Lazy Saturday Links

I’m taking a little bit of a break from all my new teaching prep to take a quick tour through my blog reads, but I’d like to thank everyone for their help in making syllabus suggestions and offering advice on course assignments.  I’ve been fascinated by the ways in which the course has come together via conversations on blogs, wikis, Twitter, and even instant messaging, so I’m really excited now about how the course is beginning to take shape.  Now for some links:

  •  First, an online viewing tip from the cinetrix: PBS’s P.O.V. series has made Eva Weber’s gorgeous short documentary, City of Cranes, available online.  Noting that we rarely notice the widespread presence of cranes in our skylines, Weber sets about document their presence, capturing some breathtaking shots from the cranes themselves, as the crane operators describe in voice-over their often solitaryperspective on the world, producing something analogous to a poetics of urban space.
  • Pamela Cohn also has a viewing tip: Full Battle Rattle, another documentary from Full Frame, will be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel, on Monday, January 12, at 9 PM.  Rattle, which I reviewed when I saw it a few months ago, documents a simulated Iraqi village, Medina Wasl, set up in California’s Mojave Desert, where soldiers go to train before entering combat. 
  • Pamela also discusses a number of initiatives in producing and distributing documentaries using new media technologies.  With my first book soon going to press, I’ve been finding myself interested in exploring how documentary or non-fiction filmmakers are using digital technologies, crowdsourcing, and viral media to rethink what documentary can do, so it’s exciting to see this work continue to develop.
  • On a related note, Henry Jenkins has an important new post on transmedia storytelling activities taking place in Brazil and what we might learn from them, discussing the ways in which the piracy of the film, Tropa de Elite, may have actually helped its box office by providing it with additional publicity and visibility.  Jenkins also announces the forthcoming release of a white paper that “critiques the concept of viral media and offers an alternative model, one which respects the agency and motives of consumers in actively shaping the circulation of media content through a networked society and one which seeks to better understand the interplay between consumer capitalism and the gift economy in shaping the new era of web 2.0.”  I’m looking forward to reading the report, but I think the “gift economy” framing is useful here as bloggers, remixers, and others become more actively involved in shaping the distribution and exhibition contexts.
  • Finally, Virginia Heffernan has an intriguing column on the transformed role of the critic in the age of interactive media, an issue she raises in response to her experiences with the web-based series, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which is itself a promotion of sorts for Fallon’s NBC show, which will take over Conan’s old time slot.  Naturally, there are a couple of points I’d like to complicate, especially the concept of interactivity, in that, in principle, at least, most (all?) older media allow some form of interactivity, whether through letters to the editor or whatever.  But I am interested in the ways that critics and reviewers can become implicated in the text(s) that they set about to critique, and Heffernan’s column captures the allure–and occasional frustration–of making sense of these new textual structures.

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