Special issue of THE CINE-FILES #11, The Video Essay: Cinematic Writing

Virginia Kuhn and I have co-edited a special issue of the journal, The Ciné-Files,  “The Video Essay: Cinematic Writing” (#11).  The issue began as part of an ongoing conversation on digital scholarship with faculty and students at UCC during my Fulbright stay in Cork, Ireland and then grew into an international collaboration of scholars on both sides of the Atlantic.  Many thanks to all the collaborators and to Tracy Cox-Stanton for this opportunity to share this dialogue and experimentation in cinematic writing. 

Future Texts: Subversive Performance and Feminist Bodies


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I am delighted to announce the publication of a collection on contemporary feminist media edited with my USC colleague, Virginia Kuhn. The collection, Future Texts: Subversive Performance and Feminist Bodies, looks at work from music videos, video games, contemporary cinema, television, and online web series with attention to issues of race, gender, and identity.  Parlor Press has been a delight to work with, and they have been incredibly supportive of work that takes in a diverse range of issues, methods, and venues.


Conducttr Conference, London, October 2015


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It’s great being based on the other side of the pond this autumn with the Fulbright award as I am able to attend the excellent conference organized by Robert Pratten and his great crew at Conducttr.  The year’s conference had a focus on Transmedia for Change: Connected Learning and Persistent Engagement.  I co-presented with my USC colleague, Michael Bodie, on Teaching for Transformative Change, and we used two case studies from courses that we teach in the Media Arts + Practice program.  I will share Bodie’s part of the presentation (or link) once he has had the opportunity to post.

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Fulbright Scholar in Ireland, part 1: Workshop on Digital Media Research and Pedagogy


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I am spending the autumn semester as a Fulbright Scholar in University College Cork in Cork, Ireland.  It has been a hectic first month with a presentation for the Performance, Politics, and Protest conference held on September 5, 2015 (presentation slides forthcoming!) and two day-long workshops on September 18 and October 2 on Digital Media Research and Pedagogy (with “hands on” segment on the audio-visual essay).  I will have more to say as I catch my breath — UCC and Cork has been a welcoming and stimulating environment — but I wanted to post the slideshows from today’s workshop on: Digital Media: Principles, Tools, Strategies and Video Editing.  Two of the three slideshows begin with a zen garden to put us in relaxed mode for the conversation and practice to follow.

Participatory Pedagogy, SCMS 2015

Finally, I am getting a chance to post from the workshop at SCMS this year, Participatory Pedagogy.  It was a partnership between the Women’s Caucus (I Co-Chair with Christina Lane, Alyx Vesey is our Grad Rep), the Media Literacy SIG, the Queer Caucus, and the Women and Silent Screen SIG.  This effort in collaborative pedagogy was designed as a hybrid panel/workshop/networking session that invited participants to crowdsource strategies, tools, and resources for film and media courses that integrate media, technology, praxis, and/or activism.   For more on the workshop, please see the website our group put together, including video provocations for the event and names and bios of participants, here.


Learn Do Share, Los Angeles, October 2014

October has been a bit crazy.    I am just back from UK (see blog post below) but on October 12, I was part of an event from the always inspiring and newly reborn DIY DAYS, now LEARN DO SHARE, organized by Lance Weiler and The Hub, Civic Innovation Lab.   Below is a photo taken during the presentation by BUKE, the Youth Design team working on designing a bike future for LA.


I presented with my colleague at USC, Michael Bodie, who has been developing the concept of an immersive social change space, which he has called: the 360° docu-narrative.  


Since Bodie and I both work in reconfigurations and experimentations in the area of  non-fictional narratives, we thought it might be interesting to do a workshop on this topic.  We had some great participants in the session, who brought a lot of energy to the event and some great ideas for how they would design their own 360º docu-narrative around the issue of South Los Angeles Gentrification.  The groups only had 20 minutes but came up with some great ideas on how to foster dialogue and connection across diverse community interests.   At the very end of this post you will find our slideshare presentation for the event.

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Conducttr Conference, London, October 2014

I am just back from the fabulous Conducttr Conference in London, organized by Robert Pratten.   It was a great event that brought representatives from the creative and academic communities together to discuss transmedia storytelling.  We heard about some amazing projects such as  Jonny Virgo’s City of ConspiracyJill Golick’s Ruby Skye PI, and Alison Norrington’s work on the transmedia world, The Chatsfield, which was tied to a series of Harlequin Mills and Boon’s novels.

Sarah Atkinson (University of Brighton) and myself presented on our ongoing transmedia database project that hopes to establish a shared taxonomy as well as research and archival site for projects across the diverse world of transmedia storytelling.   We had a lively conversation with artists, archivists, and academics at the conference that brought some wonderful new ideas and great connections.

Big thanks to Robert Pratten for a super event that brought people together and initiated a productive conversation on cross-platform storytelling.

Here’s Sarah and my presentation on our TMDB project. Big thanks to Robert Foster and Jeff Aldrich, who have been working on the tech and design site of the site with us for some time. Our site is very much a work in progress, but you can follow our adventure here: http://www.tmdbonline.org

UCLA Cinema and Media Studies Symposium

I had the honor to speak at the UCLA Cinema and Media Symposium yesterday.  My topic was multimedia scholarship and silent film history, specifically how the Scalar platform can be used to “enact” the scandal surrounding Mabel Normand in received history.   Great questions from the group especially regarding how a praxis focused approach does (or does not) shift the method or analysis in critical media studies.

Below, is my slideshow and an abstract from the talk with links to the Scalar project.

Abstract for the presentation is here:

In this discussion I will look at how writing a multimedia history, a digital scholarly essay (using the platform Scalar), might facilitate an understanding of the “scandal” of the silent film director and star, Mabel Normand.  The idea of “scandal” typically associated with Normand is one of criminal and moral notoriety, but here I am referencing the scandal of Normand’s place in film history, which is largely absent, misunderstood, or underappreciated. Ultimately, I will argue that Normand’s absence is due to a particular professional and personal style of performance by the star that I would call “infelicitous.”  It is a style that foregrounds the contingency of our world, language, and identity.  It is performance mode that multimedia essays, like Scalar, can begin to chart out not by an essential quality of any particular media employed, but by the gaps and slippage from format to format of expression and in pathways that break away from seamless narratives of film history. Such essays can relay or enact the contingency of our language and write new histories of figures such as Normand, either by the design of the essay or by the choices of the readers.

By contingency here I am following Richard Rorty’s  “repudiation of the very idea of anything – mind or matter, self or world- having an intrinsic nature to be expressed or represented” (Irony, Contingency, and Solidarity, 4).   In Irony, Contingency, and Solidarity, Rorty referencing Donald Davidson, asks us to set aside language as a medium of the true, or middle party between self and reality and instead understand language not as representation but as metaphoric redescriptions of life, science, culture (14-16).   Rorty places us in the world of the metaphor and the performative –that is a world less about the relation of communication to external truth  — than to a sense of the context, convention, and intent of the speech act.   Digital media such as Scalar are particularly useful since as Alexander Galloway notes in The Interface Effect they do not produce an object so much as an effect and function not as a representation but as a simulation, moving us away from essences and ontologies to practices and ethics.   In other words, Rorty’s and Normand’s contingency of world, language, and identity is simulated in the multimedia essay not reproduced as a thing.


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Writing Contingency: Data Acts: (on the Scandal of Mabel Normand) by Vicki Callahan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.