Day 3: Monday, June 23rd
The reason I came to Collegium is for a specific purpose, one that could potentially help my university. So it is interesting that what I have gotten out of it so far has been more relevant to a research project that has been in the back of my mind for years.
At my university, I have been helping to develop a sense of how to approach online and blended learning for our students, as well as to help faculty develop their online and blended courses. One of the issues that we have discussed in this process has been the extent to which we are able to translate the research-centered teaching we have been honing on campus from the face-to-face learning environment to the online environment. Part of this is to be able to maintain a quality of our institution’s educational experience that makes us distinct in the area. Another part of this is to be able to maintain a commitment to a Dominican and Catholic approach to higher education. As part of this process, I was awarded a fellowship to further investigate how to translate the Catholic ethos of higher education to an online learning community.
Day 2: Sunday, June 22nd
On the topic of mass…
I am still uncomfortable joining in on the spiritual sessions and Catholic Eucharist ceremonies that are scheduled for this colloquium. I feel like an intruder, an interloper, a negative presence. There is nothing that anyone here has said or done that has made me feel this way. In fact, I appreciate their willingness and desire to offer a blessing to those who beseech it, such as those other other religious affiliations who would like to experience the ritual. And they offer many different spiritual discussions that I am sure can be seen as less denomination than the sacramental rituals. But I would feel disingenuous in being blessed, as it would have no impact on me. I do not believe, that is the simple truth of it all. Perhaps before the end of this week, I will venture into one session, just to listen, which appears to be my main goal here, as I cannot partake in conversations about religion.
We are now full swing into the summer blockbuster season for Hollywood, and let’s take a tally of movies that are currently out or soon to arrive that originate from the pages of comic books. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The Amazing Spider-Man 2. X-Men: Days of Future Past. Hercules. Guardians of the Galaxy. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Kingsman: The Secret Service. Big Hero 6.
All of this, without mentioning the big hitters coming soon, such as the second Avengers movie, or the one that finally brings Wonder Woman to the screen while pitting Batman v. Superman. All of this, a range of titles for the young to the mature. And these are only Hollywood films. Consider all of the movies made from comic books around the world, and the numbers are staggering. The top ten comic book adaptation movies have grossed around $4.05 billion dollars in just over a decade, proving their dominance at the box office in the United States and around the world.
Dialogue may be considered to be a session of give-and-take that occurs with relatively short turnaround time — one person speaks, then the other person responds, leading to the first responding to the second’s responses, and so forth. The time lag between the first person speaking and then speaking again is the consideration for the length of time the second person speaks. Such an exchange occurs from between two people and becomes decidedly more complex as the number of participants is added, as in a focus group setting.
When we talk about dialogue in terms of the relationship between the media audience/user and the media industry, we are talking about how the one speaks to the other, and the other listens and responds. The dialogue can result in the opinions of the audience/user influencing the content of the media texts because the industry has incorporated the opinions of the audience/user.
I think I have now determined what my main research trajectory will be, and I wanted to take the opportunity to organize these thoughts to provide the beginning of a structure for how to organize my research, past, present and future.
For awhile now, I’ve been convinced that how the new media has affected our understanding of “audience” is by highlighting certain behaviors that have always been a part of being an audience, or “audiencehood”, but were not due to the media technologies they engaged with and the sociocultural formations that influenced how they could behave. We’ve heard of how the audience was characterized as being passive, as required to consume and not talk back. This conceptualization was found in the early days of media studies, with the heightened concern about media effects on vulnerable populations. This conceptualization was found in the traditional approaches to US broadcasting, positioning the “audience-as-consumer”, to be packaged and sold to advertisers. While there was acknowledgement that people had the agency to choose, that agency was often thought to be lessened when in an era of restricted choices in media output.
However, this conceptualization has been repeatedly challenged since the 1970s. In the academic realm, this challenge came from critical-cultural theories and uses-and-gratifications models that sought to empower the audience as meaning-makers in their media engagings. With increases in media output, due to cable and satellite technologies, nichecasting began to replace broadcasting business models. New technologies gave more control to the audience for deciding what to watch and when. These “new media” helped to drive academic and public discourse on “audience activity”, moving away from passivity models and into physical and interpretive activity as moderating and mediating variables in media effects.
The focus on audience activity increased with the digital revolution, especially as it involved the evolution of the Internet into the central communication network for distributing and exhibiting media output. Because the Internet, and more specifically the World Wide Web, allowed for people to connect to one another and form communities, they were able to build fan communities online across time and space in ways that they could not in the physical, pre-Internet world. Academics, and the industry, turned their attention to the Internet and other digital media technologies, such as DVR, for empowering the people by requiring them to be active in order to gain content from their media technologies. Fan-scholars in particular began to celebrate the ability for people to organize and vocalize their affection and activities online.
The paradigmatic shift into Web 2.0 has, on the one hand, heightened this discourse of empowering people by turning them into produsers or prosumers, but on the other hand it has also been met with increased calls for reducing the celebratory approach and a sometimes implicit technological deterministic approach. The idea of the Internet spawning these activities has been challenged by media historians conducting research into how fans of film, television, radio, and comics have always been engaged in the types of activities for which the online fan communities are lauded. The historical approach has helped us to understand that fan activities have always existed as they currently do — they may only be modified in how they are presented due to the technology through which they are produced, distributed, and exhibited.
Now, I am not saying that there are no differences between media technologies. Obviously they are. Each has a unique interface and a specific combination of communication channels that impact how the content is produced and engaged with for that technology. However, I do not agree that the “new media”, which has been code for digital media technologies, produce as different of engaging situations as some new media scholars may assert. While there are going to be differences, such differences should not be assumed to be primary and always there. Similarities should be sought for as much as differences.
I make this assertion because of the historical research into media technologies that asserts that every medium was a “new medium” at the time of its introduction; that each new media technology underwent a period of revolution-evolution that, in some ways, show similar patterns for how people, individually and collectively, come to engage with it. Being a new medium indicates that these technologies are undergoing a period of flux as societies and cultures determine how to “manage” them through developing rituals and conventions of use, and integrating the technology into the delicate, malleable and fluctuating fabric of societies and cultures. As people develop practices and arrangements for using the new technology, it becomes more accepted into the people’s daily lives.
Now the main thing here is that people learn how to engage with the media, either through their own personal experiences or via instruction that comes formally or informally, such as through popular cultural portrayals of the technologies. Each technology has a learning curve — and the newer the technology, the more unfamiliar the person is with it, then the steeper that learning curve may be if there are no analogs that the person can draw upon to help them engage with it. But regardless of what type of media technology, whether it is “old media” or “new media”, we should be able to discern this learning, or sense-making, by investigating the sense-making within situations of engaging with that technology and its content. I believe that by conducting such investigations would help us to understand the similarities as well as the differences in how people engage with and are affected by media technologies.
I believe that the Web 2.0 paradigm and the concern about interactivity as a dividing line between “old media” and “new media” has provided the opportunity to explore how people engage with all media to understand just what separates the new from the old. I believe that we will find more similarities than we had expected by conducting such investigations into how people make sense of the media they engage with. I believe that the notion of transgressing audiencehood, which some will claim has happened because of the Internet and more recently Web 2.0, because of empowerment through interactivity, happens with other media as well, drawing us back to the 1970s critical and cultural models of people interpretively interacting with media content.
Overall, I want to understand how the interactivity of the digital media and the Web 2.0 paradigm shift has changed: how the industry responds to the audience, how audience activity is defined and understood, and how people have actually always been engaging with the media, through their sense-making and appropriating, as we celebrate them for now. I have started this trajectory with work: on gameplay marketing and experiments in interactive television to understand what the industry is doing; on virtual world television production, online fan identities, and gender negotiation in fandom to understand what is now audience activity; and on sense-making in a range of media technologies, from films to virtual worlds.
I hope to do more to strengthen this trajectory and this central idea: that we have always been active audience, interpretively and physically, regardless of the media technology we engage with to reach the content, but that the technology does certain impact the parameters of that activity for how we are active. I hope to understand these parameters and how they impact what we are supposed to do, what we can do, and what we have to do to do what we want to do.
For many fans, the return of Doctor Who to BBC had its highlights during the David Tennant years as the 10th Doctor. During his reign, he was consistently voted highly in public polls on favorite actor, best actor, and sexiest actor by British fans, and by fans from around the world. 10Rose was a favorite shipping by fans in their discussions and fan productions. Even after Tennant was replaced by Matt Smith, 10Rose shippers continue to focus on stories about the 10th Doctor and his companion Rose Tyler. I count myself in that group, having written my own 10Rose story.
You can’t get tickets to Comic-Con that easily anymore. Back in 2007, the passes were already being sold at a record rate. It’s accelerated since then. My boyfriend and I were thinking about going this year, but everything is sold out. So until we can find a new time to get there, I’ve been reflecting back on my time there — especially as the new viral marketing campaign for The Dark Knight sequel ramps up and we are going to possibly see some new gameplay marketing there.
So in the spirit of looking back, I found the notes I took on the Thursday, the main opening day, for the 2007 convention. I thought I would share my impressions from back then, and to look forward to hearing how the 2011 convention is: what difference will four years make?