- Welcome: Carol Lynn MacCurdy, the Cultural Attaché, Embassy of the USA.
- Web Art from the USA
- Envisioning America: the manner and means of researching film
- American Elections
- City Sites: an electronic book
- Legal image: copyright issues in the visual world
- Digital America – online images
- Primary Source Microfilm
Welcome: Carol Lynn MacCurdy, the Cultural Attaché, Embassy of the USA.
It’s a pleasure to be here with you all today, especially in these gorgeous surroundings. The new British Library is really a national treasure, and I’m sure everyone is pleased to have this seminar here today – thanks to Richard Bennett and Dr Iain Wallace.
As I was trying to think of a few words to say to you I was struggling to come up with something about American culture that you haven’t heard before. Because of the size of our population and the global reach of our economy, images of America are everywhere – and in massive quantities. And I imagine that most of you have spent your entire careers with your eyes firmly trained on America and all things American. For you then the problem is sorting these ubiquitous images for quality and meaning.
Perhaps what I can usefully lend to this gathering are a few personal insights I have gained from my tours abroad about how other cultures view my own. The American writer Anais Nin once said “We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are”. Therefore, what images or bits of American culture another country’s people choose to import from our rich melange says a great deal about the importers. Judging by what America imports from Britain, and vice versa, it seems that we have a great deal in common in our cultural tastes. We buy your lowbrow humour like Benny Hill and you buy our trash talk shows like Jerry Springer. We buy your up market BBC documentaries and you buy some of our PBS documentaries and better TV serials like West Wing or Frazier. So I think UK citizens get a fairly balanced, albeit superficial, portrait of America.
In the developing world, however, it’s a different story. Visions of America are really distorted where movie distributors, television companies and book publishers have budgets too low to afford quality cultural imports. When I was stationed in Moscow in the early 90’s, the most popular images of America were based on a combination of TV shows like Dallas and pop singers like Michael Jackson. They were actually surprised that American women didn’t all look like the bikini-clad babes of “Baywatch”. I always felt a little conspicuous as they made this latter sort of statement looking pointedly at me.
But there are times when these misconceptions can become destabilising or even dangerous.
One international relations theorist developed a notion he called Mirror Imaging – that is, he said that we anticipate that other nations will react similarly to our own given completely identical circumstances. This phenomenon may explain all sorts of spectacular international miscalculations. One possible example is the Cuban Missile Crisis. Did Nikita Khrushchov calculate that the Americans would acquiesce to Soviet missiles within range of Washington as the Soviets had done with NATO missiles based in Turkey?
Another famous miscalculation born of misunderstanding and a misreading of American polity was the Falklands War. I remember being amazed that the Argentines believed that the US would either support them or at least remain neutral in the face of their military move to quote “reclaim their territory”. Argentine military leaders believed that treatise, trade ties, hemispheric solidarity, and the ever-increasing Latino population in the US would cause the American government to discount our predominantly Anglo cultural and political roots. Our own current-day lack of interest in territorial aggrandisement, and our sense of fair play were not taken into account by Argentina’s military leaders.
The problem with being a melting pot culture is that we seem to be all things to all people. In his book America; the View from Europe, J Martin Evans said “America has probably stood for more things to more people than any other nation on the face of the globe”. That being the case, it is not an easy nation to comprehend. A few weeks ago, at the opening of the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford, Vere Rothermere said “America is a country that takes a great deal of knowing,” and further added “America holds many pitfalls for Britain””. Although I’m not sure what these pitfalls are, I do think he’s right about the complex nature of our United States.
The British Association for American Studies has helped put Britain at the forefront of those nations that can interpret the US to the benefit of your own people and for those other countries open minded enough to listen, as well as to bare their bottoms. Our new President on his current tour was joking with a European official saying that he should let him (i.e. President Bush) know when the official had figured America out. I think most of us would agree – myself included – that he could only be half joking.
I’m going to step down now to leave you to the people that you really came here to listen to and I hope you all have a very productive and enlightening day.
Web Art from the USA
Two exhibitions earlier this year –010101: art in technological times at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, sponsored by Intel, and Bit streams and its web version, Data dynamics, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York – introduced American digital artists such as Jeremy Blake, Leah Gilliam, Marek Walczak and Martin Wattenberg to the mainstream museum system. Here in London, the blue chip avant-garde gallery, Anthony d’Offay, is showing the American artist, Bill Viola with an array of LCD and plasma screen works and the extraordinary Catherine’s Room (2001), with its Vermeer-like interiors.
‘Web art’ is a subset of digital art. The web is – perhaps above all things – a mode of distribution; and in the art world the distribution of images and of digital art. American art students use the web as the primary source of art historical images; most American museums and galleries sell images of works in their collections over the web; galleries and individual artists sell downloadable digital prints and other artworks through websites. But I would like to concentrate on art that exists only on the web.
My use of the word, American, perhaps also needs clarification. Where the web is an agent of globalisation and where anything can be hosted anywhere, ideas of nationality become unstable. Am I referring to domain.usa? Yes, any web art hosted or created in the USA by anyone of any nationality, but also, any web art by an American which happens to be hosted elsewhere.
Of particular concern to me are those artists that exploit the formal qualities of the Web. I suppose – and perhaps deservedly – formalism has had a bad press: we associate it in England with Roger Fry, Clive Bell and Adrian Stokes; and in the USA with Clement Greenberg’s Art and culture and his championing of a particular variety of abstract expressionism. But, this apart, it is a useful hermeneutic device, or, if you would prefer, metaphor: a painting is a flat shape, sculpture is inherently three-dimensional. It can also be used permissively: each ‘type’ or ‘style’ of work can be seen to have its own aesthetic, on which criteria it can be judged as successful or otherwise, but it would relegate the choice of one type as superior to another to the realms of prejudice.
The formal constituents of the Web are: HTML coding, Browser Windows, Forms, Buttons, Links, Error Codes, Menu Bars, Email Icons, Viruses and Bugs, Refresh Buttons, Mouse-overs, Web Cams etc. Benjamin Weil – who along with Steve Dietz and Jon Ippolito constitute the three main American impresarios of web art – wittily describes this as the net.scape.
This tendency for the Web to inscribe itself on itself – the term in heraldry is mise en abyme as in the depiction of a small shield on a shield – is intensified in another group of work which exploits the ‘content’ of the Web through ‘browsing’ or ‘searching’. It is also emblematic of the ‘resistance’ tendency in contemporary art, following on from Situationism and such theoretical writings as de Certeau’s Practice of everyday life.
Mark Napier, creator of the infamous Webstalker and Digital Landfill, where you can dump unwanted emails, spam, urls, files etc or the similar Shredder (www.potatoland.org/shredder). His Riot ( www.potatoland.org/riot ) is premised on the transgression of the normal translation of code into content, enabling a collaborative collage. Maciej Wisniewski’s netomat (1999-2001), a contribution to Data Dynamics offers a downloadable ‘meta-browser’ which responds to inputted words and phrases with a random display of results in an audio-visual collage.
Interactivity (sometimes equated with democracy) is another characteristic. In Marek Walczak and Martin Wattenberg’s Apartment, typed in words are inter-related to the layout and design of apartments, populating a zoned, virtual city: you can review your own or other previously created apartments. Unfortunately, many of these artworks require downloads of Flash or Quicktime VR, which runs against any democratic desire – where everyone would see the same thing.
Another feature of the Web is the Virus. Is something like last years ‘Love Bug’ an artwork? Say, comparable, with Maciunas and his Fluxus friends attempting to overthrow the US State and the institutions of art by clogging up postal boxes with thousands of packages of heavy bricks, addressed to galleries and artists, without stamps, complete with the return address of other museums and galleries. A benign ‘virus’ has been created by JODI, the collaboration from 1994 of Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans, who also featured in Documenta X (1997): http://www.jodi.org, This Morning, launches a mad cascade of windows invading you PC’s memory.
Despite the expansion of web use in the USA – 168 million adults are now connected to the Web there – a disproportionate number of web artists – IOD (Matthew Fuller, Simon Pope, Colin Green), Jake Tilson, Heath Bunting, Mongrel, Tom Corby (of Reconnoitre), Thomson and Craighead (of CNN interactive just got more interactive), Nick Crowe, and Vuk Cosic are British or European. The geographical hegemonies of previous art movements – from mannerism to abstract expressionism or arte povera – do not seem to apply to web art. And my title, ‘Web Art in America’ may ultimately be futile.
How do we know what’s out there? Traditionally art librarians have used publishers’ catalogues, national bibliographies (a very retrospective way of doing things), visits to booksellers, suppliers listings, suggestions or citations. But to get that obscure exhibition catalogue you had to ring up the gallery or go there yourself. The Web is not very different, and in fact can be easier to keep track of. There are gateways (like the now defunct ADAM) or ‘pointing’ sites e.g. the London Institute ‘I’ page with its web guides, and OPACs which point from a related entry to appropriate web resources; there are printed magazines – specialist ones like Mute or adverts in more traditional ones (for the last five years I think that the adverts in Artforum or frieze for that matter have been the most interesting and useful parts of the magazine); private view cards, flyers. In addition we have helpful museum/gallery/organisation sites e.g. Guggenheim or Dia Center for the Arts, or the Walker Art Gallery’s Gallery 9 which also commission digital works. You can subscribe for $1 to the mailing of The Thing etc. etc. Anyone with access to the Web can be a flaneur of the digital art scene.
Every librarian is a secret archivist. What should we do with the material? Take heart from this cautionary tale: in 1967 Aspen MagazineSchema for a set of pages:
No.5-6, edited by Brian O’Doherty (alias the artist Patrick Ireland) included Dan Graham’s
(number of) adjectives
(number of) adverbs
(percentage of) area not occupied by type
(percentage of) columns
(number of) conjunctions
This, although probably derivative of Oulipo experimentation, is one of the first ‘variable’ artworks, a term employed by John Ippolito and Benjamin Weil of Ada-Web fame: this was founded by Weill in May 1995, named after the ‘first computer programer’, and daughter of Lord Byron, Ada Byron King, and now ‘housed’ on the Walker Art Center website. The ‘variable artwork’ is a work that could exist in any media, anywhere, any time: indefinitely reproducible. As librarians we have failed it. I do not know of any library that owns Aspen that has indexed this contribution. There is a lot out there on the Web, but that does not necessarily mean that we should not archive anything.
There are many levels of archiving – bookmarking, print-outs – from the DIA site you can download your own Susan Hiller artist’s book ‘dream screens’ (www.diacenter.org); you can do screen-dumps, using Tucows software or use web-whacking software like Bluesquirrel; the San Francisco based Internet Archive attempted to grab the entire content of the Web on particular days, using crawler software – and now through Alexa’s Wayback Machine technology, some of its past sites are starting to become retrievable – from June 18th the 2000 election (a work of art or performance in itself) is available at http://archive0.alexa.com/collections/e2k.html. As a rule, archiving proposals however fall into four categories – and these come from the CEDARS project: a lot of the research behind these studies is interestingly reliant on experiments to recover the Challenger Disaster materials.
- Technology Preservation: you archive the ‘original’ hardware and software platforms – do not throw out those Classic Series Macs. One would need to archive technology at the same rate of the development of sites. Incidentally, the Web, being a selling mechanism par excellence, provides good sites for old software, hardware, browsers etc. etc. Its own history is also available on such sites as The Computer Preservation Society (ftp://ftp.cs.mam.ac.uk/pub/CCS-Archive/public_html/ccs_info.htm#menu or the Dead Media Project
- Refreshment: the copying of content from one medium to another.
- Emulation: imitation of characteristics of the original software and hardware in future platforms
- Non-imitative Migration: transfer of data from one platform to another Cf. Web to print out. And perhaps not surprisingly quite a common strategy.
As none of these strategies is really in place for web based materials, we must have lost quite a lot already.
And then there is an ethical dimension. Perhaps again, this is nothing new. Remember Gustav Metzger’s Auto-destructive manifesto (1961), influential on the Who scene in Michelangelo Antonioni’s film, Blow up (1966): it is on cheap, mechanical wood-pulp paper with all its acidic qualities, should we conserve/preserve it? Is it not against the very spirit of the thing? The Web is a very strange, peculiar, phenomenon: it is a peculiar combination of the commercial, educational, and personal – a few years ago I did a web-search on the term ‘Sooty’ (looking of course for the Sooty Fanclub) and came upon rather poignant homepages devoted to pet snakes etc. – this touching banality, quotidian-ness, for me, is fascinating; there is also the libertarian-anti-vivisection, animal liberation, cook your own nuclear bomb etc. and the fascist and anti-Semitic, holocaust denial or right-wing militia sites. In short, the Web is not and cannot be a White Cube, and to divorce a site of its context, by web-whacking it into a museum or gallery, diminishes its meaning: no website is an island: Mark Napier objected to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ‘snapshot’ ing his website for this very reason. This immediately invalidates the four ‘preservation’ strategies outlined previously. Moreover, the ‘democratic’ ‘ownership’ of art works on the web – a real museum without walls, that André Malraux thought that photography had brought about – runs against institutional ‘collecting’.
In the 18th Century, Diderot, writing for a select group of enlightened despots, unable to see the Parisian salons for themselves, describes works on the walls of the salon:
“I continue along the bank of the lake formed by the waters of the stream to a point halfway between the two chains; I look about me, I see the wooden bridge at a prodigious height and a great distance. In front of this bridge I see the stream’s waters arrested in their course by kinds of natural terraces; I see them fall into as many pools as here are terraces and form a marvellous waterfall; I see them arrive at my feet, spread out, and fill a vast reservoir. A loud noise causes me to look to my left” (Diderot on art pp.92-3).
Diderot has entered the picture: he is describing a Vernet landscape as if he was in it – this is the foundation of art criticism (perhaps perfected by Ruskin in Modern Painters and his invention of ‘the pathetic fallacy’, where nature takes on the mood of the observer). If art criticism is predicated on the absence of the artwork, the omnipresence of artwork on the Web could lead to the end of criticism – of the museum and gallery (and perhaps art library), and perhaps a more successful attempt than the Russian revolutionists distribution of museum pictures to ordinary households in the early 1920s. If we preserve the web works are we not preserving the institutions of art?
I would like to make two points in conclusion. The first is that just because an artist uses new technology – it might be laser, hologram, CD-ROM or the Web – it does not mean that it is necessarily avant-garde, experimental, or even art. Secondly, there is an increasing overlap of digital art, design, music, text etc. Bit streams / Data dynamics has David Gamper, John Hudak (www.slack.net/~jhbk) and Paul D Miller (DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid) who could be described as musicians, DJs or sound artists. If, with the digital, the total work of art – Gesamtkunstwerk – becomes possible, – and I think of Beryl Korot and Steve Reich’s eirenic The Cave (1994), combining live music, digital sampling, text and multichannel video – the very notion of ‘the artist’ becomes unstable. Anybody can be an artist. We began by looking at how American artists and other artists working in America have been using the web. But we could start the other way round: will the Web make its own art and artists?
010101 exhibition: http://010101.sfmoma.org/
Bit streams: www.whitney.org/
Data dynamics: www.whitney,org/datadynamics
Dia Center: www.diacenter.org/
Walker Art Gallery: www.walkerart.org/gallery9
Ada Web: www.adaweb.walkerart.org
Walczak & Wattenberg: www.turbulence.org/Works/apartment/
Hudak and Bradley ‘manray project’: www.slack.net/~jhbk/
London Institute ‘I’ page webguide: http://www.linst.ac.uk/library/webguides/digital.htm
Dead Media project: www.deadmedia.org
Alexa Wayback Machine – Election 2000 http://archive0.alexa.com/collections/e2k.html
Envisioning America: the manner and means of researching film
I really wanted to do two things today with my talk and they are somewhat reflected in the title you have in front of you. I wanted to say something about the sources of film, how I research films and where I get information from, and how that information might be collected in libraries and databases. But I also wanted to say something about the kind of work that I do on film. I think this is important because how one regards film is very predetermined by one’s view of cinema/film/screen studies as an academic discipline. Cinema studies has been around a long time of course, but research into film history, audience reception, semiotics and the like has been a major growth area in British academia over the last ten years or so and it would be remiss of me not to recognise that that growth has coincided with my own, and many others, interest in cinema as research and scholarship. Hence we should recognise that film studies is subject to fierce debate in its own right. How should film be regarded, is it the domain of theoretically driven, esoteric, pure scholarship, or should it rightly be opened up to the study of mainstream, very populist work, most obviously emanating from Hollywood, but elsewhere as well? Is film studies still (even more so!) regarded as a soft option for students who can have movies inserted into courses as a substitute for any involvement in textual or critical summary; and more generally how is film “taught” at undergraduate and graduate level?
I cannot offer you easy answers to any of these questions but I do think the questions are absolutely critical to the textual, research and archival material on offer in university and public libraries. Just to give you one example of this – the mainstream/populist versus the critical/esoteric – if you were to do a survey of holdings in British universities I wonder which film magazine would come out on top, Empire or Sight and Sound? Actually I know the answer but why? One is the top selling magazine in this country for film fans, the other is acknowledged as a leading critical forum for cinema and TV internationally, but sells only a fraction of the amount and features work that often never sees the light of day in your local multiplex. If I am going to offer any view about research today in this discipline I feel this is a fundamental question to address. The research of film has changed substantially and the access to information now comes from a plethora of sources, some traditional and recognised, others newer and more experimental. It is this increasing diversity that has changed the nature of film scholarship and which in my own work I would like to give you some flavour of.
But what of my own research into Hollywood? Am I qualified to pontificate on the subject of film as scholarly necessity? In one sense no I’m not! I am trained as a historian and political scientist and though I have some background in being taught film (and a small portion of my original undergraduate degree was in Art History, another visual medium) I have no film degree qualifications or background. But for these very reasons, I might also be in a good position to judge film as a discipline from a different angle. I say that because my own inspiration for wanting to study film more closely was the fact that I found it hard to read about cinema from the subject area I originated in. While there were historians who researched film, English specialists, linguists, sociologists, philosophers, even mathematicians, I came across hardly any political scientists who had worked on cinema. For that reason I guess I wanted to test the waters of film scholarship, its multi- and interdisciplinary nature, particularly in American Studies, and the depth of its critical analysis in relation to politics.
When I was thinking about what I may say to you today I remembered an article I had culled from the Internet, as it happens, a couple of years ago. The “article” (it was really a chunk from a Ph.D. unpublished, a good example of what is around on the Net!) was entitled “Why Worry about the Movies?” Its subject was film and politics but the article also made a clear and well-accepted statement about the role of movies in society. “They become part of our way of seeing the world,” it stated. “Part of our mental yardstick by which we measure the meaning of events and ideas that we encounter.” All fair enough and seemingly straightforward you might think. But the premise of the article was what really interested me, and has continued to interest me about film over the last few years or so. It was this focus that also helps to display the variety of methodological directions cinema studies has travelled in, and might give you a guide to the ways in which it can be approached.
The ideological premise on which the article’s statement was made was not directed at audiences (gullible or otherwise), who were/are willing to be sucked in by the “message” of certain films, which then went on to say something pertinent to them about their personal lives. No, it was directed at public figures, politicians, who believed that film, Hollywood film especially in this case, had important lessons for us the masses to take on board. The article’s chief example was this. In December 1994 the new speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gringich, placed the ongoing debate over health reform in cinematic terms. Attacking the plans of First Lady Hillary Clinton, Gingrich suggested she should go and watch the 1938 Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney classic, Boys Town, and learn about the ways in which disadvantaged youths may be cared for in orphanages (the story follows the real life attempts of a catholic priest, Father Flanagan (played by Tracy), to help wayward youngsters in a small town outside Omaha, Nebraska).
Gingrich obviously felt that his example had social reform policy down to a tee, and this involved the moral guidance of a Hollywood film made fifty-six years previously! But he didn’t stop there. Three months later Gingrich publicly urged the warring owners of Major League Baseball to settle their six-month-old pay dispute by watching one movie. That movie was Phil Alden Robinson’s Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner.
Now Gingrich’s strategy was not quite as cloying as it sounds for Field of Dreams does have a discernible ideology about baseball history (it is mythologised in the film by the ghostly apparition of the legendary “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, a figure disgraced in the 1919 World Series Chicago “Black” Sox scandal, but who innocently played in the beginning because it was the purity of the game that mattered; and baseball was ultimately corrupted, so the film posits, because the owners built floodlights to attract more spectators and the intrusion of the capitalistic system proliferated from there). But what Gingrich also spotted, cleverly or otherwise, was the fact that sport as mythological statement is a more resonant discourse about American society than any political party platform or philosophy could ever be.
Film has thus become more than a reflection of hopes and dreams, more than simple fantasy or escapism, it has virtually become government policy and historical legacy in the United States. It is a point well brought out in film historian Lary May’s new book, The Big Tomorrow. May pointedly remarks on the fact that for a generation in the United States, commentators, politicians and public figures have confidently assumed that the mass media – and certainly Hollywood – are involved in defining what it means to be a good American. Why wouldn’t Gingrich then choose to couch public policy in the realms of entertainment fiction? It is, after all, a battleground for political culture and has been, May persuasively asserts, since the 1930s. It is a battleground, in effect, concerned with the very meaning of national identity, but since the ‘30s it has been increasingly tugged back and forth by the rigours of political moral attrition. By the 1996 election, for example, the presidential candidate for Gingrich’s own party, Bob Dole, could assert that, “We have reached the point where our popular culture threatens to undermine our character as a nation” with “nightmares of depravity.”
Even in Britain, the reach and perspective of cinematic culture has hit home, particularly with the current administration. In my own work I quoted Tony Blair speaking about the crisis that engulfed his now sacked Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in January 1998. Cook, you will recall, had left his wife Margaret and had gained a divorce, whereupon he remarried his private secretary. Blair, addressing the delicate question of Cook’s private life, said that he was disturbed by the way the media in this country was casting politics in American terms. “Britain could be heading for the same type of political agenda as they’ve now got in the United States, where everything is an extension of Hollywood. I don’t think it is very sensible for us to go in that direction,” he was quoted as saying. This from a Prime Minister who felt compelled, in 2000, to answer questions in the House and publicly dismiss a Hollywood portrayal of American, when it should have been British, war time heroism in the stealing of the enigma code machine with the submarine movie, U571. It is the very same government that then, in the General Election of 2001, attacked the Conservative opposition with billboards proclaiming Economic Disaster II, configured in the manner of a blockbuster Hollywood film. Politics that rhetorically, and consistently, returns to that mantra of “talking about the issues”, nevertheless cannot help but be guided by propagandist images, more often than not, retranslated from Hollywood.
In America, the utilisation of film doesn’t stop with the imagery, for politicians it also becomes a signal of a lifetime experience. In the preface to his recent book, Politics and Politicians in American Film, Phillip Gianos opens with the now infamous story of Ronald Reagan recounting the tragic sacrifice of a World War Two bomber pilot staying with his injured co-pilot as the plane crashed, and his being posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Gianos also tells of Reagan’s encounter with the Israeli Prime Minister in 1983 when he stated that he had visited the Nazi concentration camps soon after the war. Both tales were untrue. The bomber pilot story had come straight from the narrative of the 1944 film, Wing and a Prayer, and Reagan had watched films of the death camps but never been there; he spent the whole of the war making movies in L.A.!
Film has achieved, therefore, a dramatic poignancy and intimacy with modern social values and beliefs and this has helped to spread the potential for examination and research investigation. It is also Reagan that brings this particular part of the talk to its natural climax. We have so far looked at film as political statement, movies as historical re-writes, and cinema as reinterpretation of memory. But what of cinema as tangible exposition of historical ideas and progression, phraseology passed into the vernacular of modern usage? Well in relation to this point there is one more film to comment on.
Writing about the extreme popularity of George Lucas’s seminal 1977 sci-fi adventure, Star Wars, Peter Kramer has recently explained that research has led scholars to pick up varieties of meaning from the narrative, characters and setting. One of these sources of meaning is Star Wars passing into political language. Ronald Reagan’s use of the term “evil empire” (the Empire of the film being the evil conglomerate led by the Emperor and his sidekick, Darth Vader) for his description of the Soviet Union, allied to the title of the film being attached as a simplified codeword for the US Strategic Defence Initiative, brought film into the mainstream of political cultural parlance during the 1980s. Reagan encapsulated the ongoing Cold War battle of wills into a spiritual dimension – “The Soviet Union is the focus of evil in the modern world” – that had its lineage in the dark motivations of the empire in Lucas’s film, suggests Kramer. As if to emphasise the point, Reagan’s speech, made in March 1983, came exactly one month after Star Wars’ first appearance on Pay TV (cable) in the States and one month before the release of the franchise’s second sequel, Return of the Jedi. The film was, therefore, a signifier of symbolic meaning for many different generations of Americans. In its wake during the late ‘70s came a tidal wave which of course helped the regeneration of Hollywood itself, and thus there should be little wonder that cinema has received a much more prominent profile in academic circles as this era, and others that followed, passed into subjective scrutiny.
So these stories are all very interesting, I hear you cry, but does it say anything to us about the study of film and the ways in which it is researched? Well, the thing we should be reminded of with these examples is that one aspect of the study of film is increasingly wrapped up in cultural and political history, and as such the arguments and information that I have briefly set out for you here are extrapolated from a variety of sources. The books cited are themselves as much political and social histories as they are film devoted texts. Studies of American political culture and questions about the state of nationalism, democracy, liberalism and freedom of speech are as much tied up in cinematic analogies as they are in core political texts. Publications as diverse as American Historical Review and The Nation magazine have both in recent years devoted special editions or sections to film. So film texts, documents and archive material is expanding at quite a prodigious rate. If you are searching and scrutinising material for possible inclusion in library catalogues or part of special collections or are just interested in research, it is becoming more worthwhile to take advice from people who have been to internet sites or seen archives on offer, before you spend a lot of time glancing through the material to hand.
Increasingly, even in the mainstream academic market for texts, diversity has been the watchword. Texts devoted to, for example, studies of the Vietnam War have increasingly used interdisciplinary routes towards an assessment of historical images. Examples here are Jeff Walsh’s edited collection, Vietnam Images and Linda Dittmar and Gene Michaud’s From Hanoi to Hollywood. Works devoted to the study of history in films have expanded considerably since the 1970s, most notable might be the edited collection Hollywood as Historian by Peter Rollins, (Rollins also edits Film and History, a journal devoted to a very diverse range of film scholarship) Lary May’s own Screening out the Past, and work by the likes of Robert Rosenstone, Robert Sklar and Robert Brent Toplin.
I said in the introduction that there were few political scientists working in film but some mention ought to be given to notable interdisciplinary work that informed my own writing and which helps to exemplify the diversity of scholarship into the discipline, especially Philip Davies and Brian Neve’s Cinema, Politics and Society as well as Neve’s own Film and Politics in America: A Social Tradition. Here are two British texts that provocatively drew attention to cinematic influence on society and politics through the twentieth century without major recourse to film theory.
Traditional journals which have been the lifeblood of cinema research, such as Cineaste and Cahiers du Cinema have been joined by the likes of Screen, Literature and Film Quarterly and the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. The Journal of Popular Film, The Journal of Modern History, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Film Historia and American Quarterly are all learned and well-respected publications carrying film articles. I should not also forget our own Journal of American Studies which, as well as carrying many film articles, devoted a whole edition to film only a few years ago. The amount of online journals looking at film is a topic that should have a whole talk devoted to it. There is too much to mention in one go at this moment. Suffice to say that here is one area where care and attention is needed in investment of materials. As a whole, web sites have more and more information now and online articles can be good, but still many are not refereed and quality tends to patchy.
The Web as a whole has obviously been the other major growth area of research and archival information. How good is the Web? A difficult question to answer. On archives, one might cite the burgeoning amount of material emanating out of film schools at, for instance, the University of Southern California (USC) and Berkeley (UC). Particular articles still need to be paid for but a list of the archival collections and availability is an important resource. There is, I have to say, still an awful a lot of rubbish out there on the Web. Often engine searches for films, directors, stars etc, will produce the personal website of Wayne from Idaho who thinks Wynona Ryder is really cool. It is here where film reference books can be, and still are, invaluable sources of information and background. Variety, Halliwell’s and the Macmillan International Film Encyclopaedia are excellent routes to discovering titles, directors, biographical details and awards.
Organisations like the British Film Institute (BFI) and also groups like Film Education are putting film on the academic agenda at secondary level as well as degree standard, an important development for students who come to university often without any real recall to ways of reading film material. I would also strongly and finally urge careful consideration of film screenings and actual hard copies of the movies. It has been increasingly useful for us at Manchester University to have multi-region videos so as to play US material. There is also far more material in the US than here. The same is true of the ever-expanding DVD market. It has been an open secret for too long that the amount of material available in this country pails into insignificance compared with the films distributed to video (primarily still) in the States. The cost of the hardware (previously video players and now DVD machines) is also well in advance of what it should be, and needs to be, in order to promote film, especially in the financially strapped university sector. If you represent a university, library or archive that is thinking of investing in screen rooms or large screen projectors, I would urge you to go for multi-region models and good quality ones. British released DVD films are generally poor; in the US you tend, more often, to get a variety of features from trailers and interviews to key scene and plot analysis, even production notes.
I began this account by stating that the kind of publications that now competed in the marketplace for readership suggested something significant about the scholarship and the accumulation of film material being done. Among magazines, Sight and Sound has obviously been around for a number of years and its status and importance to the presentation and discussion of cinema in this country remains unquestioned. But, along with publications like Film International, it has tended to be one of the few marketed cinema magazines that has made its way onto the library shelves of universities. Publications such as Premiere (now only available in Britain in its American form) and Empire are magazines that have led the populist charge towards coverage of mainstream, mainly Hollywood, cinema in recent years. But their sense of tabloid journalistic presentation (in the eyes of some) rather more than critical perception should not detract from the valuable information that is often enclosed if one looks deeply enough.
What I’ve attempted to summarise here is the radically diverse landscape on offer to the film scholar. Accessibility to film is more attainable then ever before and it calls for a balanced weight in academic circles between intellectual film criticism and more mainstream cinema reviewing and publicity. Each has their place for different purposes. In my own field two scholars have neatly articulated why this plethora of sources is now more crucial than at any time in American film history. Richard Maltby in his excellent general analysis, Hollywood Cinema has said that Hollywood’s engagement with the real America is indirect and therefore needs unravelling. Ronald Brownstein, in his book, The Power and the Glitter really sums up the impact of cinema. “Hollywood is too deeply embedded in America’s culture to be isolated from its politics.”
Cinema is pervasive and the roots of its discourse are multifarious.
 Jason Powers “Why Worry about the Movies?” At http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edu
 Lary May The Big Tomorrow: Hollywood and the Politics of the American Way (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000) P. 1.
 Ibid., P.1.
 Phillip Gianos Politics and Politicians in American Film (London: Praeger, 1998) P. xi.
 Kramer comments that in the second case, Star Wars was the term coined by Senator Edward Kennedy the day after Reagan had made a speech outlining the SDI programme. See; Peter Kramer Star Wars in, The Movies as History David W. Ellwood (ed) (Stroud, Glos: Sutton Publishing, 2000) pp. 44-53.
 As Kramer intimates, Reagan did not need to look far for official confirmation of the impact of Star Wars. Time, Newsweek and the New York Times had all commented that the movie was part of the cultural landscape and a demonstration of the force of good over evil, humanity over technology. See; Kramer, p. 44.
 Perhaps the best and most accessible of the studies that has arisen from and is about, the era is Peter Biskind’s book, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (London: Bloomsbury, 1998)
 Richard Maltby Hollywood Cinema (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995) p.361.
 Ronald Brownstein The Power and the Glitter: The Hollywood-Washington Connection (New York: Pantheon, 1990) p. 391.
In any long term relationship with American Studies one is likely to acquire a small selection of souvenirs and mementoes that have, or develop a cultural significance, and that, however serendipitously, may sometime become useful in teaching, learning and research. Two battered ‘Food Coupons’ that were lost or discarded years ago in Washington DC still manage to focus the minds of class discussing welfare policy in the USA. A personal artefact lends power to the idea that real people go through the process of being ‘authorized … to participate in the Food Stamp Program’. And the vouchers are identified all over as issued by the US Department of Agriculture, which leads easily into a discussion as to how a congressional coalition was formed to pass this programme, and whether the welfare recipients are those poor Americans paying for their food in coupons, or those food-producing Americans finding a government-subsidised market for their product.
My first live contact with US politics was on the streets of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. I was in Chicago at the time entirely by coincidence, merely spending a few hours sight-seeing between Greyhound bus journeys from Toronto, and to Minneapolis, but the city was tense with a political rage that affected even the innocent bystander. On the overnight trip to Chicago a black American my own age told me some of his interpretation of what was going on, and in Minneapolis I watched the politics on TV, and, passing a political stall, picked a small Nixon button from a goldfish bowl full of give-aways.
Over the years a few more political odds and ends were dropped indiscriminately into my desk drawers, until a few years later I was teaching at Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University). On a whim I took my small collection of a dozen or so buttons and bumper stickers into a class. Some of the students appeared to take a little more interest, and certainly the items generated some questions: what was the meaning of ‘I’m a Shriver Driver’, and who was ‘Scoop’? The following year, teaching at Manchester University, I brought a few things to another class, and again the physical presence of the artefacts, even those only tangentially related to the precise detail of the day’s lecture, seemed to lend reality and focus to the topic for some participants.
From that time I started to collect materials with some care and purpose. Help came from unexpected sources. Congressman James Scheuer of New York circulated a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter to his friends in Congress asking them to send me materials, and many did so. Friends helped me then and some have had the patience to continue and do so ever since. A small minority of candidates respond to direct requests for sample materials, most do not, but occasionally a candidate or staffer will take to heart the task of informing the British professor, and generous quantities of unusual items and documentation will arrive. One US professor supplied slides from his own collection of rare 18th, 19th and early 20th century campaign items that I could never expect to add to the archive, but which could now form part of presentations on the history of campaigning. Some state elections offices have been exceptionally helpful with official papers. And minor parties often react with considerable energy to an explanatory letter and a donation of a few dollars. On the other hand one grant awarding body turned down an application for research funds on the grounds that this was merely a personal hobby.
The archive has grown significantly. It contains ballots from many states of the Union, official state elections material from different parts of the USA, and neutral ‘get out the vote’ and information literature from various sources. Candidate campaigns are represented by posters, leaflets, handouts, bumper stickers, and hundreds of buttons. Internal campaign documentation includes endorsement letters, guidance to phone bank operators, press passes, convention passes. Unorthodox campaigning items include dolls, noisemakers, jewellery, a watch, domestic items, clothes, flower seeds, confectionery, document cases, bubble-gum cigars, and a condom. Campaigns covered range from president to county commissioner, register of deeds and school board member. Recall elections, initiatives and referenda are represented. Materials form pressure groups and PACs are included. And while the archive does not have examples from all the states, or even from all the variety of offices that Americans elect, it certainly gives an insight into hundreds of races in many locations.
In my own work I have used the archive for research and teaching. In the classroom quite simple materials can bring life into debates. At De Montfort University, Leicester the presentation of a ballot from Leicester, Vermont (see illustration 1), with its ten presidential and vice-presidential candidates, and the opportunity to write-in, plus opportunities to vote for US Senator, Representative in Congress, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, Auditor of Accounts, Attorney General, two State Senators, State Representative, High Bailiff, and (on a separate ballot) five Justices of the Peace, provides a remarkable contrast to the ballot the students will face in any UK elections. And the information that Leicester, Vermont has a population of only a few hundred increases the impact, and stimulates discussion further. Leicester, Massachusetts provides another stark example, but offers less choice on its ballot – it is harder for minor parties to get on the ballot in Massachusetts than in its neighbouring New England state – an opportunity to discuss the role of state differences in the management, conduct and design of elections in the USA. I have been unable to obtain a ballot from Leicester, North Carolina so far, but I am sure that it will throw up other entirely legitimate points for discussion when it comes along.
Ballots come in many difference designs, voter instructions come with many different details, petitions to get on the ballot come with many different criteria, get out the vote materials come in many different languages (see illustration 2 and illustration 3). Given the closeness of the 2000 US presidential elections, and the peculiarities of the result, an image of the much debated ballot used in West Palm Beach, Florida (see illustration 4) can generate an especially lively debate. But each example can lead into discussion of electoral organisation, the federal system, the range and nature of US political parties, the candidates, access to the system, the nature of electoral choice in the USA, the connection that every act of voting in the USA has with that nation’s constitutional principles of separation of power, checks and balances, federalism and popular sovereignty, and the potential problems that are inherent in all these systemic and behavioural aspects of US democracy in action.
Examples and images from an archive of campaign materials can also be used to illustrate the development of democratic campaigning in the USA. Brass buttons designed and sold to celebrate the selection of George Washington as the first president, in 1789, exist in collections in the USA. They can be used to illustrate the themes of the time (celebration, nationalism, unity of purpose and mutual dependence between the states), as well as to examine the commercial origins of these first campaign items – produced by the button makers of New York and Connecticut to capitalise on the new nation’s enthusiasm for its independence, its leaders, and its political process.
Samples of many other items can be found from campaigns through over 200 years of American elections. As well as illustrating the campaigns from which they come, these items form a history of artisan produced materials, and of the development of mass-production, as campaigners looked for viable media with which to project their messages. Any manufactured goods in the late 1700s and early 1800s could rarely be described as cheap, but accessible formats were found: a drawing of John Adams, printed on paper, is mounted in a glass brooch; a late eighteenth century Wedgwood plate carries the image of a slave in chains, and the slogan ‘Am I not a Man and a Brother’. Simple printed materials were most used, of course, and a handbill from 1828 shows the early emergence of vigorously negative campaigning, picturing, as it does, a series of coffins symbolising the soldiers that it accuses Andrew Jackson of having illegitimately executed. Early paper ballots printed by the campaigns indicate the way that elections were conducted before the neutral (in America, the ‘Australian’) ballot was introduced.
A sample of materials from the 1840 campaign shows the value of a theme. An article in the Baltimore Republican claimed that candidate William Henry Harrison was an unworthy figure who would be content with cider and a log cabin, and should be left to spend his life in these conditions. It was an unwise accusation in a nation where the franchise was expanding rapidly, and much of that expansion was taking place in the self-sufficient frontier states. The Harrison campaign printed log cabins on fabric, flags and medals. Log cabin ceramic pots were created, and real log cabins were put on wheels and used in parades. A campaign theme, and a lasting presidential myth, were firmly established.
By the 1860 election the modern campaign button came a step closer, with the production of metal-framed brooches containing tin-types of the candidates. As in earlier cases, entrepreneurs were producing versions of these picturing each of the candidates, and selling direct to the public for profit. Artefacts can be found to illustrate the important minor candidacies for the presidency – for example the 1872 announcement by Victoria Woodhull that she would challenge for the presidency, and items from the various significant Socialist campaigns for president by Eugene Debs. Changing technology and taste are indicated by the shift from messages printed on silk ribbons, most popular in the early and mid nineteenth century, to ornamental torches used in street parades in the later nineteenth century, and decorative household items popular into the twentieth century. The modern campaign button emerges in the 1890s, invented by Whitehead and Hoag, and first used extensively in the McKinley election of 1896.
There is still a bewildering variety of campaign items produced, by candidate campaigns, interest groups, and by entrepreneurs. As well as the ubiquitous lapel button, there are buttons that flash, video tapes delivered door to door, sweets, bubble gum cigars, tee shirts, jewellery, hats, and, in a recent election in Boston, small bags of carrots (to indicate the candidate’s ‘vision’). The non-perishable items among these can help recall and give life to campaigns by losers, winners and also-rans, to minor parties as well as major, to issues of the time, to the emergence of women, black and ethnic candidates – and to campaigns at all levels of government, throughout the history of the USA.
Archival items can also be put together to explore the resonance of a particular theme over time in US democracy. The problem of US involvement in Vietnam was present as only a background shadow in the campaigns of Eisenhower and in the 1960 competition between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, but items relating to Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson in 1964 vibrate with the issue – especially the video tapes of probably the most famous TV campaign ad of all time, Tony Schwartz’s ‘Daisy Girl’. The resistance and anti-war movement begins producing large amounts of powerful material in the 1960s, and all the candidates in 1968 – including minor party candidates like Dr Spock and Dick Gregory – provide artefacts that give depth to our vision of the times.
There is a continuing wealth of material that provides witness to the continuing echoes of this issue in American elections. I shall mention just a few examples. Campaign material exists from the elections of Father Bob Drinan, elected to a congressional seat from Massachusetts on a platform solely directed against the war, who stood down after several terms in office when the Pope insisted that Catholic priests should not pursue elected office. Paul McCloskey stands in the primaries against Nixon in 1972, as a Republican peace candidate, but fares no better against the incumbent than does the Democratic candidate George McGovern. The campaign literature of minor parties of the left through the rest of the twentieth century stress their candidates’ origins in the anti-war movement, while one right-wing candidate of the late twentieth century, ‘Bo’ Gritz, claimed in his literature that he had been the inspiration for the Rambo series of movies. Bumper sticker and poster warnings against Ronald Reagan (‘In Your Heart You Know He Might’), and against US operations in Central America (‘Remember Vietnam’) draw on the cultural memory of the war in South East Asia.
Returned veterans such as Admiral Denton, John McCain, Al Gore, John F. Kerry, Bob Kerrey and other candidates of both major political parties learn to use their Vietnam experience in different ways in their campaign literature – looking for the spin that allows their experience to give credibility to their current positions. Vietnam veteran campaign literature is not confined to major national candidates, nor to major parties. A recent Green Party candidate for local office in New Mexico referred to her experience as an Army Nurse in Vietnam. And Vietnam veterans have organised into political groups to encourage campaign activity.
In 1988 the nomination of J. Danforth Quayle as Republican vice presidential candidate brought Vietnam experience to the fore. Political intervention by his family ensured that Quayle served out the war by joining the Indiana National Guard and spending occasional brief periods on domestic training programmes. The campaign buttons express the division of public opinion that resulted, supporters producing ‘Weekend Warriors for Quayle’ badges, while opponents sent out biting the lapel-message ‘I fought the War in Indiana’. In the 2000 election another Republican whose parents helped him find a war berth in the National Guard, George W. Bush managed to see off a genuine Republican Vietnam War hero, John McCain, and a sceptical, but participating Vietnam Veteran, Al Gore. Both McCain and Gore used their records in campaign materials, while the situation of George W. gave reason for reflection on the reaction of his father George H.’s reaction to the Quayle affair, 12 years earlier. It may be that this signals the end of Vietnam echoes in US elections, but future campaign materials will tell whether this is so.
In 2001 the UK election exposed another value in a US election archive. There has been a great deal of talk about the trans-Atlantic transfer of campaign methods, but this election appeared to provide a clear example of this influence in the modelling of a Conservative election broadcast on advertisements from the Republican anti-Dukakis campaign of 1988. The Conservatives used two of their five TV slots to deliver the same three-minute long party election broadcast alleging the government’s failure to tackle crime, and properly to enforce punishment. In particular the broadcast concentrated on early release of criminals, and the numbers of these who re-offended, listing the violent crimes and rapes that had been detected among this group. The broadcast appeared to draw heavily on two much briefer advertisements from the 1988 US campaign. The ‘Revolving Door’ ad used images of prisoners entering a corrections facility and then apparently leaving unimpeded through a gate similar to that used in sports stadia. The Bush/Quayle campaign used this ad to attack a prisoner furlough programme that operated in Massachusetts during Dukakis’ gubernatorial term. A parallel spot ad in the 1988 campaign was financed by a Political Action Committee, supposedly independent of the official Bush/Quayle campaign, and concentrated in particular on the furlough given to Willie Horton, who committed assault and rape while on leave from his Massachusetts prison. The Conservative 2001 broadcast seemed to be based firmly on these two spot ads, and the Conservative media campaign seemed committed to the attack and negative style exemplified by these. The use of archived tape material to examine these broadcasts back to back can stimulate vigorous debate on the nature of elections both in the USA and UK, and on the potential Americanisation, or perhaps globalisation, of campaigning.
The archive that I use is the result of three decades of fairly undisciplined acquisition. It is planned that the archive will eventually be lodged at the Rothermere Institute for American Studies at the University of Oxford, where is will be accessible to researchers and teachers of US elections. It is nonetheless not difficult to create a small pedagogical collection of items from current and recent elections that can prove extremely valuable in focusing the attention of a study group, help direct discussion of matters theoretical, practical, administrative, and policy-oriented, and generally give life to a distant democratic process.
City Sites: an electronic book
City Sites is part of the 3 Cities research project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board, and is based at the University of Birmingham and at the University of Nottingham. It is an inter- and multi-disciplinary study of the iconography, spatial forms and visual and literary cultures of New York and Chicago in the period 1870s to 1930s. City Sites is the result of collaborative research by scholars from Europe and the U.S.A and presents a pioneering approach to American urbanism utilising analytical possibilities offered by new multimedia technologies.
The electronic book consists of the following elements:
- a welcome page, which provides initial navigational guidance for the user;
- a short introduction to the project and the governing methodological principles of the work. This overview section introduces users to the navigational pathways which structure the book and also introduces the contributors to the project, our sponsors and situates the project within the context of the larger Three Cities collaboration.
- ten essays, written by academics from Europe and the U.S.A.;
- a set of nominated pathways to facilitate non-linear navigation of the electronic book;
- hyperlinks that allow movement across essays following individual topics and hyperlinks to external sites dealing with American urbanism;
- interactive annotated maps of New York and Chicago;
- an annotated bibliography.
The overall intention is to demonstrate that multimedia technology can enhance traditional methods of analysis of urban culture, rather than simply using the technology to archive research materials or make the research ‘look good’.
It hardly needs saying that work on urban space and representation is at the forefront of research in the broad area of Cultural Studies. Consequently, the individual ‘essays’ offer interpretative arguments that are comparable with those which would appear in a regular quality academic journal or groundbreaking collection of essays but which take advantage of the technology to develop innovative ways of analysing visual and textual material. This electronic book is not simply inter-disciplinary but stays ‘live’ and provides links to the resources and other research upon which the authors have drawn in their essays and upon which their readers – it is hoped – can draw in their subsequent research.
The whole book can be read and used in a relatively conventional way – text, illustrations and cited works are introduced and used sequentially; but it works just as well through its non-linear forms of analytic engagement with the materials: the reader can follow one of several ‘pathways’ through the e-book (for example, along a ‘transportation’ or an ‘architecture’ pathway). These pathways connect different essays and different city sites, promoting exploration of the multimedia environment and suggesting alternative engagements with the city sites in each contribution.
These are accessible from an overall content page (anchored by images of the city sites) from which the user may enter each individual essay. Each essay commences from an establishing image of an individual site, which focuses the analysis on the visual dimension of the piece while allowing an outward movement to larger urban concerns (economic, political, technological, cultural, and aesthetic as appropriate to each essay). Each essay is rich in visual material, and develops new ways of studying urban culture through interactive engagement with essay analysis. This is facilitated through the use of ‘live’ bibliographical links to ongoing external web projects on American urbanism, through supplementary material such as graphs, charts, statistics and historical information which can be integrated within the multimedia essay form and through the use of moving image and sound. Even when readers go to an external site, a new City Sites mechanism keeps them within the overall framework of the book, so they can return easily after exploration of the external resource. Illustrations are also raised to new levels of fitness and usefulness: for example, annotated maps are supplemented by viewable images of important areas and buildings. The ‘sites’ dealt with in the book are also marked on the maps, so locating individual essays within geographical and historical contexts. A ‘live’ annotated bibliography, detailing printed and online resources, serves all ten essays. It can be accessed from any point in the book – viewed in a pop up – or browsed as an autonomous section.
Each essay may be read as a whole, or the user may choose to begin the essay at any one of its subsections and move back and forth between essay sections and across different essays. Within the argument of each essay there is likely to be an opening out: for example, from the particular image and site to the general; from the visual to the social/quotidian; from the spatial to the historical; and from the American to the comparative European dimension. The essays combine the specificity of historical analysis, based upon archival sources, with a theoretical awareness of such current issues as spatial/cognitive mapping.
Dr Maria Balshaw, ‘From Lenox to Seventh Avenue: the Visual Iconography of the “Negro Capital of the World”‘
Dr Anna Notaro: ‘Constructing the Futurist City: The Skyline’.
Professor Douglas Tallack, ‘The Rhetoric of Space: Jacob Riis and New York City’s Lower East Side’.
Professor Eric Sandeen, ‘Signs of the Times: Waiting for the Millennium in Times Square’.
Mr John Walsh, ‘The Attraction of the Flatiron Building: construction Processes’.
Dr William Boelhower, ‘The Mysteries of Chicago: Floating in a Sea of Signs’.
Dr Jude Davies, ‘Meeting Places: Shopping for Selves in Chicago and New York’.
Dr Christopher Gair, ‘Whose America? White City and the Shaping of National Identity, 1883-1905’.
Dr Liam Kennedy, ‘Black Metropolis: The Space of the Street in the Art of Archibald Motley Jr’.
Prof Max Page, ‘Maxwell Street and the Crucible of Culture’.
Like all successful monographs, City Sites connects with other resources and other scholars’ work, not least on the associated 3Cities project web site at www.3cities.org.
The electronic book was published by the University of Birmingham Press in December 2000 as a dedicated web site. To mark the publication there was an official launch on 11 December in the Mason Lounge, Arts Building, The University of Birmingham. The entire electronic book is available in CD-ROM form, as a ‘published’ outcome.
If you would like to view City Sites go to
Legal image: copyright issues in the visual world
The copyright issues surrounding visual images vary from country to country so it is worth taking a look at the laws in both the UK and the USA to see what the differences are and how far they overlap sufficiently to prevent unnecessary misunderstanding. However, it must be remembered that copyright law is national in character so that the law of the country where actions take place or the material is held is the important issue. So a photographer taking photos in the US will be controlled by US law but, if those photographs are then exported to the UK, it will be UK law that determines what may be done with them within the UK. This can lead to a mismatch of expectations and often causes misunderstandings.
A work cannot be copyright unless it is (a) original and (b) fixed in some way so that it could be reproduced. So, for example, a photocopy of a document does not attract copyright because it is merely a “slavish” copy, not original. This can cause real problems in the case of photographs of paintings. Although many experts would say that a photograph of a painting is a separate copyright work, because it has taken skill and technical knowledge to create the photograph, there has been a case where the judge ruled that such a photograph did not attract copyright because it was simply a copy. He further ruled that the more like the original painting the photograph became, the less likely it was to be copyright because it became simply an exact copy. This topic has given rise to much argument!
In the case of fixation, this is more obvious. If an object does not exist long enough to be copied or in a form which can be copied then it cannot be copyright. Although it is hard to imagine an image which is not fixed, one example could be emails with artistic attachments which, once viewed, are permanently deleted. Although they may have been copyright for a few moments the rights are lost when the work is deleted. However, if there is a proper record of the work then it will still be in copyright even if the original has been destroyed. A famous example is the portrait of Sir Winston Churchill painted by Sir Graham Sutherland. The Churchills hated the painting and burnt it but, because photographs of the painting still exist, so does the copyright. It is called the Cheshire Cat Syndrome! Another example of a visual image which would not be fixed might be a hologram projected onto a wall but which has not been photographed (or recorded on video).
The two main elements of visual recordings are photographs and films. They are defined differently in the two countries:
Recording of light or other radiation on any medium on which an image is produced or from which an image may by any means be produced, and which is not part of a film
No legal definition
For films (and videos)
A “film” as a recording on any medium from which a moving image may by any means be produced.
“Motion pictures” are audiovisual works consisting of a series of related images which, when shown in succession, impart an impression of motion, together with accompanying sounds, if any.
Copyright rarely lasts forever and is generally linked to the death of the author. Both countries now offer 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died (.i.e. always 31.12 of any given year). However, this means we need to know who is the author. In US law this is defined as Under the copyright law, the creator of the original expression in a work is its author but under UK law the author is the photographer in the case of photographs and the producer and the principal director in the case of films. But life is never simple in the Copyright World. For under UK law, the duration of copyright in a film is determined, not by the death of the Producer and Principal Director but by the death of the last to die of the following:
The principal director
The author of the screenplay
The author of the dialogue
The composer of music specially created for and used in the film.
The trick is, therefore, if you are a very elderly Principal Director to find a very young author for the screenplay to ensure copyright lasts for a very long time after you die.
When a work is anonymous then more complex rules come into force depending on if, and when, the work was first created or published. In the UK copyright lasts for
70 years from year of creation but, if published in that time, 70 years from first publication (giving a possible maximum of 139 years). In the US such copyright lasts for 120 years from creation or 95 years from publication whichever expires first.
The situation is totally different in each country. In the US the Copyright Acts specifically states “Copyright protection” is not available to any work of the Government of the United Sates of America”. This mean just what it says – any work created by the US Government is not liable for copyright protection. This does not mean that other works owned by the US Government as part of a contract, gift or legacy cannot be protected – they can. But US Government originated works cannot. So they can be freely reprinted, downloaded, used in websites or anything else provided their integrity is maintained.
In the UK a different approach prevails but it is becoming less and less rigorous. The Crown owns all copyright in material created by employees of the Crown (i.e. Her Majesty and Her Government and all ministerial departments). This right lasts for 125 years from creation but for 50 years from the date of publication with a maximum of 125 years. Crown photographs published before 1.8.89 are protected for 50 years maximum. Unpublished Crown photographs taken before that date are protected until 2039.
Although the author has been defined, it is the owner who is really important in both legal traditions. Copyright is essentially a property right so establishment of ownership is vital. Although the author is usually the first owner s/he may transfer the rights by sale, gift or licence to anyone else they choose. On the other hand, the rights in any work created as part of employment in either country is owned by the employer. The rights given to the owner are exclusive and are defined in each country as follows
|Distribute, lend or rent||Issue copies to the public, lend, rent|
|Perform||Perform, show or play|
|Prepare derivative works||Adapt/translate|
Note that in the UK authors have no rights to prevent display of a work, whereas they do in the US.
It is also worth noting that personal images are carefully protected in the US but not in the UK. For example, it would not be allowed to use a photo of someone as background to an advertisement in the US but this is perfectly legal in the UK. In the US is a famous case of a man seeing an advertisement for a product to reduce cellulite which used a photograph of his wife’s buttocks (which he recognised, so he said, by their dimples). He complained that the image had been used without her permission. Such a case would not work in the UK although how the image was obtained without the wife’s permission remains a mystery.
Use of copyright images
Although copyright is an exclusive right of the copyright owner, legislation usually makes allowances for other people to use such material in limited ways provided it does not damage the interests of the copyright owner. In the UK this is broadly referred to as “fair dealing” and in the US as “fair use”. The purposes are defined slightly differently in each country.
|Fair Use||Fair dealing|
|Criticism or comment||Criticism or review|
|News reporting||Reporting current events*|
|Scholarship||Research & private study**|
* Photographs are specifically excluded from use for reporting current events.
** Films and videos are excluded from use for research or private study.
In the US there are four texts for fair use which the court would use – (a) amount taken; (b) use to which it is put; (c) the nature of the material; (d) the damage to the economic expectations of the owner. Fair dealing in the UK is not so tested and each case would be viewed on it merits.
Recent cases in the UK have shown that the courts consider “current events” to be a much wider term than was thought. They have upheld this defence in two cases where the actual events took place nearly two years before the use of the copyright material took place. However, the court ruled that the content of the material (a security video in one case and a TV interview in the other) was still of current interest because it shed light on other issues currently before the public.
Copying by libraries and archives
Copying by libraries or archives on behalf of their users, for interlibrary purposes or for preservation is allowed in the US but UK law specifically excludes artistic works from any of the privileges extended to libraries or archives.
As can be seen, there are considerable differences in some aspects of UK and US law relating to the copyright of images. However, the rule about national law needs to be remembered because this will lead to disparity in practice and can often result in misunderstandings. Provided everyone remembers that different countries approach these issues independently a lot of unnecessary irritation as well as time and energy can be avoided.
Digital America – online images
The intention of this presentation is to raise questions rather than give answers, questions about the relationship between American Studies, Images, and the Internet, that you may want to think about. And, more usefully, to direct you to resources and ways of using resources that will help you to create your own answers to those questions.
This talk is somewhat anecdotal, rather than technologically flashy or theoretically academic, because hype about the Internet often conceals the ‘nuts and bolts’ of using it and can be off-putting to both novices and the experienced (who have tended to hear it all anyway). What this talk offers is some practical advice based on actual experience of using the web in learning and teaching, for those who wish to give it a go.
My first anecdote, then, stretches back to the dark ages of 1994 – when I first began using the Internet for research as part of an MA in American Studies at the University of Maryland. This was a pre-Netscape era. The web browser then, as some of you may also remember, was Lynx, a Unix program; menu-based and arrow, rather than mouse, controlled. Most pertinent to this talk, it could not download or display images. December 1994 saw the first release of Netscape, and thereby the Internet was transformed into a visual medium. In the six years since this first release a visual, aural and textual revolution has taken place of which few can be unaware. The Internet foisted upon us the need to consider new forms of evidence other than the written, to become critically aware of non-textual evidence and develop expertise in analysis of images outside of the disciplines of art history or material culture studies. (Proof that it is a visual medium: who has ever read a book online? Despite the much hyped end of the book in the early days of the Internet, there’s little evidence that people prefer reading online to printed text).
But to place this in another perspective, if we compare the development of the Internet with the development of television, we are still only in 1934. My point is, that we cannot ignore or underestimate the potential influences of the Internet – on America, the World, and the way we learn about, or teach that world – and that we are still at a stage of very early development. At this early stage, it may greatly benefit our future educational development, to consider the ways in which the Internet may change or transform our teaching and learning strategies, and by doing so, help to shape the medium still in its infancy.
The Whys and Hows of Using the Internet for American Studies
(Please see http://www2.mistral.co.uk/velocity/digital/whys.html )
American Studies are positioned to benefit greatly from the use of the Internet; for the study of a geographical area and culture the Internet can provide immediate access to local news, cultural events, inaccessible archives, and statistical information that was previously unavailable from within the UK. American Studies particularly “suits” use of the Internet, a medium which “propels” the user into interdisciplinarity and encourages independent primary source research. A multi-media medium which demotes the text as the primary source of “evidence”.
At its best (and why many of us were attracted to the discipline) American studies is devoted to multiple forms of evidence, interdisciplinarity, non-hierarchical learning and deconstructive methodologies which make its relationship with the Internet, if not a marriage, then at least an engagement.
At the same time, the Internet may change some of the ways we teach and learn about America. For many non-US students, the Internet may be the primary way that they access and see images of the United States.
Equally, American Studies within the US higher education system has been changed by the Internet. Many American Universities are now incorporating the Internet into undergraduate and graduate seminars. The technology is being utilised in a variety of ways – according to student numbers, the subject, the resources and technology available, faculty training, and varying student levels and skills. It appears then, that most universities are individually tailoring the use of the Internet to fit their usual course needs and requirements. This “tailoring” takes as much preparation as any new course and does not just consist of tapping the Internet or adding a few relevant web sites to a reading list. American Studies students outside of the US need to have equal access and support using the resources available to their American counterparts, if they are to produce scholarship of international standing on a par with their American equivalents.
Much has been said and written about the Internet, yet little of practical use for teachers, researchers, students and librarians, about how we can incorporate this potentially explosive resource. This presentation has the simple aim of illustrating how practitioners in American Studies may utilise and benefit from the Internet – and will show you where to go next to find out more.
Please see American Studies workshop page at http://www2.mistral.co.uk/velocity/baas/baaswork.html. Indicates a self-guided 40 minute workshop at http://www2.mistral.co.uk/velocity/digital/instructions.html.
See also the Crossroads site – the main American Studies resource on the Internet, available at: http://www.georgetown.edu/crossroads.
The following list indicates some of the more popular ways that the Internet is being used as a learning and teaching resource:
1. Email. Course listservs (discussion groups) are set up so that groups of students can contact each other about the course content, problems they are having, findings they have made or to make queries about possible sources. A course instructor can moderate, observe or add comments to the discussion just as they would in a seminar. Students can also email essay proposals or full essays to the course instructor – these essays could be multimedia presentations which include images, film clips or sounds. Moderated academic discussion groups also exist for many topics/fields, most of these have searchable archives that anyone can access without joining the mailing list – making available the discussions of specialists and experts in the field. (For collections of US based discussion groups click on http://www.n2h2.com/KOVACS/ UK lists can be found at http://www.mailbase.ac.uk )
2. Comparative & Evaluative. Students are given similar sources in print and electronic forms and are asked to compare the different information sources available. This is usually an entry level course that attempts to sharpen critical awareness as well as give some familiarity with online information sources.
3. Electronic Archives. The Internet is used as an archive of information sources – key sites are given alongside reading lists and the students are encouraged to explore further for their assigned essay topic. Some courses have taken this a bit further and give an online reading list, with links to information sources, online essays, lectures or other hypertext-style presentations. The Internet also makes available non-print learning materials: photographs, moving images, advertisements and sound recordings. For many students and teachers this makes for more exciting and dynamic teaching resources. As a researcher, the digitisation of non-print resources has made them more accessible and easy to find via word searches on Internet databases.
4. Online Exhibitions. This type of use of the Internet is particularly suitable to interdisciplinary courses – where students are encouraged to explore a topic of their choice from a multi or interdisciplinary perspective. Students write their essays in basic html (taught over a few hours in the classroom) and present their ideas as web sites. They are allowed to include, or quote, information they find online, but must include a minimum amount of their own writing (for example, 6 pages). The web sites enable the students to link to other related or interdisciplinary subjects, include graphics or sound, and to present their ideas in non-linear format. This type of course normally requires group work, often in pairs, and requires some technological instruction in using html. (This can be learned quite quickly in a computer workshop or with a handbook of instructions). The final paper, or online exhibition, can be posted on a web site for all course participants to view at their leisure – comments on each others’ work can be posted on a listserv. Educators have noted that this type of presentation encourages students to become aware of their responsibilities as creators of publicly accessible information or images (as opposed to information or image recipients).
5. Overseas communication and collaboration. The Internet is also being used to establish contact with foreign scholars and institutions so that studies can be placed in a global context. Time spent abroad can be made less daunting or lonely, and can become more fruitful by arranging prior contact and communication between the visitor and the host institution or students – this could be in a variety of forms from web-based postings, email discussions, joint institution web sites, to live web-conferencing.
My own experience of using images from the Internet is illustrated by the web-page I’ve created for this talk, and includes a few other resources which may become of interest to scholars in the future.
Please see: http://www2.mistral.co.uk/digital/digital.html
The first set of images are images I used in my own doctoral research on leisure during the 1930s (three of the 27 were pivotal to my argument – which was mainly based on printed resources).
The first image provided me with evidence which contrasted with the written sources I had been using which indicated that the primary concern over leisure was concern with adult use of leisure – whereas many Work Projects Administration (WPA) images focused on more “propagandistic” children’s use of leisure. Located by using the National Archives search facility this image is one of many thousands available as primary source research material.
The second image is one from the Duke University collection of advertisements – AdAccess – which I used to corroborate my argument that eugenic thinking was behind developments in leisure which promoted education, personal management, and self-help counselling, all of which promised to fit, or streamline, citizens to their modern surroundings.
The third image, found at the WPA poster collection at the Library of Congress, corroborated my argument that there was a new “Taylorizing” of leisure in place of work during the 30s – illustrated by the compartmentalising of various activities, and with a clock placed centrally within the leisure poster. Again, one of millions of visual resources available to non-US based researchers.
The next two images are illustrations from a course I taught at Sussex, titled ‘Women in North American Society’. I was a tutorial fund tutor and didn’t create the course, but this page enabled me to overcome some of the practical problems I encountered with student numbers and access to materials (too many students, not enough books, the course was not to be run again). I was able to bypass the problem that the library only had a handful of books on Emily Carr, the Canadian painter, as resources on the web about her were teaming. By pointing them to the art of their contemporaries, the page also enabled students to make deeper contextual analysis of the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe, and the not so well-known Emily Carr, placing them in relation to the art movements which had impacted their work. In addition, many students (not art history majors) learned how to download, cite and incorporate images into their essays for the first time.
The other links I’ve created also take you to other kinds of multimedia images and evidence, which you can examine at a later date. Technical problems (may need a RealPlayer) and time of download may still be a problem for some – most obviously with the CNN site, which is clunky and of low visual quality. But seeing as this is only 1934 in development terms – many things can be expected from these resources yet!
The Internet is not being used solely as a new type of encyclopaedia – many course tutors are using the Internet as a communications tool between students and researchers, or as a site to disseminate information and new ideas as well as a point to access them. With this in mind, the end goal of many Internet projects is the presentation of findings to a community of scholars (for example, in the form of an online exhibition) as much as the discovery of previously inaccessible information sources.
As well as becoming a teaching tool, the Internet has introduced new topics for consideration by the academic community in all disciplines – these include issues of pedagogy, information technology and power, the analysis of visual culture, electronic communities and hypertextual narratives. Debates concerning the influence of the Internet as a new mass media are of interest to scholars from literature to the social sciences. One promising use made of the Internet in American university courses include critical methods of evaluating the Internet as an information source and discussions on the construction of “truth” and “information”.
Apart from the case of some distance learning style courses (not covered here), the use of the Internet has not yet greatly changed the role of the university instructor – the new medium has been incorporated into the traditional classroom quite easily where the instructor has made adequate preparation, has access to IT resources, and has some technological awareness. Large class sizes are a particular problem in American universities – some courses have utilised the Internet as a way of supplementing communication between the instructor and the class members and as an arena of mass presentation. Some course instructors use the Internet to spoon feed students the required amounts of information in an online lecture format. However, the nature of the Internet means that if adequate hyperlinks are given, students will inevitably follow a trail not designed by a course instructor. While there is a need to teach some computer skills, the skills are more easily learned as part of a research paper exercise that relates to the students’ field of interest, than as a computer course per se. Alongside these technical skills, however, is the need to develop visual literacy and critical awareness – so that students of American Studies develop a sophisticated approach. For this, we need to ask and answer such questions as: how visual materials are used to negotiate cultural authority, what are the strengths and weaknesses of using visual materials as evidence of the American experience, what do images tend to obscure or distort? And on a more practical level, what are the pedagogical approaches to analysing graphic images, and how do we conduct or guide research in electronic image archives for American Studies.
The speaker began by explaining that all information and links mentioned in this talk are available as part of the website she created for the talk at http://www2.mistral.co.uk/velocity
I would like to draw brief attention to NewsBank’s most important America Studies materials.
Chicago Tribune Archive. This is our newest, exciting, web delivered, resource. The Chicago Tribune, one of the premier US newspapers, has been continuously published since 1849. It is now the first newspaper to digitise its entire back file. It will offer 56,000 front page, fully searchable images, from 1849, plus 15,000 significant articles from 1900 and 1,000,000 obituaries and death notices all in fully searchable image. The project is now half way through its three-year programme and considerable pre-publication discounts are presently available.
Newsfile. A full text web database that offers regional, state-wide and national perspectives on US issues and events. With a back file to 1992, 90,000 articles are taken and indexed each year from 500 US newspapers. These give a unique insight into the facts and broad range of US opinion from back yard to White House on every significant issue. Newsfile also covers theatre, film and book reviews.
Early American Imprints. This landmark collection has two parts: Evans which contains the full text in microform of virtually every non-serial title published in America between 1639 and 1800 as listed in the Evans Bibliography. The second, Shaw-Shoemaker, offers all non-serial titles published during the period of tremendous US growth from 1801 and 1819. You get much more than books, pamphlets and broadsides, you get published reports, letters, messages from Presidents; Congressional, state and territorial resolutions.
Four Centuries of American Plays. Every American play is included in this superb collection, full text in microform from the fledgling American theatre in 1714 to the end of the nineteenth century. The collection contains some 5,500 plays represented in the first edition, all-important subsequent editions plus acting editions and prompt books.
American Women’s Diaries. This is a collection of ” history in the making” as expressed in personal accounts. These diaries, written during the formative years of the US, have over 800 items in three segments, rich in invaluable perspectives of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. ‘New England Women’, ‘Southern Women’ and ‘Western Women’ reflect the major issues of their day: movements, social upheavals and national and international developments as well as a women’s role in society, marriage, family and illness.
Early American Newspapers. An almost exhaustive set of US newspapers from the beginning of newspaper publication to the early twentieth century, full text on microfilm. A full title list is available and titles may be purchased separately.
European Americana. Six printed volumes setting out a chronological guide to every work printed in Europe relating to the Americas from 1493 to 1750. It is generally acknowledged that this work will, for most purposes, supersede Joseph Sabin’s European bibliotheca, which is alphabetically arranged and has no indexes. European Americana includes many more works than Sabin, in part because of research areas of Americana that Sabin neglected such as literature and natural science.
David Newman, NewsBank can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Primary Source Microfilm
Primary Source Microfilm, an imprint of the Gale Group, has spent the last 35 years building one of the world’s largest microform archives of exclusive primary source materials and to provide access to rare, valuable source materials for subjects including humanities, social sciences and international news.
Primary Source Microfilm is pleased to present selected titles from our Primary Sources for North American History catalogue offering our unique collections focusing on specific regions of North America.
The Sabin Collection
From Joseph Sabin’s Bibliotheca Americana: A Dictionary of Books Relating to America from its Discovery to the Present Time’.
- Declassified Documents Reference System – microfiche and online
DDRS has become a major and highly respected source of information about United States post-World War II domestic policy and international relations.
Anti-Slavery Propaganda Collection from Oberlin College, 1835 to 1863.
Slavery: A subset of the Sabin Collection.
Slavery, Source material and Critical Literature.
- Native Americans
Iroquois Indians: A Documentary History.
Indians of North America: A subset of the Sabin Collection.
Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
Records of the Moravian mission among the Indians of North America.
- Early American History
Travels in the Old South 1607 – 1860.
Sources of Massachusetts Legal History, 1628 – 1839.
Western American Frontier History 1550 to 1900.
Witchcraft in Early New England.
America, Britain and the War of Independence.
Partnership Purchasing: In order to make some of our larger microform collections more easily accessible to a greater number of libraries, Primary Source Microfilm are happy to discuss ‘Partnership Purchasing’ schemes, whereby a small group of libraries making a purchase of a given collection would have duplicate copies available to all group members at consortium style rates.
For further information on this and to confirm pricing for the above collections, please contact a Primary Source Microfilm sales representative
Northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland
Tel: 0207 2572988
Fax: 0207 2572940
Regional Sales Manager
Southern England and Wales
Tel: 0207 2572989
Fax: 0207 2572940
Visit us on www.galegroup.com/psm
Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Culture. Edited by Gary W. McDonough, Robert Gregg and Cindy H Wong. ISBN 0415161614. Routledge, £85.00, 839pp.
Reviewed by Jean Kemble, Eccles Centre for American Studies, The British Library.
Well aware of the ever-increasing number of scholarly monographs and reference sources devoted to this subject, the editors of this Encyclopedia sensibly regard their work as a “clearinghouse” on contemporary American culture. It is their intention that this intermediary guide should provide concise, open information, outline debates and resources, and give multiple readings of the American enterprise. Not surprisingly, they define their subject carefully: “American” means the United States; Contemporary means post-1945; while “Culture” embraces facets of “high culture,” including the arts, sciences and academic studies and “mass culture” associated with mass media and consumption.
Enlisted to this project are American and non-American contributors living in the US and abroad. They include not only academics but also business people, doctors, clergy, journalists, workers, poets and students. Their articles have been categorised by length and breadth, reflecting topical complexity as well as a rough gauge of their importance to an understanding of American culture. Articles of 2000 words are designed to provide comprehensive overviews of analytic categories such as gender, race and class as well fundamental spaces and issues of American culture including the city, religion, food and popular culture. Those of 1000-1500 words cover both issues in the study of America and primary topics – homelessness, popular culture, and institutions of government feature here. Finally, 200 articles of 500-1000 words ‘provide critical tools for the reader in making sense of events, processes, periods and personages of the American century.’
Inevitably, any work of this type will at some time prompt the reader to exclaim: why is this in here, or why was that excluded. Yet, the editors’ parameters will surely answer most such cries robustly: as a single volume it is perfectly acceptable that only the cultural key players can be included; on a broad-canvas Barbie may certainly follow Samuel Barber, and horror films may come right behind Bob Hope. Indeed, the juxtaposition of such subjects is perhaps one of its best, albeit incidental, assets.
To help the reader fully utilise the Encyclopedia’s potential, extensive cross-referencing is provided throughout, thereby facilitating the editors desire that multiple perspectives be explored. Likewise, the thematic entry list allows the reader to see at a glance which topics have been chosen to illuminate thirty-four broad subject areas including education, crime and police, mass media and journalism, and urbanism and suburbs. Without exception, the long thematic articles provide the reader with comprehensive overviews of their subjects as well as pertinent if sometimes short bibliographies to enable him to pursue his interest further; short bibliographies are also provided with many of 1000 word articles too.
In all this work, although clearly open to some debate as to inclusion and exclusion, is a useful guide to the rapidly changing landscape that is contemporary American culture.Archive