Reviewed by: Cheryl LaGuardia, Research Librarian, Widener Library, Harvard University
A result of the formation of the Media Fields Research Collective at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2007, Media Fields Journal is their “platform for the dissemination of current research on the spatial dimensions of media, opening up new critical directions that account for the changing roles that different media forms play in the world today,” with the aim of “circulat[ing] research on media and space, function[ing] as a testing ground for new disciplinary trajectories, and facilitate[ing] conversations that advance space, spatiality, and critical practice as crucial topics in the field of media studies.” Given that the journal is only published in an online format, the editors invite submissions of scholarly essays as well as works not typically found in traditional print journals, such as photo essays and audio interviews. Interestingly enough, the founders of the collective were scholars from Brown University, MIT, Concordia University, Emory University, SUNY Purchase, and New York University.
Each issue of Media Fields Journal is organized around a theme. The most recent issue’s (#8) theme is "Playgrounds," and it’s all about play spaces -- from the analog to the digital -- with articles including, “Policing the Sandbox in Grand Theft Auto Online,” “Antagonism, Incorporated: Video Arcades and the Politics of Commercial Space,” and “The Street is in Play: A Reading of Banksy's Better Out Than In.” Articles combine good scholarship with the immediacy and accessibility of current artwork, often documenting ephemeral forms of media expression (such as Banksy’s Better Out Than In street art residency in NYC, ad campaigns involving media expressions of gender and sexuality, and numerous gaming experiences encountered in a variety of formats and environments). Presentation of material is creatively variant; Issue 8’s poster-like images linking to articles pays homage to a combination of the title sequences for both Back to the Future and High Fidelity, while other issues employ photo montages, hierarchical shapes, and a number of different filmic representations and pastiches to make each issue new and interesting.
Most of the interviews I found were transcripts of conversations, although there are some Vimeo-based interviews and clips interspersed throughout the issues. A number of articles also incorporate high-resolution photographs that punctuate the text very effectively. And most librarians will find the article “Digitally Compressing the Magazine Archive: What Might Be Won and Lost When forgoing [sic] a Visit to the Stacks” of great interest.
Overall, Media Fields Journal is a visually- and intellectually-stimulating publication that ably addresses a wide range of subjects in relation to media forms and practices. It makes good use of the media afforded by its online format, and will be of interest to media, theater, and film students and scholars, as well as to performance artists and those who study and follow their work.