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: (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: (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: (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: (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: (keyboard)
After my last post, I realized belatedly that I've never officially mentioned the book project I'm working on, though a few of you have kindly listened to me go on (and on and on) about it offline and/or in private.

The short version is that I am working on a book proposal for the University of Iowa Press, which is starting a new fan studies series. An editor at the press contacted me a while back and asked if I'd like to write a book for them, to which I said "...um, okay," because while I hadn't given much thought to writing a book about vids (my last book-length project was my PhD dissertation, which primarily inspires thoughts of oh god never again no way), I am not so stupid that I'd say no to that question when somebody from an actual university press comes asking.

I hasten to add that the book is not a done deal: There's no contract, I haven't even turned in the proposal yet, etc. But I am, to my own surprise, actually excited about the prospect. Or at least more excited than terrified. Most days. *facepalm*

more under the cut )

So that is what I've been thinking about for the past week, partly just because I think it's interesting but also because I think it's something that might be useful in fan studies even outside the relatively small circle of people who are interested in vids specifically.
tishaturk: (pen)
You guys, I have too many thoughts about vids. Way, way too many thoughts about vids.

Like, too many to fit in one book.

*facepalm*

(Why yes, I did always identify with Willow, why do you ask?)
tishaturk: (keyboard)
I am currently working on a new project on vids and vidding. My co-author and I have been talking and brainstorming and batting ideas back and forth, and we've gotten great feedback from the peer reviewers at Transformative Works and Cultures, and now we've reached the point where I have to sit down with the draft and all our notes and actually rewrite the thing into something that makes sense, has a clear argument, and so on.

The version that we turned in originally was around 7,500 words long, and the reviewers suggested streamlining it down to about 6,000 words, which we thought was an excellent plan. Of course, we also had quite a few gaps we needed to fill in. So over the past month we've made notes about what could be cut or condensed, but we've also generated some new material, and when I put it all together into one document this evening, the total is about 10,300 words.

*facepalm*

I have written enough by now to know that this is how I rewrite, like it or not: I add, add, add, add, add until the thing has blown up like a balloon (a word balloon! of death!), and then I print it all out and go through it X-ing out all the words, sentences, paragraphs and occasionally entire sections that are unnecessary, repetitive, or just plain wrong. Once that's done, I start being able to see the real shape of the thing, and that helps me decide what other pieces need to be deleted or condensed. And after enough whittling away, plus two or three rounds of reorganizing, I end up with something that might actually be worth reading. It just takes a while.

I'm a little afraid to dive back into the compiled draft tomorrow, because wow, that thing is a hot mess right now. But I'm also excited, because there are some ideas in there that I really do think are useful, and I look forward to excavating them and polishing them up and sharing them.
tishaturk: (TV: Buffy)
Quick note on VividCon: I am still figuring out the best way to find mutually agreeable interview times, but I should be emailing people about that today or tomorrow. (VividCon! Yay!)

And now the real point of this post: Let's talk about vids that own their songs.

Song choice is one of those perennial discussion topics for vidders and vidwatchers (and also the subject of one of my favorite sequences in OTW's documentary series on vidding, where a bunch of fans are asked what makes a good vid and "song choice" is the first response from something like half a dozen people). It's a topic I find fascinating, because a vidder's or viewer's sense of what constitutes a good--or perfect--song choice is profoundly subjective, and so there are song choices about which people strongly disagree, but there are also song choices that produce pretty broad consensus about their awesomeness or appropriateness.

[personal profile] nestra made a post several years back about the difference between good song choice and genius song choice, and [personal profile] sherrold made a comment to that post that has stuck with me ever since, in which she said of [personal profile] astolat's "Uninvited": "I can't hear the song without seeing the vid in my mind's eye."

That comment, for me, captures exactly what it means for a vid to own a song--a phrase that made immediate sense to me the first time I saw people using it. Owning a song is a separate category, at least for me, from good or perfect or genius song choice, and I've been trying to work out what I think the difference is. There are plenty of vids where I think the song choice is terrific or inspired, but I can still think of the song separately from the vid. For a while my working theory was that the distinction has to do with how I first heard the song: if I knew the song before I saw the vid, or had pre-existing associations with the song, the vid was less likely to own that song. But then I remembered "Haunted," [personal profile] flummery's Odyssey 5 vid (which frankly owns EVERYTHING EVER, not just that song); I knew the song before I saw their vid, and in fact I'd already seen a pretty good vid set to that song, but once I saw their version? That was it for me. Whenever I hear that song--when it comes up on shuffle or whatever--I think of their vid. I hear "I will always miss you," and I see the earth blowing up. Similarly, [personal profile] gwyn and [personal profile] feochadn's Charlie Jade vid "I Remember" is set to an R.E.M. song I knew and loved for well over a decade before they vidded it, but once I saw the vid I realized that the song was always about trying to communicate across collapsing universes and I just wasn't smart enough to see it yet. These examples demonstrate that, for me, songs I didn't already know may have an advantage over songs I'm familiar with, but unfamiliarity can't be the full explanation.

But I don't know whether my experience is representative or not! So tell me: Do some vids own songs for you? What's the difference between great song choice and a vid that owns a song? What's it like to listen to a song that's owned by a vid? Do you see specific clips from the vid in your head, or does it just make you think about the characters and the show?
tishaturk: (pen)
Back when I first started writing in this LJ, I mentioned that I was interested in vids not only as a narrative theorist and rhetorical theorist but as a teacher and scholar of writing. Most of my posts so far have focused on narrative; in the next few posts, I want to write about what I see as the points of connection between vidding (and vidwatching) and composition studies.

more about vids and composition )

Most of the vidders I've seen write about their processes have suggested that the song is the catalyst for the vid as a whole, the thing that snaps a vid idea into focus: there's a sort of free-floating desire to vid a particular show or character or relationship or idea, and then wham, Perfect Song, Must Vid! But I know I've also seen vidders write about coming up with an idea and looking for a song to fit that idea--I'm pretty sure [livejournal.com profile] obsessive24 has written about this somewhere, although I can't find the link--and that approach would be a really important contrast to discuss, since I absolutely don't want to homogenize vidders' processes; I'm interested in finding and examining patterns, but not at the expense of complexity and variety.
tishaturk: (TV: Buffy)
I'm starting to think about the paper I'm writing for Film and Film Culture--no actual reading or writing yet, just some back-burner pondering. This post is sort of a warm-up for beginning that paper; I want to try to articulate a few general thoughts about TV and movie vids. I'm particularly interested in the reasons that vidders make (and viewers watch) TV and movie vids, and in the conditions that govern viewer responses to them.

TV and movie vids )

context & accessibility )

Vogue )

Looking back over this post, it occurs to me that the real distinction might not be between TV and movie vids but between vids for source texts that have extensive and elaborated fannish activity and source texts that have smaller or less active fandoms (which also allows for change over time as shows gain fans or go off the air and the popularity of a particular movie explodes and then wanes)--a distinction that maps only partially and incompletely onto the TV/movie difference.

I should mention, too, that I know I'm oversimplifying by categorizing possible audiences into "fannish vidwatchers" and "nonfannish viewers." There are plenty of fans who just don't get vids, and plenty of others who come to like them eventually but take a while to get there; and there are people who aren't involved in media fandom but who know quite a bit about other aspects of remix culture; and there are people who aren't in fandom but whom we might describe as proto-fannish: they may not know much about fandom, but they're savvy readers of media texts, and when shown vids (especially vids for shows they like) they grasp the concept and understand the appeal pretty quickly. So we've actually got... not so much a continuum as a graph where X = fannish tendencies and Y = interest in DIY video, and individual people may be anywhere on that grid.

Which makes me think about Jason Mittell's thoughts on "Vogue" and Scooby Road, which I haven't engaged at all in this post. Mittell claims that Scooby Road is a better introduction to vidding than "Vogue" for someone who's an "outsider," who isn't, to use a phrase he borrows from Luminosity, a "contextual fan," but in fact his post suggests that Scooby Road works for him precisely because it enables him to position himself as an insider and to be a contextual fan: he knows Buffy, he loves Abbey Road, he's found a vid that celebrates things he's already inclined to celebrate. And that speaks, I think, to the way that fandom is a matter not just of seeing in similar (or at least related) ways, but of wanting similar (or at least related) things. Mittell dismisses most of the vids on Kristina Busse's list of recommended vids, saying that they left him "underwhelmed," which is fair; I've been underwhelmed by plenty of vids, and I love vids, plus, while I think most of the vids Busse recommends are terrific (at least the ones I've seen), I have reservations about some of them as intro material for non-fans. But I think that it's a little disingenuous to suggest that Scooby Road is necessarily a better introduction to vidding than "Vogue" (or many of the other vids on Busse's list); it was better for Mittell, it might have been better for me had I not already been sold on vids, but that's hardly a definitive sample. As a counter-example, I think of a proto-fannish colleague of mine who would, I suspect, find Scooby Road profoundly boring because she isn't interested in Buffy and isn't a Beatles fan, but who took to [livejournal.com profile] sockkpuppett's Highlander vid "Ability to Swing" like a duck to water because she is 100% on board with the premise that Duncan's hotness should be celebrated.

Which brings us back, once again, to the balance of context and content.
tishaturk: (professional geek)
I'm interested in vids as narratives, and in this post I'm going to try to talk about what that means, because the word "narrative" gets used quite a bit in relation to vids, but not usually in the specific sense that a narrative theorist would use it. In a fannish vidwatching capacity, we typically use "narrative" to mean a particular genre of vid: a vid that tells a story. And we may also talk about styles of narrative, different ways of telling a story, as [livejournal.com profile] bop_radar and various commenters did in the vidding chat post "Defining Vid Genres and Narrative Styles" a couple of weeks ago.

These are perfectly reasonable uses of the term, but they are not quite what narrative theory geeks mean when we talk about narrative.

what we mean by narrative )

the parts of a narrative )

film and TV as narratives )

vids as narratives )

interacting narratives )

The last thing I want to write about in this post is still very tentative, but I need to start sorting through it somewhere, so here goes.

vids and the illusion of narrative coherence )

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Tisha Turk

November 2016

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