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Special Affects is a project of the University of Pittsburgh Film Studies Graduate Student Organization (FSGSO). In addition to publicizing Cinematheque, a biweekly screening series in Pittsburgh, an annual film & media studies conference, and regularly scheduled professional panels and talks, Special Affects is devoted to cultivating a broader intellectual community of scholars, readers, practitioners, and media-makers with an interest in film and media topics.

Though the study of increasingly diverse and dispersed sites of media production and consumption – game studies, television, film, new media, science and technology studies, visual culture, video art, internet studies … could all fall under the wing of FMS – can, for some, lend the discipline a frustratingly miscellaneous aura, we feel it is a unique advantage of film and media studies to routinely glean approaches and insights from many disciplines. To that end, we hope to cast a wide net and encourage scholars and writers from diverse fields to contribute and collaborate; to give an occasion for thinkers, creators, and media-makers to field questions, articulate their ideas and visions in a more casual, public format; and to provide a textual space for discussion beyond the seminar room or lecture hall. Finally, where pedagogy often takes a secondhand role in descriptions of academic work, we hope to recover its primacy through the sharing of teaching materials and syllabi and by encouraging a broader discussion of teaching film and media topics.

However, beyond writing and publishing on academic subjects in a digital, open access medium, we hope to explore open access digital media as a form of scholarship in its own right. And the tide is clearly turning, from a print- and publication-oriented academy to a digital- and data-friendly one. In response to both the general crisis in academic publishing and the heavy demands on scholars to publish, the Modern Language Association’s “Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion” recently recommended crediting more publications in article forms. At the same time, the MLA has begun to meaningfully recognize alternative kinds of scholarship made possible by the internet, information technology, and new media. The MLA’s “Guidelines for Evaluating Work with Digital Media” now encourages considering as scholarship the production of digital editions of textual materials, the compiling of databases, writing software to sort and analyze digitized texts (for insights into language, literary tropes, genres, bibliographic differences, etc.), building visualization tools, and defining the codes and technical standards for research in any of the above. At Special Affects we hope to share and develop like digital resources. Our own aggregated journal table of contents browser, dubbed ExtraExtra, is one such effort.

Though Special Affects is affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Film Studies Department and run by the Film Studies Graduate Student Organization, we are happy to look at short proposals or completed posts from scholars, instructors, and graduate students in film and media studies or related fields. We will also consider guest posts from non-academics. Please see our contributor guide for more information, and if you’re local to Pittsburgh we hope to see you at one of our many events.

Javier O’Neil-Ortiz