focus on finishing only one project at a time.

Each participant selected one familiar text to work on during the entire first week, ranging from The Water Nymph, Trouble in Paradise, The Magnificent Ambersons, Imitation of Life, Belle de Jour, The Stepford Wives, Suspiria, to La Ciénaga. I worked on the web series Husbands. I had closely analyzed the series before in traditional academic writing, but cutting up and rearranging it revealed new aspects about content and characters. For example, I re-evaluated my previous rather harsh critique of the queer representation in the series, and I realized that one of the protagonists is on screen more frequently than the other. At the end of the week, I also knew far more about video and sound editing than I had anticipated (shout-out and thank you to Ethan Murphy, Film & Media Culture’s Digital Media Specialist, and Stella Holt, a recent graduate of Film & Media Culture, who were always around to provide technical advice).

editingDuring the second week, we worked on drafting a video essay, and we had videographic experts Eric Faden, Catherine Grant, and Kevin B. Lee join our workshop. It was immensely useful to hear Eric, Katie, and Kevin talk about their approaches to creating video essays and to be able to get their feedback on our drafts. I talked to both Katie and Kevin at length about how to structure my video essay on Husbands since I didn’t want to include a guiding voiceover but rather wanted to let the argument emerge mostly through editing and select on-screen text. My intention to skip the voiceover—a staple in many video essays—certainly stems from my familiarity with fan-made remix videos that excel at cultural critique through the use of editing and music alone.

Spontaneous screenings of works-in-progress in small groups provided further suggestions. This intensely collaborative atmosphere set the workshop apart from the often solitary work of Humanities scholars and makes me wish that we could create scholarship in collaborative ways more often.

The second week ended with a four-hour screening and discussion of our video essay drafts. The range and creativity in the presented works was impressive, especially considering that most of us had never used Premiere before arriving at Middlebury. A selection of these video essays will be revised for a special issue of [in]transition, a peer-reviewed journal of videographic criticism. We have also begun talking about a workshop for the upcoming SCMS ’16 conference. I certainly hope that another iteration of this workshop will happen again, either at Middlebury or at another institution. What we learned during the two weeks at “video camp” is too valuable not to share more widely. There is also much left to explore regarding the format of the video essay and which kinds of scholarship it suits best. For form and content analyses, the video essay is a rich tool, but I still wonder how the video essay can work for Media Industries Studies, for example, which is a field of inquiry dedicated to exploring the production, circulation, and reception of media texts. How can you represent a para-textual analysis in the format of the video essay?

To my fellow videographers, I’m already looking forward to our reunion at SCMS next year, and remember: we’re all winners, baby.

My multi-screen exercise “Brady and Cheeks Watch TV,” which samples videos made by other workshop participants. Inspired by the remix video Channel Hopping from _mesk on Vimeo.

Select work produced by #videographic participants at the workshop:

Corey Creekmur’s AmbersonsBachelard

Allison de Fren’s Stepford Wives Trailer

Shane Denson’s Sight and Sound Conspire: Monstrous Audio-Vision in James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931)

Liz Green’s Velvet Elephant

Patrick Keating’s Epigraph Exercise: Trouble in Paradise

Jaap Kooijman’s Close|Up

Jason Mittell’s The Logic of Mulholland Drive


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Radio Studies at SCMS 2015 Mon, 23 Mar 2015 14:00:10 +0000 scms2015The past year has been a remarkable one for radio. The stunning popularity of Serial (68 Million downloads and counting) demonstrates the continued cultural desire for long form aural programs. Serial’s success has had spillover effects leading to what New York Magazine has called “the great podcast renaissance”, as well as speculation by the late David Carr about how it “sets the stage for more.” Within SCMS, radio continues an impressive run of conference presence. If, two years ago, Bill Kirkpatrick, my former co-chair of the Radio Studies SIG, could view the presence of radio on 12 panels as a “bumper crop” that represented a “firm and presumably secure place within the organization”, this year’s 27 individual radio papers, two radio-focused workshops, and a special presentation by a local radio creator, Mira Burt-Wintonick of CBC Radio’s WireTap, suggests that the seeds planted in past years are beginning to reach fruition.

As with its cultural presence, the SCMS program reflects a catholic view of radio. A decade ago, the relatively few radio papers primarily addressed network era radio, the contemporary renaissance in radio scholarship addresses historical work from a variety of periods, transmedia adaptation, contemporary broadcast and satellite-based practices, as well as related practices like podcasts and web-streaming services. Now in its third year, the Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group continues to offer community and mentorship for radio studies scholars new to SCMS or to the profession. The following consists of a list of explicitly radio oriented papers, workshops, and presentations. If one has a larger frame, presentations under the rubric of “Sound Studies” can be found in a roundup on the Sound Studies Blog.

Wed, 10:00 A10 Lindsay Affleck “Richard Diamond as Radio Shamus.”

Wed, 4:00 D18 Panel on “Podcasting: A Decade into the Life of a ‘New’ Medium”
Brian Fateaux on “Satellite Radio and the Aesthetics of Podcasting”
Andrews Salvati, “”Historiography and Interactivity in Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History”
Kelli Marshal, “Transmedia Storytime with your host Marc Maron”

Thursday, 11:00 G5 Panel on “Intermedial Adaptations of War of the Worlds
Gabriel Paletz “Book to Broadcast and across Media: Orson Welles’s Strategies of Adaptation”
Doron Galili “War of the Worlds, Mass Media Panic, and the Coming of Television”
Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman ““Invading Auditory Practice: On the War of the Worlds and #WOTW75”

Thursday 11:00 G21 Workshop on “Sound Work: Radio Production Cultures” with Shawn VanCour, Tom McCourt, and David Uskovich. Moderated by Antenna’s own Andrew Bottomley

Friday 9:00 K 22 Jennie Hirsh, “Transmissions of Fascism: Advertising Architecture through the Ente Radio Rurale Poster Campaign”

Friday 2:15 M8 Workshop on “The Problem of the Radio Canon” with Debra Rae Cohen, Bill Kirkpatrick, Kate Lacey, Jason Loviglio, and Elena Razlogova

Saturday 9:00 Radio Studies SIG Meeting! Special presentation Mira Burt-Wintonick producer of CBC’s WireTap and award winning audio documentary Muriel’s Message. She will present on “storytelling and sound design in the golden age of podcasting.” As my SIG co-chair Cynthia Myers describes it: “Part listening party, part discussion, this session aims to explore a variety of new sonic trends and possibilities in radio production. How do you make your stories stand out in a sea of audio content? What’s different about producing for radio vs. podcasts? How do you create a signature sound?”

Saturday 11:00 O7 Panel on “The Public Good Goes to Market”
Jason Loviglio, “NPR Listens: Psychographics, Audience Measurement, and the Privatization of Public Service Radio”
Christopher Cwynar, “Social Service Media?: Assessing the CBC and NPR’s Engagement with Social Media Platforms”

Saturday 11:00 O11 Panel on “Local and National Radio in ‘the long 1960s’”
Josh Glick “Soundscapes of South Los Angeles: Radio and the Voices of Resistance”
Darrell Newton, “Being of Color in Britain: Identity, 1960s Radio, and West Indian Immigration”
Eleanor Patterson, “We Are Not Reviving a Ghost: Reconfiguring Radio Drama in Post-network Era United States”
Alexander Russo, “Musical Storytelling to a Fragmented Nation: American Top 40 and Cultural Conflict”

Saturday 1:00 Panel on “Gender and Crossover Programming in the 1940s and 1950s”
Elana Levine, “Picturing Soap Opera: Daytime Serials and the Transition from Radio to Television”
Jennifer Wang, “Resuscitating The Wife Saver: Gender, Genre, and Commercialism in Postwar Broadcasting”
Jennifer Lynn Jones, “Signal Size: Gender, Ethnicity, and Diet Episodes in the Radio-TV Transition”
Kate Newbold, “‘Now The Booing Is Done in Soprano’: Wrestling, Female Audiences, and Discourses of Liveness in the Radio- to-TV Transition in America, 1940–1953”

Saturday 1:00 P10 Panel on “Historicizing Music and Transmedia”
Kyle Barnett, “Popular Music Celebrity, Jazz-age Media Convergence, and Depression-era Transmedia”
Kevin John Bozelka, “Everything on the Pig but the Squeal: Artist/ Publishers and Recordings in the Post-WWII American Entertainment Industry”
Landon Palmer, “All Together Now: The Beatles, United Artists, and Transmedia Conglomeration”
Alyxandra Vesey, “Mixing in Feminism: Playlists, Networks, and Counterpublics”

Saturday 1:00 P12 Morgan Sea of Tranzister Radio will be on a “Workshop on Trans Women’s Media Activism”

Saturday 5:00 R7 Panel on “Humor Across Media in the 1920s and 1930s”
Kathy Fuller-Seeley, “Becoming Benny: Jack Benny’s Production of a Radio Comedy Persona, 1932–1936”
Nicholas Sammond, “Extending the Color Line: The Intermedial Lives of Two Black Crows”

Sunday 11:00 T13 Roger Almendarez, “Radio Arte—The Formation of a Mediated, Local Latina/o Identity in Chicago’s Pilsen Neighborhood”

Sunday 1:00 U18 Peter Bloom “Learning the Speech of Counterinsurgency as National Allegory: BBC Radio and Instructional Propaganda Film during the Malayan Emergency”


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Mapping Popular Music Studies: Report from IASPM-US 2015 Conference Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:26:55 +0000 iaspm-us_logoFINAL_300dpiLouisville is full of surprises. Ask the attendees of the 2015 International Association for the Study of Popular Music’s annual U.S. meeting in the Derby City, which took place in Louisville on February 19th-21st. A century-record-breaking cold snap brought snow and surprise to both city residents and conference attendees, but that didn’t stop the IASPM community from sharing a staggering array of perspectives on pop music. Between visitors’ questions about whether Louisville is one thing or another (“Looeyville or “Looavul?” Southern or Midwestern?), a variety of perspectives about pop music emerged. Those perspectives reflect a conference that is as esoteric and hard to define as the city in which it was held this year.

Full disclosure before we go any further: I had a vested interest in this year’s IASPM-US conference, given that I played a bit part in the event as area co-chair for local arrangements (assisting Diane Pecknold, IASPM-US’ vice president). It was the formidable Diane Pecknold and the Program Committee that made this a success. What follows are my own post-conference thoughts.

The conference itself continues to be hosted at universities, rather than at the hotel conferences common to larger conferences’ annual meetings. Campus locations give the conference a kind of cozy informality. While the relatively small size of the conference might be seen as a reflection of popular music studies’ relatively marginal status in the U.S. as opposed to other Anglophone countries (most notably, the U.K.), it has also allowed the event to remain theoretically and methodologically open to a wide diversity of approaches and opinions.

IASPM ProgramWhile this approach can at times risk incoherence at its limits, it also can offer space for the kind of meaningful interdisciplinary that Stuart Hall practiced and championed for decades. This year’s IASPM-US conference, “Notes on Deconstructing Popular Music (Studies): Global Media and Critical Interventions,” was in tribute to Hall’s life and work. Following in Hall’s own methodological footsteps, the study of popular music remains an interdisciplinary pursuit. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been changes in the conference’s makeup over time. In recent years, music studies’ increasing interest in the popular has led to a greater influence from musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory, and music history. At the same time, conference presenters from a wide array of disciplines offered their own takes on the multi-faceted subject of popular music. This year’s conference included researchers in cultural studies, media and communication studies, global and transnational studies, gender and queer studies, race and ethnic studies, sociology, history, literature, American studies, sound studies, performance studies, and folklore.

Perhaps because of the conference’s dual focus on music as media and music in a global context, various panels took on these subjects in detail. Presentations by featured speakers Deborah Vargas assessed feminist queer interventions in pop music studies (“Musical Sociality and Queer Latinidad”) while Barry Shank outlined the political power and efficacy of musical beauty (“Popular Music Studies at the Limits of Hegemony”). The “Material Economies” panel looked at the intersection of music, media, materiality, and labor, while “The Business of Pop” examined recording industry texts, cultures, and practices over the last century. The “Roots and Routes of the Far East” panel mapped the globalization of Japanese pop music, while the “Transnational Music, Transnational Identity” panel investigated complex musical configurations and multivalent identities across national boundaries.

L to R: Brett Eugene Ralph, Ethan Buckler, Britt Walford, Rachel Grimes, David Grubbs, and moderator Cotten Seiler. Not pictured: Heather Fox.

“Local Histories: Louisville’s Independent Music Scene” panel. Pictured (L to R): Brett Eugene Ralph, Ethan Buckler, Britt Walford, Rachel Grimes, David Grubbs, and moderator Cotten Seiler. Not pictured: Heather Fox.

Roundtables that featured Louisville musicians, archivists, and cultural producers offered a glimpse into the peculiar culture of Louisville across time. The Louisville Underground Music Archive opened its doors to show conference attendees its nascent collection. A roundtable on Louisville music festivals provided insight to how organizers understood their audience and the city they serve. In the “Local Histories: Louisville’s Independent Music Scene” roundtable, the audience heard Rachel Grimes (Hula Hoop, Rachel’s), David Grubbs (Squirrel Bait, Bastro), Ethan Buckler (King Kong, Slint), and Britt Walford (Slint, Watter), and others talk about their own experiences in the city’s music scene, while mapping that scene’s ethos and idiosyncrasies.

Evening events gave the conference a sense of place. The welcome event at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft allowed a peek at flyers to be included in the book White Glove Test: Louisville Punk Flyers, 1978-1994 (forthcoming, Drag City). Musical performances by David Grubbs, Wussy, and 1200 at the New Vintage provided a bill that reflected the musical, theoretical, and methodological breadth of the conference.

My take on IASPM-US 2015 – my first reaction in just the past few days – is that the study of popular music remains as hard to map as the city in which the conference was held. And while that risks playing out as a weakness, in Louisville it felt like strength.


Of Algorithms and Audiences Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:00:23 +0000 Arclight LogoAfter attending two very different conferences over the course of a week to talk about the same digital research project, I found myself in the old awkward position of “desperately seeking the audience”—of computational tools and digital methods for media studies research.

At the end of October, I traveled to the 2014 IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) International Conference on Big Data in Washington, DC (slides and paper available here). The second conference, Film and History, was a bit closer to home, both literally—the conference hotel was five miles from my house—and in terms of the disciplinary concerns of researchers. At both, I was presenting material based on research developed from work on Project Arclight, the winner of National Endowment for the Humanities’s Digging into Data Round Three grant funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Much of our current work with Arclight focuses on the creation of an online application that will enable researchers to track terms and trends throughout a corpus of 2 million pages of digitized film and broadcasting trade journals, magazines, and books. Yet we hope that the project will serve as a broader catalyst for building connections between media studies and digital humanities efforts.

At the first conference, between sessions and over meals, I spoke with several researchers struggling with issues of tool adoption. After a full day of presentations describing innovative and powerful new tools built from the collaborations of dozens of scholars across disciplines, the question remained: how to generate excitement about these projects that could incite scholars and students to use them? And, for those presenters coming from a computer sciences background, is this really what discipline-area scholars want from digital tools?

Topic Model Word Cloud for Modern Screen

Topic model in MODERN SCREEN indicating the prominence of fashion in the magazine.

Film and History was instructive. At a special event workshop on historical methods shared with the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, my fellow Arclight team members and I presented a brief introduction to digital analytics. It became clear that—at least for those in the room—the barriers to adoption weren’t a lack of interest, but a lack of familiarity with some of the major precepts and possibilities of digital work. For those suspicious of humanities inquiry bound to binaristic or quantitative frames, we were able to describe the many ongoing conversations in digital humanities regarding measures of uncertainty, the inevitability and impact of human intervention in computational processes, and the consequences of adapting tools designed for other scientific and business purposes for humanities work. For those unfamiliar with the field’s current key methods, such as topic modeling, we used software demonstrations to showcase their capabilities and limitations. As a follow-up to attendee questions, Eric Hoyt created a tutorial on topic modeling for media history using the Media History Digital Library corpus, which he posted on the Arclight website. The workshop also enabled us to hear what scholars hoped digital tools might accomplish and guided our attention to capabilities we might incorporate in our own tool development work. While the workshop model seems to function well on a small scale, allowing us to respond to the individual concerns of those already somewhat interested in computational methods, how we might broaden the appeal of such workshops remains to be seen.

There are a number of reasons why this expansion is urgent, a few of which I’ll mention here. First, and most importantly, conversations in digital humanities have been invaluable for demonstrating the extent to which all of our work—whether we consider ourselves to be using computational methods or not—is constituted by digital technologies. Representations recently published an excellent forum on full text search—what we might consider a rather banal, quotidian tool—and the consequences of not understanding the politics of search algorithms. (Ted Underwood’s “Theorizing Research Practices we Forgot to Theorize Twenty Years Ago” is particularly insightful in its discussion of how digital technologies are structural to academic research and have been for some time.) Second, as media scholars begin to use computational methods to serve their existing research agendas, the peer review process will be in need of people who can critically assess the quality and contributions of technological methods. Third, computational analytics, digital collaboration strategies, and the online distribution of scholarly work could provide useful additions to graduate methods courses, enabling future scholars to put these methods in conversation with existing scholarly practices in new and useful ways.

For our part, we’re hoping that the Arclight website will become a useful resource for those interested in the pairing of digital methods and media studies, but we’d also like to find other avenues to make our work appealing and accessible. While this might take the form of more conference workshops, Skype seminars, and classroom visits, we’d be interested in hearing any suggestions or questions you might have in the comments below.


Researching from within kids’ culture Sat, 22 Nov 2014 15:00:30 +0000 A princess (by three-year-old student with crown drawing help from me).

A princess (by three-year-old student* with crown drawing help from me).

After my first day in the daycare classroom, I thought I had the kids pegged. Just in the span of an hour, one three-year-old told me all about his Batman pants. A girl wearing a Frozen t-shirt happily informed me of the names Princesses printed onto her front. The pièce de résistance occurred when I drew a copy of a Donald Duck figurine—decked out in his The Three Caballeros poncho and sombrero—and asked the class who it was. “Donald Duck!”In that moment I let my confirmation bias win. It seemed as though gendered merchandizing and Disney market saturation had effectively taken over kids’ media culture. However, with weeks of class time with the kids ahead of me, I had to confront some of my assumptions about kids’ culture and the way we communicate at a young age.

The literature on kids’ media culture is dispersed over disciplines that often fundamentally disagree on the goal of studying young people and the media they interact with. While scholars within our field and outside of it have made key interventions into children’s culture, the focus of popular and academic conversations rests on a binary David Buckingham called protectionist and pedagogical discourses. These two discourses articulate the combination of fear and hope centered on the developing bodies and minds of kids—both the perpetual fear of harm caused by sex and violence and the proactive parent-led curation of educational material to foster “proper” growth.

The problems inherent in this model are numerous—due to classed, gendered, raced, and aged biases—, but the issue I will focus on here is the problem of using an adult bias to talk about kids. I believe that this is a major contributor to the troubling construction of childhood innocence. Speaking from our positions of comparably vast experience, we as adult researchers can underestimate children by assuming that their lack of experience is synonymous with lack of understanding. We also at times see the life of a child as foreign or essentially different than our lives, because of our temporal distance from it. By creating our theses and research questions in isolation from children’s perspectives, we continue to ask questions that center on adults and ignore what children may care about or be interested in.

I’m working on a research initiative led by professor and cartoonist Lynda Barry. The idea is to adapt our research questions for young people (and by young I mean two- to four-year olds) and ask them to weigh in on our questions through drawing. As I mentioned before, the class I visit once a week is made up of two- and three-year olds, an age I find especially fascinating for two reasons. First, because this age group is often ignored by psychological research methods that hinge on repeatable tasks. Apparently toddlers do not typically repeat tasks when ordered (this will come as a huge surprise to parents and caregivers, I’m sure). Second is because they are at the beginning of Disney’s supposed princess target audience (girls age two to six). This “princess obsession” is a loaded one since positive and negative associations with hyper-femininity range across class and taste cultures. With both of the above reasons in mind, I am in the process of crafting research questions and methods with the help of my co-researchers. At this point I hope to share a couple brief observations about creating and interacting with toddlers in a space when they are among their peer group and with adults.

1: Dialogue is generative 

One of Buckingham’s observations is that we can’t take kids’ words at face value. I think we could often say the same for adults, but it is useful to remember that young children do not always have enough experience to know how we want them to respond to specific questions. Our research objective in the classrooms was to get kids to draw and tell us stories about their drawings. What I discovered was that this age group isn’t fond of or especially equipped to synthesizing visual information into stories. When I ask the innocent question “Will you tell me what you drew?” I’d mostly get frank and negative responses, either “I don’t want to,” “No,” or “I don’t know.” I found it much easier to talk with them while they drew. The “stories” were more like conversations, occurring between myself and a child or two. Dialogue moves beyond verbal communication as well. Thanks to Lynda Barry’s insights, my (adult) colleagues and I discovered that discussion through drawing and playing created more insights from kids than standing at the borders and observing.

2: Repetition helps with creation 

Kids repeating each other's drawing ideas. Top: "I'm drawing purple and a rainbow." Bottom: "I'm starting a rainbow."

Kids* repeating each other’s drawing ideas. Top: “I’m drawing purple and a rainbow.” Bottom: “I’m starting a rainbow.”

Again, I’ve interacted with toddlers one-on-one, but I was surprised to see how much kids will repeat each other while making things. Often I’d get one kid drawing a “horse” that looked more like squiggle marks and then another kid who didn’t know what to draw would suddenly chime in, “I’m drawing a horse.” This helped me learn how to initiate a drawing session by simply stating what I was drawing and see if anyone else would start drawing the same object. At this stage of practice and motor skills, the kids’ ability to create “realistic” images varied wildly, but by saying they were creating the same thing as a friend, they were able to create something.

So, what do we do with experiences like these? I don’t expect these interactions to write my papers for me or even craft my research questions in a direct way. My hope is that if scholars communicate with children through interactive research methods, we may be able to move beyond thinking about what media culture does to kids, and move toward questions and methodologies that respect kids’ media and cultural engagement as nuanced, active, and social.



*Note: drawings are recreations by the author due to IRB restrictions on circulation of original pieces.


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