Archive for May, 2008

Crowdsourcing the Studio

One of my favorite movie scenes of all-time is the opening shot of Robert Altman’s The Player.  The shot is famous, in part, for running something like seven minutes without a single cut, as Altman’s camera roams the studio, introducing us to all of the major figures at the studio.   But the scene is also memorable for showing Griffin Mill, played by Tim Robbins, listening to writers pitching their script ideas.  Many of the pitches are utterly ridiculous (“it’s Pretty Woman meets Out of Africa“), but the scene beautifully establishes Griffin’s power as a studio executive and the arbitrariness of Griffin’s use–and abuse–of that power.  Altman, who had struggled for years to get movies made by Hollywood studios, clearly had little patience for teh capriciousness of executives such as Griffin, who were less concerned about making good movies and more concerned about the power politics of studios.

With that image in mind, I have to admit that I’m intrigued by projects such as My Movie Studio, a crowdsourced studio, which I learned about via an email tip from Michael Bertin, one of the organizers behind the concept.  The idea behind My Movie Studio is that filmmakers can post interesting ideas, i.e., make pitches, for films to the site, and members of the site will vote on the best pitches, essentially green-lighting them for production.  Thus, instead of Griffin Mill making an arbitrary decision, My Movie Studio depends upon “the wisdom of crowds,” of the diversity of opinions and decentralized perspectives available on the web.  Interested participants can also contribute $100 towards the production costs and would profit if the films are successful.  And as the authors of the site suggest, having so many investors and interested parties could go a long way towards promoting the films via netroots and grassroots film communities.

There are, of course, some precedents here.  A couple of years ago, for example, I mentioned the 1 Second Film, where people could buy a producer’s credit for a $1 donation to The Global Fund for Women.  And, of course, films such as Four Eyed Monsters and The War Tapes were marketed in large part through a variety of grassroots techniques.  But I’m intrigued by the attempts to create this kind of “crowdsourced studio” that would build upon the “wisdom” of web-based film buffs who are interested in seeing films that might be a little different than what Bertin calls “the stream of recycled ideas available at the multiplex.”

I do think there are some interesting challenges here.  Even well-funded films or well-made films often face distribution challenges.  And the wisdom of crowds is not always completely reliable and may, in fact, reproduce  or support some of the “recycled ideas” that Bertin associates with Hollywood studios.  In fact, a quick survey of some of the pitches illustrates the degree to which the pitch itself seems rooted in reinforcing some of these cliches.  That being said, I think My Movie Studio is an interesting project, one that has the potential to imagine an alternative to more traditional film production and distribution practices.

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A YouTube Theory of Montage

In her New York Times column “Pixels at an Exhibition,” Virginia Heffernan describes Rachel Greene’s “Artists Using YouTube,” an exhibit housed at the Kitchen gallery where Greene invited several artists to present and project selected YouTube videos. According to Heffernan, the catalog for the show suggests that YouTube provides the artists with “indirect fodder” for their own work. It’s an interesting idea, one that asks, as the Rhizome blog puts it, how “the memes incubated on YouTube are trickling down into the language of contemporary artists’ work and, in turn, re-emerging on the site.” It also invokes a difficult challenge: how does one represent YouTube? Or even one’s consumption habits? At the same time, the question–as it is posed here–seems to define YouTube in terms of its relationship to institutionalized art, which may very well constrain the cultural function of YouTube.

Like Heffernan, I found Sue de Beer’s collection to be the most compelling. De Beer starts with a clip depicting the ending of Fassbinder’s An American Soldier, follows that up with an (unsubtitled) interview with Coco Chanel, surveillance video from the Columbine shootings, and a scene from Houdini’s funeral,before concluding with “Footworkin,” a dance video shot in a Queens basement. As Heffernan points out, de Beer draws connections between disparate, seemingly unrelated videos. Heffernan goes on to add that YouTube should not be treated as “a nascent art form nor a video library but as a recently unearthed civilization.” Her comments here vaguely remind me of Benjamin’s approach to the Paris arcades, in which Benjamin sought to make sense of commodity culture through montage, through the connections between things. The attempt to create resonances between seemingly disconnected clips is very much in that spirit. Still, I don’t think we ought–as Heffernan seems to imply–to dismiss the “dime-a-dozen” clips. In fact, what seems missing from many of the curated clips is a true YouTube aesthetic. Other than the “Footworkin” clip, none of de Beer’s videos seem to have been made for YouTube, and while a clip of Coco Chanel speaking restlessly in her Paris home can tell us something about the dialectics of fashion or about cultural tastes, I wonder if these clip really tell us about YouTube’s cultural function, about the vlogs and mashups that seem like a key component of the YouTube aesthetic.

Update: Chris Cagle unpacks some of the ways in which montage works in mashup videos via a reading of Andy Borowitz’s mashup of Hillary Clinton’s now-famous New Hampshire campaign speech and an episode of Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model.

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LSD, The Cobb Salad, and The Golden Gate Bridge

What do the above items have in common?  They are all younger than John McCain.  At least according to my new favorite blog: Things Younger than John McCain.  I don’t really buy into the arguments that McCain’s age should disqualify him from being our president (his policies are enough for me), but I find this blog to be very funny.

I’ve already suggested two other items: televised baseball and the movie version of Gone with the Wind.  Margaret Mitchell’s novel, alas, is actually a few months older than the Republican presidential candidate.  And, no, I’m not seeking out distractions when I ought to be writing and/or revising other things.

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Obama in 30 Seconds

I’ve been too distracted by the end of the semester to discuss MoveOn.org’s “Obama in 30 Seconds” contest, but after David linked to the winners in a Twitter post, I figured I’d throw my $.02 in.  Like him, I think my favorite is “It Could Happen to You,” which won the prize for “Funniest Ad.”  I’m also pretty fond of “They Said He Was Unprepared,” the ad that compares Obama to Lincoln.  That being said, I’m guessing that the winner, David Gaw and Lance Mungia’s “Obamacan” will play best on television.

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Speed Racer

While I was watching Speed Racer, the latest attempt by the Wachowski brothers to invent (or reinvent) digital cinema, I found myself trying to put together the neologisms I’d use to describe the movie’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink visual aesthetic: day-glo technofuturism? post-cyberpunk technonostalgia? Or as J. Hoberman suggests, “Neo-Jetsonism?” Or maybe as A.O. Scott offers, a giant bag of “digital Skittles?” Or maybe I should just gape at all of the pretty colors? No matter what, I think Scott and Hoberman are both right when they argue that Speed Racer is more fun to describe than watch. Despite their frenetic pace, the races themselves lack energy, and even while the film works to evoke the Japanese anime on which it’s based, I couldn’t help but feel that the movie lacked the playfulness of the original show.

I’m not sure I would have rushed out to see Speed Racer, but in a Twitter post Karina mentioned that Armond White had claimed that Speed Racer “kills cinema with its over-reliance on the latest special effects, flattening drama and comedy into stiff dialogue and blurry action sequences.” And quite frankly, I have to see anything that “kills cinema.” I do think White is correct to suggest that the action sequences lack affect, and like both White and Scott, I found the film’s bogus allegory of the individual artisan triumphing over the corrupt multinational both tedious and unconvincing, but that’s not really what the film is about is it? Instead, Speed Racer is the latest film in the “cinema of (digital) attractions,” cultivating a certain look or visual style. It’s also reflecting on what Scott calls “the philosophical and artistic implications of having human actors populate a completely synthetic environment.” You never really forget that you’re watching a movie or the “synthetic” quality of the spaces depicted in the film. That has the potential to be interesting, I suppose, but like Scott and Carina Chocano, I’m not convinced that it worked.

In places, the deliberate use of green screen and back projection was often quite stunning, as was the use of human silhouettes to produces wipes between locations. Speed Racer is one of the more visually compelling films I’ve seen in some time. Even if the film’s story is utterly forgettable.

Update: Karina offers five reasons why “Speed Racer’s failure is bad for movies” and one reason why maybe it’ll be good for movies.

Update 2: Dennis has an incredibly thorough round-up of critical opinion on Speed Racer on his newcritics review, in which he offers an enthusiastic defense of the movie.  In particular, he takes on Jim Emerson’s claim that Speed Racer is “a manufactured widget, a packaged commodity that capitalizes on an anthropomorphized cartoon of Capitalist Evil in order to sell itself and its ancillary products.”  Emerson goes on to add, “Whatever information that passes from your retinas to your brain during Speed Racer is conveyed through optical design and not so much through more traditional devices such as dialogue, narrative, performance or characterization. Like the animated TV series that inspired this movie, you could look at it with the sound off and it wouldn’t matter.”

In terms of the latter argument about the visual design, I think that’s what makes the film interesting.  The Wachowskis have managed to take avant-garde aesthetics that might have been more at home in a Peter Greenaway film or montage techniques that might recall Sergei Eisenstein films and introduce them to ten-year olds.  Like Dennis, I found the visuals refreshing and exciting and appreciated that the Wachowskis avoided the “easy nostalgia” that has been used to treat other TV series.  To the charge that the Wachowskis have used these aesthetics in the service of selling “itself and its ancillary products,” there’s certainly some truth to that, but aren’t all superhero movies and summer blockbusters caught up n that process?  Do we fault them, too?  Or just the summer blockbusters that seem to have aesthetic pretensions beyond representations that won’t offend the fanboys and girls?  The Wachowskis have clearly taken some aesthetic risks here, and while I can’t always say that I loved the film, I appreciate that they tried to do something interesting with the TV adaptation.

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Sunday Links

Taking a break from writing to post a few links:

  • Via a Twitter connection, I just found out about David Modigliani’s new documentary, Crawford, which looks at the impact of George W. Bush’s presidency on his adopted hometown.  One of the details revealed in the trailer is that Bush and his family only moved there a few months before he ran for the president.  Also notable is how attentive the documentary is to the ways in which the image of Crawford is a construct of the news media, as TV camera operators choose backgrounds that emphasize the town’s bucolic, rural image.  But you can get an even more compelling discussion of the film from New Media Jim’s interview with Modigliani on QIK, a streaming video site I’ve just discovered that specializes in housing video taken by cell phones.
  • Not much to say about it, but I’m intrigued by this Washington Post editorial comparing the quality of Spanish-language news broadcasts to their English-language counterparts.  Like many people, I’ve been incredibly disappointed by the TV coverage of the Democratic presidential race.  But what’s interesting here is that Joe Matthews, the article’s author, counters the claims of critics of Telemundo and Univision such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, showing that Spanish language news actually prepares its viewers for the tasks of citizenship far better than other news sources.
  • Haven’t had time to watch the movie yet, but I enjoyed this Popular Mechanics article about the CGI effects used in Speed Racer.  I’m reading through Michelle Pierson’s Special Effects: Still in Search of Wonder in order to beef up my book chapter on CGI effects, and there are some interesting connections here.

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Hillary’s Downfall

I’m still trying to figure out my response to “Hillary’s Downfall,” a viral political video that takes scenes from Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel’s movie about Adolf Hitler, and matches the scene with subtitles expressing Hillary Clinton’s outrage at being pushed out of the nomination by Barack Obama. I initially found the video at techPresident, and my initial reaction was similar to Alan Rosenblatt’s, in that I found the video pretty offensive. I’ve never really liked the Hillary-Hitler comparisons in large part because they play into conservative talking points about Clinton’s policies, but generally speaking, I find the use of Nazi imagery to score political points somewhat troubling (as I discussed in my review of Expelled a few weeks ago).

Still, it’s difficult not to find aspects of the video very funny, particularly the satire of Clinton’s unwillingness to drop out of the race despite there being no evident path for her to win the nomination. And apparently, Hillary’s Downfall is actually part of a wider subgenre of YouTube videos that use scenes from Downfall edited with new subtitles to mock Microsoft and Nintendo, among others. On the whole, though, I’m not sure the funnier moments of the video rescue it for me. I’m still left with the visual equation between Clinton and Hitler and I can’t quite shake the initial reaction of finding that comparison offensive.

If I’m being too sensitive on this point, please feel free to use the comments to convince me to change my mind.

Update: Karina went and did a little more research on the Downfall meme and raises an interesting point. Downfall made about $5.5 million in U.S. box office, but many of the repurposed Downfall clips have been viewed well over a million times, suggesting that scenes from the film have likely been seen more often, in the U.S. at least, in these remixes than in the film’s “original state” (to use Karina’s phrase). It is important to note that many of the YouTube views likely came from non-U.S. users, although the subtitles do require at least some knowledge of English, and “Hillary’s Downfall” requires at least a passing knowledge of U.S. politics. I think Karina is right to speculate that the Downfall meme may do little to promote the original film, although I did consider adding it to my Netflix queue after seeing some of the clips. I’m still troubled by the comparison between Hillary and Hitler, but the issues of media and political literacy implied in the reception of this video is actually a little more interesting than I originally suggested.

Update 2: Happened to notice that the original version of “Hillary’s Downfall” was pulled on the basis of copyright violation.  Here is another version of the same video.

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The End of Cinema (Again)

Via Rob Rushing at UIUC’s Kritik blog, I belatedly discovered Thomas Doherty’s Chronicle of Higher Education ($) article about the state of film, and by extension, the state of film studies. Like Rushing, I think Doherty’s first claim–that celluloid or analog film is likely to dissapear soon–is more or less correct. As more and more theaters convert to digital projection and as digital technologies open up new possibilities, such as the revival of 3D, it seems likely that the move towards digital will only continue. However, it’s Doherty’s second claim, about the state of cinema studies, that I find compelling, and again, I’m more or less in agreement with Rushing that Doherty’s “alarmist” characterization of a field in crisis misses the mark by a long shot. Doherty suggests that cinema studies scholars are “scrambling” to account for the shift from film to digital, when in my experience, cinema scholars actually find this transition to be a rather exciting one.

Like Rushing, I’m somewhat skeptical that the shift to digital will lead to viral videos replacing the film canon anytime soon. Viral videos serve a much different function than film classics, and in fact, are quite often dependent upon various forms of cinematic knowledge, as the fake trailer phenomenon illustrates. As Rushing asks, “Who, exactly, is picking up a date for dinner and a romantic online viral video?”   Rushing also discusses the ongoing complaints–Denby’s New Yorker piece on “The Future of Movies” is a classic example–about those crazy kids today who watch their epic movies on video iPods rather than seeing them on the big screen as they “ought” to be seen, pointing out that watch movies on an iPod or laptop is usually associated with moments, or perhaps more precisely spaces, of enforced waiting, such as airport terminals, doctor’s offices, subway cars (and, on a side note, how Lawrence of Arabia always ends up being the paradigmatic example for illustrating why video iPods are bad screening technologies escapes me).   Like Rushing, I think there is a lot of important work to be done in thinking about shifting practices of movie watching.

Rushing also faults Doherty for identifying a generational divide between older scholars (Doherty refers to them as “greybeards,” which seems like an oddly gendered term) who were trained on celluloid and “Young Turks” who have embraced digital media.  Like Rushing, I see little evidence that the older generation of film scholars is “uninterested” in new technologies, and in my experience at a number of panels at SCMS conferences, the situation is quite the opposite.  No matter what, Doherty and Rushing’s comments do illustrate the ways in which the status of cinema as an institution is being renegotiated.  Like Rushing, I don’t think that watching movies (or, just as likely TV shows) on an iPod is going to completely replace moviegoing as an activity–just look at those Iron Man grosses–but I do think it’s well worth looking closely at the narratives that are being imposed upon the shift from film to digital.

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Can We Ask?

Colin Delany of TechPresident points to Can We Ask, a mildly interesting anti-Obama site that attempts to undermine Obama’s credibility by turning his campaign slogan (“Yes We Can”) against itself through a remix video in which Obama opponents submit questions for the presumptive Democratic nominee (it’s worth noting that the very existence of this site seems to assume that Obama will be the nominee, which is probably a safe assumption, but still…).

Like Delany, I’m not convinced that the video works. The generic spooky negative political ad music is pretty hokey, and while the video tries to use an Obama crowd chanting “Yes We Can” to support the idea of asking Obama questions about his policies, the video still seems to affirm Obama’s charisma and popularity as a candidate. The questions themselves are relatively forgettable (something about cutting taxes, something about voting present rather than “yes” or “no”), and my primary memory of the video is the repetition of the “Yes We Can” chant. I don’t know if this video is a “backfire,” as Delany puts it, so much as a stalled attempt to disrupt Obama’s narrative of empowerment.

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First Day of Summer Links

Grades are in.  Summer is here, sort of, and now I can turn my attention back to the book.  Because I’ll have a lot of work to do on the book over the next couple of months, I’m not sure how often I’ll be blogging,  but hopefully I can continue to use this space to work through ideas, review some movies, and so forth.  Hopefully I’ll even have some time to get to the movie theater in the next few weeks.  Tonight’s plan is to see The Visitor (I’m a big fan of Tom McCarthy’s previous film, The Station Agent), but I still haven’t seen Iron Man, so I’m feeling like I’m months behind everyone else at this point.  In the meantime, here are some links that never quite turned into full blog entries:

  • Karina has links to a number of blog posts debating the state of the documentary, with Eric Snider arguing that “we” prefer reality TV over docs, but as Karina notes, Snider’s evidence is rather flimsy and ignores pesky details such as the scale of distribution.  A.J. Schnack, correctly in my opinion, points out that 2008 has been a big year for documentary thus far, given the success of Expelled, U2-3D, Shine a Light, and Young@Heart.  Of course, A.J. is cautious enough to note that the success of several docs cannot be seen as constituting a wider trend.  And while George Reisch, writing at Pop Matters, may be right to describe Expelled as “the essence of bullshit,” virtually any political doc that makes over $8 million cannot be said to have fizzled at the box office.
  • Really bad news from Marc Bousquet about an incredible academic journal, the minnesota review.  Apparently, Carnegie Mellon, the university that currently houses the journal–one of the most important in literary studies, I might add–is demanding pretty substantial budget cuts that would make the business of running mr rather difficult and that may lead to the journal being discontinued in the near future.
  • The P.O.V. blog has a post about Eric Daniel Metzgar’s fantastic new documentary, Life.Support.Music, which tells the story of talented New York-based guitarist Jason Crigler, who suffered a brain hemorrhage while playing on stage at a New York club.  At the time, Jason’s family was told that if he survived the night, Jason would likely be unable to function.  However, through persistence and support, the family helped Jason make a full recovery.  It would be easy for such a documentary to fall into treacly cliches, but in Metzgar’s hands, Life.Support.Music. serves as a lyrical testament to a tight-knit family.  I saw LSM at Full Frame but didn’t get a chance to review it; however, if you do get a chance to see it at a festival or elsewhere, I can strongly recommend checking it out.
  • I’ve been meaning to mention the new Women & Hollywood blog where Melissa Silverstein takes on what Manohla Dargis has called the “post-female Hollywood” cinema. Silverstein picks up on many of the points that Dargis made: too few female directors, too much Hollywood sexism, and too few movies that “speak to” women.
  • I’ve also been meaning to mention Roger Ebert’s new blog.  Even though I no longer live in Champaign-Urbana, I was saddened to learn that he was unable to attend this year’s Ebertfest.  But his blog provides space for him to explore a number of ideas, including this interesting post on the historical relationship between fanzines and blogs.
  • Chris Albrecht has a discussion of the religious-themed YouTube competitor GodTube.

More links later, perhaps, but I do need to get some writing done today.

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Gravel Girl?

I’m still caught up with grading final papers and final exams, but the latest Barely Political video, in which Mike Gravel attempts to charm ObamaGirl is pretty funny. Also worth watching: this video in which Leah Kauffman, the voice of ObamaGirl, attempts to help the former Alaska Senator carry a tune.

More later when I’m done with grading.

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Documentary Diversity and Public Media

Pat Aufderheide, author of Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction, recently blogged Katy Chevigny’s MediaRights blog essay, “Assessing Success,” which looks at the implications of the continued ascendancy of the documentary over the last decade. As Chevigny observes, documentary is confronting many of the contradictions inherent to the era of digital production and distribution in that documentary films continue to attract wide audiences, and with lower production costs, barriers to making documentary films have diminished to some extent. And political, or perhaps partisan, documentaries appreciate a newfound power to influence public policy as we saw with Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim’s An Inconvenient Truth. At the same time, lower production costs increase competition between filmmakers, potentially fragmenting the documentary audience in new ways.

Chevigny helpfully defines two categories of documentary: entertainment docs that focus on famous people, competitive events, unusual behaviors, eccentric characters, or cute kids, and political docs that promote a partisan political agenda.  In fact, I’d rename the latter category as partisan documentaries, in order to differentiate these films (Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko, Outfoxed, and Expelled, to name a few examples) from films that may be “political” in ways that are less connected to electoral politics and that often provide far more subtle meditations on the human condition.  As Chevigny observes, “smaller” and “artier” documentaries face a difficult challenge in that they

have a more difficult time today justifying their existence, waving the flag of art over the subtle ideas they explore. Intimate without being sensational, these films are examples of the work of artists taking a humanist approach to their documentary subject matter.

The Cinema Eye Honors Awards were one notable attempt to address some of these concerns in their focus on the craft of documentary, but Chevigny is right, I think, to argue that we need to find distribution models that will protect documentaries that focus on “the side stories of life” even while we take advantage of the “truth-telling” power of documentary in a hotly contested election season (something that seems desperately missing in network news coverage of the election).

To address Chevigny’s questions, Aufderheide calls for a renewed effort to support public media such as PBS, and I’m certainly inclined to agree with her.  Aufderheide points out that public media, such as the PBS series P.O.V. and Independent Lens, are among the only resources that have regularly supported docs that explore the human condition in subtle ways.  The summer season of PBS’s documentary series P.O.V. (video preview), which features Chevigny’s own Election Day, is certainly a testament to the diversity of voices working within documentary and the ability of public media to provide an outlet for these voices, a point that I think is worth emphasizing. It’s also important to note that not all affiliates carry these shows at consistent times, making it difficult for those of us without DVRs to watch the programs at convenient times, something I ran into in Atlanta a few years ago when the local PBS affiliate refused to show Bill Moyers’ NOW (carrying many of these docs on streaming video obviously helps).  I’m not sure I have much to add here, but I do think that the upcoming season of P.O.V. looks incredibly promising and that the series–and public media in general–is certainly deserving of our support.

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Michelle Obama in Fayetteville

Just a quick note to mention that Michelle Obama will be campaigning in Fayetteville on Monday, probably on the Fayetteville State campus, according to the Fayetteville Observer. More details when the Observer posts them. Unless something major happens, I’ll be sure to attend.

Update: Here’s the full scoop: Michelle Obama will be appearing at the Capel Arena on FSU’s campus on Monday.  Doors open at 12:45 and the program begins at 1:45.  Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis, so that probably means you should arrive early.  Given the time, it turns out I may not be able to attend, after all, but hopefully I can work it out.

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The Force Will Be With You, Always

The Empire Strikes Barack appears to be the latest pop-culture viral video to come out in support of Obama.  Less a mashup than a jumbled compilation of clips from election news and the Star Wars films, the video positions Hillary Clinton as the leader of the Dark Side against Obama’s message of hope and change.   The video honestly doesn’t tell us a whole lot about either candidate, but I find it mildly interesting if only because it, perhaps unintentionally, underscores the complete incoherence and stupidity of much of the discourse surrounding the 2008 election at this point, discourse that seems intentionally designed to prevent us from knowing anything much about any of the candidates’ policies.

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Academic Labor Links

I’m way behind on this, but there are a number of academic labor issues of all sorts that I’ve been meaning to mention lately. As always Marc Bousquet’s blog is a great resource for a number of these issues (here’s my review of his book, How the University Works), including news that Ted Kennedy has introduced legislation that would protect workplace rights for graduate employees.

  • First, via Dr. Crazy and New Kid, news of the University of Toledo’s plan to radically revise its curriculum from its current focus on serving as a comprehensive metropolitan university into one focusing exclusively on STEM2 (science, technology, engineering, medicine, and math) fields. New Kid eloquently explains why these changes, which are perfectly consistent with the further corporatization of the university, will harm the university’s historical mission. There’s a petition you can sign to protest the proposed changes in the university’s mission.
  • Via KairosNews, a discussion of an Inside Higher Ed article that reports that the plagiarism website Turnitin.com has essentially offered to pay for positive papers at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the largest and most influential composition studies conference in the U.S. I’ve never been a fan of Turnitin as a plagiarism deterrent, but the ethics here strike me as incredibly problematic. If Turnitin wants to have their message heard, they should feel free to apply for the conference, but there should also be some disclosure involved that the presenter is being compensated in some way by the company. Rebecca Moore Howard has more to say on this issue.
  • Horace has a discussion of the AAUP report on faculty salaries. While some of the issues described in the report don’t always apply as readily at my university (such as the disparity between the salaries of faculty members and football coaches), the report highlights some of the problems with the increasing corporatization of the university and on the use of adjunct labor (among other problems). But as the title of the report points out, it’s well worth asking where our priorities are when football coaches sometimes make ten times what senior faculty make and when universities across the country increasingly rely upon contingent labor.
  • Finally, news that Wendy Gonaver, a professor of American studies, was fired from her position at Cal State Fullerton when she refused to sign the state’s loyalty oath because of her religious beliefs. Gonaver, who is a Quaker, felt that her pacifism conflicted with the militaristic language of the oath, which originated in the anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1950s.

Update: Shahar Ozeri has a thoughtful discussion of the University of Toledo issue, correctly pointing out that it’s not exactly the shift to a STEM2 curriculum that’s the issue but the fact that the university’s president did not consult the faculty senate and the fact that the new curriculum seems to have a very narrow definition of “education,” instead treating it essentially as a kind of career training.

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