Networked Reenactments: Stories Transdisciplnary Knowledges Tell (Duke 2011)

In the nineties, in not altogether voluntary partnership with the web, television had to learn not only to “show” but also to “tell,” discovering for commercial and technical reasons and for widely diverging audiences how to distribute stories and information engaging all the senses across platforms and infrastructures. Media scholars today call this phenomenon transmedia storytelling. Stories in this book suggest how this transmedia practice came about and how thoroughly entangled it is with the European Union’s cultural, racial and sexual economies creating action-adventure TV shows Highlander and Xena, with U.S. museum politics at the Smithsonian’s Science in American Life, with transnational melodramas of science-styled TV reenactments such as Secrets of Lost Empires and African-American Lives, and with Australian, British and U.S. scholarly experiments making, sharing and demonstrating knowledges from the humanities to various publics, all of whom have their very own ideas about how to understand the past. Pressured to justify themselves to and as various publics promoting heritage and enterprise, television, the web, assertive fans, un-black-boxing educators and intellectual entrepreneurs took jobs of “reception” seriously and practiced them in transdisciplinary detail. Reenactments became a particular way to both show and tell, reenactors a kind of communication technology themselves, scaled both as persons, and also as elements in immersive environments now eddying among knowledge worlds. All this took place as entertainment media, knowledge work and global academies mutually restructured. These stories about reenactment melodramas demonstrate the affects and ethics of sifting through and managing authoritative and alternative knowledges within what may be an emergent, maybe even feminist, posthumanities.