Monday, February 28, 2011

Fame, Fortune, and Fitness at the Academy Awards

Here's a different take on the Oscars, some 2007 research that looks at the Academy Awards competition through the lens of evolutionary fitness (need I say Natalie Portman?). From the Journal of Ethology, Volume 25, No. 2.

Fame, fortune, and fitness at the Academy Awards
by Mark E. Hauber

People across many societies routinely participate in physical or intellectual competitions in the absence of immediate substantial monetary or other apparent material rewards. But increased fame and social status associated with awards, such as the "Oscars", need not be necessarily and solely a cultural construct unrelated to natural selection. Rather, prizes might be badges of honor if they are also honest indicators of evolutionary fitness. Analyses of reported reproductive success data, from a survey of well-known female and male actors, followed previously reported patterns of biological fitness in this sample of a human population. In addition, the numbers of Academy Awards received for acting were positively associated with reported numbers of biological children for both genders. The association of increased fitness with more awards received was statistically consistent even when considering that this subset of the population conformed to the Bateman effect in human reproduction: male actors had a more positive correlation than females between cumulative numbers of married partners and overall numbers of children. Honest signals of reproductive quality that are displayed by both sexes are expected to occur in humans and other species with costly biparental care and mutual mate choice.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

International Media and Communication Statistics from NORDICOM

Even the most qualitative researcher from time to time asks me for media use stats and I'm not always able to deliver. "There is a lack of comparative statistics on media communication," NORDICOM editors point out in the Foreword of their compilation of world media stats. A copy of A Sampler of International Media and Communication Statistics 2010, compiled by Sara Leckner and Ulrika Facht, is available on the web. (We also have a copy in print here in the ASC Library.) The volume provides access, distribution, revenue, and usage numbers the internet, radio, television, and newspapers for countries throughout the world.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011


It's a good time to be reading CyberOrient, a open access, peer-reviewed online journal of the virtual Middle East. Started in 2006, the journal is sponsored by the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association and based at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague. In the words of journal Editor-in-Chief, Daniel Martin Varisco:
The main purpose of this electronic journal is to provide a forum to explore cyberspace both as an imaginary forum in which only representation exists and as a technology that is fundamentally altering human interaction and communication. The next generation will take e-mail, websites and instant availability via cell-phones as basic human rights. Internet cafes may someday rival fast-food restaurants and no doubt will profitably merge together in due time. Yet, despite the advances in communication technology real people in the part of the world once called an “Orient” are still the victims of stereotypes and prejudicial reporting. Their world is getting more and more wired, so cyberspace becomes the latest battleground for the hearts and minds of people everywhere.
The current issue features: The Islam-Online Crisis: A Battle of Wasatiyya vs. Salafi Ideologies?; Overcoming the Digital Divide: The Internet and Political Mobilization in Egypt and Tunisia; Beyond the Traditional-Modern Binary: Faith and Identity in Muslim Women’s Online Matchmaking Profiles; New Media and Social-political Change in Iran; e-Islam: the Spanish Public Virtual Sphere, and a book review of Vit Sissler's Islam Dot Com: Contemporary Discourses in Cyberspace.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Introducing NewspaperCat

Nice news from a colleague at the University of Florida, announcing a new resource called NewspaperCat.

NewspaperCat is an online database providing links to over 1000 full-text digital newspapers in the United States and Caribbean. The project’s current coverage, which began with the Southeastern United States, is growing rapidly and will soon cover all fifty states. The purpose of NewspaperCat is to improve access to historical newspapers digitized by libraries, archives, historical societies and other non-profit organizations that remain buried within search engine returns such as Google PageRank. These newspapers represent a rich source of primary research material for researchers, students, and the general public. The project to build NewspaperCat was funded by the George A. Smathers Libraries and developed with the cooperation of the Digital Library Center of the University of Florida.

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Adam Gopnik on New Books About the Internet

Feature-writer Adam Gopnik proffers an insightful roundup of recent book chatter about the Internet in the February 14 issue of The New Yorker. The piece, How the Internet Gets Inside Us, Gopnik corals the current book-buzz of Internet fretters and speculators into three categories:
"...the Never-Betters, the Better-Nevers, and the Ever-Wasers. The Never-Betters believe that we’re on the brink of a new utopia, where information will be free and democratic, news will be made from the bottom up, love will reign, and cookies will bake themselves. The Better-Nevers think that we would have been better off if the whole thing had never happened, that the world that is coming to an end is superior to the one that is taking its place, and that, at a minimum, books and magazines create private space for minds in ways that twenty-second bursts of information don’t. The Ever-Wasers insist that at any moment in modernity something like this is going on, and that a new way of organizing data and connecting users is always thrilling to some and chilling to others—that something like this is going on is exactly what makes it a modern moment."
Books mentioned, grouped in the above categories respectively, are:
Cognitive Surplus, by Clay Shirky
Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?, edited by John Brockman
The Book in the Renaissance, by Andrew Pettegree
The Sixth Language, edited by Robert K. Logan

The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr
Hamlet’s BlackBerry, by William Powers
Alone Together, by Sherry Turkle

Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information Before the Modern Age, by Ann Blair

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

February Commquote

This month's feature is a poem that appeared in The South Carolina Review a few years ago (Volume 40, Number 1, Fall 2007). The poet is Michael Cadnum.

Foreign Tongue

Pay too much for the great pink
naked hares I carried through
the flies and the lottery ticket sellers
those weeks before the gunfire.
We wanted to be alone in the world, but we settled

for being bad at it, taping past tenses
to the kitchen shelf. One day
you didn't have to peek into the book,
and began flirting with the accountant
upstairs, and the owner of the broom shop,

dustpans and pirated DVDs. This was before we
burned the early footage, me jockeying
the delete button, you getting
it all with your ultimate megapixels,
and before we stayed awake all night,

shots--those silvery automatics every cop sported in white
leather holsters--pricking up and down
the mud river. What lasted and what didn't--
the aqueduct, the pagan temples, contrasted
with your patience in watching me sweat

the local dialect, mayors and grandees
disappearing every night, carved into the outgoing
wakes ebbing down the whitebait-
angry moon.

--Michael Cadnum

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

2011 Winter/Spring Booknotes

African Americans in Television: Behind the Scenes, by Gregory Adamo (Peter Lang, 2010). Much has been written about African Americans on the little screen, but this book takes a look at their roles as producers, directors, writers, and executives.

Art for the Middle Classes: America's Illustrated Magazines of the 1840s, edited by Cynthia Lee Patterson (University Press of Mississippi). Traces the history of a group of mass-circulation magazines known as the Philadelphia pictorials, which brought fine-art reproductions to the attention of the middle class.

Audience Evolution: New Technologies and the Transformation of Media Audiences, by Philip M. Napoli (Columbia University Press; 248 pages; $82.50 hardcover, $27.50 paperback). Topics include new technologies for evaluating audience demographics and response beyond traditional metrics.

Audience Evolution: New Technologies and the Transformation of Media Audiences, by Philip Napoli (Columbia, 2010). “Offers a rich and original synthesis of the many factors that help construct the audience, as well as the social, economic, and legal consequences of that process, and he has a real talent for creating a cohesive, interesting, and important story. Expansive and important, Audience Evolution is grounded in the relevant bodies of theory and ultimately enlightening.”-- James G. Webster, Northwestern University

The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media, by Ilana Gershon (Cornell, 2010). “A fascinating and thoroughly researched anthropological account of how Facebook, instant messaging, and texting reformat the media ecologies within which todays friendships and romantic relationships function and fracture. There is nothing virtual, Ilana Gershon shows, about these online arenas. Across a wide range of human relations, the form of interaction turns out to be just as crucial as its content. --Stefan Helmreich, MIT

The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence, by Susie Linfield (University of Chicago, 2010). “A profoundly thoughtful account of the role of photojournalism in an irremediably violent world, Linfield’s book is as much about conscience and empathy as it is about photography. Examining images from the Spanish Civil War to Rwanda, she accepts no easy, sweeping answers. Rather, with vivid common sense and with painstaking, often abashed humanity, she guides us through the moral minefield where horror meets art, and helps us to see.”—Claudia Roth Pierpont

Entertaining Politics: Satiric Television and Political Engagement, 2nd edition, by Jeffrey P. Jones (Roman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010). This is a second edition but it’s completely revised and updated, including eight new chapters.

History of the Internet and the Digital Future, by Johnny Ryan (University of Chicago, 2010). “Tells the story of the development of the Internet from the 1950s to the present, and examines how the balance of power has shifted between the individual and the state in the areas of censorship, copyright infringement, intellectual freedom and terrorism and warfare.” –Publisher’s website

Images of Black Modernism: Verbal and Visual Strategies of the Harlem Renaissance, by Miriam Thaggert (University of Massachusetts, 2010). Considers how visual elements were used in poems, novels, and photography to undermine stereotypes; focuses on the years 1922 to 1938.

Imagining Illness: Public Health and Visual Culture, edited by David Serlin (University of Minnesota, 2010). Contributors examine historical and contemporary visual practices—Chinese health fairs, documentary films produced by the World Health Organization, illness maps, fashions for nurses, and live surgery on the Internet—in order to delve into the political and epidemiological contexts underlying their creation and dissemination.

Insect Media: An Anthology of Animals and Technology, by Jussi Parikka (University of Minnesota Press, 2010). "Offers a theory of media that challenges our traditional views of the natural and the artificial. Parikka not only understands insects through the lens of media and mediation, he also unearths an insect logic at the heart of our contemporary fascination with networks, swarming, and intelligent agents. Such a project requires the ability to interweave cultural theory with a deep understanding of the sciences—something for which Parikka is well-suited. Most importantly, Insect Media reminds us of the non-human aspect of media, communication, intelligence. Insect Media is a book that is sure to create a buzz." —Eugene Thacker

Invasion of the Mind Snatchers: Television’s Conquest of American in the Fifties, by Eric Burns (Temple, 2010). Charts the rise of television in the Fifties and its cultural context.

Mass Appeal: The Formative Age of Movies, Radio, and TV, by Edward D. Berkowitz (Cambridge, 2010). This book takes a biographical approach to understanding the development of the American mass media with a series of profiles/vignettes of influential players.

Media Events in a Global Age, edited by Nick Couldry, Andreas Hepp, and Frederich Krotz (Routledge, 2010). "In this extremely useful and deeply thoughtful collection of essays, the ‘media events’ model developed by Katz and Dayan in the early 1990s is recovered, critically rethought and then thoroughly recontextualised for a new media environment: one that is post-broadcast, increasingly digital, both global and fragmented, and shaped by entertainment and celebrity cultures as much as by news and information. This is an excellent collection, that will enable new kinds of argument about, and hopefully research into, the spectacular functions of the contemporary media." - Graeme Turner, University of Queensland, Australia

Media, Power, and Politics in the Digital Age: The 2009 Presidential Election Uprising in Iran, edited by Yahya R. Kamalipour (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010). Writings on internal and external media coverage of the election and the mass demonstrations that followed; topics include Iranian dissidents' use of Twitter and other media and how U.S. sanctions are harming the online opposition to the Islamic regime.

Militainment, Inc: War, Media, and Popular Culture, by Roger Stahl (Routledge, 2010). “Examines a wide range of historical and contemporary media examples to demonstrate the ways that war now invites audiences to enter the spectacle as an interactive participant through a variety of channels—from news coverage to online video games to reality television. Simply put, rather than presenting war as something to be watched, the new interactive militainment presents war as something to be played and experienced vicariously. Stahl examines the challenges that this new mode of militarized entertainment poses for democracy, and explores the controversies and resistant practices that it has inspired.”—Publisher’s website

News at Work: Imitation in an Age of Information Abundance, by Pablo J. Boczkowski (University of Chicago Press, 2010). Considers how new organizations' ability to keep close tabs on competition via constantly updated Websites is contributing to a sameness in coverage; focuses on the Argentine newspapers Clarin and La Nacion with discussion of similar developments in the United States.

Newsgames: Journalism at Play, by Ian Bogost, Simon Ferrari, and Bobby Schweizer (MIT, 2010). "Posits an essential upgrade to the historical relationship between games and news—far beyond digitization of your morning crossword puzzle. This book is critical reading for those interested in emerging journalistic forms wherein the power of playful systems is harnessed to explicate the events of the day."—Tracy Fullerton, University of Southern California

Old and New Media After Katrina, edited by Diane Negra (Palgrave Macmillan,2010). Essays on the experience and public memory of the 2005 disaster, including representations in television, documentary film, and National Public Radio.

Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy, by Matthew Alford (Pluto Press, 2010). Examines links between Hollywood and the Defense Department, CIA, and weapons contractors; finds that most films have an uncritical view of U.S. power.

Selling War in a Media Age: The Presidency and Public Opinion in the American Century, edited by Kenneth Osgood and Andrew K. Frank (University Press of Florida, 2010). “From the Spanish-American War to the War on Terror, each chapter in Selling War in a Media Age explains how modern presidents have influenced, coerced, directed, and led public opinion over matters of war and peace since 1898. While some essays highlight the systematic efforts by American presidents to gain public support for war and international conflict, many more reveal that there were limits to what presidential persuasion could accomplish.”—Publisher’s website

Starring Mandela and Cosby, by Ron Krabill (University of Chicago, 2010) “Ron Krabill has provided students of race, television, and cultural exchange with a new landmark that we all must read--and will all enjoy. In an era when we are told that race should not matter, TV is finished, and cultural exchange has been eased through YouTube, he brings us back to reality. Bravo!”—Toby Miller, University of California, Riverside.

Television and Presidential Power in Putin's Russia, by Tina Burrett (Routledge, 2010). Describes how increased control of the media figured in Putin's expansion of presidential and state power.

Trauma and Media: Theories, Histories, and Images, by Allen Meek (Routledge , 2010). “Provides the first comprehensive account of trauma as a critical concept in the study of modern visual media, from Freud to the present day, explaining how contemporary trauma studies emerged from research on Holocaust representation in which the audiovisual testimony of survivors was posed as an authentic alternative to popular television and film dramatizations. It argues that the media coverage of 9/11 and the subsequent 'war on terror,' however, has revealed how the formation of communities of witness and commemoration around 'traumatic events' can perpetuate violence and inequality.” –Publisher’s website

The Tube Has Spoken: Reality TV & History, edited by Julie Anne Taddeo and Ken Dvorak (The University Press of Kentucky, 2010). “Offers a wide range of essays from the top names in the field…A must-read for students, professionals, and the general public;it is the single best volume available on the topic to date." --Wheeler Winston Dixon, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

VOICE: Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media, edited by Norie Neumark, Ross Gibson, and Theo Van Leeuwen (MIT, 2010). “Voice has returned to both theoretical and artistic agendas. In the digital era, techniques and technologies of voice have provoked insistent questioning of the distinction between the human voice and the voice of the machine, between genuine and synthetic affect, between the uniqueness of an individual voice and the social and cultural forces that shape it. This volume offers interdisciplinary perspectives on these topics from history, philosophy, cultural theory, film, dance, poetry, media arts, and computer games. Many chapters demonstrate Lewis Mumford's idea of the "cultural preparation" that precedes technological innovation—that socially important new technologies are foreshadowed in philosophy, the arts, and everyday pastimes.”—Publisher’s website

Watching TV is Not Required: Thinking About Media and Thinking About Thinking, by Bernard McGrane and John Gunderson (Routledge, 2010). "McGrane and Gunderson have put together an extraordinarily provocative stream of sociologically inspired responses to television [and] give new life to sociological thinking."—Jack Katz, University of California

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