Blog Post 11: Internet Culture: Aesthetics, Attractions, Spectacle, Politics

Hi everyone,

For our closing discussions this coming week, we turn to the aesthetic and social possibilities of digital culture in the form of the animated gif. For Tuesday, we’ll be reading Kate M. Miltner and Tim Highfield’s article “Never Gonna GIF You Up: Analyzing the Cultural Significance of the Animated GIF,” and Amanda Hess’ “The Silent Film Returns — On Social Media” (in the packet as well as complete with gifs online) This blog post asks you to do some producing as well as some analyzing as a way of engaging with the meaning of the gif.

Once you’ve read these two pieces, you should create a gif that illustrates some of the characteristics they discuss as central to the meaning of the gif as a genre. To do this, I recommend using the gif-making tool on Giphy or on Imgflip. Both of these sites will ask you to register — I know, I know — but you’re also welcome to use whatever other tools or sites you like to make and post your gif. You can browse around on these sites or on Youtube to find some video material that you think would be good source material, and then enter the URL for that material on the tool page, which will then take you to a page where you can add a caption, filters, etc. — be creative with these possibilities, but you should at least add a caption that helps you to focus and convey the effect and meaning you want your gif to have.

In addition to being funny, your gif should say something — try to use this format and genre to make a larger cultural point of some sort, whether that be about media, culture, social issues, the current global moment, or something else (if you like, think of this as a warmup to one approach to this week’s thread on Discord). In your post, you should include a link to your gif, and analyze it through the framework of a specific piece or pieces of writing from Miltner and Highfield and/or Hess — show how your gif illustrates the ideas and issues they’re discussing.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 9:00am on Tuesday, April 21st. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 10: The Politics of Data

Hi everyone,

This coming week we move from the politics of sonic production and consumption online to the politics of digital data and surveillance. Our first reading, Siva Vaidhyanathan’s analysis of the politics of Facebook, suggests some new ways of thinking about how we act online and on social media and what those actions mean in a larger context. As I mentioned Thursday, we’re extremely lucky to be having Vaidhyanathan join us on Zoom for a conversation Tuesday. He is is the Robertson Professor of Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia, and author of a number of important books in digital media studies, including Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy (which our reading is excerpted from) and The Googlization of Everything — and Why We Should Worry. On a lighter note, he’s been getting some good press in the mainstream media more recently for his Zoom backgrounds, which perhaps we’ll get a chance to see Tuesday.

So to prepare for us to talk with our visitor about his work, this post will be a mix of what we’ve done last week and something new. Your post should do two things:

  • First, engage with one specific significant issue as we did with Harvey’s article last week. Again, you should name the issue specifically IN BLOCK LETTERS and explain it, and illustrate it with a quotation and analysis of that quotation: show what the issue is, how Vaidhyanathan is thinking about it, how you understand that thinking, and how you respond to it.
  • Then you should pose two questions that we might pose to Vaidhyanathan in our discussion — rather than factual things, think of these as specific, open-ended questions that emerge from your reading of the chapter (they could be tied to the issue you write about first or be something different if you like). What seems intriguing in this material that you’d want to hear and think more about? What ideas, issues, questions do you want to hear about from him as a scholar of Facebook and digital culture more broadly?

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 9:00am on Tuesday, April 14th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

 

 

Blog Post 9: Sonic Production and Consumption in the Digital Moment

Hi all,

Nice job finishing the first week of real Zoom classes! As I mentioned at the end of our time today, next week we’ll shift from the politics of individual identity construction online that we’ve been looking at to the politics of larger online relations of production and consumption of sound. To get us started, here’s a thread for writing about the Eric Harvey essay we’ll discuss on Tuesday, “Station to Station: The Past, Present, and Future of Streaming Music.” For this blog post, you should think about at least two specific important issues Harvey raises in his essay — think of these in terms of keywords or themes or questions that strike you as significant in your reading. For each one, you should name the issue specifically IN BLOCK LETTERS and explain it, and illustrate it with a quotation and analysis of that quotation: show what the issue is, how Harvey (or another person he cites or discusses) is thinking about it, how you understand that thinking, and how you respond to it — do you agree? Disagree? Do you think we need a totally different understanding of that issue? How so? Try to use the issues and material you quote from Harvey to develop your own position on key issues in streaming in response.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 9:00am on Tuesday, March 31st. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 8 (again): Social Media and Identity Construction Online

Hi everyone,

Welcome back to the blog! Our first reading for our Digital Media section, Lisa Ehlin’s “The Subversive Selfie,” asks us to think about selfies, one of the most pervasive elements of digital culture, in a different way from how we’re often encouraged to see them — in terms of identity, gender, power, and selfhood itself. (Keep in mind that we’re now following the new new schedule as of March 26, emailed and on Blackboard.)

In your post for this week, you should use some key claims and ideas from Ehlin’s article to analyze a particular selfie — find a meaty, thoughtful quotation of a few sentences from her article, introduce and explain it in your own writing, and apply it to a selfie of your choosing. In applying that quotation, you should analyze your chosen image in relation to the ideas you draw from Ehlin — how does that image illustrate, complicate, oppose, or otherwise relate to her thinking about selfies overall? And what’s important about that relationship — what does seeing that image in relation to her argument show you about it, and about selfies and identity construction online overall?

You’re free to use a selfie of your own, or another one you can find and access online — a celebrity’s, a friend’s, or anything else is up for consideration. The only rule here is that you should include a link to it in your post so that I and everyone else can look at it, and that it should be publicly available (i.e., not part of a private account). If you want to get a direct link to an Instagram post, the easiest way to do that is to look at it on a computer rather than your phone, and copy that address into your post. Keep in mind that WordPress’ spam filter sometimes doesn’t like links, so I may have to approve your post manually, but as long as you submit it on time, you’re ok.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 9:00am on Tuesday, March 31st. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 8: Sonic Technology and Remix Aesthetics

Note: This blog post is now on pause due to schedule revisions. Stay tuned and don’t post yet!…

Hi everyone,

Nice discussions of streaming TV this week — a good way to cap off the pre-spring break portion of the course and look ahead to the digital material to come. When we come back we’ll continue to build in this direction, thinking about the aesthetic and social significance of technologically produced music.

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Our first day back, we’ll look at the technological and social contexts of disco  — you should read the excerpt from Ulf Poschardt’s DJ Culture in the blue packet and watch/listen to the two clips on the class playlist: Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” and Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage. Then for your post you should spend some time thinking about and responding to what seems most significant to you about this material, particularly Poschardt’s writing. The blog posts for this second half of the course will be a little more open-ended from here onwards — so you might think about what’s important about how DJing works with pre-existing sounds, or the social or sexual implications of disco, or what kinds of dancing disco this music inspires and what’s important about that, or any other issues that strike you as interesting or surprising, as long as you ground your discussion in some close analysis of both the textual and the sonic material for this day.

Have a great break and I’ll see you all when we get back!

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 9:00am on Tuesday, March 17th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 7: TV Futures

Hi everyone,

This coming week is our last one thinking and talking about television — we’ve been talking here and there about the implications of streaming TV, and this week will give us the chance to look at it more closely and think it through more fully.

cord-cut-picSo let’s use this week’s blog to start doing that kind of work: you should first read the two articles by Poniewozik for Tuesday, and then use your post to think about what seems most significant to you about streaming TV based on your reading. How does streaming as Poniewozik theorizes it alter concepts we’ve been talking about such as flow, complexity, or culture itself? What does streaming do to time, to how we engage with TV, or to the role it plays in our social and political lives? You’re welcome to reflect on the significance of these readings and the issues they raise in any way that seems important to you, as long as you do so through some close examination of text from both articles — make sure to integrate these pieces into your writing, and try to think about how the two pieces you choose relate to one another.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 9:00am on Tuesday, March 3rd (keep in mind also that the TV chapter proposal is due at midnight Monday night). If you have any questions, let me know via email.

 

Blog Post 6: TV as Narrative and Culture

Hi everyone,

Nice job with some rich discussions of televisual structure this past week. Next week we move into thinking about contemporary narrative forms on television, and how changes in the technology and structure of TV allow for new kinds of artistic creation and experimentation.

game-of-thrones-smallWe’ll consider Breaking Bad and The Handmaid’s Tale as examples of this kind of work together in our Monday screening, but for Tuesday’s class our goal is to start considering how the overall vocabulary of complexity helps us to think about television more critically and analytically, and how we might apply that vocabulary. So your post for this week should have two elements. First, you should work to explicate and engage a key passage from Mittell’s chapter: what are some of his key claims in the place you choose, what do they mean, and how do you respond — what seems important there and why? As in past weeks, you should focus on a meaty quotation of a few sentences here. Then apply that thinking to a show or series that strikes you as relevant to the issues you’re raising — obviously you can’t discuss the entirety of the series, so think of our discussions of film narrative and the short encapsulations Mittell gives as models for how to connect these materials. Try to think of examples that Mittell doesn’t mention, so that we can work on applying this framework in new ways and new directions.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 9:00am on Tuesday, February 25th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 5: TV as Social System

Hi everyone,

This coming week we move from the big screen to the small one in thinking about the social and artistic dimensions of television as a mass medium. We’ll start Tuesday with the two chapters in the packet by Raymond Williams, one of the key social theorists of television (also make sure to watch/listen to the two pieces in the class playlist).

static-tvOnce you’ve read the material by Williams, you should spend at least 1-2 hours watching primetime TV and reflecting on how it illustrates the concepts and issues he discusses. Then for this week’s blog you should post some thoughts connecting the two: what seem to be the most significant arguments about television in Williams’ argument — where do they appear in his writing, and what’s significant about them? And how do you see those ideas playing out in the television you watch — what workings of TV do you see that illustrate, complicate, contradict, or otherwise relate to what strikes you as important in Williams’ thinking? You’re free to pursue these connections in whatever way seems significant and interesting to you, as long as you ground your thinking in some quotation and close analysis of Williams’ writing to set up your analysis of television content.

Have a good weekend, and happy watching!

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 9:00am on Tuesday, February 18th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 4: Gender, the Body, and the Gaze

Hi everyone,

Nice job with Get Out today! As I mentioned at the end of class, next week we turn our attention to a different set of issues within the cultural politics of film form and narrative, namely the question of how visuality relates to power dynamics around gender. Our first text on these issues is Laura Mulvey’s 1975 essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” one of the landmark texts in film studies and particularly in feminist film theory.

Although it’s fairly short, Mulvey’s essay is also dense and challenging, so part of our work with it will be to move towards a close, in-depth understanding of the complexities of what she’s talking about and trying to do in her writing. To that end, this week’s blog post is a little more tightly focused than some weeks so far: in your post, you should focus on unpacking and analyzing one specific passage in Mulvey’s essay that seems particularly significant to you. It should be more than just a single phrase but less than a paragraph — the kind of nice, meaty claim of a few sentences that you might quote and analyze in a paper. You should introduce and set that passage up in your writing, and quote it and paraphrase or explain it in your own words. Then spend some time thinking that passage through: what’s significant about it, and why? What issues is Mulvey raising here, and what do you make of them? What values and/or problems do you see in what she’s claiming in the section you’ve quoted? How do the ideas you’re analyzing relate to the broader picture of our thinking about film, politics, and culture so far?

Part of our goal here should be breadth as well as depth in how we engage with this reading, so once you’ve read the essay, take a look through this blog thread before you post, and if someone has already posted on a passage you were thinking about, try to do something different — either think about another passage to write on, or try to add to, deepen, or complicate what they say rather than just repeating it in your own words. Discord is also a great tool to work out thoughts, responses, confusions, etc., around this article over the weekend and to see what other people are thinking — I started a Mulvey channel there for people to post in.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 9:00am on Tuesday, February 11th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

 

Blog Post 3: Film Form, Film Narrative, Film Aesthetics

Hi everyone,

With Groundhog Day coming up this weekend, it seems an appropriate moment to turn our focus to film narrative. So next week, we’ll move from thinking about how film works as a flow of images to how film tells stories. Our blog for Tuesday’s class gives you a chance to think about how some key elements of film narrative work and what larger effects they have.Groundhog Day

After reading the chapter by Bordwell and Thompson on “Narrative Form,” you should do a few things in your post:

  • First, focus in on one concept or area of their thinking that seems most significant to you and define and explain it in your own terms: what does that concept mean? How does it play into film narrative? What’s significant about that role?
  • Then you should apply that concept to a film of your choice in a short analytical discussion — show us what role your chosen concept plays in making your film work the way it does and how it shapes your film’s meaning. Think of the examples Bordwell and Thompson use in their writing as a model for how to do this (although you should pick a film of your own choosing rather than repeating one of theirs!).

I’m interested to see what everyone comes up with — have a good weekend and happy writing!

PS: Discord is a great place to list possibilities and share ideas for this kind of material! You can also use it as a kind of public note-taking — post ideas and responses as you’re reading and thinking.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 9:00am on Tuesday, February 4th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.