Writing With Video: Beyond the Illustrated Text [SCMS 2013]

These assets issue from the Writing With Video Workshop at the 2013 conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. See also Catherine Grant’s  post about this event at Film Studies For Free.

Chair: Virginia Kuhn
Participants: Vicki Callahan, Catherine Grant, Cheryl Ball, Michael Lachney, Virginia Kuhn
First, the prompt to which we responded:
Video is an increasingly ubiquitous mode of authoring brought about by the rise of consumer grade video cameras and other mobile devices (smart phones, iPads, flip cams) on the one hand, and improvements in graphics processing units for networked editing and cloud-based video hosting on the other. These technologies allow both the recording and the dissemination of video in ways that are utterly unprecedented. But what exactly are the possibilities for writing with video? Will the onslaught of “amateur” video merely reinforce current genres, lending credence to Peter Greenaway’s contention that, to date, cinema has been little more than 115 years of illustrated text?

Video remix, for instance, can offer an especially effective creative and critical strategy as it challenges authorship, reconsiders formal parameters, and builds new communities through shared cultural, analytical, and practical knowledge. That said, as a scholarly tool, remix faces a number of challenges in that the current paradigm of intellectual rigor is established primarily through complex textual arguments, and multimodal argumentation is still uncharted territory with respect to scholarly validity. Moreover, much of the critical work in video to date has consisted of text-based scholarly argument, which is illustrated by clips. If put in critical conversation however, the registers of word, sound and image could illuminate each other, calling each other into question and challenging their seemingly transparent meaning.

Jean-Luc Godard argues that cinema combines research and spectacle. This mixture makes cinema—and now by extension, digital media—a “promise” of radical political intervention, a promise to imagine a new world, unchained by past ways of singular, essentially linear thinking. Yet this promise remains unrealized.

In this workshop, we will explore how writing with video may be mobilized in ways that fulfill the promise of cinema, moving us past generic conventions which render video both static and overdetermined, and into the realm of radical rediscovery.

Critical Cinema: Beyond the Theory of Practice, Clive Myer, Ed. London: Wallflower P. 2011
Roland Barthes. Image, Music, Text trans. by Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1978.
Jean-Luc Godard. Histoire(s) du Cinema, Gaumont, 1998.

Catherine Grant: My presentation to this workshop has a somewhat strange take on the notion of the capacity for “video-writing” to move beyond the “illustrated text”. The video it presents not only uses a good deal of text, but was also originally inspired by the idea of audiovisually amplifying, or supplementing, a long pre-existing written study of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film ROPE.

What making it demonstrated to me is that, in scholarly settings, even the simplest videographic act of presenting an assemblage of compiled film sequences involves medium-specific forms of argumentation, for example, the selection and presentation of evidence, montage and mise en scene, titling, sound editing and other creative effects, all aiming to draw from “a broader notion of pathos, logos, and ethos than that which has been reified in the age of print literacy”, as Virginia Kuhn has put it.* The result is not only the creation of an audiovisual argument, however, but also, importantly, of an active viewing space for live co-research – a framed experience of participant observation which, particularly through its online distribution, dialogically invites responses (including rebuttals!) through forms of remix.

*Kuhn, Virginia. 2012. “The Rhetoric of Remix.” In “Fan/Remix Video,” edited by Francesca Coppa and Julie Levin Russo, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 9. Online at http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2012.0358.

Film Studies and Videographic Assemblage from Catherine Grant on Vimeo.


Cheryl Ball: Networked Humanities Scholarship, or the Life of Kairos

Networked Humanities Scholarship or The Life of Kairos from vkuhn


Vicki Callahan on Collaborative Storytelling with Social Media Tools

Collaborative video WRITING WITH VIDEO SCMS workshop 2013 from Vicki Callahan


Michael Lachney: Writing the World
Michael discusses the ways in which when we write with video, we write the world. Or we should do. His work with area youth should engage issues surrounding teacher strikes and other hard issues that inform the very programs in which these children participate. He asks, for instance, why, when Chicago school programs are closed, why media literacy groups do not take up the slack, allowing youth a voice. He shares links  regarding his media literacy/STEM work and another link referenced during the discussion regarding his work with classroom practices and new media.


Virginia Kuhn: Peer-reviewed video essays: she has edited two digital anthologies, the last of which was just recently published and, although the earlier anthology was done created using a Flash container, the current one uses HTML5. While we optimized for video, the journal editors had to put a note out to ask readers to be patient given load times.

Another digital publication includes the rubric for guiding student work. It can be found off the introduction page in the digital format: and here in its textual form:
















Finally, she shared some slides from a recent talk on multimedia project design and assessment which are embedded here.

Multimodal Project Design: four steps toward assessment by Virginia Kuhn from vkuhn