Tag Archives: agency

Let Lost be Lost

Since I wrote about fans’ feelings of entitlement over the creative directions of the things they love, I’ve been wondering on and off about Lost–specifically, online reviewers’ claims about what ought to have happened/been revealed in any given episode. And as we get closer to the series finale (3.5 hours to go, at this point), it seems that this tendency to demand is growing fiercer.

This was especially apparent as I read through the stellar soundbites of “Across the Sea” reviews collected over at Cultural Learnings (a site I’m especially eager to visit more often since that blogger seems to have decided to watch Buffy for the first time at just about the same time I did–we’re both in season 3!). Repeatedly, people who clearly love Lost and know all kinds of arcane details (mine: I tell people that Jack’s mother shares a name with my wife) write sentences with a nagging mother’s “I disapprove” tone. Things like (and I’m making these up, not quoting actual articles):

  • “They should have given us more time with Desmond and Penny instead of introducing these new characters.” (But would you want to just see Des and Pen hanging around, without a thick, complex plot to move around in?)
  • “They should have told us more about what Mother/Eve’s motivations were.” (But for someone to have simplistic, easily explained motivations would be exceptionally anti-Lost, where every sick action can be partly explained through prior abuse and partly through real seeds of grossness in the heart.)
  • “They should have let us learn MiB’s motivations through his actions, not through hit-you-over-the-head narrative.” (But you’re the same person who wanted clearer answers, I thought…?)

I guess this sounds as if I’m more annoyed than I really am. But I’m at least . . . surprised/confused that at this point in the game, without seeing how it wraps up, people really feel they know better what should come when in the series. I don’t mind when people have serious critiques, but I tend to be more supportive of those that are textual or thematic critiques–“I think that character’s actions seem to imply an inconsistent motivation or meaning with the motivations and meanings we were given earlier”–than with those that are big-picture or super-structural critiques–“It was wrong for the producers to do X at Y stage in the series.”

And finally, the reason this is actually worth writing at all: because as I said in my post back in February on “fans loving too much,” I usually A) have these gut-level reactions against Lost critics, and then B) feel kind of surprised at myself, since I intellectually support folks who take ownership of a series and do new stuff with it–say, in fan fic or vidding or art or whatever.

Maybe it’s that creative fan activities feel like a different genre–or, in Lost language, a parallel timeline. Whenever someone says, “I wish they hadn’t shown ‘Across the Sea’ at all, and I’m going to write the episode that I would have put there instead,” the timeline splits and there’s beauty and coolness in both parallel worlds. But when someone says, “I want to pretend that I know as much as Darlton about what ought to have happened in the canon Lost universe,” well, I think that people should sometimes (but not always!) let Lost be Lost.

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Current Projects

Starter jacketI’ve been thinking lately about how I look and sound to different people. In a lot of ways that’s nothing new–in 7th grade I wanted a Hornets Starter jacket even though I’d never seen a Hornets game–but in terms of academic projects, it’s rather new to me. That’s just what happens as you move toward academics-as-job instead of just academics-as-school: people read your stuff. And different people naturally respond differently.

So, here’s how I would describe my 3 main projects these days to different groups of people. All are true, but it’s most true when you see them all lined up together.

Agency in the Age of Peer Production

  • To friends, family: Some colleagues and I at USF are writing a book about how to help teachers feel empowered to be creative, especially by using online tools.
  • To writing program administrators: We’re interested in the ways agency can be both individual and collective, and how writing programs can structure both online and face-to-face programs that allow (and rein in, when appropriate) that agency.
  • To leaders in business, nonprofits, and other fields: We suggest practical ways to help members of a group be creatively empowered yet remain part of a group.

Fan Culture and Remix Literacies

  • To friends, family: I’m surveying and interviewing people who do cool creative work online. Like, you know people who make videos and music and games and write fan fiction? I’m asking them about what they do. Open-ended questions.
  • To scholars: I’m especially interested in the rhetorical and compositional moves that composers have in mind as they compose “derivative” (or archontic) works that they know may be remixed again by other fans. I’d also like to hear their thoughts on ownership and intellectual property, since composing of any kind (even/especially academic essay writing) brings up so many different opinions (and occasionally, harsh emotions) on that tricky subject.
  • To fans: I want to hear what you do when you create fan compositions. I don’t want to be a jerk like other fan scholars so often are! I just want to hear you describe yourself in your own words to keep me from the danger of assuming something that isn’t true.

Prospectus/Dissertation Beginnings

  • To family, friends: I want to know what students do when they do research and when they incorporate research into their essays and other college work.
  • To scholars: I’m especially interested in how students find and integrate sources in multimodal compositions, and how that is or isn’t similar to their methods when approaching more traditional academic essays. The metaphor of the remix seems especially powerful when we’re talking about multimodal compositions–and when you start down that road, all composing begins to seem like remixing.
  • To students: I don’t want to tell you that your instincts when finding sources are wrong or anything. But I want to know how you find stuff for your college work so that I can be a better teacher in the future and help others be better teachers.

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