Vidding: Grassroots Media Criticism

As graduate students of Communication Culture and Technology, many of us aspire to be experts in media criticism. We have experience with content analysis, thick description, and deconstructing texts. We’ve read the theories and done the research. Our mission is to boldly explore the hidden meaning and messages within visual, textual, and audio media. This brings me to Vidding.

Gnovis contributor Jack Harrison describes vidding as ‘grassroots media criticism’.  Although I know I have watched vids while poking around the Internet, I was not formally introduced to the practice until Jack asked me if i was influenced by vidding when I produced this digital story for Dr. Michael Coventry’s class.  The term was new to me, but since our conversation I found several locations of overlap between some  forms of academic media criticism and vidding.  To begin, I will explain briefly what vidding is. 

Vidding is a form of media criticism by and for fans. Fans create a bricolage of their favorite TV shows and movies. They re-mix TV or film clips, overlay with music, and by doing so, they uncover subtexts and produce alternative stories. Vidders are dedicated consumers of media who also actively produce media. Vidders are often women who remix feminine subjectivity into male dominated story lines. In her essay “Women, Star Trek, and the early development of fannish vidding” (which is well worth considering in full), Fransesca Coppa explains that vids “are also important artifacts of female community: technologically minded and media-savvy women coming together to make themselves, and their perspectives, visible on screen.”

In the acclaimed vid “Us” video artist Lim reflects on the empowering act of vidding within the form of a vid. “Lim’s vidScreenshot from "Us" thematizes and illustrates how media fans engage with texts—not only the intense love fans feel for the shows and characters, but also how fans appropriate images, characters, narratives, and make them their own.”  For more examples, please check out this extensive list exemplary vids available to download.

For the most part, vidders are not expert media critics. However, the arguments and criticisms found in many popular vids can be as astute as rigorous academic scholarship. Traditional academic research is seldom as deeply moving and meaningful, in part because vidding is creative, personal and subjective. Both vidders and scholars make arguments regarding representations of gender, sexuality, and violence in contemporary media.  Both of these forms of knowledge production force us to see media texts in new, complicated ways. In programs like CCT, students and professors have begun to recognize the power of multimedia creative texts.

This Thursday, gnovis and CCT are happy to sponsor screening and discussion of several fan-produced vids by Professor Rebecca Tushnet from the Georgetown Law Center at 12:15PM on Thursday January 28, 2010 in Car Barn 317.  Professor Tushnet’s work on vidding has focused on the intellectual property element of this practice, but areas of discussion may also include non-written media criticism, gender, sexuality, camp, and remix culture. For more on vidding culture, see Francesca Coppa’s “Remixing Television,” and please join us for the event.