Booknotes

Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: A View from Europe, by Jean-Noel Jeanneney (University of Chicago, 2006). Director of the Bibliotheque Nationale worries about Google’s world-wide dominance.

Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge, by Cass R. Sustein (Oxford, 2006). “A persuasive and sophisticated meditation on the ways in which the Web is not just living up to its early hype, but transcending it. Cass Sunstein has given us a brilliant integrative view of how the distributed users of the Internet can band together to produce extraordinary work–along with the circumstances that best give rise to deliberation rather than groupthink.” — Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation, Oxford University

Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines, by Marke Poster (Duke, 2006). Analysis of the cultural impact of new media.

Code: Collaborative Ownership of the Digital Economy, edited by Rishab Aiyer Ghosh (MIT, 2006). “A mature and sophisticated exploration of the most important issues related to creativity in the digital age.” –Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law School

Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucination of the “Mexican” in America, by William Anthony Nericcio (University of Texas, 2006). Author examines the portrayal of Texan Mexican Americans in films, comic books, advertising, television, toys, and literature. “This is the closest Latina Studies has come to a revolutionary vision of how American culture works through its image machines, a vision that cuts through to the roots of the U.S. propaganda archive on Mexican, Tex-Mex, Latino, Chicano/a humanity… Walter Benjamin meets Italo Calvino and they morph into Nericcio.” —Davíd Carrasco, Harvard University

Spaces Speak, Are You Listening? Experiencing Aural Architecture, by Barry Blesser and Lind-Ruth Salter (MIT, 2006) From publisher’s website: “ The audible attributes of physical space have always contributed to the fabric of human culture, as demonstrated by prehistoric multimedia cave paintings, classical Greek open-air theaters, Gothic cathedrals, acoustic geography of French villages, modern music reproduction, and virtual spaces in home theaters. Auditory spatial awareness is a prism that reveals a culture’s attitudes toward hearing and space. Some listeners can learn to “see” objects with their ears, but even without training, we can all hear spatial geometry such as an open door or low ceiling… Auditory spatial awareness is a prism that reveals a culture’s attitudes toward hearing and space. Some listeners can learn to “see” objects with their ears, but even without training, we can all hear spatial geometry such as an open door or low ceiling. Integrates contributions from a wide range of disciplines–including architecture, music, acoustics, evolution, anthropology, cognitive psychology, audio engineering.” (VP)

The Virtual Window; From Alberti to Microsoft, by Anne Friedberg (MIT Press, 2006) “Unlike most theorists of digital culture, Anne Friedberg brings a deeply historical perspective to the visual metaphors of our wired world. The Virtual Window charts transformations in visual knowledge leading from Renaissance perspective to today’s computer desktops by tracking shifts in the physical and philosophical meanings of ‘windows.’ Its long view offers an important methodological model to media studies and art history alike.”–David Joselit, Professor, History of Art, Yale University (VP)

George Gallup in Hollywood, by Susan Ohmer (Columbia University Press, 2006). Page-turning account of the film industry’s use of opinion polling in the 1930s and 1940s after George Gallup’s sampling methods for predicting Franklin Roosevelt’s reelection in 1936 got their attention. (VP)

Conversation: A History of a Declining Art, by Stephen Miller (Yale, 2006). An historical and philosophical exploration of the art of conversation in the West from ancient to present day. The author (unlike Thoreau) values the art of conversation and, not surprisingly, mourns its decline. Engaging and well-reviewed but lacking in theoretical underpinnings.

Mobile communication and Society: a Global Perspective, by Manuel Castells, Mireia Fernandez-Ardevol, Jack Linchuan Qiu, and Araba Sey (MIT Press, 2006). Explores the impact of wireless technology around the world, focusing on family life, youth culture, politics, and communication in the developing world. (VP)

When Languages Die: The Extinction of the World’s Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge, by K. David Harrison (Oxford, 2006). Addresses the extinction of languages, and the knowledge they contain, at a rate which has “no parallel in human history.” The author travels the world documenting how “human knowledge is slowly being lost as the languages that express it fade from sight. He uses fascinating anecdotes and portraits of some of these languages’ last remaining speakers, in order to demonstrate that this knowledge about ourselves and the world is inherently precious.”—publisher’s website

White Victims, Black Villains: Gender, Race, and Crime News in US Culture. By Carol A. Stabile (Routledge, 2006). Looks at stereotypes of black criminals in the news media since the 19th Century. (VP)

Cracking Up: American Humor in a Time of Conflict, by Paul Lewis (Chicago, 2006). Explores political humor since the 1980s. Table of Contents: 1.”One, Two, Freddy’s Coming for You”: Killing Jokes of the 1980s and 1990s Red Noses at the Ready!: The Positive Humor Movement 3. Shut Up! No, You Shut Up!: Fighting With and About Humor 4. Ridicule to Rule: The Strange Case of George W. Bush. (VP)

Critical Cyberculture Studies, edited by David Silver and Adrienne Massanari (New York University, 2006). A diverse group of scholars assess the state of the field. Includes an opening historical overview of the field by its most prominent spokesperson, it proceeds to highlight current perspectives and methodologies of this mercurial field. (VP)

Culture, Crisis, and America’s War on Terror, by Stuart Croft (Cambridge, 2006). The “war on terror” as a cultural phenomenon including it’s expression in the popular culture—books, television, music, jokes and even tattoos. “The most comprehensive and thought-provoking analysis of the political-cultural discourse of the war on terror to date. Combining powerful theoretical insights with an ambitious and sweeping survey of American cultural production since the World Trade Center attacks, Stuart Croft has crafted an eloquent and provocative essay on the relationship between culture, national identity and international politics. His unique focus on the cultural dimensions of the September 11 foundational myth does much to enliven our understanding of contemporary US foreign policy and fills an increasingly important gap in the study of international relations and security studies.” –Dr Richard Jackson, Department of Politics, Manchester University

Turf Wars: Discourse, Diversity, and the Politics of Place, by Gabriella Gahlia Modan (Blackwell, 2006). An ethnographic account of how a multi-ethnic, multi-class community in Washington, DC use language to define their boundaries. The author is a cultural anthropologist and linguist and brings those perspectives to the table.

Thinking with James Carey: Essay on Communication, Transportation, History, by Jeremy Packer and Craig Robertson (Peter Lang, 2006). Media scholars engage in key themes of Carey’s work. Includes an interview by Lawrence Grossberg in which Carey muses on his intellectual journey over the years. (ASC)

Jefferson and the Press: Crucible of Liberty, by Jerry W. Knudson (University of South Carolina Press, 2006). With the exception of Abraham Lincoln, no president prior to the twentieth century has been more vilified by the U.S. news media than Thomas Jefferson and this book chronicles the power of the press in the early years of the Republic. Rocked by domestic scandals, the American nation read accounts in Federalist papers that demonized Jefferson and in Republican papers that lauded the president’s achievements. (VP)

American Television on British Screens: A Story of Cultural Interaction, by Paul Rixon (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). Since the 1950s British broadcasters have used American programs as schedule fillers, cornerstones and as ‘must see’ attractions. However, many critics and scholars alike have tended to malign or ignore the contribution such programs have made to British television. Through analysis of popular and industrial discourses, the changing roles of such programs on British screens, and interviews with key British broadcasters, this work explores how American programs have become an important part of British television culture. (VP)

Communication Technology and Human Development: Recent Experiences in the Indian Social Sector, by Avik Ghosh (Sage, 2006). Provides an understanding of the practical issues that arise in the planning and implementation of communication programs to bring about behavior change in the Indian context. The author presents recent experiences in three important social sectors—literacy, population issues, and rural development (including poverty alleviation). The case studies include practical information concerning key elements in appropriate development communication—setting objectives, program design, planning, application of hardware, a multi-pronged approach, the preparation of materials, accountability, the participation of local communities, and professional management.

In Defense of Negativity: Attack Ads in Presidential Campaigns, by John G. Greer (University of Chicago Press, 2006). Contains an extensive content analysis of presidential advertising over the past 12 campaigns and shows that negative ads are a rich and varied staple in politics. (VP)

Children and Television: A Global Perspective, by Dafna Lemish (Blackwell, 2007). Global overview on children and television in the field for the last 50 years, combining both the American and European traditions. (VP)

Digital Shock: Confronting the New Reality, by Herve Fischer (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006). Author contends that the digital revolution is as transformative to our society as the discovery of fire was in prehistoric times. It is invasive, radical, and affects all aspects of human activity and and it would behoove us to develop a cyberphilosophy to meet the challenge of this new reality. (VP)

Disaster Movies, by Stephen Keane (Columbia University Press, 2006) “Stephen Keane’s history of the disaster genre offers a detailed analysis of films such as The Towering Inferno, Independence Day, Titanic, and The Day After Tomorrow. He looks at the ways in which disaster movies can be read in relation to both contextual considerations and the increasing commercial demands of contemporary Hollywood. In this second edition, he adds new material regarding cinematic representations of disaster in the wake of 9/11 and an analysis of disaster movies in light of recent natural disasters.” –publisher’s website

Baseball and the Media: How Fans Lose in Today’s Coverage of the Game, by George Castle (University of Nebraska, 2006). A chronicle of the decline of baseball reporting and how the media gets it wrong even with baseball. (VP)

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