Criticism-of-media-in-video-form is an incredible gift of an idea that has given to many, many disciplines in both fannish and academic realms. Just from what I have personally encountered, we could legitimately call the remix of 13 Reasons Why, Person of Interest, Discipline and Punish, and Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Cthulucene that you see above a “vid,” a “video essay,” a piece of “videographic criticism,” “film art,” an “edit,” or a “political remix.” Add in some more source media forms and there are even more names: anime music videos, ethnographic film, and machinima just for a start. In a time where the (key)words we search for can define the horizons of our knowledge, acknowledging the many births and traditions of this practice is as essential as it can be daunting. Otherwise, we end up in a place of brain-melting irony and paradox where even critics looking to broaden the horizons of a “sausage fest” of video essays produced by academics and cinephiles can entirely miss the heavily female-dominated canon of vidding, as created by fans and aca-fans, who have also long used video and audio editing as a way to critique and to celebrate their media of choice.
Not that all of these practices and practitioners are speaking the same language. This became immediately clear to all who, like myself, presented work and sat in the audience of the first ever vid and videographic essay show at an academic conference, the inaugural Fan Studies Network North America meeting this past fall in Chicago. As an academic, I love presenting at fan conventions. From Anime Expo to VividCon (RIP), fan audiences consistently show up in greater numbers than do academic ones—yes, even on Sunday mornings. I was thrilled to see that the same energy followed when the script flipped and academics took part in a particularly fannish style of work and presentation—yes, even late on a Friday night.
I created “That Girl Became Root” to interrogate surveillance, but it has at least as much to say about what fannish vidding and academic videographic criticism can gain from curious, respectful exchange. As Haraway (2018) puts it, “it matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories,” (p.12) particularly when we’re all living in the same one.