Friday, May 02, 2008

Things I have watched with interest

NYU’s colloquium on Futures of the Internet. Speakers: Lauren Cornell, Executive Director, Rhizome; Clay Shirky, NYU (see also his blog for his new book and an interesting video summarizing the book, for those who want to watch the thesis in 40 minutes); Tim Wu, Columbia Law School; and Jonathan Zittrain, Oxford/Harvard, whose book The Future of the Internet — and How to Stop It is available free online as well as in hard copy.

Something I’d never heard of before as a genre, though I’d seen that Lost “what?” video, was “supercuts.” Waxy’s post, Fanboy Supercuts, Obsessive Video Montages pretty much sums it up, and provides a bunch of links. The “fanboy” label is interesting; the form is very different from either parody trailers or fanvids, a heavily female-dominated video genre.

Some similar/related projects come from the art world—GK, this link is for you: Jennifer & Kevin McCoy’s Every Shot, Every Episode, a complete video catalog of Starsky & Hutch sorted by “structural technique (every zoom in, every special effect), stock character (alcoholic, bookie), or action (car chase, drug use).” (They did similar things for Kung Fu and Star Trek.)

The McCoys seem to be interested in commenting on the concept of archiving itself; one could read the project as a question about what it means to index the world’s information. As the website about Every Shot says, “much photographic practice has been grounded in the idea of the archive as a means of collecting and constructing meaning from the made world, including its most seemingly insignificant and throwaway creations. ... Lodged in the subconscious of an entire generation, the McCoys’ banal source material is subjected to the nonlinear, nonnarrative logic of the computer database ….”

In some ways, I see vidding as an answer to that question about archiving. As someone who indexes her personal library in Library of Congress categories and is a completist about favorite authors and musicians, I would never deny the appeal of the well-curated library in and of itself. But the great strength of the library is that it enables bits and pieces to be drawn out as well as put together. For vidders, clip lists similar to those in Every Shot essentially create a reference library so that bits of footage can be used to formulate a greater argument or message. Unlike individual supercuts, a library of every shot is like a dictionary; whoever has access to it can do new, unpredictable things with it.

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