Whatever Happened to Home Movies? Self-representation from Family Archives to Online Algorithms

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Lauren S. Berliner


Home movies are cultural acts and artifacts that have much to teach us about the way we use media technologies to situate ourselves in contemporary and past cultures, and how we use them to store and reshape our images of self, family and community. Archives of personal, family, or community media have always been rich and complex, albeit relatively bound sites of analysis, however when we now upload personal media to video sharing platforms we subject them not only to new economies of scale, but of meaning and audience as well. The prolific use of platforms such as YouTube and TikTok now requires us to take stock of how systems of producing, organizing, and circulating self-made media are impacted by corporate profit motives and backend functionalities. The capacities and uses of digital recording technologies and online file sharing platforms have complicated the status of the category of home movies and necessitate a revision to the analytical frameworks that several scholars of Cinema and Media Studies have offered in the past. Through a discussion of several user-produced media texts on video sharing platforms, I aim to elucidate the ways in which the platform is now apparatus that structures new social and affective relations and how we conceive of and represent our personal worlds, drawing attention to how capital flows through these systems, commodifying images, affect, gestures, expression, movement, sounds, and desire, and how and where existing social biases are reproduced or challenged. 

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