Sunday, March 14, 2010

Is Innovation Fair? Andrew Keen Says No

more from an indefatigable critic of all things Web 2.0 

How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture.

Naturally when I saw Keen's core conversation at SXSW, it was clear that social media and the term "read-write web" are perhaps the antithesis of what Keen has become known for. While we as a publication (and often as a community) celebrate the participatory culture of Web 2.0, Keen sees the rise of amateur publishers as the fetishism of change-based culture and the breakdown of centralized moral authority. In less diplomatic circles, he's accused of being an elitist. When an intimate 40 person setting of bloggers like Stealthmode Partners' Francine Hardaway and legendary futurist Bruce Sterling failed to erupt into an angry mob, I was surprised.

In addressing the question "Is Innovation Fair?" Keen maintains that there is no definitive answer. He says, "If you asked a peasant whether innovation was fair during the industrial revolution, he'd answer no. But history is written by innovators."

Friday, March 12, 2010

writing, culture and expectations



The Daughters at the String Shop b

There are two daughters at the string shop in Osaka
The oldest daughter is sixteen years old and the youngest daughter is fourteen years old.
Japanese samurai kill their enemies with arrows.
The Japanese daughters at the string shop kill men with their eyes.



This poem is used to teach Japanese students how to write a proper essay. Japanese essay style is made up of the "ki" (introduction), "sho" (development), "ten" (turning point), and the "ketsu" (conclusion).


The cultural nature of writing makes teaching and evaluating it very difficult and learning to write in a new culture is one of the most difficult things about learning a new language. In some cultures, you only give main ideas and let the readers supply details. Other cultures will only give small details and let the reader decide the main idea. Other cultures take a long time building up the relationship between the writer and the reader before coming to the main point. In the Japanese style, the "ten" is used to get the reader's attention. American style is to give big ideas up front, provide the details and examples, and to repeat them again and again; the reader has few responsibilities.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How to Succeed in an Online Writing Class: Plan, Revise, Discuss:

This site is a document written as a kind of 'how to' for online writing students. 

It is important, especially in short online classes but also in any writing class, for students to realize that they need to plan out their work carefully, identifying as specifically as they can when they can fit their work into often hectic schedules. 

Students also ~ mistakenly ~ minimize the importance of both discussion and revision. In an online course for credit, students are more or less forced into discussion because it is a large % of their course grade. When there is no grade or credit, students feel than participation and writing discussion is not important. 

Of course they (you) will not get bad grades for not discussing or revising: nor will you learn how to write. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Web Apps for Writers


100 Free And Useful Web Apps For Writers from The Presurfer 

No matter what you write, whether it's for a college class on creative writing or for a novel you've finally found time to get around to, having some tools to make the process a little easier is always a welcome prospect.

This list brings together a wealth of just those kind of resources, all found online and all free to use, so you can concentrate on being creative and producing the best writing you can.

Friday, March 5, 2010

getting cognitive


The inaugural issue of Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science is out, including 

Brian T. Edwards in Watching Shrek in Tehran: The seen and the unseen in Iranian cinema. "Econo-Jihad": Jihadist terror organizations have set economic terrorism as their new target, intending to harm and paralyze Western economies, the United States in particular. 

Warning: Your reality is out of date: Samuel Arbesman introduces the mesofact. 

Jami Attenberg reviews Reality Hunger: A Manifesto by David Shields (and more and more and more and more and more and more 

and more and more and moreand more and more and more and more). 

How locavores could save the world: The latest yuppie craze could do more than just cut emissions — it might also help feed the poor. 

From Fast Company, how much longer can shopping malls survive? A look at how health care is no stranger to the reconciliation process (and more). 

Dress Code: Tony Perrottet goes behind the rumor that Hoover wore women's clothing

The Tribe That Bites: Allison Gaudet Yarrow on the unlikely rise of the Jewish vampire

Modernizing the idea of the great French salons — elegant gatherings of intelligentsia — a Toronto businessman's soirees are provoking thought about how city and country can be run.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Publishing will always need its gatekeepers

via Culture | guardian.co.uk by Robert McCrum on 3/1/10

It's all very well for the writers, but where will editors and publishers fit into this brave new digital world?

Last week I wrote about the new freedoms and opportunities a contemporary writer can enjoy, and even benefit from. Inevitably, some of the subsequent posts raised the question of editors and the role of publishing houses in this new environment. Since I used to work as an editor (at Faber), and think I understand what's at stake, I thought I should address this now: it turns out to be a good moment.

By chance, there are two contributions just in on this subject: first, a cri de coeur from Carol Baron of Knopf at the Huffington Post (I'll come to that in a minute); second, a brilliant piece by my old friend Jason Epstein on the future of book publishing in the digital age in the New York Review of Books. I recommend both: in their different ways Barron and Epstein signal a significantly richer and smarter engagement than heretofore with the reality of change in the world of books.

While Epstein is a deep thinker in this field, Barron was responding impulsively to a complaint by one of her author friends that "there is no editing any more". She, naturally, rejects this, and it's certainly an old complaint. As far as I can recall, people have been moaning on like this for the last 30 years, possibly longer.

The previous age of books is always seen as the golden one. In that fabled time, a generation of Maxwell Perkins clones walked the aisles of the great publishing houses, lost in the quest for split infinitives or dangling participles, or engaged in extracting the angel from the marble of the heroic first draft, as in the case of Thomas Wolfe, author of the sadly forgotten classic Look Homeward, Angel (by the way, my guess – based on experience – is that, yes, there was a generation or two who worked very hard on improving writers' manuscripts, but that Wolfe's example is the exception not the rule). Much of what Baron describes as the editor's function now – her "10 things", once choosing the book and editing the book have been dealt with – strike me as having more to do with in-house PR. The role of the editor is not what it was: everyone concedes that. So much for the microcosm. When we turn to the big picture, we find Jason Epstein.

His clear-eyed pragmatism is refreshing: the world has changed, irreversibly and forever. The great publishing giants and their old ways are increasingly redundant. And yet there is still the inescapable fact that writers sit alone in rooms, putting words on paper, or on screens.

In respect of "the difficult, solitary work of literary creation", Epstein says "the cost of entry for future publishers will be minimal" without the overheads of traditional, multilayered management. The devolution of gatekeeping from centralised corporate publishers, he argues, has already begun, with the emergence of "semi-autonomous editorial units" (what some people call "imprints"). These, Epstein believes, indicate the way of the future.

In other words, whatever the innovation on the instrumental side of the delivery system, there will still have to be a measure of mediation, or gatekeeping. I share with Epstein the view that whatever the hopes of the blogosphere for communal projects, the fantasy that the contents of the digital cloud can be mashed up to form "a single, communal, autonomous intelligence" is just that – strictly for the birds.

Epstein is, I think, right to note that, long before and long after Gutenberg, literary form has been typically conservative. The act of reading is a reflective and solitary pursuit that abhors distraction. The act of writing is also a lonely business: it takes place in small rooms, in solitude, and (typically) in silence.

It's hard, if not impossible, to imagine a radical new literary paradigm that might change that. For the moment, writers still need intermediaries: the job description will change, but the function remains broadly the same.


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