Spring 2010 Booknotes

 

Best Years: Going to the Movies, 1945-1946, by Charles Affron and Mirella Jona Affron (Rutgers, 2009). “A panoramic study, shining light on this critical juncture in American historyand the history of American cinema—the end of World War II (1945) and a year of unprecedented success in Hollywood’s “Golden Age” (1946). This unique time, the last year of war and the first full year of peace, provides a rich blend of cinema genres and types—from the battlefront to the home front, the peace film to the woman’s film.

Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players, by Jesper Juul (MIT, 2009) Author shows “that it is only by understanding what a game requires of players, what players bring to a game, how the game industry works, and how video games have developed historically that we can understand what makes video games fun and why we choose to play (or not to play) them.” –publisher’s description

Climate Change and the Media, edited by Tammy Boyce and Justin Lewis (Peter Lang, 2009). Examines the changing nature of media coverage on climate change around the world, including the developing world.

Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate, by Diego Gambetta (Princeton University Press, 2009). A nuanced application of signaling theory. “Criminals are in constant fear of being duped, says Oxford sociologist Diego Gambetta, even as they are busy duping others. Yet hoodlums often seek a literal partner in crime. This, he notes, creates a need for both identification and verification of trust in what is generally an untrustworthy milieu. Lacking a miscreants’ yellow page, the question becomes, well, how to find an honest crook?”–Nina Ayoub, Chronicle of Higher Education

Communities of Play, by Celia Pearc and Artemesia (MIT, 2009). “A rich and thoughtful study that gives us a rare peek into something seldom discussed in online spaces—what happens when the site you love closes down. Celia Pearce provides fascinating insights as she traces these virtual communities, making a journey across a variety of software platforms, collaborating to rebuild play spaces, and keeping groups together. This is a unique and valuable contribution to not only the study of multiplayer worlds, but network life in general.” —T.L. Taylor, Associate Professor, IT University of Copenhagen

Convergence Media History, edited by Janet Staiger and Sabine Hake. ( Routledge, 2009). “Explores the ways that digital convergence has radically changed the field of media history. Writing media history is no longer a matter of charting the historical development of an individual medium such as film or television. Instead, now that various media from blockbuster films to everyday computer use intersect regularly via convergence, scholars must find new ways to write media history across multiple media formats. This collection of eighteen new essays by leading media historians and scholars examines the issues today in writing media history and histories. Each essay addresses a single medium—including film, television, advertising, sound recording, new media, and more—and connects that specific medium’s history to larger issues for the field in writing multi-media or convergent histories. Among the volume’s topics are new media technologies and their impact on traditional approaches to media history; alternative accounts of film production and exhibition, with a special emphasis on film across multiple media platforms; the changing relationships between audiences, fans, and consumers within media culture; and the globalization of our media culture.” –publisher’s description

Cosmopolitan Communications, by Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart (Cambridge, 2009). “Norris and Inglehart’s comprehensive and highly commendable book is not only empirically very rich but also breaks new ground theoretically…provides a new roadmap for the study of transnational communication and culture.” -Daya Thussu, University of Westminster, London

Cultural Hybridity, by Peter Burke (Polity, 2009). “A wide-ranging survey of the different forms and practices of cultural interaction in human history, and of the concepts that we now use to try to understand them. Whether we embrace these influences or resist them, globalization, Burke argues, is leading to the emergence of a new cultural order. This book offers us an indispensible guide to the cultural transformations of our times.” —Robert J.C. Young, New York University

Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger. (Princeton, 2009). “If the gathering, storage, and processing of information puts us all in the center of a digital panopticon, the failure to forget creates a panopticon crossbred with a time-travel machine. Mayer-Schönberger catalogs the range of social concerns that are arising as technology favors remembering over forgetting, and offers some approaches that might give forgetting a respected place in the digital world. Read this book. Don’t forget about forgetting.”–David Clark, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Digital War Reporting, by Donald Matheson and Stuart Allan (Polity, 2009). Examines how new technologies open up innovative ways for journalists to convey the horrors of warfare while, at the same time, creating opportunities for propaganda, censorship and control.

Ecology and Popular Film, by Robin L Murray and Joseph K. Heumann (State University of New York, 2009) ”Examines representations of nature in mainstream film while also looking at film itself as a form of nature writing. Considering a selection of mainstream movies that embrace a wide variety of environmental themes, from the Lumières’ Oil Wells of Baku (1896) to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006), Murray and Heumann explore such themes as environmental politics, eco-terrorism, ecology and home, tragic and comic eco-heroes, the spectacular, and evolutionary narrative, in a manner that is both accessible and fun. Other films discussed include The River (1937), Soylent Green (1971), Pale Rider (1985), 28 Days Later (2002), and The Day After Tomorrow (2004)… also includes a comprehensive filmography of films that deal with environmental themes and issues.” –publisher’s website

eTrust: Forming Relationships in the Online World, by Karen S. Cook, Chris Snijders, Vincent Buskens, and Coye Cheshire (Russell Sage Foundation, 2009). Authors “use experimental studies and field research to examine how trust in anonymous online exchanges can create or diminish cooperation between people.” –publisher’s description

Fanatical Schemes: Proslavery Rhetoric and the Tragedy of Consensus, by Patricia Roberts-Miller (University of Alabama, 2009). The author shows how abolitionism was constructed in the South and the influence of this construction in bringing on the war more than Northern abolitionist actions themselves. According to Roberts-Miller, “ the Civil War was not economically, militarily , or even politically inevitable, but was the consequence of rhetoric.”

From Cronkite to Colbert: The Evolution of Broadcast News, by Geoffrey Baym (Paradigm Publishers). Topics include programming such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as new and reinvigorating forms of journalism.

Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games, by Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig De Peuter. (University of Minnesota, 2009). “Offers a radical political critique of such video games and virtual environments as Second Life, World of Warcraft, and Grand Theft Auto, analyzing them as the exemplary media of Empire, the twenty-first-century hypercapitalist complex theorized by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. The authors trace the ascent of virtual gaming, assess its impact on creators and players alike, and delineate the relationships between games and reality, body and avatar, screen and street.” –publisher’s description

Global Technography: Ethnography in the Age of Mobility, by Grant Klein (Peter Lang, 2009). “Provides ground zero–the starting place for the next generation of scholars who study the self and its technologies, the post-global citizen, ethnography in the mobilized field, humanizing technology in a world without boundaries. A path breaking accomplishment by a major new social theorist. In these pages McLuhan meets James Carey in a new performative space. “ –Norman K. Denzin, University of Illionois at Urbana-Champagne

God and the Editor: My Search for Meaning at The New York Times, by Robert Phelps (Syracuse, 2009). Insider account of The New York Times’ handling of major stories as well as first-hand recollections of office politics for the 20 years (1954-1965) the author worked there.

Identity Games: Globalization and the Transformation of Media Cultures in the New Europe, by Aniko Imre (MIT, 2009). “ A bracing account of a New Europe anchored in the postcommunist East, on the platform of new media. Imre’s essays remain alive to mass culture’s ludic (as well as hegemonic) potential. Janus-faced, Identity Games shows how media shaped Communist subjects and continues to remake post-Communist consumers, anchoring critical nostalgia and drawing new maps of gender, ethnicity, and regional memory.” —Katie Trumpener, Yale University

Makover TV: Selfhood, Citizenship, and Celebrity, by Brenda R. Weber (Duke, 2009) ”Based on her analysis of more than 2,500 hours of makeover TV, Weber argues that the much-desired After-body speaks to and makes legible broader cultural narratives about selfhood, citizenship, celebrity, and Americanness. Although makeovers are directed at both male and female viewers, their gendered logic requires that feminized subjects submit to the controlling expertise wielded by authorities. The genre does not tolerate ambiguity. Conventional (middle-class, white, ethnically anonymous, heterosexual) femininity is the goal of makeovers for women.” –publisher’s description

Media Events in a Global Age, edited by Nick Couldry, Andreas Hepp, and Friedrich Krotz (Routledge, 2009). Essays are arranged into the following categories: Media Events Rethought, History and Future of the Media Event, Media Events in the Frame of Contemporary Social and Cultural Media Theory, Media Events and Everyday Identities, and Media Events and Global Politics.

Media, NASA, and America’s Quest for the Moon, by Harlen Makemson (Peter Lang, 2009). “Tells the behind-the-scenes story of how NASA and the U.S. media were often at odds, but ultimately showed extraordinary cooperation in bringing the story of lunar conquest to the world. Drawing upon rich historical sources from NASA, journalists, and television networks, this book sheds new light on how media shaped how we saw Americas great adventure in space, and raises contemporary questions about the role of information in a free society.”—publisher’s website

Optical Media, by Friedrich Kittler (Polity, 2010). “Kittler is the preeminent thinker of time-based media and what it means to edit the flow of time with technical means. Brilliant and remarkably original, he offers a kind of media analysis whose method is dialectically acute and philosophically deep. No one interested in what it means to live in a media-saturated age can neglect his vital and controversial work.” –John Durham Peters, University of Iowa

Out of the Dark: A History of Radio and Rural America, by Steve Craig (University of Alabama, 2009). “Study of radio’s impact on rural America in the three decades between its inception and the arrival of television. The coming of radio broadcasting had a profound impact on the lives of many Americans, but none more so than those who lived in rural America. Radio provided isolated families with something they had never known before–an instantaneous connection with news, entertainment, and the rapidly evolving lifestyles and mores of the entire nation.” –publisher’s description

Presidential Rhetoric and the Public Agenda: Constructing the War on Drugs, Andrew B. Whitford and Jeff Yates. (Johns Hopkins, 2009). “President Nixon announced the war on drugs forty years ago, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote that ‘it appears that drugs have won.’ In their careful analysis in this important book, Whitford and Yates demonstrate that the rhetoric of presidents can influence the course of public policy, particularly including implementation. Words matter, even in the supposedly technical aspects of policy implementation, and they do so in a way that frames and, yes, ‘constructs’ the policy itself.” — Bryan D. Jones, University of Texas at Austin

Prime Time Prison on U.S. TV, by Bill Yousman (Peter Lang, 2009). Examines portrayal of prisoners and prison issues in local and national television news, crime dramas and the cable television prison drama, Oz.

Queer Politics of Television, by Samuel A. Chambers (McMillan, 2009). A “radical book, which brings together the fields of political theory and television studies…exposes and explores the cultural politics of television by treating television shows–including Six Feet Under, Buffy, Desperate Housewives, The L Word, and Big Love–as serious, important texts and reading them in detail through the lens of queer theory…argues for queer theory’s essential contribution to any understanding of the political, and initiates a larger project of queer television studies…an important and fresh contribution to queer theory and to the understanding of television as politics.” –publisher’s description

Radio’s Hidden Voice: The Origins of Public Broadcasitng in the United States, by Slotten, Hugh Richard (University of Illinois Press, 2009). “Thoroughly researched and engaging. An important contribution to scholarship on public radio, early radio history, and on questions of how the ‘public interest’ has been defined in broadcast and communication policy in the twentieth century.” Jason Loviglio, author of Radio’s Intimate Public: Network Broadcasting and Mass-Mediated Democracy

Rave Culture: The Alteration and Decline of a Philadelphia Music Scene, by Tammy L. Anderson (Temple University Press). An ethnographic study of the Philadelphia rave scene, with comparative discussion of London and Ibiza.

Sexual Sports Rhetoric: Historical and Media Contexts of Violence, edited by Linda K. Fuller (Peter Lang, 2010). ” Deals with controversies surrounding the notion of sport violence in relation to gender and language. Topics include hooliganism, spousal abuse, race and gender issues in literary, televised, filmic, and photographic depictions of sport violence. Sports range from pool and body building to ice approaches to media history; alternative accounts of film production and exhibition…; the changing relationships between audiences, fans, and consumers within media culture; and the globalization of our media culture.” –publisher’s description

Shimmering Literacies: Poular Culture and Reading and Writing Online, by Bronwyn T. Williams (Peter Lang, 2009). “Examines the powerful role of popular culture in the daily online literacy practices of young people. Whether as subject matter, discourse, or through rhetorical patterns, popular culture dominates both the form and the content of online reading and writing. In order to understand not only how but why online technologies have changed literacy and popular culture practices, this book looks at online participatory popular culture from MySpace and Facebook pages to fan forums to fan fiction.” –Publisher’s description

Ugly War, Pretty Package: How CNN and Fox News Made the Invasion of Iraq High Concept, by Deborah L. Jaramillo (Indiana U press, 2009). Compares the two network’s coverage of the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the marketing of high-concept Hollywood filmmaking.

Wikipedia: A New Community of Practice? by Dan O’Sullivan (Ashgate, 2009). The most interesting section of the book looks at the collaborative on-line encyclopaedia in the context of earlier historical attempts to gather the world’s knowledge into one place. The author discusses five historical groups or communities of practice, all of which had similar ambitions to Wikipedia to make an impact on the society of their time through the dissemination of information.

Women As Weapons of War: Iraq, Sex, and the Media (Columbia, 2010). A feminist critique of the ways women have been used in the war in Iraq.

The World Says NO to War: Demonstrations Against the War on Iraq, edited by Stefaan Walgrave and Dieter Rucht (University of Minnesota, 2010). Using surveys conducted by researchers from eight countries contributors analyze how the new tools of the Internet were combined with more conventional means of mobilization.

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