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Finally, spring! It took a while to come, but nice weather has arrived in Ontario and my sap is rising too. After a hectic end to the term, I'm finally feeling energetic and ambitious (enough to blog) again. So here's what I'm working on right now.

Project 1: the thesis book!
I've been revising my PhD thesis into a book on and off throughout the the fall and winter terms using materials I gathered in Japan last summer. Now I'm happy to say that I've finished enough to take that first step and send off a book proposal to the University of Minnesota Press! The revised project is titled "Frictive Pictures: The Animation of Transcultural Fan Communities, 1906-2012," and as the title suggests it uses the concept of "friction" rather than global "flow" to discuss connection-across-difference in anime fandom.

In case I've condensed that so much it makes no sense at all, here's the opening blurb from my :

Frictive Pictures: The Animation of Transcultural Fan Communities, 1906-2012 examines the role that animation plays in the growth of transcultural fan communities. A “transcultural fan community” is a group in which members from many national, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds find a sense of connection across difference. Its members engage with each other through a shared interest while negotiating the conflicts that result from their differing social and historical backgrounds. While there are many loci for fan communities, such as science fiction conventions and film star fan clubs, animation has proven to be a distinct, enduring, and particularly mobile vehicle for transcultural connection. This book reveals how animation spectatorship in North America and East Asia has been shaped and reshaped by the changing media technologies used to make and watch cartoons over the course of a century.

Overall, this book traces three broad moments of historical and technological shift. First, it introduces how animation’s earliest international audiences were shaped by the export of theatrical film from the United States to countries as far abroad as Japan and Uruguay during the 1930s-40s. Second, it outlines the birth of the modern anime fan cultures formed through the broadcasting of Japanese animated television series in the United States and Canada in the 1960s-90s, including both children’s fan clubs and adult subcultures. Third, it explores the diverse new online fandoms for South Korean, Japanese, and transcultural web-cartoons enabled by digital file sharing and streaming video on the internet since the year 2000. Though the book’s structure is chronological in organization, it does not assume that all audiences follow a determined linear progression from one fixed stage of media globalization to the next. Rather, it illustrates the different communities that have crystallized in particular national, historical, and technological contexts, envisioned as moments of shift and friction.

Fingers crossed the acquiring editor likes the chapters I've sent!

Project 2: conferences
I'm also working on next year's round of conference papers now, in order to get proposals in on time. I've been invited by the University of Miami's amazingly-connected Daisy Yan Du to take part in a panel on East Asian Animation at the 2014 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Seattle. For SCMS I want to do something new, so I'm going a more media-studies route and examining how animation creates "haptic visuality," or the sensation of tactile and embodied experience, especially weight and weightlessness. This one is tentatively titled "Weighing Imbalance: Haptic Visuality in Japanese and South Korean Cinematic Animation"

If you'd like to read that proposal, have a look under the

East Asian animation is often seen as a visual medium that presents new perspectives for the visual arts. A major example can be found in the “animetic” style of flat, layered Japanese anime identified by Thomas Lamarre (2009) and expanded by scholars such as Marc Steinberg (2012) and Miho Nakagawa (2013). In contrast, “cinematic” anime, with its full animation, rounded character design, and “movement into depth,” is often aligned with Western animation’s naturalism, Cartesian perspectivalism, and mainstream commercialism.

Still, as Lamarre also notes, cinematic anime is not a monolithic entity, but may contain internal contradictions and aesthetic intermixes worth exploring. For instance, alongside visual depictions of movement into depth, we might also look at the countertendency towards animating movement haptically as weight or weightlessness: a sensation of movement based not on external spatial perspective but on the embodied, experiential introspective of characters and audience members.

This presentation draws on the work of Laura Marks and Vivian Sobchak to address embodied experience in the films of two cinematic auteurs: Japan’s Miyazaki Hayao and South Korea’s Lee Sung-gang. It will argue that representations of weight and weightlessness in Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and My Beautiful Girl Mari (2002) engender a form of “haptic visuality” in animation, in that they convey through vision the body’s tactile, positional, and motile senses. By looking at characters who float or fall into new experiences, I address not the “anime eye” (as Thomas Looser does) but animation’s inner ear, its sense of balance or imbalance. The aesthetic technique of rendering im/balance also carries a larger social significance, as these two films consistently use sensations of floating or falling to convey movements between different worlds. In this way, they reflexively draw attention to the global exchanges and inequities of East Asian animation.

Finally, I am also planning to go to the Mechademia conference at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design again in Sept. 2013. (Fourth year running, I think? How time flies!) I was going to present the above paper there too, but the conference theme is "Fanthropologies," while my haptic visuality paper has almost nothing to do with fans. I'm thinking of going back to the thesis/book again and presenting my chapter on child fans of sci-fi tv cartoons like The Jetsons and Astro Boy. We'll see!

For now, I hope to start posting again with reviews of books I've been reading and shows I've been watching (including Eden of the East), energy levels depending. Til next time!

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April 2014

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