Making New Media, Moving Image Literacy, Software & Editing

Moving Image Literacy, Software & Editing

Above as elsewhere there is evidence of a certain dissatisfaction with “the literacy metaphor” (Buckingham, 2007:147) given the primacy of print within which it is enshrined, lending credence to the BFI’s campaign to “reframe literacy” in the curriculum (Reid et al, 2006) and subsequently to “move literacy on” (Marsh & Bearne, 2008). The premise is that:

“Literacy is the repertoire of knowledge, understanding and skills that enables us all to participate in social, cultural and political life … this repertoire has to include the ability to ‘read’ and ‘write’ in media other than print: in moving images and audio, and in the hypertext structures of the digital world.” (Reid et al, 2006)

The campaign largely concerned itself with the cultural and critical benefits of interpreting the language of film and the processes of its material production. What may now appear lacking academically in the move towards a more rounded moving image literacy paradigm is an examination of the design of digital editing software and the extent to which editorial choices are alternately enabled and/or constrained by it. In short, we ought to be considering the social implications of media texts and practices determined, perhaps foreshortened, by a pick-n-mix, off-the-shelf, database aesthetic conceived by groups of elite entrepreneurial technicians, distinctly non-neutral in their motivations.

Furstenau and MacKenzie comment on how software iconography and rubric consistently refer back to professional film industry discourse sustaining the style and received wisdom of professional editing. However, references to the “promise of … makeability … (and) access to the movie-dream” (2009, 7-8, my italics) suggest that amateur efforts to imitate will necessarily be compromised and always deferred. These commentators claim that the diversification and expansion of “cinematic life” within popular culture should promulgate the Cultural Studies perspective of “occasionality … the specific contours of the contexts within which cinematic texts circulate” (ibid, 11) as well as the extent to which amateurs, that is young people, are positioned as “subjects” and consumers of new media (ibid, 12).

The development of new media literacy is fraught in a number of ways: with the fetishisation of technology and the text, with the imperatives of the commercial sphere, with rigid subject-bound curriculum structures and the outmoded preconceptions of some English and media teachers “blind to the extra-linguistic” (2009:89). Burn argues that they have inherited “a set of beliefs that representations of the world proceed organically from their referents” (2009:18), hence the devaluing of technologically mediated production and of texts with algorithmic origins.  Drawing on Lev Manovich, Burn asserts that there need not be such a destabilizing “rupture” (2009:20) in the media education camp, reminding us of historical continuities with older representational forms and processes and of the flow of “common semiotic principles” (2009:89).

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