Tristan Pope, "Not Just Another Love Story"

Film Studies 203A

The Consumer as Creator in Contemporary Media

Spring 2006

Instructor: Henry Lowood Office: M 9.30-11; W 2.30-4, Green Library 321C 

Tues, 9am-noon

Cummings Art Building, Art 103


Please be prepared by completing assignments before class.


April 4

Art worlds: communities, roles, personnel.

Read these texts with the goal of constructing a grid of functions and roles. For each of these authors, who produces art, performance or media content? How are associated activities organized? We'll begin class with introductions, then discuss these questions for about the first half of class. In the second half of class, we'll have a more free-ranging discussion and talk about goals for the seminar.

Howard S. Becker, "Art Worlds and Collective Activity," pp. 1-39 in Art Worlds (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1982). Available in Coursework.

Henry Jenkins, "Taking Media in Our Own Hands," Technology Review (9 Nov. 2004)

Jan Cohen Cruz, "Between Ritual and Art," pp. 81-104 in Local Acts: Community-Based Performance in the United States (New Brunswick: Rutgers Univ. Press, 2005). Available in Coursework.

April 11


In the first half of seminar, we will discuss the readings. Let's focus on the relationship between resistance and participation in contemporary media. In your use of media, what represents the hegemonic view? How is it coded in some typical media products, such as a Madonna music video, Star Wars, television news, or a sports event? How then do you construct meaning out of these "texts?" What tactics are available to you to resist the meaning constructed through them?

How does co-creation (participation) in media production or appropriation of these media forms influence these tactics?

In the second half of seminar, we will have a code and resist workshop! I will bring in a few videos or other projects for us to consume and code together, discussing ways in which the readings help us figure out what is being resisted, transgressed, appropriated, and how.

Stuart Hall, "Encoding/Decoding," pp. 123-32 in Popular Culture: Production and Consumption, ed. C. Lee Harrington and Denise D. Bielby (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2001). Available in Coursework.

Michel de Certeau, "General Introduction to The Practice of Everyday Life," pp. 63-75 in The Everyday Life Reader, ed. Ben Highmore (London: Routledge, 2002). Available via SULAIR Ebrary collection. Login required. Supplement the text by searching the web for notes and commentary that elucidate Certeau's differentiation of "strategy" and "tactics."

Henry Jenkins, "Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars? Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture," pp. 281-314 in Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition, eds. David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003).

For in-class viewing: Kevin Rubio, "Troops" (1997) (2005); Stef & Phil's New York Defender (2001); Digital Cutup Lounge, "DCL vs. Madonna" (2003); Paul Marino, "I'm Still Seeing Breen".

April 18

The cultural economy of fandom

In the first half of seminar, we'll start with the Fiske and Jenkins readings. Next, we'll look more closely at anime videos as a model for community-based participatory media, including the spectrum of roles from consumption to enunciation to production. Please view the Narutrix before class be prepared to discuss the issues below about community, distribution, etc. As time permits, we will also view a few fan videos.

John Fiske, "The Cultural Economy of Fandom," pp. 30-49 in The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, ed. Lisa A. Lewis (London and New York: Routledge, 1992). Available in Coursework.

Henry Jenkins, "'Strangers No More, We Sing': Filking and the Social Construction of the Science Fiction Fan Community," pp. 208-36 in The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, ed. Lisa A. Lewis (London and New York: Routledge, 1992). Available in Coursework.

Ryan Shaw, "Media Streams Metadata Exchange: User Study and Initial Requirements" (MIMS Final Project Report, 2005). Focus on "User study: The anime music video community," pp. 5-28. For more background, see the Anime Music Videos website. View and be prepared to discuss the "community work" involved in the making of "The Narutrix." (Part of the puzzle is to sort out the various versions of the Naruto-Matrix mix.) Find out what you can about how the video was made, how the community helped to make and distribute it, how it comments on both of the media "franchises," etc.

In-class viewing: Evan Mather, "Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars" (1998); Jhfong (Julian Fong), "Pulp Bebop" (April 2001).

April 25

Mods, Open Source, Co-creation, with Cory Ondrejka, from Linden Lab, the developers of Second Life.

Everyone please read the Ondrejka easy to prepare for his visit. Then read at least one of the other three articles (but feel free to read all three -- not an onerous assignment at all). We will open with another filk circle; be prepared to speak for a couple of minutes about anything that struck you about the article you read -- an important argument or point, something you vehemently disagree with, a surprising revelation, a connection to earlier readings, whatever. We will spend the rest of the time speaking with Cory about his essay and about Second Life. If you have time, it would be good to prepare by surfing the web and reading about Linden Lab's stance vis-a-vis the intellectual property represented by what is created in Second Life.

Olli Sotamaa, "Computer Game Modding, Intermediality and Participatory Culture."

Lawrence Lessig, "Open Source Baselines: Compared to What?," in: Government Policy toward Open Source Software, ed. Robert W. Hahn (Washington, D.C.: AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, 2002).

Anne-Marie Schleiner, "Parasitic Interventions: Game Patches and Hacker Art" (1999); and "Velvet-Strike: Counter-Military Graffiti for CS."

Cory Ondrejka, "Changing Realities: User Creation, Communication, and Innovation in Digital Worlds" (19 Jan. 2005)

May 2

Music/business & law: Remixing, mash-ups and sampling

We will all read During, Sanjek, and the fair use texts and discuss them in the first half of class. For the second half of class, we'll divide the work, with two groups (as divided in class) reporting on the case studies. In the case study reports, answer these questions in any way you choose: (1) is authorship dead or alive in remix culture? Does sampling/mashup give us a new model of authorship? (2) is this "fan culture" creativity? (3) is this project within fair use?

Elie During, "Appropriations: Deaths of the Author in Electronic Music," pp. 39-58 in Sonic Process (Barcelona: Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2002). Available in Coursework.

David Sanjek, "'Don't Have to DJ No More': Sampling and the 'Autonomous' Creator," pp. 243-56 in Popular Culture: Production and Consumption, ed. C. Lee Harrington and Denise D. Bielby (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2001). Available in Coursework.

There are many explanations of fair use on the web. Compare these two: "What is Fair Use?" (ibiblio) and "What is Fair Use?" (Stanford University). So, what is your understanding of fair use? Compare the Fair Use approach to the Creative Commons, "The Sampling Licenses".

Case Study 1: John Oswald

John Oswald, "Bettered by the Borrower: Copyrights and Music Composition," Whole Earth Review (Winter 1987): 104-110. Better version available via SULAIR e-journals.

Kevin Holm-Hudson, "Quotation and Context: Sampling and John Oswald's Plunderphonics," Leonardo Music Journal 7 (1997): 17-25. Available via SULAIR e-journals (jstor); requires login.

Case Study 2: Grey Album/Mashups

Sam Howard-Spink, "Grey Tuesday, Online Cultural Activism and the Mash-Up of Music and Politics," First Monday 8 (Oct. 2004).

For links, reviews, history: "The Grey Album by DJ Danger Mouse," BannedMusic, a Project of Downhill Battle website. BitTorrent download available on the BannedMusic site.

May 9

Video/culture: viral videos; found film and stock movies; from fandom to mainstream.

First, remember to send me a one-line description of your likely paper topic! (See assignment below)

In the first half of seminar, we will talk about the use of found film -- stock movies, movie mixes, etc. We will view several entries from StockStock and excerpts from Rick Prelinger's "Panorama Ephemera." Among other topics, we will compare these projects to fan video and remix cultures. In the second half of seminar, we will talk about the emergence of fan and viral video content into the mainstream of web and movie culture. First, we will talk about the impact viral media distribution is having on notions of content, production, performance, creator. Then we will view three movies that cross over (in several ways) from fan culture and use them as a springboard for discussion of the relationship of participatory culture to the established media industries.

READ: Marc Davis, "Garage Cinema and the Future of Media Technology," Communications of the ACM (50th Anniversary Edition Invited Article) 40: 2 (1997): 42-48; Stockstock rules page; as points of reference, compare to Creative Commons Copyright Criminals contest, or think back to Anime Music Videos website. What do you see as core issues in the evolution of video remix and "plundering" (Oswald) of stock and other found footage?

In class: StockStock videos (2003); excerpts from Rick Prelinger, "Panorama Ephemera" (2004); International Remix Project.

READ: "Star Wars Kid," from Wikipedia; Kyle, "The Infancy of Internet Television," Pure Pwnage website (28 March 2006); "A Guide to the Online Video Explosion," Wired 14 (May 2006). [Click on the "plus" boxes; if you have access to the print version, take a look at the chart that accompanied the article.]

In class: David Lehre, "MySpace: The Movie" (2006); Joe Nussbaum, "George Lucas in Love" (1999); "Pure Pwnage, Episode 4: Pwn or be Pwned" (2004).

May 16

Games/technology: Replay culture & machinima

Nicholas Werner will offer a premiere of his new machinima at the beginning of class. We'll offer constructive criticism.

In the first half of class, please be prepared to discuss:

Mia Consalvo, "Zelda 64 and Video Game Fans: A Walkthrough of Games, Intertextuality, and Narrative," Television & New Media 4 (Aug. 2003): 321-34. Available via SULAIR e-journals; requires login. You might want to compare the fan-created content discussed here to ways of reworking other media, such as Television without Pity.

Henry Lowood, "High-Performance Play: The Making of Machinima." To appear in: Videogames and Art: Intersections and Interactions , Andy Clarke and Grethe Mitchell (eds.), Intellect Books (UK), 2006. Also to appear in: Journal of Media Practice : Videogames and Art issue (2006); "Story-Line, Dance/Music or PVP? Game Movies and Performance in World of Warcraft," Aesthetics of Play, 14-15 Oct. 2005, Online Proceedings.

These readings will give us a handle on enunciative and textual production (cf. Fiske) by players. What do you think is noteworthy about these modes of production, particularly in reference to earlier readings and other media we have discussed?

For the second half of class, please read Paul Marino, "The French Democratizer," Thinking Machinima website (16 Dec. 2005). Follow the links to learn about this project and find the movie on Lionhead's The Movies community site. Please view " The French Democracy" and Tristan Pope's "Not Just Another Love Story" before class (both available via the Machinima Archive -- large download warning!). In class, we will comment on the movies as we watch sections together. Let's compare these two projects as fan videos, opinion texts, cultural resistance.

Last, we will take a look at the "Red vs. Blue" web series of machinima. We will try to sort out these various approaches to game-based movies and talk about whether you think any of them defines a potential route for machinima to the media "mainstream." Is this question of finding a path to the mainstream important?

May 23 Quickfire paper ideas -- 3-5 minute presentations by everyone around the table, each followed by 5-10 minutes of constructive critique and advice.
May 30 Paper presentations -- 15 minute (maximum) presentations of arguments, each followed by 10 minutes of questions. 25 minutes maximum for each presenter. This week: Cameron, Henrik, Tom, Cristen, Matteo, Regina
June 6

Paper presentations -- 12 minute (maximum) presentations of arguments, each followed by 8 minutes of questions. 20 minutes maximum for each presenter.

This week: Matteo, Alice, Kara, Matt, Nick, Tony, Parul.

For the last hour of class, we'll be joined by by Graham Leggat, SF Film Society

As a concluding text for the seminar, please read, Lev Manovich, "Remix and Remixability," <nettime> (16 Nov. 2005).

Papers due June 15!!!