Media Theory for the 21st Century

February 26, 2008

The Secret Life of Cinema….

Filed under: Discussion — dfratini @ 10:59 pm
Tags: , ,

It’s very likely that my understanding of the implications of Fuller’s definition of the concept of “media ecology” is horribly flawed. I am but a humble cinema scholar, I admit. If I am understanding him, I believe our field has been struggling mightily toward a cinema ecology approach for a few decades now, but that approach is both empowering and daunting.

Fuller’s examples of pirate radio, Cctv, the Switch, etc. are all subversion and relatively localized or contained, albeit dynamic, materializations. How does one use this approach toward commercial cinema? Is this an approach that can look only to the subversions in order to glean the “norms” or “medial will to power” that is being subverted? Because when it comes to cinema, the “thickness” is so monumentally thick, it’s hard to even conceive.

For example, you have film stock, camera, lens (these are variable, so they should be separate) — but what about the lights? All the specialized practices of each position of each crew member? A shift in the production ecology — if I may call it that, and perhaps I can’t, I’m not sure — a shift such as that from silent to sound production could be deemed an instance of a medial will to power, clearly. Yet what about the shift from old-fashioned wooden clapboards to digital ones? Is this tool part of the ecology? I would say “yes” because it is part of the process, but that is where I’m unsure how to apply Fuller.

Wouldn’t we include in this ecology the myriad documents: memos, contract, blue-prints, scripts, permits, schedules, receipts, storyboards, schematics? I haven’t even touched distribution yet — again contracts, rating correspondence, legal documents, posters, ads, commercials, prints, cans, trucks, planes. Then there is the viewing, the ancillary markets — cable, dvd — merchandising….

Or do we just talk about the ecology of Juno? Many critics worried that the teen pregnancy meme would be contagious. Can we think of Fellini’s 8 1/2 as “A Movie-Director Recording Its Own Condition”? There is the ecology of Chinese bootlegged dvds. Currently I’m working on what my professor has deemed an archaeology of a cinematic technology: the sodium travelling matte system — whose ecology includes, if I understand Fuller correctly, the American cold war military technology — which technology precisely, I’m not sure because it’s classified — and Darby O’Gill and the Little People. Make of that what you will.

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