Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Film and Media Studies e-journals for free: online graduate-student work

Many of the writers on open-access research and scholarship have noted that there is a continuing reluctance among senior and established academics to publish in online scholarly journals. See, for instance, the excellent, detailed discussion of the academic unease around the 'legitimacy' of e-journals by Peta Mitchell ('The Politics of Open-Access Publishing: M/C Journal, Public Intellectualism, and Academic Discourses of Legitimacy' - link HERE). Mitchell notes that
[A]ll studies into online scholarship agree on this point—the authors of articles in open-access journals are, more often than not, comparatively young [...]. [W]hile “younger authors were more likely to be positive about the outcomes of OA [Open Access] publishing,” “older respondents were more likely to worry about the quality, for example, that papers will become less concise” ([Nicholas, David, Paul Huntington, and Ian Rowlands. “Open Access Journal Publishing: The Views of Some of the World’s Senior Authors.” Journal of Documentation 61.4 (2005): 497–519.] 512). [...]

Opinion is divided as to whether this situation has changed in recent years following the exponential growth of open-access publishing. Certainly, the abovementioned 2005 study indicates that most respondants did not see open-access publishing as “radical” or as having no career advantage (Nicholas, et al 507). However, this is tempered by the fact that authors from countries that had a “poor commitment to OA publishing”—notably Australia, North America, and Western Europe—"associated OA with ephemeral publishing, poor archiving and no career advantage” (517). Moreover, as the authors of the study note, “perhaps the biggest finding to emerge from the study is the general ignorance of OA publishing on the part of relatively senior scholarly authors” (515). [...]

The ongoing nature of the open-access debate reveals the core of the problematic facing open-access journals: that while it is now deemed safe to use online scholarship, it is still not entirely safe to produce it.

Despite these residual qualitative doubts, Mitchell notes that all 'stakeholders' in academic publishing have acknowledged that 'open-access journals are cheap, fast, and quantitatively sound'. It is precisely these qualities that can make them an ideal vehicle for those who need quickly to get their work out in public; indeed, e-publishing can provide an ideal 'shop window', akin to the giving of a good conference paper, for early career academics.

There are already quite a good number of open-access e-journal 'outlets' run primarily for and by established film and media studies academics. As well as linking to a large number of online film magazines in its listing of 'Online and Open Access Film-Studies Related Journals and Magazines, Film Studies For Free currently connects to the following active, fully peer-reviewed, and free-to-access e-journals ':

16:9 (Eng-lang articles in Danish Film Studies Journal); Americana (Hollywood) : the Journal of American Popular Culture; Consciousness, Literature and the Arts; CTheory.net; Culture Machine; Fibreculture Journal; Film-Philosophy; Framework [online sections]; Genders; Image [&] Narrative; Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media; International Journal of Žižek Studies; Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies; Journal of Moving Image Studies (archive online); Journal of Religion and Film; Jump Cut; M/C Journal: A journal of Media and Culture; Media History Monographs; Mediascape; Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication (first issue 1 online); P.O.V (A Danish Journal of Film Studies - peer-reviewed since December 2007); Particip@tions; PsyArt; Scope: an on-line journal of film studies; Screening the Past; Senses of Cinema; Trama y Fondo (in Spanish); Transformative Works and Cultures; ; Vectors; Wide Screen (new journal calling for papers); World Picture Journal.

I hope to return to discuss issues of (and matters concerning) the above-listed journals on future occasions, but I wanted to focus, in what remains of today's blog entry, on profiling three of the best examples of e-journals that are produced primarily by Film and Media Studies graduate students. I think they are producing some of the most interesting models for online, Open-Access work in our discipline(s) (and all are linked-to by Film Studies For Free).

According to its website:

  • 'Flow is an online journal of television and media studies launched in October 2004. Flow’s mission is to provide a space where researchers, teachers, students, and the public can read about and discuss the changing landscape of contemporary media at the speed that media moves. Flow is a project of the Department of Radio-TV-Film at the University of Texas at Austin. Flow is coordinated and edited by graduate students in the Department of Radio-Television-Film and is published bi-weekly.'

The site adds:

  • 'Accompanying the challenge of publishing material at that demanding pace has been the related project of building and operating our own delivery system. With over 500 columns in our archive, representing the work of over 200 authors, ensuring the stability of this venture is one of our primary concerns.'

The main advantage of Flow is clearly its prodigious responsiveness. But there's another feature that I really like; while the journal seems not to be conventionally (or 'fully') peer-reviewed, its excellent comments feature means that the exchanges provoked by the journal are open and critical - work published there can be publically and thus very usefully challenged. For example, see Flow Journal, Vol. 8, Issue 7: this issue featured columns from Jane Feuer, Aaron Delwiche, Leigh Goldstein,and Alexander Cho. Flow staff writer Leigh Goldstein's great piece"Soft Selling Intergenerational Intimacy on the First Season of Mad Men" examined 'the unmasking [in that series] of society's discomfort with representations ofchildhood sexuality'. It sparked nine very well thought out comments which were reproduced on the same webpage, including a very interesting comment from the renowned film and TV studies academic and theorist Karen Lury, who has also contributed her own work to Flow (also see HERE), alongside another fascinating point posted by the great Julia Lesage. You can't get better, or more instant and transparent, review by your 'peers' (or, indeed, by your 'betters') than that! Flow is well worth a (free) subscription, in Film Studies For Free's humble opinion.


After a four year hiatus (of the kind that is sadly still all-too-common in the volatile world of academic e-publishing), SYNOPTIQUE: The Journal of Film and Film Studies, a film journal written and published by graduate Film Studies students at Concordia University in Montréal, is back.

Synoptique gives a dazzling account of its rationale, which should be read at length; but here's a little taster:

  • [I]t is only with the frame of a film community that we can think about film. And its education. We wanted to create an online resource of student work at Concordia. For students at Concordia. To give expression to the intellectual character of M.A. Film Studies at this University by publishing what was rapidly becoming a lost history of ideas. Students work here for two years, take classes, write theses, go on their way, leave faint traces, might never take a stand or apportion an opinion. We wanted to discover what tradition we had inherited, what debates we were continuing, which debates we weren’t inventing.

The editors hope that Synoptique will be a 'quarterly, academically-oriented, online journal about film culture.' The latest articles (issue 11) have been 'exposed to a peer-editing system.'

While the articles do have a slight 'graduate flavour' in places, they are very well-written and edited, and are as compelling and interesting as you would hope any article in a film journal would be - some very nice essays, in particular, on childhood in avant-garde films, Lynch's Inland Empire and Potter's Orlando, among others (in English and French). Synoptique also has options for leaving public comments, although its traffic is not currently as lively as that of Flow. Film Studies For Free wishes it all the best: it deserves a long and garrulous life.

Another journal that has successfully relaunched recently is Cinephile (formerly UBCinephile). Cinephile is a free, (now) peer-reviewed journal of film studies edited by graduate students in the Film Studies program at the University of British Columbia. The journal

aims to provide a forum to discuss aspects of film theory, history, and criticism, and is intended to provide a platform to share research papers, book reviews, and reports that engage with debates appropriate to film, media, and cultural studies. As a peer-reviewed journal, Cinephile endeavors to promote the Film Studies portion of the program as an inclusive but discriminating environment which is dedicated to publishing work of the highest scholarly quality and appeal

The previous three volumes of (UB)Cinephile can still be accessed online and they are well worth checking out (see HERE or HERE). There are thoroughly stimulating, and highly original articles by (then) students honing their skills (and sharpening their talons), and UBC faculty --

e.g. Lindsay Steenberg - "Framing War: Commemoration, War & the Art Cinema"; Christine Evans - "'I am not a fascist, since I do not like shit. I am not a sadist, since I do not like kitsch': Sadism, Serial Killing, and Kitsch"; Brock Poulin - "Reading Against the Gore: Subversive Impulses in the Canadian Horror Film" ; Brenda Wilson - "Blurring the Boundaries: Auteurism & Kathryn Bigelow"; Jennie Carlsten - "Violence in the City of God: The Fantasy of the Omniscient Spectator"; Renee Penney - "Bloody Sunday: Classically Unified Trauma?"; Jennie Carlsten - "'Somehow the Hate has got Mislaid': Adaptation and The End of the Affair"; Christine Evans - "I'm in Love! I'm a Believer!: Structures of Belief in Jonathan Glazer's Birth"; R. Colin Tait - "'Jesus is Never Mad at Us if We Live with Him in Our Hearts': The Dialectical View of America in David O. Russell's I (Heart) Huckabees"; David Hauka - "Christ, that Hurts!": Rewriting the Jesus Narrative - Violence and the Language of Action Cinema in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ"; Katherine Pettit - "Metamorphic Death: Post-Mortem and Spirit Photography in Narrative Cinema"; Jennie Carlsten - "Containing Their Rage"; Andrew deWaard - "The Global Social Problem Film" ; Tara Kolton - "Representations of Western Tourism in Cinema" Brenda Cromb - "War Films Without War"; Christine Evans - "Medea’s Family Reunion"; R. Colin Tait - "(Zombie) Revolution at the Gates"

-- as well as by possibly even more redoubtable figures, such as Slavoj Žižek ( "The Family Myth in Hollywood"; see also HERE).

In the (re)launch issue of Cinephile (on a new website, equipped with an RSS feed to keep you updated, as well as with a comments facility), there are some wonderful articles by familiar names (both from previous issues of (UB)Cinephile, as well as those of such well-established luminaries as Barry Keith Grant). But there are also some very worthy pieces by some new(er) names (such as the timely and important 'Cinema from Attractions: Story and Synergy in Disney's Theme Park Movies' by my fellow blogger Andrew Nelson, a PhD student in Film at the University of Exeter). In any case, the result for Cinephile continues to be a stream of highly invigorating articles, written in a throroughly engaging, and occasionally even entertaining, way. Inspiring, indeed.

Also, look out for Tischfilmreview, to be launched later this year by the world-renowned Tisch School of Film and Television, NYU. Like Flow, Synoptique and Cinephile, its anchor in an educational institution of excellent repute would seem to be a great way of guaranteeing the ongoing archiving of the work it publishes, as well as of raising the profile of those whose work it will showcase online. We may go on to see the birth of literal-but-virtual 'Schools of Thought' in film and media studies (hmm: always remember Birmingham...). Maybe these newer, online ones are being forged in a more 'open and accessible' environment than was previously possible for participants in our disciplines, if only technologically.

Do, then, consider yourselves urged to visit the Cinephile, Flow, and Synoptique websites. And also, as (if not more) importantly, please think seriously about submitting your research 'outputs' to them for consideration for publication, as well as to the other e-journals mentioned earlier in my discussion, and permanently linked to by Film Studies For Free. It may seem a volatile 'marketplace' out there in cyberspace, as elsewhere. But do you really have anything to lose except your reluctance?

[If you know of any free film and media studies e-journals to which Film Studies For Free is not yet linking, please let me know and I'll check them out. Thanks]

1 comment:

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After years of talk about digital convergence and crossmedia platforms we now witness the merger of the Internet and television at a pace no-one predicted. These contributions from scholars, artists and curators evolved from the first two Video Vortex conferences in Brussels and Amsterdam in 2007 which focused on responses to YouTube, and address key issues around independent production and distribution of online video content. What does this new distribution platform mean for artists and activists? What are the alternatives?

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colophon: Editors: Geert Lovink and Sabine Niederer. Editorial Assistance: Marije van Eck and Margreet Riphagen. Copy Editing: Darshana Jayemanne. Design: Katja van Stiphout. Printer: Veenman Drukkers, Rotterdam. Publisher: Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam. Supported by: Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, School of Design and Communication, and XS4ALL.

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