Monday, October 01, 2012

More on Film Studies Blogging

Chuck Tryon follows up with his own thoughts on the decline of film studies blogging. I suspect he's right to chalk a lot of it up to the novelty factor (or lack thereof). I'm less convinced about its correspondence to the movies themselves. For starters, I don't see a corresponding decline in cinephile blogging. And to the extent that "death of cinema" arguments hold true (and maybe they don't) I can't see any substantial historical shift between five years ago and today.

Cinetrix rounds up Chuck's and my posts in a response that culls them together in a series of "canards" about the death of film, film critics, etc. I'm not entirely sure what in my post put forth a canard, but maybe I should clarify what I mean. First, I make no claim about the state of film studies (which I don't think is in decline) or the state of cinema (complicated issue: experiencing certain types of decline but mostly still alive and well as a medium).

Second, admittedly my sense of the qualitative and quantitative decline of academic film studies blogging is impressionistic, but I can point to some indicators. There was a cohort of blogs active about 5 years ago. These are the ones I mention in my article. Not a large group, but they were in dialogue with one another. Some are still active, but many of the bloggers, myself included, post much less regularly. For each new blog, like Film Studies for Free, another (Dr. Mabuse's Kaleidoscope) has folded. Perhaps as importantly, blogging is not gaining popularity among scholars in the field. When I talk to colleagues at SCMS or similar conferences I may encounter those who have Twitter accounts (though film scholars still are resistant) but never those who have blogs.

What one means by "academic" or "film studies" or even "scholar" is inevitably tricky. I know there are some who want to break down distinctions I might think important. (I'm thinking for instance of the aca-fan movement.) And blogging can itself ease some of these distinctions: Cinetrix links to an interesting look at zooms in early 1930s Hollywood - this is not much different from a scholarly approach. I've tried to define "academic film studies blogging" for myself somewhere in between prescriptive (only my conception of academic discourse) and descriptive (anything remotely connected to film) definitions.

Stepping back to the prescriptive, though, this is what I'd like to see out of academic blogging (or Twitter): more dialogue between the specialist and the field. I don't have time to follow all the debates, scholarship, and agendas of subfields in non-US cinemas, television, nontheatrical film, experimental work, or contemporary film theory. But I'm interested in these areas and, moreover, my own scholarship would be stronger if I were more aware of others' research in a more conversational, synoptic way, without my having to read bodies of published essays. On the flip side, sharing my research may help those not working in my specific area see some of the concerns and debates of the area.

No comments: