This document should be regarded as an exploratory look into the prospects for a Home Movie taxonomy, not a settled proposal to codify the terms listed here or implement them in cataloguing metadata. Significant questions remain. Some of them are listed here:
• Are the Genres & Tropes of sufficient interest and use to warrant the effort to promote and maintain them?
• Home Movie Genres and Tropes may work very well in a catalogue devoted exclusively to Home Movies – but how would these terms be implemented in or integrated with existing metadata schemes currently in use?
• The lists here are more of a “folksonomy” generated by Home Movie consumers in the moving-image archival milieu. Given the “emergent” nature of the Genres and Tropes, we should expect the terminology to be very fluid and require a lot of maintenance – adding, combining, dropping terms. What would be the process for maintaining the lists? What level of formality would we aspire to in codifying the Taxonomy?
• The project of developing a consistent Taxonomy is complicated by the difficulty of defining what constitutes a “Work” in the realm of Home Movies, because Genres tend to refer to consciously structured works that participate in a tradition. Here again it seems that “Genre” may not be the best term for characterizing types of Home Movies, as this term has many associations in its application to professional film production, narrative traditions, and classes of film that are irrelevant and therefore possibly distracting when applied to Home Movies.
• Particularly with reference to ‘Tropes,’ but also to tagging sections of longer “Works” with Generic terms, some sort of time-based metadata scheme would be especially valuable for describing Home Movies – the ability to specify the time-code at which point a given attribute is noted.
• Effective cataloguing of Home Movies is unlikely to occur without a means of tapping the actual donors of Home Movies for information about their collections and storing this metadata on a Collection level. (Genres would be applied at the level of “Work.”) It would be of significant historical value to appeal to the film makers themselves for help in characterizing their own works. Such an effort may well yield Generic terms more faithful to the conditions and intentions of production than our post-hoc efforts can achieve.
• A Significant Caution: As surely as Genre terms or any descriptive system can render many works easily discoverable, they can also render those works whose contents are not captured in the working vocabulary invisible in a system which users access primarily by means of such descriptive vocabularies. Ironically, the project of thorough tagging may have the effect of reducing the user’s discovery of some important material which does not fit the current scheme of terminology, or which has not been effectively characterized in the database.
• It will be readily noted that this entire endeavor to identify Home Movie Genres has been based upon “film on film” specimens – that is, 16mm, Reg8 and Super8 films. Home Movies on Videotape and later digital media will participate in many of the same Genres and Tropes but will also suggest many further conceptual structures, as these newer media brought with them significantly altered practices owing to a myriad of factors such as price-per-minute cost, physical characteristics of recording devices (more bulky for VHS, much less bulky for iPhone movies), aesthetic qualities of varying media, and reproducibility / longevity issues. Increasingly, Home Movies on film will be recognized as a media phenomenon limited to a fixed period in history, and the current project has been devoted to these media. Indeed, 2010 may well serve as the iconic date defining the end of Home Movies (on film), owing to the discontinuation of Kodachrome this year.