This year, I participated at two teaching workshops at the annual Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference (still catching up from the week away, but wanted to share my prezis and some quick reflections):
– The Undergraduate Television Paper [Wednesday, 3/21 from 2-3:45pm]
Participants: Ethan Thompson, Suzanne Scott, Daniel Marcus, Derek Kompare, and Ben Aslinger
The wonderful Christine Becker was nice enough to write up this workshop, along with other teaching workshops she attended (which, one among many who constantly complains about programming conflicts, I was grateful for, along with the other coverage by SCMS bloggers this year!). It was a small group, due to last minute room changes, losing a few panelists, and general Wednesday-ness, but a lively conversation. In particular, I appreciated the emphasis from Derek Kompare and others about the benefits of autobiographical assignments. We also had an interesting exchange (I believe at Heather Hendershot’s prompting) about which essays we assign students that model good writing. Notably, in many cases this wasn’t academic/scholarly writing, and my own 2 cents on this is that I frequently create thematic pairs of thoughtful blog posts/magazine articles and scholarly journal articles to have students reflect on both forum and form, and how effective each is in conveying their argument.
My sample assignment that I shared with the group was the take-home midterm from my freshman writing class at Occidental this past fall (themed around fandom and participatory culture). Though it wasn’t explicitly assigned as a “flow” assignment, I would certainly assign something similar in an introductory television studies class. I wanted to pick a show we hadn’t watched in class, procedural series with an network of ancillary content surrounding it, and settled on Castle (ABC). I had made a decision at the beginning of the semester to design the paper assignment around an episode that aired within a week of students beginning to write, both in terms of accessibility (available on Hulu and network website), and so that they would be engaging with the rhythms and temporalities of broadcasting and the release of ancillary web content alongside other fans of the show.
For those not familiar with the show, Castle is a police procedural focused on a male mystery writer shadowing a female detective, and this particular episode was focused on a masked vigilante who had taken on the identity of a comic book hero, Lone Vengeance. There were two primary approaches to take with this assignment, which broadly asked them to analyze the intertextual intersections between the episode and various examples of ancillary web content, and then consider fan engagement, or what this ancillary content offered fans:
- First, they could examine what this content said about shifts within the television industry, in terms of transmedia branding and horizontal integration. Most of my students framed this analysis around the Derrick Storm Graphic Novel (Disney/ABC/Marvel ownership), and its not-so-subtle appearance in the episode. Also, timed to the release of the episode, selections of the graphic novel were released on the official Castle site, and the full graphic novel was released 2 days after this episode aired.
- Second approach to this assignment was to consider how television text and paratext inform each other, and what function this relationship serves for audiences through an examination of the blog written by the series’ title character
Though it appears that this is veering into a paper about webcomics, or transmedia storytelling more broadly and abandoning a discussion of television as a result, I think it’s useful to consider the slippages between series and serialized television, and consider what these ancillary texts have to tell us about the valuation of television fans within convergence culture. These digital extensions also tell us a great deal about shifts within the television industry.
My presentation/provocation was meant to suggest how we might incorporate these new forms of multiplatform flow into our conversations with students about television form history, industry, and audiences.
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– Teaching Comics Studies [Friday, 3/23 from 12:15-2pm]
Participants: Drew Morton, Scott Bukatman, Suzanne Scott, Greg Smith, James Thompson, and Matt Yockey
I have to say, I was thrilled with how this workshop went, and honored to be part of such a rich panel. Having met with the newly-formed Comic Studies SIG the night before, I was thrilled to see a packed house for this panel. Clearly, comics are being taught across disciplines, and with different emphases, and I thoroughly enjoyed swapping experiences with both the panelists and participants from the audience.
My own contribution to this conversation was to suggest theory/praxis assignments for students, offering some impressive examples created by students in my Comic Book Culture class at UC Santa Cruz (including a comic created to accompany a term paper focusing on the representation of women in comics, and a short film attempting to replicate with comic book aesthetics), sample assignments by other scholars that I would incorporate into future comic classes (with attribution, naturally!), and tools that might help students create their own comics with limited artistic experience.
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So, enjoy, and feel free to ask me more detailed questions about either of these workshops, or the ideas contained in these prezi presentations.