MLA 2018 ABSTRACTS
333. Web 2.0 Readers FRIDAY, 5 JANUARY 1:45 PM-3:00 PM, REGENT (HILTON)
TC Popular Culture
1. Goodreads and the Black Box of Online Reading, Allison Hegel (U of California, Los Angeles) [#3695]
2. The Insecure Reading Chair, Julia M. Walker (State U of New York, Geneseo) [#3696]
3. Redrawing the Lines? Korean War Webtoons and the Politics of Disengagement, We Jung Yi (Penn State U, University Park) [#3698]
4. Microblogging Junot Díaz: Political Engagement and Web 2.0 Readers, Ellen McCracken (U of California, Santa Barbara) [#3699]
Gwendolyn Pough (Syracuse U, Syracuse)
Goodreads and the Black Box of Online Reading
For many readers in the era of networked computing and social media, the reading
process begins not by turning to a title page, but instead turning to a web page where they can
browse reviews of a book to decide if it is worth reading. These reviews become supplemental to
the book itself as they influence readers’ choices of what to read, provide context and a ready-
made evaluation of the book for readers before they read it, and finally record readers’ own
interpretations of the book afterwards. Reading these reviews alongside the books they promote,
critique, and otherwise evaluate gives us a more complete picture of the way readers construct
meaning from what they read, and how digital reading institutions and information technology
both aid and interfere with this process.
My project teases out the interaction between readers and Goodreads to see where agency
and algorithm meet. While Goodreads gives readers new ways to actively participate in the
reading process, from online book clubs to a “shelving” system that allows them to name their
own genres, its design also constrains the ways readers can react to books. I analyze the design
features that distinguish reading on Goodreads from analog reading, including digital shelves,
book lists, message boards, and recommendation algorithms, to elucidate the new affordances--
and new limits—of reading brought about by Goodreads. My discussion will touch not just on
the visible aspects of the web site, but the “black box” of hidden algorithms that determine which
books Goodreads recommends and which reviews appear at the top of the page. While we often
hear complaints that these sites are designed to encourage popular books over classics, and that
readers who use them are too readily influenced by “likes” and advertising campaigns, it is
exactly this democratization of authority and entanglement with marketing that best characterizes
book publishing today, and which has, I will argue, profound effects on the way books inspire
communities in the digital age.
The Insecure Reading Chair: how my Amazon review was held hostage in the Telegraph, then rescued by outraged romance writers
JULIA M WALKER (WALKER@GENESEO.EDU)
Yes, that’s the London Telegraph, beloved of Theresa May, once favored by Margaret Thatcher. I used to write Amazon reviews for pleasure, hoping to share books I’d enjoyed with other readers. Then Vine-Voice came along and I wrote reviews because I had to. Many of this generation were written to save other readers from books too bad to be read, even for free. The minatory motivation behind the Stock review[s] review didn’t make me quit posting – no it took my endless iterations of “it’s not history; it’s an historical NOVEL” in a tortured series of exchanged reviews and wildass comments on Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. But both experiences raise troubling and complex questions about the purpose and conventions of a review, the authority of the amateur reviewer, the elements that distinguish a professional from an amateur, the question of whether an anonymous review can be a legitimate review. In academe, identity informs authority, but Amazon, Good Reads, et al provide only what the reviewer wants to give – I could construct myself as an ex-pat librarian living in Granada, swirling among café tables by night, another Matilde Coral wannabe. And it would be harmless. Or would it? There are, of course, those reviewers who construct self-deluded personae – the real estate agent in Sydney who claims to be a Boleyn scholar, but knows not the difference between a primary and a secondary source. But this is supposed to a personal reflection. A09i==== I wrote as an informed civilian, claiming no authority beyond a life-list of spy novels. Jon Stock say me as a target to be neutralized, putting our exchange of emails into his column. We were both reading and writing on different levels of discourse. I don't list my rank or university affiliation on Amazon, although I do include my email address. I review as a private reader. The element of Stock's article I found most offensive was that he put my rank front and center, as if I had done so, while at the same time he dismissed me as "a lay reader." No, I read for a living. And that distinction problematizes my status as a reviewer.
Redrawing the Lines?
Korean War Webtoons and the Politics of Disengagement
We Jung Yi (email@example.com)
This paper looks at two Korean War-themed South Korean graphic narratives: HUN’s Secretly, Greatly (2010-11) and Yun Tae-ho’s Operation Chromite (2013-14). Originally serialized as webtoons (a portmanteau of “web” and “cartoon”) on online platforms, these two works were not only easily accessible and quickly readable, but also vastly interactive and engaging for the consumer. Each episode was installed online alongside a space for readers to post comments and ratings, which, in turn, influenced the serialization of the work and the promotion of transmedia practices. With explosive responses from their fans and anti-fans, both have been published in the traditional form of comic books and have become sources for blockbuster filmmaking. In this light, they can be seen as exemplary of what Henry Jenkins identifies as the “media convergence” and “participatory turn” in contemporary culture, as the digital revolution continues to redraw the boundaries of cultural production, circulation, and consumption.
Mindful of this evolving mediascape, my analysis of Secretly, Greatly and Operation Chromite focuses on the ways in which Korea’s unfinished war is captured and imagined in order to deal with the enduring yet shifting condition of national division in the new millennium. In particular, I explore how the framed space in these visual narratives is used to grasp the stillness of the war, on the one hand, and how sequential movements are arranged to challenge existing boundaries, on the other. To consider whether the “infinite canvas” (Scott McCloud) of webcomics simply reproduces spectacles of terror and suffering, or creates something beyond the visible or measurable, I attend to the ways that the two works facilitate the imagining of crossing the uncrossable and making virtual connections with unknown others. By noting all-too-familiar narrative techniques such as the allegory of the family-as-nation and the excesses of violence and affect, I track aesthetic traditions integrated into this cutting-edge form of digital content. Ultimately, I tackle the question of why, at a time when the Cold War logic seems to be renewed in alliance with neoliberalist principles, audiences take pleasure in reading these comics made from traumatic history.
462. Complex TV: Texts, Viewers, and Fan Engagement SATURDAY, 6 JANUARY 8:30 AM-9:45 AM, MADISON SQUARE (SHERATON)
TC Popular Culture
1. Transmedia and Telenovelas: Parodying Latinx Melodramas for a Transnational and Hemispheric Latinx Audience, Yari Cruz (Indiana U, Bloomington) [#3702]
2. The ‘Tina’ Phenomenon: Bob’s Burgers and the New Riot Grrls, Kira Boyko (U of Victoria) [#3710]
3. Against Cognitive Philosophies of Film Experience: An Archaeology of Image: Rethinking Jason Mittell’s Cognitivism, Carl Peters (U of the Fraser Valley) [#3704]
4. The Transmedial and Synontological Complexity of Castle, Rhona Trauvitch (Florida International U) [#3706]
Ellen McCracken (U of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara)
TRANSMEDIA AND TELENOVELAS: PARODYING LATINX MELODRAMAS FOR A TRANSNATIONAL AND HEMISPHERIC LATINX AUDIENCE
Yarí Elisa Cruz Ríos (firstname.lastname@example.org)
With a logo that symbolizes “‘unity, collaboration and the merging of cultures in the U.S.,’” that is, the “Hispanic Heartbeat of America,” Univision was the leader of Spanish language TV in the U.S. However, when Telemundo, its main competitor, rebranded telenovelas as “Super Series,” i.e., telenovelas that distanced themselves from conventional Latin American melodramas, embracing edgier topics (like narcoculture) and American TV models (for instance, developing a show through multiple seasons), Univision started to lose its lead. Part of Univision’s audience decrease was caused by their partnership with Televisa, a Mexican TV network from which Univision acquires a significant amount of its telenovela content. As Jon Lafayette remarks, for today’s Latinxs, Televisa’s formula for serialized melodramas, “grew stale,” especially “to many U.S. Hispanic viewers, who are increasingly bilingual and able to watch the sophisticated shows on cable and streaming services in this golden age of TV” (8). Univision tried to counter the popularity Telemundo’s “Super Series” by convincing Televisa to change its “stale formula” through various strategies, like incorporating transmedia storytelling to its melodramatic offerings.
In recent years, transmedia has become part of Univision/Televisa’s telenovelas, adopted to attract a younger viewership that consumes media through multiple screens (e.g., TV, computers, tablets, and smartphones). Generally, the dissemination of particular narrative elements from a TV show into different media platforms is known as transmedia. In Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling (2015), Jason Mittell underlines that transmedia storytelling supports and strengthens the core narrative experience (295), and argues that it can represent two different tendencies: “What Is?” or “What If?” As such, transmedia is employed as a connectivity tool to, for example, encourage viewers to feel part of a TV show, and to facilitate a deeper engagement with a particular TV program. What is the function, however, of transmedia storytelling when it does not directly support the core narrative experience, and does not answer “What Is?” or “What If?”
Drawing from Mittell’s observations on complex TV and transmedia storytelling, in my proposed paper I argue that contemporary Latin American telenovelas use transmedia to suggest a novel way to engage with Latin American melodramas. Through the examination of Televisa/Univision’s Antes muerta que Lichita and the webnovela Corazón enamorado, I assert that transmedia, in these examples, is not employed to reinforce their narrative experience; on the contrary, in this context, transmedia serves as a way to parody the on-going TV melodrama in order to make fun of its tone and tropes and, by doing that, learn to read its excess in connection to 21st century Latinx identity. I will also explore how transmedia storytelling in telenovelas helps the creation and the enforcement of a transnational and hemispheric Latinx millennial audience for telenovelas.
THE ‘TINA’ PHENOMENON: BOB’S BURGERS AND THE NEW RIOT GRRLS
Kira Boyko (email@example.com)
My paper explores the Internet sub-culture phenomenon of teen and tween girls
embracing the figure of Tina Belcher from the Fox television show Bob’s Burgers. This
unexpected claiming of Tina, I argue, is a rejection of the post-feminist girl icons that have
traditionally been marketed towards girls such as Alex Russo from Wizards of Waverly Place or
the girl action team from Totally Spies! I investigate the different aspects of Tina’s
characterization, animation, and the various plot lines she is given, concluding that the act of
embracing Tina and similar icons in favour of characters directed at adolescent girls
demonstrates unrest among these girls, a discontentment with the media that is being directed
at them, and a desire for images that are much different than the feminine, butt-kicking girl
power icons of the past. Tina’s plain appearance reflects an awkward “training-bra” stage that
is not often depicted among girl icons, and she explores her pubescent sexuality from the
position of agent rather than subject – she nurtures crushes on multiple boys, fantasizes about
butts, and acts upon her sexuality in age-appropriate ways, rather than being acted-upon or
simply being the object of boys’ hormonal actions.
The Tina phenomenon is most clearly present on the blogging site Tumblr as well as the
multitude of Etsy stores that sell t-shirts, buttons, and prints with images of Tina and some of
her popular quotes or one-liners. This appropriation of Tina’s image is reminiscent of riot grrl
culture, where girls are producing commodities for other girls, subverting the late-capitalist
mass-marketing of former girl icons by creating their own.
Against Cognitive Philosophies of Film Experience: An Archaeology of Image: Rethinking Jason Mittell’s Cognitivism
Carl Peters (Carl.Peters@ufv.ca)
The assumption of cognitive psychology is that viewers actively construct story worlds in their minds. This approach implies that viewers think about thinking when they see, and although seeing is, in fact, learnt (i.e., cognitive), it is a gross assumption that common viewers actually think about what they see—in fact the reverse is the case. Or, more accurately, what viewers construct is less a narrative than it is a reverie, and reverie is intrinsic to film form: the possibility that I can set thinking aside and believe in what I see as the experience of what I see.
Digital postmodernism is making us settle for a smaller world in which vocabularies shrink. If you mention Homer most people will think of a cartoon character. “Fanfiction” is a simulacra of fiction. It is not the same kind of engagement that you get from aesthetic engagement.
all is not lost and certain shows show how the language of cinema can be reworked as the syntax of the small screen (i.e., TV). This rationale follows the insights of most major film makers who assert that the short film teaches concision, which is essential to the feature film.
One such artist is Roman Polanski. I wish to argue that his filmic language and depictions have influenced “TV” more profoundly than any other artist, including David Lynch. What distinguishes Polanski’s pictures is nuanced distortion, which renders characters as caricatures, often grotesque caricatures; an excessive use of pastel colours—colours that demonstrate the modeling of form rather than the contour of shape; crowded, almost claustrophobic mise-en-scènes.
Such blending of styles and forms establish warmth (you could say “atmosphere,” but atmosphere is the deduction of the warmth that is induced), and we are lulled away from thought into thought, that is “reverie.” This has nothing to do with cognition and everything to do with mourning, a longing for that which we cannot fully comprehend. Film can show that and that is all.
But TV denies reverie, transitional thinking, and the transitory objects that affect feeling and optical consciousness because it is a 'cold medium' as McLuhan and others said. Ultimately it is about the uses of 'light' and the uses of photography isn't it? It is not about 'discourse' that cognitive psychologists claim.
The Transmedial and Synontological Complexity of Castle
Rhona Trauvitch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
By speaking Klingon and Sindarin, playing Quidditch, and memorializing events such as
Holmes’ and Moriarty’s altercation at Reichenbach Falls, we interact with originally fictional
entities in our nonfictional reality. I designate such interactions synontological events, as they
occur at the confluence of two ontological strata: that of fiction, and that of nonfiction.
This paper explores the transmedial and synontological complexity of a group of texts that stem
from the televisual discourse of Castle. The character Richard Castle, played by Nathan Fillion,
originates in the eponymous ABC crime dramedy. Castle is a writer who tags along a team of
NYPD detectives, both drawing inspiration for his novels and helping the detectives solve cases
with his mystery novelist’s creativity and intuition. The novels Castle writes are what I call
second-tier fictionals: they are fictional entities created by an already fictional character. How
interesting, therefore, that one can purchase Castle’s novels on Amazon.com and that the author
of said novels is listed as Richard Castle. Judging from the sales of Castle’s books on Amazon,
we deduce that the best-selling fictional novelist is now a best-selling novelist in real life.
Richard Castle’s Amazon author’s page contains no indication whatsoever that the featured
author is a fictional character. Amazon’s authors’ pages for Borges, Atwood, and Poe look,
mutatis mutandis, the same. We can pursue our quest of discovering the identity of the non-
fictional author of this second-tier fictional in the paratextual copyrights page, but to no avail.
Wishing to see just how deep the enigma runs, we turn to union catalog WorldCat, wherein,
while no author is listed, the “responsibility” for the Nikki Heat series is attributed to “Richard
Castle.” Mixing a fourth medium into this ontological conundrum, Castle now “collaborates”
with non-fictional writers and illustrators to create the Derek Storm series of graphic novels.
Amazon lists Castle as a co-author for these graphic novels.
In order to participate in this media convergence (cf. Henry Jenkins), the reader/audience is
asked to “play along” with the stipulation that a fictional character created what he/she is
reading. This, in turn, leads to the popular success of a multi-media franchise. In this paper I
turn to narrative theory and cognitive studies to consider the effects and implications of
synontology on televisual discourse. I maintain that it is specifically the stipulation of an
ontological border crossing – wherein a fictional character is treated as non-fictional – that
enables the popular success of the Richard Castle texts.
MLA 2017 ABSTRACTS
Thursday, 5 January 75. E-Book Revolution 1:45–3:00 p.m., Franklin 5, Philadelphia Marriott
Program arranged by the forum TC Popular Culture
Presiding: Ellen McCracken, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
1. "Code and the Codex: E-books as Applications," Patrick Smyth, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York
2. "Designing the E-book Reading Experience," Elizabeth Shayne, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
3. "(E-)Reading Unbound: The Silent History and Dispersed Reading," Sarah Whitcomb Lozier, Univ. of California, Riverside
4. "Transmedial Paths through Joyce and Eliot," Ellen McCracken
Code and the Codex: E-books as Applications, Patrick Smyth
What, precisely, is a book? For long periods of history, books have been associated with discrete forms, such as the scroll and the codex. Over the past two decades, the popular conception of the book has been expanded to include a succession of specialized file formats, including .lit, .mobi, and .epub. While these "standard" e-book formats allowed for new affordances and reading modalities, e-books of this kind were still fundamentally recognizable as books. More recently, however, a variety of authorship and publishing approaches have emerged that blur the boundaries among applications, platforms, and books. These developments suggest a future in which books—and the experience of reading—will be more varied and less recognizable, and suggest new modes of interaction among readers, authors, and publishers.
in this paper i look beyond standard and "enhanced" e-book formats to a new and expanding category of e-book-application hybrids. These include interactive applications such as The Silent History and Device6, crowdsourced book projects, and authoring platforms that allow for nonlinear reading experiences, such as Inform and Twine. I also touch on the use of ebook-app hybrids in scholarly publishing, such as Scalar, the nonlinear authoring platform, and GitBooks, a version control powered writing collaboration tool. Finally, in exploring these emerging approaches to the book as a form, I draw on paratextual theory and the writings of Gérard Genette to sound out contemporary differences in the reception and consumption of books, using e-book/app hybrids as a point of reference to indicate how social conceptions of the book have both changed and remained the same.
Designing the Ebook Reading Experience, Elizabeth Shayne
In Anne Mangen’s 2013 study of reading comprehension, she found that students reading the printed version of a text scored better than those reading the digital version. She suggests that the lack of tactile and physical feedback providing information about the length of the text, the location of events on the page, the sense of turning as a method of progression all interfere with the reader’s ability to remember the text. The ebook cannot use the same methods as the print interface to aid in memory formation; it must instead draw on the resources of the screen’s interface to do so. In this paper, I focus on these methods of reading design employed by books that are not merely digitized, but adapted as application for computers and tablets. I examine several different texts, ranging from the Bible to 19th century classics to born-digital works, all of which have different approaches to making themselves memorable. Using the tools of human computer interface studies to analyze how these digital books work within the protocols of design, I discuss how they draw the reader’s attention in a way that attempts to mimic the book, but often does not succeed. The book is an incredibly successful invisible interface that effaces itself while providing unconscious cues that aid in information retention. The digital book is often trapped between two extremes, either effacing itself so much as to provide no unconscious cues or relying too heavily on interface elements that are memorable, but distracting. The most successful digital books are those that move furthest away from what the print book does so successfully and attempt to create a new digital experience. It is these digital books that will help us create new protocols for digital reading that make memorable reading experiences possible.
(E-)Reading Unbound: The Silent History and Dispersed Reading, Sarah Whitcomb Lozier
This paper examines the geo-locative narrative The Silent History (Horowitz, Moffett, Derby, Quinn, 2012), focusing on the ways it provokes a spatio-temporally dispersed reading practice that is both reflective of and analogous to production processes of electronic textuality. As N. Katherine Hayles has described, electronic textuality is distinct from that of print in the following ways: where the print text is unitary, the electronic text is dispersed; where the print text is bound and object-like, the electronic text is an unbound performance or event; where the print text is made up of durably inscribed signs, the electronic text is made up flickering signifiers; and, where the print text consistently reproduces itself as a stable entity, the electronic text is always differing from itself. Through its geo-locationality that requires the reader to disperse herself in space and time, thereby producing an unstable, differential, “flickering” reading practice, The Silent History creates a reading practice that is fundamentally and materially tied to the performative, processual, machinic “writing” practice of electronic textuality.
Set in 2043, The Silent History recounts the period from 2011-2043, during which the world was struck by a viral pandemic where people lost – or for some, never gained – the ability to process linguistic information. Taking on the guise of a researcher investigating the contents of an archive, the reader accesses this history through a series of first-person testimonials from the pandemic’s witnesses, and field reports that describe elements of the pandemic that are both literally and figuratively tied to specific places. These field reports are geo-locatively locked so that the reader cannot access them unless her device is geo-locatable at the coordinates designated by the field reporter; effectively, then, the reader can only access the field report if she spatio-temporally disperses herself around the globe, to read from within the field itself. Further, though some of these reports are written by The Silent History’s writers (who also wrote the testimonials), many of them are written by readers who, the app developers note, are all invited to contribute to the archive, and expand the narrative. In this way, the practice of reading becomes, both literally and discursively, a practice of writing that is spatially, temporally, and textually unbound, and that, as in the machinic performance of an electronic text, is always differing from itself.
Transmedial Paths through Joyce and Elliot, Ellen McCracken
Enhanced e-book editions of works such as The Dubliners and The Waste Land designed for tablets are new machines of textuality that offer readers multiple paths of transmedial engagement. Extra-textual material, previously understood as epitexts with their own specific generic rules of engagement, now enter the text proper, permeating the structure of the initial authorial sign system. Additionally, a new collective author function, elaborated by the design team, offers readers multiple paths through which they can create their own narrative experiences. One journalist, praising the enhanced edition of the Waste Land, compares readers' engagement with the enhanced book to that of a game: “It’s elegant, you walk your way around it—every room leads unto another room—it’s brilliant.” This paper studies a variety of the paths through which readers semiotically engage with these new textual machines and the resulting transformations of the classic literary works.
Saturday, 7 January 654. Binge Media 5:15–6:30 p.m., 103A, Pennsylvania Convention Center
Program arranged by the forums TC Popular Culture and MS Visual Culture
Presiding: Gwendolyn Pough, Syracuse Univ.
1. "Closing the Gaps: Seriality, Bingeing, and the Logic of Pleasure," Ryan Engley, Univ. of Rhode Island
2. "Bulimic Spectatorship: A Cognitive Approach to the Binge-Watching Metaphor," Karen Guendel, Emerson Coll.
3. "Binge Watching: Affective Economies in the Age of Online Streaming," Daniel Roberts, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
4. "Binge Watching: Beyond the Pleasure Principle," Robert Samuels, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
“Closing the Gaps: Seriality, Bingeing, and The Logic of Pleasure” Ryan Engley
This essay investigates a particular aspect of hyper-consumption in mass culture: the compression of temporality that comes with bingeing serial narrative media. Working with Catherine Malabou’s and Slavoj Žižek’s reading of habit in Hegel, and Deleuze’s reading of repetition in Freud, I examine narrative media bingeing as an attempt to actually eliminate or evade the gap that constitutes the serial itself. The experience of the serial is punctuated by punctures—breaks, gaps, caesura, delays and agonizing waits for closure. Engaging in a serial text thereby produces its own ways of reading, viewing, and listening. Bingeing seems the ultimate pleasurable retort to such an experience. Yet, as we watch serial television or listen to serial podcasts—rushing to functionally suspend the gaps—we continuously prove to ourselves how traumatic or replete with tension the serial interval is. Seriality, then, is not mere succession; it is not the simple sequence of one installment after another—it instantiates hyper- (and gap-less) consumption of narrative. The logic of Freud’s reality principle is not that it acts as a stumbling block for pleasure but rather allows for pleasure to be extended. What is the logic of pleasure in a consumption that dramatically reduces the interval of pleasure? For example, NPR’s Serial podcast “stays serial” no matter how one enjoys it (as in its episodes have individual arcs that anticipate the breaks and gaps common seriality), but altering the temporality of consumption by refusing the ritual of listening to the narrative unfold over 12 weeks changes the reception of the material. So while it is doubtless that the narrative experience changes if one reads or watches serially as opposed to bingeing or self-directing, what exactly does change? This leads to this essay’s driving questions: If viewers and listeners are so ready to fully commit and immerse themselves in a serial experience only to rapidly reach the end, is bingeing about the binged object at all? Ultimately, is bingeing about bingeing for the sake of bingeing with the object incidental to the experience.
Bulimic Spectatorship: A Cognitive Approach to the Binge-Watching Metaphor , Karen Guendel
Since 2013, when Netflix declared that “binge-watching is the new normal,” usage of the phrase has skyrocketed on social media and around office watercoolers nationwide. As critics have begun to discover, the binge-watching metaphor carries a complex network of connotations ranging from guilty pleasure and moral panic (Matrix 124) to an astute appreciation of narrative complexity (Graves 228). But critics have yet to recognize how these meanings intersect with the distinctly bulimic connotations of bingeing. Based on the cognitive-linguistic theories of Conceptual Metaphor and Conceptual Blending, I will identify binge-watching as a subset of a much larger family of metaphors through which speakers of English routinely conceive of the mind as a digesting body, as when we devour novels, savor music, or become nauseated by melodrama. As these examples demonstrate, expressions of the digesting mind can convey a wide range of attitudes toward media consumption. When we binge on the latest Netflix series, I will argue, we pathologize consumption, revealing various fantasies and anxieties, not only about the quality and quantity of the digital-age content buffet, but also about our self-image as media consumers. As Hunter Hargraves argues, binge-watching constitutes a rejection of the older model of “addictive spectatorship,” which effeminizes viewers of low-quality televisual content as passive, tasteless couch potatoes, in favor of a masculinist connoisseurship that puts viewers in command of an endless stream of premium content. By analyzing expressions of the binge- watching metaphor in the popular press and on social media sites, I will demonstrate that in replacing metaphors of addiction with those of binge eating, we echo the discourse of online “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” communities, which promote behaviors associated with eating disorders. In effect, the binge-watching metaphor is deeply problematic because it appropriates pro-bulimic discourse in order to discipline the mind-as-digesting-body. And although binge- watching typically elides the purgation stage of bulimic consumption, I will argue, it nonetheless functions to repress those fears of the potentially adverse effects of media consumption which have retained currency since the advent of television.
Binge-Watching: Affective Economies in the Age of Online-Streaming, Daniel Roberts
This project takes up the questions of pleasure and power at the site of Netflix and other web-based television streaming sites. The popular phenomenon referred to as binge-watching, or the act of watching a series of episodes in rapid succession is of particular interest to questions of queer intimacy and the biopolitical proliferation of normative life. Netflix is an incorporated, micro-prosthetic technology that often acts as necessary form of what Lauren Berlant calls lateral agency or “a sense of well-being that spreads out for a moment, not a projection toward a future.” If Netflix and other Internet TV streaming sites are in some ways about the intimacy of surfaces that grate against each other, lateral agency, pleasure, and self-medication (understood in social over medical terms)--they are also about regulating and disciplining bodies that are narrated as “at rest.” In some ways, binge-watching is a response to the exhaustion of the here and now, characterized not only by the overwhelming mandates for production of neoliberal capitalism, but also by the micro-prosthetics that are more and more extending so-called “human” bodies. Smartphones and their apps bring people into constant connection with friends, acquaintances, and the workplace. This hyperconnectivity brings with it a new and historically specific mode of exhaustion, but it also hones specific reading practices. This project has high stakes for conversations around queer inhumanisms and disability studies, for theorizations of “nonproductivity,” and those bodies that must bear the weight of stasis, irresponsibility, and/or being “out-of-control” (even if there is always affective co-constitution, and “things happening” in these pauses or impasses). Binge-watching provides a useful site of analysis for thinking through the way bodies that are narrated “at rest” are disciplined and regulated through incorporated, pharmaco-pornographic soft technologies aimed at (re)producing specific forms of subjectivity.
Binge Watching Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Robert Samuels
This paper offers a psychoanalytic understanding of what binge watching tells us about neoliberal culture and subjectivity. Using Freud’s and Lacan’s notion of the the drive, I argue that consumer capitalism socializes people to submit themselves to a headless, heedless drive. This theory of the drive can be called an a-diction because it shows how enjoyment is often in opposition to speech and analysis. Moreover, the Freudian notion of the death drive reveals how a desire for mastery through symbolic repetition always fails to attain a real, and this missed encounter produces a desire that calls for more repetition.
As our society becomes increasingly saturated by symbolic media and capitalistic calculations, we seek to turn to media to capture the im-mediate. New cable shows cash in on this structure by building complex symbolic networks around resistant objects of interpretation. Through the use of cliffhangers and instant availability, these shows produce an addictive structure that mimics the foundation of consumer capitalism. Moreover, through the use of high-definition digital media and explicit scenes of sex and violence, new media tries to produce a real as its own transgressive outside. This structure is key to the way neoliberal ideology seeks to seduce subjects into thinking that the media can give us access to the real.
These mla sessions have been arranged by the Forum on Popular Culture. "Binge Media" is also co-sponsored by MS Visual Culture
BOOKS ON SCREENS
I am currently writing a book about the new textuality of literature on portable electronic devices such as the Kindle and the iPad. In this key historical moment of the transition from print to screen how are reading and literary texts fundamentally changed on digital screens? How do literary and cultural theory need to be adapted to adequately analyze this rapidly growing phenomenon of books on screens?