Newspapers, Mumblecore, and More

I had a slight change of plans and will catch Brothers at War tonight and will hopefully have a review up tomorrow.  For now, a quick tour through some interesting conversations taking place in my corner of the blogosphere, many of them loosely related to the South by Southwest Film Festival taking place right now:

First, Clay Shirky has an important blog essay on the state of the newspaper inustry.  What I like about Shirky’s article is his reading of the current state of media transition via Elizabeth Eisenstein’s brilliant book, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change. In the book, as Shirky observes, Eisenstein engages in the messy task of looking at the very “chaotic” transitional period when print first appeared.  Shirky goes on to argue that we are still in that transitional period and that phenomena that initially appeared to be very minor–he cites the example of Craigslist–actually prove to have far-reaching consequences.  Shirky isn’t terribly sanguine about the future of the newspaper industry while still making a powerful case for our continued need for journalism.  Shirky’s piece is well worth multiple reads. Speaking of newspapers, the Washington Post is joining a number of other newspapers in dropping multi-page stock quotations and in folding its business section into its front page.  This is obviously a cost-cutting move, but given the intersections between the economy and politics, it makes some degree of sense.

On a related note, Eszter Hargittai reviews some of the changes to the Pew Internet & American Life Project (PIP) website.  I’ve been finding myself returning more oftem to the PIP website for my research on viral political videos and other web phenomena, so these changes look incredibly helpful.  On a relate note: I’m hoping to sit down and closely read Pew’s report on Twitter use in the next few days.  In fact, I probably should have read it before I wrote my AlterNet article, as I think it would have helped support my argument that Twitter and similar tools are deeply entwined with other social media and not reducing thought to 140-character soundbites.

I’ve been finding myself increasingly engaged with some of the Mumblecore discussions that have been taking place in the last few weeks, in part due to the South by Southwest Film Festival, where Mumblecore “stars” Joe Swanberg and Kris Williams have films playing.  First Alejandro Adams challenges some of the more common myths and misconceptions about Mumblecore in “The Truth about Joe Swanberg.”  Noralil Ryan Fores has a long, thoughtful interview with Swanberg and Williams about their new films, Alexander the Last (which I’m hoping to watch via IFC’s on-demand) and Williams’ debut feature, It was great, but I was ready to come home, which I’d also like to see.

An implicit theme of SXSW again seems to be issues of media convergence, the simultaneous access to films and other media via a variety of channels.  Already, at least four SXSW films are playing on IFC, and several of last year’s films are now available on Hulu, as Matt Dentler and Anne Thompson point out. With that in mind,I’ll point to MIT’s Convergene Culture Consortium, which has an interesting read on some of these changes, especially as they affect the TV industry and television narratives, in particulat the “time” and “space” of TV.  I’m becoming increasingly interested in navigating how these spatial shifts are affecting the film industry, especially events such as festivals that were once “exclusive” spaces (“you have to be there”) to something a little more complex.  You can now watch festival panels on YouTube or watch Sunance and SXSW films online.  That’s certainly not the same thing as being present at the festival, but it does represent a significant shift in how we theink about the festival as a discovery and promotional event.

Finally, Ken Levine has the shooting script (PDF), complete with “stage directions,” for the “Dancin’ Homer” episode of The Simpsons he co-wrote with David Isaacs.  It’s a great little resource for thinking about how to convert an animated TV show from page to screen.  And, it’s also very funny. Enjoy.

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