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On Mediation

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Sorry for the long delay before this installment – it’s been a busy summer!

I’ve been going back to the first video effort I made to present what mediation looks like – from behind the camera and on the other side of the project – for the last couple of months. Aside from camera work that makes me wince now that I know what not to do, it surprises me with how well I’d recognized the potential of video to present POV.  So what’s mediation have to do with it? (Tina Turner reference is intentional though it shows my generation…lol) A lot.

I wrote an essay that was supposed to be part of my dissertation four years ago out of this. It took on what it felt like to make those decisions, and it tried to problematize the creator/audience dynamic that comes out of it. I just showed a piece of it in a presentation back in May, and what’s most interesting (and complicated from the perspective of the filmmaker) is what I think is the biggest challenge of the documentary essay – how to give enough background context for the reader/viewer so that they can engage more immediately with the conversation. Would this need to be in supplementary material in the form of links or is the goal to embed this information into the visual narrative? I’m thinking particularly of noticing the looks on my viewers face as I played them a segment with an industry-specific term – in the case of recording studios that’s the term ‘click track’ which is not something people who live outside the music world understand. In fact, it took a couple of different questions before the different members of the audience understood what the term meant. Despite that I’ve written about this and thought to define these terms it’s still easy to forget the insider/outsider dichotomy when you work with a specialized vocabulary.

Mediating technologies is such an important issue that it sometimes floors me that it gets so little attention. I just had a conversation with a colleague about a presentation he gave where he brought this up as a scholarly issue only to find his audience simply did not understand either its importance or relevance. When he finally gets something published on this I’ll add a link to it on this post as an edit (nudge, nudge!).

Where I still have questions is how to find an equivalent for footnotes (don’t skewer me for this one). While personally I prefer the Terry Pratchett school of footnoting, the fact is they make a huge difference in being about to translate basic concepts for a reader so that everyone who reads an article/dissertation/book/monograph/review can operate on more or less the same playing field if they can handle the vocabulary of the discipline.

I buy a lot of DVDs. Partly to irritate my boyfriend, but mostly because I find director’s and cast commentaries to be incredibly insightful. The only option I can think of, and this would be an editing and post-production headache equivalent to a major sinus headache during a thunderstorm, is getting software fancy enough to be able to do the kind of visual linking that the BBC did for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy DVD release – icons that a viewer can click on for a textual translation. But doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the visual medium?

Lots to ponder in this. I’ll turn the original 10 minute short into something streamable and add a link to this in the next few days.


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