My favorite podcast, The Critical Lede, just reviewed my recent piece appearing in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, “The Abuses of Literacy: Amazon Kindle and the Right to Read.” Check out the broadcast here — and thanks to the show’s great hosts, Benjamin Myers and Desiree Rowe of the University of South Carolina Upstate.
I’ve just published a short essay called “E-books — No Friends of Free Expression” in the National Communication Association’s online magazine, Communication Currents. It was commissioned in anticipation of National Freedom of Speech Week, which will be recognized from October 18th to 24th, 2010. Here’s a short excerpt from the piece, in case you’re interested:
It may seem odd to suggest that reading has something to do with freedom of expression. It’s one thing to read a book, after all, but a different matter to write one. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that reading is an expressive activity in its own right, resulting in notes, dog-eared pages, highlights, and other forms of communicative fallout. Even more to the point, as Georgetown Law Professor Julie E. Cohen observes, “Freedom of speech is an empty guarantee unless one has something—anything—to say…[T]he content of one’s speech is shaped by one’s response to all prior speech, both oral and written, to which one has been exposed.” Reading is an integral part of the circuitry of free expression, because it forms a basis upon which our future communications are built. Anything that impinges upon our ability to read freely is liable to short-circuit this connection.
I then go on to explore the surveillance activities that are quite common among commercially available e-readers; I also question how the erosion of private reading may affect not only what we choose to read but also what we may then choose to say.
The Comm Currents piece is actually a precis of a much longer essay of mine just out in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 7(3) (September 2010), pp. 297 – 317, as part of a special issue on rights. The title is “The Abuses of Literacy: Amazon Kindle and the Right to Read.” Here’s the abstract:
This paper focuses on the Amazon Kindle e-reader’s two-way communications capabilities on the one hand and on its parent company’s recent forays into data services on the other. I argue that however convenient a means Kindle may be for acquiring e-books and other types of digital content, the device nevertheless disposes reading to serve a host of inconvenient—indeed, illiberal—ends. Consequently, the technology underscores the growing importance of a new and fundamental right to counterbalance the illiberal tendencies that it embodies—a “right to read,” which would complement the existing right to free expression.
Keywords: Kindle; Amazon.com; Digital Rights; Reading; Privacy
Feel free to email me if you’d like a copy of “The Abuses of Literacy.” I’d be happy to share one with you.
The title of the journal article, incidentally, pays homage to Richard Hoggart’s famous book The Uses of Literacy, which is widely recognized as one of the founding texts of the field of cultural studies. It’s less well known that he also published a follow-up piece many years later called “The Abuses of Literacy,” which, as it turns out, he’d intended to be the title of Uses before the publisher insisted on a change.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the work. Feedback is always welcome and appreciated.
My department at Indiana University, Communication and Culture, is looking for a top-notch person to fill an opening in digital/social media, at the level of assistant professor. Check out the job announcement, below, and please circulate it widely.
I’m not a member of the search committee, by the way, so if you have questions it’s best to contact the committee chair–my colleague, Professor Barbara Klinger.
Department of Communication and Culture
Digital and Social Media
The Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in Digital and Social Media to begin Fall 2011.
We seek a humanities-trained Ph.D. whose primary area of research expertise and training is in digital media studies focused specifically on the social dimensions and potentials of digital media. This applicant will be expected to interact productively with colleagues in one or more of the department’s three areas: Rhetoric and Public Culture; Film and Media Studies; and Performance and Ethnographic Studies. The applicant must have a well-developed research program and teaching experience in digital and social media. She or he will be responsible for developing an introductory lecture course and advanced undergraduate courses, as well as for actively shaping and teaching graduate offerings in this field of study.
We particularly encourage applicants whose research involves specialization in areas such as:
- Social networking
- New technologies of political advocacy
- Ethnographies of new media
- Convergence and participatory cultures
- Digital video
- Games and gaming
Candidates are expected to have a strong research agenda and a commitment to excellence in teaching. Preference will be given to those who have their Ph.D. in hand by the date of appointment. Applicants should send a letter of application, curriculum vitae, writing sample, and three letters of recommendation to: Professor Barbara Klinger, Chair, Digital/Social Media Search, Department of Communication and Culture, 800 E. 3rd Street, Indiana University, Bloomington IN 47405. Review of applications will begin December 1, 2010 and continue until the position is filled.
Indiana University is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. The university actively encourages applications and nominations of women, minorities, applicants with disabilities, and members of other underrepresented groups.
Earlier this summer Desiree Rowe and Ben Myers, whose podcast The Critical Lede I cannot say enough good things about, invited me to contribute to a journal forum they’re editing on “The Performative Possibilities of New Media.” Given my interest in the politics of scholarly communication, I immediately jumped at the chance to participate.
Composing the essay took a little longer than I’d expected, but I think I’ve got a respectable version of the piece now in hand. It’s called “Performing Scholarly Communication,” and it reflects on the origins and possible futures of academic periodical publishing.
This is where you come in. I’ve posted the draft essay to one of my project sites, The Differences & Repetitions Wiki (a.k.a., D&RW), in the hopes those of you reading this might be kind enough to offer some feedback. You’ll find “Performing Scholarly Communication” on the site, along with other essays I’ve worked on over the years. Don’t hesitate to comment anonymously — I’m completely cool with that — and definitely take some time to poke around a bit. Oh, and by the way, the piece is pretty short, so it won’t take you very long to read.
I mentioned back in July that I’d be rebooting D&RW, mainly as a result of the influx of advertising appearing on the original host site, Wikidot. Well, this is it. “Performing Scholarly Communication” marks the (dant-dant-daah!) GRAND OPENING of the new D&RW, which links directly off of this blog. Enjoy.
Thanks in advance, wise crowd, for reading and commenting on the draft of my piece. I hope you find something in there that intrigues you.
…and thanks for following me from what’s now the D&R legacy site. I’m basically up and running around here, although I expect to add “about the author” and contact pages within the next couple of days. Within a few weeks I’m hoping to launch a new Differences & Repetitions Wiki, moreover, which will link directly off of this site as a sub-directory. I’ll let you know when it’s live.
In the meantime, I appreciate your sticking with me though the move. Let me know what you think about the new D&R and what content/features you might be interested in seeing.
Just a quick note to let y’all know that I’ll be a guest on Social Media Hour on Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 1:00 pm EDT. The topic is privacy, transparency, and social networking sites. You can listen live by clicking here; the archived recording will be available here. Here’s a complete description of the program from the SMH website:
SOCIAL MEDIA HOUR #59: PRIVACY, TRANSPARENCY, & ONE MORE LESBIAN
This week the show will explore the topic of privacy and transparency specifically looking at how social networks and social technologies/platforms are changing the standards of privacy … or are they? With the amount of transparency in today’s world, are people reevaluating what they share? Is that a good thing? Ted Striphas from Indiana University joins the program to discuss. Also on this week’s show, Shirin Papillon, the Founder & CEO of OneMoreLesbian – a media site that aggregates the world’s lesbian film, television and online video content in one place. What does this have to do with the other topic? Simple. An array of sites and networks have arisen catering to myriad special interest groups. You can find site and networks for just about anything … that’s not new. But think about it, you choose to visit a site and participate in a social network … that behavior is tracked – whether by Google or brands that may appear there. If you choose to post links or comment on posts, others see your participation – so suddenly your personal affinity for a particular group is now public, which means in the case of LGBT oriented content, you are now more out than you were before. We’ll talk about OML as a business and about its growth and what it means when it comes to helping further expose a wider audience to the gay community.
Should be a blast! Please listen if you can.
UPDATE — Here’s an embed from which you can stream the entire episode:
My latest essay, “Acknowledged Goods: Cultural Studies and the Politics of Academic Journal Publishing,” is now out in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 7(1) (March 2010), pp. 3-25. In my opinion, it’s probably the single most important journal essay I’ve published to date. Here’s the abstract:
This essay explores the changing context of academic journal publishing and cultural studies’ envelopment within it. It does so by exploring five major trends affecting scholarly communication today: alienation, proliferation, consolidation, pricing, and digitization. More specifically, it investigates how recent changes in the political economy of academic journal publishing have impinged on cultural studies’ capacity to transmit the knowledge it produces, thereby dampening the field’s political potential. It also reflects on how cultural studies’ alienation from the conditions of its production has resulted in the field’s growing involvement with interests that are at odds with its political proclivities.
Keywords: Cultural Studies; Journal Publishing; Copyright; Open Access; Scholarly Communication
I’m fortunate to have already had the published essay reviewed by Ben Myers and Desiree Rowe, who podcast over at The Critical Lede. You can listen to their thoughtful commentary on “Acknowledged Goods” by clicking here — and be sure to check out their other podcasts while you’re at it!
Since I’m on the topic of the politics of academic knowledge, I’d be remiss not to mention Siva Vaidhyanathan’s amazing piece from the 2009 NEA Almanac of Higher Education, which recently came to my attention courtesy of Michael Zimmer. It’s called “The Googlization of Universities.” I found Siva’s s discussion of bibliometrics — the measurement of bibliographic citations and journal impact — to be particularly intriguing. I wasn’t aware that Google’s PageRank system essentially took its cue from that particular corner of the mathematical universe. The piece also got me thinking more about the idea of “algorithmic culture,” which I’ve blogged about here from time to time and that I hope to expand upon in an essay.
Please shoot me an email if you’d like a copy of “Acknowledged Goods.” Of course, I’d be welcome any feedback you may have about the piece, either here or elsewhere.
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 my own book, The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control? 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.”
Well, I didn’t forget about it. I figured if I couldn’t make an audiobook myself, then I’d do the next best thing: let the computer do it for me, using a text-to-speech (T-T-S) synthesizer. The more I thought about the project, the more convinced I became that it was a good idea. It wouldn’t just be cool to be able to listen to Late Age on an iPod; an audio edition would finally make the book accessible to vision impaired people, too.
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, one 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 (footnotes, page headers/numbers, words hyphenated due to line breaks, and whole lot more). 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 the Late Age of Print wiki, the host site for The Late Age of Print open source audiobook project. The plan is for all of us, using the wiki, to 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’ve posted some guidelines on the wiki site to help get you started.
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!
Thank you in advance for your contributions, whatever they may be. In the meantime, if you have any questions about The Late Age of Print open source audiobook project, don’t hesitate to email me. I’d love to hear from you!
It still may be one more day until THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT, but what would Easter be (even if a day late) without an Easter egg? I’ve placed one somewhere on my other blog, The Late Age of Print. If you find it, then you’ll get to learn the news a full day before rest of the world.
Something BIG is brewing over at my other blog, The Late Age of Print! I’ve finally managed to secure all of the necessary okays to go public with the news, which I’ll be posting both here and over at Late Age on TUESDAY, APRIL 6th. Be sure to check back then…