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Posted by Shannon

Well, finally, there’s a glimmer of hope that the Age of Narcissism may have reached its limit.

A Slate article reports on research about the power of teamwork when it comes to creativity. Studies stretching back to the 1970s suggest that we develop as individuals and social animals simultaneously – despite what those Queens of Me, Ayn Rand and Oprah, would have us think.

Yet the notion of the lone genius is much loved in the modernist era, and it parallels social and political ideas about the importance of individualism. But the piece suggests that brilliant performers are often part of pairs in which there is quiet-but-indispensable partner who shares in the creative process. We know this about marriages. Wives usually contribute discreetly to a husband’s career, which is so well known there’s even a cliché: “Behind every great man there’s a woman (who is gobsmacked that he got all the credit).” Okay, I added that last bit. - Read more

Posted by Shannon

The University of Colorado sent a shudder of fear rippling through journalism schools across North America when it announced it’s closing its J-school and possibly reinventing it as a school of “information.” 

Aside from that unfortunate title implying that every other department is something other than information, this is an impressive decision. They are the first to admit what everyone in journalism has known for about 15 years – the journalism project in its current incarnation is dead, and it’s ethically-dubious to go on selling students on pricey degree programs for which there are no jobs.

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Facebook Faux Pas

22 Aug 2010
Posted by Shannon

What used to be considered a social faux pas is now a Facebook feature.

Last week Facebook added “Places,” which is a variation on the creepy FourSquare social networking site that allows you to announce your presence everywhere in the real world. Merchants give points for mentions, which can be turned into rewards of dubious value.

But Facebook manages to make it creepier, by ensuring that people who have never signed up for such an invasion of privacy are now subjected to it. Unless you opt-out, you can be photographed and tagged by the overzealous idiots on your friends-list and have your whereabouts reported across the grid.

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Posted by Shannon

Apparently life is about nothing more than the getting of goods. Or so suggests the latest social media craze known as social shopping, in which participants broadcast their credit card transactions.

What you bought, where, and what you paid for it is now on offer for all to see.

Swipely is the latest entrant on the scene, and it swears it’s an improvement over Blippy, a cunning little service that also posted people’s credit card numbers for easy Googling. That was a positive boon to thieves, so I understand why they’re interested in signing up -- but why is anyone else? - Read more

Posted by Shannon

The resignation of B.C. Arts Council Chair Jane Danzo is fascinating for what it says about why corporate journalism is dying. 

The story broke – or melted might be a more apt term – with an August 10 government news release announcing her departure.

It set the arts community chattering as it bounced around the blogosphere, but not one news reporter picked up the phone to question Danzo or Tourism, Culture, and Arts Minister Kevin Krueger. 

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Posted by Shannon

Over at the Village Voice dance critic Deborah Jowitt is wondering if technical tricks are replacing artistry in ballet. 

And while I’d like to contemplate this question along with her, I was much too distracted by YouTube videos of things that (20 minutes earlier) I would have said were humanly impossible.

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Posted by Shannon

A friend once had a lobby-group-of-one that attempted to persuade Saskatchewan to add a new slogan to its license plates, “The conscience of the nation.” He failed in his quest, but the province’s new Arts Professions Act shows again why he may have been on to something.

The Act, which took effect in June, defines professional artists and requires them to have a formal contract with their various employers. It notes that contracts protect both parties, but it also highlights the significance of artists as workers. It  “…promotes the valuable contributions artists, art and creativity make to society and the economy; recognizes the importance of fair compensation to professional artists.” - Read more

Posted by Shannon

TheSmartSet.com, an online magazine, first caught my eye because the name was an obvious steal from a mag that flourished in my favourite era in modern history, the 1920s. Back then The Smart Set paid a buck a word to writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway for the short stories they penned to keep them in champagne and Paris flats while they produced the great American novels.

Naturally, they went out of business paying writers that kind of dough.

Today’s Smart Set is the product of Drexel University in Philadelphia, and it offers a compendium of witty, thoughtful, insightful features and commentary pieces on just about anything you’d like to name.

While the factory model took over most journalism outlets a good 40 years ago, creating assembly lines for copy that was increasingly yawn-inspiring, TheSmartSet.com is crafted by writers for readers. It has the one quality I’ve long argued is the single most significant one in journalism: Surprise.

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Posted by Shannon

American novelist Richard Bausch makes an elegant case against writing manuals in The Atlantic.

He’s mostly right. He’s talking about the cynical how-to books that sell by telling people who’ve never read a book that they can write one.  He doesn’t mean the insightful essays on the nature of literature and aesthetics that begin with Aristotle and live on in classic texts like John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction. He does mean tomes like How to Write a [commercial genre of your choice book] in 10 Days, which are the bread-and-butter of many a jaded publishing house. 

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Posted by Shannon

The San Francisco arts blog Lies Like Truth notes that as news outlets cut budgets, arts journalism has turned into a career like acting, dancing, or painting – you have to spend a lot of time waiting tables in order to be a theatre critic.

While I’m all for arts journalist Chloe Veltman’s argument that cultural commentators working in this climate should be eligible for arts grants, I think her observation that if they’re not covering classical music they must be doing odd jobs, inadvertently hits on the real problem. Arts journos have long been seen as expendable in newsrooms because so many aren’t journalists at all – real journalists can always change beats. The arts writers who can no longer get work are the arts insiders who were only looking for a way to publicize themselves and their cronies.

News outlets themselves have blurred the distinction between public relations and news to such an extent that many of us have forgotten there used to be a difference between journalism and propaganda. To be clear, journalism is news-gathering done on behalf of citizens, and it’s done in the public interest – it’s not a promotion to serve special interest groups. That’s called PR. - Read more