Archive for April, 2009

visual sociology, annotated

For the last two courses, I’ve used images from Douglas Gayeton‘s book ‘Slow: Life in Tuscany‘ as a way to describe how to analyze an image. For some reason, I asked students to take a picture and analyze it, but I didn’t press them to do ape this method as an exercise. I should have. Next time. I also did not make the connection that he is the same artist I use later in the semester, when talking about the fictional (?), second life videoblog of ‘Molotov Alva‘ (which is airing on HBO). I find his work to be very, very effective. I think that this, plus a podcast exercise that students completed this week, will really make the next class better.

For anyone reading this who doesn’t know it–I teach a Media, Technology and Sociology course, which takes the idea of using M&T seriously as a set of sociological tools. For anyone who believes that such ‘alternative media’ for sociological purposes should take a look at what Mark C. Taylor (one of my all-time favorite books) wrote in a recent Op-Ed on ‘The End of the University as We Know it’ (and a critical response from the Chronicle: ‘No More Drivel from the New York Times‘), wherein his fourth recommendation for higher ed is:

Transform the traditional dissertation. In the arts and humanities, where looming cutbacks will be most devastating, there is no longer a market for books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text. As financial pressures on university presses continue to mount, publication of dissertations, and with it scholarly certification, is almost impossible. (The average university press print run of a dissertation that has been converted into a book is less than 500, and sales are usually considerably lower.) For many years, I have taught undergraduate courses in which students do not write traditional papers but develop analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games. Graduate students should likewise be encouraged to produce “theses” in alternative formats.

facebook, blogs, studies of note

A few studies that fall in the ‘research that confirms what everyone expects and doesn’t push us to think about it all a little differently’ bin: One on how blog traffic increases on the basis of reciprocation (no real surprise there to anyone who blogs, but also rendering Google’s new ‘Friend Connect‘ of note. Thanks Hepaestus. See how it works?), another on how high Facebook usage is correlated with low college grades, and another on how Facebook affects brain activity. The results of the latter? Here’s what they say: “As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilized, characterized by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathize and a shaky sense of identity.” Hmmm.

In the ‘oh, that’s actually interesting’ file, the Wall Street Journal now claims that “there are almost as many people making their living as bloggers as there are lawyers’ in the U.S.. That sounds crazy to me, but gathering their data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics they claim that there are 452,000 people who are paid to blog on their own sites, or someone else’s. (As compared to 555,770 lawyers and 394,710 computer programmers.) More from the WSJ:

Demographically, bloggers are extremely well educated: three out of every four are college graduates. Most are white males reporting above-average incomes. One out of three young people reports blogging, but bloggers who do it for a living successfully are 2% of bloggers overall. It takes about 100,000 unique visitors a month to generate an income of $75,000 a year. Bloggers can get $75 to $200 for a good post, and some even serve as “spokesbloggers” — paid by advertisers to blog about products. As

on television, on #amazonfail

This week we’re up to Bourdieu’s On Television. In one class we talked about unveiling the logics of debate and discourse and I used the now-classic example of Jon Stewart going on CNN’s Crossfire and doing everything shy of dismantling the risers underneath the audience. I thought that his ‘I’m just a comedian, but you’re hurting America’ was weak tea, but they packed it in after the gig was up. When a Vice President of the Associated Press threatens a Nashville radio station for using their content (which is to say linking to the AP’s own YouTube Channel–that encludes the codes to embed the videos with–that they apparently didn’t know they had) only to find out that the radio station is actually an affiliate you really know that the unveiling of the mechanisms of cultural production can be a shock to the leviathans themselves. (See a video discussion of it here.)

The brouhaha this weekend was #amazonfail, in which a supposed filing glitch/algorithm led to hundreds, even thousands of titles to be labeled ‘adult’ and therefore, go unranked. Mary Hodder compares how one book (The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk) lost its sales ranking while another (A Parent’s Guide to Homosexuality) kept it. Amazon claims that it was a ‘glitch’ (see their statement here), but Hodder says that authors (like Craig Seymour) were notified months ago that they had lost their ranking for merely including positive content on LGBT themes/content, and notes that the first five books that come up in a search for ‘homosexuality’ are all anti-gay. Clay Shirky has a slightly divergent opinion. (Thanks KB!)