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Archive for the 'Media Studies' Category

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

With the iPhone 5, Has Apple Lost Its Edge?

Pelle Snickars, Moving Data

“With the release of the iPhone 5, the promise back in 2007 of the iPhone becoming an ever expanding mobile media machine might have come to a halt. At least temporarily.”—Pelle Snickars

The following post is by Pelle Snickars, co-editor of Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media.

Many have argued that the iPhone 5 launch was the most important product announcement for Apple since the first iPhone arrived back in 2007. Previous new models and versions have, in effect, been minor upgrades, so it was finally time for Apple to face the increased competition and secure its cutting edge smart phone profile. It’s now been five years since Apple entered the smart phone market—and literally altered and redesigned it. The iPhone rapidly became the prototype of the constantly connected gadget, blending media consumption, mobility, and social media. No other mobile phone—before or after—has even come close to the iPhone’s sociocultural impact, or demonstrated the extent to which mobile technology shapes new media culture. The very term mobile media in fact means something completely different after the iPhone. However, with the release of the iPhone 5, the promise back in 2007 of the iPhone becoming an ever expanding mobile media machine might have come to a halt. At least temporarily.

The question still remains regarding what kind of technology a smart phone actually is—and has become. Is it primarily a piece of shiny hardware, a mobile platform for innovative code distribution, or a gadget targeting new forms of media consumption? What about the blurred boundaries between smart phones and tablets; are they different gadgets or essentially the same devices (only with screens in various formats)? Being mobile and connected as well as handling various forms of media—be they music, films, books or web based content—are important features that nearly all these new devices share.

If the laptop or stationary computer once was our default machine, this is not the case any more. Today, mobile devices are our primary communication tools for voice, text, image, video, sound and gaming. The iPhone didn’t start this development—but it increased the speed of technological change dramatically.

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Monday, September 17th, 2012

Double Book Giveaway! The Art of Making Magazines and Moving Data

“Bold, brash, and on target . . . This is a book not to be missed by working editors and journalists, print newbies and magazine junkies.” — Publishers Weekly

The Art of Making Magazines

This week we are featuring The Art of Making of Magazines: On Being an Editor and Other Views from the Industry, edited by Victor Navasky and Evan Cornog.

However, in honor of the imminent release of the iPhone 5, this week we are also giving away a copy of Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media, edited by Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau

Together book books explore where media has been and where it is going.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

The contributors to The Art of Making Magazines include: John Gregory Dunne, Ruth Reichl, Roberta Myers, Michael Kelly, Peter Canby, Barbara Walraff, Chris Dixon, Tina Brown, Peter W. Kaplan, John R. MacArthur, Robert Gottlieb, and Felix Dennis

Friday, July 13th, 2012

What Steve Jobs Did Not Know About Apps

Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media

“Apple’s iPhone and App Store has, thus, proven that walled gardens are not necessarily a bad thing, at least not for a successful digital marketplace to emerge.”—Pelle Snickars

The following post is by Pelle Snickars, co-editor of Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media. For more on the book, you can read the introduction or Patrick Vonderau’s post on What Can Be Learned from an iPhone Bill .

In January this year as Apple’s iPhone celebrated its five year birthday, its App Store surpassed half a million available apps with some 25 billion pieces of code downloaded (according to Mobile Statistics). Arguably, the iPhone iOS is—by just about any measure—the most innovative in the history of computing. It’s the combination of innumerable software apps and high performing slick machines that have made Apple into the world’s most valuable company. And since an iPhone5 is rumored to be on its way, the story will continue.

Too much has already been said and written about the visionary talent of the late Steve Jobs. Still, it is worth mentioning that even he was occasionally wrong. Apple has often been described as a “closed” company striving for total control. But it remains a true irony that externally produced apps, which helped to define the revolutionary iPhone, were not on Apple’s radar in 2007. Initially, the iPhone had nothing to do with apps at all.

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Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Patrick Vonderau on What Can Be Learned from an iPhone Bill

Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media

The following post is by Patrick Vonderau, co-editor of Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media. For more on the book, you can read the introduction.

In 2007, blogger Justine Ezarik uploaded a video on YouTube, titled 300-page iPhone bill. (see video at the end of this post)

Following the first month of service after the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, Justine shocked viewers with the story of her “first AT&T” bill, which was indeed 300 pages and delivered in a box. The video shows nothing but Justine leafing through all those pages, accompanied by relaxation music. “Use e-billing. Save a forest” her video encourages at the end. It shortly went viral and has so far been viewed by 3,236,083 people around the globe, gaining “iJustine” international attention and what appears to be quite a lucrative career in online media.

iJustine’s YouTube video is not only the first instance of someone making a lasting career out of an over-sized telephone bill,it also tellingly connects two corporations who often are seen as fierce competitors: Apple and Google (which had acquired YouTube in 2006). The competition between these two companies over the smartphone market and beyond might very well determine what future media entertainment will look like. Even more to the point, iJustine’s video has put a spotlight on an object no serious media scholar so far would have shown any interest in. What, if anything, could be learned by looking at a smartphone bill?

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Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Capitalism and the History of the iPhone — An Excerpt from Moving Data

Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media, Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau

We continue our week-long focus on Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media with an excerpt from the book’s introduction by Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau.

In this section, Snickars and Vonderau explore what makes the iPhone distinct as both a device and an object of study. Likewise they also consider how the device grew out of other technologies and its historical precedents.

A History of Possibilities

In order to come to terms with Apple’s iPhone, it is important to consider the dynamic intersection among these marketing, technological, and cultural forces. Despite the iPhone’s economic success, elegance, and “revolutionary” newness, the question still remains how and why to engage in studying the iPhone as a media object in the first place. In their seminal book, Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing, Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Whiteford, and Greig de Peuter suggest investigating this interdependent dynamic of technology, culture, and marketing efforts as propelling the “circuit of capital” and growth in information capitalism. The political economy of media provides a critical but fairly general perspective on the iPhone as an “ideal-type commodity form,” one that reflects the social organization of capitalism at its present moment. Recent ventures into the field of media-industry analysis have testified to the productivity of this critical tradition. Focusing solely on the iPhone “moment” in the media history of consumer capitalism, however, also introduces a number of fallacies that obscure—rather than clarify—what seems to be at stake. To favor the emergent and the immediate at the expense of the old and the contingent, or of failures and devaluation, often leads to a skewed picture of innovation processes and of media history generally, and potentially even to a fetishization of branded consumer products, which the iPhone epitomizes.

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Monday, July 9th, 2012

Book Giveaway! Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media

With the recent five-year anniversary of the i-Phone’s debut, our featured book this week is Moving Data: The iPhone and the Future of Media, edited by Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of the book and we are also offering a FREE copy of Moving Data to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address (U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only, unfortunately). We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

(more…)

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Ross Melnick — How Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel Changed Movies

Samuel We continue our week-long focus on American Showman: Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry, with an excerpt from the book’s opening pages:

Film historiography has often focused on production, stardom, and/or the intricate operations of the studio system—much of it to the exclusion of motion picture distribution and exhibition. American Showman analyzes the career of a single film exhibitor and radio broadcaster, Samuel Lionel “Roxy” Rothafel (1882–1936), between the years 1908 and 1935, in order to illuminate the work of a silent era “showman,” the complex operations of an urban movie palace, and the multiple and interrelated venues created for film, music, and live performance on stage, on screen, and over the air. Whereas the film industry could debate which star or mogul held more sway during this period, for a quarter of a century no motion picture exhibitor had more industrial and cultural power or influence than Roxy. On radio, Roxy was also amongst the medium’s most popular and innovative voices in the 1920s and 1930s, helping to determine early radio genres, formats, and broadcasting styles. His career not only illuminates the multifarious tasks of an urban movie palace exhibitor but Roxy’s additional roles as a broadcaster, filmmaker, music director, stage producer, propagandist, newspaper columnist, and author demonstrate that exhibitors like Roxy were not bureaucratic functionaries but influential figures that can and should be analyzed for their own thematic and stylistic predilections and industrial, social, and cultural influence. This analysis also demonstrates the motion picture exhibitor’s influence on spectatorship (both in film and live performances), narrative, and previously unexplored issues of authorship. Silent era exhibitors, in small and large venues, had tremendous agency over the texts they presented. In some cases, their preceding, intervening, and concluding music and live performances, and their editing of films, dramatically altered the narratives of the motion pictures they exhibited.

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Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Five Years of YouTube

The YouTube ReaderLast week of course was the fifth anniversary of YouTube leading to inevitable commentaries both celebrating its democratic possibilities and bemoaning it as a massive waste of time. For those looking for more innovative and thoughtful views of the phenomenon, The YouTube Reader, edited by Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau, includes reflections by leading media and film scholars on the site and its immense impact.

The YouTube Reader is the first full-length book to explore YouTube as an industry, archive, and cultural form. The contributors debate the problems and potential of “broadcasting yourself.” The YouTube Reader takes on claims of newness, immediacy, and popularity with systematic and theoretically informed arguments, offering a closer look at the available texts on YouTube and the policies and norms that govern their access and use.

The book’s accompanying site, now includes an online exhibition YouTube as a Mirror Maze created by Giovanni Fossati. Here is a description of the piece:

YouTube reflects you and you reflect (on) YouTube. On the other side of the mirror, YouTubers are watching. Reflections are endless and endlessly reflected into one another, like in a mirror maze.

Finding the way out is as difficult as not clicking the mouse for the next clip, the next mirror.

The exhibit reformulates famous and not-so famous YouTube clips, exploring the ways people have used YouTube to document their opinions (“Leave Brittany Alone!”), reflect on the banal, and build on and comment on other videos. The online exhibit also looks at how certain videos have spread globally and the innovative ways the medium has been used.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

The Late Age of Print Open Source Audio Project

The Late Age of PrintTed Striphas, author of The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control, has launched an inventive and exciting new project in connection with his book.

He is putting together a crowd-sourced production of a text-to-speech audiobook version of The Late Age of Print. Striphas has opened a wiki for the project, through which interested volunteers can help him clean up the text for audio conversion. Instructions and details are available here.

Here is Striphas on the project:

Listening to Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price on a long car trip got me thinking: why not make an audiobook out of The Late Age of Print? And why not, like Anderson, give the digital recording away for free? The thought had barely crossed my mind when reality started to sink in. “You’re no Chris Anderson,” I told myself. “You don’t have the time or the resources to make an audiobook out of Late Age. Just forget about it….”

And so I got down to work. I extracted all of the text from the free, Creative Commons-licensed PDF of Late Age and proceeded to text-to-speech-ify it a chapter at a time. I played back my first recording — the Introduction — but it was disaster! The raw text had all sorts of remnants from the original book layout. They seriously messed up the recording, and so I knew they needed to go. I began combing through the text, only to discover that the cleanup would take me, working alone, many more hours than I could spare, especially with a newborn baby in my life. Frustrated, I nearly abandoned the project for a second time.

Then it dawned on me: if I’m planning on giving away the audiobook for free, then why not get people who might be interested in hearing Late Age in on it, too? Thus was born this, The Late Age of Print open source audiobook project. The plan is for all of us to collectively create a Creative Commons-licensed text-to-speech version of the book, which will be available for free online.

There’s a good deal of work for us to do, but don’t be daunted! If you choose to donate a large chunk of your time to help out the cause, then that’s just super. But don’t forget that projects like this one also succeed when a large number of people invest tiny amounts of their time as well. Your five or ten minutes of editing, combined with the work of scores of other collaborators, will yield a top-notch product in the end.

I doubt that I have a large enough network of my own to pull off this project, so if your blog, Tweet, contribute to listservs, or otherwise maintain a presence online, please, please, please spread the word about it.

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Guobin Yang on Online Activism in China and Iran

The Power of the Internet in ChinaIn a recent article on Yale Global Online, Guobin Yang, author of the recently published The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online, examines the similarities and differences among Internet activists in Iran and China.

While Iranian protesters have been able to get around censorship via social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the Chinese government has been quite vigilant in censoring the Internet. Recently the government announced a new policy requiring computers to pre-install a software called “Green Dam-Youth Escort.” While the policy was put in place to protect Chinese children from online pornography, others were concerned about the government’s hidden intentions.

This comes at a time when there are an increasing number of activist-bloggers in China. Below is an excerpt from Yang’s post. For more on the book you can also view an excerpt from the book (kindly posted on Yale Global Online), listen to a talk or watch a video of Yang discussing online activism in China.

“Increasingly, in China at least, online oppositional power depends on a new type of activist-bloggers. They write about a broad range of public issues, usually expressing dissent. Whenever major events or crises occur, readers can invariably turn to these bloggers for critical commentaries. Fully aware of the expectations of their audience, these activist-bloggers rarely fail to publish their critical responses. Indeed, the culture of the blogosphere is such that bloggers are compelled to produce for their audience to keep their names in the limelight. In the Green Dam case, it is these activist-bloggers (whom I will not name here) that quickly became the leading critical voices in Chinese cyberspace. Online activism hardly happens out of the blue, but has found a social basis in these activist-bloggers and their followers.

Further, online activism has sustained its power because it has become a vital link with the mass media. Tweets of protests in Iran would not have become so widely known and influential if they had not been picked up by the most powerful global cable networks. Similarly, online protests about the “Green Dam” software in China were encouraged when even some official media stories questioned the policy. This is by no means to underestimate the power of the Internet. One might just as well argue that mass media would not have been as powerful without citizens’ constant news feeds from their tweets and blogs. The truth is that web power has become part and parcel of mainstream media power. Media scholars sometimes talk about the growing convergence between “old” and “new” media. Converging or not, the spectrum of media channels has vital connections, and the power of old or new media is enhanced by establishing such linkages.

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