Saturday, January 08, 2011

Media Week (V4-N1): Digital Media Experiments, Murakami, Literary Illusion and Political Correction, Predictions, Cliche

From the Independent: Digital media offer unbounded opportunities for writers to experiment with form and conventions. So why do so many still allow themselves to be imprisoned by the traditional codex format of the book, asks Joy Lo Dico (Independent):

Pullinger started working in online fiction with the TrAce Online Writing Centre, based at Nottingham Trent University, a decade ago. "I was asked to teach online creative-story writing," she says. "Back in 2001, this was new to me. I only really used the internet for booking flights and sending emails. But after teaching the course, I found that it's a useful environment for focusing on the text, and that I had a kind of affinity for it."

Since then she has been experimenting, often in collaboration with the electronic artist Chris Joseph, on several major projects. "Inanimate Alice", which came out in 2005, is a sequence of stories about a young girl who exists between real and digital worlds. The written narrative is deliberately minimalist and built into a rich audio-visual experience. Then came "Flight Paths", begun in 2007, which Pullinger describes as a "networked novel". It was inspired by the news story of an illegal immigrant who had stowed away behind the landing wheel of an aircraft, only to fall to Earth in suburban London. In addition to her own resulting short story, Pullinger invited others to contribute their own takes on the theme. "The third phase of 'Flight Paths' is now about to come together in digital and print," says Pullinger. "The first phases were open to discussion; the third is about closing it."

Her most recent project, "Lifelines" – autobiographies of young people around the world put into historical and geographical contexts – has been specifically made as an educational tool.

Haruki Murakami in the year end issue of the IHT magazine (IHT):

There has been an especially noteworthy change in the posture of European and American readers. Until now, my novels could be seen in 20th-century terms, that is, to be entering their minds through such doorways as “post-modernism” or “magic realism” or “Orientalism”; but from around the time that people welcomed the new century, they gradually began to remove the framework of such “isms” and accept the worlds of my stories more nearly as-is. I had a strong sense of this shift whenever I visited Europe and America. It seemed to me that people were accepting my stories in toto — stories that are chaotic in many cases, missing logicality at times, and in which the composition of reality has been rearranged. Rather than analyzing the chaos within my stories, they seem to have begun conceiving a new interest in the very task of how best to take them in.

By contrast, general readers in Asian countries never had any need for the doorway of literary theory when they read my fiction. Most Asian people who took it upon themselves to read my works apparently accepted the stories I wrote as relatively “natural” from the outset. First came the acceptance, and then (if necessary) came the analysis. In most cases in the West, however, with some variation, the logical parsing came before the acceptance. Such differences between East and West, however, appear to be fading with the passing years as each influences the other.

If I were to pin a label on the process through which the world has passed in recent years, it would be “realignment.” A major political and economic realignment started after the end of the Cold War. Little need be said about the realignment in the area of information technology, with its astounding, global-scale dismantling and establishment of systems. In the swirling midst of such processes, obviously, it would be impossible for literature alone to take a pass on such a realignment and avoid systemic change.
From the WSJ Adam Kirsch on literary illusion in the age of Google (WSJ):
What this means is that, in our fragmented literary culture, allusion is a high-risk, high-reward rhetorical strategy. The more recondite your allusion, the more gratifying it will be to those who recognize it, and the more alienating it will be to those who don't. To risk an unidentified quotation, you have to have a pretty good sense of your audience: Psalms would be safe enough in a sermon, "The Waste Land" in a literary essay or college lecture, Horace just about nowhere. In the last decade or so, however, a major new factor has changed this calculus. That is the rise of Google, which levels the playing field for all readers. Now any quotation in any language, no matter how obscure, can be identified in a fraction of a second. When T.S. Eliot dropped outlandish Sanskrit and French and Latin allusions into "The Waste Land," he had to include notes to the poem, to help readers track them down. Today, no poet could outwit any reader who has an Internet connection.
And Kirsch again on the editing for political correctness (whatever that is) NYT:
“Huckleberry Finn” was intended, of course, as an attack on racism. In its most famous scene, Huck hides the runaway slave Jim from a party of slave-hunters, and then feels guilty for having done so. “I knowed very well I had done wrong,” he says, though the reader, and Twain, know he has done right. It’s a searching demonstration of the way conscience is not just innate but also learned, and how confusing it can be to do right in a society dedicated to wrong — the same kinds of questions that bedeviled Hannah Arendt at the Eichmann trial.
This is also the promise of American history, and above all of the Constitution. Unlike Twain’s novel, that classic American text was written in the expectation that it would be corrected. And it needed correction, or amendment, for the same essential reason: the framers’ imagination of the people they led was not full enough. It took a devastating civil war, whose sesquicentennial we are now observing, to revise the Constitution in the direction of justice. When the House readers decided to skip the parts of the Constitution that reveal its original limitations, they were minimizing that history, pretending that our founding document was flawless from the beginning.
IBM's top five predictions for 2015 (Kurzweil):

IBM has unveiled its fifth annual “Next Five in Five” — five technology innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years:

  • You’ll beam up your friends in 3-D
  • Batteries will breathe air to power our devices
  • You won’t need to be a scientist to save the planet
  • Your commute will be personalized
  • Computers will help energize your city

IBM’s fifth annual “Next Five in Five” is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s Labs around the world that can make these innovations possible. (Hat tip: Above the Fold)

Is “follow” the new economic model poised to take on “search”? (BOIC)
Therefore the problem (Generating wealth from the web) is far more complex, multifaceted and inter-twangled, as there is unlikely to be a single source.
  • Do I want to be directed by people I trust but I may not be able to determine their source – Follow
  • Do I want to be directed by an unknown algorithm that can change at any time and could be biased to their own needs – Search
  • Do I want to be directed by Brands – Marketing/Ads
  • Do I want to be directed by the media/ editors/ critics where I may be able to determine their bias – Broadcast/ News
  • Do I want to be directed by the fashion/ celebrity – Sales

This complex dependency is an issue that editors and bloggers have faced time over. Do I post based on what people want to read, based on clicks and response data or what I find interesting – are we (am I) adaptive or reactive, do we want to be individual or loved or make money or provide democracy or lead?

I really don’t need to know what you had for lunch and I don’t have to follow you. Follow would put me in control and can seek out value from the community and not some bland algorithm that controls what part of the web I can see. However the issue facing follow is how will I pay the platform that underpins the service?

Wrapping up
This long Viewpoint started with the idea that “follow” is the new economic model poised to take on “search” and I believe that there is value in “follow.” Reading that Google offered $3bn for Twitter makes be believe that there are other strategists who are struggling with the same issues and the value!

The war on Cliche's is not going well according to Holroyd at the Guardian:
To my mind, it is Amis's campaign against the clichés on which our outrage feeds that has failed. Is there any meaning whatever in the repeated words we hear? "Fantastic" and "incredible" seem to parody or refute the statements they are intended to strengthen. Many of our newly minted clichés have a touch of violence added to them – such as "kick-start" instead of the quicker, simpler "start", and the aggressive coating of "batter" which (as if taking orders in a totalitarian restaurant) all cricket commentators suddenly began using one morning.

Several of the phrases used by media people suggest in Big Brother style the exact opposite of what they say – radio as well as television presenters claiming they will see us again in the next hour, day or week when surely it is we who may see or hear them. And everywhere there is the sound of single-syllable words, such as other people's "mums" or the soldier "boys" who are tragically killed in battle, which signal our everlasting child-status.

We need to be particularly careful when examining the language of bureaucrats and economists. I think I can see through "transparency" pretty well, but I cannot remember the words we used before "infrastructure" came into being – probably they were simple words such as "roads". "Efficiency", I realise, means spending as little as possible on something and, by not "throwing money at it", doing it on the cheap. So the word "efficiency" has come to mean almost the opposite of "competence". The phrase I particularly dislike, because I believe it to be deliberately misleading, is "taxpayers' money", which is used whenever the government is making absolutely certain nothing will happen. It is a bogus phrase because it generally refers to money which actually does not belong to the individual taxpayer such as you and me. What we are legally obliged to render unto HM Revenue and Customs belongs to our elected government. The taxpayer's money is what is left in her bank after her Revenue cheque has been cashed – but that is not what politicians mean when they use that phrase as an excuse for positive inactivity.
Q Magazine's top Albums from the past 25yrs (Q)

From the Twitter (@personanondata):

New ‘Huckleberry Finn’ Edition Does Disservice to a Classic -

The Irish Times: What shops have to do when their products go digital

Announcement: ProQuest acquires eBrary

Girl gang's grip on London underworld revealed via @.

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