I promised more blogging on the 2008 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Philadelphia, so here goes. The conference was an opportunity to see many old friends and colleagues and to meet a number of new ones. The hotel, a Loews, was swanky, with boutique touches and classic modernist design and architecture. The restaurants I ate in were often excellent (if you're in Philadelphia here are my recs: Lolita for upscale Mexican, Penang for Malaysian, Vic Sushi Bar for excellent takeout unless you can snag seats at the tiny bar, which we did...and for finding good food in a new place, at least in the USA, it doesn't hurt to have the crowd-wisdom of yelp.com). The sessions were fine and I learned some new things from them, but the social dimension of the conference is always as significant as the intellectual experience. I was also excited during my slow circuit of the tables in the bookroom to see so many beautiful new books by people I know.

The panels and workshops I attended were on the contemporary film and TV industries, American independent cinema, Canadian media, character and emotion, the future of television studies, and my own on the Coen brothers. My paper, on the Coens and pastiche, went fine, though there was little time afterwards for questions. In addition to being at 8 am, our panel came the morning after advancing the clock an hour, so it felt like 7. Maybe this is unavoidable. But I do wish the hotel had put the fitness center somewhere other than above a conference meeting room, as the pounding of treadmill feet over our sleep-deprived heads seemed almost violent.

As Chris notes in his conference summary, the SCMS 08 theme of "architectures of the moving image" motivated many panels and papers to put "architecture" in their titles. I heard no one speak about architecture in a literal sense, and in no instance did the use of architecture in a figurative sense lend anything extra to the discussion. It seemed to be just tacked on, or used as a synonym for "structure," which itself is often a vague term taking up space.

My sense is that one trend in the society is strongly centrifugal, away from traditional film studies in terms of its topics and approaches. This isn't to devalue those things. There were more than 1300 attendees, and such a large meeting makes room for many kinds of scholarship. The complaint, however, that the conference offers too little to scholars with an interest in television, videogames, and other "new" media and the approaches that go along with them would now be anachronistic. This is to the society's benefit.

I wasn't taking notes during the sessions and don't really care to recap them, but I will link to other blogs that have been tracking SCMS, many of which do offer some summaries and reflections more specific than mine:

-Digital Sextant has a comprehensive list of the papers the blogger heard on topics like The Legend of Zelda and Peter Gallagher's eyebrows.
-Category D offers a number of criticisms of conference formats and proposals for the future.
-Dr. Mabuse's Kaeido-Scope has an open thread for SCMSy comments.
-Ephemeral Traces recaps two panels, one on fandom and the other on paratexts.
-Jamais Vu offers a list of reactions and reflections.
-Film Snob, whose thought-provoking paper on Mumblecore and cinephilia I heard on the indie panel, revives her blog to tell us what SCMS is like when it's your first time.
-Jonathan Gray at The Extratextuals blogs about panels and workshops at the conference about television studies, convergence culture, extratexts and paratexts.
-Sam Ford blogs his paper on vast narratives and immersive story worlds at the C3 blog, with a promise of more to come.
-Steven Shaviro links to a pdf of his SCMS paper entitled "Untimely Bodies."
-The Institute for Multimedia Literacy at USC blog offers the abstract for a panel on Web 3.0, with a promise of more to come.
-Scope has a lengthy conference report.
-And this is not exactly tracking SCMS, but I wanted to link here to Media Praxis, the blog of Alex Juhasz, who I really enjoyed meeting briefly in a hallway before a panel, where we talked about--what else?--blogging.

I'll update this list if I come across more SCMS blogging.

1 comment:

Chris Cagle said...

one trend in the society is strongly centrifugal, away from traditional film studies in terms of its topics and approaches.

Well put... I think I was trying to articulate the same idea, only not as succinctly. And I agree that it certainly benefits the society to not only open up the conference to new topics and approaches but to privilege them for a change. That said, given that my work is traditionally film studies in its nature, the effect was a little disorienting.