‘There is a point at which methods devour themselves.’ – Frantz Fanon (Black Skin, White Masks)
One can observe, in recent years, an obsession with methods – both in humanities research and teaching. Discussions include apprehensions about the imminent obsolescence of established media studies methodologies, a more liberal (in all senses?) search for synergies with methods from other fields, to the forward-looking elaboration of new methods for knowledge production. But this discussion takes place within the framework of a restructuring of universities as proposed by slogans such as ‘new public management’ or ‘entrepreneurial university’. Seen in this context, the discussion around method is also perceived by some as an attack on the traditional stance of the humanities seen as a critical reflection of society and culture rather than a pure instrumental facilitation of results through established procedures. To talk about method therefore has a political as well as an institutional dimension, which we also want to address in this special section.
In the past, media studies as a field has been marked by its promiscuous use and abuse of methods and tools from many different disciplines. Indeed, the success of the wider field might be, to no small measure, an effect of such cross-pollinating intersections. Yet again, other disciplines with more rigorous protocols have reacted by incorporating (at least partially) the innovations and forays of media studies, so that both the objects of study (media is everywhere) and the methods used are no longer exclusive. This raises the question of whether there are methods specific to media studies or not.
In terms of teaching, the turn to competences and learning outcomes has certainly privileged an increased focus on method as an algorithmic sequence of steps to be followed almost automatically. This stands in contrast to the traditional focus of the humanities on process, reflection, and a potentially endless turning over of the subject under consideration. With this special section the NECSUS editorial board would like to position the journal in these discussions, addressing important questions such as the following:
# How do we understand method? What is the function of a method? When does one enact a method? How narrow or broad should a method be? What is the relationship between theory and method? What is the historical heritage and value of deliberately vague methods, such as Henri Bergson’s method of intuition?
# How do we relate the traditional methodological toolkit of the humanities – qualitative and (post-)hermeneutic approaches – with the challenges of big data and the digital realm more generally? How can we meaningfully integrate one with the other, or is it rather a question of thwarting or staging a confrontation between the two?
# How do newer interdisciplinary intersections (e.g. film and philosophy, visual studies, gender/queer studies, postcolonial studies, and media use or representation) lead to a revision of historically dominant humanities vocabularies and methods, at the risk of creating new divides? How can a reflection on method help us address contemporary tensions between the aesthetic and political functions of film and media criticism, as well as between micro and macro modes of analysis?
# How has contemporary media studies responded to (and thrived under) the needs and pressures of pedagogy, outreach, and knowledge transfer without abandoning the intrinsically specialist character required by the development and application of methods?
# What is the (changing) role of methods in the media industries and media culture more broadly? This includes considering new methods for funding media production (crowdfunding, new forms of patronage) and their impact on media culture, also creative methods and the cultural projects they support (Method acting versus other performative modes; methods of making documentary, including observational versus interventionist; et al).
# What does it mean to construct an argument? What does it mean to demonstrate? What does it mean to make theory and (media) practice speak to each other in productive ways?
In addition to these questions we also invite submissions on the intersection between academic research and artistic practice. Submissions may address the audiovisual essay as an old and/or new method of doing media studies. Also, we invite considerations of practice-based research or research-creation as evolving methods of knowledge production and performance.
We look forward to receiving abstracts of 300 words, 3-5 bibliographic references, and a short biography of 100 words by 1 March 2020 to firstname.lastname@example.org. On the basis of selected abstracts writers will be invited to submit full manuscripts (6,000-8,000 words, revised abstract, 4-5 keywords) which will subsequently go through a double-blind peer review process before final acceptance for publication.
NECSUS also accepts proposals throughout the year for festival, exhibition, and book reviews, as well as proposals for guest edited audiovisual essay sections. Please note that we do not accept full manuscripts for consideration without an invitation. Access our submission guidelines at necsus-ejms.org/guidelines-for-submission/