Is Reading Really Changing?

By , January 30, 2013

Back on the subject of multimedia books -

How Do Millennials Like to Read the News? Very Much Like Their Grandparents

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/12/how-do-millennials-like-to-read-the-news-very-much-like-their-grandparents/266126/

Publishers be warned: For all the attention given to *rich multi-media experiences* news-readers still enjoy reading the news the way their great-grandparents did: In columns of paragraphs.

If people want to read, maybe they just want to read.

Young people … are considerably more likely to interact with ads on tablets than older readers

Breaking news: babies are more likely to put dirt in their mouths.


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A Future for Narrative in Multimedia Books

By , October 19, 2012

In the same sense that films aren’t plays and records aren’t music performances, multimedia books aren’t really books as we understand them. Depending on how integrated all of their media components are, they are a new art form, different from what has come before. I see them looking a little bit like the web with the advantage of being self contained, so as object of art they can be made more powerful. The question I have is how well they convey or in what ways they are good at conveying narrative, a meaningful story, in comparison to other methods of communicating a story, ‘interactive’ or not. There are going to be formal limitations, as in any art.

If we want to make a multimedia fiction, we honestly don’t have much to guide us. An interesting portrayal in fiction of a ‘Mmook’ or ‘ibook’ or whatever was in ‘The Diamond Age’ by Neal Stephenson. It was almost part of the story’s neo-victorianism though, kind of a ‘magic book’ or might as well have been magic. I don’t remember it being a narrative, but an instruction manual, much like a very real multimedia book, Microsoft’s Encarta encyclopedia. There were a lot of multimedia books that came out on CD-ROM in the 90′s but I don’t remember any fiction. Books enriched with sound and video were great for manuals but what aspects, if any, are good for stories?

Ursula le Guin, in a trend with many writers of her generation, had a book/tape combo. I like the idea of having music to listen to tailored to what you’re reading and they can inform each other without necessarily being integrated. I can do that part in my head, just like my imagination is interacting with the words in any book in order to make the story. If you look at how that works and how it doesn’t, you can begin to figure out how the forms might be more tightly bound with technology and made more effective.

If you’re going to integrate music or art/video into the text it can’t really be something that begins automatically for the end-user. Puting sounds that start when you turn the page etc., might be OK for small children (like a pop up book) but I think it would be obnoxious for adult books, as it is on web pages. You could have a media player at the bottom of the page, though, with music you could turn on and off. I don’t see why, instead of having illustrations on a separate page, you couldn’t have them on a pop up link. Why not have an illustration that you click on and it begins to move? It depends on the type of book.

Not all Multimedia Books would be the same, just like there are lots of different kinds of illustrated books now – obviously a pop up book for little kids uses illustrations differently than Anna Karenina or an illustrated Alice in Wonderland. So, you’d have different amounts of multimedia and different ways it’s embedded in the text (or that the text is embedded in the other media.) Adults in most instances probably desire more control and less of that kind of illustration in general. At the same time, if the media-illustrations outweigh the words then it’s more of a picture-book or pop up book. Or a manual. Different books for different people and purposes.

Multimedia books have a lot of potential, if anyone ever starts making them. The way to make them certainly exists, but the ‘e-stores’ still aren’t set up for them. You can’t sell them as a book, or a video, or a song. I think the only real option is to sell them as an ‘app’. I have a feeling they cost money to make. You won’t see anyone creating them in prison which leaves out a lot of potential writers. I think multimedia books may be largely corporation funded.

In terms of what I can see the big companies doing, you’ll have the big trilogy of movies, then some books with things people could click on that let them hear/see bits of the movies or some stuff they could only get there, then the kid versions that are mostly movies and pictures, and the games with the even more added cut scenes, etc., all tied in together.

I’m not sure it leaves much room for personal expression in the way that so called ‘legacy’ art forms are, forms that are centered around individual rather than group expression. People try to make films into personal art forms, to a certain extent it’s a fools errand because you always need other people.. at least to date. And I think we might have a similar situation evolve with multimedia books.


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A Future for Narrative in Games

By , October 19, 2012

The problem I have with video games as narrative is that every one I play is basically the same thing – it’s a maze or a map with encounters on it, I collect stuff, and/or kill things. Even if I’m gathering clues, asking questions and manipulating puzzles, it’s all simple, repetitive tasks. I either ‘hunt’ or I ‘gather’. There’s not a lot of truly integrated narrative. What I mean by ’truly ingrained’ is, video games tend to use narrative as a container for those repetitive hunter-gatherer activities and can’t really get the depth that a book can get. Most of the time it seems you could just substitute some other cut scenes or dialogue and the game would effectively be the same.

I’m not sure if it’s a limitation of the form or our imaginations. There are certainly exceptions. ‘Shenmue’ and ‘Planescape’ come to mind. Those are old games though, and whatever their cult status, people have obviously found games with a lot of integrated story lacking in some way.

Games will only have dense narrative if it’s demanded by an audience and I don’t think it is, much. I look back fondly on the interactive text games, the responses you could get from the computer were very limited but the concepts were limitless. Over time I think they could have evolved into real interactive fiction, with or without other media ingrained. Long pieces of text (and reader passivity) are a proven way to involve readers on an emotional level. Not to be glib but I doubt there were people cathartically weeping in their chairs over Baldur’s Gate. I tend to like games that let you put your own narrative in there, like Civ or Minecraft. I make up my own stories as I go along. That could be the real future of ‘story’ in games.

THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT GAMES ARE NOT AN ART FORM:

Most criticism of games centers on a debate over whether games can be ‘Art’. I personally don’t care. Whether one thinks they are ‘Art’ or not, the issue at hand is how games can be like books or movies and get a meaningful story across, not whether or not they should take their place in the Academy. They could be Art and still not be very good at conveying narrative. At least to date, story tends to be a fairly insignificant part of computer games, usually as a superficial container for ‘hunting’ and ‘gathering’ actions within a simulated sensory landscape.


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Mitt’s Poverty Level

By , October 19, 2012

In the recent town hall debate, Mitt Romney claimed that “if there’s a two parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically”. This is true in the objective sense. That’s because the poverty level is calculated differently for couples than it is for single people. It is quite literally easier to be ‘below the poverty level’ as a single person than it is for a couple. Couples more easily have too much income to qualify for government benefits. So, Mitthole is being factual for once. But he is using the facts to mislead.

from http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/12poverty.shtml

2012 Poverty Guidelines for the
48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia Persons in
family/household Poverty guideline
1 $11,170
2 15,130
3 19,090
4 23,050
5 27,010
6 30,970
7 34,930
8 38,890
For families/households with more than 8 persons,
add $3,960 for each additional person.


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Relative Debt

By , October 19, 2012

http://www.usdebtclock.org/

It’s not so much the amount of debt, it’s how you pay it back. The British Empre borrowed 200% of it’s GDP to beat the French and instead of paying it back out of the spoils and wealth of the aristocracy, they took it out of the hide of their own people (as well as their subject colonies). They further criminalized individual debt while building an empire on the collective debt. Meanwhile, they embraced Protestant myths about how those in poverty were that way because they deserved it and any help they might get would only make their moral disease more dire. Sounds familiar.


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A Future for Culture on the Internet?

By , October 12, 2012

I worry about the future of culture on the Internet. I find ‘mashup culture’ and the digital collective to be very poor at making meaningful art. People are so beaten by the corporate environment that they can’t do anything novel, they just rechew and spit out the old food leftover by giant corporations. Trying to personalize the objects in vain, trying and failing to make them human. We don’t need more riffs on the same old crap and it’s a cheap way out for an artist.

They resort to ‘novelty’ instead of being novel. Too much cuteness, too much fey. In our culture full of cute net-novelties, retro-fantasy, and sweet, unoriginal music, we are using art to escape, not to confront the terror of the world. It’s exactly like being under attack and using your cannon as a flower pot.

I worry because the cultures are bleeding. Both hemmoraghing, and bleeding together. Across traditional regional boundaries, culture is becoming homogenized. There is still regional culture – regional by nation, or loose cultural identity, not by geographic area. It isn’t just because of consumer values or the ease of travel, it is because of the nature of the Internet. While allowing greater access to new culture for people all over the world, the Internet homogenizes cultuer because an artifact is globally accessible as soon as it is released. There is no incubator – it is consumed (and disposed of) before it can evolve or leave an influence. So, there is no process of differentiation.

I worry also because everything on the ‘net is so ephemeral, it’s proven itself to be. I don’t see why ebooks should be different. Paper is a nice middle ground between the most durable and least efficient thing, stone engravings, and the least durable thing, speech. Ebooks lean far in the direction of ephemerality. Of course artists have been celebrating ephemerality for a while now. Sort of cheering the inevitable I guess, like laughing at death, but I think we’re supposed to fight back.


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This Is Not Speech, This Is Publishing

By , September 11, 2012

This is publishing. Everything I do on the net is publishing. It might have my speech in it, but I am publishing, not speaking. Why would people think this is speech?

According to http://definitions.uslegal.com/

Publishing: “the act of placing or making available the presentation or information within the framework of a media venue so that it is accessible by the end users, consumers, viewers, or buyers.”

That’s what I’m doing here. It’s very much what I am doing if I upload something to a file locker and share it.

I think anti-copyright acitivists are trying to define ‘sharing’ as a speech issue because it is an easier sell to the public, and also because legally, the press may be ‘free’ in the Constitution but there are copyright protections in the US Consititution. There are no restrictions on speech in the constitution. If publishing a file online is ‘sharing information’, a speech issue instead of a publishing issue, it is easier to subvert authorial rights.

Copyright is merely the language that was used in a previous era to describe the right to publish (since only publishers could afford to make copies.) The rights issue we are struggling with as a civilization is not the right to copy, or the right to speak freely, but the right to publish. An author can’t stop people from making copies, but if they make those copies public then they are publishing, and that should be the province of the author alone. The author should choose to share or not share his work, in whatever form he wishes. In the future, ‘copyright’ might be replaced by ‘publishright’.


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Paper for the Poor

By , August 22, 2012

See the comments section here: http://www.sfwa.org/2012/08/ebooks-outsell-print-putting-headlines-in-context/

When we moved from handwritten manuscripts to mass printing, the book spread to a class of people that had never been able to access it before. This repeated in the 19th century with pulp paper and early 20th with paperback books.

To date, Unlike previous book format changes, which disseminated the book form towards less wealthy classes, the move to ebooks does the opposite – the ebook penetrates into wealthy, highly technological societies. The ebook information is ‘locked up’ by social conditions, while paper remains the preferred form of the poor.

This may change as cell phone ownership spreads in the ‘developing’ world. There is little profit to be had in shipping piles of surplus paper to third world countries.


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Remixed Books

By , August 21, 2012

China in China:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/aug/21/china-mieville-novels-books-anti-piracy

These ideas sound ancient to me, I’ve heard them so often for so long. To each his own. Mieville is free to open his work up to modification if he chooses.

I have some responses:

How is China going to feel when it’s his virtual self being remixed, not just his work? I think he’s seeing stars and is blind to the sky. Why would we want to live in a bland mess of mush? Individual moral and legal rights are the only thing that give the ‘digital world’ any definition.

Anyone is capable of having a vision, and vision is infinite, there is always more to make. So why bother with stuff that’s done? Make new stuff.

I believe that w/o a framing device, a frame/stage/binding/pedestal/game etc. , Art does not work in it’s magical way, it becomes mundane, like any other experience, it has no special space and so is incapable of creating the contemplative relationship between object and audience which is needed for it’s spell. Without the definition of line, whether an illusion or not, art does not exist.


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Ideas for Copryright Reform

By , April 11, 2012

This is what a reformed copyright system might look like:

There are two distinct types of copyright – the Creator right, and the Collector right.

The Creator Right is a copyright owned by the original artist(s), which may be fractionally owned like any property. It’s term is the life of the author unless rights are transfered to another party, if that happens then the work is then protected by a Collector right.

Upon the death of the Author, the property may become heritable wealth, and the heir recieves the copyright as a Collector right. Like any wealth it is subject to assessment of market value and taxation. By default the property goes to an heir. Alternately the author may specifically release the rights into the public domain, or the receiver of the copyrights may release the rights in lieu of paying the tax.

Collector Rights have a fixed term of 70 years. All corporate generated or owned copyrights are considered Collector Right copyrights. At the end of the 70 years, the work goes into the public domain. If the right is transferred again or for the first time, it doesn’t affect the term.

Moral Rights – Moral Rights are explicitly protected, as perpetual, inalienable, and nonassignable rights. These include rights protecting the integrity of the work and the author.

Computer Code – Copyright and patent protection is removed from new works of computer code and a new type of IP is created to protect those works with a fixed term of 25 years.

The publics access to public works of culture shall not be artifically restricted by any agency.

Orphan Works – When no heir can be found, the work is released to the public domain. A special judge will be appointed and claims can be filed against the copyright for the public domain, if there is sufficient evidence that a copyright is free and clear (there must not be a living owner) then the rights will be released to the public domain. The person filing the claim is responsible for court fees.

Notes on Taxation of Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is legally equivalent to real property and can be subject to taxation under the law.

The value of intellectual property can be self-assessed by corporations at a nominal base value established by law, or using a formula involving actual sales over a period of up to twenty years. Corporations can be taxed on that property at a rate of two percent of either of those values, whichever is greater.

At the same time, they should be allowed a tax write off for that full value if they release the work into the public domain. When they do that they should provide a physical copy to the library of congress, along with an uncompressed digital copy, and the digital copy should be made available to the public.

It’s important not to put pressure on the creators and their families. An individual owner of a Collector Right may file for a tax waiver due to hardship.


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