A Meta-Review and Meta-Analysis of a Meta-Performance Video

Our contribution to Collaborvention 2011:  A Computers and Writing Unconference is a call for reviewers for a video my collaborators and I made, “Video in [Re]View: Teaching/Learning Writing through Multimodal Performance in an Online Graduate Seminar.”  The movie was made as part of a journal’s call for submissions about performance in writing, and it is a documentary “performance” where we discuss and reflect on a YouTube video book review assignment I gave in a graduate course.

Here is the first part of the movie:

Here is the second part of the movie:

It might be useful (either before or after watching our movie) to watch the video book reviews Andrea, Carrie, and Dave made for the graduate class– this is what we are discussing in our movie.

For reasons that I will gloss over, things did not work out with the journal that had originally accepted the piece, and we decided to withdraw it.  I still want the piece to find an audience though, and, because of the many questions that remain for  us about our movie and also the implications for publishing multimedia work like ours, my collaborators and I thought it would make an interesting piece for discussion at this year’s innovative “unconference.”

I chose the title “Is there a ‘ there there?'” because it is, in effect, what we are hoping to discover through your comments.  As I understand it (I read this on wikipedia, so it must be true), Gertrude Stein said “There is no there there” either in criticism of Oakland, California, or she said this to lament the fact that her childhood home had been torn down.  Either way, Stein is talking about a lack, an absence.

Well, with our movie, I think we are still wondering: is there is a “there there?” Is this scholarship?  An interesting (perhaps failed) experiment? A waste of time? Something else?  We hope to get some guidance on that question here.

This process has raised some serious questions about the role of multimedia production in rhetoric and writing scholarship.  A few of the larger and most thorny of these questions:

  • How will journals in our field present and preserve this work, especially if there is an interest in retaining rights?  It would be easy enough for a journal to post video/audio files on free services like YouTube or vimeo (as we have done here), and to also leave the responsibility for the presentation/preservation of that scholarship largely with the author.  But how does a journal that wishes to retain the rights of the material manage to host what can be very large multimedia files?  Putting aside for a moment the debate over accessible and open source scholarship, is it even possible for the traditional apparatus of academic publishing to logistically function with these decidedly non-print media?
  • What sort of “professional” expectations can we (meaning both readers/viewers and publishers/editors) make of “amateurs?”  As anyone who has sat through a painfully bad family video show knows, just because you give someone a camera doesn’t make them a filmmaker.  In this video, I like to think that we have some interesting things to say.  And yet, as is evident in a number of places in this cut, we are clearly amateurs when it comes to some of our camerawork and much of our audio recording.  What is the balance we can allow and expect in this sort of work?  How much tolerance can we have for “bad” production values for “interesting” points?
  • What do publishers seeking multimedia work need to tell potential multimedia in their calls?  For example, should publishers insist on scripts or storyboards?  Should they make certain production value demands on the quality of video and audio?  Such requirement might make for much more “watchable” academic documentaries, but such high standards might be impossible for many rhetoric and writing scholars to meet.
  • What sort of suggestions can reviewers and editors make to multimedia writers for revisions?  It is easy enough to suggest and make revisions to a “words in a row” essay.  Adding some more details here, deleting a paragraph there, and clarifying some dangling sentences is easy enough.  But how do multimedia writers reshoot video or record audio from an interview or a live event? 

2 Responses to A Meta-Review and Meta-Analysis of a Meta-Performance Video

  1. I think the video reviews are exactly the kinds of writing we should be asking people to practice. I really like that you can feel the projects and the thinkers finding their way with questions about genres and modes, thinking and composing. There’s a lot to think about in the questions you lay out as well. And the question about preserving this work jumps out right away. I like that this piece is recording and reflecting. There is so much welcomed movement forward in computers and writing that the archival impulse is needed. I think it makes sense to try to capture as much about such projects as possible, to save drafts and all kinds of materials. It might be that there are places where saving everything makes no sense, but I think the harder part is the reflecting and extending that happens on these kinds of meta levels.

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