I don’t think it’s any secret (among those who care about such things) that the Film Studies program at Yale is at something of a crossroads. Film studies as a discipline has been increasingly turning into media studies, and Yale’s program, like a lot of programs, is having to decide how much it wants to participate in that shift. It’s been fascinating to be in the middle of this. There are strong opinions on both sides of the debate, but what I’ve really enjoyed is the fact that it hasn’t gotten personal, at least as far as I can tell; it’s a genuine intellectual debate about where film studies should go.
Where do I stand? Well, I’ll say this: film studies has given me a lot. Sometimes I’ll emerge from a discussion of Hitchcock or Truffaut marveling that I’ll never think about those filmmakers the same way again. And then I’ll go home and sit slack-jawed in front of my computer for hours on end, like I do every day. When I remember to come up for air, it’ll occur to me what a shame it is that we can’t turn that arsenal of analysis toward the technologies that define a large portion of my life.
I had to fill out an application recently that asked for a 600-word essay on how new technology has affected my discipline. Once I started writing, I was surprised by how much I had to say. So here’s what I wrote about film studies.
Just recently, a lot of digital humanities momentum has been gathering at Yale. There’s a new DH working group, a new Public Humanities master’s program (which I’ve joined!), a new Theory & Media Studies Colloquium, and now, Yale’s first graduate conference on the digital humanities. It’s called The Past’s Digital Presence: Database, Archive, and Knowledge Work in the Humanities, and it’s scheduled for February 19 and 20, 2010. The organizers, Molly Farrell, Heather Klemann, and Taylor Spence, were generous enough to allow me to come on as Design Chair for the conference, and I’m really excited about the whole thing. Jana Remy is the conference’s Online Media Chair, and she’s been Twittering [edit: Tweeting! You’re supposed to say tweeting, right? Gah, I don’t even know] about the organization process. Once the conference gets closer to live, Jana will also be blogging and podcasting it.
In the next few weeks I’ll be designing a website for the conference, set to go live on about November 30. My first task, though, was to come up with a logo. I wanted something that looked serious, since DH is still establishing its presence at Yale, but that also had some aesthetic appeal. Here’s the set of logo ideas I came up with:
As you can surely guess from my long silence, the last few months have been really, really busy for me. I’m plowing through my dissertation, plus teaching, working, and applying for jobs. I wish I were the kind of person who could operate on no sleep.
One of the things keeping me busy was a guest lecture I gave for the class I’m TA’ing, Dolores Hayden‘s American Cultural Landscapes. Professor Hayden asked me to develop a lecture from a paper on chain stores that I wrote for her class a few years ago. I was happy to do it, since I think the material is really interesting, and I thought students would be interested, too. I always like putting together lectures, since the visual and sequential format helps me break through any writer’s block I might be inclined to have. Plus putting slides together allows me to indulge my technophilia.
I asked someone from the Graduate Teaching Center to observe and videotape my lecture, so I could get a sense of what I was doing right and what I needed to work on. I was really happy that reactions to my lecture seemed to be pretty positive. Watching the video, though, I can see some things I need to pay attention to. This was my first attempt at lecturing from notes, rather than reading a prepared paper, and in general, I think it makes for a more interesting talk for the audience. I’d like, though, to gain greater fluidity in my extemporaneous speaking, and to eliminate my habit of saying “Um” a lot. I also notice that the upswing in my voice when I end sentences makes me sound more tentative than I really am.
You can watch the video after the jump, although we made the mistake of dimming the lights a little too much — it’s very hard to see me. If I have time, I’d like to do a SlideShare version of the talk so it’s easier to see.