This week we have a fascinating reading assignment entitled “History Writing as Critique,” by Joan Scott. She bluntly mocks in it the suggestion of waning Post-structuralism (p. 20). Although Scott admits the difficulty of elucidating or summarizing a Poststructuralist approach, she insists on its relevancy for modern works, particularly the one related to historical writing (p. 22). She states that historians should look into historical events through fixable perspectives. An abstract, detached look into an event, without any presumptions, helps impartially and objectively examine other dynamics, like cultural norms, and religious values. Scott’s postulation regarding the Post-structuralism steams from her rejection of static theories and the rigidity of the links between elements that construct any structure.
The emergence of Post-structuralism amid political turmoil in France during the 1960s might explain its tendency towards the rebellion against existing models and traditional rules. This kind of approach, when writing about history, I suppose, can enrich my research in Saudi cinema; particularly, when I argue about the legitimacy of some of the copyright, plagiarism, patent, proprietary, and intellectual property laws. These laws claim that they exist in order to protect creative works, which have been defined through capitalist, imperialist, and colonial perspectives to secure the interests of dominant powers with less regard for individuals’ fair use or collective human progression.
Poststructuralism does not insist on previous or existing structures (p. 21). It gives the reader greater value than the writer when it highlights the reader’s perception as the “true meaning.” Any inventor’s work, based on Poststructuralist logic, is not the solo or prime cause of the meaning and intended use of the inventor’s invention. Intertwined sources and catalysts (social, cultural, economic …etc.) have played key parts to pave the way and create the suitable setting and circumstances for the meanings to be configured. Therefore, an inventor, although he gets ahead alone with his invention, is not, arguably, entitled to an exclusive right. A naive scholar who thinks of his analyses of Marx’s work nowadays would be a unique one. Many scholars have already written about Marx and it is more likely that any new writing in this subject now is just a replication of what other people have already stated in other texts.
From now, I see myself leaning towards a poststructuralist view when working on the historical background of my final paper in order to avoid any obsession of one source or signaler context, which might lead to lose any autonomous perspective. It is important to show the personal belief and experience when writing about history instead of just following a fixed theory, if one aims to unveil new interpretation of the circumstances that surround the subject.
Leigh’s article about the early years of the Russian silent film provides a range of ideas that are valuable for my future works. She points out the analogy of historical research process to the crime scene investigation (p. 1). This analogy draws my attention towards the deceptive practice that some TV show hosts conduct when using questions to lead their guests toward suggestive answers. This is similar to the “leading witnesses” technique during interrogations, and trials of crimes, which is objectionable and highly restricted. She also sparks my interest into the unfair customs regarding women’s work in early media and film in many countries when she mentioned how females in early Russian cinema were shadowed by their male partners’ fame (Leigh, p. 10). Through Saudi media and film history, many Saudi women have been accustomed to use nicknames to hide their gender identity, which creates a fundamental challenge for me when write about cinema history in Saudi Arabia. It as well makes wondering if the usage of aliases, pseudonyms and ghostwriting is ethical practices when our ultimate goal is to present the complete truth.
In Manifestos for History, the Author argues that video game culture could reach a narrative complexity stage that will allow it to displace traditional media. He also believes that historical culture will be rewritten every time we turn on our computers. Scholarly assumptions and conclusions will no longer apply with this new interactive media age that we live in because we will no longer need someone to develop our psychological function sense of self. One thing I found missing in his approach is that he mentioned how we no longer need someone else or another person to develop our PFSS but now a days we actually play games online with other individuals. I think the author missed this part of the argument where the video game age has become more and more about interacting with humans through the video game than just interacting with the game itself.
In Manifestos for a history of the media, the author explains how machines have changed over time and are now being used to process information which opens up new doors for historical research. He argues that historians need to approach media history through humans/machines because the information machines not only affect natural objects but cultural objects as well. He explains how these machines have changed the way we should conduct research and how they influence the way we look at the history of media. The machine and changes in the media have created challenges for historians to do research. Reinventing the discipline will be a huge task for historians and media researchers to further explore historical media texts and will set the ground for future generations.
I think both articles influence the way I do research because of my interest in cinema studies. Based on my interest and the secondary sources im using for class, I can relate to what the authors are arguing and setting forth. Both are concerned with how we as media historians will pose questions and look at historical media texts to answer those questions. They also encourage different ways of considering when attempting to do such research which I will take under consideration when I conduct my research paper for this class.
The readings this week do not immediately relate to my end of semester project and my dissertation. This is because the themes this week do not relate to my area of interest. Also, I lack an interest in games, digital culture, second life and others and thus I have very limited knowledge about games and the gaming culture. Because I lack interest and knowledge in this field I have never paused to imagine the dynamism of games as cultural objects and how history plays into the mix. However, I find the articles by Mark Poster, Wulf Kansteiner and Elizabeth Ermarth most interesting. The readings focus on alternative ways or ways in which history can be digitally re-interpreted/influenced. As such, in the readings there is a great intersect with humans, computers and the production of culture and cultural products. The anchor point for is how meaning and knowledge is created.
Kansteiner (2007) discusses how video games will alter how we look at history. At once an intriguing idea, this is also unsettling. I imagine that with open access and all sorts of developments in technology what will happen to the production of digital culture is ‘scary’. Gamers are (likely) going to re-interpret and recreate endings to ‘sensitive’ historical events like apartheid. How might this influence stories told about historical events in the future? Might we end up with many variations of the event? Who filters? Should we care?
Perhaps my fears and questions are unfounded because as Ermarth discusses there is a “closed space of choice” although we code and decode information and knowledge in multiple ways with a level of creativity. Perhaps, my concern should as Poster argues be a shift away from finding the alternative. Perhaps, Ermarth is right – I should concern myself less with those events I wish to remember and how I wish to remember them. Yet still, I cannot imagine the story of apartheid in South Africa ending with ‘apartheid was good.’
Together, these articles are unsettling for exposing me to the idea that history can be altered by individuals even as I agree with Kansteiner (2007) that people “no longer depend on centralized institutions of cultural production” (p.132). Perhaps I am yet to fully comprehend digital culture and its impact on history.
I like Joan Scott’s advocacy for approaching history post-structurally, being completely detached from events without any presumptions on cultural norms, economics, religion, etc. But this is really difficult (I would argue impossible) to fully do. The historian can never be fully objective because they are not a blank slate. They ALWAYS have their own experiences of culture, gender, religion, economics, politics, and power. Historians have to have these experiences in order to contextualize what they are researching into some kind of understanding. We cannot be aliens that have zero knowledge of human culture and build a objective history from there. That being said, I like post-structuralism and find it incredibly useful at times. Working with queer bodies, I think you are constantly running into post-structuralist dialogues.
The discussion of the development of video games narrative complexity is slightly troubling, but I can agree with the statement. Video games have the potential to dominate and displace other media forms in the 21st century (if they already haven’t). The fully immersive experience of video games accomplishes what film, television, and radio are unable to replicate on their own. The psychological ramifications seem troubling, but I’m not 100% sure what they mean either. A dominant culture of video games does have a great deal of potential for building a collective experience to a greater extent than previous mediums have been able to.
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