Friday, July 03, 2009

Charlie Brooker on Adam Curtis and It Felt Like a Kiss

So what's it about? In a roundabout way, it's about you. But it's also about the golden age of pop, when the US rose to supreme power. It encompasses everything from Rock Hudson, Lou Reed, Saddam Hussein, a chimp and Lee Harvey Oswald. It's a heady brew.

"I think it's a fascinating period," says Curtis.

"I wanted to do a film about what it actually felt like to live through that time ... Where you could see the roots of the uncertainties we feel today, the things they did out on the dark fringes of the world that they didn't really notice at the time, which would then come back to haunt us."

It's a common theme in Curtis's work: he's not interested in conspiracy theories, but rather with the unforeseen consequences of ideas throughout history, and their impact on a deeply personal level. "The way power works in the world is: they tell you stories that make sense of the world. That's what America did after the second world war. It told you wonderful dreamlike stories about the world ... And at that same time, you were encouraged to rise up and 'become an individual', which also made the whole idea of America attractive to the rest of the world. But then this very individualism began to corrode it. The uncertainties began in people's minds. Uncertainty about 'what is the point of being an individual?'"

Charlie Brooker.

I'm thinking Edward Bernays Meets Mad Men. When I've experienced it I'll review.

Consult on News, ideas for the future

"Sustainable independent and impartial news; in the Nations, locally and in the regions" is a 12 week public consultation document published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that "seeks views on the proposal for a contained, contestable element to be introduced to the next licence fee settlement."

Contribute here.

Another cloud over google?

American authorities are conducting a formal investigation into whether Google's $125m deal with the US book industry is anti-competitive.

The Department of Justice has confirmed that it is looking into the internet giant's agreement with authors' groups to pay for the right to digitise and sell millions of books.

Rumours of the investigation had been circulating for several months, but the Department of Justice revealed on Thursday that it was running a formal inquiry in a letter to the New York judge who is also reviewing the terms of the deal.

From the Guardian.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Mandating School Libraries: but what will they look like?

A high-profile group of children's authors, publishers, teachers and librarians is calling on the government to make school libraries statutory. Signatories to a petition to Number 10 include Philip Pullman, Horrid Henry creator Francesca Simon and former children's laureate Michael Rosen, as well as the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers Christine Blower, Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, top children's publishers and the directors of a raft of youth library associations.

This is, of course, a logical idea - but what should a library - any library - look like in the future? Is there, for example, another petition from the same type of high-profile group demanding a radical rethink about the way that "digital literacy" is taught.
The petition itself – which calls on the government "to accept in principle that it will make school libraries, run by properly qualified staff, statutory" – will run until December, but by the end of the summer school term Gibbons hopes to have consolidated the support of the book world and to have started soliciting support from community figures, faith groups and celebrities within the wider community.

Properly qualified staff meaning someone who can find a book on Google Book Search? Who can explain issues of trust and verification when using, say, Wikipedia? Someone versed in the narrative genius of many computer games? Someone who is, at least, thinking about Kindles and E-Readers; about marketing the case for reading printed texts over the competing stories found online? Someone who knows where textual resources reside in the digital domain. I'm sure the "celebrities within the wider community" will be able to help here. From the Guardian.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

CUNY project for news business models

We do not believe that any single savior– foundation, government, device, or massive public contribution — will rescue an existing news organization as it operates today from the crush of the market. But we do believe that publicly supported journalism — that is, from individuals, foundations, and perhaps companies — can play a role in this model city’s news ecosystem. This could take the form of a local Pro Publica or of crowdsourced funding through a platform such as Spot.US or of an expansion of public broadcasting’s role. The key question we will answer is what level of support will likely be available — projecting from current efforts locally — and what those resources could provide.

New business models?

It felt like a kiss: Bunting on Curtis

Now Bunting is describing a theatrical performance. Launches tomorrow in Manchester as part of the festival. Can't wait.
His [Curtis'] analysis is that power uses stories which shape our understanding of the world and of who we are, and how we make sense and order experience. Powerful, grand narratives legitimise power, win our allegiance and frame our private understandings of how to measure value and create meaning. They also structure time – they fit the present into a continuum of how the past will become the future. This is what all the grand narratives of communism, socialism, even neoliberalism and fascism offered; as did the grand narratives of religion. Now, all have foundered and fragmented into a mosaic of millions of personal stories. It is a Tower of Babel in which we have lost the capacity to generate the common narratives – of idealism, morality and hope such as Sandel talks about – that might bring about civic renewal and a reinvigorated political purpose.

Curtis argues that we are still enchanted by the possibilities of our personal narratives although they leave us isolated, disconnected, and at their worst, they are simply solipsistic performances desperate for an audience. But we are in a bizarre hiatus because the economic systems that sustained and amplified this model of individualism have collapsed. It was cheap credit and a housing boom that made possible the private pursuit of experience, self-expression and self-gratification as the content of a good life. As this disintegrates and youth unemployment soars, this good life will be a cruel myth.

But is it true? It Felt Like a Kiss.

e-book prices - a meme begins stickily

It appears that's pricing model for electronic books - just under $10 - is on its way to becoming the norm. Barnes & Noble, on its eReader site, is now offering digital versions of New York Times bestsellers for $9.95, just a hair cheaper than Amazon's standard $9.99 for such books. The downward pressure on e-book pricing has rattled many book publishers.

As Fast Company wrote recently, Amazon with e-books is following the strategy of Apple with digital music, creating a "sticky price in consumers' minds" that, once established, is difficult to dislodge - and gives Amazon more leverage in negotiations with publishers.

From Techflash.

The cloud over google book search

Starting today, you'll find a cloud of "Common Terms and Phrases" on the Book Overview page for some of our books. This cloud represents the distribution of words in a book: big terms are more common in the book, while small terms are rarer.

From the google book search blog. Above: a cloud for Benkler's The Wealth of Networks.

Freemium - one up from free, one down from paying for it all

...but Anderson argues that the real decision is free versus “freemium.” It’s not about whether to charge but choosing carefully which specialised content people will pay for and developing additional premium services. Of course, many newspapers look to the Wall Street Journal‘s model. The Journal offers most of their popular content and many exclusives for free, but they keep their specialized, niche content behind a paywall for subscribers. Referring to his theories behind the long tail, he suggested that newspapers should give away the “head and charge for the tail”.

From Paid content....

What's next for the book - travel

And yet - there's something about the painting that makes it seem familiar, even when it isn't. A person could see The Travelling Companions for the first time, and feel that somehow they knew it already. It has a strange recognisability.

From Tom Lubbock in the Independent, 2007.

What's next for the book - The Wire on Gatsby

Speaks for itself...

He frontin' with all those books

Fox News: bring it on so we can get some security?

Just watch and listen:

Glenn Beck and Michael Scheuer are missing Jack Bauer.

David Lammy and Google...

It's like a literary clue from the summer marketing of the next Dan Brown novel. Like many of Brown's clues this one could be very easy, or rather arcane, to solve. Here's the IP Minister's tweet from Wednesday afternoon:
DavidLammyMP: Great to see Google again today in their London office. Internet services are changing the copyright game, important conversations to be had

What kind of conversations? Google Book Search conversations? Google search for "hide my IP address"? conversations? Download free music? conversations? Fascinating.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

blogs are out of beta...

...the blog is at a critical stage in its evolution. Blogs are out of beta. Blogs are the new normal. Everything is a blog. So what's next? Well, the format will indeed evolve into something new. I believe it will be the stream.

From the Steve Rubel lifestream.... And some tips from Problogger, here's one:
Don’t be Precious about your ‘Blog’ and be open to change - there’s no one ‘right’ way to blog. Blogs can have comments or not have comments, have full RSS feeds or partial ones, look like a traditional blog or act and look more like a lifestream or portal. The key is to know what you want to achieve and let that shape what you do with your blog.

Libraries are changing...

From the BL's twitter feed:
britishlibrary: Good knees-up in Piazza, much enjoyed by the bare-chested historical bibliographers

YouTube goes Journalism School

DIY tips for citizen journalists. And here's the man who brought us Deep Throat and Bush at War.

google works! books are back

... in a recent essay assignment for a Columbia University classics class, 70 percent of the undergraduates had cited a book published in 1900, even though it had not been on any reading list and had long been overlooked in the world of classics scholarship. Why so many of the students had suddenly discovered a 109-year-old work and dragged it out of obscurity in preference to the excellent modern works on their reading lists is simple: The full text of the 1900 work is online, available on Google Book Search; the modern works are not.

And the lesson: "If it's not online, it's invisible." From The Chronicle.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Trust and all that

I don't even know what the conference is, but a man named Weinburger is burning up Twitter. Here's Clay Shirky:

cshirky "Facts used to nail down arguments. Now they start them. We are in the middle of the great unnailing." D.Weinberger #pdf09

Ok, it is the Personal Democracy Forum.
And Adah Ellis tweeted: #pdf09 the only conference where it's rude not to use your cell phone while someone else is talking to you. LOL

Free, free stuff - lots of it...

From the first UK review I've seen of Chris Anderson's Free. I wonder if it will have the impact of the Long Tail? Anyway, here's a bit of the Observer review from the Deputy Editor of The Economist.
Free observes an interesting phenomenon, but doesn't take the reader far beyond the notion that there's a lot of free stuff about. It pulls together information about current trends and is dotted with abstruse bits of learning - divergent views of competition among 18th-century French mathematicians, for instance - which seem to be there more to lend the book intellectual heft than to strengthen its arguments. But it doesn't have the weight of a fully worked-through idea. It ends not with a discussion of where this trend is leading but with "50 business models built on free", presumably addressed to the businessmen who may be attending Anderson's speeches on the subject.

More once read, of course. Free at Amazon.