Congratulations to Chris Kraus, who has won the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism. This award is given each year by the College Art Association and is considered one of the most important in art criticism. It will be presented to her on February 21, 2008.
Maja Mataric, author of The Robotics Primer, got a visit from the Cyberguy - aka Kurt Knutsson of KTLA, a Los Angeles TV station. As you can see from this clip, it was love at first sight -- between Cyberguy and the robots, that is. Hey, the idea that a robot can save you the trouble of cleaning your gutters - if that isn't grounds for love, it ain't far off.
It's always intriguing to check out the upcoming commencement speakers for different universities - and the Chronicle of Higher Education's commencement speaker database is the place to go. Who's speaking at next year's commencement? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be addressing UCLA, Bill Moyers will speak to Southern Methodist, Bob Barker is at Drury University, Peter and Bobby Farrelly are at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, and plenty of politicians are making the rounds.
But today MIT announced its 2008 speaker : Muhammad Yunus, founder of the microcredit movement and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Considered one of the "greatest entrepreneurs of all time", Yunus started making small personal loans to poor basket weavers in
Bangladesh in the mid-1970s, and he found that this simple act of trust greatly improved the lives of these people. He created Grameen Bank in 1983 - the bank
now operates in nearly 80,000 rural Bangladeshi villages. Ninety-seven
percent of the bank's clients are women, and their rate of repayment is
an astounding 98 percent.
To learn more about microfinance and how it works, you might want to look at The Economics of Microfinance by Beatriz Armendáriz and Jonathan Morduch.
The writer’s guild has complained for years that they’ve been unfairly shut out of profits from digital versions of the TV shows and movies they helped create; as networks and studios continue to expand the web presence of their programs, providing “webisodes” and character blogs and background stories for their on-screen content, they have further enlisted writers to produce material they’re not being adequately compensated for. Perhaps the current strike will help rectify this inequity.
But are screenwriters inadvertently helping to shift the new media landscape – just as they get their extra slice for their “webisodes,” are they digging out the ground beneath their entire venture? In 1988, the last writer’s strike, grinding the prime time television season to a halt was a powerful move: we were still in a world of four channels and “must-see TV”. The absence of new programming was disruptive enough to audiences and advertisers that the networks and production companies felt compelled to enter negotiations. Today, the scope of that media universe has changed. What are viewers doing without their new episodes of "House" or "The Office"? They may be catching up on series they hadn’t gotten to, finally exploring "Friday Night Lights" or "Mad Men" or "Weeds", either through on-demand services, iTunes, the network websites, Netflix, or even illicit peer-to-peer networks. The networks may actually cash in on the opportunity, if they’re smart: “never got around to Aliens in America? Want to see what critics are talking about? We’ll start at season one, let you come in from the beginning, starting Monday!” An array of other options loom: video games, social networking sites, blogs.
And what if viewers (and advertisers with them) find themselves gravitating to that massive “channel” of content produced by non-unionized writers, i.e. the rest of us: YouTube? Will some ascerbic amateur writer, especially as we head into the heart of the presidential season, become the YouTube stand-in for the political humor of "The Daily Show", "The Colbert Report", and "SNL"? Will dramatic shorts or amateur sitcoms, produced by aspiring writers or just those bored college kids, finally become a viable entertainment form, filling the current vacuum on TV? It would be ironic indeed, though not unprecedented in the history of media, for this squabble over one version of the digital media future to end up giving a boost to a different digital media platform, a tectonic shift in viewer preferences and cultural legitimacy that would be difficult to undo.