Blog Post

Digital Scholarship, Vidding, and Risk

I'm pleased to be back for my second year as a HASTAC scholar!

In lieu of an introduction, I'll post something I just put up on my academic blog, Queer Geek Theory, the other day. And I will add that being one of the best things about being a part of HASTAC has been the sense that, as I take risks with my scholarship, there are other people who will appreciate what I am trying to do, who are working on similar things themselves, and most of all who have my back.

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The current issue of Camera Obscura contains a short essay Kristina Busse and I wrote on "Scholarly Critiques and Critiques of Scholarship: the Uses of Remix Video." We discussed the ways that the fannish form of vidding has begun to be recognized across different circuits of knowledge production, and what is gained and lost when that happens. One of our examples was the defiantly non-institutional Us, by Lim, which has nevertheless been shown in galleries and many classes (I've screened it multiple times). The other was my own work engaging with vidding as a way to do digital scholarship.

I spent this morning on Twitter discussing Kathleen Fitzpatrick's essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, calling on emerging scholars to take on risky projects and on senior scholars to mentor them (and here I must remark that I have been the beneficiary of incredibly generous mentorship from senior scholars in queer studies, science fiction and fan studies). I was concerned that the "risk" in her piece talked only about the digital, not about other reasons we should take risks in our intellectual work––to stand up for marginalized voices, be accountable to our communities, hold fast to unpopular or dangerous ideas. As I said on Twitter, it bothers me when "risk" is conflated with form. There are risky books, and risky ways of writing, that badly need support. And supporting dangerous ideas, varied forms of writing, and digital scholarship should be mutually reinforcing, not either/or.

With all that said, I've decided today that it's time for me to take a digital risk. I'm letting go of a barrier I've generally kept loosely raised between myself as academic and myself as not-terribly-prolific vidder––a barrier that has been wearing itself down on both sides for some time, if it ever existed. It was my academic interest in fandom that inspired me to make these vids, after all. You will now find a tab for "Vidding" at my website and you can go there and watch the vids I've made and shared within fannish networks that have the most to say to my academic project. I'll keep it updated. As well as works in their own right, these are the beginnings of my project of scholarly vidding, of vidding with and as scholarship; I hope it will take me to further possibilities, and maybe even further risks, in future.

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9 comments

Alexis, I'm very excited to see you taking this risk. As someone who hasn't quite reached the skill necessary to post vids or other alt-ac research projects (but who will need to produce something for the dissertation anyway!), it's great to see someone like you publicly posting their work. Can't wait to see what you've produced and to join you in the ranks soon enough.

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Thanks Amanda––I would love to talk about technical aspects of vidding/alt-research with you some time! I definitely found that getting the competence to express what I wanted to in a vid was an arduous process, and I really needed the resources that the vidding community provides. It would be great to develop some community resources around doing this kind of thing as a scholarly project.

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I think this is awesome, especially since it's peripheral but relevant to your research. One thing I've been hearing a lot is that researchers need to (or at least should try to) do what they study in order to ask deeper (or any) questions about what they're studying and researching. I've been learning this first hand in one class this semester called Mobile Technology: Learning By Hacking, which is a hands-on course at USC Annenberg devoted to tinkering with technology to investigate a research object and be able to ask better questions about them. Basically, it's using hacking as a research method.

And I also learned this hands on when I did a talk at the Open Video Conference back in 2010 on the Downfall Meme (aka. "Hitler Reacts"). For my talk, I created my own Downfall video parody, but it helped me understand much more subtly how the process of creating the videos influences how they're made. And also, my talk was about how YouTube was removing these videos due to copyright... and mine was taken down too! A very unique lesson. (You can check out my video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxv2t3GNPsc)

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Thanks for this comment! I definitely agree that 'doing is research'––and working through the implications of that in theory and practice is meaning that vidding's probably going to be more than peripheral to my post-dissertation research. 

That class sounds amazing; I'm a little tempted to try and sit in. I am intrigued by the ways 'learning by hacking' could apply to cultural as well as technological objects; vidding's a way of learning about visual media by hacking, really.

 

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Come say hi: Wednesdays from 2-5 in the Annenberg Innovation Lab!

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Right when the other class I've been sitting in on takes place, of course... 

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What an exhilarating and terrifying step -- I'm so glad you did it, so glad to have an example to follow, and so glad to meet a fellow fan around here. I'm still very wary of linking up my fandom and academic production, but to not admit one to the other seems... strange. Not too charming, either. So I'm thinking about how to rectify that troubling (productive?) schism. 

I'm really looking forward to reading the dw links you posted, especially the ones from Matt Hills and Jonathan Gray, who have been my intellectual guides this summer! Thanks again for such a generative post. 

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Hi Regina! I now really want to get coffee and talk fandom with you... Do let me know if you're in LA.

Glad you enjoyed the links to the fan studies blogs. Taking part in that dialogue was really helpful for me in terms of articulating the role that fandom plays in my work, and in making the decision to be open about just how much my fannish practice shapes and informs my academic research. I actually think that having been a part of fannish knowledge production (and gender/race/class/sexuality critique) for years has helped me to navigate the digital humanities; my academic experience has been growing more and more like my fannish one for the past couple of years, and it just makes sense to bring down the barriers at this point.

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Hi Alexis et al,

Glad to see the discussion about doing and practice in an academic research context. For me, my practice turned into my research as opposed to the other way around. I'm a choreographer who works on wearable interfaces and interactive installation performance. I've been a dancer my whole life and when I started pursuing my interest in digital interfacing and performance histories within an academic context I noticed almost immediately how my practice informed my research, but also vise versa. It would be great to keep these conversations about the relationship between these two things going. This topic is well articulated in dance performance studies, but perhaps less so in media studies. And even in areas where scholars have been exploring the praxis/theory relationship for some time it seems that each approach to the relationship is unique.

The class on hacking as a research method sounds excellent. Learning to program was my first step into more accurately describing digital performance. I'd love to hear more about how a course that teaches this hands on approach as method is designed. Courses like these perform a similar kind of risk and I imagine also encourage risk taking in scholarship more generally.

 

All best,
Ashley

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