SCMS – Antenna Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 First Forum Conference, USC School of Cinematic Arts Wed, 11 Nov 2015 17:29:42 +0000 by guest contributors Eleanor Huntington, Kelsey Moore, and Robert Sevenich


(photos by Sebnem Baran and Jinhee Park)

On Friday, October 16th and Saturday, October 17th, USC School of Cinematic Arts hosted the First Forum academic conference. This two-day event, “On the Fringe: Understanding Alternative and Subversive Media,” was executed by the ZdC Graduate Council through the Bryan Singer Division of Cinema and Media Studies, the co-sponsorship of the USC Graduate Student Government and the African American Cinema Society. First Forum assembled an international collective of industry professionals including filmmakers and actors, Academy archivists—as well as scholars—professors and graduates students—across an array of academic disciplines. The weekend events included five academic panels, a USC faculty roundtable discussion, keynote address, the exclusive screening of The Assassin (2015) with the presentation of the prestigious Sergei Eisenstein Award to its director Hou Hsiao-hsien, and “The Legacy of Blaxploitation” event. While coming from multi-generations and diverse backgrounds, research experience, and professional objectives, the conferences participants—comprised of panelists, respondents, guest and keynote speakers—were all committed to exploring filmmakers and media researchers focused on non-traditional works as well as marginalized modes of production, consumption, and reception for underrepresented spectators.

Much of the conference focused on the graduate student panels. Though the majority of presenters attend prominent Californian institutions including USC, University of California, San Diego, California State University, Northridge, and University of California, Santa Barbara, there were also participants from Northern Illinois University, University of Toronto, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. The panelists approached “fringe media” by defining and locating the fringe in particular generic, geographic, or historic contexts. The scholars identified fringe media in such disparate examples as public access television, ultrasounds, and K-pop fan activism and showcased works from widely diverse locations, including India, Kenya, East Timor, and Cuba. The five panels, featuring three to four presenters, established urban spaces, technology, cult cinema, national cinema, and pornography as the foci, which presented a broad knowledge range for conference attendees with little background in fringe media.

FirstForum6(Faculty roundtable — moderator Lorien Hunter, Akira Lippit, Michael Renov, Priya Jaikumar, and Marsha Kinder)

Following the completion of the student panels, the faculty members of the Bryan Singer Division of Cinema and Media Studies took center stage at an incredibly well-attended and well-received roundtable discussion on the role of academics in addressing marginalized fields of study. Drs. Priya Jaikumar, Akira M. Lippit, and Michael Renov, in addition to Professor Emerita Marsha Kinder, connected their own experiences researching and writing to issues facing the current generation of aspiring academics. This roundtable provided an opportunity to highlight the diversity of research at USC among its most noted scholars while it also allowed graduate students the chance to witness preeminent scholars debating the contentious issues involved in researching marginalized media topics.

In conjunction with these enriching panels, First Forum hosted and co-sponsored special presentation and events. Afternoon events included “Coming Soon! A History of Movie Theater Advertisements in the U.S.” presented by Academy film archivists Alejandra Espasande and Kelly Kreft. This visually enhanced presentation successfully tracked the historical trajectory of film advertisement from its beginnings grounded in vaudeville—and other forms of mass entertainment—to the conception and modernization of the film trailer. Espansande and Kreft concluded their work with an in-depth glance at the archival process itself and emphasized the importance of the archival field and its place within film scholarship.

FirstForum2(Academy Film Archive Presentation)

Their presentation was followed by a sneak preview of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assasin (2015), which was co-sponsored by USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Outside the Box [Office], East Asians Studies Center (EASC), USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative, and First Forum. Following the screening, USC professor Dr. David James presented Hou Hsiao-hsien with the School of Cinematic Arts’ Eisenstein Award, which has been presented only three times before. It is awarded to “world filmmakers for distinguished and visionary contributions to the cinematic arts,” and its past recipients include Agnès Varda, Costa-Gavras, and Pedro Almodóvar. Dr. Akira Lippit, Vice Dean of the School of Cinematic Arts, moderated a Q&A with the esteemed director, and their conversation primarily focused on Hou Hsiao-hsien’s unique style and the significance of the image.

The evening special event, “The Legacy of Blaxploitation,” was co-sponsored by USC’s African-American Cinema Society and First Forum. This discussion, moderated by Dr. Christine Acham, featured revered panelists Melvin Van Peebles, Antonio Fargas, Scott Sanders, and Michael Jai White. The panelists discussed on various elements of the 1970s Blaxploitation films, including the enduring influence of Peeble’s legendary first film, Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song (1970), and its effect on contemporary films such as Sander and White’s Black Dynamite (2009). Alongside accounts of individual films, they discussed the influence of Blaxploitation as a filmic movement. Panelists reflected on the economic influence of Blaxploitation films within the 1970s mainstream Hollywood market, and recognized their importance in introducing the black male anti-hero to the screen. This event—as well as First Forum’s additional special presentations—expanded the conference’s overall examination of “fringe media,” as it allowed for spaces of discourse concerning marginality that exist outside the traditional scope of academia.

FirstForum5(Christine Acham chats with guests discussing Blaxploitation)

Before the weekend was officially capped off with a celebratory party at Hotel Figureoa in downtown Los Angeles, Dr. Fatimah Tobing Rony provided insight into her current research that builds on her revolutionary publication The Third Eye: Race, Cinema, and Ethnographic Spectacle in her keynote address to the conference. Following two days of student panels and outside events that sought to focus attention on media that is too frequently marginalized, her speech, entitled, “After the Third Eye: Theory and Practice,” cemented the importance of all the scholarship presented in moving towards a more inclusive academic and mediated landscape. All the presentations on fringe media during the First Forum conference spoke the evolving industrial practices, accessibility concerns, niche spectatorship and pleasure, and ideologies of the academy. Ultimately, the presented research and impassioned—even polemic—discourse surrounding marginalized media emphasized the increasing need to interrogate underrepresented entertainment production, distribution, and consumption.

Eleanor Huntington, Kelsey Moore, and Robert Sevenich are second year Masters students in the Bryan Singer Division of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Southern California.

This post is part of an ongoing partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Antenna: Responses to Media & Culture and the Society for Cinema & Media Studies’ Cinema Journal.


The Importance of Being SIG’d: Scholarly Interest Groups and Their Role at SCMS Thu, 02 Apr 2015 14:08:15 +0000 scms1Let’s be frank. The Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ annual conference is massive. This year’s annual conference in Montreal hosted 1,952 registered participants and 485 scheduled sessions. Over a span of five days, this breaks down to roughly 24 sessions every two hours with 15 minute breaks in between, at which time we dash to the restroom and grab a cup of coffee before we head to our next stop.

The magnitude of our annual meeting resembles a force of nature. Every March, as the tide of SCMS rises, we scurry to finish our papers and pack our bags. We arrive to the airport in droves and board buses to the conference hotel, mounting a peaceful but impressive take-over of the conference city. This year, one customs official looked over my shoulder at the line behind me with some wonderment, asking, “How many of there are you?” My favorite tweet of the conference came from Daniel Grinberg, who posted this exchange at the airport: “Customs guard: How much money are you carrying on you? Me: $10 to $15? Customs guard: Oh, are you here for the film conference?”

FairmontAt the conference hotel, we squeeze into elevators, dash from panel to panel, converse in hallways, and, later, drain the liquor supply, a sea of name badges dotting the hotel bar in bursts of red and black. Anticipating our whirlwind conference schedule, we plan dinners and drinks with publishers, colleagues, and fellow panelists weeks in advance, and still somehow miss seeing some of our friends, hence texts sent like, “Hope you’re having a good SCMS. I’m here, too. Miss you.” Finally, we return home, exhausted but exhilarated, already contemplating what panel we may propose for next year’s conference.

Ultimately, SCMS’s large conference size marks an advantage for all its members, offering a diverse and stimulating meeting and increasing our odds of getting papers accepted, a factor we all deeply appreciate. The spring gathering provides a central, one-time-a-year gathering point for film and media scholars in all of our various interests, which allows us to more accurately trace shifts in our fields, as well as to engage in truly interdisciplinary scholarship.

Yet, for those conference attendees who seek a stronger network in their field or who feel lost in the crowd, allow me to pass along some good advice that I took this year: join a Scholarly Interest Group. While this is especially important for those film and media scholars who are still in the process of making professional connections, such as graduate students and junior faculty, it holds true for any SCMS members who wish to make meaningful, professional contacts.

scms_blogThere are now 27 Scholarly Interest Groups in SCMS, ranging from Animated Media to Radio Studies to Scandinavian Studies.

These groups provide a meeting point and a forum to share ideas for scholars who share particular interests in sub-fields within film and media studies. However, SIGs can also provide the much-needed service of reducing the enormous scope of SCMS to a manageable and productive size. Thus, SIGs function like a home base, a site where fellowship, mentorship, and scholarship can ignite and flourish under the umbrella of a shared concern/passion.

This year, I joined the War and Media Studies SIG, a newly-formed organization devoted to studying war and militarism in film, television, radio, and an array of new media formats. Exploring the history and culture of warfare, the War and Media Studies group will be highly interdisciplinary, intersecting such varied fields as rhetoric, history, political science, sociology, trauma studies, gender/race/sexuality studies, surveillance studies, cultural studies and peace studies. At the inaugural meeting, the range of scholars (grad students to full profs) and approaches to studying war and its representations impressed all of us. This was also reflected in the conference program, which listed several sessions that spoke to the theme of war and militarism in some form or fashion. I found the “Teaching 9/11” workshop, for example, to be especially thought-provoking and relevant, not only in terms of how we can address the subject of 9/11, and war in general, in our classrooms, but also how we can face the challenges of teaching in post-secondary institutions that are increasingly under threat of severe cutbacks and censorship. In other words, SIGs and their related sessions—especially workshops—bridge scholarship and pedagogy and provide a forum for larger professional concerns to be discussed openly.

The War and Media Studies SIG, of course, is only one of many. The list of SIGs grows each year. Scholarly Interest Groups are poised to provide support, fellowship, and mentoring for their members. When they do, SIGs help balance the scale of SCMS, making it navigable, while also allowing us to mine the riches of the vast conference.


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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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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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#SCMS14: Klout & The ‘Influence’ Economy Fri, 28 Mar 2014 13:32:15 +0000 Klout (1)Last week I attended my first SCMS Conference and had a wonderful time meeting fellow scholars and witnessing the future of our discipline. While I had several conversations with people in panels, lobbies, and various establishments across Seattle, I quickly realized there was a second conversation occurring on the Twitter backchannel centered around #SCMS14. A standard feature of many academic conferences, the official conference hashtag provides a secondary site for scholarly engagement and discussion as well as another method for networking, only this time through digital media. My recent research interests have begun to focus on the ways people present and promote themselves on social media like Twitter, and #SCMS14 provides a unique vantage for the increasing role our social media identities play in our professional lives. The idea of not just having a social media presence but an influential one as being crucial to one’s career is still a young concept, but one worth further exploration.

For proof of the perceived importance of such a concept as digital social influence, one need look no further than Klout. The website/app uses analytics drawn from a user’s various social media profiles (like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) to award the user a “Klout Score,” a numerical value between 1-100 that supposedly ranks one’s online social ‘influence.’ The Klout Score is based on multiple variables that can be summarized into three categories: True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network. True Reach relates to the number of people your posts are reaching and how ‘engaged’ that audience is with your posts. Amplification is based on the type of engagement: how likely a post will be “Liked,” reposted, or replied to. Finally, the Network score looks at how influential your engaged audience is and boosts or lowers your score depending. In other words, you have to have influential friends if you want to be influential yourself!

Such metrics sound important to any business or company operating a social media account, and make no doubt that Klout offers business-appropriate analytic tools as well. But the concept of quantifying something as ephemeral and personal as ‘influence’ seems like more of digital media’s ‘softwarization’ of our everyday lives. Klout can be seen as yet another example of what David Berry refers to as lifestreaming, the growing use of self-monitoring technologies leading to a more “quantified self.” By quantifying something as fleeting (yet important) as online influence, several real-world behaviors are at stake.

xkcdKloutIf you’ve read this far and are wondering, “Who the hell would want or care about a Klout Score,” you aren’t the only one. Articles and online comics have already begun questioning the idea of a quantifiable metric for social influence and what purpose it serves other than to somehow feed a narcissistic ego. But the allure of big data might sway some companies, as being able to prove social influence could be seen as a big help in getting a job in any blogging, marketing, or online publishing field. And none of this yet looks at Klout’s own business model, which sees businesses like McDonald’s, Sony, Red Bull, Revlon, Chevy, and more offering Perks to users with high enough Klout scores in relevant social categories. The attainment of Perks doesn’t require the earner to promote the product, but the hope is that such corporate goodwill influences the user to spread the good word of the folks at (Insert Company Here).

In other words, now everyone can become a celebrity! Just as stars are given free clothes, cars, and more simply because they are frequently seen, now everyone can get that treatment if they have enough (‘important’) people following them and engaging with them on a frequent basis. By attempting to establish an ‘influence’ economy, Klout begins to blur the line between celebrity and the everyday, where celebrity isn’t a separated social class but a process one can work towards. Being ‘Internet Famous’ is no longer seen as a lower status to ‘real-life’ fame. The two are blurring together, making it less likely to be one without the other.

This all brings us back to all us academics following and contributing to #SCMS14. I returned home from Seattle expecting my engagement during the conference would drastically boost my Klout Score from my middling 50 (I swear it’s for research!), but alas, I was denied. Now I’m not blaming all of you folks for not being influential enough to make my engagements with you count for more. What I am proposing is that we spend more time reflecting on the purpose behind and impact of our online social engagements. We might not be interested in becoming ‘Internet Famous’ or growing our Klout Score to earn some great Perks from Samsung, but we ought to be concerned about how our actions are being perceived and the type of personas we are crafting. Relatedly, we also need to be mindful and cautious of quantifying ourselves when the prospect is becoming so easy. If there is anywhere we should be thinking qualitatively, it is in our social interactions. My fear is the more we spend time putting ourselves onto digital platforms, the more we seem interested in putting digital platforms onto ourselves.

Note: Talk about timing! The day this post was saved to go live, Klout was purchased by Lithium for $200 million. Make of this what you will, but this only adds support to the idea of quantifiable online influence.


Anne Friedberg, Innovative Scholarship, and Close Up (1927-1933) Fri, 24 Jan 2014 16:45:29 +0000


I feel deeply grateful and honored that Lantern, the search and visualization platform for the Media History Digital Library that I designed and produced, will receive the Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award at the 2014 Society for Cinema & Media Studies Conference (SCMS) in Seattle.

All awards are nice, but this one means a lot to me personally. It means a lot because Lantern was the result of two years of hard work with an amazing team of collaborators, including David Pierce, Carl Hagenmaier, Wendy Hagenmaier, Andy Myers, Joseph Pomp, Derek Long, Anthony Tran, Kit Hughes, and Pete Sengstock. We put up the site with the hope that others would find it valuable. The SCMS Awards Committee has given us something incredibly valuable in return — validation from the field and a stamp of “post peer review.”

As a pre-tenure University professor, the distinction of this award is especially meaningful. The Friedberg Award has gone to a book every year since its inception in 2011. By granting the award to Lantern, SCMS is telling my tenure committee that it needs to seriously consider the scholarly contribution of my digital work. Beyond simply helping my own career, I think the award holds the potential of advancing the field of Film & Media Studies as a whole. I hope it inspires graduate students and other scholars to undertake ambitious digital projects.

More than any other reason, though, this recognition means a lot because of Anne Friedberg.

I was fortunate to have known Anne Friedberg, though it was for far too brief of a time. When I began my PhD studies at the University of Southern California (USC), Friedberg was the Chair of the Division of Critical Studies in the USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. The phrase “visionary leader” should not be tossed around lightly, but it perfectly described Anne. She had a dynamic energy that inspired everyone in the department, including me. She had a clear vision for where she wanted the department and entire field to go — toward an inclusive yet rigorous study of media and the moving image across different forms, cultures, and historical periods. Yet like most great leaders, she was also a great listener. She took the concerns of graduate students and faculty members seriously when it came time to make decisions and set an agenda. Her illness and death from cancer in 2009 was a devastating loss for the department and SCMS (an organization she was preparing to lead as the President Elect).

Intertwined with Anne Friedberg the visionary leader, there was Anne Friedberg the intellectual, scholar, and writer. Anne’s curiosity was boundless. She is best remembered for two books, Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern (1993) and The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft (2006), and her contributions to the study of film theory, film and modernity, and visual culture. But she could speak intelligently about anything with a connection to media. I came to USC’s PhD program after a three year stint of working in the Los Angeles film industry. It was a delight, therefore, to discover that that my department’s chair — a woman with a reputation as being a “theory person” — had a deep knowledge of the contemporary entertainment industry. We talked in depth about the WGA strike and challenges involving compensation and the definition of what constitutes “new media.” Anne’s knowledge of the contemporary industry came in large part from her partner, who was a professional screenwriter, but her analysis of the industry was entirely her own. She was capable of seeing the big picture, dissecting it, and finding the connections between “theory” and “industry” that the rest of us had missed.

Anne Friedberg was also a believer in a digital scholarship. She collaborated with Erik Loyer on developing The Virtual Window Interactive, a web-based experience that extends the argument of her book, The Virtual Window, by playfully inviting users to juxtapose content, viewing windows, and spectator positions (I’m especially fond of viewing the 1902 film The Gay Show Clerk on the flip phone as the idealized contemporary male viewer). The Virtual Window Interactive was published in Vectors, the innovative and important multimedia journal edited by two of Friedebrg’s USC colleagues, Tara McPherson and Steve Anderson. Without the examples of Friedberg’s, McPherson’s, and Anderson’s digital scholarship, I don’t think I would have ever thrown myself into working on Lantern and the Media History Digital Library in the way that I did.

Close Up (1927-1933): Cinema and ModernityI hope that Anne Friedberg would have liked Lantern’s interface. However, I know for a fact that she would have liked many of the digitized publications. Anne understood that magazines about media were simultaneously important historical documents and media objects themselves. In the late-1990s, Friedberg co-edited the anthology Close Up (1927-1933): Cinema & Modernism, which curated selections from the important film magazine Close Up with accompanying introductions and analyses by Friedberg and co-editors James Donald and Laura Marcus.

It is my great pleasure to announce that, as of today, the complete 1927-1933 run of Close Up is accessible at the MHDL and completely searchable within Lantern. You can find it on the MHDL’s homepage and Global Cinema Collection. The magazine was scanned and sponsored by the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation.

Close Up was a hybrid publication in many ways — an English-language periodical, which was published in Switzerland, bridging the art, literary, and film worlds. Edited by Bryher and her husband Kenneth Macpherson, Close Up became the magazine for energetic debates about the nature of cinema and manifestos imagining new forms of filmmaking and spectatorship. The magazine published articles by filmmakers, such as Sergei Eisenstein, and female modernist writers, such as H.D. and Gertrude Stein. As Friedberg explains, “Close Up became the model for a certain type of writing about film — writing that was theoretically astute, politically incisive, critical of films that were simply ‘entertainment.’ For six and a half years, Close Up maintained a forum for a broad variety of ideas about the cinema; it never advocated a single direction of development, but rather posed alternatives to existing modes of production, consumption, and film style.” Like Friedberg’s own books, Close Up continues to be essential reading for anyone interested in the history of film and media theory.

I strongly recommend paging through the digitized run of Close Up alongside a cup of coffee and Friedberg’s essays from the Close Up (1927-1933): Cinema & Modernism anthology. Friedberg offers a well researched historical account of the magazine’s publication. She calls our attention to Close Up’s small 5 1/2 inch by 7 3/4 inch size, the sort of material detail that it is all too easy to forget when reading Close Up’s articles in reprinted text form or online in the MHDL.

What I love most about Friedberg’s Close Up essays is that she doesn’t simply tell us about the magazine. Instead, she goes on to model how we might read Close Up and discover connections between a 1928 magazine and our contemporary media experience. One key aspect of Anne’s reading process is to seize onto some fascinating detail in the text. This detail becomes the first node in what will become an entire network, with edges or connections that bridge past and present and history and theory. In her essay “Reading Close Up,” for example, Friedberg calls our attention to the curious wording and typographical choices in the following advertisement:

Bound volumes of Close Up are collector’s books, and should be in the possession of all followers of the cinema. With much that is exclusive and unobtainable elsewhere, they will be undoubtedly of the greatest value as


as well for the present. The theory and analysis constitutes the most valuable cinematographic development that has yet been made.

That phrase written in all-caps — “REFERENCE BOOKS FOR THE FUTURE” — becomes the central node that Friedberg uses to build and illuminate the rest of the network. The phrase also captures Friedberg’s conviction that studying the history of media is vital if we hope to understand its present and future.

Since receiving the news about the SCMS award and revisiting Anne’s writing on Close Up, I have begun looking at all the magazines within Lantern differently. My attention has shifted away from highlighted text snippets and a linear reading of the articles. Instead, I’m finding myself fascinated and pulled toward classified ads, mastheads, and advertisement designs. I’m still reading the articles, but I am coming at them from new angles and with new questions.

I encourage others to try using Lantern and reading the magazines like Anne Friedberg too. The 2014 Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award-winner feels richer when you look at it like Anne Friedberg. Really, the whole world feels richer when you look at it like Anne Friedberg.

Anne, you are still leading us forward.


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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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Turning Twitter into Work: Digital Reporting at SCMS 2013 Thu, 14 Mar 2013 13:00:51 +0000 For the 2013 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference, Cinema Journal established an official conference twitter account. @CJatSCMS was created as a way to report on and generate conversation at the conference and fits nicely with the CJ editorial team’s goals of extending the “dialogue sphere” around the print journal. I had assumed that tweeting under an “official” title would be similar to tweeting under my own name. But I actually found the experience to be quite different, and therefore, instructive. Below I discuss a few things I learned:

Responsible Tweeting

Tweet #1

In the past my approach to conference tweeting has been a mix of straightforward reportage, meta-commentary, and non-conference related conversations with fellow conference participants. But when tweeting under the @CJatSCMS handle, I took more time and care in composing each tweet, waiting until I found an effective and accurate way to summarize a point in 140 characters before hitting the enter key and keeping editorializing to a minimum. In other words, the pseudo anonymity of the @CJatSCMS account made me less concerned with my personal Twitter brand (i.e., snark) and more concerned with the transmission of information. Which is, I suppose, how it should always be when recounting the scholarship of others. Likewise, in the weeks leading up to the conference, everyone involved with the @CJatSCMS account agreed on a loose set of Best Practices (including requesting permission before tweeting panel/workshop content). Asking permission seemed to ease presenters’ minds about the prospect of having their work reported to a broader audience.

Less Tweeting

Tweet # 2

When live tweeting a TV event like the Oscars I generally aim for speed, volume, and humor. If you don’t move fast, your voice gets lost in the furious river of tweets moving past your screen. In the past my conference tweeting followed a similar speed/volume model. However this time around I discovered that fewer tweets packed with more information (i.e., “thick tweets”) are ultimately more useful in the conference setting since most people reading the Twitter stream are searching the conference hashtag (#scms13) for information, not a play-by-play. Indeed, the very conditions of the shared account forced me to lower my own tweet volume. On Thursday afternoon, when all five @CJatSCMS “reporters” were tweeting at full capacity (thus exceeding Twitter’s 100 tweets per hour limit), we found ourselves locked out of the account (the dreaded “Twitter jail”). This meant that we all had to tweet more sparingly the next day, thinking even more carefully about what and when we would share information.

The Labor of Digital Reporting

Tweet #3

As Suzanne Scott notes in a recent blog post about experiencing SCMS remotely: “SCMS is a space to test our new ideas, and learn from old ones, and it makes sense to develop a corresponding digital space that evokes those same principles that we embrace for 5 days a year in perpetuity.” This year, more than any other, the digital space of the conference came to life for me. The official Twitter feed was a conduit for valuable scholarly exchanges, providing access to the conference to those not physically present, and then relaying their thoughts and questions back into the spaces of the conference. In many ways, I felt like I was part of an actual news team, with the attendant desire/responsibility to report on what was happening at each panel. Indeed, numerous panels and workshops at this year’s conference (including “Publishing on Digital Platforms” [B21], “Digital Humanities and Film and Media Studies” [J23], and “Gender, Networking, Social Media, and Collegiality” [E23], to name just a few) were examining these questions of academic labor: what do we count as labor in the world of digital and social media, what is the “value” of that labor, and how do we document it? To me, live tweeting the conference felt like labor in the same way that serving as secretary for a university committee feels like labor.

Tweet # 4

Ultimately, the experience of tweeting as a “CJ Reporter” has led me to reconsider the delicate work of tweeting about the scholarship of others, the necessity of establishing clear guidelines and best practices for conference tweeting, and the value of digital labor. I look forward to SCMS 2014, when hopefully even more groups — representing various academic journals, blogs, special interest groups, or even individual departments — will establish their own reporting teams. A proliferation of these group Twitter accounts at future conferences could encourage more rigorous online conversations about the scholarship being presented, generate twitter feeds that can tackle a more diverse range of panels and workshops, and, hopefully, further justify the value of the labor performed within the actual, and virtual, spaces of the conference (as well as our home institutions).


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Radio at SCMS 2013 Fri, 01 Mar 2013 15:00:53 +0000 SCMSNext week, Chicago will host a bumper crop of outstanding qualitative scholarship on radio. No fewer than 12 panels at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies annual conference will feature at least one paper centered on radio, up from nine in 2012. Additionally, Neil Verma will take home the “Best First Book” award for his outstanding book on radio drama, Theater of the Mind, and Johanna Zorn of the amazing Third Coast International Audio Festival will give a talk on Sunday morning to help launch the newly formed Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group (regarding which I proudly declare my conflict of interest). Clearly, radio studies have found a firm and presumably secure place within the organization, making SCMS the place for humanities-based qualitative approaches to studying radio. Not bad given that, as far as anyone seems to remember, the very first radio panel at SCMS was only in 1986. I’ll leave aside the question of whether 27 years is a long or short time to reach this place, and just say that it’s nice to be here.

Why is this important to non-radio scholars? For one, we’re on ur panels, expandin ur themez. While there are still a fair number of stand-alone radio panels this year, SCMS in Chicago will be characterized by a greater number of panels on which radio is included alongside other media, such as Veronica Zavala’s paper on Spanish-language radio on a panel about Latina/o identity, or Chie Niita’s radio-themed paper on a panel about Japanese cinema. It will be as healthy for film scholars to hear a radio perspective on their panel topic as it will be for radio scholars to be more fully included in some of the broader transmedia scholarly conversations going on at the conference.

Second, it is becoming increasingly clear that what non-radio scholars think of as radio is probably wrong. Maybe radio studies is getting a little imperialistic, but one can now reasonably claim to be studying radio not just when the attention is on terrestrial radio, but also satellite radio, Spotify, PRX, Third Coast, Soundcloud, large swaths of YouTube, and much, much more. As with other media scholars, the object of study is constantly shifting and represents, even more than it ever did, structures and practices extending far beyond a specific technology or technologies. The distinction between a radio scholar and a new media scholar is, at this point, mostly just a sloppy shorthand. Experiments like this one demonstrate the power of refusing such distinctions.

1015000145-lThis leads to the third reason this is important: the possibility that the days of broadcast history as a structuring other of “new media” are finally coming to an end. At the risk of further reifying the highly misleading “radio = history” trope that I just spent two paragraphs refuting, it is worth pointing out the ways in which a specialization in media history can be a tough gig these days. The number of jobs for broadcast historians this year, for example, is dwarfed by orders of magnitude by job calls for new media or digital technology scholars. This isn’t merely departments wanting to keep up with the latest trends but in some ways is constitutive of divisions within the field itself. As a friend pointed out, there is a risk of relying on the otherness of old media to help define the newness of new media, a kind of exaggeration of  how different the present is from the past. In that sense, jobs, publications, funding, and more can come to depend on artificial temporal distinctions that map all too neatly (and problematically) onto technological forms.

As radio studies expands and becomes normalized within media studies, this dynamic increasingly loses force—and as that happens, the field as a whole gets stronger. It is with some optimism, then, that we can say the solidity of radio studies at SCMS this year portends a healthy decline in scholarly digital exceptionalism in the coming years. In the spirit of promoting that outcome, I’ll close with a public service announcement—a quick recap of where you are sure to catch radio scholarship and conversations next week:

Wed., 3/6, 10:00 (A12): Veronica Zavala on Spanish-language radio in the U.S.
Wed., 3/6, 4:00 (D12): Sindhu Zagoren on the struggle for airspace in early radio
Thu., 3/7, 11:00 (F22): Panel on Norman Corwin and transmedia authorship (papers by Jacob Smith, Mary Ann Watson, Shawn VanCour, and Alexander Russo; Neil Verma chairing)
Fri., 3/8, 9:00 (J21): Panel on gender and broadcasting (papers by Jennifer Wang, Kathryn Fuller‐Seeley, Catherine Martin, and Joanne Morreale)
Fri., 3/8, 12:15 (K14): Panel on the radio archive (papers by Katherine McLeod, Melissa Dinsman, and Ian Whittington; Debra Rae Cohen responding)
Fri., 3/8, 2:15 (L11): Chie Niita on Japanese cinema and radio
Fri., 3/8, 4:15: Neil Verma’s “Best First Book“ award
Sat., 3/9, 9:00 (M23): Panel on radio industries with Eleanor Patterson, Brian Fauteux, Jason Loviglio, Jeremy Morris, Elena Razlogova, and Alexander Russo
Sat., 3/9, 11:00 (N4): Panel on radio in transition (papers by Kyle Barnett, Cynthia Meyers, and Andrew Bottomley; Kathy Fuller‐Seeley responding)
Sat., 3/9, 1:00 (O14): Bill Kirkpatrick on disability and radio
Sat., 3/9, 3:00 (P18): Panel on economies in media industries (papers by Josh Shepperd, Colin Burnett, James Lastra, and Douglas Gomery; Brett Gary chairing)
Sat., 3/9, 5:00 (Q9): Isabel Huacuja Alonso on All-India Radio
Sat., 3/9, 5:00 (Q11): Kyoko Omori on radio satire in occupied Japan
Sun. 3/10, 9:00: Radio Studies SIG meeting (featuring Johanna Zorn of The Third Coast International Audio Festival)


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