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  • Console-ing PassionsApril 24–26, 2008, University of California–Santa Barbara
  • Moya Luckett (bio)

Although the eleventh Console-ing Passions (CP) conference was the biggest meeting yet, it retained the intimacy and camaraderie of a small conference. Besides its now customary T-shirts and well-catered receptions, this conference included a beach party, giving participants many opportunities to mingle and discuss proceedings. Despite the distractions of Santa Barbara, the panels were well attended, testifying to the level of interest and quality of work associated with this biennial conference. Founded in 1989 by a group of feminist television and video scholars, the conference now encompasses new media, with many panels exploring changes in electronic media that are redefining TV and transforming scholarship.

Much of the work at previous Console-ing Passions was historically grounded, and as the conference's influence spread, its important book series with Duke University Press focused on titles that are largely historical in content and approach. C.P. 2008 shifted away from this paradigm, engaging more with the present (and possible future) than the past. Pressing issues such as the pending shift to digital broadcasting in a culture of convergence, with new media redefining the television medium, coupled with the presidential election's possibility for change, captivated scholars more than the archive. Just one panel was explicitly devoted to history ("Temporality and Historiography"), and there was little consideration of pre-1970s television. Panels included: Gaming and Gender, Online Political Culture and Mediated Elections, Social Networking and Gender in IT, Blogospheres and Gendered Relations, Teen TV and Girls' Blogs, Vlogs, Mobile Phones, and WiFi. The most discussed shows were Battlestar Galactica (SciFiChannel, 2004–2009) and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (FOX, 2008–2009), each of [End Page 99] which had its own panel, with The Hills (2006–present) as omnipresent as it is on MTV and in the weekly gossip magazines.

Despite discussions of branding, viral marketing, celebrity, amateur production, convergence, role-playing, gender reconstruction, multiplatform texts, and franchising, one aspect of the contemporary media landscape was largely absent: international media. While globalization was addressed in terms of Asian labor in Multiplayer Online Games (Lisa Nakamura) or through the international migrations of telenovelas ( Juan Monroy), the transnational was primarily articulated in terms of American, and secondarily British, television. While some of this testifies to these nations' continued hegemony in television production, including the generation of reality show franchises, this focus suggests that the economic dominance of Western national television markets should be taken seriously. Our global media economy still relies on national powers, which construct the margins and the center, and shape the critical paradigms used to study media. Many papers drew on broadcasting's American and British traditions, not just in terms of the split between an Anglo-inflected public service ideal and American consumerist foundations, but also in terms of how both respond to post-network digital transitions, establishing the new western paradigms that dominate global entertainment and worldwide scholarship.

On the Legitimating Television panel, Derek Kompare, Michael Kackman, Michael Z. Newman, and Elana Levine used the post-network era's shift to quality television to discuss important issues in TV studies. Kompare discussed authorship in contemporary television, engaging industry, aesthetics, and branding, whereas Newman focused on television aesthetics in the shift to widescreen digital broadcasting, exploring its reworking of television-film distinctions. While exploring contemporary issues, both Levine and Kackman brought historical considerations to the table. Levine explored the shift to mobile viewing in terms of its implications for gendered divisions of space and the displacement of feminized mass culture. She pointed out how discourses of convergence and mobility remasculinized spectatorship (as active) and television as an institution, rejecting the feminized parts of domestic viewing they consign to some unglamorous and redundant past. Given the near absence of the kinds of feminist historical studies of television that Console-ing Passions initially helped to nurture, Levine's work—and Kackman's—offered important reflections on the shift away from history that this conference embodied. Kackman acknowledged this directly in his presentation, which explored how discourses of quality television dislocated its shows away from the medium, rebranding them as cinema. He called for more interrogation of...


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