Film Strip image from Wikimedia Commons

Film Strip image from Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"The Art of Scale" with Aymar Jean Christian

Join the Chicago Film Seminar on October 20th at 7:30 pm for "The Art of Scale: Production Value in Networked Television" with Aymar Jean Christian of Northwestern University. Neil Verma will serve as respondent.

"Scale" dominates how technology and entertainment executives discuss their work today, and for them, scale almost always signifies "big" – whether as a noun to imply the size of capital available for production or as a verb to imply a process to facilitate capital accumulation while keeping costs low. Yet scale by definition is relational, a way to orient collective perspectives. A scale allows agents to approximate size in relation to other agents, projects, or objects so it is conceivable to collaborators and stakeholders. Scholars in media studies have for too long taken for granted the implicit bias toward "bigness" in television and new media, limiting our conception of television’s representational possibilities. The networked environment – marked by digital, peer-to-peer as opposed to one-to-many distribution – has opened TV distribution to productions across sizes, troubling conceptions of "high production value." Networked television encompasses everything from YouTubers who profit with relatively small crews to Netflix series outpacing cable television in production budgets.

Christian argues that productions have different values at different levels of scale. "Small scale" production critiques dominant trends in networked television by shifting value assessments from artificial scarcity to building capacity attendant to diverse needs and communities. Queer producers are especially equipped to re-scale television, shifting time, space, and cultural representation considerations on set from limitation and competition to value creation. Using data and experiences from developing Open TV beta, a Chicago-based platform for community-based networked television, Christian shows that small-scale production reveals heretofore under-recognized aspects of production value. He focuses on the experience of producing the first four pilots released under Open TV Presents, a series featuring artistic collaborations among queer and intersectional artists.

Aymar Jean “AJ” Christian is an assistant professor of communication studies at Northwestern University. His book, Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood, will explore web television as an innovation in series development. His work on television and new media has been published in numerous academic journals and popular publications, including Cinema JournalContinuum, and Transformative Works and Cultures. He leads Open TV beta, a platform for television by queer, trans and cis-women and artists of color. He has curated film, television and video for the Peabody Awards, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Tribeca Film Festival, among others. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.

Neil Verma is assistant professor of sound studies in Radio/Television/Film and associate director of the MA in Sound Arts and Industries. Verma studies the cultural history and aesthetics of narrative sound media, and has special expertise in radio plays. Verma is working on two books, tentatively titled “How Sounds Think: Making Strange Radio in the Podcasting Age” and “Hiding in Plain Sound: The Radio Drama of Orson Welles.” He is Network Director for the Radio Preservation Task Force at the Library of Congress, Special Editor at the site Sounding Out!, and co-founder of the Great Lakes Association for Sound Studies (GLASS). He holds a PhD in History of Culture from the University of Chicago, where he was also Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows from 2010-14.

"The Art of Scale" will be held at DePaul’s Loop Campus in the Daley Building at 14 E. Jackson Blvd., Room LL 102, using the State St. entrance located at 247 S. State.