I have curated Virtual Lesban Looks since its inception in 2010. VLL offers a portal to the exciting new world of made-for-the-web programming. When Lesbian Looks started in 1993, you could count the number of lesbian-themed feature films on one hand, and the number of television shows with a lesbian character (usually a special guest on one episode) on the other. Today, you can find dozens of programs online, created by LGBT filmmakers for LGBT audiences.
In today’s media landscape, in which iTunes, YouTube and Hulu have joined network and cable programming in the competition for viewer attention, web-based series present an exciting new avenue for both veteran and emerging filmmakers to launch fresh projects, develop a fan base, and sometimes parlay a low-budget experiment into a television deal or feature film.
I have also coordinated several theme weeks for In Media Res on topics including Collaborative Storytelling, Fan Tourism, Transformative Games, The Legacy of Carrie Fisher, Star Trek & Parody, Fan Financing, and Fantasy Cartography.
With Collaborative Storytelling, we had an exciting line-up of authors and contributions ranging from interactive documentary processes to collaborative Twitter poetry, and of course games as storytelling. For the purpose of this collection, we defined collaborative storytelling loosely and left contributors room for interpretation. Collaborative storytelling is any type of shared construction of a narrative or fictional world. The shared construction can be between multiple authors, or between author and audience. It can be multi-modal or transmedial in nature with complex interwoven narratives and vast participatory worlds, or it can be a single medium with a simple decision-based mechanic (multiple choice, roll of the dice, etc.).
Fan tourism, “location vacations,” or pop-culture tourism is a growing industry across the world, changing local economies, culture, and ambiance. Fans of various pop texts and icons have been making pilgrimages to real-world locations for decades, from Abbey Road to Forks, Washington, from 221B Baker Street to Graceland, Tennessee. In Media Res is looking for explorations into fan tourism as a general cultural practice. Investigations can be through a case study of a particular fandom, location, or behavior, taking into consideration the ways that fan tourism can be beneficial and detrimental to real world economies, infrastructures, and local cultures.
Transformative games are designed to initiate a change in the players’ beliefs or behaviors, a concentrated version of their predecessors in serious and educational games. Examples of “transformative games” include: Never Alone, Walden, Ballot Box Bumble,and The Oldest Game. Transformative games are digital and analog, single and multi-player, collaborative and competitive. In Media Res is looking for contributions that tackle issues specific to transformative games.
The Legacy of Carrie Fisher week sought to examine Carrie Fisher’s status as a celebrity and cultural icon, as well as her tumultuous and public life, has embedded her in popular memory, and her recent and unexpected death greatly impacted her many fans and admirers. The public mourning of Carrie as star, feminist icon, mental health and political advocate was felt worldwide. She was particularly mourned by vulnerable groups including women, people living with mental health and drug addiction, and those individuals who related to her as a feminist political advocate, whether through her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise or through her Twitter feud with the then presidential candidate, Donald Trump.
Fantasy Cartography, the visualization of fantasy and imaginary worlds provide a sense of scope, materiality, and space for audiences and creators alike. Further, we use maps to provide a kind of logic or systematic structure to our environment, what happens when we apply those structures to the imaginary, the theoretical, and the sociological? Whether, we are mapping epic fantasy worlds like Westeros, or small fictions like the town of Night Vale, mapping visualizes the impossible, providing an impossible subjectivity for the viewer. Further, we can map thoughts, ideas, social structures, and even soundscapes.
Fan Financing, or the ways in which fans can contribute towards the financing, production, and marketing of media has diversified in recent years. Crowdfunding via Kickstarter and similar sites for start-up, development, production, and marketing funds for media projects, independent and mainstream alike has become common practice. More recently, micropatronage sites like Patreon have provided independent and amateur content creators to earn income from fans as “gifts,” that supplement regular income, even becoming primary employment for many artists (even if not the most stable).