I am pleased to begin the final issue of the year with a very special announcement. Screen Bodies is modifying its editorial direction and the kind of work it will feature. Many of our readers will already have a sense of these changes, made evident by the new Aims and Scope section we made available online earlier this summer, and by the journal's new subtitle, The Journal of Embodiment, Media Arts, and Technology. As these indicate, the foundational commitments of the journal remain unchanged; however, moving forward will we intensify our focus on new media art, technology studies, and the interface of the sciences and the humanities. We will continue to examine the cultural, aesthetic, ethical, and political dimensions of emerging technologies, but with a renewed attention to such areas as intermediality, human–machine interface, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, generative art, smart environments, immersive and interactive installations, machine learning, biotechnology, computer science, digital culture, and digital humanities. The journal will continue to prioritize matters of the body and screen media, both in terms of representation and engagement, but will emphasize research that critically reexamines those very concepts, as, for example, in the case of object-oriented feminism's nonanthropocentric approach, which asks us to rethink what we mean by bodies and embodiment.
Andrew J. Ball
Film Studies and Analytic Aesthetics in Dialogue
Mario Slugan and Enrico Terrone
Since the 1970s with Stanley Cavell's work, and later with contributions such as those by Noël Carroll, George Wilson, Gregory Currie, and Berys Gaut, film has become a respectable object of philosophizing among Anglo-Saxon philosophers. Still, when it comes to the relationship between film and philosophy, the focus is mostly on how philosophy can help better understand film with little or nothing on how film studies can contribute to philosophical aesthetics. This special issue is aimed at encouraging a more balanced interaction between analytic aesthetics and film studies.
Toward a Queer Sinofuturism
Ari Heinrich, Howard Chiang, and Ta-wei Chi
This special issue on “Queer Sinofuturisms” aims to explore how artists and writers working across various media in Sinophone contexts use science to envision—and indeed to fabulate—non-normative gender and erotic expressions in relation to the corporeal future of humanity. By investigating visions of the future that incorporate queerness and creative applications of computer and biotechnology, “Queer Sinofuturisms” aims to counter pervasive techno-Orientalist discourses, such as those discourses in the Blade Runner movies (Ridley Scott, 1982; and Denis Villeneuve, 2017) that frame “Asian” futures as strictly dystopian—and heteronormative by default. What happens, this issue of Screen Bodies asks, if we simultaneously destabilize techno-Orientalist narratives of the future while queering assumptions about the heteronormativity so often inscribed upon that future in mainstream iterations and embodiments? What kinds of fabulous fabulations might emerge?
A Cautionary Tale from a Serious Pessimist
This article surveys some of the major criticisms of mirror neuron explanations of human behavior within neuroscience and philosophy of mind. It then shows how these criticisms pertain to the recent application of mirror neuron research to account for some of our responses to movies, particularly our empathic response to film characters and our putative simulation of anthropomorphic camera movements. It focuses especially on the “egocentric” conception of the film viewer that mirror neuron research appears to license. In doing so, it develops a position called “serious pessimism” about the potential contribution of neuroscience to the study of film and art by building upon the “moderate pessimism” recently proposed by philosopher David Davies. It also offers some methodological recommendations for how film scholars should engage with the sciences.
Andrew J. Ball
Visibility and Screen Politics after the Transgender Tipping Point
This issue of Projections features an impressive diversity of research questions and research methods. In our first article, Timothy Justus investigates the question of how film music represents meaning from three distinct methodological perspectives—music theory, cognitive psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. Following a model of naturalized aesthetics proposed by Murray Smith in Film, Art, and the Third Culture (see the book symposium in Projections 12.2), Justus argues for the importance of “triangulating” the methods and approaches of each field—more generally, of the humanities, the behavioral sciences, and the natural sciences. Our second article, by Gal Raz, Giancarlo Valente, Michele Svanera, Sergio Benini, and András Bálint Kovács, also explores the effects fostered by a specific formal device of cinema—in this case, shot-scale. And again, distinct research methods are put to complementary use. Raz and colleagues’ starting point is a desire to empirically test a hypothesis advanced by art historians Alois Riegl and Heinrich Wölfflin. To do this, they apply a machine-learning model to neurological data supplied by a set of fMRI scans. Methodology is the explicit topic of our third article, by Jose Cañas-Bajo, Teresa Cañas-Bajo, Juri-Petri Valtanen, and Pertti Saariluoma, who outline a new mixed (qualitative and quantitative) method approach to the study of how feature films elicit viewer interest.
Teacher. Mentor. Dissertation committee member. Advocate. Colleague. Friend. These are the many roles that Ed Branigan filled in my life over the eleven-plus years I was privileged to know him. However, merely listing these roles does not really do justice to his impact on me, because it leaves out the kindness, generosity, wit, and enthusiasm that he always had in store for me in all of our interactions, be they postlecture dinners together in Santa Barbara, movie marathons at his house in Oak Park, California, or, as was more and more common over the last few years, e-mail messages.