Special affect : special effects, sensation, and pop in post-socialist Bulgaria
This dissertation is a study of a virtual Bulgaria, a Bulgaria built of ephemeral media images, desires, and structures of feeling. This virtual Bulgaria interacts with the Bulgaria of everyday existence, of everyday struggles and joys in complex ways. Employing the tradition of ethnographic research, I have approached the material of Bulgarian Popular media, its Pop music videos, talk shows, and reality television, as lived spaces, places where personal desires and emotions meet up with larger cultural affects and aspirations. In particular, I am interested in how Bulgarians are choosing to make not only sense, but also sensation out of the dissonances and resonances of their everyday lives via the virtual images of popular media. The vibrant Pop culture of music videos and commercials are certainly more than simple mimicry of Western media. As Bulgaria struggles with its Post-Socialist realities and its hopes for inclusion in the European Union, its producers and audiences approach the fantastic spaces of Bulgarian Popular media as the literal terrain of Post-Socialist reconstruction. In approaching this terrain of media, I employ a non-meaning based model of culture, one where affects, sensations, and feelings are treated as the very material of culture. Theoretically speaking, I look to bridge the reception theories of Media Studies and current ideas of affect and virtual publics in Cultural Studies literature. Through stories of shooting music videos, beer commercials in the resort corridor of the Black Sea, and a reality dating show amidst the urban decay of Sofia, Bulgaria, I have sought to show how producers work to create an affective terrain of hope and success. Similarly, I focus on the local use of digital compositing, 3d modeling, and other specials effects as techniques for generating a new Bulgarian public. These technological aesthetics are used to generate a feeling of global connectedness and virtual potential. Ultimately this peculiar topography of Post-Socialist culture, with its interplay of virtual spaces, images, and feelings, is a unique opportunity to better understand the potential of television and other such mass media to create new virtual publics.