In The Soul of Anime, Ian Condry explores the emergence of anime, Japanese animated film and television, as a global cultural phenomenon. Drawing on ethnographic research, including interviews with artists at some of Tokyo's leading animation studios--such as Madhouse, Gonzo, Aniplex, and Studio Ghibli--Condry discusses how anime's fictional characters and worlds become platforms for collaborative creativity. He argues that the global success of Japanese animation has grown out of a collective social energy that operates across industries--including those that produce film, television, manga (comic books), and toys and other licensed merchandise--and connects fans to the creators of anime. For Condry, this collective social energy is the soul of anime.
Slate reviews "10 PRINT", the new multi-author book from CMS's Nick Montfort and others
For anyone who hasn't yet seen Nick Montfort's new book (well, very multi-author book), Slate's great review, written by an MIT alum no less, is motivation enough...
There are forays into early computer graphics, hacking, Cold War military strategy and Pac-Man. References abound, from the Commodore 64 user's manual to Roland Barthes' S/Z. This is a book where Dungeons and Dragons and Abstract Expressionism get equal consideration.
Though 10 PRINT CHR$ (205.5 + RND (1)); : GOTO 10 is occasionally whiplash-inducing in its headlong rush through history, the connections it makes over 294 pages are inspired. One of the most compelling sections of the book discusses the cultural history of mazes, relating 10 PRINT's maze back to the labyrinth of Knossos, where, according to the great Greek myth, Theseus waged battle with the terrifying Minotaur.
Next Thursday, 11/10, 5pm Cities & the Future of Entertainment A Communications Forum
The emergence of powerful new production cultures in such cities as Mumbai, Shanghai, and Rio de Janeiro. cms.mit.edu/events/talks
Thursday 11/16, 5pm Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World
Featuring Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist at UC Irvine cms.mit.edu/events/talks
Interview with Fox Harrell: "How An Artist-Scientist Conjurer Thinks, Works and Lives"
Our thanks to Anne Khaminwa for conducting this great interview with Fox Harrell for the International Review of African American Art:
He occupies a charmed space in the academy, holding a joint appointment in the Comparative Media Studies Program, the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, and in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).
One question underlies and unifies these pursuits. "How," Harrell wonders, "can I take advantage of what computers do well -- such as representing and transforming information -- to help us to better understand, and improve, the human condition?"
Harrell is interested in how computation can create powerful new forms of phantasmal media -- interactive narratives, computer games, social media, AI-based art, and "new forms unanticipated by any of those." He believes that digital media can transform users' ideas, improvise new aesthetic meanings, and critique society and culture.
Fox Harrell: "Strategies for Arts + Science + Technology Research"
CMS professor Fox Harrell, along with colleagues from the National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts, have released a key report examining how the arts, sciences, and technology can overcome decades of diverging interests and practices.
The report follows a September 2010 workshop of fifty-five "artists, engineers, computer scientists, and practitioners who straddle disciplinary boundaries" and "suggests opportunities for advances in the creative innovation economy and education institutions".
A resolution Harrell, et al., come to -- in the face of peer evaluations that tend to put researchers back in prescribed box -- is to incorporate or combine review systems from various disciplines:
[W]e are not always sole determiners of our research and creative practice destinations. Often new enablers are outside peer review groups. In order to communicate with many of these groups, evaluation is key providing the institutional justification for commitment of resources. Hence, we must simultaneously work to expand the intellectual grounding for interdisciplinary forms of evaluation, at the same time as we remain open to engaging in evaluation methods that may be outside the purview of our respective disciplines.
Why do consumers pirate television shows? Rather than watching TV productions via legitimate media, such as broadcast/cable television (including on-demand viewing), authorized websites (Hulu, iTunes, and proprietary network sites), and purchased or rented DVD or Blu-Ray disks, millions of Internet users use peer-to-peer protocols to illegally download episodes. A common misconception is that digital pirates are motivated by economic reasons; pirated copies of media are free, while cable television subscriptions, iTunes purchases, and disks cost money. However, pirates also prefer file-sharing to Hulu, network websites, and other free legal options.
This paper will argue that online piracy is the preferred means of acquiring television for large numbers of people not because it is free, but because it is the best means currently available of consuming TV.
If studios hope to combat piracy by striking deals with Internet portals that offer television content online legally, then they will have to create business and distribution models that incorporate TV pirates' best practices. These include:
A persistent television archive. The frustration of fans who miss one or more episodes of a TV show's season, the enduring affection for the television programs of one's youth, and TV-philes' interest in discovering older, "classic" or "lost" series, mean that there is always a demand for non-current TV content. Pirates operating over a distributed network have successfully "kept alive" TV torrents that would have been otherwise long dead, and in doing so, have proven that large segments of the television audience desire TV to be less ephemeral.
The facilitation of high resolution, easily stored, portable personal television archives. TV programming proved to be highly popular as an object of collection as soon as the means for home recording (VCRs and DVRs) became available to consumers. Viewers enjoy archiving their favorite shows so that they can review episodes at their leisure, months or years after the original airings. Hulu and other streaming sites do not allow shows to be collected and permanently archived by the home user; YouTube videos are typically low-resolution; iTunes downloads can only be stored on one machine (and its assigned mobile devices), and are not transferable files; DVRs have a maximum storage capacity; disks are subject to breakage and require shelf space. Online pirates have overcome all of these limitations on personal television archiving.
Access to global content. It is well known that English-speaking countries outside the U.S. are host to a significant number of TV pirates, who, annoyed by the delay of U.S. programs' export (a delay mandated by the economics of global syndication), download U.S. shows immediately after their broadcasts. However, piracy of foreign television programs is multidirectional: U.S. pirates consume a great deal of international content, either because shows produced in Britain, Japan, India and so on are difficult to obtain legally outside their countries of origin, or because they are members of a diaspora that stays connected with their home country and culture through viewing that nation's TV series. Piracy has created a "television without borders."
Many business challenges will arise if and when the media industries decide to incorporate some of the advantages of online television piracy into legitimate distribution models. This paper will not attempt to solve all of these issues (though it will propose some possible resolutions), but it will argue that industry cannot ignore the model constructed by pirates forever. Internet piracy has given rise to a form of television consumption so superior to existing legal forms that industry must, sooner or later, consider launching premium online TV services -- perhaps charging premium prices for them -- based on the discoveries and innovations of pirates.
Bio Abigail De Kosnik is Assistant Professor at Berkeley Center for New Media and Department of Theater, Dance & Performance Studies, University of California, Berkeley. She has two books forthcoming: The Survival of Soap Opera: Strategies for a New Media Era (essay collection, co-edited with Sam Ford and C. Lee Harrington) from the University Press of Mississippi and Illegitimate Media: Minority Discourse and the Censorship of Digital Remix Culture from the University of Georgia Press. She testified in May 2009 before the U.S. Copyright Office at their hearings regarding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in favor of an exemption to the DMCA's ban on the circumvention of digital copyright technologies that would allow non-Film Studies college professors to rip DVDs for the purpose of screening clips of film and television in their courses. She is organizing a conference (currently scheduled for February 2010) on Open Source and the Humanities, sponsored by the Berkeley Center for New Media. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Nick Montfort publishes "Sea and Spar Between", a Dickinson+Melville poetry generator
Congrats to faculty member Nick Montfort, who along with Stephanie Strickland just published Sea and Spar Between, a poetry generator based on text from the poems of Emily Dickinson and Melville's Moby-Dick. From that combined corpus, Sea and Spar Between can assemble into stanzas the words very common or very unique to both. (Explore the generated poem at the journal Dear Navigator.) The fun is in exploring how we read, analyze, and write poetry ourselves.
The human/analog element involved jointly selecting small samples of words from the authors' lexicons and inventing a few ways of generating lines. We did this not quantitatively, but based on our long acquaintance with the distinguishing textual rhythms and rhetorical gestures of Melville and Dickinson.
Education Arcade's Scot Osterweil responds to the New York Times Magazine's "Quest to Learn" article
We've come a long way.
The New York Times Magazine for September 19 has a lengthy article about New York City's Quest to Learn school, an experimental public secondary school that organizes learning around games and other 21st century literacies. The school was founded by our colleague Katie Salen of the New School's Parson School of Design. (An article on learning games that Katie co-authored with Eric Klopfer and me can be found here.)
The Times article does a nice job of describing the school's approach, which I won't summarize in this short piece. Of interest here rather is what the tenor of this article says about the progress that's been made over the last few years in the use of games in education. While the article is even-handed in presenting some counter-arguments to the value of game-based-learning, it strikingly doesn't bend over backwards to engage the most vociferous naysayers but rather addresses an audience that is presumed to be open-minded about the approach. It speaks to a moment when a growing number of citizens are ready to replace the current outmoded factory school with something better, though there is still confusion and disagreement about what should come next. It is a moment that seems ripe with possibilities.
If the article has a short-coming, it is that it undersells the long history of education reform efforts that brought us to this moment. If one doesn't read it carefully, one might assume that the purpose of games in education is to keep kids engaged (i.e., to bribe them to learn), or at best, to teach them wholly new 21st century skills. What is missing is the insight that play and exploration have always been the way we construct new ideas and concepts and that building such a scaffold of interconnected ideas has always been the source of our deepest knowledge and wisdom. This approach to learning does not just apply to generic cognitive skills such as problem-solving but also applies to what we traditionally view as academic disciplines such as math, science, and history. Successful practitioners in these areas have always engaged in playful and inspired ways of thinking and learning that look nothing like the rote memorization and repetition we call "school."
Games may therefore be new and innovative in the context of formal schooling, but the kind of learning we hope to foster is what has fueled human advancement throughout history. That is a case that we in this field must make more forcefully.
CMS and MIT commemorate program's 10th anniversary with publication and symposium on April 23
In just over a week, on Friday, April 23rd, Comparative Media Studies will officially celebrate its 10th anniversary with a day-long symposium on the history and future of the program and field.
To commemorate the anniversary, CMS has produced a beautiful 60-page booklet on Comparative Media Studies at MIT, featuring pieces by Dean Deborah Fitzgerald of the MIT School for Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; by CMS Director William Uricchio; and by research directors, alumni, and staff.
Print copies will be available at the anniversary celebration, and a PDF is now posted here at cms.mit.edu and on Scribd.com...
Grant is a research affiliate here at our Convergence Culture Consortium. His new book shines a light into the hungry maw left largely unfed by consumer businesses: culture. From the description:
Levi-Strauss, the jeans and apparel maker, missed out on the hip-hop trend. They didn't realize that those kids in baggy jeans represented a whole new--and lucrative--market opportunity, one they could have seen coming if they had but been paying attention to the shape of American culture.
Levi Strauss isn't alone. Too many corporations outsource their understanding of culture to trend hunters, cool watchers, marketing experts, consulting firms, and, sometimes, teenage interns. The cost to Levi-Strauss was a billion dollars. The cost to the rest of corporate America is immeasurable.
The lesson? The American corporation needs a new professional. It needs a Chief Culture Officer.
Congrats to Grant on the new title. He not only supports C3 but always manages to put together stellar panels for our annual Futures of Entertainment conferences. So grab his new book today!
"10 Things Corporations Can Learn from Pro Wrestling" and more from Sam Ford via Fast Company
CMS alum and Convergence Culture Consortium researcher Sam Ford this week worked as a guest blogger at Fast Company, writing about spreadable media as well as his favorite topic, pro wrestling:
If we buy into the fact that corporate America needs to understand popular culture to really be able to relate to its audiences and communicate effectively--Grant McCracken's idea of the "chief culture officer" that I wrote about last week--then what better place to start than pro wrestling? It's very existence feels like an anomaly, with fans loading arenas by the thousands and gathering around television sets by the millions to watch (primarily) men performing the illusion of one-on-one sporting competition, while most fans know that what they are watching is for show.
I've found wrestling often acts as a carnival mirror to our culture, stretching and magnifying the underlying fears, prejudices and tension points amongst us. However, I think wrestling provides all sorts of learning that corporate America should pay attention to as well.
From the CMS blogs: "Google Wave: Innovating Innovation at the Expense of Innovation"
Today on the Convergence Culture Consortium blog, Alex Leavitt moves past the Google Wave hype to examine how it might actually fare, based on lessons learned from other recent innovations like YouTube.
Like YouTube, Google Wave is a platform (instead of video, based around collaborative communication) that is beginning to aggregate a community. But I have a question: Will Google Wave crush the innovative potential of its users?
"Breaking Down Advertising's Walls": CMS researcher Sam Ford in Fast Company
Sam Ford is a CMS grad, a CMS researcher, and a director of the communications company Peppercom. He's also now a blogger at Fast Company.
In his first post, Ford writes about convergence culture's reasonable obsession: breaking down walls between media.
My movement from an academic working with industry to an academic within the industry was driven by my interest in how companies and their audiences converse; what better place to study that conversation than public relations? In my position today at Peppercom, I remain especially interested in why and how the industry and the academy should collaborate around media and the humanities. My posts here at Fast Company this week will focus on this theme: what can the industry learn from the academy, and vice versa?
Color (or the Lack of It) at Comic-Con...And Beyond
Grad student Florence Gallez, who interviewed Henry Jenkins at Comic-Con for the upcoming issue of the CMS newsletter In Medias Res, pens an opinion piece for The Tech about the lack of diversity at the same conference:
[W]hen it comes to race, all is not well in Comic-land and in the entertainment world it inspires -- a fact I was reminded of at Comic-Con at every turn. It was clear that some great minds are hard at work on improving the situation, but evidence of concrete change was hard to come by. Just take that very Souvenir Book and count the featured non-white "past Comic-Con office-holders and supporters" who have shaped the past 40 years, and you will see that one hand largely suffices.
Ethnic Caribbean actress and Star Trek star Zoe Saldana puts the lack of diversity more bluntly: "There aren't enough African-American superheroes. Or Asian-American superheroes. Have you ever met a superhero named Juan Gonzales? I would kill for that."
We're just a week away from sending the fall 2009 issue of our newsletter In Medias Res to the printer. It promises to be a great issue, including pieces on technology in rural Peru and an interview from Comic-Con with Henry Jenkins.
We couldn't help but contrast the glossy 40-page publication that's about to come out with what Alex Chisholm graciously put together back in 2002. So here it is, lovingly scanned: the very first issue of In Medias Res...
CMS/NML's McWilliams writing for The Guardian (UK)
Jenna McWilliams, education researcher and curriculum specialist at Project New Media Literacies, recently picked up a new side-gig: columnist for The Guardian online.
Her first two posts are up now--the first on the film State of Play and its ignorance of how journalism works in the digital era--and the other, published yesterday, questions Rupert Murdoch's recent proclamation that news online will inevitably revert to a pay-per-view model. A taste:
The technology guru Clay Shirky writes that "It's not a revolution if nobody loses," and the first losers in this particular revolution were broadcast media outlets (TV, newspapers, magazines) and cultural elites whose social status relied on the ability to control who had access to the news, what stories they had access to, and what they did with that information.
If Murdoch is right that "the current days of the internet will soon be over," it will only be because a small handful of corporations own the vast majority of media outlets. My sense, though, is that he's wrong: That even if newspapers return to a pay-for-view model, the people will rise up against and then roll right over it by making the same content available for free elsewhere online and developing new uses for social media that subvert the efforts of Murdoch and others.
So keep an eye on Jenna's Guardian pieces. And be sure to comment quickly--the Guardian is running its own experiment by allowing comments only for the first two days after publication.
From the earliest hardware hacking days of the Atari 2600, to the landmark creation of the SID chip (right, used most famously in the Commodore 64) to the concurrent Amiga cracking/tracking/demo scenes, Driscoll sets up the aesthetic roots of what would later be embraced by the likes of upstart (and still prolific) netlabel micromusic.net.
Matthew Weise: "Press the 'Action' Button, Snake! The Art of Self-Reference in Video Games"
It is useful to think about the boundary between player and fiction as an elastic membrane -- a threshold -- rather than a wall, like Adams does. Drawing attention to how this threshold functions through self-reference can actually enhance fiction rather than destroy it. It can draw the player and game fiction together rather than driving them apart.
Sam Ford: "Centenarian Newspaper Columnist Leaves Us Many Storytelling Lessons"
Sam Ford--CMS alum, research affiliate with the Convergence Culture Consortium, and Director of Customer Insights for Peppercom, a PR agency--writes in the Huffington Post about the late Rev. John C. Morris, storyteller extraordinaire:
John didn't look like most neophyte columnists, though, mostly because of his life experience. He was 101 years old. And, throughout the past few years, this man -- who never used a computer a day in his life, as far as I can tell -- taught me some valuable lessons about media and about storytelling. When he died a few weeks ago, Morris closed the final chapter on the unlikely story of a man who was surely the world's oldest newspaper columnist.
CMS grad Huma Yusuf's article points to resolution
Writing today after a two-month hiatus, I am moved to think about
solutions rather than problems. Perhaps this burst of positivism can be
attributed to the fact that the weather in Boston is finally pleasant,
after a long, bitterly cold winter and a short, stifling heat wave.
Perhaps the prospect of seeing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton
campaign together at the end of this week in a bid to unify a divided
Democratic party is making me optimistic and foolhardy enough to think
that under extenuating circumstances (like a tense presidential race)
even enemies can find something in common. Perhaps seeing Pakistan
splashed across international newspaper headlines in the past few weeks, rarely in a positive context, is making me feel desperate enough to
think outside the box. Whatever the reason, I'm going to use the
following paragraphs to suggest that Dr A Q Khan might help diffuse
mounting tensions between Pakistan and the US as well as Afghanistan.
Read full text of CMS Grad Huma Yusuf's article "Greater Transparency in Policymaking Remediation" here.
Comparative Media Studies in the age of YouTube and Wikipedia
In the latest Chronicle of Higher Education, CMS Director Henry Jenkins writes about the need for media studies to evolve from separate disciplines (film, photography, literature, ...) into something resembling our own program's current mode, comparative media studies, and how the networked, digital landscape continues to shape this change.
He writes, "media studies needs to become comparative, ... to reflect the ways that the contemporary media landscape is blurring the lines between media consumption and production, ... [and] to respond to the enormous hunger for public knowledge about our present moment of profound and persistent media change."
Each media-studies program will need to reinvent itself to reflect the specifics of its institutional setting and existing resources, and what works today will need to be rethought tomorrow as we deal with further shifts in the information landscape.
Until we make these changes, the best thinking (whether evaluated in terms of process or outcome) is likely to take place outside academic institutions -- through the informal social organizations that are emerging on the Web. We may or may not see the emergence of YouNiversities, but YouTube already exists. And its participants are learning plenty about how media power operates in a networked society
CMS Director Henry Jenkins on Congress and MySpace
Henry Jenkins recently published a short op-ed piece for the Boston Globe editorial page about Congress and the pending Deleting Online Predators Act.
Time Magazine may have celebrated the new realm of user-generated content with its Person of the Year cover story. That doesn't mean Congress is comfortable with young people's participation in the online world.
Jenkins posts to Media Commons' new blog as inaugural video curator
CMS director Henry Jenkins, as a guest video curator for Media Commons' In Media Res blog, posts "Holding Out For A Hiro," a short piece about the character Hiro Nakamura (salary man, otaku, "superhiro," superfan) from NBC's new ensemble show, Heroes.