Sign in or register
for additional privileges

Database | Narrative | Archive

Seven interactive essays on digital nonlinear storytelling
edited by Matt Soar & Monika Gagnon

You appear to be using an older verion of Internet Explorer. For the best experience please upgrade your IE version or switch to a another web browser.

Principles in Practice: Alexis Lothian's Scholarly Vidding

Francesca Coppa has historicized and theorized fan video as an argumentative form, rather than a promotional tool, suggesting that vidding as a cultural practice has been a technologized space for women (and other minority voices) to stage critical readings and offer an "interpretive lens" through which we might see the source text differently.  Vids, accordingly, might function as a rich textual "extension" in a transmedia scholarship model, particularly for those working within the field of media studies. 

Alexis Lothian has extrapolated these ideas to engage in what she calls "scholarly vidding." As Lothian notes on her blog:
Vidding and academic writing feel like very similar processes to me; in both cases, I have texts I want to draw on and an interpretation I want to get across. The music in a vid works a little like the theoretical framing of a critical essay, I think. Sometimes it casts light on what  the vid says in a very straightforward way, but just as, in the best works of literary or media criticism, the specific analysis also changes the way you approach the theory, a good vid’s imagery affects your perspective on the song it used ever after.

These scholarly vids serve a variety of functions:
  • Visualizing arguments presented in Lothian's written work: 
Lothian's dissertation, Deviant Futures: Queer Temporality and the Cultural Politics of Science Fiction, explores the alternative futures crafted by feminist, queer, and African American authors.  Lothian credits the creation of "The Future Stops Here" in 2008 with helping her work through many of the central concerns of her project.  In particular, she suggests that the process of creating the vid helped her develop her dissertation's reading of Kee from Children of Men, and her ties to both literary precursors and filmic depictions of feminism, reproduction, race, and futurism. Despite this positioning as a "draft," the vid continues to resonate and extrapolate, spreading some of the central concerns of Lothian's dissertation across multiple channels and interpretive registers.

Just as many fan text respond to and build on the work of other fans, Lothian's "Metal Heart" creates a dialogue between her own research interests surrounding intersections of race and technology, and a post by Lisa Nakmura on in media res.  Building on Nakamura's brief discussion of the longstanding associations between Asian women and digital machines, and the "unassimilability" of the character of Sharon on Battlestar Galactica, Lothian notes that her "vid aims to comment on and reflect the disposability of those robot bodies, whose gendering and racialization underlines the real-world inequalities that usually underlie stories about robot and cyborg labor."

"The Enemy Within," created by the collective Cylon Vidding Machine, is an ideal example of both the collaborative potential of vids as a component of transmedia scholarship, and the interpretive challenges these texts pose.  Most media scholars could immediately identify the vid's parodic play with silent and educational film aesthetics, but other elements of the video, such as the reference to "girlslash goggles" prove more elusive.  In "Scholarly Critiques and Critiques of Scholarship: The Uses of Remix Video," Lothian and Kristina Busse suggest that, while scholarly vids could connect the digital humanities to "creative practices that thrive outside traditional institutional contexts," they also caution that vids require certain fannish literacies, and that one's understanding of the vid will change depending on the communal context in which it is received.  If scholarly vids such as this one were included in a transmedia scholarship model, these fannish "in-jokes" could serve as migratory cues, or facilitate collective intelligence.  But as Busse and Lothian argue, we also need to be attentive to the implications of assimilating vids into academic contexts. Though emergent modes of academic engagement, such as scholarly vidding, have the capacity "problematize the arbitrary binary between interpretive and creative work, between academic and artist,"  Busse and Lothain caution against erasing those boundaries entirely, at the expense of confronting the relative privilege of those spheres.

Vidding as a scholarly form of argument embodies both principles of spreadability and drillability, allowing work to circulate beyond the walls of academia, and prompting the viewer to drill for meaning and deeper connections (in this case, to both the media texts that provide the raw material, and Lothian's broader scholarly projects).  As Lothian herself notes, "Vids, like most scholarly essays, don’t stand alone. They appear as part of a dense network of fan production, showcasing particular images in context."  And, much like a transmedia story, one can appreciate each vid on its own merits, but they become decidedly richer texts when contextualized in the network of scholarship Lothian has produced.

Keywords to Consider:
Other Principles in Play:
Comment on this page

Discussion of "Principles in Practice: Alexis Lothian's Scholarly Vidding"

Add your voice to this discussion.

Checking your signed in status ...

Previous page on path Conceptualizing Transmedia Scholarship, page 3 of 17 Next page on path