Monthly Archives: April 2008

I’m okay with being a progress-slave

This article, called “Technoslave,” recently appeared in Adbusters. Here’s a convincing little statement:

Scientists and psychologists are now beginning to classify technology dependency as a major health problem, putting it in the same categories as alcoholism, gambling and drug addiction. The stress it creates is causing arthritis, migraines and ulcers. 

Technology is all about how you manage it. Most of the time, I don’t answer my cell phone. I pick it up, see who’s calling, and calmly press “Decline” if it’s just going to be a further distraction. If you look at it this way, technology doesn’t seem any more stressful than someone bursting into your office to ask a question. 

Not to mention, the general point that this article makes is pretty weak when you apply the same logic to other forms of progress. Have we become “wheelslaves” or “toiletslaves?” Just because we’re a “slave” to something, that doesn’t mean it’s inherently bad. 

Social network showdown

I published this piece in the Los Angeles Loyolan as part of a Myspace versus Facebook debate — indeed, a hackneyed topic. I think we both bring new things to the table. You can read the Myspace article here and mine below.


Let’s talk about our campus as though it were a social network like Facebook or MySpace. The students are represented by their profiles, McKay is like a Facebook group and John O’Connor is kind of like Tom. The confines of the bluff are what make this geographic location into its own social network. Our particular geography makes us feel safe – we’re bordered by a bluff on one side, a quaint neighborhood on the other and there’s only two gated entrances to this cute little compound. When I stand out on the bluff and watch from afar as a helicopter beams its spotlight on a burglar (hacker) in the streets below, I feel safe – which is just good enough. I feel safe, but in reality, this is Los Angeles, where people will come from off-campus. People get harassed right on Loyola Boulevard, or shot right outside the back entrance.

…Read the full story in the Los Angeles Loyolan

Edit > Undo

Michael Kinsley has an excellent article in Time about the editor/writer dynamic at publications. He sides with the writer.

Writers, [editors] say, are whiny, self-indulgent creatures who spend too much time alone. They are egotistical, paranoid and almost always seriously dehydrated. Above all, they are spectacular ingrates. Editors save their asses, and writers do nothing but bitch about it.

It’s absolutely strange to watch the transformation of someone from staff writer to editor. Everyone who goes through it experiences this loss of the romanticism about writing. Being an editor makes a person realize how haughty, demanding and spoiled a writer can be. The focus for an editor is readability and getting the issue in on time – nothing about artistic merit or “voice” – just the realistic fact that people have to read this newspaper.

I think there’s value to that, though. It crosses the line (and Kinsley especially acknowledges this), when the editor mistreats the writers like they’re complete underlings: ignoring emails, hacking at random paragraphs to save a few words, etc.

Being an editor at the Loyolan has sucked the creativity right out of me, but I think it’s made my articles better. I can’t wait to see what happens over the summer when I’m completely out-of-touch with editorial.

When media meets media

There’s a great article about the culture clash between Silicon Valley and Hollywood in the New York Times yesterday. The whole thing is interesting, but I’d like to highlight part of it. It’s a quote from a Sony exec:

“I don’t know if they feel they don’t need us or are going directly to the talent,” he said. “There are always going to be huge cultural differences between us because the interests are different. On their side they are fundamentally interested in technology and, on our side, we are interested in the content.”

The strange thing is that right now a huge percentage of the new media audience is fundamentally interested in technology also — and not content (the entertainment sense of content translates to “Brad Pitt”). Companies like Revision3 are banking on this. In fact, the internet is creating its own celebrities based around geek-dom, like Gary Vaynerchuk, Veronica Bellmont and Kevin Rose.

But my inkling is that if web entertainment is going to stay completely afloat, some people better start flying their private jets north.

Technology in College — for its own sake

This was an article originally written for the Los Angeles Loyolan but it was also published at

I’m part of the last generation of “Film Production” majors to go through LMU. The School of Film and Television is phasing out the major and already, the sophomores and freshmen major in something different: just plain old “Production.” The point is to encompass both television and film (and maybe even new media) into one major. The class structure is altered now so that students have to take both television and film classes. The idea is that the two workflows are gradually converging, as one-hour television dramas shoot on film and action movies get shot on digital video. That sounds pretty progressive for a film school, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, changing the name of a major doesn’t do the trick. If you’re going to shoot a junior thesis, AKA PROD 300, you have to use film – actual film, like the stuff we used in still cameras once upon a time. Real film is expensive. That means the bare minimum budget for a junior thesis is about $3,000. Indeed, it’s as goofy a requirement as it sounds. Effectively, when you’re a junior, you can’t shoot a fictional piece on a digital medium in spite of the dawn of iTunes, high-definition television and outstanding digital cameras like the Red One. Granted, 35mm is certainly not obsolete, but it’s noncore for a media person these days.

Our school is chock full of such techno-hypocrisy. Tenured professors who still use AOL meet in 2008 with young people holding iPhones. These bigwigs sit on boards and control policies to prepare students for real life – if our students were graduating 10 years ago. Someone out there saw this happening at LMU and decided to do something about it: hence, the ITA. Every school at Loyola has an Instructional Technology Analyst, whose sole job is to push people toward podcasting and blogging. The ITAs report to IT – not the deans and Jesuits from the past – which gives them enough autonomy to make changes quickly. It’s a step in the right direction, which I applaud, but I still have to watch my peers struggle with celluloid just to meet the requirements for graduation.

Why do people need to learn digital video instead of film? It seems silly to ask this question, but it sheds light on other situations. If the industry is moving towards cameras with hard drives instead of clockwork, then shouldn’t our students be learning about those instead? By the same token, if PR is moving towards MySpace and lectures are moving towards iTunes U then shouldn’t the same follow for our communications and education majors?

In the technology biz, people are critical of one such new phenomenon: the wiki. A wiki is a simple online space for organizing and sharing information. There are other wikis besides Wikipedia – ones for traveling, planning weddings or Philosophy 101 classes. Few would argue that there’s anything inherently bad about a wiki. The resentment is for the “throw a wiki at it” mentality that many leaders trumpet – where letting users put all the information in one place can supposedly solve every problem. Wikis can’t solve every problem and neither can digital video, blogs or Blackboard. One might say: “But isn’t that what these ITAs are doing? Just promoting technology for the sake of it?”

They are, but in the classroom, it’s different. I never thought I’d be doing this, but this is an argument for “technology for the sake of technology.” I really think that educational institutions are an exception to the “throw a Wiki at it” misconception, because throwing a Wiki means a class of students has to learn how to catch one. Students need to know these technologies so that they can use them when they graduate. In other words — if we still wrote our papers on typewriters none of us would get jobs.