But however well and good, this sort of analysis borrows its methods from science and, often, leads analysts (especially inexperienced ones) to pontificate. In order to create the effect of objectivity, they declare this or that about an artist, a tv or radio show, a movie, or a recording. They act disinterested (sometimes even uninterested), and their insights seem directly proportional to the distance created between observer and observed. The catch is, this way of working frequently yields magnificent results. The methods of science work. They create knowledge; they create truth. The cost is subjectivity.
This assignment entertains the dream that we might be able to have our cake and eat it too. We
might be able to dispense with objectivity and not abandon truth and knowledge effects, the
results of analysis and critique.
Write a self-portrait in words and pictures. It should have the generic features of a "mystory"--Gregory Ulmer's term for the autobiographical documentary we saw modeled by Ross McElwee's Sherman's March. Take, as your departure point, the pleasure evoked by a tv or radio show, a movie, a media star, or a recording.
Your task in creating this self-portrait is twofold. (1) Bring your experience of your "object of study" into relation with four levels of discourse:
Shuttling between these levels of discourse (a real challenge) will make your work simultaneously objective and subjective, a hybrid text.
(2) Create an "essay" (in the broadest sense of the word) that is itself an artwork. Which is to say, you should strive to create a paper that is every bit as interesting as your object of study. Because this assignment requires you to perform mythology, to explore your relationship with a mass-media art, your "essay" will function as both story and critique.
Gather data for your media self-portrait as you would gather material for any research paper.
Include photocopied graphics and sound bites or, more precisely, include directions for
interpolating graphic and audio information. The goal here is to create a document on paper and
saved to disk that we could easily convert into hypertext and post on the W3.
Okay, but let's say that, whether I like it or not, you're still confused. Check out the media self-portrait that Professor Gregory Ulmer assigned his students at the University of Florida. It's not exactly like mine, but it's pretty similar. Read Ulmer's instructions and, also, view the work his students exhibited on the W3.
Want even more information? Here's a recipe for writing a mystory.
Throughout your paper, as you rely on the work of others, you should make attributions. For instructions on this topic, click here.