In This Issue

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Welcome to the Winter 2011 issue of Mediascape, which explores the complex notions of the local and global as they intersect with media: industries and studies; cultures of production, distribution, exhibition and reception; as well as the text itself. Some of the questions this issue engages with include: In what ways does the global marketplace facilitate local products and productions? How do actors negotiate the politics of globalization in how they represent themselves in either the digitally enhanced or real worlds? How can digital media balance both the autonomy of local communities and the ongoing impact of corporate globalization? What role do academic scholars and students play in the globalization of media studies?

The work in this issue’s “Features” section considers local/global issues in both literal and figurative ways. In her essay, “Impact on Soft Power of Cultural Mobility: Japan to East Asia,” Seiko Yasumoto explores the concept of “soft power” through the global impact of transnational adaptation and remakes in East Asia of Japanese popular media such as anime and manga, as an effort to foster political and cultural understanding between nations. From an entirely different perspective, Jessica Aldred approaches the virtual local/global in her piece “From Synthespian to Avatar: Re-framing the Digital Human in Final Fantasy and The Polar Express,” by investigating ways we might understand the apparent shift in how “realistic” human characters have been constructed and received within the brief history of the computer-generated blockbuster. Aldred considers what is at stake when the perceived threat of the “synthespian” or autonomous digital actor designed to replace the human star is re-imagined as a transformative digital character that purports to empower and extend the abilities of its human operator.

“Features” also continues Mediascape’s commitment to the importance of expanding our range of possible forms of media scholarship by including two visual essays that examine the relationship between performer, nation, and text. Bryan Hikari Hartzheim’s “Tsuruko Aoki: Wife, Lover, Transcultural Star,” looks back at early Hollywood through a study of the career of Japanese-American silent film actress Tsuruko Aoki and the performer’s attempt to negotiate the multi-cultural and multi-national implications of her on and off-screen personas. In “Pop Music and Wong Kar-wai,” Brain Hu explores the director Wong Kar-wai’s use of music within the industrial and cultural specificities of the context of Hong Kong’s star system. Through that analysis, Hu considers whether there may be a musical “signature” that defines Wong’s specific way of spinning familiar (and de-familiarized) tunes into a film narrative.

Moving away from narrative filmmaking, “Columns” focuses on contemporary scholars and practitioners of documentary filmmaking, and approaches the topic of local/global by looking at the way new technologies create innovative opportunities for social change and action. In “Speculations on the Virtual and the Viral Witness to Human Rights Crises,” Dr. Patricia Zimmerman and Sam Gregory of WITNESS explore ten key questions surrounding the interaction of viral media and human rights abuses. In “Globalization, Digital Films, and New Directions in Documentary,” Dr. Thomas Zaniello discusses the rise of video hybrids, such as Mashups and Remixes, and their affect on documentary form and content. “Columns” also features interviews by the section co-editors Benjamin Sampson and Ross Lenihan with three documentarians who have embraced new media in their work and advocacy, and whose work goes directly to the heart of how digital technologies increasingly make the local global and the global local: Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films, Amie Williams of Bal-Maiden Films and Global Girl Media, and Ian Inaba of the Citizen Engagement Lab.

In “Reviews,” section co-editor Dennis Lo reviews professors Rhonda Hammer’s and Douglas Kellner’s recently published anthology Media/Cultural Studies: Critical Approaches. Combining his self-reflexive narrative of a taxi ride in Taiwan with his review of the writings of a wide selection of authors, Lo “field tests” their ideas on theory and practice within a globalized cultural and media studies context. Turning towards the cinematic text, in her review “Suturing the Wound of Globalization: Immigration and Organs in Dirty Pretty Things”, Abby Hinsman applies theorizations of global politics and trauma to her analysis of the 2002 film Dirty Pretty Things. Her piece investigates the intersection between the voyeurism of narrative cinema and the power struggle within the nation-state as characterized by the thematic struggles of illegal immigration and the violent trafficking of organs.

The “Meta” section continues the successful tradition of engaging scholars in a virtual round table discussion on questions related to the issue’s theme. For this round table, Amelie Hastie, Roshanak Kheshti, and Laura Marks tackle questions dealing with the challenges of working as a media scholar in an increasingly global society. In addition to the round table, Mette Hjort’s piece, “Small Cinemas: How They Thrive and Why They Matter,” looks at the small cinemas’ approach and why such an approach is worthwhile not just for small cinemas, but for film more generally.

As a journal, Mediascape aspires to represent the complexity of our contemporary media landscape by not only engaging with a broad range of texts — written and moving, film and digital, CGI and human – but also by featuring a diverse selection of formats — video essays and interviews, scholarly articles and reviews, and round table discussions. Our hope with this issue is that in light of the ever increasing global reach of media industries, technologies, and texts, the pieces featured herein may provoke readers to consider and make local, if you will, what may be our responsibility as educators and students, to the ever-changing ideas and innovations of a global media society and its lasting impact on the communities in which we work and live.

-- Maya Montañez Smukler, Jennifer Porst, and Bryan Hartzheim, Co-Editors-in-Chief