Matthew Tinkcom: Eduction: A Theory of Value in the Digital Cinematic Epoch

This is available in printed form as part of the Conference Proceedings Book at Lulu.

Streaming audio for this panel is available here

I. Introduction

Prior to the emergence of digital modes for the storage, circulation and exhibition of moving images, critical commentaries on the uses of non-professional film and video production emphasized the seeming dead end of these media for the production of historical knowledges outside those officially sanctioned by most scholars. Indeed, in a terrible epistemological paradox, the seeming amnesia around these amateur modes fostered the disappearance of these very same media; writing in 1995, Patricia Zimmerman commented that the potential loss of these materialsboth in their physical destruction by neglect and in their absence from film canonsis not simply an inert designation of inferior film practice and ideology but rather is a historical process of social control over representation.1 Taking up this challengethe challenge of recuperating amateur film for new understandings of such phenomena as nationalism, domesticity, and queer identitiesJane Simon argues that digital media offer significant remediations that complicate such forms of social control, but she cautions us not to be utopian in embracing these technologies simply because they are thought to be new media. In her discussion of the transfer and bundling of 8mm amateur cinema in Australia to the dvd format, heralded by the Homemade History series about amateur film in Australia from 1950s and 60s, Simon argues that the positioning of digital media as a discontinuity with obsolete forms of media reveals a desire to avoid stabilizing the new and the future as a mere continuation of the past.2 Put another way, the adaptive re-use of older media in digital forms may not be as disruptive of what we want from or for the past if we continue to write the same historical narratives and see them as confirmed by what we apparently have discovered, through digitalization, of older non-canonical media.

At the same time, Simon offers the sense that digital remediations of prior cultural forms do make possible new practices and social relations that need to be seriously engagedwere it not possible, for example, to screen in the Homemade History dvd Ken Garrahys super-8 footage of gay and lesbian social clubs in the 1960s, we would be ignorant of the presence of queer social lives in Australia in the pre-liberation politics historical epoch, and in this regard what is made possible is what Simon describes as histories of particularity [emphasis in the original] that can be accessed without the difficulties of accessing either home movies or projectors and that can be easily reproduced, distributed and accessed through libraries. (Worth mentioning, as a way of bringing particularity to this digital mode of historical knowledge production, is the sense that not all libraries, at least in the U.S., would be amenable to making available queer alternative historical mediaat least where I live.)

Frank Gray and Elaine Sheppard, creators of an on-line resource to regional digital moving-image archives in the United Kingdom called Moving History, note that the practices of official digital archivists shape our larger notion of the film canon in unexpected waysand, indeed seem to honor an evaluative scheme that is inadvertently quite the opposite of what Zimmerman discussed ten years ago. According to Gray and Sheppard, because public digital archives honor intellectual property rights and cannot post copyrighted materialsand frequently do not have the resources to pay for royaltiesthe bulk of their content is derived from orphaned materials that are transferred to digitalized forms. They write that the projects duration and funding did not provide for either copyright license payments or film-to-video transfer costs. These restrictions unfortunately meant that some potential material was excluded automatically. However, these conditions also meant that in some cases less prominent and less-used moving images were selected and allowed to come to light through the website.3 The activities of the archivistcataloging, digitizing, publishing to the world-wide-webnot only make previously unseen cinema available to new users, but allow us to screen films from widely dispersed archives in relation to each otherfor example, scholars working on gender, consumerism and fashion would be well-served to screen both Fashions of 38, a 1938 8 mm silent film that depicts home-produced fashion shows4 and Risqu Dresses, a 1970 news piece on the appearance of dcolletage in the southwest of England.5

If the changes described by these scholars and archivists are acutely felt and theorized at the institutional level, let us consider the effects they have on those who use the archives for their own purposes: to manufacture moving images in the digital mode.

II. Eduction: The Archive, History, Value

In an essay published in 2006 in The New York Times called The Secret History, Herbert Muschamp offered his own assessment of the decade long controversy over the refurbishment of Manhattans Number 2 Columbus Circle. Designed by Edward Durrell Stone in 1964 and brandishing a highly ornamented neo-Venetian Gothic marble faade, the building was, in the moment it was erected, highly at odds with the particular glass and steel modernism favored in the post-World War II United States. Until its refurbishment last year, in the preceding ten years the building has been the object of a pugnacious debate brought about by developers attempts to strip it of what Muschamp calls its first lady architecture. Muschamp argued that the Stone building should not be touched. Strikingly, though, he does not defend its particular style. Rather, he argues that the building should be preserved in all its anomalous glory because of its status as a part of New York Citys history as a gendered space. The Stone building was commissioned by A&P grocery chain heir Huntington Hartford for his collection of pre- Raphaelite, impressionist and surreal art. Until its closing in 1969, it was a space where many queers met, drank, ate, and cruised in its penthouse restaurant, the flamboyant tiki-themed Gaugin Room.

Muschamps campaign to preserve the Stone Building in all its ornate architectural glory was, at base, a question of archives and a question of value. Muschamp, in essence, argued that Number 2 Columbus Circle should have been preserved because it changed the canon of architectural value championed by the citys Landmark Preservation Commission. The Commission had remained silent over the possibility of a queer history residing, literally, in the walls of some of Manhattans built spaceas if aesthetics and preservation (that is, the archive) can be separated from issues of value and social history. Muschamp outted 2 Columbus Circle and, by implication, suggested that preservation is never innocent or disinterested in its shaping of the uses of history. He indicted the Commission for its failure to protect this building, and ended his commentary with a polemical flourish: A vibrant city is perpetually recreated from the emotional depths, and from our socialized capacity to empathize with the memories of others. A landmarks commission embodies this capacity in administrative form. It should be the agencys business to know when somebodys memory is being stepped on.6

I open the question of history, queerness and value in this essay in terms of the idea that the metropolitan landscape might be filled with instances of queer memory and thus functions as a potential archive because I think that it poignantly has implications for the even more fragile media of the moving image. I will argue that the preservation of a queer archive, and who seeks to preserve it, raises questions about the nature of how those parts of our livesthe private arena to which sexuality is too often consigned in our habits of thought and the public sphere where debates about what is to be preserved occurare more bound up in each other than our labors may realize. I will further argue that recent media technologies have implications for the expansion of this archive into the habits of production and viewingbothof cinema. So, I am arguing that the archive is not defined solely as those texts, objects, images, sounds or buildings which are understood as worthy of preservation but includes also the impulse to archive, and that this impulse conjoins the aesthetics of use to the aesthetics of materiality. Muschamp charged the New York City Landmarks Commission to understand the citys counter-memories as part of New Yorks public, municipal identity, and this re-shapes the archive as a very queer thing.

As Jacques Derrida notes about the archive, it shelters itself from this memory which it shelters: which comes down to saying also that it forgets it.7 For Derrida, the archives status as an official form of memory which is preserved for the sake of power undercuts and is undercut by the sense that something which antagonizes sanctified memory is contained paradoxically within the very archive itself. As Derrida notes, the archive was conceived in Greek culture as a domestic activity, one where the larger political world was prohibited from tampering with the contents of the household, and thus the private home protected memory from revision. By contrast, the queer counterhistorical archive of the motion pictureevanescent, increasingly mutable, especially in its digital formpresents us with archival issues every bit as political and infinitely more malleablethe home is now the space where so many non-professional users revise the archive. As I have argued previously (in my book on camp), consumption and production must be theorized as entwined as we consider the queer archive of the cinema. To make visible what is hidden in the archive is, in a sense, to queer it, or at the very least to recognize that those memories seized upon by the archival impulse move across a threshold similar to that of queer value: they lose the very power of their anonymity as they become more publicly recognizable.

I find the analogy between urban space and the moving image useful for understanding the transfer of cinema to its specific digital iterations because I am interested in the astonishing mutability of filmic archives, and the relative instabilities of all of those categories within film history, criticism and theory. The transfer of cinema to its specific digital iterations that is occurring presently destabilizes the idea of film and its archiveindeed, the idea of film as an archiveto a such a remarkable degree that we should take pains to understand the effects of this process upon some of our most central assumptions about the nature of the cinematic text. Most historians and theorists of the cinema have been able to take advantage of the sense that, whatever other effects a film might have upon its audience, it was finalized as an object of exchange within the economic chain at the moment of its exhibition; to use Marxs locution, its material substratum was complete. The rich body of scholarly work of the past three decades on the topic of spectatorship has sought to demonstrate how reception manufactures its own versions of the film textthrough fantasy, pleasure and displeasure, through film as social textbut these arguments, too, were predicated upon the idea that the commodity of the film was highly stable as an economic object.

In comparison, the present historical epoch marks an astonishing displacement of films manufacture into the sphere of consumption, and with it arrive new opportunities (or demands, depending on how you see it) for cinemas users. This shift has occurred through what economists would note is the migration of several factors of production across the production/consumption divide: the machinery for the manufacture of the moving image has taken new shapes in small, comparably affordable prosumer cameras, film-stock is increasingly supplanted by digital recording modes, and editing, visual and acoustic effects become markedly standardized and professionalized through pc desk-top software applications. We need to attend carefully to our moments displacement of production into consumption, borrowing from what the marketing nomenclature of high-end consumer technology calls prosumer uses. Whether in, for example, Andy Warhols films of the 1960s or the Stone building, prosumption has been with us a long time, even if it has not been as visible in past eras as it is in our digital moment. Now, however, prosumption is everywhere. Prosumption is key to the digital moment, but precisely how, and why prosumption operates is the question of valueand of queernessthat I am addressing. And, I am here making the link between Andy Warhols cinema and the preservation of the Stone building because, in my mind, it is not simply a coincidence that Andy Warhols cinema did much the same thing that we are being asked by Muschamp to do: to read a record of both the queer lives that were lived there, and as a queer record of how to read those lives. Warhol himself was perhaps the original prosumer because his cinema and art continually seized upon financially accessible forms of mass media16mm film stock or silkscreeningto produce from such consumer technologies highly professional works of art.

In our own moment, prosumption derives from the digital modes ability to reproduce both the cultural commodity and the modes of its production with high fidelity. Its economics are tricky. When someone says, as is the case of the film I discuss below, Tarnation, that a movie was made for $300, what do they mean? And what does that bargain basement pricetag mean for the film industry writ large? Put another way, in more realistic and more historical economic terms, the last two decades intense and virtually incalculable capital investments in technology, and especially software development for industrial applications, is the foundation of every three hundred dollar movie. Yet the production values of current digital cinemaand the sophisticated labor of those who have mastered or been weaned as youthful consumers on digital technologynow presses the boundaries of the film industry itself and competes with that formation. The capital investments in technology of the last decades are derealized and that capital is diluted across myriad computer hard-drives where the capacities for handling image and sound through new interfaces facilitate significantly more individuated modes of production.

How the archive is understood, indeed what constitutes an archive, and the kinds of meanings that might emerge from a variety of archivesofficial, personal, secret, self-madematters immensely to the question of digital cinema because the transfer of the archive into the larger matrix of digitalized image culture has immense economic, social, formal and ideological repercussions for the ways that we think about the moving image in its past and present moments and, of especial significance for this project, about who seeks to work upon that archive. This argument is reminiscent of that in Working Like a Homosexual: in camp, subjects who for such a long time have found themselves distanced from the sphere of productionsituated within strict prohibitions upon those representations related to dissident sexualitiesfound ways to make use of the techniques of cinemain the use of color film stock, in editing, in the varieties of performancein order to create a new moment in cinematic culture. Thus I am arguing that one way of seeing the new labors of digital cultural formsprosumptionis by analogy to this history of camp part of a larger historical tendency in which more longstanding media are liquidated by particularized forms of labor into digital forms and in this process they are renewed as possible commodities. Note that I have said possible. I insert that conditionality because part of the problem at hand is that digital cultural forms are not required to behave as objects of economic exchange, even as they experience a re-valuation in various social and aesthetic registers.

Indeed, I would argue that cinemas transformation by the new digital media of software design, dvd-formatting, digital storage modes like Tivo, and the world-wide web occurs most centrally in terms of its relation to prior instances of recorded visual, acoustic and textual culturethe archiveand that the digital formats of the archive shift many of the activities of production away from the sphere of production. And, they do this at the moment in which the digital money form and digital cultural production find themselves as similar information forms in the nexus of exchange more intensely than in any prior historical epoch.

This new nexus of exchange is such a remarkable change in the nature of cultural commodities that it calls for a different theoretical category by which we might make sense of the labors involved. I am calling this form of labor eduction, a process defined by the attempt to extract new forms of value from the material substratum of the digitally preserved cultural product. I am arguing that, while there are prior historical analogiessuch as Warhols invocations of studio star glamour or Kenneth Angers readings of Hollywood gossipdigital media are more dependent on eduction than cinematic forms of the pastin scale, in scope, in potential, and in value.

Im devising the term of eduction from the latinate verb to educe, which in its multiple meanings can suggest, variously, the activities of drawing out something hidden, latent, or reserved; branching out such as a river or blood vessel might do; evoking or giving rise to a new version of something. The common features of those things that are educed are (1) that they call for the refashioning of multimedia aggregates into new narrative forms (2) that they contribute to the attribution of values (be they historical, ethical, aesthetic, affective) but not necessarily the extraction of subsequent economic value (3) that eductions participate in preservation but also in the revision of older cultural productions in their transfer to digital forms and, finally, (4) that the economic implications of digitalization means that those texts that are produced through the extraction of new value frequently short circuit the economy by moving through networks other than those of the marketplace.8

III. Jonathan Caouettes Tarnation

Eductions take many forms. Among them: the redeployment of the back-catalog of Classical Hollywood film in the media channels of Turner Classic Movies and Netflix, the use of 1960s martial-arts cinema in the hyper-edited and hip-hop styled cable program Kung Faux, the deployment of film-as-wallpaper in the mise-en-scne of Steven Spielbergs 2002 feature, Minority Report, or the redistribution of web-based prank films on Bravo TVs program, Viral Video. Non-industrial, more personalized eductive endeavors might include Joan Bradermans feminist videos such as Joan Does Dynasty, Tom Joslin and Peter Friedmans Silverlake Life, Joe Gibbons Barbies Auditions, and Todd Hayness Superstar. Here, I want to examine a more recent production that exemplifies what I have been arguing about queerness, the archive, prosumption, and eduction: Jonathan Caouettes 2004 release Tarnation.

In an opening sequence from Tarnation, Jonathan Caouette fashions a home-movie gone terribly wrong. Sending up the conventions of the kinds of sentimentalized home video compilations that are frequently made to commemorate anniversaries and birthdays, Caouette offers us an account of how his mothers life, and his own, lost direction and developed into a nightmare at the hands of doctors, clinics, foster homes and other family members. Variously a documentary, a multimedia self-portrait, and a cinematic poem, Tarnation is, not least, a tribute by Caouette to his mother, Renee, and the harrowing effects of a lifetime of medical treatment on her physical and mental wellbeing. The film additionally offers an account of Caouettes development as a queer man and an artist by editing together his personal archive of family photographs, super-8 home movies, video footage, audiotapes, answering machine messages and popular music, all processed in Apple iMovie software. More specifically, Tarnation offers an almost singular instance in film culture in which a perverse subject is able to construct these narratives of self and family through the use of such diverse media, and the film is particularly significant in light of its refusal to adhere to the more commonly available narratives in which queer subjects are understood to mature within the violent antagonisms towards same-sex desiring people. Indeed, even within the bulk of seemingly well-intentioned accounts that emerge from the sense that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, like everyone else, have families and that their families participate in the maturation of queer lives, there is frequently the sense that no queer person can speak on his or her own behalf, much less offer, as Caouette does, a story that seeks to explain not solely how he or she got that way but how it is that being that way is perhaps one of the few possible ameloriating effects of the traumas visited on his family by years of Renees electric shock treatments and the use of prescription psychotropic drugs. Tarnation appears as one of the few accounts to consider positively the huge blank spaces in what purport to be developmental accounts of proto-gay children, as Eve Sedgwick describes them, that circulate more generally within the literatures of psychology and psychoanalysis.

If understood as the effort by a queer son to invent a genealogy for himself, Tarnations status as an archival project stems both from its ability to recuperate the detritus of everyday recorded life and to situate those materials in relation to a more expansive history of queer self-representation. That is, it educes queerness from its media sources. The personal archive, which surely expands with every voice-mail, electronic communication, digital image and blog entry we ourselves might make, is within Caouettes account framed as part of the queer avant-garde life that he shaped for himself while growing up in the context of Renees repeated hospitalizations and the life he led with his grandparents and in foster homes. This genealogical project educes both the recorded details of his own life and the political and aesthetic dimensions of the avant-garde that, in a sense, helped to raise Caouette if not indeed preserve him from the familial disarray that surrounded him. Worth focusing on for my analysis, I would mention three important lineages within this project that converge in not easily anticipated fashion: television, underground film (particularly the cinema of Andy Warhol), and popular gay club music. Thus, there are many members of this family, and avant-garde and popular queer cultures appears with the familiarity of his own relatives throughout the film.

While it met with strong endorsement from many professional critics, Tarnations reception among viewers who have responded on web-facilitated discussion boards has been divided, with some writers defending the film, while the bulk finding it too self-centered and failing to offer any strong narrative. Among the many complaints to be found about Tarnation among the respondents on electronically-facilitated viewers fora is the persistent rejection of the film that can be paraphrased as something like I thought I was renting a documentary about the shattering effects of ill health and institutional abuse of families but all I got was a lousy music video about growing up queer. This rejection stems, its seems, from the sense of impossibility that a queer artist could educe any valuecinematic, financial, biographicalfrom the scraps of recorded media forms, much less make a movie that challenges the generic terms by which we might comfortably make sense of the film.

Tarnation is a challenging film, but part of the crisis being described here emerges from the problem of understanding the film as a documentarythat Caouettes relation to his pro-filmic material seems to produce an excess of affect and little factual material with which to form any conclusions. Confronted with Caouettes layering of the film, video and acoustic tape that he assembles and shapes through iMovie formatting, many viewers decide that the project is narcissistic and not worth giving their time and a place in their Netflix queuea repeated motif in viewer responses is that the film-maker is a drama queen. Caouettes decisions to educe his home archive indicates that the repositioning of such media brings with it strong rejections about what kinds of recorded culture seem capable of earningor notour own eductive attentions.

I am not sure that I can do much to alleviate such spectatorial dissatisfactions, but I do think that we can learn from these complaints inasmuch as the taxonomical problemthat is, the problem of calling this film a documentarymight more productively be rethought in terms of how Tarnation is part of the longer history of another cultural form, that of the melodrama. Here we can see how the logic of eduction, and the concomitant blurring of the consumers role into that of the producer through prosumption technologies, is not seamless but, like the Stone Buildings relation to architecture, disrupts the canonical archive of film history. We see this in the accusations of emotional excess and self-indulgence because these complaints inadvertently find a place for Tarnation within the more long-standing archive of cinema by reinscribing its apparent excesses within the terms of the melodrama. With its emphases on family life (itself sometimes nearly claustrophic), its reliance on the sense that identity and experience are most powerfully shaped by the relation between mother and child, its insistence on over the top performance as a response to the contradictions of gender and domesticity at hand, and its sustained use of music to organize and underscore (literally) its most important narrative junctures, Tarnation operates as a kind of non-fiction melodrama. As non-fiction melodrama, we witness again the strong imbrications of affect and value which materialist feminist critics have remarked upon as a hallmark of the melodrama from its earliest moments in live performance and cinema. Pam Cook, Mary Anne Doane and Linda Williams have theorized how the rewards of maternal labor are the ostensible ability to dwell within the very contradictions of domestic labor: hugely exhausting and barely rewarded in monetary terms, the exchange around womens bodies as childbearers, caregivers and household workers is based less upon a financial transaction and more in terms of the alleged affective returns given to women.

In these terms, what critics of Tarnation seem to be emphasizing is its failed emotional economy, to the degree that Renees distress and ill health are perversely compensated by Jonathans outlandish behavior. When we see video footage that Caouette includes of himself performing various fictional female characters that as a child he invented for himself, the film indicates that it is the queer son, and not the mother, who acts out in inappropriate ways, ways more associated with drag and the forms of performativity associated with day-time television. Here, Caouette gleans a wrenching performance that signals simultaneously his profound trauma and his already fertile eductive capacities for reading popular culture.

In a sense, rejections of Caouettes alleged narcissism seem to suggest that, whatever forms of aberrant behavior we might witness from Renee (such as when she sings to a pumpkin) these are acceptable as ostensibly recognizable symptoms of hysterical female behaviorwhats not acceptable is Jonathans embrace of those excesses in his adolescent video enactments. Claims about Tarnation as being self-indulgent, as the work of a drama queen, then might better be understood in the films refusal to frame the gender-play at work in these early video performances as part of a pathology; one can imagine a more recognizably straight-forward narrative that would seek to understand how a queer child might become a queer adult and lay blame upon the mother, such as that found in Alain Berliners 1997 French language feature, Ma Vie En Rose. Rather, in a caveat to regulatory panics about the fears of mass culture on the developmental lives of children, Caouette offers the powerful insight that television might, helpfully, make you into a drama queen when nothing else is going your way. In a sequence about the rich fantasy sponsored by his adolescent attentions to cinema and tv, the other family members who raised him about whom I spoke a moment agothe family of the archivecollide in a montage of Hollywood film, made-for-tv-movies, childrens tv programming, 80s music videos and Warhol cinema.

Tarnation does not, however, solely reveal the eductive possibilities of the archive for the filmmaker, but expands its attributions of value through the networks in which the spectator is situated as well, and important to emphasize are those aspects of the film that shape its eductive dimensions for us, its viewers. First, I would draw attention to the relation of the directors commentary to the film proper, for in this regard Tarnation is, like so many of its digital cinematic kin, not one film but many. The accompanying extra features of its DVD release offer a palimpsest of its prosumptive activities when we discover Caouettes comments about how he achieved certain visual and acoustic effects using iMovie, or the fact that he found some of the audiotapes that he uses behind his grandmothers clothes dryer. Where to find potentially eductive materials in our own mediascapes (i.e. look behind your dryer), and the possibilities for manipulating such forms on our personal computers situates Tarnation as a pedagogic text that allows us to queer our own archives. Second, Caouette also tells us that he couldnt secure the rights to particular popular music with which to score the film, and by indicating those songs he might have preferred, the film makes it possible for the viewer to rescore the film by locating the pieces he might have used by downloading them to listen to alongside the image-track of the official version. Indeed, an examination of

playlists compiled by some viewers and posted on blogs reveals the manner in which the eductive economy of this archive already unfolds through other media networks and through the efforts of participants other than Caouette. Put another way, once the process of eduction begins, it often enlists the efforts of others working in various media formsiPod users making playlists, fan-composed blogs, indeed, even mental health workers who, as in the case of Tarnation, have been worried about its use as a self diagnosis tool by any potential viewers and have discussed such on health-related list-serves.

By way of moving to a conclusion, I would historicize the effects of presumption and values eductions by considering Tarnations archive in relation to that of more large-scale studio film. It is remarkable that the corporate entities that produced such forms historically almost never saw any occasion in which to organize their productions for redistribution; Hollywood in the classical period obeyed the corollary of terminal consumption by maintaining a near indifference to its back-catalog until quite recently. The industrys shift towards an understanding of the cultural commodity as a site of possible eductions occurs, I would suggest, because of what digitalization makes possible: the dispersal of the archive back into the home, the place where, as Derrida notes, it was originally housed in Hellenistic societies. Read in terms of the modes of exchange at hand, the archives return to the domestic sphere also makes the economic palpable in its etymological rootsthe home, or oikos in Greek, becomes the renewed scene for activities of manufacture and decisions about labor. The possibilities for such dispersions into the domestic meets their own dialectical turn in the dual tendencies of the industrial sector both to take advantage of the economies of scale to minimize production costs and maximize profit by taking advantage of the digitals iterations while simultaneously attempting to enforce the sense of the commoditys terminus in the sphere of consumption, a terminus that, for the cultural commodity, now seems not to have existed in the first place.

Thus, films digital incarnation behaves in a new and historically unpredictable way: it reveals the possibility of cinemas circulating at different moments in its movement through the economy as only occasionally a commodity. Eduction involves the extraction of new forms of value, sometimes monetary and sometimes not, from the archive, and allows for the fact that monetary value itself is increasingly a mediated category. More directly to the point of the digital film that now makes its way into the domestic archive, say in the form of the DVD, the film industry relies upon the home user to participate in the new extraction of value heralded by eduction. This may occur through a variety of motivations, such as nostalgia, historical curiosity, even boredom, but some form of intellectual effort is necessitated by the foregoing form of cinema in its economic and intellectual dispersal via the digital. Thus the digital object has unleashed a new kind of exchange, based frequently less on decisions about money than on time, and such exchange is made possible by the very characteristics that make digital forms so easily circulated in the first place. It also compels that figure who might formerly have been called the consumer now to work upon the text. This compulsion occurs in a number of waysthrough fan commentary on message boards, in the distribution of image and sound files on personal websites, in the production of non-corporate cinema, in the unlicensed reworking of the corporate film product, in the choices that the dvd user makes about aspect-ratios, deleted scenes and directors commentaries and, finally for my topic today, in the non-industrial film-makers assemblage of the personal archive.

Put another way, the digital object of the moving image or the song file stores valuenot necessarily in a monetized formand increasingly seems to place no demand upon the economy to be adjudicated through the nexus of monetary exchange. However, in its capacity to store such value, other measures must come into play in order to understand relative worth, and it is the activities of eduction that devise those measures. At this point, a few disclaimers are in order: first, the category of eduction indicates those efforts in which value is extracted from the materially abiding digital commodity, and does not supercede the categories of production and consumption as much as it is meant to describe and theorize a particular form of value-coding at work when those two spheres collide in the digital era. Second, this is by no means a utopian process, as eduction gestures towards several important contradictions at hand: that the eductive subject will probably not realize any monetary value from his or her work, and simultaneously, the corporate sector is busily devising its own strategies for this new archive in the hopes that it can sustain a sense of centralized proprietorship. Lastly, digital eduction does not necessarily imply any concomitant progressive or radical politics, but it does make room for those cultural producers situated as subjects of alterity to gain access to the archive in new and unheralded ways.

The process of renovating Stones 2 Columbus Circle is nearly complete, turning it into what one critic describes as New York recast in the image of an office park for Swiss pharmaceutical companies. The building must now become part of a different archive, the one we carry around in our heads of the things we could not preservea virtual archive. The loss of one building in mid-town Manhattan may not be the most egregious thing to be visited on New York, despite the fact that, as Simone Signoret once said in another context, nostalgia isnt what it used to be. Yet, framed in the terms offered here, it might make us pause, especially those of us who work on a far more vulnerable and, I would say, intimate archive, that of the moving image. Yet, I would also argue that, in a world where the mess of a mentally unbalanced family can be turned into a widely-distributed film by the queer eye of a queer audodidact, where the film industrys accountants shudder at the prosumptive future and its implications for its own survival, it serves us all well to pause to rethink our own field and its underlying issues spoken and assumed--of value and archive. What we address as scholars and teachers is the everyday life of disposable ringtones, websites, blogs, chat rooms, mashupsin other words, the potential Blockbusters, Classics, Masterpieces, and Academy Award winners of our mutually constituted future and its eductive possibilities.


1 Patricia Zimmerman, Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995) xv.

2 Jane Simon, Recycling Home Movies, Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, Vol 20, No. 2, June 2006, 195.

3 More to the point, one of the driving tenets of Moving History was that materials be available for use online without copyright fees or other access restrictions. Frank Gray and Elaine Sheppard, Moving History: Promoting Moving Image Archive Collections in an Emerging Digital Age, The Moving Image, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 114.

6 Herbert Muschamp, The Secret History, The New York Times, January 8, 2006, p. 35.

7 Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, translated by Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) 2.

8 A longer version of this paper historicizes eduction in relation to other theoretical considerations of value-coding.