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James Millea - Audiovisual Research, Imposter Syndrome, and a 120GB Archive of Commitment

In Response to Henry Jenkins

Published onOct 06, 2020
James Millea - Audiovisual Research, Imposter Syndrome, and a 120GB Archive of Commitment
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Audiovisual Research, Imposter Syndrome, and a 120GB Archive of Commitment

James Millea, University of Liverpool

Now over a decade old, my black 120GB Apple iPod Classic has become very temperamental. At times it refuses to charge, regularly turns itself off, and sometimes skips tunes as it pleases. And yet, even as it continues to falter, my black 120GB Apple iPod Classic continues to be my most beloved piece of tech. I bought it in July of 2009 on a trip to the US. I had initially kept away from the Apple iPod in all its forms. I took my passion for music very seriously when I was younger. I had a CD player and a large box of CDs, a set up that offered a ritual through which I could highlight that seriousness to others also interested in music. Eventually, I gave in.  

By the time I bought my iPod I had just finished my first year of music at University College Cork. I soon filled it with everything I could get my hands on - from the records in my house to those that filled the university library. At that point my iPod offered a chance to show my commitment to my musical knowledge. I had 120GB and I was going to fill it. It was during my master’s degree that I first got the chance to work on sound and music in audiovisual media. Writing my dissertation on intertextuality and the re-use of music in contemporary cinema, I sourced as many soundtrack albums that spoke to that research as I could, adding those to the now bulging 120GB. During my doctoral studies, I altered this process. Instead of a collection of music with a section I prioritised, I moved to just having the material I needed for that particular work. As I found sounds and music that engaged with the soundscapes of the New Black Realist cinema at the centre of my thesis, either directly or indirectly, that was added to my iPod. I removed everything else. Doctoral research, and academia more generally, is a procedure of mass consumption. It is so important to stay on top of all the chapters, journals, and books that continue to be published, particularly as the field of audiovisual research moves and changes relatively quickly. I no longer needed an object to highlight my seriousness to others. I had moved beyond that. The PhD itself was serious enough. Instead, my black 120GB Apple iPod Classic was now an object I held to prove my seriousness to myself. As imposter syndrome kicked in regularly throughout each new page and chapter this little piece of tech helped to remind me that I had worked to be here. Aside from holding all the material that I had collected for that particular project, that I had researched and sourced, it itself had become an object that reflected my commitment to music and media. Now, as I begin each new project, I repeat that process. I wipe away all the well-worn songs and sounds of the previous work and replace them with the material that speaks to my latest research. As I do, my black 120GB Apple iPod Classic becomes a mini archive, an ever-growing sonic bibliography that speaks of more than the songs and sounds that it houses.  

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