The Categories Laypeople Use

I have so many posts I've been wanting to write, and none of the time. It's been a good busy, though, especially last week, during which I made a visit to LA to do some more archival research for my ongoing social problem film project and the particular RKO paper I'm giving at the upcoming Media Histories conference at Austin (pdf flier). It was a rewarding and productive time spent in various library special collections, and rewarding too for what I call the "surrender to the emprical," an epistemological shift from deductive argumentation to inductive, from scholarly control to patience, something that's especially important for those, like myself, trained in more theoretical approaches.

Anyway, in face of the various traces of film industry and culture in the late 40s, I'm struck by the extensive use ordinary viewers used concepts that overlap with those in the social sciences or media study. I don't mean that there was no distinction between scholarly perspective and lay perspective (for lack of a better term). After all, not everyone in 1947 was writing the MPAA to protest racial stereotypes in film or writing reviews arguing for the need of a Marxian view of social causation in narrative. But some were. Some people talked in terms that would be at least familiar to use today, while others are in separate media effects universe (my favorite was a letter worried that Lost Weekend would contribute to alcoholism because it showed people drinking!) There are various methodological approaches one can use to make sense of the overlap between common-day language and scholarly concept (I'm partial to Bourdieu, naturally), but it's a phenomenon I'd like to bookmark for myself since it keeps coming up the more I try to understand how various parties circulated and understood something like a social science discourse in postwar cinema.

Beyond that, I'm also fascinated by preview card summaries. I keep wanting to do something with them, but feel I'm without a satisfactory methodology.


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