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The New English Major; some thoughts about post-text scholarship

October 7, 2011, 8:07 pm

UCSB Film Students

 

I was at a reception this week and one of the presenters made a comment about Film & Media becoming the new English major. This was in relation to the growth of our program with over 500 undergrads. Now instead of aspirations of writing the Great American Novel I guess the goal is to develop the next great viral video series.

 

I let this simmer for a few days and have to admit that it’s an intriguing notion. If this is true, what does it mean for communications over the next decade? Are we seeing a shift from text to video as a primary form of expression? Perhaps in pop culture this has already happened with television, movies, youtube, and the web—but what if it stretches into academia? In fact, we’re already seeing this with math.

 

From a library point of view, what’s the impact? How would expectations evolve? How would our expertise need to evolve? Our learning spaces? Our software and hardware? Our collections?

 

Imagine that the majority of students coming to your desk/office/studio are not writing a term paper but developing a video-based argument—using sound, data, images, and so forth. If this is how they are being evaluated, how do we help them? And likewise, if this is a major output for faculty and researchers, how do we enable them?

 

We tend to be a very text-based operation. And even as we migrate to digital content, it’s still text. What does this mean in a film-focused world? What’s the role of the library in a post-text world?

 

There seem to be two levels of support—there is production (the nuts and bolts of assembling and editing) and then there is the narrative concept (making an argument, trying to be persuasive or descriptive.) In this manner, actually, not much is changing. Just as you might write an essay or an article, you have a format and content that hopefully flows well together. You state your claim, provide your evidence, draw conclusions, and sum it up. It’s really just the shell that would change—the vehicle of expression.

 

Of course then there are many other aspects too—how do you judge, evaluate, or critique a scholarly video? How do you cite, describe, display, acquire, license, purchase, host, and respond in this format? Does charisma matter more now? And how does peer review and tenure fit in?

 

Text is dead or dying my friends… prepare now!
Just some fun thoughts for a Friday.

@BrianMathews

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