Saturday, July 22, 2006

Television & New Media

My essay "Disowning Commodities: Ebooks, Capitalism, and Intellectual Property Law" was just published in the August 2006 issue of Television and New Media. Here's a copy of the abstract and a link to the table of contents:

This article explores the changing social function of commodities in the United States by exploring the conditions of possibility of electronic books, or "ebooks." By juxtaposing the history of printed books and consumer capitalism on the one hand and the history of ebooks on the other, this article maps an emergent configuration of capitalism, technology, and intellectual property law. Together, these histories evidence how the widespread private ownership of mass-produced consumer goods has grown increasingly problematic from the standpoint of capitalist production—an understanding embedded in many, if not most, commercially available ebook texts and devices. In addition to showing how the category of "private property" is destabilized in relationship to ebooks and other digital technologies, this article strategizes how best to articulate a vital, progressive politics in light of changing material and economic conditions.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

My blank page

It is done.

Well, a solid draft of it, at any rate--a draft of my book. Having (nearly) completed what amounts to a Herculean amount of writing in just the last few months, I figured now would be an appropriate time to reflect a little on my writing process.

I don't know about you, but whenever I write, I hear in my head the voices of dozens of friends, mentors, and teachers, all of whom have given me writing advice over the years. Let me say right off the bat that much--probably most--of it's been invaluable. I'm grateful to all of my formal and informal writing teachers who've made words such an integral part of my life.

The other shoe has to drop, of course, so here it comes. Inasmuch as I value their advice, I find at times that all the rules I've learned through the years can stifle my writing. I get so caught up sometimes on what not to do, that I have a tremendous amount of difficulty producing any writing at all. Here are just a few examples of "the rules":

  • Never split a verb infinitive (e.g., don't say, "to better explore...")

  • Never leave a dangling participle (e.g., don't say, "the store I left my wallet in."

  • Never end a sentence on a linking verb (e.g., don't say, "She's better than he is.)

  • Avoid the construction, "is that..."

  • Avoid using passive voice constructions (e.g., don't say, "The gift was given to them...")

  • Avoid using the presumptive "we"

  • Don't use contractions

  • Don't start a sentence with the conjunction, "and"

  • Don't use the word "this" without following it directly with a noun

  • Don't address your audience using the direct or implied "you"

  • Minimize your use of the pronoun "I" and avoid it where possible

  • I'm sure there are dozens more, but these most immediately come to mind. The funny thing about these "rules" is that, the more I write, the more I find myself violating them. (See--I just broke the "is that" rule right there.)

    In Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, Gilles Deleuze talks about the art of painting as an art of chasing away all the cliches that occupy any unpainted canvas. I feel the same way when I write: my blank page is full of prosaic statements that challenge me constantly to write something poetic, insightful, moving, or otherwise meaningful. Yet, I also feel as though my blank pages is filled with all the writing advice that's been given to me over the years, advice that sometimes makes it hard for me to say anything at all.

    The most excruciating--and perhaps best--writing advice that was ever given to me came from my 9th grade English teacher. I recall her making the class write highly structured paragraphs, including topic sentences, support, evidence, and clinchers. Any deviation from "the form" would result in lost points. As much as I may have resented the structure at the time, today I often find that when I have trouble writing, I return to this, my base. Interestingly, it's one of the few affirmative pieces of writing advice that I've received--a far cry from all the "don'ts," "avoids," and "nevers."

    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    For those about to rock...

    Well, the writing continues apace. The introduction of my book now is in hand, which leaves just the conclusion between me and a completed manuscript draft. The intensity of the writing has kept me from blogging of late, unfortunately, though I have managed to squeak in some TV time. One of my favorite returning shows is CBS's Rockstar, the latest installment of which features a search for the lead-singer of the band, Supernova.

    Supernova, if you haven't heard, consists of cast-offs from Motley Crue (drummer Tommy Lee, a.k.a. "Rocker Tommy Lee"), Metallica (bassist Jason Newsted), and Guns 'n Roses (guitarist Gilby Clark). They're looking for a lead-singer, and, like INXS last year, they decided to find one through the reality television program, Rockstar.

    First things first: I like the show a great deal. Last year's installment surprised me, in fact, because it ended up having quite a bit of heart. INXS unexpectedly lost its lead-singer, Michael Hutchence, several years ago and found a worthy replacement on Rockstar in J.D. Fortune. Their new album, aptly titled Switch, is quite catchy.

    INXS, though undoubtedly a "serious" band, always had a certain pop-ish dimension to it. At minimum they were more radio-friendly than were Motley Crue and, in their early days, Metallica. As such, it didn't seem so surprising to me that they'd turn to a reality TV show--ostensibly a singing contest--to find a new singer. I'm more surprised to find Supernova doing this. I remember the days when metal acts used to anchor their authenticity in a kind of cool, underground status, whether real or perceived. Supernova clearly doesn't have any such pretensions.

    I realize that Rockstar promotes the band and gives its members an opportunity to see which contestant the largest audience will embrace well in advance of their having to make a final selection. The show's an enormously clever marketing and market-research campaign, to say the least, but to tell you the truth, I kind of miss the days when a singing contest would have been uncool for a metal band.