Here are some the things I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about this morning:
- First, Inside Higher Ed has an interesting discussion of Daytona State College’s plan to convert to a textbook system based entirely around e-books. There are obviously some benefits here: no more heavy books, cheaper textbook prices, and more profits for publishers. The campus bookstore would–at least in the short run–appear to be the biggest loser, financially. I’m still ambivalent about e-book readers, in part because I appreciate the tangibility and permanence of physical books, but this is an interesting experiment, especially given that most students essentially rent their textbooks at a prohibitively high cost.
- On a related note, Kairos News has been exploring questions about why open-source textbooks appear to be struggling to catch on. Part of the problem, of course, has been that these open source projects, fairly or not, are perceived as vanity projects. I can imagine that many tenure committees would look with skepticism at the open-source model, so there is probably a need for some form of institutional change and continued education from open-source advocates.
- Continuing with the education theme, Catherine at Film Studies for Free (one of the best open-access models out there) provides a pointer to yet another wonderful tool for the Introduction to Film classroom: Majestic Micro Movies’s video primers on film aesthetics. Catherine cites four videos dealing with topics such as deep focus, shallow focus, tracking, and short-reverse-shot. They’re witty, fun, and provide some context for why these techniques are often hotly debated. Their YouTube and Facebook pages are great resources for students and teachers of film.
- More classroom stuff: The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that a recent study published in the Journal of College Student Retention has concluded that frequent Facebook users are more likely to stay in school and shows that students who have more friends on Facebook are more likely to return for their sophomore years. Because the study is based on a survey at a single university, Abilene Christian University, I’d like to see the results reproduced elsewhere before I put much stock in them. Is a public HBCU or regional state university going to be different than a private, religious institution? A bigger question might be causation versus correlation. Perhaps the networked students are already disposed toward returning to school and Facebook is simply an expression of that.
- Tama Leaver points to an Economist article on “the future of the internet.” Like Tama, I appreciate the article’s acknowledgement that the internet seems to be continuing its fragmentation into various “walled gardens,” many of them highly profitable, as well as the discussion of the ongoing attempts to create tiered internet provision (different levels of internet service for different prices), moves that the author characterizes as a virtual “counter-revolution.”
- The journal Off Screen devotes its most recent issue to internet-based film criticism. Especially noteworthy: Paul Salmon’s “A Film Prof at the Cineplex.”
- Finally, Christine Becker links to David Carr’s article arguing that there is “too much” TV out there. A couple of key quotes: “Our ability to produce media has outstripped our ability to consume it. The average photograph now gets looked at less than once simply because there is almost zero cost and effort to producing one.” And perhaps more crucially: “We don’t watch TV anymore as much as it seems to watch us, recommending, recording and dishing up all manner of worthy product.” Database TV seems to hold out the prospects of unlimited choice, and yet, as Carr suggests, recommendation algorithms, DVRs, and other tools have become more adept at assessing tastes, analyzing us and, in some sense, choosing what we want to watch.