Archive for social media

Monday Links

Here are some of the stories I’ve been following over the last few days:

  • A few more responses to the news that several studios are planning to release films via premium video on demand, just two months after they appear in theaters. In the first of two posts, David Poland looks back at the history of changing distribution models and begins to explore the potential consequences of premium VOD, mostly in response to an interview with Fox executive, Jim Gianopolous.
  • There has been quite a bit of discussion of Tribeca’s continued attempt to reinvent film festivals using digital media. In particular Anne Thompson expresses some skepticism, but dutifully points to several early posts on the Tribeca “Future of Film” blog, including a welcome post form festival director Geoffrey Gilmore, film producer Peter Guber (who as Thompson points out is also promoting his book), and 2929 Entertainment’s Todd Wagner.  Social media blog Mashable also chimes in.
  • Via Chris Becker, who has compiled an amazing list of media links, The Wrap reconsiders the place of the art house theater in the age of digital distribution. Chris’s post offers a wealth of liks about TV and film distribution, as usual.
  • Fox executive Bill Mechanic expresses some skepticism about the 60-day VOD plan. Not surprisingly, the National Association of Theater Owners is arguing that the VOD window will be incredibly harmful to their bottom line.

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Wednesday Links

Still recovering from SCMS, Daylight Savings Time, and the end of Spring Break. Only six more weeks left until finals. Yikes!

  • Michael Newman posted his SCMS talk on Television File Sharing on his blog. While most scholarship discusses the role of piracy in shaping the film industry, fewer people have talked about the (possibly more complicated) implications for TV consumption and fandom.
  • Cinematical reports that many of Netflix’s contracts for streaming content are about to expire and explores the implications, which might include higher subscription costs.  Edward Jay Epstein is even more blunt in predicting that Netflix is about to “hit a brick wall.”
  • On a related note, another article on Fandor, which seeks to combine streaming video with a greater focus on social media. Similalry, Zediva allows you to rent and stream movies at $1.99 per title. The article points out that Zediva, which does not pay for rights to stream, may be legally dubious, but they argue that the First Sale Doctrine allows them to pay retail for movies and then make them available for streaming. We’ll see how that works out once Hollywood lawyers get involved.
  • David Poland discusses Netflix’s plans to get into distributing original TV content, a series featuring Kevin Spacey, prompting Poland to ask whether the company is “abandoning its business model” again. Chris Becker links to a wide range of reactions.
  • Via Chris Becker a discussion of the fact that Time Warner Cable is streaming live TV content to iPads, but only within the confines of the subscribing household.
  • Chris also points out that AT&T is planning to cap bandwidth use for its subscribers, which may limit streaming video consumption.
  • Finally, Ted Striphas revisits the issue of “algorithmic culture” (something he considered previously a few months ago) which he discusses primarily in terms of Amazon’s recommendation algorithms. A similar principle, of course, applies for services such as Netflix. Hooping to put together a longer post on these issues soon.

I linked to this on Twitter but it deserves a closer look, and I don’t want to lose it in the Twitter stream. Here is Newton Minow’s article in which he revisits his “cultural wasteland” thesis to think about how media policy should work in the days ahead.

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More SCMS Reflections

I’ve been intrigued by the wide range of SCMS conference reports that have been published this year. It seems that more and more scholars, including many junior scholars, have been thinking about the ways in which SCMS expresses something about the fields of film and media studies, and although a conference is an incomplete snapshot, one marked by individual tastes, I think that SCMS’s decision to embrace some of these social media tools has helped to foster some of these conversations. Rather than update my previous entry, I would instead like to highlight what others have said about their experiences at the conference.

Chris Cagle’s thoughtful roundup of the conference argues that SCMS would benefit from requiring contributors to submit papers in advance of the conference and creating a mechanism for publishing “proceedings” of the conference. I’m generally in favor of having authors submit complete papers, and Jason’s decision to post his paper to his blog illustrates how well this can work to encourage conversation. I’m a little less intrigued by the idea of conference proceedings, but an anthology of papers that address a specific theme–such as this year’s conference theme of media citizenship–could be valuable.

On a related note, Justin Horton argues that there is a “gulf” between TV and film studies in terms of social media use, and I think this is a reasonable observation–one that was occasionally raised at the conference. Justin also calls into question the 20-minute presentation, but again notes that more “traditional” media like film seemed to invite longer-form presentations while TV scholars were more likely to do shorter workshop and position papers. I’m tempted to attribute this, in part, to the different models of fandom associated with both media. Even with all of our discussion of asynchronous TV viewing through DVRs, streaming video, and other platforms, TV, far more than film, seems to inspire more real-time chatter. But that’s just a hunch on my part.

And it’s worth noting that many of these scholars have expressed a great deal of ambivalence about the conference. Although my experiences were generally positive, Mabel Rosenheck, among others, has pointed out that SCMS can (still) be an alienating experience, especially for younger scholars seeking to network and/or navigate their way through panels and other aspects of the conference that are less than transparent. In particular, Mabel points out that the purpose of scholarly interest groups (SIGs) isn’t clearly spelled out, and I tend to agree that is something that conference and SIG organizers could work on.

Noel Kirkpatrick also highlights some of these limitations, including the politics of tweeting (especially when you might be the only person tweeting a panel). Noel also offers a useful reading of the blogging “workshop,” which I wish I could have attended.

In all cases, these perspectives on the conference are well worth reading, and I hope you’ll drop by and comment on some of their posts. Although many of them are far more ambivalent about the conference than I was, their reflections help to illustrate (at least to my mind) the ways in which social media can be used to rethink our current practices as academic professionals.

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SCMS Reflections

This year’s Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in New Orleans (note: some links may be accessible only by SCMS members) felt like a whirlwind of conversation, activity, and intellectual engagement, one that I’m still recovering from a day after the conference, and not only because I was forced to get up at 4 AM—the equivalent of 3 AM, given the shift to Daylight Savings Time—to catch an airport shuttle Sunday morning. During several of the panels this week, I found myself nodding in agreement with colleagues and friends from other universities as we discussed the richness and diversity of panels that seemed to reflect the Society’s commitment to a focus on media studies, and media industry studies in particular. At the same time, thanks to a fully engaged Twitter backchannel, as well as an effort to document the conference through SCMS-sponsored blogs, many of the conferences ongoing intellectual themes seemed to resonate more deeply for me than ever before.  It also made aspects of the conference feel as if they have been archived in a potentially more systematic way.

The focus on media industries was most deeply felt when the announcement came through from Paul McDonald that a proposal for a Media Industries Scholarly Interest Group had been accepted, helping to bring together in a more systematic way a wide range of media scholars whose work speaks across disciplinary and media boundaries, something I’ve been discovering in writing toward my second book, which looks primarily at issues pertaining to the digital distribution of movies. As a number of scholars have reminded me, the issues in place with regard to the film industry are similar to those in music (Spotify vs. iTunes) and certainly in television. As a result, I’m very much looking forward to see how we can synergize—to use an industry buzzword—our various scholarly pursuits.

It would be incredibly difficult to summarize my conference experience in a single blog post; however, most of the panels I attended ended up focusing in some way on providing more finely-grained analyses of media industry practices, while some of the panels I most regretted missing looked at specific regional production practices and cultures, whether the shooting on HBO’s Treme in New Orleans or, from Alisa Perren, a discussion of the comic book community in Atlanta. As Miranda Banks noted in her response to a panel on European production industries, we need more microstudies of local practices that are embedded within a macro-framework.

Other scholars offered compelling industrial analyses, whether at the very local or DIY levels, such as Steven Rawle’s discussion of digital independent cinema through the lens of Hal Hartley’s move toward self-distribution, Benjamin Sampson’s discussion of Christian distribution networks, or larger industrial practices, such as Bryan Sebok’s detailed engagement with the political economy of 3-D distribution or Tom Schatz’s discussion of what he called “post-theatrical culture.”  Both Sebok and Schatz underscored—from slightly different perspectives—an idea that I have been exploring in some of my own recent work that Avatar serves as one of the most influential films in recent memory, not so much at a narrative level as a distributional one. Finally, other industrial practices, such as the rise of theatrical advertising, carefully traced out by Kimberly Owczarski, can tell us quite a bit not only about the political economy of film distribution and exhibition but also about how we consume movies.

Sebok’s paper was part of a larger panel on 3-D, one that helped to expand some of my own current research on the increasingly common use of it in blockbusters (given that blockbusters now seem to appear year-round, it seems pointless to append the word “summer” to that particular distribution strategy).  In addition to thinking about it at an industrial level, historical papers by Allison Whitney and Melanie Brunell reminded me that 3-D is also rooted in ideological, even nationalistic traditions—especially for the IMAX format, while Bret Vukoder’s paper on the narrative genres most commonly associated with 3-D helped to deepen some of my own recent attempts to trace a taxonomy of 3-D movies (which I’m hoping to do in detail in a forthcoming blog post).

Amazingly, I had what can only be described as an epiphany of sorts during the last panel of the conference that I was able to attend on Saturday. The panel, “Digital Television, Analog Memories” helped to crystallize something I’d been struggling to articulate for a while, especially when Karen Lury offered what can best be described as a mini-ethnography of digital media consumption, one that looked at a narrow group of media consumers (approximately six or so families) in order to remind us—powerfully—of the importance of considering “the everyday mess of living” when we begin talking about all of the utopian narratives about digital transmission.  Max Dawson’s discussion of the shift from CRT television sets to LCD sets also grounded media consumption in an everyday by reminding us of the profound environmental waste associated with planned obsolescence (and the often related wanton destruction of these tools), one that encourages us to replace our cell phones every two years, our laptops every three years, and our TV sets in less than a decade. It’s often quite easy to accept the prescribed uses of new media tools as they are spelled out in the (web) pages of magazines like Wired and the countless tech blogs, but as Lury astutely observes, things aren’t quite that simple. Lury’s paper created quite a stir—Twitter was positively buzzing during her talk—and it helped me to see my on project in a slightly different light.

Ultimately, conference reports like this are grounded in the personal. Although I attended at least part of a panel during pretty much every session from Thursday through Saturday, given that there were usually 20-25 concurrent panels, others saw a much different conference. And yet, thanks in part to Twitter and blogs, I do feel more connected to the conference than ever before. This year’s SCMS coincided with the eighth anniversary of my blog, The Chutry Experiment. Something that began very much as an experiment in spring 2003 now serves as a crucial means for me to engage with the profession, one that has followed me from Georgia Tech to Catholic University and, for the last few years here at Fayetteville State. Blogging is often a frustrating practice for me. On occasions it feels obligatory, and yet it also has served as a crucial mechanism for allowing me to cultivate relationships and to engage in broader conversations.  This role of sharing and discussing was neatly spelled out by Jason Mittell who, in the spirit of conversation, has posted his conference paper (on series finales) on his blog.   To say that I’ve been challenged and inspired by the papers presented by my colleagues this year at SCMS is an understatement.  As I sat on my hotel’s curb at 4:40 AM, waiting for the airport shuttle and watching drunk revelers stumble away from Bourbon Street to their hotels and cars (!), I found myself already anticipating next year’s conference in Boston and regretting the fact that I wouldn’t be hearing more papers this year, but I am looking forward to keeping the conversation going through all of our online channels.

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Wednesday Links

Clearing out my RSS Reader one last time before I hop on the plane to go to New Orleans for SCMS:

  • Via David Poland at MCN, the news that Universal has licensed rights to much of its movie content to AnyClip, a company that cuts up movies into brief segments and makes them searchable online. As the Hollywood Reporter article notes, the company hopes to partner with distributors such as Hulu and IMDB.com and has positioned each clip so that you have the option to rent or buy that video. Poland notes, however, that at least some clips are not available, pointing out that for the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the scenes with Spicoli are omitted, as is the scene in which Phoebe Cates emerges from the swimming pool sans top. As I understand it, the logic is that this will make legal versions of the film more searchable, especially given that approximately 2% of all internet searches (according to their estimates are related to movies). I haven’t had time to play with the site yet, but it’s a fascinating move by Universal.
  • The Hollywood Reporter also assesses the emergence of Amazon’s streaming service and concludes that it will be beneficial for Hollywood, in part because it may provide for more studio control over their content.
  • A short article announcing Redbox’s plans to launch a streaming service, which will focus almost entirely on movies, rather than television content.
  • At SXSW, Fandor, a streaming movie subscription service announced their launch. Perhaps their bigest advantage is that, rather than creating their social networking software from scratch, they have partnered with Facebook. I haven’t had a chance to sample their collection yet, but the Anne Thompson article suggests that it is a pretty eclectic mix. Buried deeper in the Thompson article is a discussion of BlipSnips, a tool that allows users to grab a short clip from any film and to share that online (one of Thompson’s examples is the Odessa Steps sequence in Battleship Potemkin). This might be a cool tool for creating libraries of clips for teaching purposes. Just a thought.
  • Speaking of Facebook, New Tee Vee weighs in on the news that Warner has begun distributing films via the social networking service.
  • A reminder that portable television existed long before the iPad. I vaguely remember the old Sony Watchmen. In particular, I remember attending a few Atlanta Braves games in the 1980s and noticing a fan or two who lugged one of those things into the stadium so they could watch the game on TBS while they were watching it live. This was before stadiums routinely rebroadcast every play on a center field screen, so while I found the idea of portable TV kind of cool, I was also a little perplexed that fans would want to mediate their experience of the game in this way.
  • Also of interest, a discussion of the failure of enforcement as a means to combat video piracy. The conclusion reached in a recent report by the Social Science Research Council is that the main problem is pricing. Viewers in emerging economies are still expected to pay $15-20 per DVD, a prohibitive cost for workers in many of these countries.
  • More Warners executives are suggesting that the “retail window” has been helping to improve slumping DVD sales.

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Friday Links

It’s Spring Break. I have papers and midterms to grade. And I’m gearing up for the annual Society for Media and Cinema Studies conference, which will be held this year in New Orleans, where I will be participating in a panel on “Teaching across Media” (and where I imagine I will run into more than a few of my readers). I’ll be talking, specifically, about some of the challenges of teaching film courses in an English department and how I have negotiated them. For now, though, here are some links that have been distracting from grading this morning:

  • From the 3-D snark files: According to the Los Angeles Times, Fox has announced plans to release the first installment in its big-screen 3-D re-release of the Star Wars films. A converted version of George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace will hit theaters in February 2012, just in time for the 3-D novelty to have worn off for about a year. I didn’t like Phantom Menace the first time, so I’m not sure what adding an extra dimension will do to make the film better.
  • Doug Liman, director of Go, Swingers, and The Bourne Identity, has collaborated with the ACLU and multimedia artist Jenny Holzer to stage a performance piece that draws from the massive archive of materials documenting the torture of detainees in Guantanamo. The eventual goal is to produce a feature-length documentary both about the materials and about public reactions to the staged performance as it tours the country.
  • Jon Reiss has posted an incredibly rich guest post from filmmaker Solomon Mac-Auley, who discusses Egg Up, a resource that filmmakers can use to distribute their films online via electronic sell through.
  • Lost Remote has an interesting post highlighting Clayton Christensen’s discussion of “disruptive innovations.”
  • Via Chris Becker’s indispensable News for TV Majors, pointers to news about DirecTV and Cablevision’s plans to expand their video on demand offerings, with Cablevision planning to make all of their VOD selections available on the iPad. DirecTV’s plan would allow users to download and rent a movie for $30 within two months of its theatrical premiere, about a month before the same film would appear on DVD. Naturally, theater owners have complained about the further narrowing of the theatrical window.
  • The Cablevision story is especially fascinating in that the streaming rights are actually somewhat narrow. An iPad user could only watch some VOD programming in his or her home, but it also points to the ways in which tablets like the iPad may make it easier for users to navigate VOD menus.
  • Speaking of tablets, David Poland’s image illustrating reactions to the iPad 2 is priceless. His commentary about the new iPad is also well worth reading.

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News Media and Political Change

Right now, this is a quick pointer to a couple of articles that are addressing the role of various media in documenting and potentially fostering political change. The first is an article from a British newspaper reporting that Al Jazeera English is currently in talks with a number of cable providers about carrying the network.  I’ve been fascinated by Al Jazeera ever since I saw Control Room, Jehane Noujaim’s documentary about the Qatar-based cable network back in 2004 at the Atlanta Film Festival, and like thousands of others, I have tried to follow the live feed of Al Jazeera English on the web (with little success in my case because my flash player keeps crashing), but given the complications associated with gaining access to what is happening on the ground in places like Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, this seems like a useful way of using our cable bandwidth to help people become more informed about these events. I’ve already contacted my cable provider to ask that they carry AJE and would encourage you to do the same.

On a related note, there is a New Tee Vee article arguing that Libyans “are turning” to YouTube and other sources to get around media blackouts.  The authors point to a CNN report stating that Libyan security forces are destroying cell phones and other recording devices at border checkpoints. But despite these crackdowns, literally thousands of videos tagged “Libya” have made it to YouTube, allowing users (presumably mot of whom are outside Libya) to see what is happening there, with YouTube working with Storyful to try to offer a more meaningful curation of all of the raw video that is being produced.

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Documenting Wikipedia

I am currently in the midst of the most recent version of my Wikipedia Project in my composition classes, and as usual, I’m pretty excited about the level of reflection that my students are bringing to their analyses of crowdsourced information production. When teaching the project, I have sought to adopt a “Wikipedia neutral” position, explaining that I see Wikipedia as a complex artifact within web culture. But now that I have done the project three (or maybe four) times, it is starting to feel a little stale.

Thankfully, a new documentary, Truth in Numbers, looks like it will offer a fresh–and highly accessible–perspective on the widely used encyclopedia.  I haven’t yet seen the film–although given that is available via streaming access, I will soon–but the trailer addresses one of the concerns that many of my students only partially grasp, and that is the question about anonymous users. While they recognize that anonymity potentially harms the writer’s credibility, they are less attentive to the idea that individuals or corporations could edit information on the site in a way that supports their own financial or ideological interests.

As Cinematical notes, the film also traces Jimmy Wales’ role as a “benevolent dictator” in shaping the editorial policy of Wikipedia.  For those of you interested in Web 2.0 issues, this might be worth a look.

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Monday Links

Some of the links I’ve been thinking about as I gear up for another week of classes:

  • Like a lot of people, I’m still having some difficulty wrapping my head around the protests and uprisings taking place all over the globe. I am heartened by President Obama’s expressions of support for the right to unionize in Madison and tentatively hopeful about the democratizing forces, but I’m also fascinated by the role of personal media technologies and social media tools in shaping how those events are represented (for lack of a better phrase). Of course, it’s not accurate to say that social media tools (or cell phones for that matter) caused any of these events, but I think it’s worth sampling some of the recent reflections on the intersections between documentary, mobile video, and social media tools. To that end, Jennifer Preston and Brian Stelter of The New York Times discuss the role of phone cameras, through which “the protesters upstaged government accounts and drew worldwide attention to their demands.”  James Katz of the Rutgers Center for Mobile Communication Studies describes these tools as the “dagger” that will help to topple oppressive regimes.
  • On a related note, Jonathan Gray traces the role of popular culture in informing many of the signs created for the protests of Government Scott Walker’s anti-union efforts  in Madison. Like Jonathan, I think the use of intertextual references can be helpful in framing a message about an issue, and the humorous references to Star Wars, Harry Potter, and other popular culture texts are humorous ways of engaging an issue and creating solidarity.
  • Brian Stelter discusses the role of Twitter and Facebook in directing attention to TV events such as awards shows and all-star games, which have been bucking the trend of lower ratings. Stelter discusses the ongoing efforts of the Oscars to facilitate “two-screen viewing.” But in my own experience, much of my consumption is based around Twitter and the show itself on TV–I rarely engage the “behind the scenes” stuff on the web, such as the “backstage” thank-you cams.
  • Documentary Tech, inspired by the website for Life in a Day, explores the potentials of YouTube in fostering the growth of “mosaic documentaries,” in which there is increasing conflict between the database of online content and the attempts to craft a linear narrative.
  • Matt Dentler discusses some ongoing shifts in theatrical distribution and VOD windows.
  • Anthony Kaufman points to the ongoing Iranian Film Blogathon, a “tribute … to Iranian film in support of sentenced filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammed Rasoulof,” taking place at The Sheila Variations.

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Friday Links

Here are some of the stories I’ve been following the last couple of days:

  • University of Wisconsin media studies professor Jonathan Gray has one of the more thoughtful discussions of the pro-union protests that have been taking place in Madison over the last few days, with a promise to offer more posts in the days ahead.
  • Patrick Goldtsein looks at the attendance for Oscar contenders such as Black Swan, The King’s Speech, The Fighter, The Social Network, and True Grit and attempts to address why adult moviegoers have been returning to the box office this year. My sense is that there probably isn’t a simple causal explanation, although it helps to have relatively marketable directors (Fincher, The Coens) and stars (Bridges, Wahlberg, Portman, Firth) involved in some of these projects.  True Grit is a “remake” of a familiar film, and others fit into or engage with familiar (and well-liked) genres.
  • Via The Film Doctor, Mark Harris’s GQ column about Hollywood’s reluctance to make movie dramas.  Harris offers a checklist of sequels, prequels, and comic book adaptations to imply that the studios have abandoned these kinds of films, but even though 2011 apparently promises a record number of sequels, that does not preclude the existence of other films.
  • Liz Losh considers whether blogging itself is becoming dated, comparing her practices of teaching it to “teaching Latin.” But she adds that she still learns quite a bit about the students in her relatively large classes from the blog posts that they write. But to me, asking whether blogging is dead sounds an awful lot like a conversation we’ve been having about film criticism for some time now.
  • Although I’ve been writing primarily about the digital distribution of movies, I’m also aware that the questions about VOD also have important implications for TV. With that in mind, I found ESPN’s discussion of their “multipltaform distribution” practices interesting. Especially notable was the claim that online distribution does not cannibalize traditional viewing on cable.
  • On a related note, Advertising Age discusses the distribution turf wars between Google TV and Hulu (among others).

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Sunday Links

Still in the process of transitioning to my next project.  Here are some of the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this weekend:

  • Laura R. Walker and Jaclyn Sallee make an argument for funding public broadcasting in a Washington Post editorial. One noteworthy statistic: an estimated 170 million people make use of some form of public broadcasting every year, well over half the U.S. population.  Their series Frontline and P.O.V. have been significant supporters of documentary film, as well, so even if the films are not watched on PBS stations, their financial support for these films is still crucial.
  • Anne Thompson, Erik Kohn and Leonard Maltin continue their Three Critics series with a roundtable discussion on the “Forces of Change” in Hollywood in 2011.
  • Volkswagen jumps the gun on the Super Bowl advertising attention sweepstakes with their Star Wars-themed ad.  As Patrick Goldstein observes, it’s a clever bit of messaging for Volkswagen in its efforts to imbue “magical” powers to a mid-sized sedan.
  • Ted Hope works with Lance Weiler on exploring transmedia extensions of Weiler’s latest entertainment project, structured around Weiler’s film, Hope is Missing.
  • Echoing the philosopher Michel Foucault, Andrew Keen warns us that “sharing is a trap.”  Keen builds upon the ideas behind Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon to suggest that social media produces a new form of visibility, one that can control (or at least profit from) our actions on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.  Keen implies that participation in these sites is essentially inevitable, which is probably an exaggeration, and (correctly) points out that our practices of sharing will lead to the data being sold to advertisers.  Keen’s discussion, however, seems a little too dismissive about the pleasures of sharing via social media, the enjoyment many of us get when hanging out at the digital water cooler.

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Wednesday Links

Social media, film, and other topics I’ve been following over the last few days:

  • Via Tama Leaver, a New York Times article on Wikipedia’s efforts to increase the percentage of female contributors to the website.  Currently, only about 13% of the contributions are by women, while the average age of contributors was in the mid-20s.  There is some interesting food for thought here when it comes to how knowledge is constructed within Wikipedia (and perhaps the web more broadly).  I’m in the process of starting up my (slightly updated) composition students’ Wikipedia project, and this article might provide good discussion material.
  • Tama also points to an article reporting that Google has created a device that allows people to post tweets by making a telephone call in response to the internet blockade in Egypt.  Like a lot of people, I’m reluctant, at best, to ascribe the events in Egypt to social media, but I do think that social media tools might allow people to organize more efficiently, and they can also make these events visible in different ways.
  • In honor (?) of the Oscar nomination for Banksy’s documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, street artist Mister Brainwash (who was, in some sense, the subject of the film) has created a somewhat perplexing street mural.  I only wish MBW had gotten around to this a month ago when I was writing an article on fan adaptations and activism.
  • The Self-Styled Siren is hosting a film noir blogathon later this month.  Given that I’ll be teaching an early noir, The Maltese Falcon, for the first time in several years (I usually do The Third Man), I’m hoping to participate.  The blogathon is linked to a fundraiser designed to solicit donations for the Film Noir Foundation to go toward their film preservation efforts.
  • Lots of discussion about Amazon’s plans to offer a streaming video service linked to their Amazon Prime membership.  For $79 a year, not only do you get free shipping on all Amazon products, you also get free streaming videos.  This would complement Amazon’s existing streaming video-on-demand service and seems to represent a logical step after the online bookseller purchased the UK-based LoveFilm recently.  It will be interesting to see how Amazon functions as a competitor for Netflix, but as New Tee Vee points out, this could also encourage people to buy more stuff through Amazon thanks to their “Prime” membership.
  • I think I found this via Girish, but it’s worth noting that Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism has a very cool new online launch.  Girish also points to Cinema Scope’s new online presence.
  • Finally, New Tee Vee also has an article discussing BBC research on how to improve online video recommendations.  Interestingly, they found that older viewers were more likely to vote on videos.

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Wednesday Links

I don’t have anything to say about Sundance or the Oscars that hasn’t already been said.  I liked The King’s Speech way more than I expected, so I’m happy to see it get multiple nominations.  Exit through the Gift Shop was fun and inventive, and I’d imagine that a Banksy Oscar reaction would be sort of fun.  It’s not terribly surprising that no women were nominated for director, I guess, now that Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar win has brought us to Hollywood gender utopia.  Otherwise I’ll be watching Oscar for the jokes.  So instead, here are some links:

  • Roger Ebert recently revived the talk about why 3-D will never work by posting a letter by Walter Murch.  The short version is that our eyes would have to eolve to accept current 3-D projection as natural.
  • Kristin Thomposon covers similar territory in a two-part series talking about some of the challenges of 3-D.  Thompson correctly highlights audience disaffection at the higher prices and the sloppiness of most 3-D conversions.  But the meat of her second post draws from James Cameron’s discussion of his plans to convert Titanic into 3-D, where he describes the process as a craft (and a highly subjective one at that).
  • Of course, domestic audience response to 3-D is only a small part of the equation.  As Patrick Goldstein points out, many films that fizzle in the U.S., including the Jack Black adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels, rake in the money overseas, thanks in part to the use of 3-D.  Goldstein adds that this overseas market may partially explain why studios have less interest in making dramas.
  • Google is buying Fflick, a tool that makes movie recommendations based on information in people’s Twitter feeds, illustrating the degree to which “content discovery” will be based upon targeted, individualized recommendation algorithms that draw drom data compiled from social media networks.  It’s tempting to read something like this as further evidence of the degree to which media conglomerates are involved a “programming of the self,” but I think these privacy dynamics are a bit more complicated (Jeff Rice has an engaging post on the complaints about Facebook’s privacy policies).
  • CNET has a brief discussion of Netflix’s plans to buy streaming rights to Warner Brothers films when their agreement with HBO expires in 2014.  Given the corporate ties between Warner and HBO, it seems unlikely to happen, but it’s a story worth watching none the less.
  • Ted Hope points out that Lance Weiler has infected Sundance with a Pandemic.
  • Some of the loudest buzz coming out of Sundance has been the reaction to Kevin Smith’s 26-minute discussion of his distribution plans for Red State.  Smith is planning to distribute the film on his own, a plan that may include a national screening tour.  Matt Singer at IFC praises Smith for his candid discussion of Hollywood economics while Patrick Goldstein suggests that Smith’s comments will make too many enemies, making it difficult for him to sustain an indie film career (at least within the indie industry).  Smith, of course, saves a little venom for the critics who have negatively reviewed many of his films.  Hoping to say more about Smith when I’ve had time to watch the video later this week.

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