In the 1987 comedy Spaceballs, Lord Dark Helmet and his team search for runaway protagonists by renting a VHS copy of Spaceballs–The Movie and trying to fast forward into the future. “Try here! Stop!” calls out Colonel Sandurz and they accidentally pause the tape at the exact moment of recording. Dark Helmet and Sandurz tentatively wave their arms in front of the camera and watch their own reflections wave back on the (recorded and recording) tape. As Sandurz says: “We’re at ‘now’ now.” This process of viewing, acting and recording at once seems an interesting metaphor for discussing digital media tools and the ways in which we can use them to experience culture, voice our analyses and simultaneously create archives of individual thought and critical conversation.
Recently, students in my advanced undergrad production course were assigned to create video reviews of In Media Res theme weeks. Students recorded themselves through Google Hangouts, which streams video live and posts recordings to youtube. I asked students to consider both content and delivery methods of IMR. Student presentations focused largely on the importance of critical conversation. Students compared and contrasted various voices within one theme week and highly valued discussions in IMR comment threads. Watching their videos, I considered the many forms of conversation that happen in IMR: Conversations between curator and media clip, between five curatorial texts presented each week, and in the comment threads. Digital interfaces organize and facilitate thinking, dialoging and sharing materials, and multiple interfaces can be used together. Google Hangouts allowed students to “screenshare” and “live broadcast.” Storify, like IMR, positions writers as “curators” of online media – collecting and contextualizing “media objects” (IMR term) and “voices” (Storify term). Twitter encourages brevity and immediacy, creating databases through #hashtag #use and facilitating easy shareability (RT!). These tools all put key importance on dialog. Using digital tools with critical intent, digital scholars are metaphorically standing together and collectively waving our arms in front of these (recorded and recording) media. We are viewing, curating, analyzing, discussing and archiving our “now” and we’re doing it as we do it – “now.”