pearwaldorf: martha jones from doctor who (dw - martha smirky)
[personal profile] pearwaldorf
In "honor" of the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, please have the very first paper I wrote for library school (which at this point is half as hold as the series itself, good god): an illustration of the life cycle of information as examined through Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I can't find my works cited page, but if you're really really curious about a reference I could probably dig it up.

The sourcing of works from authors older or more well-known is common (for example, Shakespeare borrowed many ideas from established playwrights and everybody borrowed from Shakespeare), and some authors have edited and kept adding to established works (Whitman's continual revisions of Leaves of Grass), but the re-visioning and revisiting of a work multiple times by the same creator is rather unusual. Joss Whedon has, to date, revisited Buffy the Vampire Slayer three times in three different mediums. Through presenting Buffy in its many incarnations and derivative works, I will examine the life cycle of information and the challenges of classifying, cataloging, and retrieving such works.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a work was first distributed and made available to the general public as a 1992 feature film penned by Whedon and directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui. The movie was released on VHS in two different manifestations: in 1993 and in 1997 under the "Twentieth Century Fox Selections" imprint (IMDb). It was released on DVD in 2001. By nature, motion pictures are collaborative works, although it is usually the director who exerts the most creative control. While the TV show of the same name debuted in 1997, the origins of the show had been envisioned much earlier. Whedon had been kicking around the unproduced concept of "Rhonda the Immortal Waitress" for many years, even before the Buffy screenplay was written (Wikipedia). It was his dissatisfaction with the movie that motivated him to create a TV series around the same concept: "I had written this scary film about an empowered woman, and they turned it into a broad comedy. It was crushing" (ibid). While fans of the show would consider the movie a precursor to the series, a cataloguer would consider the TV series a derivative work, since it came after the movie chronologically and is based around the same general concept.

The Buffy TV series as a work was first distributed as an on-air broadcast in serial format from 1997 to 2003, and then re-aired in another expression (with further cuts for more commercials) in syndication. It was much more well-received than the movie (Baldwin). The network, to an extent, defines the audience, and Buffy's home network was The WB, which sought to cater to a younger demographic. [Footnote this]This, of course, did not preclude other people from watching the show, and regular viewers eventually included, among others, a rabid fanbase of academics (Slayage Online). In 2002 the first season of the show was released on DVD, with subsequent seasons following quickly thereafter.

The DVDs themselves are already structured as archive and retrieval mechanisms for specific episodes of the show in a particular season, but for cataloging purposes they will be considered discrete items to be catalogued (inventoried and organized in a manner facilitating later retrieval, with or without metadata appended) and archived (the items put into a collection). They can be found in both personal and institutional collections, although the institutional collection is much more likely to have appended metadata to the items. Title, genre, author/creator, starring actors, and media type are common pieces of metadata that would be attached to the item, and those most immediately searched. There are, however, many more pieces of data indexed that give information a user would not consider important until it presents itself as a problem--DVD region, format (PAL or NTSC), screen ratio, or languages available through dubbing/subtitling--and it is important to consider information needs beyond the obvious.

In addition to, or perhaps because of, the works being available on DVD, Buffy episodes are also available through digitally distributed manifestations. There are "legitimate" downloads through services like iTunes and Amazon's Unbox that have negotiated with copyright holders to distribute works on their behalf, as well as a thriving underground of "rippers" and "uploaders" that make content available through peer-to-peer networks. Digital distribution has revolutionized and made accessible to a wider audience a greater number of works (Anderson), and challenged the notion of what a library encompasses (Sutton). The items' intangible form also muddles the concepts of document and collection (Lee) as well as the information life cycle itself--when a work is downloaded, is that download still a part of the library collection or does it become part of the user's personal collection, and is that file/item distributed or merely retrieved?

While digital distribution and its associated challenges are some of the ways that can challenge the notions of how the information life cycle and classification are practised, another thing that can confound cataloging models is simply the work itself. The Origin is a comic book that attempts to reconcile the differences between the Buffy movie and the TV series. This presents challenges to the FRBR model as elucidated by Carlyle (46), which presumes that a work can only have one antecedent, and also illustrates the drawbacks of a (physically) object-oriented cataloging system. With a tag, a thing/item can be in many categories at once, but can only be in a single category in a catalog. Carlyle discusses the process versus the existential FRBR model and how an item is an embodiment of each of these particular entities (work, manifestation, item) at the same time (46-47), but does not indicate how this relationship would play out if there are multiple predecessors for a work. Perhaps The Origin is a particularly rare case in published media, but there are many emerging forms of art that draw upon two or more works, such as mash-ups. If such things were to be collected, a solution to the challenge of cataloging a work with multiple predecessors would need to be found.

After the Buffy TV show ended in 2003, Whedon started work on a comic book series, dubbed Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, intended to continue events after the end of the show's seventh season. The first issue was released in March 2007. He has cited his desire to "address certain themes that slipped between the cracks of the show, but also really be a comic book" (Rudolph) as some of his reasons for revisiting this work a third time. For a cataloguer, the Buffy corpus is rather challenging. The same creator's name appears on all three of the main works (and some of the other derivative works), and they are all named similarly enough to cause confusion. In addition, some of the works are more obscure than others and users may be confused if they are looking for the most popular one, or the reference person may not even realize there is another work. Clear and well thought-out organization is the key to differentiating between all these works and ensuring the user finds exactly what they are looking for.

Creation is not a particularly visible step in the life cycle of information, but it is important to recognize, as it is where works begin and end. There is the genesis, distribution, archive and retrieval, and transformation/creation into a new derivative work or adaptation. In this process the works and the information generated around them need to be organized, and as the methods for doing these steps in the life cycle change, so must those of information professionals. 

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-12 05:04 pm (UTC)
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
Good work on the ready, as well as good foresight into the difficulties of transmedia cataloging.