academia – Antenna Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Audiovisual Archives and the Context Conundrum Mon, 13 Jul 2015 13:00:56 +0000 Distribution brochures for instructional radio series, from the paper archives of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB) at University of Maryland

Distribution brochures for instructional radio series, from the paper archives of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB) at University of Maryland

Post by Stephanie Sapienza, Project Manager at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH)

Historical collections of audiovisual material are housed at repositories of an extraordinarily varied nature: within museums, libraries, historical societies, private collections; within media production units; and within traditional archives (only a small percentage of which are specifically dedicated to audiovisual collections). Archival paper collections are certainly more ubiquitous across all these institutions and more, representing the vast majority of the overall archival record.

As someone who has utilized, studied, worked in, and then managed projects related to audiovisual archives, there’s a trend I’ve been tracking for some time which continues to vex me. This trend relates to a very common scenario – split collections of media and related paper/textual collections – which are accepted into archival repositories and then, for lack of a better analogy, “separated at birth.” The collections are accessioned, and then broken apart and processed using very different and separate techniques, guidelines, and description schemas. Quite often, the two collections never get near each other again – physically or ontologically.

I will try to succinctly break down how this phenomenon occurs. Archival institutions often utilize a traditional description approach for paper-based materials such as transcripts, production and field recording notes, press kits, photos, correspondence, provenance and copyright materials. This usually results in an online finding aid. Conversely, institutions with significant audiovisual holdings traditionally favor an item-level approach, often with the aim of preparing for a preservation effort which requires metadata on item condition, formats, etc. Often the “split but related mixed media collections” scenario occurs within an institution that holds both paper and media materials, yet processes them differently and in different departments. Other times, as with the case study I’d like to discuss, the paper and media collections are also geographically separated.

Paper archives of the NAEB Collection

Paper archives of the NAEB Collection

The National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB) historic radio collection spans the breadth of twentieth century mass media. Throughout its 60 years of existence, the NAEB ushered in or helped to enable major changes in early educational broadcasting policy. The NAEB audio collection, now fully digitized through a collaboration with the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, is held at the University of Maryland Libraries and represents the archives of the radio programming service of the organization, known as the National Educational Radio Network (NERN). The paper materials, comprising correspondence, reports, clippings, speeches and more, remain at the Wisconsin Historical Society. The finding aid for the NAEB paper collection alone reveals that it contains a depth of contextual information relevant to the study of the tape collection. Digitized paper materials would reveal even more.

For example, The Jeffersonian Heritage, a 1952 series of 13 half-hour radio programs, was recorded by the National Association of Educational Broadcasters and syndicated for commercial-free broadcast. Funded by a Ford Foundation grant, The Jeffersonian Heritage starred English-born actor Claude Rains, made famous by appearances in The Invisible ManMr. Smith Goes to WashingtonCasablanca, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious. An attempt to create radio that could be both “educational and appealing,” The Jeffersonian Heritage began its first series by educating the public about Thomas Jefferson’s attempt to have an anti-slavery clause written into the U.S. Constitution. With subsequent episodes attempting to tie themes from Jefferson’s personal and political history to contemporary events, The Jeffersonian Heritage provides a rich vein of material for explorations of how mid-twentieth century Americans engaged in remembrances of an agrarian past. How was Thomas Jefferson presented through the lens of anxieties about America’s place within the Cold War world? How were these episodes marketed and promoted to the public?*

Aural Press brochure, describing the American Life Series

Aural Press brochure, describing the American Life Series

To gain an accurate picture of the importance of these broadcasts, researchers would need to understand not just the content of the broadcast but also the circumstances of its production and its reception. For starters, the NAEB paper collections contain a brochure which reveals that the series was marketed by Aural Press of Western Michigan University as part of an “American Life Series” alongside other program series such as “Patterns in Pop Culture,” “Women,” “Abortion,” “Sounds of Poverty,” “Censorship,” and “The Nostalgia Merchants.” Placing one highly specific (and dramatic) series in context alongside such broadly-conceived topical documentary programs indicates that it held a certain level of specialized merit as an individual historical record.

A speech by former NAEB Chair William Harley which says the following about The Jeffersonian Heritage: “In 1951 we produced a dramatic history series called The Jeffersonian Heritage starring Claude Rains as Jefferson; a dramatic series on cultural anthropology called ‘Ways of Mankind’ and a series produced in conjunction with the Russian Institute at Harvard called ‘People Under Communism.’ The significance of this project is that our products convinced Scotty and his Board that educators were professionally competent and deserved support as they ventured into the new field of television. Thus did educational radio help the launching of educational television, for the Fund for Adult Education and later the Ford Foundation itself poured millions of dollars into projects fostering the start of education television.”

The above two pieces of contextual detail were uncovered only from the two small boxes of paper material that was retained with the audio collection at UMD. The Wisconsin finding aid reveals two additional folders of information on this series, which could unearth a great deal more contextual information which is ripe with potential for teaching curricula or individual scholarly research.

A second example is the series Why is a Writer?, which originally aired from 1960-61. The individual media records for the series contain the following description: “Produced by the Iowa School of the Air, this series focuses on various works of literature from Shakespeare to Twain.” The description for one individual program, “Critic of the king,” has an additional program description: “This program focuses on English writer Leigh Hunt, also known as James Henry Leigh Hunt.”

UMD has, by all means, a very richly descriptive individual record for this one individual program recording – even to have two separate descriptions (one for the series as a whole and one for the program) is uncommon in most descriptive catalogs.

A cursory search in the NAEB paper archives unlocked the following information:

Iowa School of the Air Teaching Aid for Why Is a Writer?

Iowa School of the Air Teaching Aid for Why Is a Writer?

In 1967-67, several years after it originally aired, Why is a Writer was still being distributed to educators throughout the country through Iowa School of the Air, along with teaching aids and instructions on how to teach the material. This teaching aid included instructions for educators such as “Every broadcast should be preceded by a short warm-up period so that the pupils know why they are listening to and what to listen,” and “Every broadcast should be followed by an integration period during which the students tie together facts, form generalizations, discuss ideas presented, and plan related work.” Additionally, the teaching aid contains a much more detailed program description for “Critic of the King:” “‘Critic of the King’ is another way of describing the English writer Leigh Hunt. Through history the writer has often been a critic of powerful through corrupt men. This is often a dangerous practice. Leigh Hunt knew the danger, but wrote as he felt, nonetheless. James Henry Leigh Hunt, 1784-1859, was the friend of many great romantic poets, including Byron, Shelley, Moore, and Lamb. He was a liberal in politics and was the editor of many periodicals.”

Why is a Writer shows up again in paperwork related to programs later rejected by NPR in 1976 for “content validity.” To pass the content validity test, NPR required “users and/or producers of Instructional Program materials to provide documented research and evaluation results on the utilization and effectiveness of such radio program materials in formal teaching-learning situations.” This indicates that sometime between the mid-60’s and the mid-’70s, Why Is a Writer? became “invalid” for teaching purposes. This raises two interesting research questions: 1) What pedagogical changes or educational reform may have led to changing perspectives on the “validity” of Why is a Writer?, and 2) How did educators and users of the Instructional Program materials feel about NPR making content validity assertions which affected available content?

Both of the above examples have relevant contextual information related to both the subject matter inherent in the content itself, as well as the cultural and sociological forces which shaped its production and distribution. The NAEB collections account for more than a record of a specific broadcasting entity and its industrial/narrative production. They also provide an in-depth look at the engagements and events of American history, as they were broadcast to and received by the general public in the twentieth century. This may be evident in the recordings themselves, but the potential scholarly and educational insights are particularly apparent when presented with rich, contextual materials to accompany it.

The fact stands that there is a lost opportunity here, and in many similar instances. Unless researchers are able to travel between Wisconsin and Maryland to conduct this research (assuming they even know that there is deep contextual information to be found there, since no electronic catalog connects the two collections). Additionally, in instances where these two collections are linked, it could partially relieve the burden of catalogers, lessening the amount of labor needed to provide access to richer descriptive detail.

Despite public broadcasting’s mandate to “inform, inspire and educate,” most of this important historical content, produced at significant cost, has never been seen or heard again after its initial brief moments on the air. MITH is developing and seeking funding for a project which aims to create a prototypical user interface which would allow researchers to explore the split NAEB collections together in context, and hopefully provide a blueprint to inspire further work in this area. The broader goals of the project are to look at ways in which scholarly and archival processes and needs can converge in order to raise awareness of the cultural significance of broadcasting collections.

*Select prose from the discussion on The Jeffersonian Heritage contributed by Jennifer Guiliano.


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#SCMS15: The Conference as Media Event Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:00:20 +0000 SCMS15In his well-known work on media events, Elihu Katz describes occasions including state funerals, moon landings, Olympic games, and the Eurovision song contest, as “high holidays” of media, with their ritual function, their experience by a mass television audience all watching at once. A major academic conference can be quite similar if you put aside the mass media part. It’s an annual gathering of the tribe to reiterate shared ideas and reproduce customs. We prepare extensively, dress up and don our nametag lanyards, engage in ceremonial rites (conventionalized panel introductions, congratulations on recent accomplishments, awards ceremonies, citations of canonical literature), share food and drink, tell our stories (often the same stories we have told before), and reaffirm our adherence to the group’s values. Although academic gatherings in the humanities tend to be secular, there is a quality of priestly authority in the presiding panel chair or the audience thronging to hear an accomplished “big name,” and participants read from their work, quoting and citing authorities like scripture, offering exegetic knowledge about texts familiar to the group.

A conference like SCMS reminds me in some ways of the high holidays of my childhood, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which I experienced as crowded shul (synagogue) services of long duration when everyday life stopped and the days had a higher purpose and their own rhythm and temporality. While SCMS is missing the participatory chanting and call-and-response liturgical song, we do have what feels like the special gathering of a whole community and a cyclical sense of another year’s passage. It’s a break from our ordinary surroundings and duties, and we feel (or wish to feel) that we are among fellow adherents. We often leave feeling at once energized by new ideas and exhausted by the intensity of the experience.

Just as Katz’s media events were first real-world events, even if they become substantially shaped through mediation, the academic conference existed before we began to treat it as a media event, or should I say, a social media event. It’s obviously not a mass media event like the Olympics. To the extent that the mass media give any attention at all to our conferences, it’s as dismissive mockery. But through Twitter and other social media we do represent the conference as it is unfolding and attend to it as a live audience. The conference is also shaping itself to suit this representation.

One reason why old people seem to never stop telling young people about life before the internet is that things really were quite a bit different! At the first conferences I attended there were VHS decks with TV sets on metal carts, and occasionally someone projected photographic slides. It was not uncommon for a paper to be read to the audience without any pauses for illustration and without visual aids. Word of an impressive (or terrible) paper might trickle out and spread by word of mouth. Perhaps a few months after the event a conference report would be published in a journal.

Twitter feedNow the temporality of the conference includes mediated liveness through the twitterstream, along with some video livestreams. As I write this from the airport departure lounge on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m., I am also following a number of panels via Twitter as the conference still rolls on. Someone is analyzing Jon Jost’s films, while in another room someone is discussing the cable network Bravo. There’s a paper on computers in education, and another on Minecraft, all simultaneously in my feed this minute. Someone just tweeted a photo of a presenter’s PowerPoint slide. It has a quote from Jonathan Sterne’s book MP3 alongside a cat, naturally, holding a tin can to his ear as if to listen. And meanwhile 20 other panels are underway, from which no one seems to be tweeting.

At some panels I attended last weekend I tweeted from my phone, trying to capture key insights and hot phrases. Typing by thumb is slow for me, and I frequently stop to correct errors. I see only the tweet I am composing on the screen while I’m typing. But using your phone all day drains the battery, so for a couple of panels I switched to using a laptop with a big display and a full keyboard. In the Chrome Tweetdeck app, you can track multiple constantly refreshing columns at once. I kept open the usual “home” column of my regular timeline of tweets from the accounts I follow, as well as a #SCMS15 column of all tweets posted with that hashtag next to it on the right. I also kept open columns of my mentions and notifications, so that I could see if others were engaging with my tweets and could participate in backchannel conversations. During one paper I heard about US imports on UK TV, this conversation included at least one person joining in from the UK.

During the panels I was tweeting from, the #SCMS15 column was a perpetually cascading torrent of updates from multiple other panels. It can feel like perpetual information overload. I was usually accompanied by only one or two others tweeting from my panels, but some concurrent sessions were being tweeted by several participants, and some people tweet practically every point a speaker makes. Every time I picked up my eyes to look at the scholar giving the paper in my panel, the movement on the screen of fresh tweets arriving brought my eyes back down to Tweetdeck. In the backchannel, I often noticed people who were not present in the room, or not even in Montreal, participating in the conference by replying or even just by retweeting or favoriting tweets.

I know from my own account’s Twitter analytics that someone with more than 1,000 followers may expect a tweet to be seen by 100-200 others, which is a bigger audience than at any panel I attended at SCMS. If retweeted a few times, that audience can increase to 1,000 or more. (I’m just a humble media scholar; celebrities and commercial media institutions like CNN of course command much greater attention.)

Clearly the social media coverage is bringing awareness and participation to SCMS and to our work that cannot be compared with the old-fashioned in-person attendance. I think we should see this as open-access publishing. It also provides for distant participation by Society members and scholars in cinema and media studies who for various reasons do not attend the conference. Twitter isn’t always a great substitute for being there, and the live-tweeting sometimes feels fragmentary and confusing. Sometimes tweets seems to amplify and even glorify the ideas expressed in a presentation, and sometimes they seem to simplify or trivialize them. But when done well, live-tweeting can bridge distances and expand the conference’s reach in very productive and satisfying ways. It’s not the conference itself, but a remediation of it, projecting SCMS to broader communities.* One tweet I saw in my feeds and retweeted during the conference said, “I’ve never heard of #SCMS15, but the tweets I’m seeing from it pop up are fascinating.”

MontrealThe ritual functions of the social media event extend well beyond the content of the panels. For days and weeks and even months before the conference, some of my Twitter friends were premediating** #SCMS15 by sharing details of submissions, acceptances and rejections, travel plans, outfit plans, karaoke plans, poutine plans, etc. I saw tweets of people’s passports ready for travel. At the conference, on the main concourse level, a red carpet was set up with a backdrop suitable for photography, a poster nearby encouraging sharing photos online. I heard both positive and negative reactions to this and I wondered if anyone was using it as intended, but eventually the pics of conference participants posing as if to appear in the pages of US Weekly appeared in some friends’ Faceboook feeds.

Sometimes the tweeting felt overwhelming, and I think I prefer the phone over the laptop despite my clumsy thumbs. The heightened interactivity provides a buzz, but I can’t imagine sustaining it for a whole day or two or five. I also don’t like the distorted impression you get from keeping your eyes on the hashtag twitterstream as a conference news ticker. Each session of the conference has 24 concurrent panels. At any given time, most of the papers being presented were not being covered at all. The TV studies and fan studies contingents, who already have robust Twitter networks firing every day of the year, tweeted the hell out of panels on topics of interest to them. Some film historians I spoke with were intrigued and impressed by a video screen in the main conference concourse, near the red carpet, displaying recent tweets including the #SCMS15 hashtag. But they found the content a bit puzzling, not entirely certain what exactly the tweets were.

This may be a problem of Twitter, which is notoriously hard for many non-users to “get.” I told one accomplished scholar who doesn’t use Twitter about the many admiring tweets from his panel, one of which I sent to him via email. I thought he’d be excited to have made such a strong impression. Although grateful for the positive response to his paper, he is ambivalent about actually reading any more tweets broadcasting his work. He told me, “I wouldn’t even know how to get on Twitter.” So whether because of how communities of interest have formed online, or how unevenly Twitter has been adopted, SCMS as social media event is functioning to include and exclude.

While this may be just one person’s subjective impression, there seemed to be much less tweeting about film than other topics. (I hope that analysis of the conference Twitter data will help us understand more.) I often think the name “cinema and media studies” is illogical in its implication that cinema isn’t media, or that media studies and film studies are necessarily separate — if related — fields. But in this instance, I think it’s fair to say that the social media event is really a media event more than a cinema event. One thing distinguishing this social media event from a mass media event is how fragmentary and narrow its community can be. It has the mass media event’s qualities of liveness and drama and communal ritual. The dimension of common experience is much more fractured and tribal, though. At least for now, it doesn’t appear to bring us together as one scholarly Society. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, but it is a thing worth thinking about.

*Thanks to Christopher Cwynar for suggesting this point.
**Remediation is from Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin; premediation is Grusin’s concept.

Michael Z. Newman is on Twitter.


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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.


Roundtable (Part 2): Career Stages and Conferencing Strategies Thu, 21 Mar 2013 13:00:17 +0000 Photo courtesy of Lindsay Hogan

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Hogan

In Part One of this series, Erin Copple Smith offered perspectives on conferencing from graduate students. In Part Two, she continues with advice from faculty at various stages of their careers. 

Each respondent was asked: What did you do during SCMS? What were your strategies, if you had them? And how do you think your decisions reflect where you are in your career? Please note that the contributors here are not meant to represent a full spectrum of SCMS participants–many perspectives are missing. I encourage you to contribute your own strategies in the comments.

Early Career Assistant Professor

This year, I spent SCMS connecting and reconnecting with my academic network. My goal was to spend time with my grad school cohort, other conference and social media friends, current colleagues, and new connections. Since so many of us are flung all over the U.S. and beyond, this conference is an intense few days of bonding, bitching, and general shenanigans. Therefore, organization was vital. The best strategy I had prior to SCMS was setting up meetings, coffees, and lunch dates weeks in advance. One of my favorite dates was a happy hour with other new junior faculty. It was an opportunity to check in on the first year and share everything from how we are adjusting to our new campus cultures to decorating our offices. No matter where you are in your academic trajectory, from graduate student to full professor, spending time with others who are experiencing similar career points or transitions is incredibly cathartic. Maybe next year I will spend more time in panels or the book room, but this year was about reinforcing this support system. I truly believe that investing time in relationships and growing my community will help me shape the experience I want from this crazy academic game over the next 20+ years.

Advanced Assistant Professor

Because I am deeply involved with one of the Special Interest Groups, there was more tension for me than usual at this conference: do I attend all the SIG-sponsored and -related panels (which could have consumed most of my week), or do I skip some of those panels and thereby risk undermining the efforts of the SIG (not to mention running the risk that some of my friends and colleagues might feel snubbed).  Ultimately I decided that, if the SIG thrives, it will be because many people work to support it; letting go of that sense of responsibility freed me up to attend more panels that would help my teaching:  topics that students are perpetually interested in but that don’t directly relate to my research.  I also skipped more of the workshops that I would have attended in the past; I’m at the point where I kind of know what most of the participants are likely to say, and social media will cue me to anything really novel. Finally, my social time was spent almost entirely catching up rather than networking, but in actual fact I’ve found that there’s usually at least one person at the table who is new to me, so “catching up with old friends” and “making new connections” seems more and more like a false dichotomy.

Advanced Assistant Professor

This has been a trying year on the personal and emotional fronts. In addition, confronted with the prospect of explaining myself via the tenure dossier and exhausted from life on the grinding treadmill that is the tenure track, I needed to use SCMS to recharge my batteries and to renew my excitement (and perhaps even faith and confidence) in my work. This year at SCMS I spent most of my time outside of panels catching up with the friends from grad school who helped me finish the dissertation and have provided the online and offline network that has provided me with both encouragement and sober reason. At this point in my career, I’m realizing that the most interesting projects I have worked on and have been working on have been hatched over dinners, glasses of wine, drinks, or espressos grabbed quickly between panels. This year, though, I wasn’t thinking about networking; I was thinking about renewal. To twist the prompt of this post from what we should be doing at major conferences, I think we need to think about what we need to be doing, not necessarily for professional advancement, for  securing book contracts, or for enlarging our personal network of acquaintances and collaborators, but for ourselves, especially during the stressful moments in our lives and our professional journeys.

Advanced Associate Professor

This is an interesting assignment. I decided before the conference this would be my last SCMS for a while and almost didn’t attend this year. I find myself at a career point where I’m not getting a lot out of the conference, and rising service demands at my home institution have me needing to shift my service load. I’ve attended SCMS every year since 2001 and have held some position in the organization since 2005. So for the span of the last five years I’d say a lot of the purpose of the conference was the opportunity to network with collaborators and perform whatever duties my various roles have required. Until this year, I usually presented personal scholarship at some point and maybe attended a handful of panels, but the most meaningful experiences have been the coffees and lunches where I caught up with colleagues elsewhere and often brainstormed projects.

I’m not sure how much of my questioning the utility of the big conference is a function of career space versus how technology has changed the world of academia. In recent years I’ve tended to Skype with collaborators and maintained projects by email, decreasing the necessity of the annual meet up. I can’t say I’ve ever seen or gotten substantive feedback at a conference like SCMS—the panel format rarely leaves much time for questions, though now and again a workshop will come together nicely, and I’m now at a career point where I have relationships with those whose opinions I most respect, and am more likely to approach a colleague directly for feedback (though I must acknowledge that attending all these years is largely what has helped me cultivate many of these relationships). I’m also not a particularly auditory learner and have always preferred to read work. I review about 10-12 article submissions a year and usually 2-3 book manuscripts, and find this a better way to stay abreast of the work in my field. I still find smaller, interest-focused conferences to be worth the effort and enjoy the extended conversations and engagement those venues allow, and faced with competing demands on time and tightening university support, will likely focus my conference travel to those venues in coming years.

Now it’s your turn!  What are some of your conference strategies, and how do you think they reflect where you are in your career? Chime in with comments!


Roundtable (Part 1): Career Stages and Conferencing Strategies Wed, 20 Mar 2013 15:05:45 +0000 Photo courtesy of Lindsay Hogan

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Hogan

While at the Society for Cinema & Media Studies conference in Chicago this year, I found myself suddenly very aware of my recent career shift from dissertator and visiting assistant professor to tenure-track faculty. I kept thinking, “Wait. What am I supposed to be doing here? Should I be meeting up with far-flung friends and colleagues? Should I be networking? Should I be attending panels intended to enrich my research, or attending panels intended to enrich my teaching? Should I be expanding my horizons, or renewing my ties?” In talking with some of my fellow conference-goers over the weekend, I realized that many of us were dealing with similar tensions, and we all had different strategies. (Indeed, I’m apparently not the only one thinking about this, as Tim Havens so nicely articulates in this SCMS blog post!) It occurred to me that a roundtable presentation of perspectives from scholars at different stages of their careers would be really interesting and potentially very useful–much more so than my rambling thoughts! Talking this over with so many colleagues had me thinking differently about conferencing, and I hope the insights from the contributors below will have the same impact for everyone reading.

I’ve kept the contributors anonymous, so they could speak candidly and freely, but I’ve explained where each person is in their career, because I think that makes a difference. Each respondent was asked: What did you do during SCMS? What were your strategies, if you had them? And how do you think your decisions reflect where you are in your career? Today’s post offers the perspective of graduate students, tomorrow’s post addresses faculty perspectives. Please note that the contributors here are not meant to represent a full spectrum of SCMS participants–many perspectives are missing. I encourage you to contribute your own strategies in the comments. My takeaway from these conversations? There is no “right way” to conference; it’s all about being thoughtful about who and where you are, and what you want to get out of the experience.

Graduate Student at Dissertation Proposal Stage

This was my third time attending SCMS, and I feel that it was at this conference I finally hit my stride, although I may say that next year too. Each year I feel more at ease approaching senior scholars, asking questions at panels, and discussing my own research. As someone who has sort of just moved into that stage in my career where I have narrowed my research interests into a dissertation topic, I feel like my goals were mainly to attend panels relevant to my area of study, and get to know the emerging research and scholars in my sub field. Obviously, one strategy I had was to make my schedule ahead of time, and highlight all the panels I felt relevant to my dissertation topic and area(s) of study. I actually came Wednesday night even though my panel was not until Saturday morning, because I felt there were some really important panels happening in my area on Thursday morning. However, some of these goals were often at odds with each other, as an opportunity to go to lunch with some senior scholars in my area arose at the same time as a panel I had planned to attend. I went to lunch, which I think emphasizes one of my proudest accomplishments of this SCMS: learning how to relax and go with the flow. Really, being spontaneous and open to what may happen off schedule is very important, but, at least for me, lobby discussions or impromptu lunches do not just knock you over the head, you kind of have to go after them and put yourself our of your comfort zone a bit, which may reflect where I am in my career, as senior scholars probably have no problem going up to a group or another scholar sitting on a couch and striking up a conversation. Of course I also recommend some humility and the ability to strike up a specific conversation with questions about their work, and, more importantly, I do not recommend actually hitting senior scholars over the head with a club, at least not before you make tenure.

Graduate Student, ABD

This year, I chose to focus my attendance in two ways. The first being panels whose topics overlapped with my own dissertation topic. That way I could make sure that my eternal fear that someone else has already written a comprehensive book on my exact dissertation topic does not come true (or at least I will know as soon as possible if it does). More often, I can pick up new ideas, information, or methods that could influence my thinking on the topic. My second focus was attending workshops on writing, teaching, and professionalization, since those things will hopefully (A) help me finish my dissertation and (B) speak more intelligently when I am on the job market about working as a professor. I also attended a workshop on higher education from the administrators’ perspective, which was especially interesting since that perspective is not necessarily something we are privy to as graduate students. In addition to the panels and workshops, I also appreciate the social aspects of the conference. I like attending the awards ceremony and reception, so that I can hear more about peoples’ work and put faces with names I have only known through reading their work. I also like to take advantage of breaks for meals and caffeine to catch up with friends who have graduated from my institution and moved on to teaching elsewhere, as well as with friends I have made at past SCMS conferences.

Now it’s your turn!  What are some of your conference strategies, and how do you think they reflect where you are in your career? Chime in with comments!


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Syllabus Fantasies Fri, 08 Mar 2013 14:00:01 +0000 Even a syllabus can go viral nowadays. One did last week for a course on the topic of “Fate and the Individual in European Literature” taught in the 1940s at the University of Michigan by W.H. Auden. This wasn’t the first and surely won’t be the last time a famous person, usually a literary author, has had a syllabus find such attention. This Atlantic post collects examples by David Foster Wallace and others. When he was running for president in 2008, a syllabus from his law prof days accompanied a NYT article on Senator Obama’s University of Chicago years. A famous person’s syllabus might inspire a kind of edufantasy: what would it be like to be Zadie Smith’s student? A syllabus is a trace and a hint of an experience. As a recipe can stimulate our imagination of gustatory delights, a syllabus can make us wonder about the intellectual pleasures of a great class and teacher.

Another thing the Auden syllabus provoked was astonishment at the quantity of assigned reading, thousands of pages of classics ancient and modern. But who knows what the Michigan undergrads actually read that semester? Auden’s syllabus is merely a list of readings, without specific assignments. What intrigued me most wasn’t the edufantasy element but the occasion to compare the form of a syllabus of the 1940s with that of our own time. As someone whose job includes writing syllabi, I wondered what the changes in their form tell us.

Some changes are technological. The syllabus of today can be very long. One syllabus of a course taught in my department runs 5500 words, and I have heard of instructors giving syllabus quizzes as incentive to students to read them carefully all the way through. Auden’s was a single page. The tools mostly likely used for producing this kind of document in the ’40s were a typewriter and a mimeograph. Photocopiers would not appear in academic offices before the later 1960s, and computer word processors would not be standard before the 1980s. College instructors often gave syllabi, exams, and other documents needing to be printed to a secretary to type and run off, which would have required more planning ahead than we need today. We might be more likely to make and run off longer documents when it is so much easier to create, duplicate, and distribute them. Technology affords this, but I wonder if we necessarily benefit from the syllabus bloat that is in part a product of our ease of making and publishing documents.

Another change in the syllabus is toward a more legalistic format setting out policies and rewards and punishments that follow from adhering or failing to adhere to them. Auden’s syllabus takes the form of a list, which is consistent with the term’s etymology as a word meaning “table of contents.” Syllabus used to refer not just to documents listing course readings, but more generally to plans of study, in some ways overlapping with the term curriculum. But now a syllabus is considered a kind of contract, and this way of thinking has been promoted in education advice at least since the 1990s. The standard syllabus today contains far more legalistic content than it does bibliographic. It breaks down the course grade and specifies expectations for attendance and penalties for absence and late submissions. It tells you to check your email and to turn off your phone. My university expects a syllabus to state policies for such things as students missing class for a religious observance, receiving accommodation for a disability, and being suspected of academic misconduct. My employer also expects a syllabus to state learning goals, and depending on the class and the requirements it satisfies, these might need to to adhere to specific formulae. The syllabus today is a terms of service agreement, and it should not surprise us if our students skip over many of these boilerplate terms. Do you usually read a ToS or do you just click “agree”?

Some of the legalistic content of today’s syllabus is foisted upon us by university admins, to be sure. I don’t like listing objectives and goals. Can’t the purpose of any course in the humanities and social sciences be assumed to be as obvious as: read the books and articles on the syllabus and try to understand them? But some of this policy-heavy format also is a product of our everyday experiences in the contemporary culture of higher ed. The consumerist character of the university today demands a clear quid pro quo. Students and their families are assuming substantial debt to pay for their degrees, which are seen as essential credentials for the good life. In exchange for their compliance with our expectations, they receive credits toward their degrees.But as instructors, we fashion the syllabus not just to be a clear and binding formula for earning credits. We also use the syllabus to produce our fantasy image of an ideal student, and to hold this up as a standard next to the vast majority of undergrads who fail to live up to all of our expectations in their pursuit of a degree, if not an education. (Maybe Auden was also projecting his ideal student: one with the time and intellectual curiosity to read as much as him.) It sometimes seems that the point of writing a policy into the syllabus is to wave it in the face of the student who fails to follow the ToS. This makes our work petty and bureaucratic as much as enlightening and pedagogical.

So perhaps the biggest fantasy of the Auden (and DFW, Obama, Barry) syllabi isn’t the idea of learning at the feet of the great man or woman. It’s the idea of education unencumbered by the contractual logic of the consumerist college campus. It’s about school being an opportunity to explore exciting ideas rather than merely showing up at the proper place and time, following all of the instructor’s detailed directions, and resisting the urge to text in class.


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A Remediation Meditation: The Aca-Media Podcast Wed, 13 Feb 2013 14:00:03 +0000 It’s the kind of delicious irony that we broadcast historians relish:  in order to move boldly into the future and expand on the cutting edge of communications technology, Cinema Journal has started a radio show.

Aca-Media (officially:  “Cinema Journal Presents Aca-Media”) is a new monthly podcast covering current media studies scholarship, issues in the media industries, questions in pedagogy and professional development, and events in the world of media studies. Believe it or not, nothing quite like that existed yet.  The terrific (and soon to be late great) Critical Lede podcast had become an invaluable way to keep up on communication scholarship, but its strong focus on rhetoric made it always slightly tangential to the concerns of film and media scholars.  Industry-themed podcasts like The Business and Tech News Today are good for news and exploration of current issues, but don’t have the specific academic perspective that Aca-Media seeks to offer; ditto the “media critics” type podcasts like my new favorite, NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour.  Finally, one wants to like Toby Miller’s Cultural Studies podcast, but his (admirable) commitment to a transgressive aesthetics usually makes the show, for me at least, unlistenable.

That left a hole in the podcast universe—if I’ve missed a good one, please let me know in the comments—at the same time that CJ’s new editor, Will Brooker, took over with the goal not necessarily of exploding the traditional limitations of print-based scholarly publishing but certainly of finding new ways to overcome them.  The best word here is remediation, in both senses: correcting a deficiency and transporting content across media.

Cinema Journal will continue in its venerated form, but Brooker’s aim is to have it anchor an array of non-print outlets for media-related scholarly discussion:  online extensions of the journal, of course, but also blogs including this one, hybrid blog/magazine platforms like Flow, experiments in publishing like In Media Res, and now the Aca-Media podcast.  The formality and officialness of such relationships will vary from case to case, but the goal is a relatively coherent network of academically minded media studies scholarship: a “CJ-verse,” as Brooker puts it in our first episode.

What is remarkable to me is how many of the elements of a media studies aca-sphere are already in place and working well—if you peer through the technological superstrate, you find a vibrant network of media scholars who are doing qualitative, critical, and culturally minded film and media studies, and who are already well connected to each other through a range of listservs, Twitter, conferences like SCMS, Facebook pages like “Teaching Media,” etc.  It is tremendously exciting to see the energy and the dynamism of this space, and if there is perhaps a danger in such a community becoming too insular, the advantage is a lively conversation that is able to remain legible even as it multiplies and proliferates and remediates.

Aca-Media’s role in this conversation, as it is emerging in these early days, is to speak to the needs of film and media scholars across their professional lives:  keeping up with scholarship and currents in the media industries, exploring issues in pedagogy and professional development, and providing an outlet for discussion of events affecting the community (for example our coverage of the tribute to the late Alexander Doty in our first episode).  The producers (Christine Becker, Michael Kackman, Todd Thompson, and me) are striving towards professionalism (relative amateurs though we may be at this point—I’ve already had to republish episode 1 on the iTunes feed due to a rookie mistake), but we also want the podcast to be inclusive and community-oriented with correspondents, vox populi segments, and guest hosts.  (In fact, click here to find out how you can participate as early as episode 2.)

We also aim to augment Cinema Journal with those qualities that radio is especially good at providing: the immediacy of the human voice, the personality of spoken conversation, the “intimate publicness” of individualized address to a community of scholars that, we hope, will embrace this venture.


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Phishing in Open Access Waters Thu, 31 Jan 2013 14:00:52 +0000 1. “As an American academic publishing group, we wish to become your friends”

Today, I received one email which claimed that the university administrator had suspended my email and that I needed to click on a dodgy looking link to reset my account, and another email which invited me to publish in Journalism and Mass Communication. I quote:

This is Journalism and Mass Communication (ISSN 2160-6579), an academic journal published across the United States by David Publishing Company, 9460 Telstar Ave Suite 5, EL Monte, CA 91731, USA.

We have learnt your paper “Conjuring Aura in the Age of Digital Reproduction: The Discursive Work of DVD Bonus Materials” in Society For Cinema and Media conference 2010 .

We are very interested in your paper and would like to publish your paper in Journalism and Mass Communication. If you have the idea of making our journal a vehicle for your research interests, please send electronic version of your papers or books (MS Word Format and APA Style) to us via email. Attachment is the sample of the journal. More detailed information, please visit at

Hope that we can keep in touch by email and publish some papers or books for you and your friends. As an American academic publishing group, we wish to become your friends. If you are interested in our journal, we also want to invite you to be our reviewers or editorial board members.

Both, of course, are phishing. The grammar in the first email was even better than in the one supposedly from a comm scholar. I followed the link, and it looks to be a journal, to be clear, but many of the titles have bad grammar, its board members include grad students, and the abstracts mostly fall into the category of papers I’d reject on contact.

Welcome to the world of predatory open access.

To be clear, I have no beef with open access (OA) in and of itself. Many smart people have put a lot of careful thought into how to make OA work ethically, and how it could beat our current system (see here for a great resource). But a lot of unscrupulous people have also put careful thought into how to exploit OA and the sentiment and concerns that led to it. As the wave of OA and the rhetoric of it being the ultimate Good Thing in publishing – a wonderful new monetary structure that will save academia, finally allow non-academics to read my much-anticipated latest paper on paratexts, and bring balance to the Force – rises, it’s worth stopping to think about the dangers in these waters. (Others have done this better than I — see the links above — but not in Antenna).


2. “the authors should pay some fee to us”

As I play the role of Roy Scheider in Jaws, let me offer a few thoughts along these lines, most of which are directed at predatory OA (POA?), but that apply to OA in general:

First, let’s be clear that journals needn’t cost much money. Editors don’t get paid much. Nobody who writes for journals gets paid to do so. Nobody who reviews for them gets paid. And if the journal is online-only, its only real costs are servers, and perhaps proofing and typesetting. So any model that requires big dollars coming from anyone is one of which we should be intensely suspicious, and one away from which we should be moving. We may not like to see universities charged crazy sums, but nor should we accept any model that simply shifts those crazy sums to others: if a corner store charged $1000 for a stick of gum, the problem wouldn’t be solved simply by finding someone else to pay the $1000. “Green” OA journals such as International Journal of Communication are much closer to the answer: largely clean-running journals that pay little but cost little.

Any monetary structure that charges article writers worries me. A lot. Maybe I don’t deserve to be paid for my work, but it strikes me as absolutely illogical that I should be the one needing to pay. It’s deficit financing in a world without reruns, a model that would rightfully be scoffed at by any other content industry (we may not like to think of ourselves as a content industry, but that just makes us even more naïve marks for the likes of David Publishing Company and its friends). Hopefully I could get UW to defray those costs. But (a) why should they? and (b) how about academics who don’t have grants or research funds to pay these (aka those in the humanities)? And when many of those who most need to publish are getting paid a pittance, if at all, charging them is simply wrong (the submission fee at many places is approximately a month’s salary for some lecturers or adjuncts, and more for grad students, who you can bet aren’t being paid by their unis to publish).

It’s also worth slowing down to analyze whether OA journals even are “open” to all. I would love for my work to be more accessible to anyone. But building an open access structure and imagining that this is enough, that the readers will come, is naïve. Kevin Costner was wrong. Take Antenna as an example: we’re free, we’re available to all, and we’re even written more accessibly than most journal articles, but most of the readership still comes from academia. We’d need to put a lot more work into making this truly bridge an academic-lay divide. (But we’re all busy, and that’s why we don’t, alas). So too with many OA journals – when I hear the excited rhetoric about making everything accessible, I worry that too many people are patting themselves on the back for building baseball diamonds in Iowa, but when many publishers are profiting immensely from selling us the sod to build these diamonds, we should be sure they’re for more than just ghosts.

Finally, if somewhat an aside, it’s worth nothing that in media studies, much of our work is already accessible. Much of the best work in our field is in books. There are some wonderful edited collections out there, filled with material that is every bit as rigorous, every bit as cutting-edge, as that which you find in journals. So in our field, as part of the OA movement, I’d like to see a concerted push to respect edited collections and chapters in them, and then see those books as the vanguard of open access. Make sure Personnel and Tenure committees hear this. Make sure hiring committees hear it.

To reiterate, I’m not opposed to OA, but if emails like the one above are a sign of the open access waters ahead, clearly we need continual scanning of these waters before swimming in them.


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Report from the Atlanta Media Industries Forum Thu, 13 Dec 2012 17:32:22 +0000 Two weeks ago, I attended a forum at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta. The event’s activities focused on sharing ideas about the growth of Atlanta as a site of major media production and about the GSU Department of Communication’s development of a new working group dedicated to fostering partnerships with the area’s media industries for research and pedagogy. I came away with a rich awareness of the opportunities and challenges that both Atlanta and GSU have before them.

The showcase event of the forum was an afternoon panel session entitled “From Butler to Boo Boo: Atlanta’s Evolving Role as Media Capital.” There were three academic guests: Jennifer Holt, director of the UC-Santa Barbara’s Media Industries Project, which GSU’s working group is consulting for guidance; Thomas Schatz, who has similarly developed ties with regional media industries in his University of Texas at Austin home base; and Horace Newcomb, who has observed the recent changes in Georgia’s media ecosystem while at the University of Georgia in Athens. There were also three local industry guests: Alpha Tyler, a casting director formerly with Tyler Perry and now at BET; Paul Jenkins, a premier comics and video game creator and budding film producer; and Phil Oppenheim, senior vice president of programming and scheduling for TNT and TBS.

Through the dynamic conversations that followed, I learned that Atlanta is indeed a burgeoning production center, but it has yet to approach media capital status. Georgia’s aggressive courting of film and television companies via tax incentives has certainly resulted in production volume, as over thirty television shows and countless feature films are shot in Atlanta and nearby regions. But the area lags far behind New York and Los Angeles in terms of development, financing, and post-production infrastructures. As I understand it, above-the-line talent swoops into Atlanta to shoot, uses local labor in below-the-line capacities, then gets on a Delta plane back to the coasts. Tyler noted that lead performers are usually brought in from LA, and even when local talent is used, producers want Atlantans who look like they could be Angelenos. Jenkins said that he aspires to produce a major feature film from development to completion in Atlanta, but the foundation for that just isn’t in place yet. And Oppenheim observed that Turner likely has more ties to LA and New York than to its headquartered home.

Given the GSU working group’s concerns, a larger question then emerged: Would a GSU Communication professor recommend that graduating students stay in Atlanta to launch film and television careers, or is it still imperative for them to head to New York or LA? Given the information above, the answer was clearly the latter. But rather than a discouraging sign, some see this as an area for inspiration. Horace Newcomb proposed that Georgia State has the opportunity to start something that would be akin to UCLA creating a film research institute in the early 20th century or NYU launching a working group as its host city cranked up television production in the late 1940s. With such an opportunity to observe, or even intervene in, how a new media capital takes shape, Jennifer Holt suggested that GSU has one advantage over UCSB, which is the university’s direct proximity to its local media industry.

However, UCSB’s Media Industries Project has been quite successful at developing a research relationship with the production industry ninety miles south, particularly via their Connected Viewing Initative with Warner Bros., and it remains to be seen what GSU could foster. The working group has to offer a partnership that the local industries would find valuable. For instance, one initiative already underway is a mapping project that would provide an interactive database of information about area film and TV productions to unite dispersed production entities more efficiently. Further, the racial diversity of GSU’s student population deserves note. Rather than striving for “Third Coast” status, perhaps Atlanta could become the primary home for African-American dominated entertainment production, building into film and television what the music industry has already started.

Above all, Georgia State University wants to ensure it isn’t producing students as low-paid labor to feed the maw of Atlanta’s existing below-the-line ecosystem, while Atlanta-based creatives themselves want more opportunities for extended work at home. If both groups can work together toward their respective goals, perhaps ATL will soon be synonymous not just with its city’s name, but also with above-the-line production, as well as an academic template for localism.



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