First Forum 2016






Announcing the 2016 ZdC Conference!

First Forum Logo Color

Call for Papers: First Forum 2016

Subjected to Play: Locating the Subject in the Promise of Play

Division of Cinema & Media Studies
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA
October 14-15, 2016

Submission Deadline: June 3, 2016

As utopian aspirations for new and more participatory media meet the sobering realities of digital labor and the politics of self management, First Forum invites scholars to examine the ways play has shaped the rhetoric of subjectivity within academic and popular contexts as it relates to media production and consumption.

The conference will investigate how we as cinema and media critics, teachers, fans, artists and activists are rethinking play and the promise of agency in order to understand how these modes of address interpret subjectivity in a diverse media landscape, how they enforce or destabilize subjective boundaries, and how they define our own identities in the process. Moreover, this year’s First Forum intends to critically explore the relationship between the classical notion of the cinematic subject and how newly evolving media languages emphasizing interactivity and gameification have resituated this subject within the highly mediated moment of today.

What are the ethical implications of a playful relationship between subject – critic, artist, actor, avatar – and object – movie, game, novel, website? Where does the idea of an “active” subject fit within this historical narrative? How have ubiquitous screen technologies influenced our sense of interacting with the world and with others? How has media pedagogy responded to this interactive turn? What new demands are being asked of users and viewers as a result? Topics are encouraged to take a fluid approach to the theme and draw from a wide variety of critical lenses, as well as focus on any time period, genre, or medium.

Possible topics include:

the rhetoric of play; media archaeology and the history of interactivity; theories of play and subjectivity (phenomenology, post-structuralist, etc.); ethical play, newsgames, games for change; spectator and audience studies; gameification in the workplace, “playbor”; the representation of play and subjectivity in film (i.e. eXistenZ, Gamer); interactive cinema, second-screen experiences; screen culture; gesture and play; hypertext, the Internet, and social media subjectivities; Virtual Reality; postcolonial studies of play; feminist identity and critiques of play; queer subjectivities, queering play; the failure of play; teaching play

Sobchack1This year’s First Forum will feature a keynote address by renowned media scholar, Dr. Vivian Sobchack.

Additionally, conference events will include a roundtable discussion among USC faculty and alumni respondents for panel presentations.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words for a 20-minute panel presentation as well as a brief bio of no more than 100 words. Non-traditional, creative projects are welcome.


Please e-mail submissions and inquiries to by June 3, 2016.

On the Fringe: Two Weeks until Conference

First Forum Poster

Two more weeks until our big conference! Mark your calendars and please join us! Oct. 16th and 17th, starting at 9am both days in SCA 110.

Events include a keynote lecture by Dr. Fatimah Tobing Rony (UC – Irvine), the presentation of the Eisenstein Award to filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien (in person! RSVP at, a workshop from the Academy Film Archive, a special nighttime event with AACS celebrating the legacy of Blaxploitation with filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, Scott Sanders, and other guests, a faculty roundtable, and five graduate student panels!

Look for our final schedule soon on

2015 Conference Call for Papers

First Forum Logo Color

On the Fringe: Understanding Alternative and Subversive Media

USC Critical Studies Graduate Conference, Los Angeles, California October 16th–17th, 2015

First Forum, the 2015 USC Critical Studies Graduate Conference, seeks out scholars examining a wide array of media existing on the “fringe” of mainstream commercial industries and the theoretical and critical frameworks that illuminate them. The areas of cinema and media this encompasses—such as avant-garde/experimental, minor cinemas, guerrilla television, YouTube and amateur internet media, B-movies, third cinema, exploitation genre, or feminist filmmaking—have historically been marginalized despite their rapid expansion and growing importance in the field of media studies. These fringe texts represent how visual media evolved over time speak to foundational questions of their surrounding visual culture, satisfy niche consumers, or express ideological manifestos. How does the fringe media serve as an alternative to the greater industry it is surrounded by? How do they impact our notions of “cinema” or digital media? What does it mean for a fringe media to become mainstream? What theoretical or political issues arise as we understand marginalized media? Topics are encouraged to draw from a wide variety of critical lenses, as well as focus on any time period, genre, or medium.

In addition to panels showcasing graduate papers, this year’s conference will include a roundtable discussion between Dr. David E. James, Dr. Kara Keeling, Dr. Akira Lippit, and Dr. Michael Renov, as well as alumni lectures, and a keynote address.

We welcome papers engaged with fringe studies, and encourage submissions that take a fluid interpretation of this topic as well. Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words for a 20-minute panel presentation as well as a brief bio of no more than 100 words. Non-traditional, creative projects are welcome, as are individual papers or pre-constituted panels.

Please email your submissions and inquiries to Sophia Serrano at by May 26th, 2015.

Possible topics include:

Avant-garde, B-movies/Genre films, Experimental video art, Third Cinema, Guerrilla television, Blaxploitation, Feminist Theory/Media, Underrepresented artists, Pornography, Citizen journalism, Expired technologies, Found footage, Documentary, Forgotten media, Amateur Internet media, Cult Films, Genre films, Alternative histories, Minor Cinemas, Race politics and theory, Developing media.

A special lecture by Dr. Henry Jenkins: “Comics … And Stuff”

ZdC Presents a Special Lecture:

Dr. Henry Jenkins: “Comics … And Stuff”

7:00 p.m. Wednesday, November 20, 2013 SCI 106


In a culture awash with “stuff” (material objects, belongings, collectibles), comics, as a medium, has provided particularly rich insights into our historic, shared, and personal relationships with the stuff of everyday life. In part, this is because of our particular relationship to the mise-en-scène of comics: the ways that we can pause and scrutinize the image in a way that is closer to our relationship to a still life painting and yet these objects are also inserted into a larger narrative framework which often depicts the character’s relationships to their belongings, dealing with the nature and process of memory.  If comics are often discussed as a sequential art with an emphasis on the juxtaposition between frames, comics have also from the start been preoccupied with juxtapositions within the frame, burying elements in the background to be discovered by the reader.

This talk is intended as an introduction to a new book project which will ultimately discuss the work of 9 graphic novelists, each of whom deals with aspects of material culture and media history.  This talk lays the foundation for the project, developing a conceptual vocabulary for thinking about the place of mise-en-scène in contemporary comics.

Henry Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communication Journalism and Cinematic Arts at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Henry Jenkins joined USC from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was Peter de Florez Professor in the Humanities. He directed MIT’s Comparative Media Studies graduate degree program from 1993-2009, setting an innovative research agenda during a time of fundamental change in communication, journalism and entertainment.  His most recent books include Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the Literature Classroom (with Wyn Kelley, Katie Clinton, Jenna McWilliams, Ricardo Pitts-Wiley and Erin Reilly) and Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Society (with Sam Ford and Joshua Green).

ZdC is the Graduate Student Organization for the Division of Critical Studies within the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Click here for a PDF of the flyer for this event