Thinking about the M

Last time I went to SCMS, in 2004, was I think the first conference the organization had held since the addition of the M to its name and, as I’ve snarked about before, it was pretty clear then that the M remained somewhat under erasure, as if the society’s name were more properly SC(M)S. Non-film, non-television media felt really hidden, a very small cluster of panels crammed into awkward corners of both the schedule and the venue.

This year was different, as I’d hoped it would be: not only was there, at last, a critical mass of new media panels, spread widely across the schedule, but they were centrally located in the conference facility, they were generally quite well-attended, and they produced a bunch of really interesting conversations across the organization.

I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to figure out where I wanted to do the work I’m doing, as it’s seemed to fall between the cracks of existing disciplinary models (appropriately, I suppose, being interdisciplinary). AOIR has always been focused on the right object, but has been overwhelmingly dominated by a social-science model of research; SCMS has been populated by folks using the same methodology as I do, but has seemed — until now — a bit unwilling to countenance computer-based technologies as an appropriate object of study. So at the last AOIR, in Chicago, I found myself pressing the exec to think about how to do more recruiting in the arts and humanities, and how to open the organization to the kinds of research questions such scholars are interested in. And the exec seemed willing — or willing to countenance me doing such recruiting, at least — but the timing of this year’s CFP and the expense of getting to Brisbane made me hesitant. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to go this year, but will hope that I can get back in 2007.

SCMS, however, seems to have opened itself significantly since 2004, and the conversations that I had at the conference were by and large genial and engaging. I found myself several times during the conference feeling as though I’d finally found a home discipline, a place where the work I’m doing might actually find some traction. I don’t want my work, or the M, to stop changing, but it’s good to have a slightly firmer ground on which it can build.

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