Digital Praxis/Filmic Texts

February 11, 2011

My colleague at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy at USC, Virgina Kuhn, has just published Filmic Texts and the Rise of the Fifth Estate which “maps the use of a documentary film as a main text in an undergraduate course, explaining its practices and elaborating its theoretical underpinnings before gesturing toward some of the more salient unresolved issues that offer avenues for further research.”

The essay sits online and is written in Scalar, an authoring tool by the same people at IML and Vectors who helped me design Learning From YouTube. In fact, built into Scalar are many of the features we had to make from scratch to write LFYT: the linking and moving of video and text as one composite object and a way to make and mark recursivity as a digital authoring stylistic, for example. It’s an amazing tool, and Virgina has done really interesting things with it. Her essay has three paths (what I call YouTours), covering theory, pedagogy, praxis, and then attending to her own writing forms and practices.

It is this last move—describing her new digital writing tools, methods, and concerns, the subject of the path called “structure”—that seems particularly telling about this new breed of writing. Yesterday, I gave my first talk about LFYT at NYU’s Anthropology Department (thanks to Faye Ginsburg!), and I seem to have the very same impulse when asked to discuss my digital publication. My talk begins: “While I’m very pleased to present to you my video-book’s content (my ideas about YouTube) today I will be as interested in thinking about this online, networked, multimodal academic writing about YouTube as one offering in a sea change of texts and from a developing community of practitioners—all humanities based experiments and experimenters working in what I call digital praxis. Today my goal is to demonstrate how for my work of digital praxis the forms, processes and structures I choose and use are inseparable from my YouTube findings.”

In my recent teaching on Feminist Online Spaces, I’ve been wanting to think about such self-reflexivity in relation to form, practice, and structure as a decidedly feminist act. In the Q and A at NYU we further discussed this in relation to the devoted labor practices such forms demand, not to mention their ephemerality, and devotion to economies of the gift (feminist principles all).