January 29, 2008
Bernard Timberg and "Launch" and "Rebound" Texts

I've had the pleasure recently of having several conversations and exchanges with Bernard Timberg, a professor at East Carolina University. Bernard wrote a piece on soap operas more than 20 years ago that dealt with production, and Abigail Derecho and I are interviewing him for the collection we are putting together on soaps, looking at the rhetoric of the camera in American soaps today, compared to the early 1980s.

Timberg has written on a variety of subjects, including a substantial amount of work on talk shows, and he is passionate about fair use as well, which is where our most recent conversations were targeted.

However, Bernard wrote a piece for FlowTV back in December that I thought might be of interest to C3 readers. In it, he and co-authors Erick Green and Hsaio Chu edit a montage together of predictions before Al Gore's appearance on the Academy Awards, footage from the awards themselves, talk show discussion afterward, and vlog responses to Gore.

In this look at how one event on traditional media reverberates through multiple media formats and helped bring the "green" movement to the surface, Timberg introduces the idea of a "launch text" and subsequent "rebound texts."

Since my comment there is apparently still awaiting moderation, from back on January 23, I thought I would post it here as well. Be sure to read Bernard's essay and view the video first:

I enjoyed this piece quite well, and I think the Gore moment you chose illustrated your idea of a "launch text" and "rebound texts" quite well. I do wonder, since you included one of them in the video, how you would categorize or take into account the "pre-launch" texts as well, and the impact they have on this moment, since there are a variety of moments leading up to the Academy Award appearance that helped shape our reading of it, helped make it significant, etc.

As you build the "launch" and "rebound" metaphors further, and think of applying it to other media events, I would love to hear your continuing thoughts on how those "pre" texts fit in.

I was also struck by the degree to which externally located content matters in both the launch and rebound texts. The meaning of Gore's presidential run joke, the laughs received from "My Fellow Americans," etc., all rely on cultural information not directly embedded in these texts themselves, so that the relationship between the "launch" and "rebound" texts are also tied to cultural contexts that spread much further...

Finally, I really enjoyed your suggestion of "idea placement." A few years ago, I wrote about the use of public service announcements as product placements on soaps, and how the idea of product placement could be meaningfully extended to the type of public service many feel broadcasters should provide. Soap operas have always had strong movements for dealing with social issues, but this particular event that I wrote about on the C3 blog back in 2005 reflected perhaps a new way to bring these issues to light.

Be sure to put your thoughts on the article up over at Flow, or feel free to e-mail me regarding my comments, since our comments section appears to still be broken. You can e-mail me at samford@mit.edu.