Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Books

It's always a nice surprise when books appear, unbidden, in my mailbox. And if they are interesting and useful books, so much the better! So thanks to Oxford University Press for sending these on.

Jason Mittell, Television and American Culture looks great, chock full of interesting examples and approaches to television studies from economics to production to critical analysis. It makes me want to teach Television Studies again.

Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. A second edition of this excellent and influential text.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Start stocking up on the sunscreen, Communication Scholars! I just found out that ICA (The International Communication Association) will be in Phoenix in 2012. May 24-28. Perhaps this is common knowledge, but I just saw it.

Lecturing in the Age of Distraction

Following on from Jonathan's comment on my post-before-last. I recently ran across an article on lecturing within the context of proliferating technologies of attention. Eric Gordon and David Bogen (Spring 2009) "Designing Choreographies for the 'New Economy of Attention.'" DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly, 3(2).

It's an interesting article arguing how we should try to leverage the advantages of the new technologies to enrich lectures, rather than just fighting against them. Though in some ways it's like saying that the bucket has holes and the water is pouring out. Rather than plugging the holes, we should explore what the leaks have to offer the situation. Teachers should be sensitive to the means of communication and habits of thought and life of their students and be somewhat adaptable, flexible, and creative in that regard, but at the same time the students need to meet us at least half way. When they're signed up for a class, they should be in the class and make every effort to participate and pay attention (though perhaps I'm just old-fashioned). The article presents a number of suggestions for choreographing all these means of distraction and attention as part of the lecture. But I think there's a fine line between creatively engaging the situation and catering to rude behavior (electronically based or not, passing notes is passing notes).

Just my 2 cents.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Surveillance (2008)

To be disappointed in Jennifer Lynch's film, "Surveillance," which I just saw on DVD, would mean that I actually had high expectations in the first place. Since I had none (given some of the critical responses I've read), I was not disappointed. For a film that tries its hardest to be disturbing and shocking and brutal, it ended up being fairly affectless I thought. It's a mess, and not in a good way. It's got great actors, but the performances are all twitches and eccentricities (and not in a good way). The plot is predictable, the images gruesome in a fairly banal way (which is precisely the way death and pain and gore and brutality should NOT be represented, IMHO) or so studied that one finds oneself looking at it saying, "oh, I see, that's supposed to be creepy the way he leans in to the camera that way." Comparisons with her father's work are perhaps not fair, but the film keeps referring to her father's work and trying to mine the same territory. Even if I had not known she was David Lynch's daughter I would have found myself saying, "Wow. David Lynch did that so much better, and on broadcast TV to boot!"

What I *am* disappointed about concerned the film is that it's really not about surveillance. Yes, there is a conceit that witnesses in three separate rooms recount their stories while being filmed by Bill Pullman (who supposedly is closely attending to all three people talking at once), but nothing is really made of it. It's not really even a device. The only bit that is really about surveillance is the realization that the little girl is the real surveillor, who watches and understands much more than everyone else.


"Workers on average spend just eleven minutes on a project before switching to another, and while focusing on a project, typically change tasks every three minutes....Once distracted, we take about twenty-five minutes to return to an interrupted task and usually plunge into two other work projects in the interim....Nearly 45 percent of workplace interruptions are self-initiated. (And when workers interrupt themselves, they take slightly longer to resume their original work--about twenty-eight minutes on average."
Maggie Jackson, Distracted, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. pp 84-86.
Jackson is referring to Gloria Mark, Victor Gonzalez, and Justin Harris, "No Task Left Behind? Examining the Nature of Fragmented Work," Proceedings of the Conference on Human Factors in Computer Systems (Portland, OR, 2005).

You mean it's not just me?