Tuesday, May 13, 2014

MediaWeek (V7, N16): Clearing Libraries, Upworthy-King of Content, Uncertain Book start-ups + More

PND Weekly roundup also on flipboard:

What of the digital humanities (with a great photo of the British Library)
And such a critical, creative, and imaginative engagement between “the digital” and “the humanities” requires an expansion of the field of humanistic inquiry in ways that leverage the power of data sets, computational analyses, design-centered thinking, and the interpretation of cultural repositories that far exceed the cognitive or analytical abilities of the normative Humanist. The task requires well-informed critical methods and forms of interrogation that belong to the present age, not the sorry “posture of skepticism” that Kirsch imagines in his urge to enforce simpleminded dichotomies. Nobody is arguing that the “digital humanities” are handing over reading, writing, thinking, and creating to “the computer,” which spits out data as culturally redundant truisms. Instead, we advocate for emerging genres, methods, knowledge formations, and new publics for the humanities, which not only use but also design digital tools to, among other things, animate archives in new ways, map and visualize data at scale, test assumptions and hypotheses rooted in source material using gaming environments and virtual worlds technologies, and provide new models of access to and engagement with knowledge.
More and more libraries are clearing out the books and Slate joins the band wagon:
But there’s one wholly unsentimental reason the stacks are both vital and irreplaceable, and that brings us back to Colby’s decision to replace theirs with a gleaming shrine to the corporate bottom line. As more of the books disappear from college libraries, the people in charge of funding those libraries will be more tempted to co-opt that space for events that bring in revenue, or entice students for the wrong reasons: food courts. Gaming lounges. I expect rock-climbing walls soon. Unless administrators make a protracted effort to preserve the contemplative and studious feeling, that feeling will disappear altogether, and the whatever-brary will become just another Jamba Juice.
Right now, the most powerful weapon in the fight to keep just one space on the entire campus dedicated to the preservation, creation, and dissemination of knowledge (a.k.a. the alleged sole purpose of the university) is the book. These obsolete cloth-bound relics—the way they smell, their very omnipresence in your field of vision; the way they carry with them centuries of past perusal—are currently the university’s strongest, if not sole, signifier of a contemplative, intellectual space. With the stacks there, a library’s architect creates spaces around the books, thus cementing their omnipresence as near-animate psychological enforcers. (There’s also the small matter that you only have to buy a book once; digital resources are licensed, and their prices increase every year!)
Upworthy - The King of Content. From CJR:
These subtle tweaks, with no change to the underlying content, have powerful results: Upworthy’s repackaged videos and articles receive an average of 75,000 likes per post on Facebook, about 12 times that of any other news organization, and the site spiked to 87 million unique viewers last December. Each view is more powerful because Upworthy doesn’t just entice readers to look, it encourages them through a swath of buttons on its homepage to share. This mastery of Facebook means that Upworthy reworkings produce significantly more views than the originals, whose creators are placed in an odd position. Upworthy works as a scavenger, drawing huge traffic to its own site by repurposing other people’s material. But to the original creators Upworthy brings new eyes; often the trickle-down traffic from people clicking to the original post (from a modest link published under each Upworthy article) is far greater than the viewership the organization could cultivate on its own.

Upworthy’s founders argue they’re not scavengers, they’re salvagers—and their acts of reclamation are making the world a better place. Most viral stories are not meaningful—think BuzzFeed’s “19 Cats Who Have Absolutely Had It” oeuvre—while Upworthy traffics in important topics: climate change, Afghanistan, gender discrimination, racism. And lifting these kinds of stories can transform the internet, they claim. “At best, things online are usually either awesome or meaningful,” reads the site’s founding statement. “But everything on Upworthy.com has a little of both.”

The ability to alter content into sharable nuggets of gold could also prove a powerful boon to advertisers: Up until this point, Upworthy hasn’t sold ads, but in April they put forward a unique strategy built around native advertising. Titled “Upworthy Collaborations,” the idea is to wave a magic wand over the advertising videos of paying brands in the same way the site does for news content. The first to line up is Unilever, the third-largest global consumer goods company, and a brand currently pitching itself as socially responsible when it comes to sustainability.
Laura Hazard over at GigaOm looks at book start-ups:
Any company that comes along trying to reinvent book publishing is competing not only with traditional book publishers but also with Amazon, which is almost 20 years old but keeps finding new ways to shake things up. Print book buying continues to move online and Amazon, which is now delivering on Sundays and offering same-day delivery in a growing number of cities, has a lock on that business. Kindle, launched in 2007, is the dominant ebook reading platform and Amazon is continually rolling out improvements to the Kindle e-reader and Kindle apps — sharing, search and so on — that rival what many startups have tried to do.
More on flipboard

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