Rather than watching episodes serially in a “binge” pattern, children are more likely to be content rewatching old episodes several times (as many parents know from their stock of well-worn children’s DVDs). In fact, according to a New York Times article on Netflix, children are very much “on-demand” viewers who rarely watch programming according to a broadcast schedule (a point Jason Mittell addressed several years ago in his discussion of his kids’ use of TiVo). The Times article offers several explanations for the bahevior of repeat viewing, arguing that it can be a form of learning, but it’s notable that several VOD services are reporting similar behavior. Amazon has stated that 65% of their most-repeated shows are targeted towards children, suggesting that TV’s role as an “electronic babysitter” has further evolved into an on-demand one, where children can discover or revisit favorite shows at their leisure.]]>
So, if you thought you could sell Ned Rifle in Canadian theaters, you’d pay in advance for those rights and then all revenue you collected from ticket sales would be yours. As Scott Macauley reminds us in his Filmmaker Magazine article, plenty of tech vendors already use Kickstarter for these kinds of pre-sale agreements, so why not filmmakers, too? In some ways, I don’t think this is vastly different than the practice of foreign pre-sales that many indie filmmakers have used in the past (see Edward Jay Epstein for the most thorough explanation of this practice). Hartley is still retaining DVD and all other distribution rights (TV, VOD, etc.), but it is a fascinating opportunity for someone who has connections with theaters in a given country or region.
More compelling is Hartley’s frank analysis of movie distribution and how his Kickstarter perks fit within that. He explicitly denies that he he is doing anything “revolutionary” here and also suggests that he isn’t trying “buck” the theatrical system that had existed. Instead, he describes this as a continuation of what he has always done: a limited theatrical release that helps to promote other formats, whether a cable TV screening, DVDs, or VOD.]]>
Like many others, I’ve also been fascinated by the recent debate between Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and others over whether theaters are “killing” the film industry by refusing to go to day-and-date distribution, in which movies would be released to theaters and on VOD (or streaming video) on the same day. Sarandos has backtracked somewhat from the (perceived) suggestion that he was advocating a pure day-and-date model to suggest that he was merely calling for a shorter theatrical window. Still, a number of indie producers have rightfully expressed some qualms about Sarandos’s arguments.
Finally, I’m intrigued by this report from Vulture about a conflict between TV studios, cable channels, and Netflix over how to divide up the rights to specific TV shows. Specifically, TNT and FX are fighting to retain exclusive streaming rights to the entire current seasons of their shows, rather than the current situation where they only have rights to the last five episodes. Given that syndication deals are no longer as lucrative as they used to be, cable channels are looking for alternative forms of programming.]]>
With that in mind, I’m planning to structure the course around popular culture depictions of Washington, D.C., both past and present. For now, I expect to bracket off most documentaries, like Fahrenheit 9/11, and instead focus on scripted entertainment and will likely focus to some extent on contemporary media, although I’d like to take a look at a few past texts. I’ve generated a longish list of TV and film texts that I’m considering, knowing that I likely won’t be able to show all of them in a 16-week course. I’d welcome suggestions of texts that I might be missing and with the TV series suggestions about specific episodes that you believe might resonate the most. For Scandal, for example, I am strongly considering showing season one, episodes six and seven, which traces a major portion of the “Amanda Tanner affair” plot, while also introducing quite a bit of backstory to the president’s campaign. For The West Wing, I’m considering showing the debate episode (between Matt Santos and Arnold Vinick) and one early episode. Below the break, I’ve listed some of the movies and TV shows that I’m considering and some (very) loose themes to organize them.
Obviously it’s somewhat inaccurate to suggest that we have evolved from a naive faith in Washington to a more skeptical or cynical view (one could hardly be more cynical than Kubrick in Strangelove), and the 1990s introduced a number of polarizing views on (sexual) scandal and the role of media in shaping political perception. K Street and The War Room potentially help to turn DC insiders such as James Carville into “stars,” a situation that eventually inspires Stewart and Colbert’s satirical response to these media narratives. I’m turning over writing an article or even a longer text on some of these issues, so suggestions about both readings and texts (movies, TV shows, and even novels or short stories) would be much appreciated.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Advise & Consent
All the President’s Men
1990s: Clinton era-War on Terror:
Wag the Dog
The War Room
2000s-present: Procedurals, cynicism:
House of Cards
The Daily Show
The Colbert Report
Thank You for Smoking]]>
I’d encourage everyone to check out the entire issue, though, given the other fantastic writers (Barbara Klinger, Miriam Ross, Francesco Casetti, and others) who participated in this forum.]]>
What’s odd about the Katie Allen campaign is that it seems to have quite a bit going for it, including three talented indie film actresses, but for someone who has expertise on the industry, Linda Stuart’s appeal is otherwise completely tone deaf. Including the actresses’ names in the space for the title makes little sense, and the lack of a video also seems like a missed opportunity, especially given that Thora Birch, Heather Matarazzo, and Jennifer Elise Cox are ostensibly attached to the project. I won’t repeat all of the points raised by the indieWire piece. It’s so astonishingly bad, though, that I have to wonder if Stuart posted this precisely to provide an object lesson on the ways in which directors attempt to pitch their projects to the public.]]>
First, Delicious and Google Reader are no longer available or no longer seem to have a significant place for most online media users, so I’ll likely cut that entire week (I only use Diigo about once a month now and rarely consult my current RSS reader). Scratch, the basic programming tool, didn’t seem terribly effective, and I had a difficult time teasing out any specific pedagogical purpose for it. If people can offer good reasons to keep this material, I will. I’ll almost definitely cut the Nicholas Carr “Google is Making Us Stupid” article. I’ve become completely unconvinced by his arguments. Oh yeah, I’ll drop the Rushkoff, too. I don’t know enough about programming to make a serious argument there, although it might be worth introducing the students to basic HTML and design skills toward the end of the semester.
That leaves at least two weeks to play with and maybe three. I do think a week on information literacy is vital but don’t have any readings that I find helpful. I’m tempted to do at least one week where we reflect on (and critique) the idea of a digital generation, using Siva Vaidhyanathan’s excellent article as a starting point. Beyond that, it would be incredibly helpful to know what tools, ideas, or concepts you might add (or take away) from my course as it is currently constructed. Facebook and Twitter comments or emails are welcome.
Week One: Introduction to English 518
Technology Overview: Blogging, Twitter, and wikis.
Rushkoff, Douglas, “Why Johnny Can’t Program,” Huffington Post, OL.
Week Two: Blogging
Media Tool: Word Press
Watch: Common Craft, “Protecting Reputations Online in Plain English.”
Jenkins, Henry. “Why Heather Can Write,” Technology Review (February 6, 2004). OL.
Tryon, Chuck, “Writing and Citizenship,” Pedagogy 6.1 (Winter 2006): 128-32. LR.
Start your course blog in Word Press and create one Glogster post.
Week Three: Twitter
Media Tool: Twitter
Thompson, Clive, “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy,” New York Times, OL.
Johnson, Steven, “How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live,” Time, OL.
Heffernan, Virginia, “Hashing Things Out, New York Times, OL.
Ito, Mizuko, Living and Learning with New Media, xiii-xx, OL.
boyd, danah, “Teens Don’t Tweet… or Do They?” apophenia, OL.
Week Four: Wikipedia/Wikis
Media tools: Wikipedia, pbWiki
Mackey, Robert, “Wikipedia’s Rapid Reaction to Outburst During Obama’s Speech,” New York Times, OL.
Parry, David. “Wikipedia and the New Curriculum.” Science Progress, February 11, 2008. OL.
Terdiman, Daniel, “Study: Wikipedia as Accurate as Britannica,” CNET News, OL.
Tryon, Chuck, “Wikipedia Discussion Project,” The Chutry Experiment, OL.
Ito, Mizuko, et al, Living and Learning with New Media, Part 1, pp, 19-42, OL.
Workshop: Create a Wiki document
Week Five: RSS Feeds, Social Bookmarking, and Web Research Part I
Media Tools: Delicious, Google Reader, Diigo.
Watch: Common Craft, “Social Bookmarking in Plain English,” YouTube.
Lomas, Cyprien, “7 Things You Should Know about Social Bookmarking,” Educause, OL.
DesRoches, Donna, “Social Bookmarking Offers a New way to Store and Share Web Sites,” School Library Journal, OL.
Week Six: Web Research Part II
Media Tools: Google Search
Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic. July/August 2008, OL.
Sutter, John D., “Google Search Undergoes ‘Most Radical Transformation Ever’,” CNN.com, OL.
Week Seven: Document Design, Grading Online
Media Tools: Open Office, Google Docs, GradeMark, Zamzar
Watch: Common Craft, “Google Docs in Plain English.”
Houston, Natalie, “Paperless Grading with GradeMark,” ProfHacker, OL.
Workshop: Create a collaborative document using Google Docs
Week Eight: Course Management Systems
Media Tools: Blackboard, Moodle, Weebly.
boyd, danah, “What I Mean when I Say ‘Email is Dead,’” apophenia, OL.
Lane, Lisa, “Toolbox or Trap? Course Management Systems and Pedagogy.” Educause Quarterly Magazine 31.2 (April-June 2006). OL.
Dabbagh, Nada, “Using a Web-Based CMT to Support Face-to-Face Instruction,” The Technology Source Archives, OL.
Kate Klingensmith, “Using Weebly to Build Your Classroom Website,” OL.
Start a Weebly website.
March 8: Spring Break
Week Nine: Research/Narrative:
Media Tool: Storify
Matthew Ingram, “Storify and the Curatorial Instinct,” OL.
Roland Legrand, “How Storify Helps Integrate Social Streams Into Articles,” OL.
Workshop: Create a Storify posting.
Week Ten: Podcasting and Video
Media Tools: Podcasting, PowerPoint, iMovie, Prezi
Teachers Teaching Teachers, “Radio Rookies Finding Where Their Passions Make Good Stories,” OL.
Tufte, Edward, “PowerPoint is Evil,” Wired 11.09 (2003), OL.
Dietrich, Pat, “Using iMovie to Enhance Learning,” OL.
Christi, Alice, et al, “Language Arts Comes Alive as Middle School Learners Become Information Producers,” Meridian, OL.
Workshop: Make a short Prezi
Week Eleven: Branding Education
Media Tool: Facebook
Oppenheimer, Eilsabeth, “Citizens of Farmville,” The Future of the Internet Blog, OL.
Singel, Ryan, “Rogue Marketers Can Mine Your Info on Facebook,” Wired.com, OL.
Raynes-Goldie, Kate, “Aliases, Creeping, and Wall-Cleaning,” First Monday 15.1 (January 2010), OL.
Parry, David, “The iPad and Higher Education,” OL.
Week Twelve: Animation
Media Tool: Scratch
Maloney, John, et al, “The Scratch Programming Language and Environment,” ACM Transactions on Computing Education (2010), OL.
Resnick, Mitchel, et al, “Scratch: Programming for All,” Communications of the ACM (2009), OL.
Workshop: Make a short Scratch Program
Week Thirteen: Google Maps
Media Tool: Google Maps
Grover, Shuchi, “Map Your World: Google Maps in the Classroom,” OL.
Kreutz, Christian, “Maptivism: Maps for Activism, Transparency, and Engagement,” OL.
Castiglione, Chris, “Using Google Maps,” OL.
Complete iMovie or Narrated PowerPoint
Week Fourteen: Wireless/Mobile
Media Tools: iPod Touch
Fang, Berlin, “From Distraction to Engagement: Wireless Devices in the Classroom,” Educause Quarterly, OL.
Quillen, Ian, “Educators Evaluate Learning Benefits of iPad,” Education Week, OL.
Week Fifteen: New Directions
Reid, Alex. “Welcome to Badge World,” Digital Digs, OL.
Present your “Big Project” to the class.
While I’ve been waiting for the final stages of the publication process to run their course, it has been fascinating to watch the continued evolution of the entertainment industry. When I was completing the manuscript, Netflix’s House of Cards was still in production, while Veronica Mars and Zach Braff still had not yet discovered Kickstarter. While I was able to discuss the role of social media sites in providing vast amounts of data for entertainment companies, I’ve been intrigued by the increasing discussions of the relationship between movie consumption and “big data” since I put the finishing touches on the manuscript.
Writing a book in the present tense about events that are still unfolding is often challenging (which is why it’s often tempting to blog about these phenomena instead), but I hope that On-Demand Culture captures something about the spirit of this particular moment in the history of the media industries and that it adds to the ongoing conversation about where these industries are heading.]]>
A description of The Heat’s plot would lead us to believe that it is formulaic: Straitlaced FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) joins forces with the edgy, emotional Boston street cop Shannon Mullins to pursue a drug kingpin. Ashburn is so conservative and isolated by her duty to her work that her only companion is a cat, a neighbor’s cat. Mullins is bawdy and sexually self-assured, and the streets of Boston seem to be littered with needy guys that she has abandoned. They each have their own motivations for pursuing the kingpin–Ashburn wants a promotion, Mullins wants to protect her brother–and like most buddy-cop movies, they violate a laundry list of police protocols along the way. Purely on that level, I can see why O’Hehir might be hoping for more, even when he acknowledges that much of this is completely “agreeable” and fun, especially the undeniable chemistry between the two lead actresses. O’Hehir’s reading is pretty close to my initial reaction to the film: it was a fun way to pass two hours at the movies with my family, even if it ran a little long in places.
But what sold me on the film was the NPR review by Linda Holmes. While her headline oversells The Heat a little bit by describing it as “revolutionary,” her review captures the aspects of the movie that are pretty rewarding. First, I think she’s right to point out that the film doesn’t overplay McCarthy’s weight, focusing instead on her manic energy (other than one early scene where Mullins struggles to squeeze out of a window). Second, Holmes points out some of the ways that the film uses typical female buddy-movie tropes and seems to turn them on their head. Throughout the film, there are several jokes at Ashburn’s expense regarding her conservative wardrobe (all buttoned-up pantsuits), which sets the stage for the inevitable makeover scene, which takes a place in a nightclub where Mullins (quite literally) rips Ashburn’s clothes to shreds in order to make her fit in at the nightclub where they are staking out a dealer. As Holmes points out, the scene is a “twisted, tortured parody” of typical makeover scenes where a character’s beauty is revealed only when she gets the right (usually expensive) clothes.
To some extent, we’ve been here before with Bullock. As Anne Helen Petersen pointed out some time ago, Bullock’s films are often filled with the promise of transformation, hence her appeal to her female fans. She is often cast as a “non-glamorous protagonist” who is able to transform herself–and her material conditions–by the end of the film. But what makes this film work for me is that this transformation isn’t based on romantic affirmation or even necessarily professional affirmation from a male boss. Instead, it’s almost completely based on the friendship between the two women. If this film were subject to the “Bechdel Test,” which asks whether a movie depicts two female characters talking about something other than romance with a male character, not only would it pass, but it also seems to suggest that romance is beside the point. Yes, Ashburn shows a slight attraction to an FBI colleague (played by Marlon Wayans), but the real story is is the female friendship. The police subplot, we know from having seen others in the genre, will work itself out, and it does so mostly in entertaining fashion.
I don’t think The Heat is revolutionary. It’s also easy to forget some of the precedents when it comes to the female buddy-cop genre (after all, Cagney and Lacey was a top-rated TV show for years). But it still offers something relatively rare, in much the same way that Bridesmaids upended the male “wild party” comedy subgenre. It offers two, talented female comediennes in entertaining roles that subtly challenges gender norms. And in a multiplex dominated by somber superheroes and zombie hunters, we need more of this type of counter-programming.]]>