Monday, February 15, 2010

Media Week (Vol 3) 7: Amis, Plagiarism, Demand Media, "Botulism"

Martin Amis muses about the fourth estate (Guardian):
About 90% of the coverage has passed me by, but some new tendencies are clear enough. What's different, this time round, is that the writer, or this writer, gets blamed for all the slanders he incites in the press. Some quite serious commentators (DJ Taylor, for one) have said that I'm controversial-on-purpose whenever I have a book coming out. Haven't they noticed that the papers pick up on my remarks whether I have a book coming out or not? And how can you be ­controversial- on-purpose without ceasing to care what you say? The Telegraph, on its front page, offers the following: "Martin Amis: 'Women have too much power for their own good'." This is the equivalent of "Rowan Williams: 'Christianity is a vulgar fraud'." I suppose the Telegraph was trying to make me sound "provocative". Well, they messed that up too. I don't sound ­provocative. I sound like a much-feared pub bore in Hove.

And yet experienced journalists will look me in the eye and solemnly ask, "Why do you do it?" They are not asking me why I say things in public (which is an increasingly pertinent question). They are asking me why I deliberately stir up the newspapers. How can they have such a slender understanding of their own trade? Getting taken up (and recklessly distorted) in the newspapers is not something I do. It's something the news- ­ papers do. The only person in England who can manipulate the fourth estate is, appropriately, Katie Price. But there I go again. No, the vow of silence looks more and more attractive. That would be a story too, but it would only be a story once. Wouldn't it?
Is plagiarism the new black? Interview with a young successful author/artist who admits to 'mixing' rather than steeling content from others. She even gets and endorsement from one of the 'victims' (NYTimes):
For the obviously gifted Ms. Hegemann, who already had a play (written and staged) and a movie (written, directed and released in theaters) to her credit, it was an early ascension to the ranks of artistic stardom. That is, until a blogger last week uncovered material in the novel taken from the less-well-known novel “Strobo,” by an author writing under the nom de plume Airen. In one case, an entire page was lifted with few changes.

As other unattributed sources came to light, outsize praise quickly turned to a torrent of outrage, reminiscent of the uproar in 2006 over a Harvard sophomore, Kaavya Viswanathan, who was caught plagiarizing numerous passages in her much praised debut novel. But Ms. Hegemann’s story took a very different turn.

On Thursday, Ms. Hegemann’s book was announced as one of the finalists for the $20,000 prize of the Leipzig Book Fair in the fiction category. And a member of the jury said Thursday that the panel had been aware of the plagiarism charges before they made their final selection.

NY Times reporter Bill Carter, who wrote the book on the 'Late Night Wars' is set to pen an up-t0-date book on the recent Conan-Leno fracas (Gawker):

Carter said he isn't taking a Team Conan or Team Jay stance now—or in the book. "I obviously have to reach out to all sides," he said. "For the longest time, I personally tried to watch as many episodes of all the shows as I could to get sense of each show, and what each guy does. I don't just pick one and stick with that guy."

Although the book will touch on many of the TV industry's struggles, Carter said he is focusing on the recent late-night infighting. "It's fun to have something to write about again," he said.

Carter's 1992 The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, and the Network Battle for the Night had exclusive details about one of televisions most infamous power struggles: the original battle between NBC, CBS, Jay Leno and David Letterman for Johnny Carson's seat on the Tonight Show. The Late Shift revealed secret NBC documents; Johnny Carson's role in Letterman's decision to join CBS; and ridiculous scenes like Jay Leno hiding in a closet to spy on a secret NBC staff meeting. It was later turned into an 1996 HBO movie.

Libraries seeking to migrate to eBooks and send print volumes to deep storage find it's not so easy: InsideHigherEd (And, yes that is the worst web site design ever).

But campus resistance to digital creep might not boil down to simple antiquarianism. Notwithstanding Apple’s new iPad, the e-reader market may be as unprepared to be embraced by academe as academe is to embrace e-books. “Although some e-book standards such as ePub are beginning to emerge, there is still significant flux and divergence from those standards,” Henry and Spiro write. “Standards are important in enabling consumers to read content from multiple publishers on their devices, to move content around to multiple devices, and to preserve books for the long-term.”

Though e-books are poised to gain a firm foothold in higher education within the decade, the authors predict, academics and e-reader vendors aren't yet on the same page. This is largely due to the fact that e-readers have not managed to replicate certain aspects of the traditional book-reader's user experience: “You can do a lot with a print book: photocopy or scan as many pages as you like, scrawl in the margins, highlight passages, bookmark pages, skip around, read it in the bathtub, give it to someone else, make art out of it, etc.,” the Rice researchers note. “Due to constraints imposed by some [Digital Rights Management] regimes, readers of e-books may find that they only can print a limited number of pages, have to navigate awkwardly through the book, cannot take notes or bookmark pages, and cannot give the book to someone else.” While they enjoy the searchability of electronic documents and databases, academics still prefer holding a book in their hands to read it.

These advantages come at a price, though. Print volumes are, after all, voluminous — a property that implies a series of relatively pricey preservation costs. According to Courant and Nielsen, these work out to an average of $4.26 per book, per year when you take into account, maintenance, cleaning, electricity for temperature control, staffing, and circulation, as well as the considerable funds that go into building and renovating centrally located, open-stack facilities to house the volumes
Profile of Demand Media and their 'factory' approach to content creation (Guardian):

And it is changing, indeed. It is not only that 7,000 freelance editors, writers and video producers as well as 650 copy editors work for the company. Demand Media produces more than 4,500 items of content a day, and it uses algorithms to produce that content most effectively.

Previously, news organizations published content based on what their editors thought readers were interested in. Now, the internet gives publishers access to hundreds of millions of people's search queries. That is where Demand Media's algorithms come in. "Our search algorithm delivers keywords like 'pruning roses', 'naming babies', or 'hiking'," says Rosenblatt. "We take these keywords and turn them into article titles, and use that to influence what we are going to create."

But Demand Media is taking it further. After learning about web users' interests, Demand Media calculates if an article is commercially relevant. The company calculates the advertising demand by using another database, and looks if there isn't too much competition for its content because the topic has been widely reported online. If the outcome is correct, it assigns a freelancer to produce content.

French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy extensively cites a fake philosopher in his new book (NYTimes):
For the debut of his latest weighty title, “On War in Philosophy,” the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy made the glossy spreads of French magazines with his trademark panache: crisp, unbuttoned white Charvet shirts, golden tan and a windswept silvery mane of hair.

But this glamorous literary campaign was suddenly marred by an absolute philosophical truth: Mr. Lévy backed up the book’s theories by citing the thought of a fake philosopher. In fact, the sham philosopher has never been a secret, and even has his own Wikipedia entry
In his newest book, Mr. Lévy attacked the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant as a madman, and in support cited the Paraguayan lectures of Jean-Baptiste Botul to his 20th-century followers.

In fact Mr. Botul is the longtime creature of Frédéric Pagès, a journalist with the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné. “We’ve had a big laugh, obviously,” Mr. Pagès said of Mr. Lévy. “This one was an error that was really simple that the media immediately understood.”

Mr. Pagès has never made a secret of his fictional philosopher, who has a fan club that meets monthly in salons throughout Paris.

Mr. Botul’s school of thought is called Botulism, his followers are botuliennes and they debate such weighty theories as the metaphysics of flab. As they describe it, Mr. Botul’s astonishing ideas ranged from phenomenology to cheese, sausages, women’s breasts and the transport of valises during the 1930s.

Hamstrung by computer issues over the past week or so that accounts for the tardiness.

No comments: