Monday Links: e-books, Facebook, Hitchcock, and More

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.

2 Comments »

  1. Mike Everleth Said,

    September 6, 2010 @ 11:13 am

    Thanks for pointing me to the Salmon article in Off Screen. As you can imagine it spoke directly to my own personal concerns with Bad Lit, particularly in the way my site’s traffic remains relatively low just from the fact that most people are unfamiliar with the films I write about because other film sites and mainstream outlets don’t cover them at all. Internet readers can’t find my site if they don’t know the filmmaker names and titles to Google for in the first place.

    One issue that Salmon kind of glosses over is that he seems to indicate that editors/writers who produce sites like Bad Lit don’t have the financial concerns of major newspaper. Clearly, I don’t make money off of Bad Lit, but that doesn’t mean I’m not trying and don’t gear the site at all towards that goal.

  2. Chuck Said,

    September 6, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

    I haven’t read the article that closely, but I think that is a legitimate concern. A colleague of mine who does gossip studies has mentioned that her traffic has jumped when she has commented on people like Sandra Bullock (part of that may also be her relatively extensive use of images).

    I think blogs like yours that have a pedagogical purpose face kind of a rhetorical catch-22 when it comes to finding an audience. In terms of monetary rewards, the traffic for my blog is low enough that I don’t really bother trying to make money off of it right now. My paid gig is enough, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it isn’t an incentive for others.

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