Note to readers

This is a blog that I'm required to keep that's full of unedited, near stream-of-consciousness reactions to similarly required and related readings in a graduate course in N.C. State University's Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program. The way these posts are written help me interrogate and understand what's going on in our readings. I'm identifying what's troublesome so that I can give it more thought, but the posts aren't written in a style that's productive for audiences outside of our class to read. That's by design. I start with contestation, then spend heavens only knows how long researching, recutting, and reevaluating so that I can try and see what potentially productive readings I can extract from these source for use in my own work's contributions back to the field. Comments encouraged, but please, you'll likely need a thick skin if your work is quoted here.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Kindle : Amazon :: iPad : Apple :: Nook : B&N :: Codex : ?????

The book isn't obsolete.  I find myself wondering what would happen now if we only had eBooks and someone had just discovered how to turn paper writings from scrolls to bound volumes.  What would happen?  (Aside: Coincidentally, eBooks, at least on iOS, recently gained the ability to mock scrolls.)

If a single business entity had exclusive rights to binding books, what would the commercials look like?  What's the sales pitch?  We'd see the same beautiful people at the beach, this time with some person happily reading their book as their kid spills ocean water on the person reading a Kindle next to them.  We'd see someone reading through an airplane takeoff after seeing an iPad user scolded by an air steward.  We'd see someone lending a book to someone else for easy reading.  We'd see people in parks, or hiking, or in blackouts still reading while others were out of luck.

I'm not arguing that books are better than eBook readers.  I'm saying that the format is marketable, and that there's nobody with a vested interest to champion them.  For whatever reason, nobody's hiring a Billy Mays equivalent for the codex the way they are for eBook readers.  Because the format's in the public domain, there's no incredibly vested interest.

Beyond consumers (who buy, not market), who might change this?  Honestly, there are only two sources, I think.  One is the paper mill, but I don't know that book paper is the biggest moneymaker right now.  Where does our paper come from anyway?  The other is the big book store, but that's down to essentially Barnes and Noble, right?  And they have a truly vested interest in pushing Nooks and eBooks now.  I guess book clubs might be another source, but how much growth could they expect, best case?  Probably not worth the marketing cash.

And obviously there are authors, yet authors aren't really hurt if people buy eBooks instead of codices.  In fact, used sales (remember when the Authors' Guild (?) sued Amazon over selling used books next to new?) mean they get paid less often with printed pages than eBooks, at least legally.

(Which brings me back to asking why nobody lends their Kindle.  Illegal?  I think it might be, but it's easier to share an entire library of books now than it used to be, not harder, yet the expensive hardware seems to make lending a much less frequent activity.)

I don't know who would champion books, but I do know I haven't seen an advert from them recently.  In fact, the only place I experience adverts for books at all in the mainstream media is on talk radio (sports) and on ABC's Castle, both from publishing houses/authors who probably don't really care which format you use.  Strange that a show about a book author would bring in book readers, though apparently the fictitious author has ghostwriters who have written some real world bestsellers.

I suppose I should realize that the free market suggests that the codex still has more of the market than it should right now simply from inertia, and that once its use drops below a sort of natural threshold, some entity will start marketing it to make the money left on the table.  I just wish they'd start marketing now to slow the descent.  But I clearly have my biases.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Heterotopia? No, just another example of industrialization

Slate has an excellent article on fast food as manufacturing that clearly links industrialization and manufacturing with a popular notion of Foucault's heterotopias.

Which is to say, Starbucks is less heterotopia and more factory. McDonald's is more about the rise of craft and the fall of art than the creation of unsituated space.

Those taking Baudrillard on Disney and extending to fast food, malls, etc might need to rethink their views on hegemony.

From Foucault:

Its first principle is that there is probably not a single culture in the world that fails to constitute heterotopias. That is a constant of every human group. ...
In the so-called primitive societies, there is a certain form of heterotopia that I would call crisis heterotopias, i.e., there are privileged or sacred or forbidden places, reserved for individuals who are, in relation to society and to the human environment in which they live, in a state of crisis: adolescents, menstruating women, pregnant women. the elderly, etc.
But these heterotopias of crisis are disappearing today and are being replaced, I believe, by what we might call heterotopias of deviation: those in which individuals whose behavior is deviant in relation to the required mean or norm are placed. Cases of this are rest homes and psychiatric hospitals, and of course prisons, and one should perhaps add retirement homes that are, as it were, on the borderline between the heterotopia of crisis and the heterotopia of deviation since, after all, old age is a crisis, but is also a deviation since in our society where leisure is the rule, idleness is a sort of deviation.

I'm not sure I see that quite as clearly in Disneyland. He doesn't even touch capitalism or hats of cash until near the end.

Brothels and colonies are two extreme types of heterotopia, and if we think, after all, that the boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea and that, from port to port, from tack to tack, from brothel to brothel, it goes as far as the colonies in search of the most precious treasures they conceal in their gardens, you will understand why the boat has not only been for our civilization, from the sixteenth century until the present, the great instrument of economic development (I have not been speaking of that today), but has been simultaneously the greatest reserve of the imagination. The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.

I'll reread Baudrillard. It's been a few years.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

About, not through

Hey, digital media-ists: Remember that your goal is not to study communication performed through digital media.  It's to view what communication reveals about those media.  Let your cultural studies emerge (ha) out the other side, not on the way in.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What's at Stake in the Georgia State Copyright Case - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

What's at Stake in the Georgia State Copyright Case - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education:

How did this absurd situation arise? It's a familiar story of the steady infiltration of market fundamentalism into academe over the past 30 years.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Senior Lecturer vs TA With a Clicker? Who Wins the Teaching Award? | HASTAC

Senior Lecturer vs TA With a Clicker? Who Wins the Teaching Award? | HASTAC:

... but, in general, the hierarchical form of the lecture relieves the hearer of having to do much more than be entertained...

If a student takes such an approach, then they're not ready to learn. Notes from class better be more than how many stars today's lecture received. Lecture is inherently interactive for the engaged student. Worse, those lecturers who are seduced by the explanation that entertainment is the primary goal of lecturing don't deserve the title.

When will we again learn the motivation of letting people fail? When did university professors take the onus of their students' success -- all of their students -- from those students themselves? And how precisely do we measure who "learned a lot more"? Does it necessarily spill over into long-term retention? Is it really a college professor's responsibility to get "real-time graphic feedback on what the students were learning and what they weren't getting"? What's really important isn't what can be solved in 5-15 of directed teaching. It's the questions that, after spending the 3:1 hours outside of class, students still can't shake. Lecture's not about the now, it's about the long term. Get the minds started, expose them to your fundamentals, and let them learn to model that investigation when they return to their dorms, the library, and coffee houses.

Inspired by lecture? Speak up. Join the academic conversation. Start modeling the role of an expert. But if you don't understand something? Study like hell and then ask. Find office hours and show up. Have to be entertained to learn? Watch Blues Clues. Want to have the opportunity to interact with the brightest minds, both your instructor and your peers? Apply to college.

Most importantly, understand that teaching qua teaching happens outside of the classroom, tailored not to the aggregate feedback of 30 students answering multiple choice from the last 10 minutes, but to the personally expressed feedback from one well-prepared, self-motivated mind who has given the content hours of dedicated consideration. Distant and cursory readings of 30 students will never take the place of paying attention to each one as an individual.

Honestly, the amount of the students' homework college lecturers are doing for them at this point is absolutely insane. Where are the brightest minds in the field supposed to go if they don't want to play Simon with their students?

If you're not self-motivated in college, languish on the vine. We need to [re]start recognizing those who intrinsically care about the content, about learning, and about scholars who create scholarship. Set your bar higher, folk, and reward the students who follow.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Iain Banks & Simon Morden on science fiction | Orbit Books | Science Fiction, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

Iain Banks & Simon Morden on science fiction | Orbit Books | Science Fiction, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy:

Too many very intelligent and otherwise well-educated people seem to have a sort of disdain for technology and – by association – for any literature that deals with it. This may be born of a sort of subtly inculcated fear, or perhaps just intellectually inherited snobbery; hard to be sure. Anyway, I think that attitude is at least unfortunate and arguably – for our whole shared culture – both damaging and dangerous.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How do you cite a Kindle in MLA?

The Kindle doesn't give page numbers, but it does give "location" which is, ultimately, a more precise means of locating a quote. I believe one should give a location in a numerator and a "page divisor" in a quote, which would get you very close. How do determine your divisor? Funny you should ask...

EduKindle � Page Number Versus Position on Kindle:

This is a much bruited topic and one that creates a little bit of anxiety for us bibliophiles who have made the conversion to the Kindle. How can I tell what page I am on??? I mean, I have only spent my whole life using page numbers as the reference point for a) how far along in the book I am, and b) any references to the text that I want to make in a post, article, or other scholarly writing.
I got closest to a useful formula when I took the first actual numbered page of the book (not including the introduction)–that is, a page with “1″ on it, and looked up the corresponding “position” on my Kindle. As it turns out, Page 1 appears at position “95″ on the Kindle. Then, I went to the last full page of the text, page 239 (not the notes, index, or other “last” page) and checked the position: 4035. So, I had 3940 positions spread over 236 pages (the first page of text was actually page 3). 3940 divided by 236 yields 16.69 positions per page.

Using this formula I could pretty much find the page in book if I knew the position. In all my test cases, I landed within one page of the text I was searching for if I divided the position number by 16.69.

Others have said to include which chapter, but there's no real reason not to be more specific rather than less. How to get the MLA's blessing, I don't know, even if I am a member.