Author Archives: 3sam

Education and Technology (Reading Response for April 12th)

As I reflect on the two articles I’ve begun thinking a bit about my own childhood and the fundamental role of imitation in both creation and learning. In 2nd grade during writer’s workshop I pretty much exclusively created fan fiction for the Junie B. Jones series. It got to the point where my teacher said something along the lines of enough is enough and I was no longer permitted to write about Junie. I got over it, and began writing about characters I imagined. One passage from “Why Heather Can Write” made me wonder if it was necessary to move away from fan fiction at such a young age:

“By poaching off Rowling, the writers are able to start with a well-established world and a set of familiar characters and thus are able to focus on other aspects of their craft.”

This perspective, provided by one writer of Harry Potter fan fiction, Agonistes, makes the pejorative attitude some teachers take towards fan fiction appear detrimental to education. The quote made me think of a high school English lesson on Shakespeare when we learned that Shakespeare borrowed the plots of his plays from earlier works in order to focus all of his attention on character development, rhetorical devices etc. Shakespeare’s goals in writing seem identical to the teen writers on Harry Potter fan sites, but he is thought of as one of the greatest writers of the English language while the teen girls are discouraged from using plots already fabricated. This change in attitude has been codified into stricter copyright and intellectual property laws.

I wonder if there is any difference in the way people generally view fan fiction and the way the view youtube videos parodying or embellishing on films. In my personal experience, people seem most open to videos that are responses to film rather than Internet fan fiction. I think this might be because the book is an older form of media that carries with it a perceived authority, while videos are a newer, less stagnant form of media. People might be more flexible in accepting amateur videos than amateur books because they have less fixed notions of how a video should come packaged. Even in my relatively short lifetime the way TVs look has changed, we have replaced videos with DVDs and blue ray disks, and downloading videos has become increasingly common.

One quote that I find appropriate to this discussion is:

“Man is differentiated from other animals because he is the most imitative of them, and he learns his first lessons through imitation, and we observe that all men find pleasure in imitations”—Aristotle. Imitation is a key facet of learning and can become a creative process. To say otherwise is to deny how much of what is great and successful is borrowed, built on, or in conversation with what came before it.

Sam and Brigid's Video

Sorry for the confusion…here’s and embedded copy


Brigid and Sam's Video Project

Illegal Downloading at the 5cs

Here’s our project on Illegal Downloading at the 5Cs! Enjoy!

Jon Stewart, CNN, and the Future of Journalism

The New York Times ran an Op-Ed piece, Can CNN be saved?, about problems CNN has faced in terms of maintaining high ratings. The station received criticism from Jon Stewart a few years ago for being “political hacks.” Jon Stewart was specifically referring to the show Crossfire, which was subsequently cancelled. CNN now publicly strives to maintain a journalistic objectivity. The article proposes they are failing precisely because they are striving for objectivity rather than debate. He suggests that modeling the station after Stewart’s The Daily Show would drastically improve the network’s ratings because what the country really wants is genuine debate.

This suggests a shift in journalism that Andrew Sullivan discussed in “Why I Blog” although Ross Douthat never credits blogging with the journalistic trend away from pure objectivity. With blogs, readers are able to directly engage in discourse with the author. People have become accustomed to debate and revision in their news sources and now have different expectations for the news. Perhaps CNN and other stations should look to blogs for information to increase precarious ratings.

Reading Response 4/5/10

The concept of ambient awareness in social networking in Thompson’s article really stands out to me. I have mixed feelings about creating that sense of intimacy digitally with anyone who is “friends” with me or following me. I kind of love that only a few people have that sense of connection with me and can follow any sort of rhythm in my life. However, as a Facebook user I’ve experienced the sense of ambient awareness as a result of the newsfeed. I was going to delete this girl from my friends list since we weren’t really friends and her posts ALWAYS showed up on my feed. But then I started reading her status updates, and couldn’t bring myself to delete the friendship. The posts were too funny, in their bizarrely detailed updates. Each status had the same form: Friend X is in love…Austen…mundane activity…mundane activity…mundane activity…square dancing tonight…getting to sleep over with my man…mundane activity…mundane activity…sleep? I think not! Her obsession with updating her status multiple times a day in near identical ways was an amusing diversion, and occasionally my roommate and I would have dramatic readings of her most recent status updates. While I felt vaguely creepy for having this intimate knowledge of her life, I wondered what compelled her to share it in such extensive details? Eventually I stopped reading her posts, but I still have this artificial sense of awareness of this person’s life even though I haven’t spoken to her in a few years.

I try not to post too much on my Facebook. I rarely post status updates, and I’ve removed all the favorites and about me sections. I used to put a lot of effort into putting clever and funny things into these sections, but I’ve realized that I don’t want people to know this information unless I tell it to them. Once someone quoted something I’d written in my info section and it creeped me out.

I think the longer Facebook is around the more vigilant we will be about privacy and protecting information. What are your privacy settings on Facebook, and have they always been that way?

Hittin' the Digital Pavement on Craig's List

Lately I’ve begun procrastinating by looking through Craig’s List. It has the advantage of being potentially productive, because it could lead to summer employment, which makes it a small step up from Facebook. Though not all my searches have been productive (Best of Craig’s List has produced quite a few laughs), I’ve begun thinking about the role that the online job search plays. It’s become increasingly common for the majority of job searching to be done online. As a prospective job applicant it can be hard to determine exactly what is legitimate. While I’m inclined to believe the concept of too-good-to-be-true, does it really hurt to send in a resume and cover letter?

Perhaps because of the online format of Craig’s List, many of the positions advertised in the section for part time work are telecommuting position. It seems strange to me that you can apply for a position entirely online and then work entirely online. It seems odd that physical interaction can be entirely removed from the process. The set-up seems somewhat sketchy to me, which may just be because of a lack of personal experience. An online hiring process is in some ways beneficial. Unconscious employer prejudice can be eliminated from the hiring process. People who make poor first impressions face-to-face, or suffer from nerves benefit enormously from this process. It’s alarming to read statistics about what factors correlate with your salary. For instance, I once had a substitute teacher who spent a class period in high school discussing how short people on average earn less than people who are of average height or tall. It’s ridiculous that a factor as arbitrary as height and gender can lead to pay decreases.

Though I’m skeptical of online hiring, I’m also kind of intrigued by the potential positives. What do you think?

Ownership and New Media

Of the three articles assigned this week, I found the Charles W. Bailey Jr. article, “Strong Copyright + DRM + Weak Net Neutrality= Digital Dystopia?” the most compelling. The conclusion was incredibly refreshing to read, and as a piece of persuasive rhetoric seemed brilliant. By admitting that his article presented one side, and tried to deal with three issues thoroughly, he encouraged dynamic and engaged reading. In outlining all the limitations of his article, he bestows the reader with a sense of responsibility. He’s outlined all the areas his argument doesn’t fully address and it’s now time for the reader to uncover those areas. In a sense it is like hyper linking without giving the reader specific links. He broadly states related issues, rather than providing the reader with a specific article to supplement his own, a choice that allows the reader more control.

The conclusion clarifies a lot of what he is saying, and making it clear what he isn’t saying. He says: “Nor should it be construed to say that the other side of the story, the side most likely told by spokespersons of the entertainment, information, and telecommunications industries, has no validity and doesn’t deserve to be heard.“ No offense to Courtney Love, but this seems much more intelligent than casually throwing around terms like “evil” and “terrible” in reference to the music industry. These terms seem inherently like exaggerations and are certainly less nuanced and productive than is desirable. To me, those terms took away from the credibility of Love’s argument.

The history of copyright law was interesting; I’d never really conceived of how much it has changed throughout the centuries (even though it seems somewhat intuitive). It makes the entire concept of a copyright a lot more of a slippery idea. It seems ridiculous to think that the laws won’t change in the face of these new technologies, especially in light of how much the laws have changed. I’m not sure how or when this shift will occur, as there will likely be a lot of resistance to any sort of change, but gradually the laws will have to reflect the changing reality.

Funk Station MOCA Style

I meant to write this post right after my visit to the MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), but it was right before Spring Break and I got sidetracked by an epic road trip and never managed to get my thoughts down. The MOCA, like many contemporary art museums, has its fair share of unique artwork that resembles nothing comparable to traditional art. One exhibit was called the “Funk Station” and was filled with a number of seemingly everyday objects: books, video clips, and most surprisingly Ipods under glass screens. The screens had holes in them that allowed me to select songs, which I could listen to with the headphones provided. Each Ipod had hundreds of songs on it with several playlists. You could listen to the Ipod for as long as you wanted, and you could play whatever music you liked. This exhibit seemed to expand many of the poststructuralist ideas of readerly vs. writerly texts to art. The control is utterly placed in the hands of the readers, giving them greater control over their aesthetic experiences.

The exhibit was definitely a lot of fun, but it made me wonder what differentiated the Ipod under the glass from mine? Perhaps it has less embarrassing throwback music, but listening to it didn’t seem to be any more of a profound experience than listening to any Ipod. It was kind of awkward listening to music as a security guard gauged my reactions or watched as I nodded my head to the beat.

The whole museum had a lot of exhibits that relied on video projections and other technological innovations. Even though I’m not entirely sure I got the point of the Ipods or thought of them as entirely artistic, it’s kind of cool to see the merging of art with these emerging technologies.

Response to "Why I Blog"

As I begin to write this post, it’s impossible for me not to draw most heavily from Sullivan’s “Why I Blog” since it interacts directly with the very form in which I write. A few weeks ago, several people posted about their struggles and dislike of blogging. Sullivan addressed a lot of the reasons why there is a difficulty in transitioning from writing in print and online. Blogging is most successful when we allow our personalities, shifting moods, and raw impulse to creep into the words we type. It also goes against years of how we are taught to write, at least in an academic setting. Blogging for class seems like a clashing of two distinct categories. It seems inappropriate to discuss my emotional reaction to a class concept in a piece for class even in a blog after years of being coached never to use the pronoun “I” in academic papers (although the further I get in my education the less rigidly this rule is upheld). It seems strange to formally write a blog post, but almost awkward not to do so. When I write my blog posts, I have to type them in Microsoft Words because I feel uncomfortable with the difficulty in reviewing the entire piece in the small window Word Press provides. Maybe I am missing the point of blogging which is immediacy and lack of editing.

One sentence that really struck me from the post was: “if you think of blogging as more like talk radio or cable news than opinion magazines or daily newspapers, then this personalized emphasis is less surprising. People have a voice for radio and a face for television. For blogging, they have a sensibility.”

Perhaps the blogging “sensibility” marks a shift in what we value in writing; where we once strove for objectivity, we now seek to make our individual voices heard. While voice has traditionally been encouraged in creative writing, and to a lesser extent academic papers, print journalism has often strived to eliminate a strong sense of voice in order to convey an objective truth that lives outside any one individual. The shift to a more individual perspective in blogs allows a more personal sense of accountability. Readers respond directly to the author rather than to the newspaper itself or editors removed from the writing process. This combined with the easy access provided internet provides creates the atmosphere of open discussion that places the author as more of a facilitator than source of authority, a role Sullivan likens to that of a dinner party host. This atmosphere is also aided by the ease with which one piece can be compared to another using a simple Google search or by following a series of links.

Lastly, I really appreciated Sullivan’s conclusion that blogging really fulfils a separate need than much of print media. One aspect many of the readings haven’t addressed is whether or how new media will coexist or supplement existing media. The idea that one shouldn’t confuse the aims of blogging with that of a novel or print journal seems like a more plausible to me than many of the articles we have read that exuberantly describe how new media will replace the old without discussing whether these two mediums even share identical goals.

Machine Project in Eagle Rock

As I was flipping through the PCIP flyer in my school mailbox the other day I noticed one opportunity at Machine Project, a nonprofit media/arts/info/community center that Mark Allen a Pomona professor runs. I can’t apply since I will be in Prague next fall, but it looks like a really cool opportunity that would develop a lot of the skills we’re learning this semester. It also is just a cool way to get involved in the arts scene in LA. I’m bummed I can’t apply, but maybe I’ll go over the summer and try to take one of their cheaper classes since it’s near my internship in Eagle Rock. They have a lot of funny/interesting classes (like computer programming for LOLcats (?), webhosting bootcamp, and intro to bookbinding). Anyways you should check out their site and the PCIP description, it seems like something some of you might be interested in, or just something to look into.

Machine Project