A good Chronicle article from UCLA philosophy professor Pamela Hieronymi on the difference between technology and teaching as a “tsunami” of online education heads our way.  Key point(s):

As we think about the future of education, we need to sharpen our understanding of what education is and what educators do. Education is often compared to two other industries upended by the Internet: journalism and publishing. This is a serious error.

Education is not the transmission of information or ideas. Education is the training needed to make use of information and ideas. As information breaks loose from bookstores and libraries and floods onto computers and mobile devices, that training becomes more important, not less.


But the core task of training minds is labor-intensive; it requires the time and effort of smart, highly trained individuals. We will not make it significantly less time-consuming without sacrificing quality. And so, I am afraid, we will not make that core task significantly less expensive without cheapening it.


A fantastic new resource for researchers and teachers of early cinema has just appeared online. The first twelve years of Moving Picture World have been digitized and added to the Media History Digital Library’s “Early Cinema Collection.”  From the MHDL:

Moving Picture World was one of the most influential trade papers of the early motion picture industry and the period film historians call cinema’s “transitional era” (lasting roughly from 1908 to 1917). During this era and inside the paper, you can watch the transition from short film programs to feature films and witness the transition from the dominance of Edison’s Trust to the rise of the “Independent” film companies that ultimately became the Hollywood studios. 

The first issue includes some “novel uses for cinema,” instructions for making latern slides, a review of The Teddy Bears (Edison, 1907), and a full-page ad from the Miles Brothers (mentioned just last week): “Conversation gets you nothing.  Real Johnny-on-the-spot service is what you want!”

The project was funded, in part, by Domitor and its members.  For those who are interested in contributing, MHDL is still raising funds to digitize MPW through 1927, its last year of publication.


I just finished a week of amateur films and home movies for a new course I am co-teaching entitled “Cinema and Revolution.”  We screened/discussed key films from the post-war American avant-garde (including Brakhage, Mekas, Levine, Menkin) alongside a set of home movies.  I wanted students to think about the differences between these two amateur modes, their different expressions of contingency and history, and (perhaps most interesting) their very different conceptions of “home.”

The lectures were nevertheless overshadowed by an unexpected encounter with my own family history.  About two weeks ago, a collection called “The Amateur as Auteur” arrived (ordered way back in January).  I took a quick look and decided to add the “Stewart Family Home Movies” to the screening list for the week.  The films were made between 1936 and 1939, by a film enthusiast named Archie Stewart.  I knew the Stewarts were from upstate New York, but did not know anything else about the family or their provenance.  As I prepared for lecture, I caught two names that I had missed during my first screening session: Newburgh and Orange Lake.

(Stewart Family Home Movies, 1936-1939)

It seems that I inadvertently assigned my own home movies.  My mother was born and raised in Newburgh, New York.  Her childhood home is on the shores of Orange Lake.  I spent my summers swimming in that very lake and looking out towards Pine Point, the peninsula just behind the unhappy little girls (who must now be in their eighties).

The discovery forced a slight adjustment to the lecture plan.  I spent a good deal of time discussing (via Susan Sontag) the affective “surplus” of home movies and those strange, personal histories inscribed, lost, refound upon their surface.  The home movie, like the twilight, elegiac art of photography “testifies to time’s relentless melt.”


MIT recently introduced plans for a significant expansion of their distance/virtual education program.  From the press release:

MITx will endeavor to break down barriers to education in two ways. First, it will offer the online teaching of MIT courses to people around the world and the opportunity for able learners to gain certification of mastery of MIT material. Second, it will make freely available to educational institutions everywhere the open-source software infrastructure on which MITx is based.

It will be exciting to see how other institutions engage this resource and how a free, open-access approach to online education influences the for-profit models that dominate the market.


Man With Mirror (Guy Sherwin, 1976/2006)

Teaching begins next week.  I am excited to be giving silent cinema a try.  Introduction to Film will be an experiment in paper-less, screening-less pedagogy. Students will be streaming all assigned films from their desktops, laptops, ipads, cell phones.  We’ll see what happens to the first-year film community…

I will also be teaching an Intro to Visual Culture course for graduate students.  I spent the afternoon sifting through objects/images, trying to settle on one (or two) for the first day of class.  I think Sherwin might be the winner.  I love this piece/recording, not only for the conversation that unfolds between the 1976 and 2006 Sherwin selves, but for the audible gasps you can hear in the gallery.


A trailer for a (not-yet-made) film with 3571 producers from Riot Cinema Collective.

I have a vague sketch for a film production course entitled “Cinema on a Shoestring.”  It would be an “obstacles” approach to practice.  First assignment: make a trailer for a film that you have not made/written.  How do you make the not-yet-made a creative asset, rather than a gaping absence?  Second assignment: make your film with one shot and no post-production.

At the moment, I use the Riot Cinema Collective (a group of young Spanish filmmakers and thousands of virtual supporters) in my Intro to Film course as a way of demonstrating new (global) modes/models of production and distribution.  The RCC posted this teaser trailer online and invited their community to remix and remake. There are now hundreds of trailers in dozens of languages for a film that does not (and may never) exist.


Rupture of a Soap Bubble by a Projectile (Lucien Bull, 1904)

What is (film) theory?  Why does it matter?  Over the last year or so, I have had to draft responses to these questions (for students who would rather work on “real” films and colleagues who would rather do “real” history).  Though I am someone who takes pleasure in reading theory, arguments for pleasure (i.e., I enjoy it.  You should, too), or for the pleasures of departure (from “real” disciplinary concerns) are not all that convincing.  A first sketch of another argument:  Continue reading