Phenomenology Memes

On this blog, I have occasionally written about memes — for example, in relation to seriality and Niklas Luhmann’s theory of media or superheroes and the politics and media practices of #Occupy (here and here). I also looked at the “Pepper Spraying Cop” meme and suggested, in a post called “Photoshop and the Phenomenology of Violence,” that the meme can serve as a unique vehicle for phenomenological insight, due in part to the pattern of experimental variation that structures the practices of phenomenological inquiry and of meme production alike. It never crossed my mind, though, that there might be something like a “phenomenology meme” — not, that is, until search engines started directing people to this blog when they searched for that unusual phrase (due, of course, to the equally unusual combination of topics discussed on this blog). In any case, not wanting to disappoint those readers and their desire for intellectually stimulating images, I went out and found a few specimens of said phenomenology memes, which I reproduce here for the purposes of scholarly interest and aesthetic appreciation.

Out Now: Popular Seriality

Just got my copy in the mail today: Populäre Serialität: Narration — Evolution — Distinktion. Zum seriellen Erzählen seit dem 19. Jahrhundert, edited by Frank Kelleter and with contributions from members of the DFG Research Unit “Popular Seriality — Aesthetics and Practice” and others, including Jason Mittell, Oliver Fahle, Lorenz Engell, and more!

Ludic Serialities @FlowConf2012 #Flow12

I am pleased to learn that my proposal has been accepted in a panel on “Game Studies as Media Studies” at this year’s FLOW Conference in Austin, Texas (organized biannually by graduate students in the Department of Radio-Television-Film at UT). Interestingly, no papers will be presented at the conference — just five-minute statements followed by panel discussions. The preliminary schedule is now up at the conference website, and for the most part it looks great (though I do regret to see that my panel is scheduled to run concurrently with the panel on “Teaching TV” — I was looking forward to seeing Jason Mittell there, who left Germany a few months ago after his year-long stay in Göttingen; I guess we’ll just have to get a beer afterwards…). Anyway, my proposal is based on a project that I’m currently developing with Andreas Jahn-Sudmann (on “Digital Seriality: The Serial Aesthetics and Practice of Digital Games”). Here’s my short abstract:

Ludic Serialities

Shane Denson

In order to think through the affordances and consequences of conceiving game studies as part of humanities-oriented media studies – as opposed both to non-disciplinary approaches to games as focal objects for many disciplines, as well as to strong disciplinary programs following from “ludological” assertions of digital games’ medial exceptionality – I propose looking at a widespread but undertheorized aspect of video games: viz. the seriality that characterizes games at virtually every level of their material, cultural, and intermedial expression. Seriality informs gameplay through formal-algorithmic structures of repetition/variation and the intra-ludic seriality of progressive game “levels”; sequels, remakes, and other explicit serialization practices constitute inter-ludic serialities; finally, fan practices and transmedial phenomena beyond the games themselves instantiate extra-ludic serialities. Careful attention to serial structures offers both a broad basis for cross-media comparisons (from dime novels, film serials, TV series, etc.), as well as the means for identifying salient differences of digital interactivity.

Required Reading: Shaviro on Melancholia

I’m not teaching any courses right now, but if I were then Steven Shaviro’s “MELANCHOLIA, or the Romantic Anti-Sublime” would definitely be required reading! This is an important essay, and the new open-access journal in which it appears, Sequence: Serial Studies in Media, Film, and Music, is sure to establish itself as an important site of media research. Founded and co-edited by Catherine Grant (of Film Studies for Free fame), the peer-reviewed journal responds to the medial specificities of its digital environment in an innovative — but nevertheless quite “natural” — way: by structuring itself in terms of seriality. From the “About” page:

SEQUENCE will use its position outside of established academic publishing frameworks to work adaptively and responsively, using a sequential edited-collection format – its publication schedule set by its authors and readers, and their research and concerns. In other words, it will make an open-access virtue of its own low-fi, D.I.Y., modular blog format. It can only do this meaningfully, of course, because of the generous labour and research expertise of its authors, and of the editorial and advisory boards of its publisherREFRAME.

Each new scholarly SEQUENCE will begin with the publication of one valuable contribution to research in the fields of media, film or music – on a particular theme named in the issue title. But the editors of each individual SEQUENCE won’t necessarily know what the next in their series will be, or when exactly it will come. Each SEQUENCE could, theoretically, turn out to be ‘infinite’, or only as long as the first, self-contained contribution – a hopefully interesting and worthy, if possibly melancholic, kind of monograph.

In any case, each contribution to a SEQUENCE, and each evolving SEQUENCE as a whole, will go on to be published in a variety of electronic viewing and reading formats, with the web version only the first in a series of digital iterations.

Instead of regularity, we aim above all for spreadability and engagement. Readers will find out about new SEQUENCES, and new contributions and updates to existing SEQUENCES through the paraphernalia and pullulations of contemporary online serial publication: primarily, the project’s blog, its RSS feeds, and its Twitter and Facebook pages, and, hopefully, sharings on from those.

In this spirit, check out Shaviro’s excellent article, share it, and spread the word about this important new venue for online, peer-reviewed, open-access scholarship!