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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
Marc Bousquet
Matt Greenfield
Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
Guest Authors

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Mark Bauerlein
Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Toward a Fan-Based Research Collaboratory

Posted by Bill Benzon on 07/23/10 at 10:57 AM

Cross-posted at New Savanna.

Despite some reservations about fan scholarship—e.g. I’ve seen pointless edit wars at Wikipedia & pros are adept at pointless quarrels as well—I’m seriously thinking about an initiative to see if fans are interested in doing at least some of the descriptive work I call for in the piece on cultural evolution I recently did for the National Humanities Center (cf. this “quasi-festo" for naturalist criticism, and this piece on “Kubla Khan"). I see little prospect that academy-based scholars will under take such work in the near term. The sort of descriptive work I have in mind is not obviously subordinate to an inquiry into the “meaning” of a text. That pretty much means that the work is not unpublisheable on its own; there’s no obvious way to earn professional credit for doing it.

But fans may well be interested in doing such work, but on the texts that interest them. And those texts are only rarely going to be canonical high culture texts. And that’s just fine with me. I’ve done such work on manga and cartoons and would have no problem with doing it on episodes of, e.g. Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Star Trek (any generation).

I’ve recently been doing quite a bit of work on Sita Sings the Blues, an animated film by Nina Paley, which I discuss in the Humanities Center post. As some of you may know, the film is done in four different visual styles. So I’ve made a table with a column for each style and then gone through the film from beginning to end and briefly annotated each segment in the proper column. You can find that table online in a Google docs file here. One of those segments, the Agni Pariksha, is done in a fifth style. I’ve gone through that segment an annotated each “shot” or sequence within it. You can find that here. In prinple each of the some 60+ segments in the film could be described at the level of detail I’ve used in the Agni Pariksha segment.

In fact, one could easily describe a film frame-by-frame. Would that be worthwhile? In some cases, yes, and in some cases no. It depends. There’s really no way of knowing until the work’s been done in at least some cases and we can take a look at it.

It’s clear to me that such descriptive work is a necessary precondition to a deeper knowledge of texts, whether written, filmed, or videotaped. All the cognitive psych and evolutionary psych and neuro-psych in the world is not going to accomplish what can only be accomplished through description. If the pros aren’t going to do the work, then it’s up to the fans. If the fans get into it, then in a decade or two the pros will have no choice but to follow or simply to drop off the edge of the earth. 


Comments

Just pleased to have read your things.

Doing an art degree as an old fogey and will definitely do a do on what you do.

Peace and cheese

By Dominique Beyens on 07/26/10 at 08:57 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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