The Future of Media Industry Studies: Academic-Industry Collaboration

Curator's Note

The current issue of Cinema Journal  (Spring, 2013) offers a range of perspectives on the future of media industry studies, from rethinking distribution, industry infrastructures, and methodology, to the importance of soundwork studies and political economy. I am particularly interested in looking at the attendant challenges and opportunities that go along with navigating the demands of being simultaneously critical and engaged while we are seeking industry access, research materials, and/or collaborative partnerships.

As various conferences include more industry participants, industry outreach expands, and we design and explore new models for research funding, scholars have more opportunities to engage with “the industry.” The National Conference for Media Reform, MIT’s Futures of Entertainment conference, UCLA/USC’s Transmedia, Hollywood conference, the Association of Moving Image Archivists conference, the Media Industries Project, and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society are just some of the places where dialogue and collaboration are being fostered.  Some very productive conversations (and teaching materials) are coming out of these academic-industry interactions, including this well-circulated video from the television showrunners’ panel at SCMS 2010 in Los Angeles.  These opportunities and initiatives also bring additional considerations for researchers, including: how can we frame our scholarly research in ways that render our lines of inquiry productive for such exchanges? Is this “translation” a necessary component of research design moving forward if we strive to create new partnerships?  What is gained – or lost – in collaborating with the industry we study?

As a means of furthering this discussion, I refer to this clip from the  Law & Order conference put on by the UCSB’s Carsey-Wolf Center and the Film and Media Studies Department. This was largely an industry-funded event organized by scholars that brought journalists, executives, actors, producers, and academics together. In the four roundtables addressing the impact and significance of one of television’s longest-running series, the participants shed new light on the issues of branding, global format circulation, and television production through their dialogue. It offers one example of how these interactions can create broader perspective and perhaps benefit our research and pedagogy. In the comments below as well as in conversations throughout this week, I hope to hear what other topics IMR readers think are worth exploring as industry and academy interact. What methodological or conceptual challenges have you encountered in your own industry-oriented research? 

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