May 13, 2008
I’ve spent the first half of my sabbatical attempting to “write up” the findings of my course, Learning from YouTube. Given that the heart of the experiment of the course was to learn the strengths and limitations of moving a set of common experiences (teaching, learning, “writing”) fully into the digital space by doing so, it only made sense to “write up” my course within the digital. To this end I’ve completed 6 tours of the class on YouTube which attempt to model a form of academic structure and analysis there. And I’ve “published” a paper on another academic blog. I wrote a short piece (The 5 Lessons of YouTube) for a non-academic audience that I have tried, so far unsuccessfully, to publish in Slate, Salon, and The Nation. The editors were supportive but told me that my work was “too academic,” and they must be right. Even when I use conversational language, there’s something (but what!) in my tone and approach I just can’t seem to shake. Its out to First Monday now. And of course, I’ve been blogging here. My YouTube writing has forced/allowed me to radically rethink the circulation of my work, its audience, and function. So that’s good (although my media always moved in these ways, so maybe my scholarly writing is circulating more like a video now).
Now, I’ve been asked to adapt a talk I gave at SCMS (Society for Cinema and Media Studies), which was based on my MP:me manifesto (written as my first post here, August 27, 2007), into a written paper to be published in a book of essays on first person cinema. Now, here’s the rub. I gave the “talk” as a series of linked videos on YouTube (a method I’ve been experimenting with to present my work on YouTube) without speaking myself (or rather, I was speaking, but not live). It was a rousing failure at the conference because the technology did not work (the connection was not fast enough, so I ended up having to narrate what I had put on-line, oh the multi-layers!) I basically intercut (using the clunky YouTube playlist function) between the video chapters of my manifesto (made in homage to Vertov’s manifesto) and YouTube versions of Man with a Movie Camera. Whether it worked or not, I was hoping to demonstrate (without SAYING so) tensions and connections between modernist/post-modernist form, male and female approaches to media, the home and the city, the personal and the social, going solo and communal, film and video, the expert and the amateur, the communist and the feminist, and how the powers of new media undo or redo many of Vertov’s claims about cinema (linking, montage, the unscripted and scripted real). And now, I’m trying to figure out how to “write” about this construction between and across moving images and sounds on paper!
Its trite to observe that words fail us when we speak of images and sounds, and now we don’t need to do this anyways (hence my YouTube analysis), so who cares, let it go! Its worth noting, of course, that my students and I often wished to write papers about what we learned because this was the most specific way to get across analysis. Further, if I can figure out how to write this up for a book, the word-version will have different readers, a permanence, and a different context than it has on-line, and that’s not insignificant (if I wasn’t a full professor, I’d also say it’d help me with promotions, etc. but I am lucky enough to think outside this logic). This writing really shouldn’t be in a book. It demands the link. So it raises all my colleague Kathleen Fitzpatrick and her gang at the Institute for the Future of the Book have been modeling: they’re better on all this than I am so make sure to read what they’re about. (I have been in long conversation with these guys about my Media Praxis project somehow connecting to their work, whether this ultimately comes to pass or not, this summer I plan to model how to finally realize this project on-line). But for now, I’ll be trying the small task of translating the media-link to the word. I’ll keep you updated.