IRC17, Bengaluru, March 03-05, 2017


02. #VirtualFringe

Last updated on Oct 31, 2016.


Description of the Session

The constantly evolving nature of media due to digitisation poses challenges for media scholars as the research objects also evolve, shift shape and ultimately exhibit both privileges and disadvantages of their nebulous existence. This largely stems from the nature of the internet itself which is both permanent and ephemeral. However, this constant negotiation with the past and the present, the fleeting and the preserved allows this vast, unregulated, democratic palimpsestic space to house a bursting archive of media objects that would perhaps not have existed in other traditional forms. Thus, while addressing this becoming-digital of the research objects, our preoccupation would be on how this fluid and networked archive sidesteps exclusionary practices and allows all forms of media and cultural objects to co-exist without any prejudices. For example, the discarded and often ignored artifacts, community, space and practices are able to carve their own presence with the aid of the virtual tools. Through the fringe objects (B-films), fringe space (Assam and digital artifacts), and fringe practices (narrowcasting and diaspora) which we propose to chronicle in our session, we investigate how digitisation provides newer avenues, methods, devices and networks to navigate the restrictions inherent in traditional research methods. Thus the evolving nature of the everyday is presented with an interface between the physical and the virtual. As a key focus of the session we will hence consider such new forms of presence - be it the establishment of the fringe states, informal archives, alternate histories or newer practices of media consumption - to bring out tensions between the old and the new experience. Besides, the disembodied presence of both objects and people and the ever mutating information in such a space challenges the notion of permanence that is tied to older objects of research compelling researchers to find new ways of comprehension and calculation.

Session Plan

During our proposed session we are interested in discussing primarily the malleability of research objects after the foray of the Internet. We are concerned with how the becoming-digital of research objects owing to the evolving nature of the digital leads to transformations which not only changes the way we experienced these objects but also help us unfold new ones. Each one of us, focus on the broader idea of the fringe - fringe objects as in B film which also addresses the nature of informal archives; fringe state, Assam and how digital artifacts usher in a virtual mapping of identity and materiality which was impossible earlier; and diasporic narrowcasting which reimagines the consumption aspect with a renewed zeal. The session would involve reading of the three different papers which express a common idea as expressed in the description. It will then be open to discussion among the other workshop participants. Each presentation will be about 20 mins. We would be interested in having these papers considered for publication. As part of our presentation, we would require projector, audio-visual aid and preferably, access to the internet.

Documentation Plan

The post-conference submission will be in the long-essay type paper submission. During the session, however, along with the paper, images, photographs, film stills, memes, GIFs and audio-visual clips from film/television programmes will be required to support the arguments. We would like to propose the formation of a media archive which acts as a repository for the different kinds of media we would be using.

Paper Abstracts

01. Vibhushan Subba - The Rise of B-Movie Cinephilia: New publics, new imaginaries and new screen cultures Applicable

In this paper, I propose to track the rise of a cinephilia centered around the obscure, the obscene and the interminable aura of sleaze surrounding B-movies, horror and sexploitation films that have exploded on the internet spawned by complex circuits of social networking, online platforms, micro-blogging and internet communities in order to observe the emergence of a counter-memory and affective registers that distances itself from official narratives. This paper will investigate the creation, nature and evolution of this cinephilia - which has produced a mobile and alternative archive - in order to understand the altered relationship between the producers of content and digital technology and stage a debate around censorship, ownership and alternative histories. Born completely on the networked environment of the internet this cinephilia resuscitated the forgotten history and aesthetic of B-movies, horror and sexploitation films that sit at the bottom of the cinematic ecology in India. From being ridiculed and put down as trash these films are today openly celebrated on internet forums, movie blogs, YouTube channels, Facebook and Twitter pages. Investigating this new cinephilia will help us understand the regimes of cultural memory, the repackaging of a marginalised past, its growing popularity and the need for new ways of analysing screen cultures outside the mainstream.

02. Ritika Pant - Television 2.0: Diasporic TV in the Digital Age

Transnational television as a phenomenon gained currency and received academic attention in the post-liberalization years. While the discourses related to television broadcasting remained central to the discussion of transnationalism, the phenomenon of narrowcasting, however, has remained at the fringes. Contrary to broadcasting that transmits televisual text to mass audiences via satellite services, narrowcasting is a peripheral phenomenon that transmits TV programs, via cable services, to a fairly small and distinctive audience determined by regional, national and ethnic identity. Diasporic media like the Asian Variety Show and MATV have gained immense popularity amongst niche audiences in the US and the UK respectively. However, with the proliferation of the internet and social media, one may witness the burgeoning online presence of such platforms on Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook etc. that has allowed such platforms to digitize televisual content and transcend the otherwise limited geographical reach that narrowcasting offered. Taking cue from Hamid Naficy’s study of Middle Eastern Television programming in Los Angeles (The Making of Exile Cultures: Iranian Television in Los Angeles), in this paper, I wish to explore how the proliferation of the digital has influenced the process of narrowcasting of televisual content that reaches the Indian diaspora in the United Kingdom and the United States. Also, the ubiquity that such online platforms provide to narrowcasting, an otherwise delimiting phenomenon, challenges the very exclusivity that it stands for. Through a virtual ethnography of the diasporic televisual content and its reception amongst its audiences, I wish to understand the changing configurations in this local-global collaboration.

03. Sagorika Singha - Fringe State - The Life of Vernacular Digital Objects

This paper will trace how incidents integral to the local popular culture in Assam transform into events in the virtual space, revealing the functioning of vernacular networks in the digital. Hence memes, GIFs and social media posts floating on media sharing platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, ensue virtual upstaging of vernacular events. These local digital artifacts from the peripheral space of Assam can be used to comprehend the significance of shared norms and values, and decipher the kind of networked individualism enabling this spreadability. Such circulation of local events through digital artifacts unveil how technologies have ushered in diverse changes in the creation, consumption, comprehension and circulation of new media objects, more so in regions distant from the mainstream. Understanding this local network formulation will uncover the functioning of physical geography and networks in the virtual realm; the ingrained essence of intimacy, proximity and familiarity in local images and video; and explain how a historically marginalised state, in the expanded and assorted digital verse, finds its diversity imperceptible owing to its disembodied existence, resulting in an adaptable presence. By examining the pattern of proliferation and construction of such artifacts the paper will help evaluate how the fringe interacts with the mainstream and how new media intrusion propagates a new texture of local popular culture. It will thus acknowledge the transformations such profusion of technologies have on fringe territories and their subsequent impact on the emergence of the local digital both in terms of content and form.

Details of the Team

Vibhushan Subba is a Doctoral Research candidate at the Department of Cinema Studies, School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. His research interests include new south asian screen cultures, trash aesthetics and modes of production and distribution of Indian low budget filmmaking, cult and para cinema.

Sagorika Singha is a doctoral candidate at the department of Cinema Studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her areas of research interest include cinema, subculture, technoculture, and media ecology.

Ritika Pant is a doctoral candidate at the department of Cinema Studies, School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her research interests include stardom, transnationalism, diaspora and television studies.