The cover of this issue of Screen Bodies features the digital work “Crypto Queen” by restlessperson (Aleksandr Rybin), which the artist has minted as an NFT. We spoke with Rybin about the subject matter of his work, connections between digital and analog art, and the future of NFTs. His work is available on KnownOrigin.
Andrew J. Ball and Aleksandr Rybin
Affective Anachronisms, Fateful Becomings
Otaku Movement and the Joan of Arc Effect in Type-Moon's Transhistorical Anime Ecology
David John Boyd
This article examines the temporal and phenomenological philosophies of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and Paolo Virno, specifically in relation to the transmedia franchises of the Japanese game studio, Type-Moon. Against linear, national, and majoritarian grand narratives of the historical, the otaku artists, writers, and developers responsible for the Fate series postulate whether it is possible to harness the intense and affective forces described by Jay Lampert as “the Joan of Arc effect” in the blink of an eye or in the palm of your hand. Through a philosophical and formal analysis of three spinoff series from the Fate franchise, this article investigates how Type-Moon's deployment of the “anime machine” encourages its viewers and users to see and feel the abundance of flowing “nomadic memories” or counter-historical visions from the perspective of minor populations. Through this highly embodied and tactile experience of transhistorical (un)becomings, Type-Moon's series offer a deterritorialized, post-national world-image of the otaku database which mediates between the overloading affects of becoming-woman and the digitally encoded logic of transversal through the frames, windows, interfaces, devices, platforms, and bodies that constitute Type-Moon's vibrant anime ecology.
Alexa, Affect, and the Algorithmic Imaginary
Addressing Privacy and Security Concerns Through Emotional Advertising
As millions of customers across the world invite digital voice assistants into their homes, the public debate has increasingly centered on security and privacy concerns connected to the use of the device. Drawing on Tania Bucher's work at the intersection between technology and everyday experience, this article proposes an understanding of an algorithmic imaginary of Alexa-enabled devices as explicitly nonthreatening in its ordinariness, positive potential, and gendered presence. As a case study, this article uses commercials for Alexa-enabled devices as a starting point: Instead of foregrounding the functionality and thereby the algorithmic intelligence underlying the voice assistant, these commercials focus on an affective potential as a narrative strategy to address privacy and security concerns. By connecting everyday interactions with emotional and empowering narratives, the way Alexa is portrayed as an embodied object functions as a balance to the equally public and publicized understanding of digital voice assistants as threats.
A Body of Texts
Memento and Mētis
This article applies materialist rhetoric to Christopher Nolan's 2000 neo-noir film Memento and positions its protagonist Leonard Shelby, a man with a brain injury that prevents him from making new memories, as a figure of mētis: a classical concept addressing the cunning ability to respond to the contingent, kairotic moment by engaging situations through a reciprocal process of change. As evidence for its assertion, the article examines Leonard's relationship to his shifting bodily archive of tattoos, handwritten notes, and annotated Polaroid pictures. It also aligns him with the ancient hero Odysseus and the sophistic rhetorician Gorgias, two classical exemplars of mētis. Leonard's mētic existence informs how contemporary selves emerge from networks of objects both physical and virtual.
The Affective Modalities of Media and Technology
Andrew J. Ball
The six essays in this in this issue of Screen Bodies explore what we might call the affective modalities of media, that is, each author examines the potential of emerging and traditional media to transform individual and collective relations through the strategic use of embodied affective experience. Three essays in the issue focus on new and emerging technology. In, “The iAnimal Film Series: Activating Empathy Through Virtual Reality,” Holly Cecil examines the potential power of virtual reality to generate empathy in users. In particular, she looks at the way animal advocacy organizations combine documentary film and virtual reality to communicate the embodied experience of living and dying in a factory farm to provoke feeling and widespread opposition to the industry.
The iAnimal Film Series
Activating Empathy Through Virtual Reality
This article explores the innovative use of virtual reality (VR) technology in nonfiction documentary film formats by animal-advocacy organizations. I examine the potential of the VR medium to communicate the living and dying environments of factory-farmed animals, and to generate viewer empathy with the animal subjects in their short, commodified lives from birth to slaughterhouse. I present a case study of the iAnimal short film series produced by Animal Equality, which made its public debut at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Employing a critical animal studies framework, I engage Kathryn Gillespie's work on witnessing of the nonhuman condition as a method of academic research, and apply to it the embodied experience of virtual witnessing through virtual realty.
Sisyphean Landscape Allegory in Cinema
This article embarks from George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's embodied understanding of metaphor in linguistic contexts and proceeds beyond merely an extended notion of “visual” metaphor toward an operational understanding of the term “allegory” in the cinematic context. Specifically, a pattern of Sisyphean landscape allegory in a global array of postwar narrative cinema is identified and explored, in which a psychologically conflicted protagonist struggles against a resistant natural landscape, connoting varying degrees of existential “futility.” The recurrent experiential configuration of this modernist allegory on screen, especially in terms of its haptic dimensions, is explored for its ability to “invoke” social critique—as felt, visceral content.
The nineteenth-century science of “optography” was based on the idea that an image of the last thing seen at the moment of death would be imprinted on the retina. This idea was inspired by the invention of photography, which reinforced the mechanistic notion of the eye as a camera, and it was frequently criticized in nineteenth-century literary texts, in which eyes more often record images generated from within the mind. Belief in optography began to wane at roughly the same time that cinema became a popular form of entertainment, but it continued to appear in several films in which severed eyes function as cameras or optical implants are used to record visual impressions that can be viewed after the death of the subject. This article examines how these optographic narratives continued to reinforce the mechanistic notion of visual perception on which film technology was thought to depend.
Marissa C. de Baca
Erin Y. Huang. Urban Horror: Neoliberal Post-Socialism and the Limits of Visibility (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020). 288 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4780-0809-5 / 978-1-4780-0679-4; (paperback, $26.95; hardback, $99.05)
An Interview with Author Ta-wei Chi on the New Translation of The Membranes
Jane Chi Hyun Park and Ta-wei Chi
This interview is based on a series of email exchanges in November 2019 between Taiwanese writer and scholar Ta-wei Chi and Korean American scholar Jane Chi Hyun Park about Chi's queer speculative novella, The Membranes. The first section provides a summary of the novella, which was recently translated into English by Ari Heinrich. The second section paints a picture in broad brush strokes of the contexts in which Chi wrote The Membranes—taking into consideration key cross-cultural influences and critical reception in Taiwan in the 1990s. It also examines the cultural and political relevance of Chi's creative predictions about the future within the present historical moment. Finally, it explores afterlives for the novella in the form of sequels and possible cinematic adaptations.