Volunteers Wanted: Transforming SCMS From Within

April 3, 2015
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scms1I’ve described SCMS to non academics as being akin to summer camp, offering a range of fun events and friends new and old with whom to reconnect. The conference also operates within a nebulous realm of work and non-work, apart from the routines of normal life yet also deeply ingrained within the professional rhythms of the scholarly vocation. It can be a grind, but it can also be rejuvenating. It is easy to complain about various aspects of SCMS, but ultimately, your conference experience is always unique based on how you choose to navigate its many panels, workshops, and events (official and otherwise).

The experience of the conference seems to evolve as one’s career grows—from the overwhelming experience of the graduate student newbie to the new challenges of working the publishing tables as a tenure-track faculty member developing a book. I seem to be in the joiner stage. A member of two special interest groups (SIGs), one caucus, and a committee, I devoted a good part of my conference to meetings rather than panels. This was somewhat disheartening, as I missed a lot of good work, but it has also made me think about value of working to improve SCMS from within.

Petruska-1I’ve been a core team member of the Media Industries SIG since its inception in 2012. In only three years, this SIG, which pulls from film, television, game, and new media studies, has grown to become one of the largest SIGs at over four hundred members. This year, we received an incredibly diverse range of proposals for SIG sponsorship, many more than the eight we are invited to submit. Among the topics reflected were media metrics, historical queer film, independent media, and advertising. The SIG’s growth is at once a testament to the vitality of this expanding area of research and a responsibility to continue articulating what is the role of the SIG within SCMS. For example, we’ve been working to create an “experts page,” detailing the particular subject areas of interest for our members, with the idea that this could become a resource for journalists needing quotes and talking heads. While we haven’t cracked the code of how to publicize this sort of resource, the desire to promote our members remains a priority for the SIG. I should note that this topic—identifying the continuing purpose and mission of a special interest group—came up at the Television Studies SIG meeting as well. For new and older SIGs, then, members seem eager to continue to push the possibilities of what an organization as large as SCMS can help us achieve.

My view of the possible scope of an organization like SCMS has been enlarged by serving on the public policy committee. The work of this committee tends to take place behind the scenes, so you may not know it exists even as it works to suggest policy updates and innovations to the SCMS Board that help you do your jobs better. In the past two years that I’ve been a member, the committee has provided advice for the board and drafted documents to advance the organization’s efforts to advocate for Fair Use protections (in publishing and teaching), Open Access, DMCA exemptions for teachers, and Network Neutrality (more on SCMS policies can be found here). There’s a whole world of activity at SCMS beyond the conference, and volunteering can be one path towards uncovering those efforts.

Petruska-3In the past few years, we’ve seen a wide range of new activities created solely through the support of the Board and the willingness of SCMS members to volunteer their time. Cinema Journal has expanded its reach online in a variety of (open access) ways to serve member interests. First, there is the “Teaching Dossier,” which features blog posts from members discussing their teaching strategies in line with particular themes for each issue. Second, the always entertaining “Aca-Media” podcast co-hosted by Christine Becker and Michael Kackman delivers a monthly program that features scholar interviews and discussions of current issues within media studies. The Media Industries SIG sponsored an affiliate event (one of three) at this year’s SCMS about the Sony Hack. Super topical, this event, too, helps us envision additional ways that SCMS can address current events and the place of scholars analyzing and commentating upon them. All of this activity confirms that SCMS members have the potential to inspire the organization to become more visible to scholars and the broader public across a range of platforms, transforming the conference into only one more opportunity to enhance the value of SCMS for all who work to give it meaning.





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