YouTube to become more Flickr-like, sez Beet.tv, by organizing videos in categories. I like the idea of a website being like Flickr, but is the way it's using categories anything more sophisticated than Yahoo! c. 1997?

A user-generated recap of all of The Sopranos eps to date is outstanding work. Also, see bigscreenlittlescreen on the odds of your favorite and least favorite characters surviving the final season.

Laugh through your fear: a daring videographer crosses the street in Hyderabad. (via)

Give it up for MC Rove in the house, oy vey.

Cute attack: kitty makes a movie. See also parts 2, 3, 4, 5. (via)

NewTeeVee has a nice post about web video serials, including Chad Vader and the forthcoming Prom Queen.

I saw Inland Empire the other night and found it ponderous and ugly. More response to come, if I feel like spending more time thinking about a movie I didn't like. But searching for clips online I found this video of guys running into Lynch when he was camped out in L.A. with a cow and a "for your consideration" poster pimping Laura Dern to the Academy. I liked this better than Inland Empire.

And JibJab is back with What We Call The News, the best of the week for sure.


Tumblr and the Immersive Internet

For some people it's hootch or craps or Lifetime movies. Lately for me it's these nifty web 2.0 apps. I can't hear even the vaguest hint of hype about a single one of these things without signing myself up. I was already neck deep in blog, flickr, and del.icio.us and that seemed like quite enough. Turns out Silicon Valley was just getting started with me. I started editing Wikipedia pages when I found things that needed work. I've already linked here to my documents on Scribd. I became dabbler in Digg, I've been known to Stumble, and there is a Facebook page with a goofy picture of me on it, search if you must. I have a MySpace though there's nothing there and the only MySpacers who friend me are girls who seem to think I might be interested in, you know. And there's YouTube. I shot some home videos and posted them there. I'm not going to link to them because my sister was embarrassed enough when her third-graders discovered them and she's not looking for more exposure.

And what about RSS? Most earthlings seem to manage without, but these days I'm using three separate RSS apps. NetNewsWire Lite is the one I use most often at home on my desktop computer because it's fastest. (I am subscribed to 285 feeds, which seems like too many.) Netvibes is another I like because it shows me so much in one place and it's just so awesome and cool. And Google Reader works well when I'm on a computer away from home and want to scan just a few feeds in a short period of time (Netvibes takes a little longer to fire up).

Twitter! How did I ever manage without twitter! I love it so much I signed up my mom! Now she twitters too. Friend her if you like. She does lots of interesting stuff, as you will find out.

Now there's this new web app that I just started playing with called Tumblr. A Tumblelog is a kind of stripped down blog--more like a scrapbook than an essayistic or diaristic blog--and it's a form that's been around awhile. One of its distinctive features is that it has different formatting styles for different types of entries: posts, links, quotes, conversations, pictures, videos. When you find something on the web that you want to share, you add it to your tumblelog, so this makes it similar to a linklog like Kottke or Fimoculous. Tumblr is a new, free, Blogger-style service that allows you easily to create a tumblelog using premade templates. (To view examples, see Tumblr Radar, which aggregates recently updated Tumbls.) And like Twitter and del.icio.us, posting to Tumblr is much easier than creating a blog entry using Blogger (or WordPress or other alternatives). You click "post to Tumbl" on a toolbar button and up comes a window that allows for quick entry. Like Twitter, Tumblr makes posting things to the web very easy, easier than a typical blog. But unlike a blog, a Tumbl lacks many social features like a default setting for a blogroll, comments, trackbacks, profiles, etc. It's easy to use in part because it has a small number of features. But a small number of features is actually a virtue, because it allows you to focus on certain things but not others.

I can foresee the term "blog" fading away or shifting meaning as these new forms like Tumblr and Twitter emerge. Lately so many blogs seem to offer magazine-style content, articles and essays in polished prose. I have written some such entries here. Maybe this very entry. But another form of self-publishing online is more about collecting or curating or tracking an ongoing experience than it is like expository writing or punditry. I want to participate in all of these things, but the blog as it is now may not be the best option for the fast, ongoing, process-oriented web publishing. When I find something online that I want to save or share, I may not have much to say about it aside from, "look at this." The form of the blog and the means of posting to it put pressure on the content to be of a certain quality, to be significant and relatively thorough, and to fit the blog's theme. If you're going to take the trouble to blog it, it had better be good. Often I just want to post things I find, though, that don't rise to this level. Often I want to save or share something about which I have no big point to make, and I feel that pointless (or, more like it, point-poor) blog entries are lame.

So I have been playing around with the Tumblr interface and testing its possibilities. I think it's potentially incredibly useful and fun. I don't know that I want to keep doing it for the long term. Maybe it will get tiring. Who knows. The site I created just yesterday is called Fraktastic in homage to Battlestar Galactica (which just jumped the shark, unfortch). It's nothing much, but it suggests what sort of thing one might do with the tool.

The problem, of course, is that I have too many of these things running at once and I'm going to have trouble keeping track of them all. I can't imagine you want to keep track of them all, either. Maybe what I really need is an integrated personal data stream, a consolidated RSS feed that combines all my stuff. But not all of my stuff really belongs together. My pictures and videos, my Wikipedia work, my scholarly work, my non-scholarly writing (e.g., twitter), etc., don't seem to me to all belong in one omnibus Michael Newman place. I'm not sure why, it just doesn't seem appropriate. Making sense of the relative integration or fragmentation of the personal web experience might be a challenge facing those at work on web apps of the future.

Additional reading:

Emily Chang on the personal data stream, with lots of links.

Kottke on tumblelogs in 2005.

Lifehacker review of Tumblr.

Another Tumblr review, at heyblog, with this intriguing design-y passage:
I’m sure you’ll agree that the world hardly needs another blogging or meta-blogging service, but it’s worth signing up for Tumblr just to check out its design. Like online portfolio service Carbonmade, it nails some current design trends—big fonts, gradients, “simplicity”, clever writing—in really thoughtful and appropriate ways, without looking merely trendy. In both applications, stuff you do once is big and easy, and stuff you do often is accessible and quick. Even the sign-up confirmation email is lovely. It’s also nice that Tumblr’s not overly Ajax-y, too, except where it’s really useful (like previewing your design changes).


Adaptation 2.0: Feature filmmakers have been adapting novels into movies for a hundred years. Now on the internet, some fans have adapted a few blog entries by Maureen Johnson, a writer they admire, into into a cute YouTube video, "How to Write a Book," about the process of creating fiction. Read about the experience of seeing your blog adapted into video at Maureen's blog. (via Shaken & Stirred)

Related: LAT reports that "the Internet is giving Hollywood a nervous breakdown." What else is new?

Only sort of related: background on the Spiders on Drugs video; background on the Huckabees meltdown video.

Not at all related: Sanjaya hairstyle cut-outs from the WaPo.


Ron Moore, the Battlestar Galactica showrunner, is interviewed in Salon about the show's political themes, the process of telling serialized stories, and the future of the series.
Our main title every week says "A Search for Earth," and at some point you gotta find earth, or it becomes "Gilligan's Island." The audience loses faith that you're ever going to get anywhere and the cylons are never going to destroy the Galactica and what's the point. We've always felt that there's an end to this show, and we've moved into the third act of a three-act structure.


VHS Lives!
VHS Lives!
Shorewood Public Library, children's section, Shorewood, WI.

I thought we were through with tape, but not so fast. We share our home entertainment with a 3 year-old named Leo, and Leo's favorite thing these days is to walk to the public library down the street to borrow video cassettes of his shows (these days, Teletubbies and Thomas and Friends are the ones he gets out of the library, though Disney's Little Einsteins--too new to be available on tape at all as far as I can tell--is his hottest passion at the moment). At first when he discovered the public library's collection of his shows he was ecstatic and I was dejected. Not tape! I said goodbye to all that! But it quickly became apparent that VHS tapes of children's shows have several advantages over DVDs. They lend for a week whereas DVDs only go out for three days. They're more suitable for a young child to handle. I don't want him putting his fingers on discs, but he's actually good at jockeying tapes. They play automatically when inserted and he knows how to use the stop/eject button. By comparison, he's not yet sophisticated enough to control the DVD player, to know the menu button and the magical means of skipping boring previews.

And to be honest, I kind of like tapes. They make me nostalgic for the old days. And having to rewind them before we take them back to the library makes me feel like I'm doing a good deed.

Anyhow the point of this is: reports of the format's death are exaggerated.


The Criterion Contraption is like The Julie/Julia Project but with movies and longer than a year.

Ashley, the crying Idol fan, on people who think Sanjaya's not so good (pity Meredith V. for having to ask): "I just like say they're wrong or just ignore them." You go, Ashley!

This American Life parody by Kaspar Hauser is pretty spot on. (via Lindsayism)

Graphpaper, a design blog, opines about one of the things that irritates me beyond all reason: 16x9 televisions showing 4x3 frames with horizontal distortion. The blogger seems to think some people are just visually dull and can't see the way sophisticates like him can. I would say it's more a matter of what you are in the habit of paying attention to. Designers, like media scholars, pay attention to different things from ordinary folks, and that's a point we can sometimes forget.


Friday Night Lights gets some lavish attention from Maureen Ryan's blog The Watcher: interviews with more than half a dozen cast members and with Jeffrey Reiner, a co-exec producer and director of many episodes; Jason Katims, the showrunner; and Kevin Reilly, NBC's entertainment president. These include a wealth of details about the show's production practices, how it achieves its visual style, and NBC's strategies in marketing the program.


Twitter has been running really slow, and you can imagine the vast multitudes eagerly reporting their quotidian events as the page labors to get your data up for you. It's exciting to see something that didn't exist three seconds ago become part of the fabric of people's lives. Of course the commentariat is working hard to make sense of it:

The Wall Street Journal got in on the action early, and was pleasantly non-snarky about it. (Reading this article doesn't require a subscription.)

Lifehack thinks you should use Twitter productively. Like so many of these social web apps, Twitter could be either a way to steal time or a way to take care of business. I get more excited by stealing time, myself. See also Slacker Manager.

Bokardo: Twitter's genius is that it combines the read and write screens. I second.

Apophenia: thoughts on Twitter esp as it is used by mobile persons. I myself tend to be stationary. Reading this made me feel old, cuz I have just about no one to text with mobile to mobile and just about no interest in getting into this. My Twittering is old-skool web-based only.

Headrush: on the implications of Twitter for your brain.

Inevitably, someone had to invent the ghastly phrase "twittering point".

And two nice Twitter tools: Ludicrous offers a way to post to Twitter from the Firefox search box (don't embarrass yourself by posting to Twitter by mistake when you're trying to search Google, friends). Twittervision is a map-Twitter mashup that shows posts as they happen from all around this rock we call Earth. That's incredible!


At Wagmedia, a new blog by an old friend, Ira Wagman is discussing Henry Jenkins's Convergence Culture. In particular he wonders whether all the attention being given to the new participatory culture is slighting the casual audiences--still the vast majority of culture consumers--who aren't interested in making fan fiction or researching Survivor locations to spoil upcoming seasons or following narratives across multiple platforms. Ira writes:
Do we really want television made by and for fans? What happens to the casual (and not passive) viewer? They're important too, aren't they?
I had some similar responses when I read the book. In general I am really excited by the developments Jenkins writes about, but I also have some reservations about the way scholars talk about them. Such as...

-Is participatory culture significant because it represents a prevailing mode of engaging with media? Certainly it is not that now. I kept wondering as I was reading CC whether its argument hangs on a prediction for the future. Perhaps participatory culture is poised to become a standard way for a significant number of people to engage with media. But perhaps not. Maybe participatory culture will remain a minority, niche pursuit that is more available to those with the benefits of social and economic privilege.

-Maybe even if inequality between cultural consumers is overcome in the future, most people still won't be interested in the modes of media interaction Jenkins champions. As it is now, most people who have the education and technology necessary to engage in read/write culture (as opposed to read-only culture) aren't interested. I have been noticing this more and more as I become immersed in the read/write culture myself. For instance, most people I talk to have no idea what an RSS feed is and when I tell them about it, they react like I'm trying to sell them encyclopedias. My students, whose age might indicate they are more likely than I am to know about such things, need me to define terms like "mashup." The experience of media as an immersive obsession isn't for everyone. Most people don't use media that way, and why should they? They have a lot of other things to do. My sense is that the norm is still to use the web for e-mail, shopping, looking things up, and little else--i.e., not the way you and I use it.

-Even when people are up for an immersive experience, they might prefer the role of spectator to that of participant. Participation isn't usually what we're looking for in our entertainment. I love movies and TV because they come to me, they please me, they offer me so much. In return, I often give them nothing more than my attention and interest. And this is robustly satisfying--nothing seems to be missing from the experience. Jenkins's examples are all of spectators becoming active in the co-creation of media. I too am excited by this activity, but I am not totally comfortable with the unambiguous positive moral valence this is given. It suggests that the comparative passivity of non-co-creating viewers is a less worthy mode of engagement and prescribes a certain kind of viewing activity as preferable. I'm sure Jenkins doesn't mean to be prescriptive in this way, but this is the implication I draw from the way he stakes his position.

So in general: maybe participatory culture isn't for everyone. Maybe it's being adopted as a marketing concept by media companies eager to find the next big thing. Maybe read-only culture has a lot of life left in it yet.

The Show With Ze Frank, 2006-2007

Ze Frank took his curtain call yesterday and, just like TV, the internet breaks your heart. We come to need our TV friends on schedule and then one day they're just gone, the show's over, it's never coming back. Reruns remind us of what was once, but they're never the real McCoy. So it is now with our internet friends.

The Show was one example of a new kind of art form, one made by an ongoing collaboration of a performer and dozens, hundreds, even thousands of participants dispersed around the country and the world and connected by the internet. The community created something that only a web-based network could achieve. Frank is certainly a remarkable talent, but he alone could not have made The Show. For its potential to be realized, many hands had to set to work. Its special energy came from knowing that every day the sportsracers were ready to interact in the creative effort. All art is the product of a network of cooperation, but the internet is providing opportunities to adjust the balance between artists and support personnel in favor of more democratic arrangements.

Today's LAT has a nice primer+appreciation (thx Chuck). Here are some of my favorite episodes. There are 250 in total, so this list could be way longer.

The sportsracer show, in which the audience thanks Ze for The Show.

Ze takes the sportsracers's recordings to Ray, whose song they remixed and turned into a video.

The ep with Ze's holiday song (at the end) naming all the political figures in the news in his polyphonic a capella vocals. I've watched this one about seven hundred times and it never gets old.

Ze barfs out Scrabble tiles. In response, Valleywag wrote, "Ze Frank is one of the very few new web video stars with that attribute they used to call, um, talent."

Thanksgiving won much praise in the blogs for the way it captures family dynamics.

The episode in which Ze picks a fight with Rocketboom over their use of metrics to measure the size of their audience, sardonic in its assessment of differences between old and new media.

"Left turn ok" is the very meta episode with a stream-of-consciousness voice-over from the mind of a skeptical viewer. I really love this one.

A first installment on the ins and outs of videoblogging is mercilessly mocking.

On college being only sort of like the real world; in the next one on this topic: choosing a major is like choosing where to live.

"Fingers in Food" is a lot too zany. The next day begins, "Are the new viewers gone yet?"

"Jon Benet" is one of the best eps, a parody of bizlit bullshit about brands.

For his 100th episode, Ze reminisces about childhood, growing up as a child of immigrants. This one has an unusual non-comic tone.

On copyright, YouTube and participatory culture.

"Condoleeza's Magic Satchel" gonna save the day, one of the crazier songs.

Ugly MySpace contestants introduced + the "I know me some ugly song" + the defense of amateur aesthetics in the user-generated content age. This is one of the very best.

Ideas are like brain crack. Classic.

Fabuloso Friday: the viewers wrote the script of this one and although it doesn't quite work as an episode, it's a feat of collaboration nonetheless.

"Austrian Arrows" answers the question "are you gay?" No, Ze says, but I like gay things. Then a segment about all the gay things Ze likes. This ep also has Ze doing a hilarious Austrian accent.

"Summer Jamz" introduces new viewers to all of The Show's inside jokes in a way that makes no sense to new viewers.

The episode "anti-intellectualism" has one of my favorite Ze songs. It goes, "Let's watch the monkey dance, anti-intellectualism!/Make fun of the south of France, anti-intellectualism!..."

"Are the New Viewers Gone Yet?" An episode begins with boring stuff to turn away people who don't watch regularly. Then Ze asks, "Are the new viewers gone yet?" When I was a new viewer, this bit was one of things that made me love The Show.

An early episode mocks Starbucks, a favorite target, and includes a beloved song, "Who loves the little duckies in the pond..." The duckie became Frank's mascot.

"Yes No I This Is," one of GWB's mangled attempts at making sense, became an inside joke.


Veronica Mars is dunzo, say some of today and yesterday's rumor-mongers. Others have spread the item that if the show has a fourth season, it will be set at Quantico, VA, years in the future as Veronica trains to join the FBI. Some people seem to be busting up at hearing news of cancellation or radical alteration.

This is the predictable reaction among those passionate about television. Fans seem to want their favorite shows to be love affairs that last forever and a day. But seriously: Veronica should have ended after two seasons. It is spent. This season's stories have been preposterous, unintelligible, and offensive, often all at the same time. I'm thinking especially of everything to do with campus feminists, the culture of academia, and Veronica's relationship with Logan. Its style keeps getting more strangely baroque, with pretentiously shadowy lighting, aggressive canted angles, and overuse of colored lights. The narrative structure of the season has been a shambles, with lame bits of arc-storytelling slipped into teasers and final scenes and banal mysteries-of-the-week dominating. Good prime-time serials balance episodic and arcing narration, but VM stopped doing that this year.

I would rather a good show have a short run than see it extend beyond its natural life into a parody or pale imitation of itself. Veronica was great for its first season and pretty good for its second. That's a lot more than we get from most TV shows.

Next on my personal chopping block: Battlestar Galactica. I hope they kill that one off too, and soon.


David Sedaris just makes shit up. This seems like such a non-story, and yet I can't stop thinking about it.

Judd Apatow is the "Hollywood hottie of the moment." The sentiment might work, but the sentence doesn't. (via bigscreenlittlescreen)

Friday Night Lights is going to be rerun from the start on Bravo. Hope this gives it an audience. Bravo made stars of the fab five; could Landry and Smash be household names by this time next year? We can hope. Extra: photos from the FNL set on Flickr.

American Idol is still fantastic television. Drama, comedy, suspense, surprise, music, hair, spectacle, a gamut of emotions. The results shows would be unwatchable without TiVo, but the Tuesday night shows are as good as it gets. (Yes, there are Sanjaya fans! And check this out: Jon Peter Lewis, also-ran of season 3, is blogging season 6 at TV Squad!)


For the NMC online conference on the convergence of web culture and video, I prepared a "poster" presentation called Short and "Sweet": Web Video Forms and Functions. The conference would seem to be a walled garden, which means only registered participants can access the knowledge shared there. I think that's too bad, so that's why I'm sharing. The presentation borrows many of the ideas I have already offered here, in my post on web video form. The online poster will include a link to this episode of The Show with Ze Frank, which is coming to its conclusion this week.

I'm also posting this here because I'm so excited by this new web app, Scribd, that allows for easy sharing of all kinds of documents. Many so-called Web 2.0 sites are being adapted to educational uses (blogs and wikis especially) but this one seems designed to exploit scholarly application.
Lonelygirl15's creators, Greg Goodfried and Miles Beckett, are interviewed on today's Rocketboom; they talk business models, collaborative aesthetics, and other web video ins and outs.


SCMS is done for another year. This was my sixth time, and every year the conference seems a bit bigger, a bit more overwhelming (though still far from the madness of MLA). Happily, I was able to see just about everyone I was hoping to see. The scholarship is the reason to go, but the social connections are what I look forward to most.

I spoke on a panel on American Independent Cinema with Drew Morton, Lisa Dombrowski, and Brad Schauer. It was the most coherent group of papers I have ever seen in one conference panel. All of us were concerned with demystifying the label "independent." Drew did that by discussing Steven Soderbergh's career as a director merging studio and indie approaches to filmmaking. Lisa surveyed the history of independent filmmaking going back to the days of Edison and the MPPC and argued that independent production arises in response to specific industrial conditions, especially in times when film supply and demand are out of whack. Brad discussed the strategies of Dimension Pictures, the Miramax genre imprint, showing how a contemporary independent distributor merges studio and exploitation strategies. And my paper (pdf/pp) was about indie culture, arguing that it is contradictory insofar as it is both critical of the dominant social structure and a taste culture that promotes distinction. I was really pleased with the Q&A afterwards, which included the participation of two scholars who have recently published books on independent cinema: Geoff King (whose American Independent Cinema is an excellent survey of the terrain) and J.J. Murphy (whose new book, which I just bought yesterday, is called Me and You and Memento and Fargo: How Independent Screenplays Work, and who was my professor at UW-Madison for a very memorable and revelatory course on American avant-garde cinema). It was great to hear their responses to our ideas.

I was thrilled to meet some of my friends from the internet at the conference, including chutry, and it is always great to see grad school pals and teachers, many of whom were at a party Friday night for faculty and students of the University of Wisconsin Comm Arts department (see my Flickr for pics). It was also fun to have pizza and beer Saturday night with the SCMS TV studies group, who were hosted by (among others) Bruce DuMont, president of the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, which will soon be opening a new facility that looks really exciting.

For extensive reportage on the conference proceedings, check out Tim Anderson's blog. I'm also looking forward to seeing what people contribute to the Mabuse blog-a-thon. If you were there and have something to report, send it their way.


Let us now praise the public domain, for it has given us the more than 100 movies that I have added to the sidebar under the heading "The Canon Fires 24/7" (scroll down) including dozens of silent films (Méliès, Griffith, Sjöström, Epstein, Eisenstein) and many sound ones too (Hitchcock, Capra, Lang, Hawks), and lots from the avant-garde (Man Ray, Deren, Brakhage).

I started poking around a few days ago to see how much cinema is available streaming and free online now. I was prompted by a discussion at CinemaTech, noting a subscriber-only WSJ article, about silent films online being given new life with fresh soundtracks (CT links to versions of A Trip to the Moon and Nosferatu). I wasn't that surprised by how much I found, but it is remarkable that this simply did not exist a couple of years ago. It is now possible to acquaint yourself with a substantial and representative chunk of film history, at least of film history in the West, without leaving your desk. You could certainly program an entire online film history course based around these offerings, though you might not want to go much past WWII. Of course I would prefer to see these films as good prints projected well, but as an educational and scholarly resource this online alternative is quite clearly a remarkable thing. I wish this had been available to me when I was a youngster keen to know more about the movies.

There is lots more out there including many more Griffith Biograph films, Brakhages, Sherlock Holmes movies, exploitation films, studio-era animation, and more contemporary experimental stuff. Search Google Video and you will find it. There are tons of clips from films online, which I avoided. I wish I had found more non-Western titles. Perhaps if I could read more languages I would have better success with that.

Happy viewing.


Twitter: I'm giving it a try, under the influence of Chuck. A badge is in the sidebar so that you can more easily stalk me if your life is that sad. Buzzfeed describes Twitter as "insane in the mundane." Twitter describes itself as "what are you doing?" If you would like to be my Twitter friend, you know what to do.
Heather Havrilesky on Friday Night Lights:
If only more people knew what a rare and beautiful thing they're missing: a drama that sets the bar much higher than it has to, daring to take on the romance and heartbreak of being a teenager with honesty, compassion and wit.
"Friday Night Lights" has evolved from a strikingly original, lively little story about a football team to an evocative portrayal of life in a small American town, a narrative with so much sweetness and authenticity to it that, once you abandon yourself to its undeniable charms, you'll find it has the power to make you cringe and grit your teeth and laugh and cry each week, without fail.
I haven't read anything about the threat of its cancellation lately, which would be as sad for me as Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life being cut off at one season apiece. FNL is being run by Jason Katims, who worked on the Bedford Falls shows MSCL and Relativity, and Katims is bringing some of the same intimate human touch we associate with Zwick and Herskovitz to this material, but without the yuppie angst and self-absorption.


Not TV: Object Lessons in HBO's Sustained Brilliance is a profile of the company by Jack Lechner in Good Magazine. The article reveals much about the industrial constraints that produced the great string of successes beginning in the late 1990s that established the brand as we know it.

HBO moved more heavily into original programming when DVDs began replacing VHS tapes and when buying began to rival renting. Release windows were shrinking, so the company needed to give subscribers a reason to keep paying. In order to create the qualities that distinguish HBO from other offerings it gave creators more freedom than the networks. It wasn't as concerned with ratings because it's not selling ads, so prestige items that don't draw huge audiences would still be valuable for the perception they create that HBO is good.

I would still like to know how much of HBO's income is from DVD sales and rentals rather than subscriptions. This could be another point to connect the rise of HBO's original programming with a technological and cultural change.
TVDAYS is an enormous collection of old movies and television, much of it available for viewing online at Google Video, including numerous Griffith Biograph one-reelers and other silent films, commercials from the 1950s, boxing and wrestling matches, TV variety shows, short films from several eras, and many things miscellaneous. See also Maid Marian Free Media, a YouTube collection of classic silent cinema in the public domain (Porter, Dreyer, Stroheim, Buñuel).



-Essjay, the prolific Wikipedian introduced in Stacy Schiff's article "Know It All: Can Wikipedia Conquer Expertise?" as a tenured professor of religion, is actually a 24 year-old with no academic credentials. I love this so much because (1) it's such a good story--not even the NYer is safe from the ephemeral confabulations of web culture--and (2) it offers the hope that all truths will be revealed.

-Timothy Noah in Slate is making a good case that Wikipedia should abandon its notability guideline.

-The Academic Blog Portal is a wiki aggregating blogs by academics. If you haven't already, go add or edit entries. (It annoys me that I am most suited either to the Culture, Theory, Literature category under Humanities or the Media and Communications category under Professions and Useful Arts. I think of myself as a media humanist. Categories, huh? Anyhow, annoyed, but not enough to do anything but complain. Useful arts is a funny phrase. Who studies useless arts?)

Update: check out the motherlode of Essjay links.


The Future of Online Scholarship

Media Commons is soliciting feedback about the site, and a number of participants have said that it should avoid being just an online version of a journal. I am not sure what Media Commons wants to be or should be, but it could do worse than to be just an online version of a journal. While online versions of journals do exist, I don't think they are exploiting the possibilities of the web and I would like to see them try. Media Commons might have the opportunity to be an online version of a journal that is more than just traditional articles (paragraphs and footnotes) posted to the web with embedded YouTube clips. In what follows I sketch out what a good online journal might look like in the age of web 2.0. (I doubt that any of these ideas are really original, but I haven't seen anyone aggregate them as I have here.)

The production of knowledge in academia is still dominated by the traditional institutions of conferences, print journals, and books. The knowledge being produced within the traditional institutions is not really online. You may be able to access the full text of journal articles from your library's website, but the virtual fence protecting private property keeps this knowledge from circulating on the network. I don't consider this online scholarship; online means networked. To be online, you need more than the internet--you need to make use of the internet's affordance of connecting you freely among the network of users. Proprietary content fails to afford this.

An online journal that makes better use of the internet's affordances might look something like this:

-Everything has a comment function for input from readers. Web scholarship without comments is a conversation with a missing partner. The Onion bills itself as a "one-way conduit of information." That's a joke. Online scholarship should exploit the web's architecture of participation.

-Liberal use of illustration. A limitation of traditional scholarship is that it sometimes cannot be sufficiently illustrated. The web allows for framegrabs, charts and graphs, embedded video and audio, etc., to our heart's content. Most online journals use these tools insufficiently. New media scholarship online needs to do more.

-Liberal use of the hyperlink. The link is the essence of the web. All scholarship cites other scholarship, but hyperlinks transform a citation into a portal and invite the reader to join the writer in a trip over there to the other scholar's page. The impossibility of linking is an unacceptable limitation of traditional full-text journals, and most online journals that could have links (e.g., Scope) have few if any within their articles. We need to be writing in hypertext, not traditional text. The web is a network and online scholarship needs to be more networked.

-Potential for publishing scholarly audio and video podcasts to supplement writing or perhaps even sometimes to take its place. I haven't done this myself so I can only indicate that I think it might be a good idea.

-Full syndication to allow for third-party apps. This is one of the key principles of Web 2.0: RSS separates the form of media from its content and allows us to shape the experience of media as we wish. Down with partial feeds! (Media Commons has partial feeds in its In Media Res feature; Flow has no feeds at all. [edited 3/27/07: these sites have both added or expanded their feeds since I wrote this.])

-Modularity of design and content for ease of online consumption. I don't want to read a twenty-five-page article online. But just as important, modularity makes for easy remixability. The web allows us to recycle, to poach bits and pieces, to mash together ideas and sources in a way that isn't possible in traditional discourse. To enable this functionality, scholarship should be crafted out of small, connected parts. Related: anything that takes longer than a couple of minutes to read should offer a printer-friendly display option. (For more on the connection of short, modular, and open form, see Tim O'Reilly.)

-No peer review. It takes too long and the internet is all about speed. Editing is good when it helps people write better. Perhaps an online journal needs an editor to maintain a standard of quality (here I really mean things like punctuation and style) and to keep out work that is obviously inappropriate. But peer review slows things down and deprives us of the opportunity to respond to events as they happen and, just as important, to share our ideas as we formulate them and get feedback that will help them to develop. Ideally, the participatory, networked aspects of the web will function as a kind of dispersed peer review. Really bad ideas will be met with criticism. Many ideas will be ignored. Really good ideas will win the favor of the community. Scholars will reward good ideas by paying attention to them. (This is sort of how things work already, no?)

-Free availability to everyone. No walled gardens. CC for everyone.

Maybe it's not necessary to have an online journal; maybe people can self-publish according to the suggestions I have made. But many people have no idea how to publish on the web (I'm pretty fuzzy on how to do anything more sophisticated than a Blogger blog) and a journal would help to bring scholars less adept with digital technologies into the conversation.

The really big problem, of course, is that online scholarship does not satisfy the institutionalized credentialing system of academia. A search or tenure committee might not look favorably on your work online and would prefer that you publish in established journals. There are two solutions:

1. Don't do all your work online (yet?). Write a book and publish it the usual way. Submit your work to traditional journals. Self-publish online, then submit a plain-text version to a journal.

2. Evangelize for online scholarship. The more people participate the less chancy it will seem. If everyone is doing it, traditional institutions will have no choice but to change. If enough of us defy the inefficient old system, then academic credentialing will change to match the system that takes its place.