tishaturk: (keyboard)
I will respond to comments on yesterday's post later tonight, but: I just had a talk about vids and vidshows with Karen Tanaka, one of the office staff from IAS (the program where I'm on fellowship this semester). She was at the talk I gave last week and is now excited about vids (she's one of the people who wants to see Pacific Rim after seeing "King and Lionheart"), and she had an idea: Why not have an all-night vid show at Northern Spark?

Northern Spark is the Twin Cities' annual dusk-to-dawn arts festival held on the second Saturday of June each summer. It features thousands of people hanging out in various venues around town to see art, theater, film, dance, music, and new media produced by hundreds of artists.

The recently restored Northrop Memorial Auditorium, where IAS is based, has a small theater that, as Karen pointed out, would be perfect for a series of vidshows.

There's a lot to think about before I commit to trying to put this together, but I have to say that I have kind of fallen in love with the idea. I picture a series of 50-minute themed vidshows, like VividCon. (In fact, I'm wondering whether it might make sense to ask the VJs of some of my favorite recent VVC vidshows to let me use the shows they put together, crediting the VJs as well as the vidders, obviously, and checking with vidders for permission.)

It's too late to make it happen for this year--I don't have time to get the money for the space, for starters--but I may have to start applying for grants for next year. The necessary equipment's all in the theater, so the only expense would be the space itself.

I'm trying to think of the various populations it would make sense to reach out to: local media and SFF fans, obviously, but also students, especially film and art students, the film festival crowd... I need to keep thinking about this. And I need to think about how I, personally, feel about asking vidders to screen their work at such a public and not-specifically-fannish event. But when I think about how the reaction of everyone at last week's presentation was so positive and so "OMG this is really amazing art!", about last year's exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image, about how much fun it would be to do this... I get excited. :D

Thoughts? Ideas? Cautions? Qualms?
tishaturk: (pen)
As mentioned in my last post, I've spent much of this spring reading about music and thinking about how what I'm reading might apply to vids. This post is some background about why I've been doing that.

more background under the cut )

But as I worked on the book, I just kept coming back to the importance of song choice, and I started trying to articulate why I think music is so important to vids. There are lots of answers, but the ones I'm currently working with are these:

1) Genre. No music, no vid.

2) Emotional effects. The music does most of the emotional heavy lifting in vids. (In this, vids are a lot like narrative film and TV, where music does a lot of the work of telling us what to feel about a scene.)

3) Structure. Vids are structured around music at both macro and micro levels. (In this, vids are the opposite of most narrative film and TV, where music is composed/chosen and edited to fit the visual narrative.)

4) Creative process. Song choice is important not just to the vid but to the vidder. For many of us, the song is what sparks a vid idea in the first place; in other cases, it's the thing that has to be found before the idea can get off the ground. It guides clipping, editing, and often the creation of effects. Think about it this way: pretty much any verb you can think of related to the creative processes of actually planning and making a vid (as opposed to technical stuff like exporting or uploading) is going to be related in some way to the song choice. And even where a given vidder is thinking more about the song's lyrics than its music, the whole point of songs is that the lyrics are welded to the music; they can never be completely disentangled.

So those are some of the key ideas and assumptions that I started out with when I began digging around in the fields of music and sound studies to see what I could find that might help me think through how I see music operating in vids themselves and in the way that vidders describe their creative processes.
tishaturk: (professional geek)
I've spent the semester on a research fellowship at the University of Minnesota's Institute for Advanced Study. Fellows meet weekly for lunchtime presentations of our work in progress. My presentation was today; I was supposed to be talking about the role of music in vids (which is the topic I've been researching this semester as a break from the book). Except I didn't actually get very far, because people had so many basic questions about vidding and fandom -- really good questions, but still. I had an hour and fifteen minutes, and I still got through only half of the material that I wanted to, most of which was the inevitable "here's what vids are and why they matter" introductory material and not the new stuff I've been thinking about.

So I am hoping to use this blog to post snippets of the actual research and thinking over the next few weeks.

I did, at least, get to show some vids -- not a full-fledged vidshow or anything, but a small selection rather than just a single vid (which is what I usually have to do when I'm presenting). It was really important to me that this group get to see more of a variety of subjects and styles and genres, even though of course it's still only a tiny fraction of the range of things vids are and do.

Here's what I showed:

[livejournal.com profile] sloanesomething, “Star Trek Dance Floor” (Star Trek)
[personal profile] violace, “King and Lionheart” (Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] kass, “Becoming Brothers” (Friday Night Lights)
[personal profile] laurashapiro, “Hurricane” (Farscape and Battlestar Galactica)
[livejournal.com profile] bradcpu, “Moonlight” (Sleepy Hollow)

I report with great pleasure that, after the presentation, a total of five people told me that now they really want to see Pacific Rim, Sleepy Hollow, and/or Friday Night Lights. Well done, vidders!
tishaturk: (Default)
Issue no. 15 of Transformative Works and Cultures came out today; it's a special issue on fandom and/as labor, and I am really looking forward to reading all the essays. (This is not, for the record, something I say about all the academic journals to which I subscribe.)

And now for the shameless self-promotion: one of the essays is mine! I wrote "Fan work: Labor, worth, and participation in fandom's gift economy" for the Symposium section, which means that it's relatively short and less ponderously academic than some of my other essays. It grew out of thinking about Rache's essay "The Fannish Potlatch" and Karen Hellekson's "A Fannish Field of Value: Online Fan Gift Culture" and agreeing with a lot of what's in both those essays but also thinking about what I wanted to add to the conversation about fandom's gift economy and how it works--and in particular thinking about what what I wrote at the end of this post from last year: "the behind-the-scenes work that goes into reccing, reblogging, running awards sites, administering prompt memes, tagging for meme archives, etc., is why I get so frustrated with definitions of "fan work" that focus primarily on writing fic and making vids and ignore or handwave all the other kinds of work that make my daily fannish experience what it is."

An excerpt from the TWC essay:
While art objects may be the gifts most publicly recognized or validated by fellow fans, and while these gifts are indeed a crucial part of fandom's gift economy, we can better appreciate the scope of fandom's gift economy if we recognize that fannish gifts include not only art objects but the wide range of creative labors that surround and in some cases underlie these art objects. We can better understand the relationship between gift exchange and community formation if we see fandom as a system not just of reciprocal giving but of circular giving. And we can better evaluate the relationship between fandom and production if we attend to not just the giving but the receiving of gifts.

This is the first thing I've published in fan studies that isn't specifically about vidding (although it is very much informed by my own experiences with vids and vidding, especially note 4, in which I am totally poking fun at my own history as a vidder). It was fun! I might do more of it. On the other hand, it turns out that I have a whole lot of things to say about vids, so that will probably keep me busy for the foreseeable future. :D
tishaturk: (pen)
You guys, I am rapidly becoming convinced that my secret superpower is my apparently unstoppable ability to hide my point at the end of a paragraph/section/chapter/whatever. It is not a good superpower. I don't want it.
tishaturk: (pen)
For reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, I have just spent most of an hour reading through selected write-ups from [livejournal.com profile] strangefandom, and let me tell you, I needed that laugh this afternoon. Oh man. *wipes eyes* Good times, good times.


Dec. 13th, 2013 08:01 am
tishaturk: (Default)
This morning I logged into the fandom class Tumblr to check the notes on the Tumblr version of yesterday's post.

How am I supposed to get work done today when I just keep thinking of this and laughing? HOW?
tishaturk: (Default)
I try to keep this journal focused on research-related stuff rather than teaching stories, but I think that once you read this story you will see why I am making an exception.

So last week in Fan Cultures & Fan Creativity we were talking about representations of fandom—we had groups looking at posts from [community profile] as_others_see_us and OTW’s news of note—and Orlando Jones came up in conversation, as he is wont to do.

One of my students decided to tweet him to let him know, and despite our classroom’s crappy WiFi, she prevailed! And then this happened:


But then she didn’t get a response! So today in class she tried again. I cannot adequately describe the hilarity of this scene—she's composing away on her laptop, reading out her hashtags as she types them, and everyone in the room is exhorting her "COME ON COME ON" "OMG" "HAS HE RESPONDED YET"...

#wecanthandlethis is a pretty accurate description of class at that point; we were essentially having a 25-person meltdown. There was actualfax shrieking, some of it from me. The collective sleep deprivation did not help (Dear students: GET SOME SLEEP), but I suspect that even if we’d all been well-rested we would have been LOSING OUR MINDS. And then, as we were sitting there, he favorited the tweet. At which point I dismissed class, because I could not top that. We were done.


Of course I had to post.

And he favorited that tweet too. BRB DYING.

AND THEN when I logged into Tumblr I found that another one of my students had followed up on Tumblr:

Her tags: #I didn't make any shrill noises when I got this notification #oh no #not at all #orlando jones is my favorite

I just. I HAVE LOST THE ABILITY TO CAN, as the kids say these days. I still don't have the faintest idea how he found out about the class, but I do not fucking care, because this is the most surreal and hilarious thing that has happened to me in I don't know how long, and I LOVE IT. And the class was in absolute hysterics. AS YOU CAN PERHAPS IMAGINE.

tishaturk: (pen)
...but I have just discovered, upon re-reading, that I hid the first paragraph of this chapter in the middle of page 10. Which is good, because it means I've already written it, but also a bit embarrassing, because honestly, what was I thinking?

The book, in case you were wondering, is still not writing itself.

I am strongly tempted to have a beer with lunch. I don't even like beer.
tishaturk: (TV: Buffy)
I keep coming across things I want to share with the students in my fandom class--bits of fandom history, fandom meta, stuff like that--so last night in a fit of... something... I made a Tumblr for our class. When I showed it to them this morning, the reactions ranged from "Whatever, dude" to "...wait, my teacher knows about Tumblr?" to "Awww, you're tracking tags and everything!" Most of them seemed proud, if perhaps slightly bemused.

This is an experiment, and its success will depend largely on what the students decide to do with it. But hey, three people are already following (and class let out less than an hour ago), so who knows? I think it could be fun.

Much of the class's online activity will take place in private online spaces, but the Tumblr is public, obviously--so if you're curious about what we're reading and discussing in the class, it will be a good way to eavesdrop.

And if you're on Tumblr and want to play: I will be tracking the tag #fandom ic. If you see something you think we'd be interested in, tag it when you reblog so I can take a look. :D
tishaturk: (professional geek)
I am super-embarrassed about the fact that I haven't responded to most of the comments on my last entry from over a month ago. *facepalm* The new semester is settling down now, so I should have a chance to get back to that... any day now...

Speaking of teaching: I'm teaching a class about fandom this semester! And it occurred to me that some of you might be interested in seeing what that class will entail (besides lots of classroom discussion, which sadly I cannot reproduce for you but which has thus far been pretty energetic and occasionally hilarious).

Syllabus: Fan Cultures and Fan Creativity

The class is exclusively for first-year students as part of UMM's Intellectual Community program, our version of the first-year seminar program that's common at many small liberal arts colleges. I have a really delightful group; as with any class, especially of first-year students, I have a mix of students who are reallyexcitedtotalkaboutthisstuffomg!, students who are visibly engaged but not as comfortable diving into the flow of discussion, and students who are clearly wishing that they could write down their thoughts and review them once or twice before hitting post. (Having been in the latter category for most of my college career, I empathize.) But we're working up to the first writing assignment, which I hope will give some of the hard-core introverts a better opportunity to show what they can do.

Thanks to everybody who suggested assignments, activities, and readings; I was unable to implement all the terrific ideas that people shared with me, largely because needing to stay focused on the book means I have to limit the number of things that require a lot of behind-the-scenes work for me. But I already have a list of things I want to do or try when teaching the course next time, and I welcome further input and suggestions!
tishaturk: (TV: Buffy)
I'm working on a section about how vidwatchers decide what vids to watch, including things like "I will watch any vid made by X" (which is true for me of... gosh, an awful lot of vidders, honestly, which I guess is what happens to those of us who are fans of vidding and vidders as well as specific shows).

This has led me off on what may turn out to be a total tangent about what for lack of a better term I'm calling fannish migration, meaning migration from one show to another--not necessarily vid-specific. I'm thinking of something like, for example, the movement of a fair number of fic writers from Due South to SGA. (And I gather there was some overlap with Sentinel there, too, though that was enough before my time that I couldn't articulate a timeline.)

What other examples can you think of? Either general examples, or specific writers or vidders that you've moved from show to show with?

They might be direct or indirect; my sense is that Due South --> SGA was fairly direct in that a lot of people were still writing DS well after the 1999 finale and then jumped on SGA when it appeared in 2004 (but I was not in either of those fandoms, so my perceptions may not be accurate!). Buffy --> Firefly is another one. But I wonder about other, less obvious connections. I feel like I saw a lot of names I recognized from Buffy in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles fandom, but maybe that's just because those were the people I was already hanging out with, fannishly speaking?

I should probably admit that this inquiry is also motivated by thinking to myself, when confronted by the periodic appearance of Teen Wolf on my Tumblr dash, "Where did all these people come from?"
tishaturk: (book)
At present, the draft of the chapter about the process of vidding is almost exactly 8,000 words. The section on song choice is about 1,600 words--so, about 20% of the chapter.

Yeah, that seems about right.

(Both the chapter as a whole and this section will eventually be much longer; I'm in the Shitty First Draft™ stage where most of what I've written is underdeveloped and the rest is cryptic shorthand comprehensible only to me. Or, well, let's hope it's still comprehensible to me when I come back to this chapter, because if not this is going to be a really short book.)
tishaturk: (book)
As of this afternoon's trip to the post office, I have a contract with the University of Iowa Press for a book tentatively titled The Ecology of Vidding.


My deadline is Dec. 31, which means that between now and then nobody is allowed to ask me "Shouldn't you be working on the book?" because everybody already knows that the answer is yes and if I'm not doing so it's because I'm doing teaching prep and/or I'm completely fried. I'm going to have to apologize to my students pre-emptively on the first day of class. *facepalm*
tishaturk: (pen)
I spent yesterday morning looking through the sixteen (!) pages of outtakes from Toward an Ecology of Vidding" and trying to figure out how many of those paragraphs/sentences/fragments deserve an attempt to incorporate them into the book. (Verdict: not many. Currently feeling extra-grateful for beta readers who insist on coherence and concision.)

I did, though, have some notes on Louisa Stein & Kristina Busse’s "Limit Play: Fan Authorship between Source Text, Intertext, and Context," a really smart essay that has what I think are some terrific insights about fannish celebrations of repetition:

quotes, thoughts, and Calvin & Hobbes under the cut )
tishaturk: (OTW)
I'll be doing a livecast Google hangout this afternoon, a conversation about the DMCA sponsored by the Daily Dot and the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture.

Rebecca Tushnet and I will be talking about our roles in the fight for the recent DMCA exemption for vidders and other remix video artists; you can read more about us and the other panelists at the Daily Dot.

You can watch the livecast at the Daily Dot or at NAMAC.

To comment or ask questions via Twitter, use the hashtags #InterActs #DMCA, or direct questions to @InterActsOnline.

After the conversation, the Daily Dot and NAMAC will post summaries of the broadcast and/or embed the videos on their respective websites, so if you miss the livecast (apparently some people have to be at work on a Wednesday afternoon—imagine that), you can catch up later.
tishaturk: (keyboard)
One of the nicest thing about the guest lecture I did earlier this week was that, because the students in the audience had been studying vids and vidding for a couple of weeks already, I didn't have to go through the basics of What Is A Vid?, the way I usually have to do at conference presentations and even research presentations on my own campus. Such a relief!

When I asked the students in the audience what a vid is, a hand shot up immediately: "It's a visual essay that stages an argument!" Another student added that it's not just a visual essay; music matters too. So, yes, we might say a multimedia essay that stages an argument. And from there I went on to poke at the definition from another direction: for whom is the argument staged? how is it staged? Answering those questions is, for me, where things start to get really interesting.

One of the exciting things about working on vids right now is that we have this solid working definition that Coppa articulates in the essay linked above, but we also have lots of room—and lots of reasons—to expand and negotiate and explore that definition, which is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. A multimedia essay that stages an argument: What does that definition leave out? What kinds of vids, what kind of fannish activity through vidding, does it leave out?

The definition (and especially the subsequent claim about vids being "akin to arts criticism") implies, I think, that the argument is about the film or television show from which the video clips are taken. This is pretty clearly true the vast majority of the time, but it's not true all the time, right? To take just one example: To say that "I Swear" is an argument about Smallville may not be inaccurate, exactly, but it is certainly, er, incomplete. And if a vid received with as much joyful shrieking as "I Swear" isn't covered by that definition, then the definition needs further refining. Vids like "Anything For Love" and other meta-vids clearly make arguments, but, again, they're not just arguments about the source of the clips.

Looking back at that last paragraph and the words I chose for it, I find myself asking: What is it that we're talking about when we talk about source? What does that language do for us, and what can't it do? When vidders talk about source, it typically means the thing that's ripped or downloaded and then clipped and edited to make a vid. But what would it mean—artistically, legally—to think of the source of vids (some vids? all vids?) being vidders themselves or fandom itself, the way that the source of a painting is the painter's ideas and vision? What happens if we think of and talk about shows/films as tools or materials, like words or paint or the fabric that gets cut up for quilts?

Maybe this is just semantics. But I think about what a difference it makes to some of my students, when they're working on research papers, to stop thinking of secondary materials as sources and start thinking of their own questions as the sources of the paper, and I'm not so sure.
tishaturk: (professional geek)
I just read Rebecca Tushnet's "Judges as Bad Reviewers: Fair Use and Epistemological Humility," a fascinating and highly readable analysis of the ways in which copyright fair use cases turn on judges' willingness to acknowledge that texts can be interpreted in many ways; Tushnet uses vids as case studies. (Full disclosure: I'm cited in it! That is never not going to be exciting.)

Given last week's post on best vs. favorites, I was particularly struck by this bit, which is about the importance of explaining criteria for judgment:

[W]hen it comes to literary judgments, the bad reviewer is the one who insists that a work has only one meaning, and announces the bottom line as if it were an absolute. A good reviewer explains the sources of her judgment, making room for other interpretations, which may be one reason that a well-written negative review can be extremely helpful to someone deciding to go ahead and buy the book anyway.

Tushnet goes on to explain the main problem with current practice:

Unfortunately, copyright fair use cases rarely acknowledge multiplicity of meaning. Instead, even a defendant-favorable fair use case tends to fix one meaning to the plaintiff’s work and another meaning or purpose to the defendant’s work, and then declare them different enough that the defendant’s use is transformative and therefore fair.

What I found especially interesting was her analysis of a specific case (Blanch v. Koons) in which appropriation artist Jeff Koons' use of a copy of a fashion photograph was found to be fair use: the court deferred to Koons' own account of his reasons for using the photo—and by "[s]hifting to a particular expert, the artist himself, the court left the structure of expertise intact." As Tushnet explains,

fair use was determined not on the basis of potential audiences’ understandings of new meanings from the accused work, but on the ability of the artist to express his intentions.... Thus, rather than accepting that multiple meanings and interpretations can coexist, the court picked a side in a contest about true meaning, not unlike a ruling in a contracts case.

Not surprisingly, that passage also made me think of the DMCA hearings, where my primary value was not my academic credentials (except indirectly, insofar as the nature of my employment allows me to be cheerfully matter-of-fact about my fan activities) and certainly not my legal expertise (of which I have exactly none) but my willingness and ability to speak as an artist expressing intention: "This is what I need and this is why I need it." That kind of performance is always weird for me because I am hyper-aware of all the ways in which I can't speak for all fans or all fan video artists or even all vidders; I can only speak as one member of those larger groups.

Tushnet's article shows, I think, why we need both to encourage fans who can do that kind of speaking to do it (because many fans, for any of a variety of reasons, are not in that position) and to change the cultures—legal and otherwise—that value artistic expertise/authority at the expense of interpretive multiplicity.

I mean, that's a huge part of the point of fandom, right? Do all the readings! Make all the meanings! Explore every option in as many ways as possible! One of the many reasons that vids and vidding appeal to me is precisely that they're not isolated art projects; rather, they're embedded in a whole ecosystem of overlapping and intersecting and sometimes contradictory projects and goals and ideals and interests. That's what makes it fun.
tishaturk: (keyboard)
I haven't been posting here, even though I've been in research mode lately, because I've been trying to channel my writing energy into other projects. But I'm starting to accumulate lots of little ideas that I don't know whether or how to incorporate into those projects, so I'm going to start stashing them here and hope that typing them out helps me figure out what to do with them.

I'm doing this partly because I'm inspired/frustrated by the newly retooled Fanhackers—what used to be TWC's Symposium blog: inspired because I love seeing these quotes and snippets of conversation showing up in my RSS feed, frustrated because the site is built on Tumblr and, god, don't even get me started on Tumblr; the short version is that I love it for a lot of things but I hate it for conversation. I mean, I know it's possible to have conversations via Tumblr—plenty of people do—but the site is not built for that, doesn't facilitate it, and I have lost whatever inclination I might once have had to fight my way through the structural and visual obstacles. My reaction to Fanhackers is much like [personal profile] elf's: "I'm enjoying; I'm not figuring out what else to do with it." Bring on the quotes and the animated gifsets, is what I'm saying.

Anyway! What I'm writing about today is something I've been thinking about since the annual "Best of" lists started circulating in December, and it is this:

One of the things I love about fandom is that fandom, for the most part, operates not on a "these are the best things" model (where the criteria for "best" are typically undefined yet implied to be shared by all right-thinking people) but on a "these are my favorite things" model, which can be frustrating but is also wonderfully democratic. There are exceptions, of course, like The Fourth Wall and Driver Picks The Music and plenty of other award sites—though it's worth noting that those sites are often much more clear about criteria for judgment than non-fannish critics and awards are. But mostly fandom runs not on awards but on recs and (increasingly?) on content searching. Recs may take the form of simple recirculation—reblogs on Tumblr, for example, though even there some fans manage to squeeze a remarkable amount of information about the reasons for their reblog into the tags—but many are quite thoughtful and explicit about why the reccer liked what she liked; I saw this in many of the Festivds rec posts from January. Fandom does not, for the most part, assume that what "best" means is a) self-evident or b) shared by everyone, though it does generally assume that if one person likes it then somewhere out there is someone else who will like it too. (That's Yuletide and Festivids in a nutshell, right?)

What I appreciate about this culture of favorites, with all the reccing and tagging and reblogging that it entails, is that fandom encourages us to think about what we like, to articulate what we like, and in some cases to organize remarkable metadata structures around what we like—I'm thinking, for example, of the various kink meme (and other prompt meme) bookmark lists on pinboard and delicious, such as the [livejournal.com profile] sherlockbbc_fic pinboard archive where one can sort by very specific combinations of tags in order to filter content. (Some of the trope overlap possibilities are amazing, for values of "amazing" that range from "yes of course omg" to "hilarious" to "I don't know how this exists but I love it.")

I don't want to be inappropriately utopian here. One of the reasons that the FAQs for these memes are so careful to define and forbid kinkshaming is that it does happen; "your kink [or pairing, characterization, genre preference, etc.] is not my kink and that's okay" is not as universally observed as we might hope. But there is a sense that this attitude ought to be the way that one approaches fandom, that we are, collectively, trying not just to make space for but to faciliate, to make visible and accessible, a wide range of desires and preferences along a variety of vectors: sexual, narrative, aesthetic. Which is very cool.

As a side note, the behind-the-scenes work that goes into reccing, reblogging, running awards sites, administering prompt memes, tagging for meme archives, etc., is why I get so frustrated with definitions of "fan work" that focus primarily on writing fic and making vids and ignore or handwave all the other kinds of work that make my daily fannish experience what it is. Fandom runs on the engine of production, but a lot of what we produce is information, architecture, access, not just artifacts.


tishaturk: (Default)
Tisha Turk

May 2014

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