It's been my belief for some time that there needs to be a blog, and ultimately many blogs, devoted to academic film and media studies. There is no shortage of websites devoted to film, television, popular culture, or new media. And a few of them are written by scholars teachers, mediamakers or other educated critics: see the blogroll for some of these. But to my eyes, few of them are fully devoted to discussing and promoting the discipline as a discipline. This is where Category D steps in.
Why blog? I think most scholars would recognize that while the value of scholarship is measured in formal, peer-reviewed outlets, so much of our education, inspiration and insight comes from interaction with other scholars. I think back to my graduate school days and the role my colleagues had in challenging and encouraging me, in introducing me to ideas I'd not encountered. I think, too, of the academic conferences I've attended showcasing the variety and sharpness of work being done by other film and media scholars. What academic blogging can do is extend these kinds of informal conversation beyond the confines of the geographical and institutional limits we all face. As someone currently without institutional affiliation, I'm particularly keen on making connections with other media scholars. Unlike the folks at the Valve, I don't see it as a way to work around the discipline; I see it as a way bolster the kinds of conversation that disciplinarity should, at its best, rely on.
There is increasing talk of a crisis in academic publishing, with Cinema Journal weighing in with a forum a couple issues back and the Modern Language Association drafting guideliness calling for changes in tenure review and requirements. Not to take away from the structural factors at play in academic employment, I'd say the crisis in not merely one of production but of consumption. Too many scholars are chasing too few readers. I don't have any profound way to address the overly harsh gatekeeping that results from the overproduction of PhD's (especially since I currently do not have an academic job), but I think we, as a community of scholars can do a better job of serving as a receptive audience for each others' work. It's not something I've always been great at, particularly in the process of specialization that the dissertation required. But this blog will, as time permits, look at the books coming out and journals articles of interest. It will also compile news for conferences, calls for papers and other academic ventures. Hopefully, too, it will be able to participate in full dialogue with other blogs and online discussion out there.
I know a lot of people are more upset than me about the policing role of academic disciplines, and some in particular have gripes about the way film studies constitutes its object of study. But, having gone through a doctoral program and come out on the other side of the process, I appreciate the insight that the discipline has enabled me to have. I value the sophistication of our models and scholarship, which I believe compare favorably to those in other humanities disciplines. I have always enjoyed our conferences - SCMS, Screen and the more topical ones - and fear that we might become more and more like the MLA, a giant sea of young scholars giving papers to the ether while preprofessionalism paralyzes intellectual dialogue. This site is a small measure to combat that fear.
Manhattan wrapup: RHAPSODES and more
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