Sunday, June 29, 2014

MediaWeek (V8, N26) Dangerous Literature, Newspapers, Ranking Publishers, MOOC Feedback + More

More here: Personanondata - The Magazine  via @flipboard

From The Chronicle of Higher Ed, a discussion on when books were dangerous:
The American Library Association, which designates the final week of September as Banned Books Week, has no problem finding titles to fill its annual lists of books under siege. However, these are generally books that have been removed from particular libraries or schools, not the kind of total proscription imposed on Ulysses, as well as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer, Naked Lunch, Lolita, and other works that have since become staples of literary study. Over the decades since the Woolsey decision, authors, publishers, and judges have struggled to parse the differences between "indecent" and "obscene" and determine the meaning of such terms of art as "prurient interest" and "redeeming social value." However, the upshot is that, though sexual explicitness and offensive language are the most frequently cited reasons for which books are now challenged, neither is now a legal barrier to publication or sale.
Publishers Weekly has updated their hugely useful listing of top publishers by revenues:
Although there was a fair amount of deal making among the global book publishing giants last year, those mergers and acquisitions did not have much of an impact on the top of Livres Hebdo/Publishers Weekly’s annual ranking, based on annual revenue, of the world’s largest publishers in 2013. Pearson came in first, with $9.33 billion in revenue, followed by Reed Elsevier, Thomson/Reuters, and Wolters Kluwer. All four educational and professional publishers held the same respective positions on the list in 2012.
Wired Campus blog at CHEd has a look at digital versus print from the AAUP annual meeting last week in New Orleans.
Christopher Schaberg, an associate professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans, said he appreciates well-done print books more now than before the rise of e-books. Mr. Schaberg is not averse to e-publishing; he is a co-editor of the Object Lessons book and essay series, which appears in both print and digital formats. But he pointed out that e-texts aren’t necessarily more efficient for teaching purposes; he recalled a class in which everybody had an iPad but it took much time to get all the students on the same page, so to speak.
On a global scale it has long been arguable that newspapers are dying and here is another look by The Atlantic.
This captive readership is also the bedrock of the business model. Businesses seeking to target immigrant communities often find more value in advertising in these small publications than the mainstream press.

Disruptions like Craigslist, which has bled dry classified sections of large print publications, have had limited impact on these publications. The foreign-language ethnic press is reaching an audience that isn’t necessarily online and doesn’t always understand English. Nearly a quarter of New York’s population, according to the U.S. Census data, isn’t proficient in English.

The result is that many of these publishers can still support their operations with revenue from print advertising. Castaño, for example, makes 90 percent of his money from print ads, with the majority coming from local businesses. “I’ve been profitable since the beginning,” he told me.

That’s also partly because the Queens Latino only has one full-time employee: Castaño. The rest of the work is done by freelancers, and Castaño’s wife does the layout and design.

At the Urdu Times, Rehman has outsourced most of his newspaper’s operations to a small production unit in Pakistan. “I have 18 people working for me in Lahore,” he explained. The copies are drafted there and then emailed to the basement in Queens for proofreading, as are all the page layouts. Rehman and his wife approve everything, and then forward it to the printers. His only full-time employee in New York is an advertising manager, who has his own desk at the back of the store above the basement.
Rowling may be telling the publishing industry what she thinks about the industry in her newest book as contemplated by The New Republic:
It’s also one of ego-maniacs. And the writers, or would-be writers, are the worst of the batch. When the amateur author of erotica describes her work to Strike in rehearsed phrases and sound bites, he wonders how many people “who sat alone for hours as they scribbled their stories practiced talking about their work during their coffee breaks.” (One wonders: Did—or does—Rowling do this?) Meanwhile, Quine’s agent describes him “as a bigger glutton for praise than any author I’ve ever met, and they are most of them insatiable.” Of course, this agent, a wannabe writer with a first in English from Oxford but no novels to her name, turns out to be pretty insatiable herself.
Instant gratification can be a double edge sword for academics serving online courses (The Conversation):
When your classroom is a global one, filled with well-informed online learners, they don’t cut you much slack. Hundreds of people pore over every element of your course, making well-informed and sometime acerbic comments. Academics who run Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are finding that they can’t afford any sloppy reasoning, one-sided arguments, or narrow perspectives when teaching to a massive global audience.

As academic lead at FutureLearn, a company offering free online courses from UK universities, I’ve seen that this instant feedback can be eye-opening for course designers.

On a university campus, students stick around even though the teaching may be dreadful, because they need the degree qualification. In MOOCs they leave as soon as they lose interest.

So far, much of the debate in the United States about MOOCs has focused on the dropout rate. Typically, just 7-10% of students enrolled on a course from a US MOOC provider reach the end. But that assumes completion should be the goal of online learning, and that students who drop out early are failures. Much of the early publicity around free online courses focused on them as alternatives to an expensive campus university education. It’s hardly surprising that the simplest measure of failure, student dropout, has been picked up by commentators hoping to burst the MOOC bubble.
For the music lovers, something from Salon on Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, and Led Zeppelin III have recently been given deluxe reissues by Atlantic Records. Each package contains a remastered version of the original album, along with a generous helping of bonus tracks. The first boasts a live set from a concert in Paris in 1969 (which has been floating around the Internet for years) while the second two include collections of rough mixes from the sessions from Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III, respectively.

The remastering is pretty superfluous: These are, and always have been, three of the most perfect sounding rock albums ever made. The rough mixes of II and III, though, are a revelation, casting light on Jimmy Page’s immense talents as a producer and giving us the opportunity to rediscover this band as they were, four absurdly gifted young people making music together, as opposed to the rock deities they’d forever after be imagined as. You can hear Page’s pick scraping string on a demo-ish “Whole Lotta Love,” Robert Plant feeling his way through an early pass at “Ramble On,” Bonzo counting the band back in on a skeletal version of “Moby Dick,” the careful interplay of Page’s acoustic and John Paul Jones’ mandolin on a rough cut of “Gallows Pole.” Listening to the ragged life behind these recordings reminds us, on the one hand, that four guys made these records. It also reminds us, on the other, that four guys made these records. Sometimes being made human only heightens your immortality.
James Bridle in the Guardian tells us why digital art matters:
Given this, it seems crucial that it is also accessible to all; not merely engineers, scientists, politicians and policy-makers, but also artists, commentators and the general public. There has never been a greater need for critical engagement with the role technology plays in society, but there's a corresponding problem with that engagement, as severe now as it was when CP Snow diagnosed it in 1959: the lack of understanding between the sciences and the humanities.

If anything, digital technologies have rendered this problem even more acute, as the vast and smoking industrial architectures of the 20th century give way to the invisible, intangible digital architectures of the 21st. If technological literacy is going to rise, it's going to need the help of artists to enlarge its vocabulary, and the leadership and guidance of cultural institutions to frame the discussion.

Different institutions are approaching this in their own way. This summer, the Barbican unveils its take, called Digital Revolution. The Barbican has form in this area: in 2002, it staged the hugely popular Game On, a retrospective of video games which included everything from original Space Invaders arcade games to Grand Theft Auto. Digital Revolution aims to walk a similar line through the entire history of digital creativity, showcasing not only some of its signature events and works, but also the stories of their creators. According to the curator Conrad Bodman, "It's not a show that just looks at contemporary art, but film, music, video games and design, the way they relate to each other, and sometimes merge into one."
Columbia Journalism Review looks into investments in media for millenninials
This problem goes deeper than man-buns and Lena Dunham, though. This month, for example, the GroundTruth Project, which trains young reporters as international correspondents, launched a project called “Generation TBD: Despair and opportunity for millennials in an uncertain global economy.” It will deploy 21 reporting fellows in 11 countries to dig into an issue legacy media has, at times, treated like a joke—the place of millennials in the economy today.

Although GroundTruth Project isn’t explicitly targeted towards any generation, it is distinctively millennial in its desire to make a difference in the world.

“It’s such a rough time—it’s risky to care too much. We’re trying to build an environment in which caring is fine,” says Kevin Grant, the managing editor.

GroundTruth Project grew out of the international news site GlobalPost; the initial idea was to raise nonprofit funding to cover social justice issues in more depth. The project, says Grant, works “to identify these big stories that impact a lot of people, and we try to identify them before our colleagues at other organizations.” And for “Generation TBD,” the GroundTruth Project, with its team of young reporting fellows, has an in and an angle to this story that older media organizations might not

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