Peer-reviewed essays

“Fan Studies and Interdisciplinarity.” A Companion to Media Fandom and Fan Studies. Ed. Paul Booth. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2018. 539-551

The distinction between interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary may seem arbitrary or a matter of mere semantics, but in fact the two terms represent different goals for and approaches to knowledge‐building. My point is not that fan studies should start calling itself multidisciplinary rather than interdisciplinary. Nor am I saying that fan studies must be interdisciplinary or that it will never achieve interdisciplinarity. Rather, my point is that measuring fan studies’ belief in our own interdisciplinarity against the meaning of the term raises questions about what we think we’re doing, what we’re actually doing, and what we want to do—both as individual scholars and as a field.

“Vidding and Identity: A Conversation” (with Francesca Coppa and Alexis Lothian). The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom. Ed. Melissa A. Click and Suzanne Scott. New York: Routledge, 2018. 230-240.

I would also like us to talk about how the academic uptake of vids that are explicitly critical and analytical (and often, though not always, quite meta) reproduces a blind spot in fan studies and cultural criticism, and even some feminist criticism, which is female pleasure. Most vids are relationship vids and character studies that exist to give fellow fans ALL THE FEELS so that we can caps lock flail about our emotions together in women-oriented (though not necessarily all-female) spaces. It’s absolutely true that those vids aren’t as useful as Explicit Thesis Statement vids when we’re building a case about fair use. But lawyers aren’t the only people who are nervous about female pleasure—especially pleasure that has to do with women being desiring subjects, or, even scarier, women gathering in groups (in person or online) to celebrate being desiring subjects together.

Transformation in a New Key: Music in Vids and Vidding.” Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 9.2, December 2015: 163-176.

To fully understand how vids communicate and how vidders create, we need to understand the role that music plays in facilitating and structuring those processes. My goal in this essay, therefore, is to begin investigating how vids and vidders use and transform music in their audiovisual creations. I first show how music helps shape vidders’ creative processes; I then offer a preliminary, non-exhaustive list of ways in which music contributes to the transformativeness of vids and is itself transformed through integration into a vid. Taken together, these analyses of vids and vidding show that the soundtrack to a vid is not simply background music; it is integral to vidders’ creative processes and central to vids’ rhetorical and emotional effects on their audience.

A Partial Taxonomy of Technological Professional Development.” Showcasing the Best of CIWIC/DMAC: Approaches to Teaching and Learning in Digital Environments 1. 2015.

Process and principles are especially important to technological professional development. But they are also the elements most likely to get lost when time is limited or to be subordinated to the understandable desire to learn something specific, concrete, and immediately usable. Who doesn’t want to learn about a specific piece of nifty software? But for those of us who want to keep developing, it’s especially important not to lose sight of process and principles: to reflect on what we’re doing, to extrapolate, to theorize.

Toward an Ecology of Vidding” (with Joshua Johnson). Transformative Works and Cultures 9. March 2012.

Despite the fan studies emphasis on participatory culture, much of the current work on vids (and in fan studies broadly) treats fans more as readers than as producers. To help us examine the relationships between fannish reading practices and fannish creative processes, we turn to composition studies and Marilyn Cooper’s concept of an ecology of writing. We argue for an ecological model of vidding, an approach that enables us to explore the collaborative nature of vidding without erasing individual authorship; to investigate the relationships not only between vids and media texts but also between vidders and their audiences; and to treat fan conversations both as responses to mass media and as sites for the generation and circulation of interpretive conventions that guide both the creation and reception of vids.

Intertextuality and the Collaborative Construction of Narrative: J. M. Coetzee’s Foe.” Narrative 19.3, October 2011: 295-311.

My goal in this essay is to contribute to our understanding of the work that readers do to make sense of transformative narratives. Specifically, I argue that understanding these activities requires us to expand and extend Rabinowitz’s work on what he calls the rules of configuration and coherence.... When we read a novel whose intertext we know, our expectations are activated, completed, reversed, or frustrated not only by the narrative and discursive events within the novel we are currently reading but also by events within the intertext and by points of congruence and difference between the texts... [A] reading that cannot account in some way for significant differences between texts—by attributing them to different narrators’ different perceptions of events, for example, or by interpreting a character’s experiences in one novel as the reasons for his actions in the other—is unlikely to feel entirely satisfactory.

Metalepsis in Fan Vids and Fan Fiction.” Metalepsis in Popular Culture. Ed. Karin Kukkonen and Sonja Klimek. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2011. 83-103.

Unlike many forms of what we now call user-generated content, fan works are not new; they have been around for decades. They are compelling and useful subjects of study in part because fandom has been, as Henry Jenkins argues, “the experimental prototype, the testing ground for the way media and culture industries are going to operate in the future.” If Genette’s original theory cannot entirely account for metaleptic effects within increasingly participatory cultures, fan works offer a series of sites for examining where and how that theory might require modification.

‘Your Own Imagination’: Vidding and Vidwatching as Collaborative Interpretation.” Film & Film Culture 5, 2010: 88-110.

In this essay, I argue that, in addition to being artifacts of participatory culture, vids represent critical engagements that both encode and demand collaborative interpretation. Treating collaborative interpretation as a central fan activity allows us to understand why growing numbers of fans identify themselves as fans of vids and vidding as well as, or even instead of, specific television series and films.

“‘Tutoring’ Beyond the Writing Center: Peer Consulting in the Classroom.” Working with Student Writers: Essays on Teaching and Tutoring. 2nd ed. Ed. Leonard A. Podis and JoAnne M. Podis. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2010. 21-32.

As a junior in college, I enrolled in a class called “Teaching and Tutoring Writing,” which featured a course reader put together by the professor. As the semester wore on, I became increasingly frustrated with the articles in our reader, most of which failed to account for the experiences I was having as a classroom-based tutor. The “peer tutoring” I read so much about related to me insofar as it described students helping students, but the circumstances of that interaction as I read about it and as I experienced it were quite different things. My practical experience was informing me of possibilities (and difficulties) that nobody seemed to be talking about.

Other online essays

Oresteia as transformative work.” Transformative Works and Cultures 21. March 2016.

Although my academic training is in literary studies, neither classics nor drama is my area of expertise, and so I came to Icke's Oresteia, as I do to most productions, less as a scholar than as a fan of theatre and its transformative elements.... For an audience that knows, generally speaking, what's going to happen but doesn't know precisely how or when, stagings of classical drama can combine inevitability and uncertainty in exciting ways. A new adaptation, such as Icke's, generates additional tension through the possibility that the events we anticipate will play out differently than we expect—as indeed, in this production, they do.

Fan work: Labor, worth, and participation in fandom’s gift economy.” Transformative Works and Cultures 15. March 2014.

While art objects may be the gifts most publicly recognized or validated by fellow fans, and while these gifts are indeed a crucial part of fandom’s gift economy, we can better appreciate the scope of fandom’s gift economy if we recognize that fannish gifts include not only art objects but the wide range of creative labors that surround and in some cases underlie these art objects. We can better understand the relationship between gift exchange and community formation if we see fandom as a system not just of reciprocal giving but of circular giving. And we can better evaluate the relationship between fandom and production if we attend to not just the giving but the receiving of gifts.

Practicing—and Reading—Revision in Tutor Education Courses.” Another Word: From the UW-Madison Writing Center. 31 October 2011.

This semester, I’ve been thinking a lot about revision.... Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to ask writing consultants — tutors, writing fellows, writing center instructors, even teachers — to do, on a regular basis, the kinds of things we ask writers to do: to share and revise our own work.

‘New Slang’: Happily Ever After.” In Media Res, 20 November 2009.

Because a vidder’s chosen song typically serves as an interpretive lens through which we view recut and resequenced video clips, a vid that focuses on storytelling often relies heavily on narrative elements in that song. In some cases, however, vidders manage to tell complicated stories — canonical or not — with minimal help from the song’s lyrics.

‘Not Only Human’: An X-Files Vid by Laura Shapiro and Killa.” In Media Res, 29 January 2008.

One of the most common subgenres of vid is the character study, in which vidders illuminate characters’ emotions or motivations, revel in their charms or foibles, or simply distill the essence of their appeal. Most character studies have a strong persuasive component: the vidder argues for particular interpretations of characters and their places within source texts — interpretations that may align with a show’s canon, revise that canon, or even contradict it.

Public lectures

What is Writing For?” Founders Scholar lecture, University of Minnesota Morris, September 2018.

Why is writing important?

Most institutions of higher education list “teaching students to write well” as one of their goals. If it’s not in the mission statement, it’s in the student learning outcomes; it’s definitely somewhere in the assessment committee minutes.

But why?

If you’re the kind of person who is voluntarily attending a talk about writing, you may have anticipated the most common answer to this question, which is that the ability to write well is A Valuable Skill. I think that’s a fair answer. It’s also an incomplete answer. And, in the context of a liberal arts education, I think it is potentially a dangerous answer, because it pulls our attention away from other ways of thinking about the question.

So my talk tonight is going to have three parts. First, I’m going to lay out my reservations about defining writing as a skill. Second, I’m going to pitch you some concepts from composition studies that can help us think about writing in a different way. And finally, I’m going to propose that, in a pedagogical context, it may help to reframe the question from Why is writing important? to What is writing for?