Week 2_Allyson Woodard response to viewings and reading

So, there were quite a few points that stood out for me in Zimmerman’s essay. I was an English major in college, so I feel like I spent half my time there arguing back and forth over whether a piece of writing or a film should be judged purely on its own merits, or whether the audience’s response to it contributes to meaning. I think in general this debate has been long settled, and people agree that audience interpretation is important…but the argument continues. I wonder if social media will finally beat it dead. I loved this quote, on page 13: “Social media and new media collapse the borders between production, textual systems, distribution, exhibition, and spectators, prompting the need for new theorizations of documentary that hinge less on cinematic texts and contexts and more on evolving structures of new affordances for producing dialogue, community, and public space for emergent civil societies.” Creation is no longer a finite process: we can actually watch an audience spread and perpetuate different interpretations! Film viewers are now quite obviously participants in the creative process.

Which all makes me wonder: how do we cope with the fact that most of these conversations happen within the bounds of software designed by lucrative corporations? Software, after all, is nothing more than a set of rules, and those rules are bound to influence the shape of audience response, interpretation, and creativity (e.g. I would guess we’re all appreciably more likely to reach a punch line quickly because of Twitter, even if we don’t use Twitter). These corporations’ goal, after all, is not to facilitate meaningful conversations or democratic media, but to make money. Meaningful conversations and democratic media may serve this end, but that’s no given.

Of course, we can always create our own software (for example, the open-source video sharing software, Plumi, that Zimmerman references). But because these really have no hope of matching the slick, streamlined mechanics of platforms like YouTube or Instagram, I think they’re most useful when targeting a niche audience. How best do we expand this audience, and is it worth it to conform to corporate sites’ rules? I’m still waffly on this topic.

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