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Issue no. 9 of Transformative Works and Cultures came out yesterday; it's focused on Fan/Remix Video, and it looks amazing—I am really, really looking forward to reading the whole thing. It includes an essay I wrote with Joshua Johnson, a former student of mine, called "Toward an ecology of vidding." I'm really proud of this essay, and I'm hoping it will form part of the basis for a longer project, so I'm already thinking about how to revise and expand it. If you read it and have thoughts about it, I'd love to hear them; you can post comments at TWC, comment here, send me an email, whatever. All feedback is welcome: points you liked, points you disagreed with, points that need expansion or clarification, things we missed, anything!

As I was re-reading the essay for the final proofreading, I thought of something that was really important to me (I can't speak for Josh here) while we were working on it, but which was a little too meta to easily integrate into the essay itself, so I thought I'd write about it here instead.

One of the things I wanted to do in this essay was to write about a typical vid rather than an unusual vid.

Academics writing about vids tend to focus on vids that are special cases of one kind or another: vids that are the first or only vid to do a particular thing; vids that got unusual amounts of attention within or outside fandom; vids from relatively small subgenres, like meta vids or vids with unusually explicit analytical or political thesis statements; vids that use external footage or vidder-created footage. I love those kinds of vids myself, which is why I've written about vids like Luminosity's "Vogue" and Laura Shapiro and LithiumDoll's "I Put You There" and often show Sloane's "Star Trek Dance Floor" when I talk about vids at academic conferences.

These unusual vids are a really important part of who we are and what we do; my own fannish experience (and my VividCon) would be poorer without them. I love that over the last ten years we've created fannish venues that make a place for those vids, that we value them, that we discuss them. And I understand that in an era of DMCA exemption petitions and YouTube takedowns and fair use misinformation campaigns, we have to be strategic in how we talk about vids: those of us who are public advocates for vids, who argue for their value under our public, offline, and/or legal names, often focus on unusual vids because they can help people who are not familiar with vids learn to see vids as transformative works.

But I suspect that for most vid fans, those unusual vids are not what we most often watch and produce, and they're not how a lot of us got interested in vids. Personally, I started off watching (and, eventually, making) 'ship vids and character studies, and those are still some of my favorite vids; watching a really moving 'ship vid or really insightful character study is one of the most emotionally intense and satisfying experiences I can have in fandom.

If we focus only on the atypical vids, the outliers, the unusual cases, we end up distorting what vids and vidding and vidwatching are about; we end up being silent about some of the chief pleasures of fandom. Given how intent our culture is on erasing female pleasure in general, that silence strikes me as really unfortunate.

So when I went looking for a vid to use as a case study in "Toward an ecology of vidding," I had those issues in mind. I wanted us to write about a recent vid in a new, active, squeeful fandom that I was personally unfamiliar with (...and there's a lot I could say here about what happens when acafans write extensively about their own personal fannish interests, which I will save for another post), but mostly I wanted to write about the kind of vid that first drew me to vidwatching and ultimately to vidding.

"Something's Gotta Give" is that kind of vid. It's not an innovative or a groundbreaking vid, and I don't mean that as a criticism at all. It's a terrific vid, an enormously satisfying vid to watch; [personal profile] lamardeuse knew exactly what she wanted to do, and she did it beautifully, and in doing so she clearly made a lot of fans very happy. That is a huge part of what vidding is for—not the only part, certainly, but a really, really important part. If our theories of vidding can't account for this kind of vid, then our theories are incomplete.

I also, though this was a more minor consideration, wanted to write about a slash vid without discussing it as slash—I wanted, essentially, to normalize a slash vid by talking about it in terms of rhetorical and aesthetic choices, the same way I would with any other vid. I think acafans often do way too much over-explaining about slash—for me, at least, it always comes up when I talk about fandom at conferences—and we end up exoticizing slash and/or coming across as defensive, which... annoys me, especially when I find myself doing it. Slash is not a primary point of fannish identification for me, though I have watched and loved and even made slash vids, but I am queer, and I am kind of tired of representations of same-sex relationships and desires needing to be explained all the time. Which is why we never actually used the term "slash" in the essay (though it does come up in the names of some of the LJ communities we referenced, and it's there in the vid info in the Works Cited list).

Anyway. Like I said, I get that acafen need to be strategic about how we discuss vids, but I really hope that, as more people start doing this work, we'll write about a wider range of vid types in a wider range of fandoms. Academics like explicit argumentation, and we like finding vids that will be relatively easy for non-fannish academics to understand, and I think it's totally reasonable for those considerations to affect our choices about which vids to discuss. But, you know, I showed bluefairy1113's fabulous Kirk/Spock reboot vid "Must Be Dreaming" to a roomful of academics last spring, only some of whom were fannish, and they got it—like really, really got it; they got why it was smart, they got why it was interesting.

I suspect that sometimes we downplay 'ship vids because we're worried that other academics won't take those vids seriously, or maybe even because we ourselves are nervous about discussing explicitly romantic vids in an academic context, but as a feminist I worry about this tendency. Saying or implying that 'ship vids aren't serious or aren't worthy of study, or are worthy only if they have some other historical or analytical significance, seems to me to be a profoundly problematic thing to do, so I'm hoping to counter this tendency more explicitly in my upcoming work.

...long post is long, but my point is that I had a blast writing about [personal profile] lamardeuse's vid, and I really appreciate her permission to do it, and I want to write more about the kinds of vids that I first fell in love with.
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tishaturk: (Default)
Tisha Turk

November 2016

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