Of our eighty-second issue of the velvet light trap, the editorial board deviated from past years' specificity by choosing a broad theme that encapsulates much of our field's work in communications. For this issue, "Media Dialogues," we asked submitters to address production, labor, style, and the voice in the most literal sense: "dialogue." The lesser-known histories of sound technicians, performers, recording practices, and communication between production departments and above- and below-the-line workers underscore the necessity for a more developed research strategy wherein detailed analyses of speech in cinema, television, radio, and beyond are considered in their own right. More abstractly, the crucial interactions between institutions and academic fields, the mainstream and the underground, the visual and the sonic, and so on also merited consideration as "dialogues" by our editors. Thus, rather than focus on the divisions and boundaries that are so often highlighted in scholarship or, on the other hand, the highly specific studies that eschew an analysis of outer links or influences, this issue sought to understand the "in-between."
The three essays collected here make valuable contributions to the study of media dialogues by addressing interactions or conversations being held between such disparate groups as screen dialogue and internet memes, film genre and online distribution platforms, and commercial narrative as it relates to recent geopolitical events and their coverage.
In "Quality You Can't Touch," Jennifer Hessler looks at the evolving and socially negotiated landscape of contemporary film spectatorship and cinephilia through the case study offered by the online platform Mubi. As detailed by Hessler, this streaming service until recently fulfilled twin roles as both a site of film distribution/exhibition and as a social forum for the discussion and negotiation of contemporary modes of digital cinephilia. In looking at Mubi, this piece details a company's transformation from a social-media-based platform with clear lines of communication with its audience community to one that follows a much more top-down mode of curation and interaction with users. Given the ways in which such digital platforms alter not only audiences' immediate relationship to film spectatorship but also issues of access, perceived authorship, and the role of films as both art and cultural artifacts, this piece's detailing of Mubi's reorientation presents a valuable case study, illuminating the industrial logics and negotiations underpinning the distribution of niche-oriented media content amid the wider digital landscape. It likewise details in what way such shifts evidence and facilitate both new and reentrenched notions of legitimacy and viability with regard to "quality" media in the popular discourse.
A different manner of communication between media consumers and political institutions is considered in Grace Foster's article, "An 'Exquisite Filmic Haze': The Complicated Politics of Reportedness in Zero Dark Thirty." Film and media scholars have long interrogated documentary films' and historical dramas' truth claims and how they engage with viewers' perceptions of past [End Page 1] and present events. Foster uses Zero Dark Thirty to further investigate how films, particularly fiction films "based on true events," can go beyond merely engaging viewers in a dialogue that affects their perception of events. Rather, Foster notes how certain historic interactions portrayed in Zero Dark Thirty, such as the raid that resulted in Osama bin Laden's death, had so little media access and so many conflicting narratives that viewers had no means of engaging in the dialogue that normally occurs between viewers and films proffering "representations" of real events. Instead, the film critically served as the only means of accessing the "truth" of that incident. Due to the unusual positioning of Zero Dark Thirty and its relationship to secretive government operations, the film can further complicate our considerations of how both media texts and political bureaucracies construct particular narratives for public consumption.
Social media increasingly facilitates layered interactions that open up new possibilities for users to communicate not only with one another but also as a means to participate in broader cultural debates. In "Meme Girls versus Trump: Digitally Recycled Screen Dialogue as Political Discourse," Jennifer O'Meara considers online users' deployment of memes containing famous lines from media texts to engage in their...