Tag Archives: Academia

A New Outlet: Contributing to UW-Madison’s Antenna

A New Outlet: Contributing to UW-Madison’s Antenna

September 17th, 2010

As you may know, I recently joined the PhD program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which in some ways will limit the amount of online writing I am able to do (it’s why things have been a bit quieter here at Cultural Learnings as of late, especially with the Cultural Catchup Project). However, the irony is that although the volume of my writing will be decreasing, the outlets for that writing are actually increasing: I’m extremely excited to be joining Antenna, the department’s media analysis blog, as a contributor.

I’m particularly excited because of how it allows for the merger of my two worlds: while the community consists largely of academics, the analysis is meant to cut through the traditional academic delay (where journals and books take years to get through the review/publishing process) to address current events similar to how online criticism operates. I very much look forward to exploring some of my more academic ideas within this framework, and encourage my Cultural Learnings readers to join that community and take part in a wide range of intriguing media-related discussions.

Right now, my first post is on something that many of you may relate to. In “Tweets of Anarchy: Showrunners on Twitter,” I look at how Twitter and other forms of social media have changed the relationship between showrunners, their texts, and their viewers, focusing on Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy) and his somewhat controversial Twitter presence. The piece, like all Antenna pieces, is short and focuses on providing some information and prompting discussion, so I’d love to hear how showrunners’ online presence have changed your impressions of your favourite series (or perhaps series that you were otherwise unattached to).

Tweets of Anarchy: Showrunners on Twitter [Antenna]

…showrunners are now becoming active participants in conversations surrounding their shows, both formally (Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse’s Lost podcasts) and informally (Louis C.K.’s decision to wade into comment threads of Louie reviews); combined with their more prominent role in DVD bonus features and the proliferation of television journalism online, showrunners are becoming veritable celebrities among viewers of television. This is perhaps no more apparent than on Twitter, where showrunners (including Lindelof, Cuse, ,C.K., and numerous others) gain tens of thousands of followers who desire to know more about who is behind their favourite series.

Next week, meanwhile, Antenna will be offering multiple perspectives on each of the Fall debuts (a project I’ll be participating in);  I’ll likely share some of that as well, so stay tuned!

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Lighter, not Lesser: In Media Res confronts the Enigma of Summer TV

Whenever I write reviews of summer television, I always sort of rub up against society’s general conception of summer programming – for example, if I get around to reviewing Covert Affairs, my review will likely discuss how its low-impact spy environment feels like “Alias gone Summer,” which implies that there is something about Alias (a darker vision into the struggles facing a new CIA recruit) which is inherently different from summer programming. In these reviews I rarely offer an overarching glimpse of what summer television is, largely because it means something different to every network and every viewer, and its meaning changes from year to year. There is no definitive role which summer television plays, and this summer’s programming has us no closer to understanding the enigma which is television’s most maligned, and yet perhaps most fascinating, season.

Well, this week a Fellowship of Summer Television (ala the Fellowship of the Ring) has converged at In Media Res to confront this enigma, as a collection of professors, critics, grad students and even unaffiliated intellectuals have come together to discuss trends within summer television, or the historical or social context of some of the season’s most popular programs. The goal of the week, which I’m very proud to be a part of, is to better understand how viewers and the industry confront summer television: the pieces are short observations accompanied by a video or a slideshow which provides additional context, and our goal is not achieved through extensive analysis but rather through discussion and interaction. In fact, the pieces aren’t even as long as this blog post, which long-time readers will know made this project particularly challenging for me; however, the result was a greater focus on the core of my idea, and throughout the week as others pieces have been posted I’ve seen how clarity of purpose helps to create new avenues of discussion that even the longest of independent posts wouldn’t have been able to achieve.

So far this week, Charlotte Howell looked at the ways in which USA Network has formed their own genre, while on Tuesday Jaime Weinman looked at how the Summer’s breakout cable hit, TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland, is related to both 90s sitcoms and Disney’s efforts to target the tween demographics with similar fare. Yesterday, meanwhile, Jeremy Mongeau looked at how summer series use pleasure (or the appearance of pleasure) to create a ‘must watch’ series amidst a season very different from fall or winter. Tomorrow, Chris Becker is going to look at how DVD marathons are changing our summer viewing habits, which I’m very much looking forward to.

However, today is my day, and I am looking at something which nicely bridges the gap between Jeremy’s discussion of what makes a successful summer series and Chris’ discussion of the ways in which alternate viewing methods are changing those qualifications. I discuss what I call “Seasonal Synergy,” that being an inherent (and clearly understood by both network and viewer) connection between a series and the summer in which it airs, or premieres. I specifically look at Royal Pains and Burn Notice, and how the challenges the series have faced after becoming so synonymous with the sunniest of seasons.

The Rigidity of Seasonal Synergy – In Media Res

If you’re intrigued by summer programming and interested in discussing more about it (or hearing more about it), I truly suggest clicking through and reading these great pieces. Summer TV may be lighter than regular fare, but I do not believe it to be lesser, and discussions like this one (masterminded by Noel Kirkpatrick) are integral to better understanding what role it plays in our media consumption and in the industry as a whole. I’ll be reflecting on the week as a whole, including an elaboration on my own piece, early next week, so stay tuned for that as well.

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A Leave of Absence

While I’m questioning just how rabid my readership really is, in terms of its daily perusal of the site, but I figure I should explain my extended absence from the blogging world.

I’m headed off to the CUSID National Debating Championships at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. While I will have my laptop with me, and may perhaps leave some brief messages here along with some photos, chances are I won’t be able to delve into any substantial issues.

It’s a fairly dull weekend anyways; in terms of movies, the oddly advertised ‘Reign Over Me’ battles ‘TMNT’ in terms of the most highly advertised films, but it’s actually a fairly substantial weekend. Hit the cinema to enjoy either of these options, but there’s also some rather exciting TV stuff as well.

Sunday will bring the Season Finale of Battlestar Galactica, and the buzz on the internet is tremendous. I’ve managed to stay spoiler-free up to this point, but considering the way the 1st part ended I am much looking forward to how things…move forward. With the episode order for Season Four recently upped to 22 episodes, things won’t be wrapping up quite as quickly as we thought.

So, on that note, I’m off to prepare for the flight in the morning. Hope everyone enjoys their weekend!



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A Night at the Cinema: ‘Brick’

Four hours. From the time I left my residence to the time I returned, four hours passed by. In that four hours, a rainy spring day turned into an icy winter wonderland. We survived two projector unspoolings, resulting in a good hour and a half of no film. A refund was offered, but myself and a fair few others didn’t mind waiting and stuck it out. This wonderful experience was the conditions in which I saw ‘Brick’ at the Al Whittle Theatre on Friday evening.

I was asked to attend as part of my Politics of Mass Media class, but I had been intrigued by the film before that point. I knew that it was an attempt at recapturing the film noir stylings of the mid-20th century, and I knew from my brother’s experience with the film that it was a lesson in style over substance. And in the end, both of these things are what make Brick a film to watch and experience, and also ones that make it very interesting to engage at a level of mass media analysis.

Because really, as much as there exists power relationships and human nature, this is purely visual filmmaking. The plot is straight-forward and blunt: characters enter and exit without anything even close to a story, and even when the plot is summed up in about a minute at the end of the film it contains no deep answers, only surface ones. We get a sense of a narrative loosely running through the film, but this is not a film about its substance. Where we might in a mob film get an indepth view of The Pin’s thugs we get to see only one in any great detail. We hear about drug deals, about gangs, about family trees of hatred, and yet we see almost none of it. No one ever seems to be entirely in control, and no one is without their vulnerabilities.

There are a few things I want to focus on in terms of the film’s style that make it resonate with the viewer in a way that is quite profound and interesting. I want to look at the film’s depiction of violence, its use of lighting, as well as its reliance on its film noir construct. It is through these means that it manipulates the viewer, and eventually gets its message (whatever it is) across. And, they are what make the film compelling. Continue reading

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