Sunday, February 06, 2011

Media Week (V4-N5): Eadweard Muybridge, Open Courseware, Education Aps, Lexis, Mother Russia, Taschen

A fascinating review of Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change at the San Francisco Museum of Art (The Smart Set):
This thought struck me while walking through the recent exhibit of Muybride’s work at London’s Tate Britain. The retrospective opened amidst new austerity programs in the U.K. The right-leaning coalition government announced drastic cuts in public spending, slashing budgets for cultural institutions and universities, cutting back on social services, setting up plans to sell off forest lands that have been protected since the Magna Carta. Last spring in Washington, D.C., Muybridge’s sepia landscapes and innovative motion studies captivated patrons at the Corcoran Gallery not far from where Congress debated bank regulations and cuts in social programs. But those are political questions, and the Muybridge exhibit was about art, and the particular passions and inventions of a man who pioneered the science of photography. As the exhibition showed so well, Muybridge motion studies were about the experience of stopping time, and turning motion into mechanical reproduction. The show didn’t mention the 19th-century economic collapse. Maybe it didn’t want to remind us that industrialization and the annihilation of time and space had it collateral damage.
Across the room from these publicity photographs, you learn that Muybridge was a murderer. The show displayed sensational news accounts and front page headlines that recount the night in October 1874 when the 44-year-old Muybridge tracked down Harry Larkyns, the alleged lover of his wife, Flora. Greeting Larkyns with the words “My name is Muybridge and I have a message for you from my wife,” Muybridge shot Larkyns in the chest. He died minutes later.

What sparked Muybridge rage? Coincidentally, it was a photograph. He found one of his infant son inscribed on the back by his wife with the words “Little Harry.” This, for Muybridge, confirmed what he had suspected for some time: that Larkyns, a tall and attractive dilettante and scam artist who had become close friends with his wife, was in fact the father of his child. While a jury acquitted Muybridge, believing his defense of temporary insanity due to domestic trauma, this aspect of Muybridge’s life haunts the work throughout the show. Here was a man who embodied the very metaphors that link the camera with the gun. It is difficult not to shake the reality that all those intricate, stop-motion photographs were taken by a murderer. And then I began to notice all the destruction that surrounded me. Most acutely true in the motion studies, there was throughout the show a deep sense that what you are looking at was in the process of becoming marginal, or insignificant, or destroyed. The horse. The vast landscapes of California, Oregon, and the Alaskan coast. The way of life for the Modocs. The economic collapse.
Inside Higher Ed takes a look at free on line course ware via a new book on the subject by Taylor Walsh (IHE)

In Unlocking the Gates, Walsh profiles current online courseware projects at MIT, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, the University of California at Berkeley, and India’s National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning. She also reviews the cautionary tales of Fathom and AllLearn, the profit-seeking harbingers of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement, and thus lays out the conundrum facing their nominally successful offspring: As pressure mounts on online courseware projects to demonstrate their value and/or become self-supporting, will the world's premier universities be able to stay above the fray of online degree programs and pay-to-play course materials? Can they afford to stay pure, righteous, and unaccountable?

Inside Higher Ed recently caught up with Walsh to explore these questions and others. The interview was conducted asynchronously and online; Walsh received no money, and Inside Higher Ed received no academic credit.

From the Boston Globe a short piece on experiments by education publishers in launching apps into middle and high schools (Boston):

Although both publishers have been aggressively moving from paper textbooks to digital and networked products for years, the two iPad pilot programs indicate that they’re eager to explore whether such devices are the next phase for textbooks.

For the publishers, these iPad explorations are crucial initiatives. As school districts demand more technologically sophisticated teaching materials, platforms like the iPad serve as high-profile initiatives for publishers seeking valuable educational contracts. Programs that incorporate devices like the iPad can also open the door to public and private grants that are designed to encourage innovation.

Many states, like California and Virginia, are also now encouraging school districts to experiment with digital textbooks as a way to save money.

Why start on the iPad, as opposed to competing tablets and electronic reading devices?“Because this is a sexy device,’’ said Bethlam Forsa, executive vice president for content development and publishing operations at Houghton Mifflin. “Students are no different than consumers. They are excited to work with something like this.’’

LexisNexis has launched a Litigation Profile Suite (PR):
As the first product in a series of releases that will be part of the LexisNexis Litigation Profile Suite, LexisNexis Expert Witness Profilesis a Web-based solution that addresses this issue by harnessing the largest and most comprehensive collection of information about expert witnesses in North America, which was developed for direct use by litigators. Built on the New Lexis® technology platform, this rich set of content combined with easy to use analytical tools, enables users to more effectively evaluate and report on experts retained by opposing counsel or ones they may want to retain themselves. Resources within LexisNexis Expert Witness Profiles include an authoritative, exclusive database of more than 1,000,000 records on 220,000-plus experts from IDEX®, acquired by LexisNexis in 2008. The collection of information available to evaluate these experts includes transcripts from previous depositions and trials, resumes and CVs, verdicts and settlements in past cases, testimony challenges, news, publications, and Lexis® Web searching.

Expert Witness Profiles also provides customers with the ability to manage the information they collect about experts by helping them aggregate volumes of data into single, easy to read reports. Interactive charts and graphs allow users to identify trends and meaningful information to assist them in shaping their case strategy. Users can also quickly illustrate the how often an expert has been hired by plaintiff or defense counsel, the percentage of cases in which the expert has testified for the prevailing party, losing party or in cases where there was a settlement, and the percentage breakdown of cases by area of law in which the expert was retained.

Why do authors love Mother Russia, you ask? The Observer wondered as well:

The country's appeal to Olga Grushin, Gary Shteyngart and David Bezmozgis is easy to understand. They were all born in the Soviet Union, emigrating to North America as children. They inherited a folk memory of suffering, plus the minutely descriptive Russian language. The dying Soviet Union, in which shortages could sometimes be overcome by ruses and yarns, was a natural breeding ground for fabulists. Finally, a system that had seemed adamantine crumbled; the world broke open (Grushin's The Dream Life of Sukhanov wonderfully captures the disorientation caused by this rupture). Add the galvanising effects of immigration to that legacy and you have a propitious background for novelists.

Writers born elsewhere tend to be captivated first by the grandeur and reckless honesty of the great Russian authors; some might always view the country though the prism of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov and Vasily Grossman. But modern novelists are also drawn in by the same historical electricity and convulsions that fed those giants' work. Think of James Meek's magnificent civil-war saga The People's Act of Love, which features castrates, cannibalism and stranded foreign armies: all-too-real elements of the Russian 20th century, with its camps, famines and mass murder, the whole doomed, rotten Soviet experiment.

Relatively calm though the country's recent past has been, and volatile as other parts of the post-9/11 world have become, Russia's sheer eventfulness is still a pull. It is still more an empire than a state, with an empire's patchwork variety and quirks. As an old joke has it, Russia is again in a period of transition between two periods of transition. It remains a place where anything can happen, and does: shamanism in Buryatia, sectarianism in the Caucasus, and capitalism, or at least a warped Russian version of it, more or less everywhere. A great slab of unprocessed pain sits toxically at and on the country's heart.

Off the top shelf: A new finding may explain why some works of canonical poetry were so successful in the 18th century (Telegraph):

This particular collection, ‘The Works of the Earls of Rochester and Roscommon’, was so popular that it was reprinted over 20 times in the 18th century.

It is the first time the connection between the popularity of this bestselling poetic miscellany and the erotic verses in ‘The Cabinet of Love’ has been made, indicating that high art - canonical poetry - and low art were packaged together.

Speaking of which, the WSJ visits with Benedikt Taschen (WSJ):
Just like the scavengers in these Hollywood hills, Mr. Taschen is well aware of those circling and waiting for the right moment to pounce. Not many publishers can be heralded and begrudged at the same time as vigorously as he has over the past 30 years. He doesn't adhere to rules; he makes his own. Mr. Taschen, who turns 50 this month, has cornered the book market in a way that most sellers only dream of: Cult status, with massive sales. "He has built his empire solely on personal vision and taste; this is niche publishing to the extreme," says Matt Tyrnauer, a writer for Vanity Fair and the filmmaker behind "Valentino: The Last Emperor" (2008) whose interviews were included in a book on the fashion designer published by Taschen. "Benedikt makes these remarkable documents with incredible attention to quality; he is only interested in getting the most complete and extremely interesting subjects, if only for their eccentricity."
From the twitter this week:

New Dashiell Hammett stories discovered in the Harry Ransom Center.

Publishing and politics: The shame of 'O': S&S and the shameful deception of 'O'

McGraw-Hill Education Posts Big Earnings Gain on Small Sales Increase

Google CEO Eric Schmidt searches for book deal -

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