CFP: Contemporary Screen Narratives

Contemporary Screen Narratives: Storytelling’s Digital and Industrial Contexts

Conference to be held on 17 May 2012

Hosted by Department of Culture, Film and Media, University of Nottingham

Keynote speakers: Henry Jenkins and Jason Mittell

This one-day conference looks to trace connections between the narratives of contemporary screen media and their contexts of production, distribution and consumption. We refer here to narrative as the presentation and organisation of story via the semiotic phenomena of image, sound and written/spoken word. We anticipate that speakers will explore ways in which stories and their on-screen telling are informed by contemporary industrial and technological conditions. We invite contributions from postgraduate and early-career researchers working across screen-based narrative media, such as film, television, comics, literature, video games and other areas of new media. We are interested to receive all paper proposals pertinent to the conference topic, though we particularly welcome those that engage with the following themes and questions:

Industrial determinants. In what ways are stories and their telling contingent on the production cultures, distribution methods, revenue models and governmental policies that configure a given creative industry?

Digital Technologies. How has the construction and/or reception of narratives been influenced by digital production equipment, distribution tech, online platforms and consumer hardware devices?

Seriality and Transmedia: In what ways do serial narrative forms, whether disseminated within a given medium or across multiple media, reflect industrial and technological contexts?

Audio and Visual Styles: How are the sounds and visions of contemporary screen narratives informed by conditions of production and reception technologies?

Paratextual Surround: In what ways do promotional materials, practitioner discourses, fan cultures and critical/journalistic responses discursively frame screen narratives?

Send abstracts of 250 words to both:

Anthony Smith –


Aaron Calbreath-Frasieur –

Papers should not exceed twenty minutes in length.

The deadline for proposal submission is Monday 13 February 2012.

Deadline for proposal submission is now: 4 March 2012.

(Original CFP here:

Daniel Stein on Comics Studies in Germany

Recently, Daniel Stein (my co-editor, along with Christina Meyer, on Transnational Perspectives on Graphic Narratives: Comics at the Crossroads) wrote an interesting report to which I’d like to draw readers’ attention. Entitled “Comics Studies in Germany: Where It’s At and Where it Might Be Heading,” the article first appeared at Comics Forum. Meanwhile, a German translation has appeared on the website of the Gesellschaft für Comicforschung (here). Whichever language you choose, please do check out Daniel’s article for an insightful look at the current state of a vibrant but still controversial field of research in the German context.

Jason Mittell: “Wikis and Participatory Fandom”

There are few technological developments that had more of a visible impact on participatory culture in the 2000s than the wiki. Although the software was designed for small-scale and local uses, wikis have emerged as a major tool used by internet users on a daily basis. From the world’s most popular encyclopedia, Wikipedia, to hundreds of specialized sites serving a vast array of subcultures and groups, wikis have become one of the hallmark tools of the participatory internet, or Web 2.0. This article will outline the development of wikis as a software platform and the cultural rise of Wikipedia before considering a range of participatory practices tied to one of the most widespread uses of wikis: as a tool for online fandom.

Bollywood Nation: Chak De! India

On Thursday, January 26, 2012, we will be screening the fifth and final film in our Bollywood Nation series: Chak De! India [Come on! India] (and not, as previously announced, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…). As usual, the screening will begin at 6:00 PM (room 615 in the Conti-Hochhaus). More information about the film can be found on

What are these Technological Things?

Over at in media res, what promises to be a great theme week has just gotten underway on the topic/question, “What are these Technological Things?”

Here is the complete schedule:

Monday, January 16, 2012 – Kristopher L. Cannon (Georgia State University) presents: Technological#Failure

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 – Kris Coffield (University of Hawaii) presents: Can the Sub-Object Speak?: Siri and the commodification of things

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 – Ravindra N. Mohabeer (Vancouver Island University) presents: Believing is Seeing: Is technology the material of futures?

Thursday, January 19, 2012 – Paul Boshears (European Graduate School) presents: Machine Love: the companionship of technology

Friday, January 20, 2012 – Benjamin Thevenin (University of Colorado, Boulder) presents: Thing Power: recognizing our reflections (or not) in our tablets

Theme week organized by Kristopher L. Cannon (Georgia State University).

Image from Tech Cocktail via Flickr.  Used and altered under Creative Commons License permission.

Cultural and Media Theory: Media in Transition

Course description for a seminar I’ll be teaching in the summer semester (April – July 2012):

Cultural and Media Theory: Media in Transition

SE 2: Di 10:00/12:00 Raum: 1502.615, Beginn: 10.04.2012

Veranstalter/in: Denson

AmerA; AAS1.2

With regard to the structural roles and relations of media in virtually every aspect of our lives, ours is an era of significant — perhaps even fundamental — change. Digital media, in particular, have transformed entertainment, social interaction, politics, art, and academia, among other areas of human activity. About that, there is widespread agreement; there is little consensus, though, when it comes to assessing the significance of these changes or determining their exact nature. Does “media convergence” characterize something unique about our culture? What is new about “new media”? To begin answering these questions, we must take a broader look at the history of media and media change. In this course, we will therefore focus not only on contemporary media phenomena, but also on a variety of earlier media transformations and transitions in an effort to better understand our present situation. With a primary emphasis on American (popular) culture, but with an eye towards global changes, we will consider moments of change and transition in a wide range of media, including the book, the cinema, recorded music, and television. Please be aware that this is an intensive theory course; there will be a heavy workload in terms of reading assignments, comprising quite a number of difficult theoretical texts. Please enroll only if you are willing to do the readings and participate actively in theoretical discussions.

Required Reading

Please purchase a copy of the following book prior to the beginning of the course: David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins, eds. Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003. (ISBN: 0262701073). Please read Chapter 1, “Introduction: Toward an Aesthetics of Transition,” and be prepared to discuss it on the first day of class!

Recommended Reading


Assessment Tasks – will be specified ● Registration – StudIP 1.3.2012 – 31.3.2012 ● Size restriction – 25 ● Prerequisites – Studienleistung(en) of “Intermediate Literature and Culture” ● Studiengänge – FüB.A., M Ed. LG, 3. Fach LG, MA AAS ● Further Information – shane.denson@engsem.~

Independent Study: Digital Media and Humanities Research

Course description for an independent studies course I’ll be teaching in the summer semester (April – July 2012):

Independent Study: Digital Media and Humanities Research

SE 2: nach Vereinbarung

Veranstalter/in: Denson


This course is designed to accompany the seminar “Cultural and Media Theory: Media in Transition,” but it is open to all students in the Master of Advanced Anglophone Studies program for fulfillment of the “Independent Studies” module. Students in the course will investigate the impact and relevance of digital media for contemporary humanities research (including studies of literature, popular culture, film and other media). Beyond conducting a theoretical inquiry, however, we will be concerned with learning to use and evaluate the techniques, tools, and methods implemented in the “digital humanities” (DH) and related areas of academic research. Thus, we will experiment with applications for textual analysis, data visualization, digital video editing, social media, and blogs, to name a few, and put them to work in academic projects. Together, students will agree on a forum for the joint presentation of their work and organize a concluding event.

Students interested in participating should start familiarizing themselves with online discussions of “digital humanities” and looking at some of the tools used in various DH projects.

Required Reading

Please refer to the course page on StudIP.

Recommended Reading

n/a Assessment Tasks – will be specified ● Registration – StudIP 1.3.2012 – 31.3.2012 ● Size restriction – 25 ● Prerequisites – none ● Studiengänge – MA AAS ● Further Information – shane.denson@engsem.~

(image by nicomachus, created via for

Gaming & Art

Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds (2002)

Anne-Marie Schleiner, Joan Leandre, Brody Condon, Velvet Strike (2002)

Brody Condon, Adam Killer (1999-2001)

Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Movie (2005), part 1

Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Movie (2005), part 2

Cory Arcangel, Naptime (2002)

Cory Arcangel, I Shot Andy Warhol (2002)

Moose13088 (?), I Shot Cory Arcangel (2009)

Cory Arcangel, Beat the Champ (2011)

Cory Arcangel, Pro Tools: Various Self-Playing Bowling Games (2011)

Posthuman Play, Or: A Different Look at Nonhuman Agency and Gaming

In his classic work on “the play element of culture,” Homo Ludens (1938), Johan Huizinga writes:

“Play is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing.”

In the meantime, posthumanists of various stripes, actor-network theorists (or ANTs), speculative realists, and scholars in the fields of critical animal studies, ecocriticism, and media studies, among others, have challenged the notion that culture “always presupposes human society.” In these paradigms, we are asked to see octopuses as tool-users with distinct cultures of material praxis, objects as agents in their own right, and “man’s best friend,” the dog, as a “companion species” in a strong sense: as an active participant in the evolutionary negotiation of human agency. The reality of play in the nonhuman world, which Huizinga affirms, would accordingly be far less surprising for twenty-first century humans than it might have been for Huizings’s early twentieth-century readers.

Still, the situation is not completely obvious. Consider Tillman the Skateboarding Dog (see the videos above) or his various “imitators” on Youtube. Can we say, with Huizinga, that Tillman “[has] not waited for man to teach [him his] playing”? Certainly some human taught him to ride his skateboard (and waveboard and surfboard etc.). Furthermore, the imbrication with human culture goes further as Tillman’s riding becomes a spectacle for human onlookers, users of Youtube, and viewers of Apple’s iPhone ads (in which he appeared in 2007):

And yet it’s not the genesis or the appropriation but the independent reality of Tillman’s play that’s really at stake, i.e. not whether he learned the material techniques of his play from humans or whether humans profit from that play in various ways, but whether Tillman himself is really playing, whether he is an agent of play, when he appears to us to be playing. Is there any reason to deny this? After watching several more clips of Tillman in action, I am inclined to think not. We might raise any number of ethical, political, or other concerns about the treatment of animals like Tillman (who do, after all, have to undergo some sort of training before they can play like this — and training of this sort is work, hardly just fun and games). But, regardless of these questions, these video clips would seem to serve an epistemological (evidentiary) function, as they attest to the factual occurrence of a state of play (and associated affects?) in the nonhuman world. They militate, that is, against the view that pet owners unidirectionally play with their pets (by throwing sticks for dogs to fetch, for example), instead granting to animals an independent play agency and distributing the play between human and nonhuman agencies.

Anyone who has lived with an animal might find all of this quite unsurprising, and yet Tillman’s feats would seem to have a philosophical, metaphysical relevance, as illustrations of a nonhuman agency in a robust sense — or as phenomena that are poorly accounted for (in the terminology of speculative realism) by “correlationist” philosophies that deny the possibility of any but a human perspective on the world.

In the realm of media, a non-correlationist view of play as distributed amongst human and nonhuman agents, enmeshed in ensembles of organic and machinic embodiments, has emerged in game studies, where Ian Bogost and Nick Montfort’s platform studies, Alexander Galloway’s algorithmic aesthetics, as well as various applications of posthumanist inflections of phenomenology and actor-network theory, to name a few, all unsettle the primacy and coherence of the human in the play of agencies that is the video game.

What has been missing up to this point, though, is a consideration of nonhuman animals in relation to games’ technical agencies. This is understandable, of course, as most game controllers are designed for primates with prehensile thumbs, and many house pets seem not to understand the basic conventions of — an admittedly anthropocentric — screen culture (I’m thinking of Vivian Sobchack’s cat in The Address of the Eye).

Leave it to Tillman the Skateboarding Dog, then, to point the way to a new field of inquiry — a thoroughly posthumanist field of game design for gaming animals, or a critical animal game studies (which might be critical of the role of animals in games culture as well as recognizing animals themselves as critical gamers):

All jokes aside, though, Tillman’s virtual skateboarding raises some interesting questions for game studies by reframing familiar topics of immersion and identification. Surely, we will not want to impute to Tillman an Oedipal conflict, lack, or any of the other structures of the psychoanalytic apparatus that (as a carryover from film studies) is sometimes invoked to explain human involvement in onscreen events, and yet some form of embodied identification is clearly taking place here. What lessons should we draw with regard to our own gameplay practices?