Date of Award

2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Faculty

Faculty of Communications and Creative Industries

First Advisor

Dr. Rod Giblett

Second Advisor

Dr. Dennis Wood

Abstract

This project charts the extraordinary history of the Super 8 film medium, a popular amateur home movie format first introduced in 1965 and largely assumed to have disappeared with the advent of home video technologies in the early 1980's. Kodak's Worst Nightmare investigates the cultural history of the Super 8 medium with an emphasis on its (secret) life since 1986. lt asks how (and why) an apparently obsolete consumer technology has survived some 35 years into a digital future despite the emergence of technologically-advanced domestic video formats and Eastman Kodak's sustained attempts since the mid-80s to suppress, what is for it, a patently unprofitable product line. Informed by the work of Heath (1900), Zimmermann (1995), and Carroll (1996), this project takes the unusual step of isolating a specific amateur film medium as its object of study at the centre of a classic 'nature vs. nurture' debate. Arguing against a popular essentialist position which attributes the longevity of Super 8 to its unique, irreplaceable aesthetic, Kodak's Worst Nightmare proposes that Super 8 film has been a contested site in a social, cultural, political, and economic nexus where different agencies have appropriated the medium through the construction of discourses which have imposed their own meanings on the use and consumption of this cultural product. In an extraordinary cycle of subjugation, resistance and incorporation, this project finds that the meanings and potentials of Super 8 have been progressively colonised by differing institutions - firstly by Eastman Kodak ('domestic' Super 8), secondly by the alternative,independent film movement ('oppositional' Super 8 and 'indie' Super 8), and finally by the mainstream film and television industry ('professional' Super 8"). In an amazing contradiction, it is argued that Super 8 in its current incarnation has emerged as the exact opposite of Kodak's original discursive construction of its amateur status - it has become a professional medium for commercial production. Drawing together related work in the histories of domestic photography and communications technologies, and the cultural practice of everyday life, this project contributes to an area which is seriously undertheorised in the literature of film theory and cultural studies- the social, political and cultural role of amateur film technologies.

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