Lab #8 Prompt
Our readings last week and today (grouped under “networks” and “remediation,” respectively) discuss many different media, from nineteenth-century newspapers to scrapbooks to zines to fan fiction. While these media have distinct audiences and purposes, what unites them is their qualities of collage, pastiche, and assembly—the ways they cut, paste, and remix texts (and images, and objects) from difference sources into new texts and new forms, and toward new messages, including messages that might not align with those of the original producers.
Our work with risograph showed us a corporate technology that has been embraced by artists and marginalized communities to create texts outside of conventional commercial structures. The zine is a medium born of photocopiers and risograph—though many zine artists work online as well—and it layers the digital and analog, as well as layering original creation and remediated materials. These books might also be labeled “binding media” in Ortega’s terms, for the ways they work across modalities. But they are also interesting for the ways that these forms resist modes of description, search, and surveillance we associate with online writing and social media.
For example, the scrapbook maker rearranged the news—itself already a composite product—as well as other printed media to reflect their individual taste and priorities, often in ways that undercut the more socially accepted narratives. The zine maker might insist on an analog product not out of Luddism—and may in fact use sophistical digital tools to produce the analog product—but in order to circulate information and entertainment, and to build solidarity, among a marginalized community with relative privacy and safety. While most fan fiction is composed online, these too too often remediate as a means to critique or reimagine texts for communities otherwise shut out or excluded from them. Fan fiction platforms often embrace pseudonymous or anonymous writing, as well as community codes of conduct and specific protocols for responding to work, as means of protection, even in highly visible channels. These media blur the lines, in other words, between public and private spaces online. And while many technologists insist that “information wants to be free,” media such as zines and fan fiction offer more complex and nuanced ideas of informational freedom, freely remixing and remediating available materials on the one hand, while consciously limiting access through community-centered publication strategies. Many—though not all!—of these media also resist frameworks of capital and profit that structure most mainstream publishing.
We have spent significant time in this class discussing nostalgia and other emotional impulses toward older media technologies. In this lab report, consider motivations toward particular media that are rooted in critique, resistance, or protection. For example, how might the renewed interest in analog textual technologies we have observed in the first decades of the twenty-first century help us understand attitudes toward computation? How should scholars grapple with community ideas about access and description, particularly when those run counter to standard notions of preservation? For scholars interested in digital humanities, how might these attitudes of critique and resistance—and the media created as a result—ask us to conduct work in preservation, digitization, or computational analysis?