Recent Comments

Kati Sudnick

Thanks so much for your comment Lauren. I do see a lot of correlation between Harry Potter and Nazi Germany as well, but I was very interested to explore the responsibility aspects of this correlation and Arendt was a perfect fit. I appreciate you suggestions to formulate this into a larger paper and will definitely take them into consideration. I hadn’t thought much about how Rowling lumped the Slytherin students together and what that can mean through an Arendtian lens - that is very interesting when considering the banality of it all. Extreme commonness of Voldemort’s ideals was definitely floating around their common room, and I wonder what that meant for those students. Thanks again!

Screenshot of MoveOn.org's Harry Potter ad
Lauren Camacci

What a great connection between your post and Kati’s from Day 1, especially regarding your first point. Making the overt connection between the evil of Voldemort and of Trump invites Trump supporters consuming the metaphor to re-position themselves: Readers of the HP series KNOW that Voldemort is totally evil, but because of (as Kati said) the banality of evil, the characters in the series are able to rationalize or to look past evil if it doesn’t directly affect them (represented perfectly by two moments in HP:DH- first when the Trio hears the Muggle-born fugitives Dirk, Ted, and Dean, and the goblins Gornuk and Griphook discussing the new Ministry policies and the role of the Daily Prophet in chapter 15, and later in Kingsley Shacklebolt’s interview on the radio show PotterWatch in chapter 22). Making this metaphorical connection is, I think, an invitation to those currently rationalizing and looking past DT’s hateful rhetorical practices instead to take on the role of the reader, to step outside a role as characters in the national story and see this person more clearly than perhaps banality allows.

Lauren Camacci

I applaud your use of Arendt in framing this post. It is not uncommon for our colleagues in history departments to connect HP themes with Nazi Germany, but I haven’t seen someone use this theoretical framework before to help us understand those who chose to follow Voldemort’s regime. I hope you’ll write a longer paper on this, with special focus for characters like the Slytherin students (what what it means that JKR lumped them all together), Wormtail, and Umbridge, all who represent different levels of open commitment to an evil institution.

Marina Hassapopoulou

Regardless of how effective or impractical, this rhetoric is still used to increase participation - it overlaps with the language of democracy (particularly voting) and can also bring to surface certain issues of representation and participation that are not exclusive to collaborative storytelling. Commercial social films indicate that amateurs still seek for validation from these top-down structures, often at the risk of giving up all rights to their intellectual property and acting as free content creators. Those are issues we can’t dismiss, particularly as we look at alternative forms of economies and labor systems that are never completely removed from capitalist modes of production/consumption. As I said above, structure and authorship are still necessary to organize the often chaotic non-hierarchical mass contributions, but it’s worth considering what is at stake when those contributions become compromised under the “terms” of participation, and what happens when amateur participation is reoriented towards commercial platforms and willingly abides by certain restrictions.

Antranig Sarian

A lot of the rhetoric you’re describing surrounding social film, particularly with regards to being a more egalitarian and horizontal way of telling stories, reminds me of a bunch of similar examples from the past.

Hypertext literature is the most obvious one. Hypertext novels were meant to be participatory webs, where readers were ‘co-authors’ who chose which direction to take, while the fundamental narrative was pre-written by the author.

Michel Chaouli’s “How Interactive Can Fiction be? (http://tinyurl.com/z29sume) breaks down a lot of the problems with this rhetoric. We talk about egalitarianism in storytelling, but a lot of us enter into storytelling because we want an author to play with our minds, while we sit back and enjoy the show.

Democracy, egalitarianism and a break-down of power structures are a great ideal to pursue in real life politics. But is it really necessary for literature?

Choose your own adventure
Antranig Sarian

Sure!

Slide 3 is taken from a page in one of the Tutortext novels. It shows the narrator attacking the reader for choosing incorrectly, and urges them to return to their last page to try again. It’s supposed to show how the authoritarian teacher from the catechism has returned in B.F Skinner’s Tutortext novels.

Slide 5 is taken from Fighting Fantasy: City of Thieves. The text (it isn’t clear, that’s my fault!) tells the reader that there is only “one true way” through the text, and that it requires trial and error to discover this correct path. Again, it reinforces my argument about the spectre of the catechism.

Thank you for your question!

Choose your own adventure
Tanya Zuk

Antranig, can you explain the connections between your slideshow and your discussion here a bit more (particularly, slides 3 and 5)?

Marina Hassapopoulou

Star Wars Uncut is a great example of participatory storytelling; it also reminds me of another crowdsourced project: Man with a Movie Camera: The Global Remake (http://dziga.perrybard.net/). Participatory storytelling usually relies on a pre-existing structure or framework to organize the sometimes haphazard contributions. In the case of The Beauty Inside, many of the ephemeral interactions between fans and producers have not been archived (Alex’s Facebook timeline has been turned into a page for more recent projects), so some information has been difficult to dig up. From what I remember, the “audition” call for Alex was put out early on to drum up hype about this new mode of collaborative filmmaking. Even before fans started submitting their audition videos, Alex’s Facebook timeline was populated with photos and videos from some of the professional actors in the film — many of which had a deliberately “amateurish” video-diary/vlogging aesthetic. The script was more or less pre-planned, and some of the writers were actually people from the ad agency that curated the experience. Alex’s timeline set the basic premise for the plot of the series (a protagonist who inhabits a different body every day), but details on the narrative remained deliberately vague up until each weekly mini-episode was released on Alex’s timeline. For instance, Alex’s love interest was introduced later on in the process. Most of the Alexes in the film are played by professional actors. As I mentioned above, I got the sense that the producers were searching for auditions that would contribute to a collectively diverse (physically) depiction of Alex, and would show that a diverse group of people from supposedly all over the world contributed to the project.

I see The Beauty Inside as a more commercial type of collaborative filmmaking, while Star Wars Uncut and The Global Remake seem like more fan-driven media making initiatives. Many amateur media makers and fans still crave mainstream recognition though, as this case study suggests, even at the risk of having their intellectual property misappropriated. The fact that the producers dictate the scope and extent of the contributions means that fans are not necessarily working synergistically (unlike the more co-operative example you mentioned, for instance) — sometimes, they are in competition with each other. Even though a fan community was formed during the 6-week crowdsourcing process of The Beauty Inside, it was a very precarious one that was built around a commercial platform that doesn’t even exist anymore, for a short-lived marketing campaign. Still, despite its problematic undertones and a meditation on variable identity that ultimately falls a bit short, I think the mini-series is beautifully shot and has elements of Doremus’ own signature style. (Btw, the premise of this series was then adapted for a Korean film of the same title - no crowdsourcing this time though).

Tanya Zuk

I find this crowdsourcing content for creative works fascinating. I generally associate this type of behavior with fan works like the Star Wars Uncut project (http://www.starwarsuncut.com), and not with commercial endeavors. I’m curious, in your research did they curators/editors ever state how much of the narrative was pre-planned and how much was “discovered” in the contributions? Was there a set plot line that audience contributions then slid into? How do you see these potential new model of media making changing the way we interact with our media content?

Tanya Zuk
Bo Reimer

From your reply here, I can’t help but think that the collaboration is less between the various Twitter users, but between the computational system and the reader. That is to say, that the collaboration is between the algorithm that pulls and displays the tweets with no bias of a human “sensibility” (anything that fits the parameters is included, regardless of the specifics of the content) and the reader who then creates connections and meaning between these “lines” where there was originally none.

Do you think this would work as well if the pieces wasn’t as ephemeral?