Friday, 18 March 2011

Citizen Butler! Thank you for 20 great years of SCREEN-L!

Image from Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941), one of the films studied in the 1982 PhD thesis "Toward a Theory of Cinematic Style: The Remake" by Jeremy Butler at Northwestern University.

One of Film Studies For Free's heroes is Jeremy Butler, professor of television, film, and new media at the University of Alabama, and the founder of Screen-L (an e-mail discussion list for film/TV educators and students, founded in 1991), ScreenSite (a website to facilitate the teaching and research of film/TV/new media) and ScreenLex (a pronunciation guide for film/TV students of all ages).

The former two ventures are some of the earliest Internet resources for film and TV studies teachers and students. Jeremy also served as the Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ first information technology officer and was a co-founder of that organisation's website. And he also created a very cool website on Television Style.

Below is a message Jeremy sent out to members of the Screen-L list this week celebrating the remarkable 20 year anniversary of that email community. As well as setting out some essential issues for every scholar active in online publishing and research, he also thanks some people for Screen-L's success.

FSFF would like to join some of Screen-L's other subscribers in turning that gratitude right back at you, Jeremy! Thank you for everything you've done as one of the genuine innovators of the Film and TV Studies disciplines. It's been truly invaluable!
Twenty years ago, BEFORE THE WORLD WIDE WEB EXISTED, Screen-L was born. Its first  test message was launched out onto BITNET (the "Because It's Time" Network) on Friday, March 15, 1991, at 7:42 (and 11 seconds) pm, CST. It initially lived on UA1VM, the University of Alabama's #1 virtual machine--a mainframe computer... big iron!

1991 was the paleolithic era for networked computing. The Internet was not yet the standard platform for email delivery. (Anyone remember the horror that was cc:Mail?) The Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) was principally used for services such as Gopher and file transferring via FTP). The World Wide Web had its public debut on August 6, 1991, but Web browsers that could handle images were still two years away.

So, in 1991, Screen-L was kinda cutting edge. I can remember leading workshops at the Society for Cinema Studies (before it added "Media" to its name) on how academics might use this new-fangled electronic mail thing for scholarly purposes.

One fun thing about Screen-L is that every message in its 20-year history is archived here:

The archive provides an interesting history of the field of media studies. And this archive makes me wonder: 20 years from now, will be able to look back at Facebook's and Twitter's data with the same ease? The short answer is, obviously not. Both of those services make it quite onerous to archive their material. And wouldn't it be interesting to have a crystal ball and see if such services will even exist 20 years hence?

A few thanks are in order:

I must thank the University of Alabama for hosting Screen-L since day one and thus making our longevity possible.

And thanks must also go to the hundreds of Screen-L subscribers over the years. As Screen-L's moderator, I've been grateful for the civility that (most) folks have shown.

On we go for another 20 years (and more?)!


Jeremy Butler
Screen-L founder


Jeremy Butler said...

Oh, garsh, you're making me blush!

Catherine Grant said...

Well, that was entirely intentional! All best wishes for your work, Jeremy, and thanks for dropping by, too.