The concept of genres has long been used to categorize and describe literary, cinematic and other creative endeavors. In the hybrid space that is multimedia scholarship, generic conventions offer a useful way of creating self-awareness and identifying the strengths and weaknesses of emerging forms of academic practice. One problem associated with introducing the concept of genres is the possibility that students will uncritically adopt the generic conventions of commercial or entertainment media. The Honors Program curriculum addresses this concern by exposing students to a broad range of multimedia genres and emphasizing the relative strengths and weaknesses of each within the specific context of scholarly production. Although each of the genres mentioned below has familiar resonances with the conventions of other cultural forms, these genres should be regarded as having been customized – or “regenerated” – to reflect the priorities of scholarly multimedia. It is also worth noting that most projects deploy elements of multiple genres, and students are encouraged to select and combine generic strategies in a process that is fundamentally both self-reflexive and hybrid. The following is a partial taxonomy of the genres, conventions and strategies that have emerged from the past several years of student work at the IML. This list is far from exhaustive and includes many overlaps, idiosyncracies and arbitrary divisions.
– these projects make an argument or try to persuade a user to adopt a particular viewpoint. Successful arguments creatively encourage users to think about something differently than they had previously, i.e., they do not simply recapitulate accepted ideas; dangers are heavy-handedness, moralizing or overly literal argumentative strategies.
For his book GAM3R 7H3ORY, McKenzie Wark wrote the initial draft online, and in public, soliciting feedback via comments from an avid group of gamers. The book, largely about algorithms, was itself structured through an algorithm that dictated that each section would contain six sets of five cards, each containing approximately 250 words of text…
In Judith Jackson Fossett’s class on African American Pop Culture, students had a semester-end assignment to create a “sonic argument” by editing together three different sound sources. The students worked individually, but all of the material was collected at the end of the semester to create a CD that was shared among the students. The assignment was very popular.
– these projects include a personal dimension (often autobiographical) which drives and focuses the project. Successful essayistic projects make us interested in a central consciousness and his/her perspective, often including a subjective viewpoint that involves cultural, racial or gender identity; danger is lapsing into narcissism, or allowing personal or confessional dimensions to overwhelm the other goals of the project.
– a project that tells a story often makes use of deliberate temporal progression, characters who have a particular point of view, conflict-resolution structure, emotional arcs, etc. The danger here is that multimedia scholarship is not fundamentally about storytelling and the gravitational pull of the cinematic vernacular can be overwhelming. In general, narrative may serve as an element of a scholarly multimedia project, but it should not be the primary enunciative mode.
In May 2007, Jonathan Harris spent nine days living with a family of Inupiat Eskimos in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost settlement in the United States. He joined a family for their annual whale hunting expedition on the frozen Arctic Ocean, and took 3,214 photographs documenting his trip, from the airport in Newark to the killing of the whales; the photos were shot at 5-minute intervals, using a chronometer, and the pace would speed up as Harris’ own adrenaline increased at various moments. When Harris returned to New York, he had a database of photographs, and struggled with how best to tell what was for him an “epic personal experience” and to translate this experience to the Internet. He says that the “Whale Hunt website was developed as an experimental interface for storytelling.” He realized that the notion of the database, with its abilities for selection and combination, or recombination, becomes a very powerful tool in storytelling. [show site] • multiple sites of access, and myriad paths through a data set. • a de-centering of the author, and a decentering of a cohesive narrative. The story is opened up to multiple and unexpected interpretations. • we are accustomed to tagging things, and creating pathways for ourselves and others to navigate our systems and collections of information. As we think about assessment and accreditation, can we also imagine new interfaces for the kinds of information that we gather? Can we imagine tools that will help all constituents manage and organize this data, allowing for unexpected or unforeseen uses?
- These projects center on visual analysis via annotation, and allow students to show their annotation process through images or animation.
- Projects using maps, Google Sketchup or Second Life allow students to create models based on research and evidence, or to create spaces within which an argument might be discovered. These projects invite students to reimagine the linear argument as it becomes nonlinear, and allows the user to “create” the argument as he or she moves through a space.
What is Multimedia Scholarship? * + genres + examples + assessment
Argumentation Thesis-driven; supported by evidence -includes naming/framing device -includes a primary assertion -includes a justification -can be inductive or deductive - structurally similar to an expository essay - intended to make an argument or persuade someone to adopt a particular viewpoint Successful arguments creatively encourage users to think about something differently than they had previously (i.e., they do not simply present “facts” or recapitulate accepted ideas)
An Inconvenient Truth , by Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim, offers a good example of argumentation through media; the project deploys multiple forms of rhetorical appeal, to logic, emotion and ethics, using multiple kinds of visual material…
Retro: The Camera and Mad Men | Jefferson Robbins | 2009 Created by a journalist, this project is a clear example of an argument about the cinematography used in the television show; the argument could be a text-based essay, but is greatly enhanced through sound and video.
McKenzie Wark’s online book, GAM3R 7H3ORY, is an example of an argumentative multimedia project: it makes a clear argument, but uses media to push that argument in new directions. The book was written “in public,” with comments from readers, and via an algorithm that dictated each page’s design.
Sonic Arguments | Judith Jackson Fossett | African American Popular Culture Students were asked to make an argument by juxtaposing three very different kinds of sound.
Essayistic - values subjectivity, individuality, cultural and personal backgrounds - acknowledges biases and beliefs of authors - often engages issues related to gender, racial, ethnic, sexual, national (etc.) identities - often constructed using first person perspective - often engages questions of memory, consciousness, experience, etc.
Essayistic <ul><li>- values subjectivity, individuality, cultural and personal backgrounds </li></ul><ul><li>- acknowledges biases and beliefs of authors </li></ul><ul><li>- often engages issues related to gender, racial, ethnic, sexual, national (etc.) identities </li></ul><ul><li>- often constructed using first person perspective </li></ul><ul><li>often engages questions of memory, consciousness, experience, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Effective uses: </li></ul><ul><li>- autobiography </li></ul><ul><li>- counter-history / oral history </li></ul><ul><li>- interrogating conventions of truth, science, history, objectivity </li></ul><ul><li>- creates space for multiple and unheard voices to speak </li></ul>
Essayistic Possible disadvantages: - easily dismissed by empirical traditions - does not claim universality / reproduceability - may not serve goals of argumentation - does not seem “academic”
Public Secrets , by Sharon Daniel and Erik Loyer, points to the essayistic genre with its opening sequence, spoken by Sharon Daniel. This project is based on research on women’s experiences in prison, and unites voice recordings of the women telling their stories with the creator’s critical analysis. The interface visualizes key themes in the project, and Daniel’s voice in the opening segment frames the argument. This project offers an interesting example of a scholarly project that uses an archive of research material to create a visceral experience.
Narrative Database narrative - selection and combination - non-linear temporal structures - decentered characters - multiple focalization / point of view - micro-narratives
The Whale Hunt, by Jonathan Harris, exemplifies multimedia in a narrative form. Harris wanted to create a new story interface for an “archive” of images collected that document a whale hunt. His online project allows users to filter and alter their experience of the story.
Annotation// Citation Visual annotation and citation - examining visual material closely, and adding notes or commentary to explain or explicate it.
Bruce Zuckerman | Cylinder Seal Analysis | Linguistics Simple PowerPoint animation allowed this student to outline specific areas of different artifacts to highlight similarities. The images are “annotated,” and an argument emerges in the process.
Spatial Arguments Arguments that become “spatialized”: - the argument is discovered - it is experiential - based on evidence that requires creative extension
Lynn Swartz Dodd | Near Eastern and Mediterranean Archeology Students create “archeological arguments” based on research on ruins that then becomes manifest in 3-D replicas created in Google SketchUp.
Matt Lee | Rivenscyr A reading of The Tempest through a virtual space that houses the argument.
conceptual core * --- Is the project’s controlling idea clearly articulated? --- Is the project productively aligned with one or more of the multimedia genres outlined in the IML program? --- Does the project effectively engage with the primary issues raised in the project’s research?
research core * --- Does the project display evidence of substantial research and thoughtful engagement with its subject? --- Does the project use a variety of types of sources (i.e., not just Web sites)? --- Does the project deploy more than one approach to its topic?
form & content * --- Do structural and formal elements of the project reinforce the conceptual core in a productive way? --- Are design decisions deliberate and controlled? --- Is the effectiveness of the project uncompromised by technical problems?
creative realization * --- Does the project approach its subject in creative or innovative ways? --- Does the project use media and design principles effectively? --- Does this project achieve significant goals that could not have been realized on paper?
Longterm Goals Emphasize research competency Integrate with other modes of scholarly practice Facilitate and support: Trans-disciplinarity Multiple perspectives Cultural relevance Technological innovation New scholarly vernaculars as epistemological tools Networked / Extensible / Emergent