Friday, November 30, 2007

Everybody's Talking About: Magi-Nation

This week, everyone's been talking about a new kids' MMOG project in the works that will tie into an up-and-coming (and Canadian-based) property called Magi-Nation. The property was first introduced as a collectible card game (CCG), Magi-Nation: Duel, which was heavily inspired by Pokémon and other collectible kids' properties. It had a few incarnations as a videogame, mostly aiming for the same type of CCG-Gameboy crossover success enjoyed by Pokémon (hmmm...I think I see a pattern emerging ;). This past year, Canadian-based Cookie Jar Entertainment launched an animated series to tie-into the CCG (and remaining digital games, I suppose, which includes a cell phone game) -- appearing as part of the CW's Kids' WB Saturday morning cartoon block, as well as on Canadian public broadcaster CBC -- along with a first, smaller online game, Magi-Nation Arena, as well as various ancillary toys and product lines (including a new CCG). The new MMOG will foster and supplement the emerging Magi-Nation media brand, and will surely have some pretty close links to the tie-in card game (I'm guessing that "secret codes" with every purchase will be somehow involved). Here's the description from the company press release:
Magi-Nation: Battle for the Moonlands is based on the popular children's animated television series Magi-Nation, which follows the adventures of 15-year-old Tony Jones, an average teen from Earth who finds himself mysteriously transported to the magical world of Magi-Nation. In these Moonlands Tony befriends two young Magi heroes-in-training who join him on a journey to defeat the evil Shadow Magi who are out to rule their world. Along with their trusty collection of Dream Creatures these new friends must solve riddles, battle evil and discover the secrets hidden in each region on the Moonlands. During their adventures, they just might discover some secrets about themselves.

According to Cynopsis Kids!, the game will be beta-testing this December (unfortunately it's a closed beta, but you can apply here to become a tester). What makes this web-based branded game unique is that while much of the game will be free (i.e. ad-based), it will also incorporate a micro-payment or microtransactions model, in which players will pay small fees to upgrade characters, etc. As Next Generation reports, while this strategy isn't all that new, it is not that common among kids' sites/properties. As Kris Graft writes:
Battle for the Moonlands will be a browser-based game that is supported by advertising as well as microtransactions, an increasingly common business model. What makes Moonlands more unique is that it will be putting microtransactions in the hands of kids. Finding a chunk of charges for virtual clothing and spells on a credit card bill would likely irk some parents, but [Cookie Jar senior VP of digital media Ken Locker] insists there will be restrictions set in place.

"We want to make sure that parents are in control of any online spending, so we are developing a number of ways for parents to be involved in Magi-Nation purchasing activity," Locker says. [Notably, however]"We are also working on implementing a number of payment options so that we do not rely solely on credit cards as heavily as many online games."

Hmmm....perhaps this is where the "secret code included with every purchase" will come in. Either way, it certainly seems like Cookie Jar is casting the widest net possible in its bid to become the next Pokémon. In Virtual Worlds News, Locker is quoted describing Cookie Jar's goal to:
"[R]each kids wherever they are, be it via through television, consumer products or online worlds. [...] We are thrilled to be working on such an ambitious undertaking as Magi-Nation: Battle for the Moonlands and can’t wait to bring the Magi-Nation online entertainment package to our fans. Our young viewers are extremely Internet savvy and routinely monitor their TV shows online. With this project we will extend that connection and enable players to have a fully interactive experience with their favorite characters in one of their favorite worlds."

Indeed! Find out more by following the various links above, or follow the ongoing developments firsthand by visiting the Magi-Nation website.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Children's Rights in Teen Second Life

By way of the MAGIC network, another cool example of gamers using machinima for political expression, this time through a 5-week-long initiative led by Global Kids (with support from UNICEF) and taking place entirely within Teen Second Life. Teens from three different countries (Finland, UK and US) participated in the second annual "Camp Global Kids", a virtual summer camp geared towards producing short videos about children's rights, in order to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The initiative also had an obvious educational imperative, which appears to have hit home with the teens involved. According to one project volunteer, quoted in the UNICEF press release:
"Although the campers knew that children have rights," said Global Kids volunteer Nafiza Akter, 17, "they didn't know what was in the document specifically. After the camp, they really learned about what different rights the document guaranteed children around the world. And I think it made them compassionate, because you realize that children should be having these rights and yet they’re violated."

The end products were screened as part of a "red-carpet affair" that took place on the Global Kids Island (in Teen Second Life), which included a selection of "real-world" short films made by teens involved in UNICEF's "One Minute Jrs" project (in conjunction with the Sandberg Institute). The filmmakers introduced their machinima and answered questions to an audience of nearly 100, each of whom received free virtual popcorn and a child rights t-shirt for participating. The short films covered a variety of topics, from drug use and health care, to media and play, to child soldiers. On using machinima as an educational, political and creative tool, Global Kids' Second Life Education Specialist, Tabitha Tsai, was quoted saying:
"We feel that making machinima is an excellent way to share the kids' work with the public because you don't need to know Second Life to watch a movie or to understand what their message is. [...] [The participants] learned a lot of transferable skills in this camp. They were able to learn how to capture angles, tell a story and raise awareness on a right, while at the same time having fun with it."

The organization hopes to expand the camp next summer, to "include more children from around the world." For more info, you can check out the Global Kids' Digital Media Initiatives project website, Holy Meatballs, or the One Minute Jrs project site. Prepare to be impressed!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Children's Studies at York University

Cool news on the academic front. York University (in Toronto) has launched a new undergrad program and Children's Studies department dedicated to exploring "global childhood experiences in philosophical and social terms and their personal, societal and human consequences." The program currently maintains a small full-time faculty, with a much larger number of associated faculty drawn from different York University departments. According to the press release and program description, students will learn about the various dimensions of children's culture -- "distinguishing between culture created by adults for children and the culture of children themselves" -- as well as practical skills needed for working with and researching children. It sounds absolutely, positively awesome, and is the first of its kind in Canada. Here's an excerpt from the press release:
The Children's Studies program is truly interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary, incorporating expertise and courses from programs such as sociology and psychology. Courses include The World of Childhood, Listening to Children: Ethics and Methodology of Child-Centered Studies and Contemporary Children's Culture Internships/Practicums. You are required to participate in community-based programs involving local schools and are encouraged to take part in advocacy work. Graduates of this program can pursue a wide-range of careers including counsellors, social workers, lawyers, teachers, librarians and international development workers.

It also sounds like the program is hitting the ground running: the school has a massive archive of "child-related materials" called the Canadian Children's Culture Collection, which includes data from a number of previous studies conducted out of York University, as well as unique toy collections, including toys designed by kids themselves. Very cool indeed. No news about job opportunities, but I'll definitely be keeping an eye out.

Here's a link to the Children's Studies department website.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Coolest Girl In School, or Bully w/ a Pink Bow

Another great article from YPulse this week, this time around a new Australian mobile game that's being promoted as "GTA for Girls". Here's an excerpt from anastasia's post:
Do girls need their own GTA? A female Australian mobile game developer thinks they do, which is why she created "The Coolest Girl In School." The game is provoking parental outcry Down Under. [...] [It also] Sounds like the game is full of mixed messages -- being a "mean girl" wins the game, i. e. "lie, bitch and flirt your way to the top of the high school ladder," but according to the article about the game in The Daily Telegraph, risky behaviors, i.e. drinking, drugs, etc. do have consequences. So if the argument is that Grand Theft Auto allows boys to live out their fantasies of mass murder and beating up prostitutes, than the Coolest Girl in School lets "good girls" live out their fantasies of being "bad" and popular?

For more coverage, check out Tweenage Wasteland and this article in The Ottawa Citizen by Misty Harris.

Reading the game's description and taking a step back from the controversy a little, it seems to me that we've seen all of this before...last year, in fact, when Rockstar's identically-themed Bully was released and everyone was up in arms about how it promoted bullying by "rewarding" bullying behaviours. In Bully, the player advances by spreading rumours, rebelling against teachers, pitting cliques against each other, trying to impress the cool kids, fending off constant attacks from larger bullies, dressing to impress the cool kids, going on dates with and/or merely smooching with the right people (girl or boy). If you got caught, you would get punished. Actions had repercussions -- every move you made to fit in with one group put you at odds with the others. Etc. Etc. Now, replace some of the more overt forms of physical violence with emotional or psychological violence, and what you've got sounds a heck of a lot like The Coolest Girl in School.

I played a big chunk of Bully last year for my thesis, along with another controversial game called Rule of Rose. Like Bully, Rule of Rose dealt with bullying, although the fact that it was girls doing and receiving it seemed to be enough to send that game out of the realm of public debate and into the realm of censorship. The game was banned in Europe, and had late releases in the US and Australia because of the controversy around it. Meanwhile, although Bully had originally attracted more public attention, it ultimately sort of came and went without a hitch (well, a Jack Thompson court case, but that was par for the course last year). My own opinion about both games is that not only are they not nearly as violent as most, but that they address violence in a way that could actually be much more meaningful and value-laden for young people (not children, but teens and young adults) than, say, some gangland fantasy or alien killing spree. Both games are attempts -- albeit flawed -- to delve into an enormously significant and serious issue...far from merely "promoting" bullying, they each explore bullying in complex ways that have not been discussed in the ensuing debates, which instead seem to limit themselves to whether or not the games should exist. Which brings me back to The Coolest Girl in School, which finds itself as the newest focus of this same essentializing discourse about whether games are "good" or "bad", and questions of how we can make these bad games disappear.

I'm not saying that The Coolest Girl in School will contain the same depth and intelligence as Rule of Rose, or that it will bring the player through the many layers of moral ambiguity that underlie high-school social hierarchies the way Bully did. All I'm saying is that we can't write a game off outright just because it deals with "unpleasant" issues, or addresses them in an exaggerated or unconventional way. That sort of reactionary attitude is what leads to censorship, and places dangerous pressure on the industry to limit itself to "family friendly" fare, even when designing games for adults or older kids and teens. Let's play the game first, and then have an informed discussion about it afterward.

Update: I just heard about another new game that fits this genre, called Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble. Check out Leigh Alexander's review on Playthisthing.com.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

From No Cells to "Edu"Cells...Hmmmm

This story from AdAge about the continuing saga of kids and cells in NYC gave me serious pause. Last year, NYC put a ban on mobile phones in schools, causing quite an uproar among students and their parents. Now, the New York City Department of Education is working with advertising agency Droga5 on a new program (termed "The Million" in reference to the number of kids in the NYC public school system), that would see the distribution of free mobile phones to NYC students. The twist? The phones would come equipped with "educational" content, and would be plugged into a learning reward system. The real twist? Content would be sponsored, incorporate ads and other forms of cross-promotion, and the reward system limited to a bunch of "discounts," undoubtedly for sponsored products. Yikes! Here's the description from the AdAge article:
"[T]he program involves giving away free mobile phones packed with learning tools such as a thesaurus, spell checks and an extra-help tip line to each student. The more a student uses these learning applications, the more rewards -- discounts for movies, sneakers, clothes and music downloads, as well as air-time minutes and text messages -- are unlocked. Additional incentives for achievement and attendance, including congratulatory voice-mail messages from, say, Derek Jeter or a wake-up call from Jay-Z, are also planned.

"What's cooler than the iPhone is something that has almost as many applications but is free," Mr. Droga [founder of Droga5] said. In addition, the phone's exclusive nature -- only public-school students will be able to reap the benefits of it -- may drive up the "badge factor," adding to its appeal.

Naturally, there'll be room for brands to latch onto the cause. The hardware provider, based on the video Mr. Droga showed at the conference, appears to be Motorola, though he wouldn't confirm it. He also declined to name the service provider that's been chosen. There'll also be some room for advertising on the phone. After all, the phones, while provided for free to the students, won't be completely without cost. As such, marketers will be able to infiltrate the students' world through "responsible" sponsorships."

This sounds like corporate monopoly to me...ban kids from bringing in their own cell phones, and then enforce this "free" system that essentially grants Droga5 and their sponsors exclusive reign over kids' mobile use outside of school? It looks like I'm not the only one who smells a rat. Anastasia from YPulse had this to say:
So we're replacing students phones that they can't bring to school with new phones (that they still may not be able to bring to school) packed with branded content.

What about incentivizing students with innovative new ways of learning in the classroom using blogs, wikis, iPods and cellphones? How about integrating the technology they already have or use into existing lesson plans? If students aren't engaged or interested in learning, bribing them with phone bling feels like a Band Aid solution and another opportunity for marketers to reach kids in class.

I agree...this really does just seem like another case of commercialization in (or in this case via) the classroom. Check out Commercial Alert's ongoing campaign for a discouraging number of comparison cases, as well as Jill Sharpe's new documentary Corporations in the Classroom (or here) for more info.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Noteworthy Blogs Alert: Parental Guidance Please

I came across two awesome blogs this weekend that I want to let everyone know about, both dealing with kids and media/marketing, both written from (and for) a parent's perspective. The first, Outside the (Toy) Box, is written by a mother of two/media studies professor, and focuses on various aspects of kids' consumer culture, kids' media and gender issues...as well as news from the front lines of the ongoing battle against the encroaching commercialization of kids' social environments (for example, how her child's preschool is dealing with Scholastic's adverbooks and the branded book fairs issue). I love the first line of her bio: "Like many of you, I’m a parent with a brain and a critical eye." The blog is new but already quite extensive, with a variety of issues, thoughts, links, and news items to delve into.

The second, Corporate Babysitter is part of a larger, newly-launched non-profit organization called Parents for Ethical Marketing (PEM). The author/founder, Lisa Ray, is also a mother of two, a writer, and a stay-at-home mom who previously ran a blog called Two Knives. At Corporate Babysitter, you will find a variety of useful links -- to reports, papers, interviews with scholars/activists in the field -- and a small (but growing) selection of critical posts on marketing to kids (and what parents can do about it). Here's an excerpt from the PEM mission statement:
Of course, parents are ultimately responsible for raising healthy children. But corporate marketers would have us believe that combating their damaging commercial messages is exclusively our problem. Parents for Ethical Marketing thinks it’s about time that corporations take some of the responsibility. Through parental awareness, public pressure, and legislative initiatives, Parents for Ethical Marketing encourages corporations to adopt responsible marketing standards and practices that sustain the health of children and families.

I'll be adding both blogs to my links list. Thanks to both authors for sharing their insight, thoughts and experiences...I suspect their posts will be quite valuable to my own work, and look forward to reading them more thoroughly.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Reforming Copyright Law: A Six-Step Strategy

Head's up on a great article by Anders Bylund posted on Ars Tehnica last week, on Public Knowledge's six-step plan for reforming copyright law to better protect citizen (as opposed to solely corporate) interests. The plan was presented at a New Media conference that took place recently at Boston University, and seeks to address the growing "'disconnect between the law and the technology' of media production and distribution." Said Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn,
"For the past 35 years, the trend has been nearly unmitigated expansion of the scope and duration of copyright, resulting in a clear mismatch between the technology and the law." ...Advances in technology keep making it easier to copy and distribute songs, movies, books, and so on. Meanwhile, the kind of legislation that gets big-money lobby support from content producers makes it increasingly illegal—but not necessarily harder—to use these new powers of information and entertainment.

The article goes on to describe the six solutions that Sohn proposes could be used to establish a more balanced (US) copyright system. Here's a brief overview of her key points:

1) Make fair use reform a top priority: "The US must allow for more incidental and non-commercial media uses; it is currently far too easy to break the law without knowing it."

2) Elevate the landmark 1984 Betamax decision (which acknowledged the consumer's right to record and timeshift media content for personal use at home) from mere "legal precedent" into actual law.

3) Implement and enforce limitations on the DMCA, to keep the number of takedown notices and SLAPP suits to a minimum. Included in this is the recommendation that the DMCA be reprimanded "for "knowingly or recklessly" demanding takedowns without a real case."

4) Clean up the existing music licensing system and create a clear and simple legal framework. This would include equalizing royalty rates (traditional radio currently pays lower royalties than new media channels), and making it easier to find copyright owners and obtain clearance.

5) Relax the rules around orphaned works: "You should be able to sing a song or use a picture if a "good faith copyright search" can't turn up the owner."

6) Simplify and clarify license notices to a clear and concise set of instructions, that use everyday language (not legalese) and do not misrepresent or exaggerate copyright claims.

You can read more about the organization's copyright reform campaign on their website, where you can also access a full transcript of Sohn's speech.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pigs Fly! Also, FTC Leaning Toward New Regulation!

More repercussions from the FTC's Privacy Townhall, as the evidence and testimonies -- and their potential implications -- continue to reverberate throughout the advertising industry (and amongst policy makers!). From today's Online Media Daily digest, an article by Thomas Claburn at Information Week on the (dare we say growing?) likelihood that the FTC might actually introduce some new online ad regulation. The industry is all abuzz today about a shift in the US governmental body's hitherto corporate-friendly attitude toward new media goings-on. The tipping point was apparently Facebook's and MySpace's increasingly invasive ad strategies, and their respective announcements over the past couple of weeks that they plan to significantly enhance their invasion(s) of users' privacy -- and, of course, advertise to them even more. As the Online Media Daily post describes,
Consumer privacy groups have been complaining to the Federal Trade Commission about the enhanced targeting practices of marketers. They want stricter regulation of online data tracking-referred to more broadly as "behavioral targeting" these days. And the FTC is starting to listen, as the prospect of enhanced data targeting increases.

Mergers like Google-DoubleClick and Microsoft-aQuantive have consumer groups particularly worried. One of their chief complaints is that ad networks can no longer contend that they don't collect personally identifiable information, as the increase in data collection leads to more distinct user profiles. Moreover, the ways that networks collect user information are expanding: content tracking, browser toolbars, promotions, sweepstakes, discounts, online purchases, search and declared user information. Advertisers aim to take the latter to the next level via social networking. So, how much is too much? Unfortunately, it looks like the FTC no longer trusts the industry to decide.

Claburn's own coverage is certainly a little industry-biased, but he nonetheless makes a number of good connections and tackles the nuances of "personally -identifiable information" in a way that has been lacking in the other articles I've read so far. He writes (albeit with a hint of sarcasm):
The Center for Digital Democracy and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group laid these and other social ills such as racial profiling at the feet of online marketers at a Federal Trade Commission meeting two weeks ago and urged the FTC to investigate and regulate online marketing. The advocacy groups singled out Pepsi, General Mills, and MasterFoods USA, part of Mars, for targeting the youth market with online ads in a complaint filed with the FTC. They also documented the extent to which some of the lenders caught up in the mortgage meltdown were among the biggest online advertisers.

And...
One person's relevant ad apparently is another's manipulative marketing technique that makes use of personal data in ways that compromise privacy. "The right hand of online marketing continues to hide behind the myth of anonymity, even while the left hand of Web analytics constructs remarkably detailed mosaics out of innumerable shards of purportedly 'non-personally identifiable' information," the groups said in their complaint.

The first three pages of the article are a pretty good read, before Claburn's analysis dissolves into a series of pats-on-the-back for industry self-regulation. You might also want to read Claburn's earlier article on how social networking sites makes money.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Media Action Pre-Launch

A new media watchdog network, focused on gender representations in the media, pre-launched its site today to coincide with the release of a new report on young women's responses to media portrayals. Media Action, a reincarnation of Media Watch, is a Canada-wide initiative led by some pretty amazing people, including its director -- well-known (a.k.a. Governor General award-winning) social activist and media critic Shari Graydon. The new report, conducted by EKOS Research, found that young women in Canada are frustrated by what they see as a double standard when it comes to gender representation. Here's the press release and description:
In conjunction with National Media Education Week, Media Action (formerly MediaWatch) has released an EKOS research study looking at young women's responses to dominant media portrayals. Young women in several Canadian cities expressed almost universal frustration with pervasive images of "flawless" female bodies, and the disproportionate media attention paid to women as sex objects and "those who mess up."

The report reveals the conflicted relationship young women have with pop culture, simultaneously engaging with many forms of traditional and emerging media, while rejecting and resenting many dominant messages about female sexuality and appearance. They were particularly quick to note the double standard that exists regarding the greater diversity of male body types and portrayals.

Young women noted that "society worships guys who come across as good or bad, tough, responsible, independent and even weird," and "They don't have to conform to one specific image."

According to director Shari Graydon, "This research reminds us that despite the enormous gains women have made in recent decades, many media practices continue to reinforce limiting and destructive stereotypes. Media Action's investment in improving the picture and giving women a voice on these issues remains timely and relevant."

While the site doesn't go live until January, it already provides a number of downloadable goodies, including a PDF of the report itself, and some background documents: "It Just Sucks You In": Young Women's Use of Facebook by Leslie Regan Shade, and Popular Culture and Female Sexuality: Consuming the ‘Representations'.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Notes from the FTC Townhall on Privacy

While coverage of last week's FTC Townhall on Privacy issues is still pouring in, I thought I'd take some time today to link to a few articles published by MediaPost that I've found particularly interesting in terms of what they say about the industry response to the testimony and issues raised. Firstly, I was quite surprised to see our old friend "proof of harm" pop up in this discussion, since I really didn't think that infringing upon citizens' rights could ever be defended as "unharmful". The "proof of harm"/media effects debate -- so often used by the press to dismiss public concerns about its media by creating polarity and confusion -- is surprisingly out of place within this debate, but as you can see from the excerpt below, has nonetheless somehow wiggled its way in. From MediaPost:
IT'S NOT HARD FOR CONSUMERS to say why they dislike intrusive ads, pop-ups served via spyware, in-box-cluttering spam, or a telephone ringing during dinner. But whatever damage is caused by targeting, or serving ads to people based on the Web sites they visit, is harder to pinpoint--which is leading some Internet industry executives to question whether the FTC even has the authority to call for the regulation of the practice.

"What we haven't seen is that real harm," Mike Zaneis, Interactive Advertising Bureau vice president of public policy, told the FTC Friday, on the second day of a meeting to address behavioral targeting. He dismissed as "speculative" advocates' concerns that companies would misuse information gleaned from monitoring Web-surfing behavior.

Consumer and privacy advocates like the World Privacy Forum say they worry that companies could make assumptions based on Web users' online activity and then use that information to consumers' disadvantage. For instance, a health insurance company might decline coverage to people whose online behavior indicates they suffer from AIDS or other costly medical conditions.

But Zaneis and other Internet executives appearing in Washington last week say that the prospect of that type of scenario shouldn't lead to broad curbs on targeted advertising. They also argue that governmental attempts to regulate behavioral targeting will hurt the online ad industry's ability to grow and innovate.

Yowza! Isn't privacy invasion in itself reason enough to call these practices into question. I'm quite shocked by this position, and very glad that we already have even minor policies in place that establish privacy rights as citizen/consumer/human rights, including Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

If market research doesn't qualify as arbitrary, I don't know what does. And as for attacks upon one's reputation, I think that the scenario outlined by the World Privacy Forum certainly represents a likely and quite apt example. But what about other, less obvious instances of social sorting and categorization that occurs during web-tracking and data-mining?

A second typical industry response can be found in a thought piece ("Just an Online Minute") the publication sent out on Friday (Nov. 2), discussing Esther Dyson's call for enhanced disclosure around online marketing / data-collection practices. Here, the emphasis is on how difficult it would be to put the power back into consumers' hands, blaming the fact that many users don't read privacy policies:
Call it "Disclosure 2.0." That's the term Internet guru Esther Dyson used today to describe a new type of privacy notice that might be coming to the online marketing world. Speaking at the second day of a Federal Trade Commission conference about privacy and Web ads, Dyson proposed that social networking sites will drive new types of interaction between marketers and consumers. She said that consumers -- now trained in some aspects of the art of profile creation and maintenance via sites like Facebook -- will want to wield similar control over their marketing profiles.

Dyson predicts that users will soon ask, "If I curate my profile... and if I can decide which of my friends can see which part of my profile, why can't I do that for marketers?"

It's an intriguing idea, but executing it will be another matter. There appears to be widespread agreement that very few consumers currently read privacy notices. Of course, it's not surprising that people don't interrupt their Web surfing to click on privacy links and then read policies written in page after page of dense legalese. But, Dyson said, that doesn't mean that people don't want answers to the basic questions, "Why are you showing me this ad? What is it you know?"

Of course, the position that users are to blame for the lack of privacy protection online directly contradicts a concurrent (and also typical) industry position that companies "already fully protect users' privacy interests" and that "additional regulations could harm the online advertising industry," -- a position that was expressed in another MediaPost article which appeared on the same day. Stay tuned for some links and discussion of alternative perspectives...however, I thought it would be useful to first point out how stagnant the debate about users' rights becomes when this approach is taken by industry representatives and press...repeating the same arguments over and over, taking the same (albeit contradictory) positions time and time again, even as business practices and the technologies themselves are changing and intensifying at light speed.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Guest Commentary on Children's Media Consultant

A couple of weeks ago, Ashley from Children's Media Consultant blog invited me to write a Guest Commentary, in response to a posting she had written about Edgar & Ellen back in August. The focus of my short commentary is on child-generated content and intellectual property issues, and is entitled Who Owns the Content When Kids Produce It Online. Thanks again to Ashley for this opportunity to contribute to her site - I hope we get to do it again someday!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Jobs Galore @ Grand Text Auto

Academic gaming blog Grand Text Auto has started a thread posting the many, many communications/media/visual and digital culture positions and postdocs searching for candidates right now. While the thread is focused somewhat on jobs that would be suitable for scholars researching digital games, the calls themselves are often quite broad and relevant for new/upcoming PhDs in a variety of related fields. Job postings (all courtesy of Grand Text Auto and its thread contributors) include:

- Two new faculty positions in Game Design Studies at UC Santa Cruz

- Two new faculty positions in Digital Humanities and Media Studies at UCLA (deadlines Nov. 10 and 20), along with a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Digital Humanities (deadline Feb. 2008).

- New assistant prof. position in Television Studies at UCSD (deadline Nov. 15)

- A games-related faculty position with the Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media Department at Michigan State (upcoming)

- A tenure-track interactive visual media position with the Arts, Media and Engineering program at Arizona State University. (deadline Nov. 25 and every 4 wks until position is filled)

- An Associate or Assistant Professor in Media Studies with The Department of English at Rutgers University (New Brunswick-Piscataway) (deadline passed)

- Assistant Professor in Digital Media Studies with The Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University (reviews begin Nov. 16)

- A Tenure Track Junior Faculty Position in Communication and Technology at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Language, Literature and Communication.

- A Tenure-track assistant professor position in Creative Writing program at the University of Eastern Michigan (deadline Nov. 5)

- A Tenure-Track Assistant Professor, MIT Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies (review begins December 2007)

- An Assistant Professor in New Media and Digital Culture, with the Department of Media and Culture Studies at Utrecht University, The Netherlands

- Assistant or Associate Professor in Game Design and Development at Michigan State University, Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media (deadline Dec. 1)

- Assistant Professor in Visual Culture/Media Studies, with the Department of Cinema and Photography, College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (deadline November 30 until filled)

- A tenure-track Assistant Professor of New Media Studies, with the Department of Communication at the University of Utah (deadline Nov.1)

- Multiple faculty positions in media studies with the Communications and New Media Programme at the National University of Singapore.

And numerous others that have been circulating in my Inbox of late, including:

- Three tenure track positions (assistant or associate prof) at Northwestern University with the Department of Communication Studies in the School of Communication: A position in Media, Technology, and Society; a position in Rhetoric, and Public Culture; and a position in New Media/Interactive Artsv(cross-appointed with the department of Radio/TV/Film) (deadline Dec. 1)

- Two positions in Cinema and Media Studies with the Department of Film at York University (deadline Dec. 1 and Jan.4 respectively)

- A tenure-track position in New Media Studies with the department of English, Linguistics, and Speech at The University of Mary Washington (deadline has passed)