Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been using Tumblr for archiving for years, for research as well as teaching. I find it a fairly simple way to manage multiple sites with multiple interests in multiple ways. I’ve used it for teaching for several years too, to share materials with the students and to archive a range of materials for the class; I prefer it to “locking material away” in university-provided sites. Partly for the reasons you mention above though, I have experienced resistance to some students for using it, especially men: I’ve been told it’s only for “fourteen-year old girls.” Alternatively, I’ve received squeals of delight from a few students when we’ve used it, mostly women involved in fandom. Last application, I’m using it this year in teaching an entry-level gender studies class, and recently had by far my highest circulated post ever, an article on asexuality. I was really surprised at how quickly and consistently that spread. To sum up from what I see you noting here, to me Tumblr is interesting as a “queer” archive in its multiplicities, its openness, its gendered aspects, and its connections to sexual communities. I’m really fascinated by what you’ve noted, and hope I get to engage more. Here’s the URL for my current teaching Tumblr, if that’s of use to you. g1011415.tumblr.com
Good point, Michael. I propose banning all proprietary feelings in academia!
Only half joking here.
We don’t own ideas; we don’t own archival material.
What we can ask for is credit for how we express our ideas, how we engage others with those ideas, how we employ and interpret archival material in exploring those ideas, and, finally, how we make that archival material visible and useful to others. (We should get points for sharing rather than for hoarding!)
Thanks, Ethan, for bringing up these issues in this workshop.
Nice article! We are an indigenous movie producer in southeast Brazil, called Pajé Filmes (http://paje-filmes.blogspot.com.br/) and we are about to have the fourth edition of Mostra Pajé (Shaman Festival of Indigenous Movies) in April. We’ll be exhibiting indigenous movies from Mexico, Venezuela, US and Canada, and Brazil as well. This is our program: http://paje-filmes.blogspot.com.br/2015/02/programacao-iv-mostra-paje-de...!
Thanks for this video, Ethan, and for putting together the conference workshop that we are all looking forward to.
I think the proprietary feelings many of us have are one among a number of obstacles to sharing archives and making them visible. Saving materials for publication (or for the screening of a finished documentary), which is of course a slow process, inhibits us from learning as much as possible within communities of scholarly practice. I’m in favor of circulating research materials rather than hoarding them. We should assume that our original contributions will come from the analysis and interpretation, not from our “scoop.” There are other inhibitions that go along with these feelings: respecting copyright and the fuzziness of fair use; informal online publication and uncertainty over whether it “counts”; and being unsure if there are others who see value where we see it, whether they are scholars or amateurs or whoever may be interested. Maybe there are others.
How to see and hear these materials once they have been shared seems like a key point, because sources don’t interpret themselves. Sharing things is not the same as making sense of them. I hope we can talk more about this.
Philip—Agreed, The Interview’s premise does revolve around an “easy joke,” whether it be the old Cold War tropes that are a staple of US entertainment or Rogen, Franco and Company’s brand of humor based on friends getting together to make stoner and gay jokes. In this context, Rogen and Franco were the best stars to roll with the disruption that befell their movie. As extensions of their characters (in this and all of their collaborations), the two seemed to revel in the “shit” that is American pop culture and use it as a way to have fun with the catastrophe threatening their film’s release by making appearances at theaters that showed the film and joking about the controversy on a variety of talk shows. If the movie had been a drama, I’m not sure bouncing back from—or distracting from—the real worries of the leak would have come across that easy going.
Jen, Philip, Emily, and Ross, thanks for participating in this conversation about the Sony hack. Illuminating thoughts all around!
I love a post that can connect Kim Jong Un, the “Wild and Crazy Guys,” Hasselhoff, and fancy cheese!
One of the things that surprised me about the reactions to the Sony hack was the blame that was put on Sony for the allegedly irresponsible choice to green light this film in the first place. The charge seems to have been that Amy Pascal should have known that this kind of comedy would be too dangerous and opened the studio up to too many risks. But to your point, the actual comedy seems pretty tame, especially considering that the South Park guys have had a lot more fun at the expense of Kim Jong Il and Un. Should Amy Pascal have refused to green light the film in the first place? Does the fallout from the film mean that we won’t see any political satire for the foreseeable future?
The questions you raise about potential lessons learned are very apt! I often think that the leaders of these large companies become so focused on whatever is immediately in front of them that they lose the forest for the trees. It will be interesting to see how Tom Rothman manages the studio now. Although he’s reputed to be a details guy instead of a big picture guy, so we may see more of the same?
Philip—Great speculation as to the Tron-effect!
Jen—Intriguing twenty-first century challenge you present here questioning studios’ lasting reliance on theaters. Without the media attention of the leak, would the film have made $40 million? With those stars, in that kind of comedy, slated for a Christmas release, even with the eventually tepid reviews, it’s possible the film could have made more in the theaters if all had gone as planned. But, with advanced planning, the possibilities seem like they could push the landscape of distribution even further. The influence of this haphazard release on industry-wide distribution models might be the most impacting legacy of the Sony leak. (Issues of security breaches, for the company, and most importantly for the thousands of—non-million dollar earning—employees whose private info has been made vulnerable, might be kept out of the headlines. For security reasons, of course.) I don’t think studios can wait the 14 years between Tron and Toy Story to slowly experiment and test the waters of VOD distribution for big films. Jen, as you point out, with the choices available now in how to access/watch movies, audiences are especially powerful.
Jen and Ross—this is an excellent prospect! Countering this perceived “mistrust” between the industry and film and media historians has the potential to bolster partnerships and engender more scholarship on media industries, past and present. I also think the Warner Bros. Archives at USC is a good model to look to along with the Herrick. Warner Bros. and USC jointly fund the archive and while WB retains the intellectual copyright of the material, USC owns the physical material and is responsible for its care. [ Some shameless self-promotion—for those interested in this collaboration and the history of the WBA, see my article “That’s Not All Folks: Excavating the Warner Bros. Archives” published in the Moving Image last spring). If the studios can see that their legacy can be better preserved and understood through scholarship, it might help this “de-classified” archival collaborations between the studios and non-profit institutions like libraries and universities. Also collaborations with studio preservation and home video departments is another partnership that could open research avenues (Sony itself has a vibrant restoration program and has been a good steward of the Columbia classic films that it now owns).
Thank you Maya, Ross, and Jen for your thought provoking comments. Ross, in response to your question about the threat of legal action from Sony to journalists (and potentially any scholarly presses who publish research utilizing this material), I will reiterate the point I made in my response to Maya’s piece. If Sony did sue a publisher based on this material, it has the potential to have the opposite effect and make this material legally accessible in court records and documentation. Then again, if they settled out of court, which tends to happen with more contemporary Hollywood lawsuits, the evidence and documentation will not be accessible. Plus, would Sony really sue the trade publications like Variety and Hollywood Reporter that reported on the hack, whereas they were not the hackers themselves that broke the law? Would it be responsible journalism (and we could extend that to scholarship) to ignore the revelations uncovered in this leaked material, when it is out there and exposed?