Dr. Strange Media; Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Film Theory Author(s): D. N.

Rodowick Reviewed work(s): Source: PMLA, Vol. 116, No. 5 (Oct., 2001), pp. 1396-1404 Published by: Modern Language Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/463543 . Accessed: 14/01/2013 13:04
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these changes takeplace in less thana generation. technological.They seem to operatecontinuously. at the edge of the twenty-first century. but is cinema's time over?And if so.will come to define the visualcultureof the twentiethcentury? This is how I respondwhen friends and colleagues ask me why my critical attentionhas turnedso strongly to "new media" and computermediatedcommunicationsin recent years.PMLA the changing profession Dr. this imaginary scholar may have taken an interest in the emergence of television. Philosophy (DukeUP.Strange Media. How can you comprehend.2001).or.in many respects. The twentieth centurywas unquestionablythe centuryof cinema.Now. to Stop HowI Learned andLove Worrying Film Theory D. 1396 AMERICA This content downloaded on Mon. RODOWICK is professor and chair of film studies at King'sCollege London.perhapsyou have gone inside to see a photoplayor two. Founder of the FilmStudies Program at Yale University. The rapid emergence of new media as an industry and perhapsan art raises a more perilous question for cinema studies. RODOWICK Futureworld IMAGINETHATYOU ARE A YOUNG SOCIOLOGIST WORKING AROUND 1907. 1997) and Reading the Figafterthe New Media ural. Because your childrenspend an extravagantamountof time and money unsupervisedwithin their walls and exhibit an extraordinary and sometimes incomprehensible fascination with the characterspresentedthereandthe people who play them. or. 14 Jan 2013 13:04:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . N.thatan entirelynew mediumandan importantindustryarebeing createdthat. ON YOUR DAILY RIDETO THEUNIVERSITY. day andnight. YOU witnessan explosionof nickelodeonsalongthe trolleyroute. what is to become of its barelymaturedfield of scholarship. N.andit is rarenot to see a queueoutside their doors. and culturalchanges took place on the scale of a lifetime. His most recent books include Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine (Duke UP.until 2000 he also taught in FilmStudies and Visual and CulturalStudies at the University of Rochester. My hypotheticalsocial theorist may have been fortunateenough to have participated in early studies of cinemaor radioas mass culturalphenomena.despite the breadth anddepthof yourknowledge. economic.In retirement. But the questionremains:How would it have been possible to imaginein 1907 what cinema would become in the fifty years that followed? Or to imagine in 1947 what television would become in just ten or fifteen years? As the twentiethcenturyunfolded. cinema studies? ? 2001 BY THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF D. This was already incomprehensibly fast from the perspective of the nineteenth or eighteenthcentury.

The Matrix was dominatingthe screens. By opposing the imaginaryand the real as two differentnarrative in the same registersrepresented film.Was cinema studies disappearing. The staging of the digital as simulation functionsin the same way as the narrative dream or fantasy in the classic Hollywood musical. Hollywood narrative. especially its FrancoBritish incarnation represented by the journal Screen. is entirelydisingenuous.computer-generated. near the end my tenure on the PMLAEditorial Board. Films like TheMatrix. In addition. I noted thatnearlyeverybig summerfilm seemed to follow thatpicture'slead. it was clear to me that at the level of representational technologies the digital had already supplanted the analog. I have never given up-and indeed still insist on-my identity as a film theorist. and was film becoming less central? This was a hardpill to swallow for the prevideo cinephile generation. This was the summerof digital paranoia.5 D.a trend thatbegan with Dark Citythe year before." This is a classic case of Freudian Verneinung. QRE "0 0 t"r ?~: ys a This content downloaded on Mon. I took advantage of a bachelor weekend in New York to make the roundsof the new summermovies. messy "analog" world of our everydaylife. questionsfilm theoryraisedin the heady days of political modernismconcerning representation. and eXistenZ each played with the idea that a digitally created simulation could invisibly and seamlessly replace the solid.Narrativeconflict with the digital reasserts the aestheticvalue of analogimages as somehow morerealthandigitalsimulations.i I6.not only at the cinema but also in computer gaming and other forms. The digital versus the analog was the heartof narrativeconflict in these films. Now this position could be considered marginal. the disappearance in cinema studies of "film"as a clearly defined aesthetic object anchoringouryoung disciplinealso causes anxiety. only theory The Incredible Shrinking Medium In May 1999.and so forthhave evolved in the more sociological direction of cultural studies and media theory. Roland Barthes. it is always a contest between competing versions of the realthatdissemblethe fact thateach is imaginary. Thus. through the 1980s and 1990s one of the recurrentdebates in the Society for Cinema Studies was how to represent the field's growing interest in television and electronicmedia. of which I am a cardcarrying member. Thirteenth Floor.When this strategy occurs as a narrativerepresentationof technology. Technologyeffectivelybecamenature.researchin film historyhas dominated the field.of course. Rodowick 1397 Despite my interestin new technologies and new media. in whole or in part. as if cinemawere fightingfor its aesthetic existence. This conflict. 14 Jan 2013 13:04:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . N. asserts all the more stridently its statusas "reality. for film theory has fallen on hardtimes. r_ 3" 7 Icc~ 3 w 5 IE. were not of a futureworldbut ratherthe world harbingers of cinematic media as experienced today.even in its most outlandish form. cinema studies was often identified entirely with film theory. such as entirely of computer-generated orA ToyStory(1995) Bug's Life (1998). More recently. much to the confusion of my family and the amusementof taxi driversthe world over.Computer-generated images are no longer restricted to isolated special effects.which importedfrom Francethe work of Christian Metz. and others. and with just cause. subjectivity. ideology. The Matrix is a marvelous example of P* . In the 1970s and early 1980s. As I took in previews for The Mummyand Star Wars:ThePhantomMenace. Settling in to watch previews at a large downtowncineplex. Not only do many feel that film theoryis much less centralto the identityof the field. Feature films composed images. even in the field of cinema studies. they constitute in many sequencesthe whole of the mise-en-scene to the point where even majorcharactersare. Releasedearlier that spring." accordingto the lead Agent in The Matrix-with a simulation where social control was nearly complete.wholly replacing our complex and chaotic world-too "smelly. So what becomes of cinema studies if film should disappear? Perhapsthis is a questionthat film can answer.

either.I398 Dr.. and exhibition medium. a sign of the new to bolstersagging audiencenumbers. Yet something is changing as the digital graduallyreplaces the analog.distribution. C. Incorporated the film at the level of its technologyof representation and in the narrativestructure. the noisy and cumbersome cranking of the mechanical This content downloaded on Mon. This claim is not new. * In New Yorkand Los Angeles in Juneand July 1999.which is a way of camouflagingits own imaginarystatus. perience Photographybecomes the sign of the vanishingreferent. a strategy that lends itself well to marketing and spectacle. Titan A. In terms of market differentiation. cinema reclaims for itself the groundsof humanisticexpression.Perhapsthe oldest criticismin the history of film theoryis thatfilm and photography could not be artbecause they were technology: an automatic inscriptionof images without the intervention of a humanhand. which functions as the site of the "real. or.StevenJobs's Pixar and George Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic quickly as the most innovativeproducers develop of digital imaging for motion pictures. in which a representation of the photographic process becomes the signifier.with its reassuring physical passage of visible images. successful test screeningsof StarWars: PhantomMenace take place using fully electronicand digital from 35 mm projectionindistinguishable celluloid projection. and the preservation of the last humancity. The experimentis raised to a new level in 1991 with the T-1000 a character in Terminator 2 that Terminator. over the Interet andthenprojectingit digitally in an Atlantamovie theater. In the course of a short decade. Zion. * By the early 1990s Avid digital nonlinear editing systems are rapidlyreplacingthe mechanicalSteenbeckand Moviola tables as the industryediting standard. * In 1993 JurassicParkmakes prevalentand popularthe generationof photographically believablesynthesizedimages. This allegorical conflict between the digital and the analog also provides a new opportunity for forging an opposition between technology andart.E. spectacular. ToyStory. those of the Dogma movement. the digital superhero. morphscontinuallybetweenhumanactors and computer-generated images. * In 1995 Pixarreleases the firstfully syntheticfeaturefilm." in convincingdigitally animatedcharacter a live-actionfilm.It was alreadypresent in silent cinema and today is newly narrativized to revitalize an old concept. the long privilege of the analog image and the technology of analog image production have been almost completely replaced by digital simulations and digital processes. * In June2000 digitalprojectionand distribution come togetherwhen Twentieth Century-FoxandCisco Systemscollaborate in transmitting a featurefilm. At the same time. and to an old-school cinephile the process looks like nothing less than a terrifyingremake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. particularly such as Festen (1998). * Beginning in 1998."hidden away at the earth'score as a distantutopia. the locus of a truthful and of the authenticaesthetic exrepresentation of cinema. 14 Jan 2013 13:04:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Throughthe narrative inscriptionof technology as the antithesisof art. The celluloid strip. and more recently Mike Figgis's TimeCode (2000). tt C M3 how Hollywood has always respondedto the apinto pearanceof new technologies. The successive stages of the history of this substitution mightbe describedthus: In the 1980s digital image processingand synthesisbecome increasinglyprevalentin television advertisingand music video production. How I Learnedto Stop Worryingand Love FilmTheory PPMLA r= 0 L. and future-oriented.the new arrival is simultaneouslydemonizedand deified.The next five to ten years may witness the near disappearance of celluloid film stock as a recording.So. * In 1989 JamesCameron'sTheAbyss the first produces"thepseudopod. we enjoy both the apotheosis of Nero. the photographic basis of cinema is coded as real. computer-generated imagerycodes itself as contemporary. digital video cameras are increasinglyused for fiction films.Strange Media. in the canny conclusion of The Matrix.

As digitalprocessesdisplaceanalogicalones more and more. Digital productionrendersall expressions identical since they are all reducible to the same basis.where any pixel in the electronicimage can be moved or its value changed at will. with its satisfying substantialityand visibility available to the naked eye.and the kinds of symbolizationthey allow. virtual representations derive all their powers from their basis in numericalmanipulation. image has spatial and that reinforce temporal powers photography's designative function with an existential claim. Moreover. part by part. and presenting images. What is left. Rodowick 1399 film projector and of the Steenbeck editing table.Analogy exists in digital technology as a function of spatial recognition. the arrivalof digital technologies as a dominantaesthetic and social force poses a conundrum. is wholly createdfrom algorithmic alternatively. N. functions. 14 Jan 2013 13:04:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . But here a first objection can be raised.but has loosed its anchors from substanceand indexicality. then. whose variabledensityproducesa visible image. the moonscapes of 2001: A Space Odyssey-are founded by these powers.As I rethink yet again a possible curriculumfor undergraduate and postgraduate students. Even film's imaginary worlds-say. distributing. digital media produce tokensof numbers: the constructive tools of Euclidiangeometryarereplacedby the computational tools of Cartesiangeometry. Photography's principal powersarethose of analand the ogy indexicality. because the films themselves tend to stage its primaryquestion: What is cinema? The emergent digital era poses this questionin a new and interestingway because for the first time in the history of film theorythe photographic process is challengedas the ontological basis of cinematic representation. as Binckley puts it.most of the key debates on the natureof photographicand cinrepresentational ematic media-and whetherand how they could be definedas an art-were deducedfrom the basic photographicand cinematographic process. no medium-specificontology can fix them in place. eithercreatingor remodeling a film studies program.For 150 years the materialbasis of photographyand then cinema has been defined by a process of mechanically recordingimages throughthe registrationof reflected light on a photosensitive chemical surface.what is the potentialimportfor a photographicontology of film? Unlike analogical representations. Whereas analog media record traces of events.I find myself cona new fronting disturbing question:Is this the end of film andthereforethe end of cinema studies? The Old and the New Periods of intense technological change are always fascinating for film theory. Is film in its most literal sense synonymous with cinema?2 To say thatfilm is disappearing means that celluloid is only photochemical startingto vanish as the medium for registering. Because the digital arts are without substance and therefore not easily identified as objects. yields to a virtual and electronicrealm. or worked matter-light literally sculptsmicroscopichills andvalleys in raw film. The basis of all such"reprecomputational sentation" is virtuality: mathematical abstractions thatrenderall signs equivalent. As celluloid.is cinema itself disappearing? 3" 1 0 5* _.regardless of theiroutputmedium. This content downloaded on Mon.arethe first"virtual reality" (93). TimothyBinckley clarifiesmatterswhen he reminds us that numbers. The difference is not simply thatvisuality has been given a new mobility.i i 6. along with the images they so beautifully recordedand presented. of cinema as it is replaced. for the thirdtime in my careerof nineteenyears. and the imposing bulk of the film canister are all disappearing one by one into a virtual space. Computer-generated imagery. by digitization? Does cinema studies have a future in the twenty-first century? This is a problem I take personally since as I write this essay I am. D. whose basis is a transformation of substanceisomorphicwith an originating image. The analogical arts are fundamentallyarts of intaglio.of course. If the discipline of film studies is anchored to a specific materialobject.

as defendedby Bela Balazs.thereis a strong sense in which what counts intuitively as an image for Westerncultureshas changedlittle in several centuries. and so forth. indeed conof value andconceptsof founded. Andrew). film seemed to have a material specificity with claims to self-identity. One might say that the entire history of the medium.There is much to be learnedfrom the fact that"photographic" realismremainsthe Grail of Holy digital imaging-a certaincultural sense of the cinematicand an unreflectivenotion of realismare still in many ways the touchstones for valuingthe aestheticinnovations of the digital. e. the rhythmiccinegraphie dear to French Impressionist filmmakers.arestill basedon the same opticalgeometryas traditional camerasandrely on the samehistoricallyandculturally evolved mathematics of depth and light renderingdescendedfromperspectiva legittima.cinemacould only be defined as a mongrel medium that would never evolve in an aesthetically pure form. But film studies.the long take and composition in depthendorsedby Bazin.Even today it is far more common to find universityfilm studies in a wide varietyof interdisciplinary contexts than in fully fledged departments dedicatedto it (see.The perceivednecessity of defining the artistic possibilities of a medium by proving its unique ontological grounding in an aestheticfirstprinciplederivesfrom a long tradition in the historyof philosophy. but I find the possible philosophicalexplanationsmoreinteresting. How I Learnedto Stop Worryingand Love FilmTheory PMLA 0 A 0 IL 0 1.There are economic and political reasons for this. A consistent lesson from the history of film theory is that there has neverbeen a general consensus concerningthe answerto the question.1400 Dr. as debated during the golden age of Soviet film.. and of the criticalthoughtthathas accompanied it. 14 Jan 2013 13:04:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . in such contradictoryand interestingways. or. or even "virtual"cameras creating wholly synthesizedspaces on computers.g. Therefore. Why is film so difficultto place as an object of aesthetic investigation? Perhaps because it This content downloaded on Mon. Hence the greatparadoxof classicalfilm theory:intuitively.Whataccountsfor this flux at the heartof film studies. this specificity was notoriouslydifficultto pin down. Siegfried Kracauer's photographicaffinities. Never has a field so thoroughlydebated. Although digital processes have producedmany fascinatingstylistic innovations. What is cinema? For this reason the evolving thoughton cinemain the twentiethcentury has persisted in a continual identity crisis. if all the claims abovewere true. mechanical reproducibilityand the decline of auraas describedby WalterBenjamin. absentfromthe process of digitalrepresentationis what thinkerslike AndreBazin or RolandBarthesheld fundamental to the ontology of the photographic its indexical force as a image: literal spatialandtemporalmolding of the origiin a physicalmaterial. montage. the difficulty of placing film as an object grounding an area of study does not begin with the virtualizationof the image.There was something aboutthe spatialityand the temporality of the medium that eluded.preserved There is a deeper and more philosophical way of discussingthe questionof virtualityin relation to film. has returnedincessantly to film's uncertain status. nonetheless.This perspective produceda sort of aesthetic inferioritycomplex in film theory and film studies where. I argue-and I think this is a positive thing-has nevercongealedinto a disciplinein the same way as English literatureor arthistory. the nature of its ontological groundingas has cinema studiesin its historicaleffortsto definefilm as art andthus to legitimateitself as a new field of aesthetic analysis.the entireclassical period of film aestheticscan be understood as a genealogy of conflictingdebatesthatsought to ground filmic ontology in a single mediumspecific concept or technique:the photogenie of Louis Delluc and Jean Epstein.which has always seemed less a discipline than a constantly shifting terrain for thinkingabouttime-basedspatialmedia?All disciplines evolve and change. Of course. -t tt c I) One simple response is to argue that digital cameras. the close-up. natingevent.the hierarchies judgmentpresupposed by aestheticphilosophy. Despite its rangeand complexity.Strange Media.

Psychologically. ch. the emergenceof cinema. And more often than not cinema still defends its aesthetic value by aligning itself with the othervisual arts and by asserting its self-identity as an imagemaking medium. Film. The solid ontological anchoring of film as a worked substance is only difficultly grasped. with respect to the conceptual categories of eighteenth. The inherent virtuality of the image is a fundamental condition of cinema viewing in which the ontological insecurity of film as an aesthetic object is posed as a spatialuncertainty and a temporalinstability. is always in pursuit of an absent. N. In the minds of most people. indeed an absenting. On this basis the virtuality of film takes on yet a new sense. Up until the emergence of cinema."a sensory modality that is also a psychic structuring.Instead of seeking a haptic object or a stable.The heterogeneityof cinematicexpression-which combines moving photographic images.film's technoThroughout logical processes of productionhave innovated forms have evolved conconstantly.no matterhow mobile. according to Metz. In fact. 1).Gilles Deleuze's concepts of the movement image and the time image are the most recent and most complex incarnationsof this idea.The suspicion. As I have arguedin Reading the Figural (esp. and music as well as speech and writing-has inspired equally cinema's defenders and detractors. selfidentical form.the instantiationof a certainform of desirethatis at once semiological. the twentiethcentury.Institutional cinema studieshas recentlyneglected to its peril the importance of theory and of the history of P#" 13 3 I=J 11 e:~ VE . or anxiety. This instabilitymakes it rivetingfor some and a cultural scandal for others. is an uncertainobject. Here cinematic specificity becomes the location of a variableconstant. the spectator ineluctably chases a double absence: the hallucinatoryprojectionof an absentreferentin space as well as the slipping away of images in time. now over a hundred years old. more than any other. But a certainmode of psychological investment has persisted-a modalityof desire.i i 6 D. and cultural.A w This content downloaded on Mon. hibition have varied widely. Rodowick I401 was the first medium to challenge fundamentally the concepts on which the idea of the aesthetic was founded. 14 Jan 2013 13:04:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Consequentlyfilm studies can claim no ontological security as a discipline. it would seem. most of the fine arts remained readily classifiable and rankableaccordingto Gotthold Lessing's 1766 distinction between the arts of succession or time and those of simultaneityor space. cinema remains a visual medium. derives from and is legitimatedby the wealth of its concepts.its narrative and its methods of distribution andextinuously. the ontological ungroundednessof film from the standpointof aesthetic philosophy offers an importantobject lesson for every discipline that seeks a stable frameor substance. sounds. Some of the most compelling contributions of classical film theoryrecognized and valued this: Erwin Panofsky's definition of cinema as an art that dynamizes space and spatializes time. Among the "new"media. psychological. yielding an art that leans.on an experience of the imaginary. At the heartof cinematic experience lies a twofold virtuality defined by a vertiginousspatializationof time and temporalization of space as well as by a peculiarperceptual and psychological instability wherein the spectatorpursuesa doubly absentobject. that cinema could not be defined as Art derivedfrom its hybridnatureas an art of space and an artof time. unsettled this philosophical schema even if not successfully displacing it. technological. this distinctionbecame the basis for defining an aesthetic ontology that anchoredindividual arts in self-identical media and forms. Sergei Eisenstein's discussion of the filmic fourth dimension. the film viewer. object. Yet the great paradox of cinema.and nineteenth-century aesthetics. is that it is both a temporal and a spatial medium. and Bazin's defense of an ontology of the image as a unique spatialrecordof duration.A discipline's specificity. elegantly described by Metz's characterization of the filmic signifier as the "imaginarysignifier.

sociological.and reassessment of the fundamental concepts that underlie the kinds of questions we ask-whether historical. As film disof the digappearsin the successive substitutions ital for the analog.At the sametime. although therehave been mutationsin the formsof spectanarrative architecture of torship. However. there is nearly a centuryof international film theory and historical inquiry to serve as a criticalresourcefor theirevaluation.in digitalimagingthe criterionof realism remainsa curiousconstanteven while the indexi- cal image is replacedby a computational simulation thatenables innovationsin creativeactivity.despitecompetitionfromvideo andthe Internet. in periods of intense economic and cultural competition from other media cinema incorporates an image of its rival the better to remake the narrative and social image of its aesthetic identity and to differentiateitself economically. At the same time. Nonetheless. w t?. watching a movie on broadcast television or video.I also wantto emphasizethe emergence in the new media of possibilites thatchallenge us to rethink the basic concepts of film theory. As I assertedin the beginning of this essay. For to the extent that they share common lines of descent with the history of film. we are not bereft of criticalresourcesfor comprehending the broadoutlines of these new media.Interactive mediapromotea form of participatory spectatorshiprelativelyunknownin othertime-based spatial media. Finally. theatrical film viewing shows no signs of vanishing.critique.also ask us to rethinknotions of authorship.1402 Dr.is arguablynot a cinematicexperience. the marketing of the new is also the reassertion of something already well established: the preservationand enhancement of the formal and psychological structuresthat have informed the pleasures of cinema-viewing throughoutits history. it is renewingand renovatingitself.and offline continue artsand communication to change so rapidlythatthey have overtakenthe capacityof academicdisciplines to comprehend them. and since has frag- This content downloaded on Mon. While computer-generated imagery longs to be photographic. and desire.whereuserscollectively createand modify the space of the game or narrative.many forms of interactive media long to be cinematic.the fundamental filmpersists.Strange Media. in 1946.and.An example is the nonlinear(thoughnot necessarily nonteleological) narrativestructure of multiuserandsimulationgaming. How I Learnedto Stop Worryingand Love FilmTheory PMLA ev ci Vo . I want to conclude by makinga plea not only for the continuingrelevanceof film studies but also for the special significance of film theoryin the electronicanddigitalera. Digital on. Not only does online gaming requirereconceptualization of the spectator's placement. However. Web cams inauguratenew forms of self-presentation and modalities of pleasurable looking. or. While the unity or homogeneity of the cinematic spectatorial experience peaked long ago. Here the old (cinematic) and the new (electronicand digital)media findthemselvesin a curious genealogicalmelangewhose chronologyis by no means simple or self-evident. but multiuserdomains. or aesthetic-and the answersthose questions allow. much less the Internet. As I have already argued.Film history helps us cut throughthe dissemblancesof digital paranoiato understandhow theatricalcinema has entereda phase of technological innovation and accommodation where. 14 Jan 2013 13:04:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .the variousmediathatderivetheirpower from distributed fundamencomputingrepresent new and social organizations technological tally of the time and space of spectatorship. c *J theory:the invention. cinema persists as a narrative form and a psychological experience-a certain modality of imbricatingvisuality.7 0 L. A certainconcept of representation is also changing profoundly. in its singularandcollective forms.whose interactive and collective nature also mobilizes the spectator'svision and desire in novel ways. It would be foolish to believe thatwe areencounteringany of the digital artsin theirmature forms. ratherthan fading away. signification.Partof the excitementof the criticalstudy of digital cultureis recognizing that we are witnessing the birth of a medium or media whose future is as difficultly imagined as cinema was for my sociologist at the nickelodeon.unlike my young sociologist at the nickelodeon.

is to have forged more than any other relateddiscipline the methodologicaland philosophical bases for addressing the most urgent and interestingquestions. and time. and computers in a broader audiovisual regime (Friedberg 440). aestheticand cultural. Yet the basic set of conceptshas remained constant. Equally interesting in Friedberg's observations is the continuity of certain concepts-screen. the concerns of not just a hundredyears of cinema but also nearly a hundred years of film theory become the starting point for comprehending what is entirely new in the emergence of interactive digital media and computer-mediated communications and what endures as the core cinema. representation of realism. 7 r. 14 Jan 2013 13:04:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . video. the history of cinema and the concepts of film theory are the most productivecontexts for defining the audiovisuality of our past and current centuries. Suddenly.not only in the productionand dissemination of images but also in the technological delimitationand organizationof the spatiality and temporalityof spectatorialexperience and desire. film.5 D. Moreover. television. etc. spectator-that alreadyhave a long andcomplex history.At the same time. image.For this reasonneithertelevisionnor digital studieshas emergedwith a coherenceseparate from a grounding in film studies. to reassess and constructanew their concepts. computer). The academic and educational response to radio and television as =1 e%. and the relation of technology to art. how questions of signification are transformed by the narrativeorganizationof time-based spatial media. radio.The best critical work on digital culture recirculates and renovates key concepts and problems of film theory: how movement and temporalityaffect emergingforms of image. half-inch tape. signification and narrative. and spectators become "users"manipulatinginterfaces as simple as a remote control or as complex as data gloves and head-mounteddisplays. DVD. the new media challenge film studies and film theory to reinvent themselves. or the relation of image to referent. as I argue in Reading the Fig- ural. moveand the problem ment. and therefore critically understanding the evolution of film narrative andnew variationsin cinematicspectatorial experience still relies on the core concepts of film theory. Hence the apparentparadoxof assertingthe continuationand renewalof cinema studies in the face of the disappearanceof what most self-evidently defines it-celluloid as a means of registering and projecting indexical. I=~ 11 0 Ok This content downloaded on Mon. Screen. the shifting status of photographicrealism as a cultural construct.the real and reremarkably markableaccomplishment of cinema studies. it still remains the baseline for understandingandevaluatingotherspatialtime-based media. I agree with Anne Friedberg that cinema studies finds itself in a transitional moment wherein screens become display and delivery formats whose form and dimensions are variable (theatricalfilm. popular medium and a major American industrybefore the first largescale sociological inquiry about it-the Payne Fund Studies-took place. experienceof narrative-representational The academic and culturalstatusof university cinema studies still suffersfrom the time lag between the emergence of film and cinema and the advent of their serious academic study.i i6. film. Rodowick I403 mented and branchedoff into other distribution streams.. and spectator.film is relegated to various storage media (celluloid.Moreover. I believe.To understand criticallywhatteleand interactive vision. video servers. Thus. Nearly twenty-fiveyears elapsed afterthe arrival of cinema as a mass.technology and art: the form and vocabulary in which these topics are posed have changedcontinuouslyin the history of film theory as a series of conflictual debates. of modernity and visual culture. television.the convergenceof media thatoccurs in digital technologies encourages us to widen cinema's genealogy to include the telephone. Reasserting and renewing the province of cinema studies also means defining and redefiningwhatfilm signifies. N.). analogicalimages. digital media are becoming means defining their significanttechnological and aesthetic differences and yet understandingthatthey descend with photography andfilm from similargenealogicalroots.

Friedberg. and yet very old.Essai sur les principes d'une philosophie du cinema. Metz. NOTES For an interesting historical and aesthetic survey of these issues. Anne. 1974. 92-122. 1 WORKS CITED Andrew. Gilbert.Donna JeanUmikerSebeok. 2000. Reading the Figural. Visual Digital Culture:Surface.The complex implications of this distinction are explored by Christian Metz in Language and Cinema. 1958. Bloomington:IndianaUP. London: Routledge. Rodowick. Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams. Ed. Durham:Duke UP. or. see AndrewDarley's VisualDigital Culture. 438-52. Timothy. As describedin my opening example. How I Learnedto Stop Worryingand Love FilmTheory PMLA . in the new media.I404 Dr. chs.Celia Britton et al. . 14 Jan 2013 13:04:46 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ._ 0 . Paris:PUF."PMLA115 (2000): 341-51. Cohen-Seat.esp. "RefiguringCulture. Binckley. Fortunately. "The 'ThreeAges' of Cinema Studies and the Age to Come.Film theory and the history of film thus become the most productive conceptual horizons against which we can assess what is new. Darley.Ed.Trans. Andrew. are perpetuatingthe cinematic as the mature audiovisualcultureof the twentiethcentury and how at the same time they are preparingthe emergence of a new audiovisual culture whose outlines we are only beginningto distinguish.the history of film theory in the first half of the twentieth centurywas largely a matter of playing catch-up. D.Dudley. Languageand Cinema. the new digital cultureis not emergingin a similartheoretical vacuum.Strange Media. like television and video before them."Future Visions: New Technologiesof the Screen. 1993.Trans. This content downloaded on Mon. 1982. or.The ImaginarySignifier. 1 and 2. London: Arnold. "The End of Cinema: Multimedia and Technological Change. 2000.. Philosophy after the New Media. a whole new industry and art emerged in the early twentieth century without a philosophical or sociological context thatallowed its social impactand consequences to be imagined. Christian. 2 This refers to GilbertCohen-Seat's importantdistinction of "filmic"from"cinematic" facts in Essai sur les principes d'une philosophie du cinema."ReinventingFilm Studies. N._ u J: new communication technologieswas somewhat quickerbut can still be measuredin decades. 2001.London:BritishFilm Inst.Despite its richnessand complexity. For the same history positions us to bettercomprehendthe complex genealogy defining the technological and aesthetic possibilities of computer-generatedimagery as well as its commercialand popularexploitation. Philip Haywardand TanaWollen. Play and Spectacle in New Media Genres. The Hague:Mouton. Film theory is our best hope for understanding critically how digital technologies.