« National Archives Events | Main | The Wal-Mart Code »

August 16, 2005

Home Movies as Cultural Artifacts

I've already discussed my plans for the senior seminar I'll be teaching on "media times," and that course is starting to come together, but my plans for my junior seminar course are still developing. The goal for the junior seminar is to "introduce students to the methods and problems of research and writing on media." Students are required to find, describe, and use primary and secondary sources and tow rite two short (6-8 page) research papers, but within that framework, they should have a lot of room to find subjects that interest them.

For this class, I'd like to work through several examples of cultural artifacts, and one that I think would work particularly well would be the home movie (Super 8) and home video cameras. I've been thinking about some of these questions ever since I started working on my Capturing the Friedmans article (still somewhat in limbo due to the move), because of the father's home movie hobby, which I find to be one of the more significant subtexts of the film (in a sense, it's really a movie about images). I probably won't show the film to my students, but I'm intrigued by how home movies and home movie cameras were used, as well as how the marketing of the home video camera might change things. In that sense, I think these technologies (and their products) would work very well as examples of cultural artifacts.

Nick has already discussed in some detail questions about do-it-yourself filmmaking and the discourses that emerged around amateur movie-making. For secondary sources, I'll likely use James Moran's There's No Place Like Home Video and Patricia Zimmermann's Reel Families, among other sources (other suggestions are welcome). The "home movie" (or D-I-Y filmmaking) discussion won't provide the primary content of the course. This is primarily a brainstorming post, allowing me to work through some ideas for the course, and suggestions are welcome.

Posted by chuck at August 16, 2005 12:50 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


This may already be on your list, but if not -- Michelle Citron's "Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions" is great. Among many things, she tackles the idea of writing about one's home movies. Plus, the Summer/Fall 1986 issue of Journal of Film and Video is devoted to Home Movies. Interesting stuff!

Posted by: Jennifer at August 16, 2005 7:23 AM

Thanks for the suggestions. I've seen people cite Citron, but somehow missed reading "Home Movies." I'll check out the Journal of Film and Video issue, too....

Posted by: Chuck at August 16, 2005 8:23 AM

I don't know why I haven't thought of this before, but there is an episode of "This American Life" which talks about the use of the home video camera that was interesting in a TAL way. I'll see if I can find the link for you.

Posted by: Dylan at August 16, 2005 10:42 AM

Well, that was easy.


That is the direct link to the Real Player file. If that doesn't work, for some reason, thislife.org is the website, and it is the episode that aired on 7/15.

Posted by: Dylan at August 16, 2005 10:46 AM

Thanks for the suggestions, Dylan. I'll check it out, hopefully this evening.

Posted by: Chuck at August 16, 2005 10:50 AM

Dylan, listening to the TAL episode now, and it's absolutely fascinating--very much enjoying the interview with filmmaker Alan Berliner. More later.

Posted by: Chuck at August 16, 2005 12:30 PM

Yeah, I thought that was pretty interesting too... the short interview with the "America's Funniest Home Videos" producers was intersting too.

Posted by: Dylan at August 17, 2005 1:18 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)