What is Multimedia?–An Interview with Carolyn Silveira

You’ve been hearing our call for Multimedia Submissions, and, while it sounds interesting, you aren’t sure exactly where to start. LUMINA’s Multimedia Editor, Carolyn Silveira, takes some time to talk to us about glitter glue, cat videos, and what we mean when we say Multimedia.

When you’re ready, send LUMINA your own Multimedia Submission. And if you still have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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“We’re looking to take advantage of how many kinds of media we can produce, combine, and access easily between the print and online world these days.

So, what exactly does Multimedia mean?

Carolyn Silveira: I actually think “multifaceted” is more accurate than “multimedia” here. Multimedia implies that a single piece incorporates more than one medium, but I think work that presents a pairing—like a wine and cheese—fits the bill, too. Take a piece of radio fiction, for example. You rarely see the text or script that was written for it, but if it’s a piece with brilliant dialogue, or vivid imagery, or complex ideas, you might get a lot of enjoyment from reading the text as well as hearing the produced story. That wouldn’t say “multimedia” to most people, but I think it’s an exciting way to take advantage of how many publishing mediums are available to us. What I guess I’m getting at is that for our purposes, we’re looking to take advantage of how many kinds of media we can produce, combine, and access easily between the print and online world these days. But, at the end of the day, it never hurts to see work that makes use of art’s best media: crayon, tempera paint, and glitter glue.

Can you give us a few examples of possible submissions?

CS:

  • A radio project with an interesting transcript, artifact, or visual. (This American Life did a radio story about Iraqis whose lives were in danger after they worked with Americans. They published the emails online, and they were devastating look at. Your eyes recognized the little To / From lines, the casual format of email, which were a man’s plea for his life, and you see his powerlessness.)
  • Flash fiction paired with an abstract video shot on iPhone.
  • Video of a choreographed performance, submitted with dance notation.
  • A spoken-word poem recording along with a block-print inspired by it.
  • A haiku in skywriting, captured, with commentary, on the cellphone of a random observer.
  • The code to a locker where, if I opened it, I’d find a stack of unmarked poems in perfect calligraphy.

 “Creating a short animated video of a single sentence can both celebrate language and help, well, market the literature.

How do you feel about multimedia’s place in the literary world?

CS: I’m not sure I know what it’s place in the literary world IS, exactly. It’s … around. Like drugs. Just depends what parties you’re going to. There was the “New York School” of poets and painters who worked with and off one another, so we can’t say this is anything new. But today, you have Electric Literature, which is working from the basic assumption that we live in a multimedia world, and therefore they’re working with an eye toward how things work on different platforms, and how creating a short animated video of a single sentence can both celebrate language and help, well, market the literature. As we interact more and more with different media and platforms (and I guess I’m counting our phones, laptops, Netflix accounts, Facebook feeds…), I think we have a chance to encounter more literature, not less, and in more varied ways.

“We might not talk about it often, but we love to be moved by language. Now we just have more and more places to encounter it.

I work as a Contributing Curator for Upworthy.com, and one thing that has surprised and thrilled me is how successful they’ve been at publishing and popularizing spoken word content. I love poetry, but I thought that’d be a dud. And yet one of the most viral videos we ever had was a spoken-word poem and animation about bullying. Upworthy’s fundamental belief is that people care about meaningful ideas, not just cat videos, and I would add that I think people also care about experiencing beauty and emotion. We might not talk about it often, but we love to be moved by language. Now we just have more and more places to encounter it. I feel like I’ve just flipped the question inside out; maybe I’m really interested in the place of literature in a multimedia world. Just to cover my bases, though, I need to say: books books books books. I’ll never be through with books made out of trees. And I hope books will revisit their own multimedia roots and begin to incorporate gold leafing and historiated initials and insets again.

What kind of submission would excite you?

CS: Something surprising! I think there are pretty obvious types of submissions, but I’m really excited to stumble across something I hadn’t even considered. But as with any plain old reading material, I’m just looking to be moved or pleased or made to think. And I’m interested to see how people stretch the concept of paired or interpretative work. I’ve seen pretty literal, interpretative videos based on literature, which can be great, but I’m curious how less literal work can also deepen or enhance our experience of an idea or piece of writing.

“One project I did with a friend involved rolling up poems and putting them in balloons filled with helium, and tying the balloon bouquets all around our college campus. That was delightful!

What’s your own history with multimedia?

CS: I have the most experience with radio, both journalistic and creative, and I’ve produced videos (for communications campaigns). I once decided to letterpress some poems I’d written for a friend’s wedding, but trying to typeset even a short poem in type smaller than a circus poster is damn hard. One project I did with a friend involved rolling up poems and putting them in balloons filled with helium, and tying the balloon bouquets all around our college campus. That was delightful! I think a key “awakening” moment for me was stumbling across a DVD which was an issue of Rattapallax, an internationally-oriented literary journal focusing on the intersection of literature and film. There were stop-motion animations set to a Billy Collins poem, a film that brought together DJ Spooky and Gertrude Stein, and a wild, wordless, text-less movie inspired by William Blake.

Is there anything else you would like possible submitters to know?

CS: Just go for it! I’m open to bending our own guidelines; like if you want to do that locker key-code thing, hell, let’s talk.

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