– Elliot W.Y. LEUNG
FPC Forum: ‘What’s in a Talking Head: narrated selves and event structure”
2010.06.26 / FPC / 2:30-4:30 pm / Linda C.H. LAI
Absolutely fascinating talk and materials; materials which – as was acknowledged during the presentation – lend itself to so many possible frames of analysis, approaches, and appealable to various knowledge/capital fields (Bourdieu), that an inter-disciplinary analysis becomes an unimaginably arduous endeavour, the success of which, nonetheless, would no doubt do justice to the richness of the theoretical mosaic invoked.
The challenge – or problem, depending on how one sees it – seems to be that ‘talking heads’ as an object of analysis as well as aesthetic gaze crosses so many conceptual boundaries that 10+ very different essays can be conceived, each published in a different journal in a different knowledge/citation field:
…a formal (as opposed to content-based) linguistic analysis of utternaces and turns; a sociolinguistics approach which focuses on the social relations and cultural milieu that engender and imbricate such utterances and turns; a social psychological approach on the effect/presence of the camera (a pseudo-interlocutor?) and the interviewer; a social historical enquiry into how the above effects of objects/settings become entrenched in the individuals’ minds; an anthropological enquiry into the role (and lack of) tale-telling among Hong Kongers (a misnomer to begin with); a discussion on the aesthetics of talking heads; a critical analysis of the power relations between subjects who are objectified and the powerful interviewers; an early-Levi-Straussian analysis of the latent structures/binaries of the narrative/the narration-performance; a sociological reflection on gender, and so on and so forth…
The difficulty of reaching out so much (Paul the octopus?) is of course, I think, that interdisciplinarity exists not only in the ‘floating spaces’ between the various discipline-nodes invoked, but also within these nodes. The space of the nodes within and that between nodes together form a compendium and partnership that nonetheless lose none of the depth of each communicant-node. A multi-discipline conference on talking heads, perhaps?
As an aside… Inductive methods/grounded theory yield great theoretical fruits, but I think to a certain extent, an inductive method must at the end have some deductive potential, lest it becomes a mere exercise of seeking alternative descriptions to familiar phenomena without yielding new insights and facets thereof which otherwise may not be perceivable.
Academic analyses aside, watching the talking heads themselves gave the audience a sense of quasi-voyeuristic joy, throngs of nervous yet hearty laughter… perhaps there’s something to be said about the setting too, and the slight transgressive tinge implicated in the unveiling of people’s biographies and psyches projected onto a screen – viewers’ faces that perhaps merit their own reverse-shots. (11.7.10 Elliot Leung)
[youtube excerpt uploaded by Linda Lai: Excitable Speech: All About Cinderella (2008, Linda Lai) ……]
Editor’s notes: Elliot Leung was field researcher for the Talking Head project in summer 2008.