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July 2010, Week 1


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"Larsson, Donald F" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 4 Jul 2010 23:19:57 +0000
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The inherent multi- and inter-disciplinarity of this thing that we do has always been one of its attractions for me (as was the inherent poly-disciplinary nature of "English"), but it is a moving target in at least two directions, simultaneously.  One is the nature of certain academic "disciplines" that evolve (or congeal) over time as certain sets of assumptions, practices and standards through departmental structures and criteria for tenure and promotion (among other things).  Consider how the different departments that Michele refers to might structure professional expectations in different ways for what is more or less the same area of study.

The other is the evolving nature of the moving visual arts.  "Film" has undergone theoretical and practical redefinitions every time a major technological innovation came along to dominate the practice, but those redefinitions can only accelerate now with the proliferation of new ways of producing, distributing, watching and interacting with moving images.  There are practical issues that departments have to grapple with (such as having the appropriate technology to access a body of moving visual texts).  There is also the problem of coping with those who dismiss (sometimes with justification) the notion of hoping on the latest technological vehicle and with those who will rush to embrace whatever the techie flavor of the day is.

On a broader scale, there is an inherent tension between these two trends that has interesting implications in light of the current demands for "accountability" in higher education.  The point of my rambling above is that "introductory" texts in this area ought to consider what "learning outcomes" we expect our students to demonstrate.  If faculty members and academics don't take those ends into account, we will find that there are those who are all too eager to do it for us.  Not much help for Jeremy's very practical question, but the issue has been haunting me of late for a variety of reasons.

Don Larsson

"Only connect!"   --E.M. Forster

Donald F. Larsson, Professor
English Department, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Email: [log in to unmask]
Mail: 230 Armstrong Hall, Minnesota State University
        Mankato, MN  56001
Office Phone: 507-389-2368

From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List [[log in to unmask]] on behalf of Michele Hilmes [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Sunday, July 04, 2010 11:59 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SCREEN-L] TV Critical Studies Vs. Mass Comm Research?

All of this has been really interesting to read; so many things to think
about.  Responding to some of the considerations that Bobby, Vicky and Frank
bring in, what I've been wondering lately is whether our field -- let's call
it Cinema and Media Studies, to echo the organization most of us here in the
US, anyway, consider closest to us -- hasn't reached a kind of critical mass
where we ought to seriously think about how to pull ourselves together and
define a field of study that takes in all the roots discussed here -- Lynn's
art/art history arena, the more qualitatively-oriented aspects of empirical
work, the lit crit heritage, cultural studies, the media studies/television
studies tension that Karen brings in, and the body of approaches we might
think of as film theory, pulling in new media too -- and assert a coherence
that we've lacked up to now.

I think the coherence is actually there, but it's hard to see because we
tend as scholars to be scattered across so many different departments and
intellectual homes:  English and comp lit, art history, mass comm, comm
science, rhetoric, etc. etc.  I've found myself arguing recently for trying
to create a profile for Cinema and Media Studies as a Humanities-based
discipline, the one doing cutting-edge research in an area increasingly
central to cultural life as well as to the interests of undergraduate
students (a not insignificant factor!), employing a highly integrative model
of research that combines texts, industry, audience, social contexts,
policies and technologies and a variety of methodologies to approach them --
empirical and critical.  This is the direction intellectual inquiry in the
humanities has been heading in for the last thirty years, and cinema and
media studies has really led the way, in my opinion.

So, to Jeremy's list of topics, I would suggest:  not just auteurism but
authorship (and all the issues relating to the nature of creativity and of
intellectual property that brings in), not just genre but narrative and
textuality (especially the fundamental seriality of television which has led
it in such pioneering directions, and its equally fundamental
intertextuality), not just political economy but industry studies (an area
that film studies introduced into the humanities and that is fundamental to
TV and digital media study, and that includes policy, another pioneering
area in the humanities), not just semiotics but visual culture studies,
definitely feminism/sexuality/ethnicity race theory but also audience and
fan studies.... you get my drift!  And don't forget about sound!

A lot to do in one introduction! -- and maybe not practical.  But I'm
offering this as a thought about our field and how perhaps we need to begin
thinking about it, with Jeremy's and Bobby's books as the springboard (and
we need more fundamental texts in cinema and media studies).

What do you think?  Misguided empire building?

Best, Michele

On Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 9:23 AM, Johnson, Cathy <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> Dear Jeremy
> I really enjoyed you email which I think does accurately sketch out the
> changes that have taken place within television studies over the past 10-15
> years. Perhaps outlining the shifting debates (as you sketch here but in
> more detail) would be the perfect way to deal with your predicament. It is
> useful when looking at early television studies research to have an
> understanding of the ways in which they were situated as a reaction against
> mass-comm approaches. So an exploration, acknowledgement and historicisation
> of this would seem to be a very useful way of beginning a survey of
> television research methods.
> Best wishes and good luck,
> Cathy Johnson
> ________________________________
> From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List on behalf of Jeremy Butler
> Sent: Tue 29/06/2010 22:41
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [SCREEN-L] TV Critical Studies Vs. Mass Comm Research?
> When Bobby Allen compiled the original edition of *Channels of
> Discourse*(1987) -- the TV-studies manifesto for those of us trained
> in film studies
> -- he felt compelled to define television studies as a reaction to
> mass-communication research. And when I first put together my TV-studies
> textbook, *Television: Critical Methods and Applications* (1994), I elected
> to do the same. I constructed a TV-studies methods chapter that begins by
> explaining the mass-comm approach and then explains how critical studies of
> television are different.
> But now, some sixteen years later, as I ponder the revisions for
> *Television
> *'s fourth edition, I wonder if this is still necessary. Can't television
> studies stand on its own two feet? Must it continue to think of itself in
> negative, reactive terms -- as providing what MC research cannot?
> Certainly the flurry of books that have appeared in the past 12 years with
> "television studies" in their titles (see below) suggests that the
> discipline is quite well defined and that it need not present itself as
> "analyzing TV, but not from that mass-comm angle." Sure, it's hard to *
> precisely* define television studies and, sure, we all wonder what
> "television" will be in the near, media-converged future; but the
> discipline's general parameters are clear and network television refuses to
> die, despite the pundits' eulogies.
> Second, the use of ethnographic methods *within* television studies
> illustrates that it's now less of an "us-versus-them" scholarly
> environment.
> In both audience studies and production studies, we are seeing the
> profitable blending of empirical methods with critical methods. The
> imperative to define television studies in opposition to old-school,
> statistics-based empiricism is quickly eroding.
> So, I take the opportunity of this textbook revision to ask the practical
> question:
> Can/should a survey of television studies' research methods begin without
> first explaining, "Here's how television studies is different from
> mass-comm
> research"?
> As I stumble through this revision, I'd be interested to hear your
> thoughts.
> -- "Television Studies" books, 1998-2010 --
>    1998:  The Television Studies Book
>    1999:  Critical Ideas in Television Studies
>    2002:  Television Studies:  The Key Concepts
>    2002:  Television Studies
>    2004:  The Television Studies Reader
>    2004:  An Introduction to Television Studies
>    2009: Television Studies After TV
>    2010:  Television Studies: The Basics
> --
> Jeremy Butler
> Professor - TCF Dept. - U Alabama
> ----
> Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
> University of Alabama: <>
> ----
> Learn to speak like a film/TV professor! Listen to the ScreenLex
> podcast:

Michele Hilmes
Professor of Media and Cultural Studies
Director, Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research
Department of Communication Arts
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama:

Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama: