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A Search for Comity in the Intellectual Property Wars: symposium at The New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, April 28-30, 2006 [slides, audio, transcripts]
download the report [PDF]
I just launched Cook-Stir.com, a twitter-generated interface for between-tweets cookery. Upload pics of cooking - especially if you're an artist who cooks while procrastinating in the studio - or post blurry shots of your latest debauched meal out to your twitter stream. use the hashtag #cookstir. The challenge: How to tweet a recipe in 140 characters?
Check it out from your smart phone.
Check out Lit Drift, the new blog, resource, and community dedicated to the art & craft of fiction in the 21st century. Featuring daily creative prompts, short stories, and a weekly FREE book giveaway called Free Book Friday. Here's one post that caught my eye:
By JK Evanczuk on Tuesday, September 8, 2009
With 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and even Star Trek, the notion of transformative work has been a particularly hot topic these past few months. Transformative work not only plays havoc with intellectual property law, but also with the audience as storytellers take our familiar, beloved characters and then subvert them entirely. Holden Caulfield is 76 years old and on the run from a nursing home, Elizabeth Bennett defends her family from hoards of zombies, and James Tiberius Kirk finds himself without a father and a long way to go before he can become captain of the USS Enterprise. The result is all the more shocking and enlightening given the juxtaposition of the transformed work with our knowledge of the original work.
It’s a compelling artistic endeavor. And transformative work is nothing new. Fans of Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad wrote their own books based on his works. Cervantes’ Don Quixote saw more than a few unauthorized published sequels. John Gardner’s Grendel, a re-telling of Beowulf from the monster’s point of view, was published to great acclaim (which, being one of my favorite books, I definitely recommend you giving it a read). Gregory Maguire’s best-selling Wicked, an alternate take on The Wizard of Oz, is now one of Broadway’s biggest hits. You get the idea.
But what about fan-made transformative works? While there are countless pieces of fan fiction and fan art out there, in which fans take their favorite characters and merely continue their stories, genuine transformative works are far less common. But as few and far-between as they may be, their stories really resonate.
After the jump, a short list of lesser-known, but by no means lesser-quality, fan-made transformative storytelling that challenge the old adage “there are no new stories.”
screen grab, LATFH.com
via The Brooklyn Rail:
Historically speaking, those of us who embraced the Web long ago have suffered the summary dismissal that tends to accompany all major cultural paradigm shifts. This all-too-familiar feeling of resistance toward the Web (hide your daughters, the Internet is coming!) has only been exacerbated by the current economic climate, where newsroom vets are gripped by terror as “The Youngs” hack their way into a system formerly reserved for J-school initiates. As the mainstream media embrace the Web, that dialectic tension already feels a bit tedious. Bloggers are getting their due—or making progress at, least—and that is that. We are and always have been evangelists for the Web, devoted to a platform that provides us with a degree of agency that the print bureaucracy simply does not. The curious part, however, is that we’ve never stopped wanting to see our words in print, even when editors have refused to look at them.
Enter the Book Deal, a harbinger of fame (and hopefully, fortune) that for many now serves as a strategic reason to begin blogging in the first place. The most lucrative deals tend to be awarded to those whose sites function as durational book proposals, where an author’s thesis coalesces through a succession of topical, short-form posts. These one-offs lend themselves naturally to publication in print, where the narrative has more room to develop. (A great irony, yes, given the Web’s indexical capacity. Yet a couple hundred thousand words simply do not read the same online as they do on the page.) Political pundits tend to score publishing contracts, as do other subject-specific authors. Being “Internet famous” never hurts, either: Minds reeled around this time last year when former Gawker editor Emily Gould spun her now-seminal New York Times Magazine account of her tendency to “overshare” into a full-on memoir deal. Her take was initially said to be $1 million, a rumor that has since been debunked.
Newer publishing platforms and social networking applications—namely, Tumblr and Twitter—have ushered in a new kind of blog-to-book deal: The user generated model. Look at this Fucking Hipster is the Internet brainchild of one Joe Mande, a standup comedian with his own show at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater and, as of early June, a soon-to-be published author. LATFH is his chronicle of hipsterdom at its sartorial best, posted anonymously to a Tumblr account that caught the attention of editors at Penguin’s Gotham Books imprint, publisher of blog-to-book luminaries Barack Obama is Your New Bicycle and I Can Haz Cheeseburger—not to mention the rest of the Internet, where Gawker gleefully outed Mande as the site’s author. LATFH The Book will likely take the form of its analog predecessor, Vice Magazine’s “Dos and Don’ts”, a dorm room cooler-cum-coffee table-worthy collection of the magazine’s brutal fashion critiques based on photographs of dubious origin. Reader-submitted or “found” content is perfectly suited to Tumblr, a one-click publishing platform whose users tend to favor rapid-fire, image-heavy posts over longer missives. As with Twitter, bloggers can “follow” one another’s Tumblr accounts, re-publishing posts at will in a free-and-easy exchange of authorship, a Deconstructivist’s dream made manifest through the Web.
While media watchdogs fixate on the actual book deals—namely, on the dollar sum of the advance, as this is one form of online commerce that still amazes us—few pause to consider the books themselves. How strangely anachronistic is it (and yet, extraordinarily telling) that those who participate in perhaps the most monumental democratic exercise ever—and who do so daily, often for a living—would seek to tame the great, unbridled, immaterial beast that is the Internet with some high-gloss stock and two binding boards? How thoroughly odd it is that one would attempt to translate the particular digital reading experience of the Tumblr blog, or Twitter feed, or Facebook update into an analog one. What about the Kindle?
When asked why he felt compelled to select 600 tweets for Twitter Wit, his forthcoming book from Harper Collins, former Valleywag editor and Internet wunderkind Nick Douglas cited Postcards from Yo Momma, another blog-to-book phenomenon written by Jessica Grose and Gawker alum Doree Shafrir:
To make a book out of these submissions is to fix what PFYM is about, or to create an entity intentionally different than PFYM in certain ways. This is not the mere regurgitation of web content: The different balance of reader attention, standards of quality, intended audience, and writer-reader relationship (the reader, for example, can no longer comment, and a mediocre submission no longer encourages similar but better submissions) turns the book into something new. Of course many bloggers with book deals start saving “the good stuff” for the printed version.
The possible pitfall with the blog-to-book translation has as much to do with form as it does content: Sneaking a tweet during a lecture or a film, followed by a quick checkup on my friends’ updates with a flick of my iPhone’s screen, is a much different tactical and cognitive experience than settling in with a piece of printed matter (a veritable luxury given the good, solid twelve-to-fourteen hours a day I spend online as a writer and editor). While I appreciate the convenience of a published compendium of essays culled from a favorite website—again, I’m talking about long-form writing here—the Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook experience depends as much on looking as it does on reading. Why else would Facebook users revolt when the site launched its new interface several months back? Would the Twitter’s infamous Fail Whale, the jovial cartoon that delivers a pop-up apology when the system is over capacity, hold its charm in print? Here, I am doubtful. (To be fair though, perhaps we will surprise ourselves in casting a backwards glance from the Internet to print. One can hope.)
By that token, this hybrid identity between blogger and author wouldn’t exist to begin with if a few chaps in Cambridge and San Francisco hadn’t taken a gamble on the Internet’s ability to summon our most deeply rooted needs and desires. Most powerful amongst these is validation: Everyone wants to feel wanted. And it’s hard to deny an opportunity to see our names memorialized in a tangible, keepsake form. We can’t literally hand the Internet down to our children, after all.
Or, as writer and Gawker contributor, Melissa Gira Grant, who is also working on a book proposal about sex and the Internet, puts it: “People will sign over their proprietary rights to a post or an image because they don’t see a picture of a hamburger as having cultural value unless it’s published in a book alongside 300 other hamburgers. They can’t see the aggregate form.” Ultimately, the blog-to-book deal constitutes a leap of faith on the part of the author (and publisher!)—an attempt to traverse genres while certain of others’ willingness to come along for the ride. “Publishing is still a healthy industry,” Douglas insists, “and this will be the biggest audience some of my contributors have ever reached.” Spoken like a true believer.
Sarah Hromack is Web Editor of Art in America and the former editor of Curbed San Francisco.
Do go on to read the comments, as they are what make this dialogue interesting...
via boingboing gadgets, (thanks paddy):
Here's the problem with Wired: They think print matters.
Background: Stephanie Clifford warns that Wired may be about to die. Ad sales are down 50%, putting it just above Power and Motoryacht at the bottom of Condé Nast's portfolio of magazines.
I've got some relatively ancient history to share, but I think it's germane.
After I left Gawker Media, I was contracted by Condé to help the newly reacquired Wired.com develop a blogging strategy. I spent a few weeks with the Wired.com chiefs developing a battle plan and presented it to the magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson. He gave it the nod—he got what I was trying to do instantly—and away we went.
Three months later the traffic to the Wired.com blogs had doubled. I cleared out writers that weren't working. That didn't always mean they were bad writers, but usually just bad bloggers—there is a difference. Even the best magazine writer may not be able to write and report in front of an audience.
Our most successful blog was Table of Malcontents, run by our friend John Brownlee (with Lisa, too!), who ran with the opportunity, creating a "net culture" blog that was the archetypal model for what we were trying to create: Smart, fast, full of personality, two steps ahead of mainstream tastes. It had a superstar team, and with hard work they were soon the most popular blog on the network behind Rob's Gadget Lab. (They also did much to make my not-so-secret motto come true: "Make Wired weird again.")
Then the magazine folks stepped in. As soon as it became clear that Wired.com's blogs might actually get some traction, the magazine started to dabble. I had structured the blogs so that each had a lead editor, something that that worked very well at Gawker. No one had a problem with that—until it meant that my lead bloggers might be telling magazine staffers what to do.
It's not unusual for print journalists to look down at online writers, and often rightly so. There are some amazing reporters and writers whose work appears in Wired, people who do the sort of storytelling that bloggers rarely have the time or skill to do.
But reporters treating their online peers like that at Wired? It was accepted without much question that the magazine side of the business—literally across the "Berlin Hall"—always trumped the online side.
I made it about six months before I felt too constrained by both the magazine and its publishers and moved on. Since then, Wired.com's grown to 11 million monthly visitors: its blogs are among the best in their fields and its tech news reportage is among the finest, online or off—successes I don't take credit for. The sheer size of that readership speaks volumes: the Times says the magazine has only 700k or so subscribers. (It's a damn shame that online advertising is devalued compared to print advertising, but that's the media world for you.)
Wired makes a fantastic magazine. The "puzzle" edition last month was just brilliant, and I skimmed it from cover to cover. But for technology and pop science reporting, the market has moved on. Tech magazines, now matter how well executed, are nothing more than a cute anachronism, with the same sort of boutique market as hand-made stationery.
Which isn't to say that we or anyone else who writes for money isn't doomed; we just don't have to buy paper by the ton roll, nor keep a support staff around nearly as large as our editorial staff.
Wired is great print, but if the magazine can't make money and is shuttered, taking the website down with it, I'm going to be livid. Not that making money online is easy—it's not, especially without sacrificing your ethics and your voice—but if any mainstream outlet should be able to make the transition, it should be Wired.
I fear that may be impossible, not just for Wired but for all these old brands, because they can't accept that the work at which they have excelled for years will be just as important when it's online—and online only.
P.S. No one actually ever called it the "Berlin Hall" except me.
P.P.S. The fact that it was the Times that published this piece, one of my other dear media orgs also choking and sputtering on the future, was not lost on me.