Archive for the ‘literature’ Category

The Paradox of Publicity: How Awards Can Negatively Affect the Evaluation of Quality

April 16, 2014 Comments off

The Paradox of Publicity: How Awards Can Negatively Affect the Evaluation of Quality
Source: Social Science Research Network

Although increases in status often lead to more favorable inferences about quality in subsequent evaluations, in this paper, we examine a setting in which an increase to an actor’s status results in less favorable quality evaluations, contrary to what much of sociological and management theory would predict. Comparing thousands of reader reviews on of 64 English-language books that either won or were short-listed for prestigious book awards between 2007 and 2011, we find that prizewinning books tend to attract more readers following the announcement of an award and that readers’ ratings of award-winning books tend to decline more precipitously following the announcement of an award relative to books that were named as finalists but did not win. We explain this surprising result, focusing on two mechanisms whereby signals of quality that tend to promote adoption can subsequently have a negative impact on evaluation. First, we propose that the audience evaluating a high-status actor or object tends to shift as a result of a public status shock, like an award, increasing in number but also in diverse tastes. We outline how this shift might translate into less favorable evaluations of quality. Second, we show that the increase in popularity that tends to follow a status shock is off-putting to some, also resulting in more negative evaluations. We show that our proposed mechanisms together explain the negative effect of status on evaluations in the context of the literary world.

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The Evolution of the Book Industry: Implications for U.S. Book Manufacturers and Printers

March 13, 2014 Comments off

The Evolution of the Book Industry: Implications for U.S. Book Manufacturers and Printers
Source: Ricoh

There is not a single book industry. There are many subsectors within the book industry; the major categories include: Trade books, educational books, scientifi c/professional books, children’s books, art/coffee table books and religious books. For the purposes of this research, we focused on the two largest sectors, trade books and educational books. The majority of the output is black text, with limited four-color usage in educational books.

Both trade books and educational book industries are undergoing tremendous changes. Like many industries undergoing change, the changes tend to be driven by new technologies enabling a shift in who controls the value of that industry. The Internet laid the tracks from which new technologies could be deployed, enabling shifts in control over sales/distribution, publishing and where content could be displayed. Combined, these new technologies caused a decline in printed book purchases that since the 2008/2009 recession has run between 4 to 5 percent annually.

But there is a silver lining, a lining that is benefiting the digital production printing industry. With orders for books becoming ever smaller and more frequent, and with more titles being introduced annually than ever before (due to self-publishing and backorder list titles), production inkjet printing technology is solving problems faced by book manufacturers related to the compression of order size, handling increases in order frequency and reducing manual labor through automation.

From Distant Admirers to Library Lovers–and beyond: A typology of public library engagement in America

March 13, 2014 Comments off

From Distant Admirers to Library Lovers–and beyond: A typology of public library engagement in America
Source: Pew Research Internet Project

The digital era has brought profound challenges and opportunities to countless institutions and industries, from universities to newspapers to the music industry, in ways both large and small. Institutions that were previously identified with printed material—and its attendant properties of being expensive, scarce, and obscure—are now considering how to take on new roles as purveyors of information, connections, and entertainment, using the latest formats and technologies.

The impact of digital technologies on public libraries is particularly interesting because libraries serve so many people (about half of all Americans ages 16 and older used a public library in some form in the past year, as of September 2013) and correspondingly try to meet a wide variety of needs. This is also what makes the task of public libraries—as well as governments, news organizations, religious groups, schools, and any other institution that is trying to reach a wide swath of the American public—so challenging: They are trying to respond to new technologies while maintaining older strategies of knowledge dissemination.

Hat tip: INFODocket

How a Nation Engages with Art: Highlights from the 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA)

October 10, 2013 Comments off

How a Nation Engages with Art: Highlights from the 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA)
Source: National Endowment of the Arts

This report presents results from an initial analysis of the 2012 SPPA. It contains statistics with demographic insights about U.S. adults’ participation across five modes of art activity: attending; reading books and literature; consuming through electronic media; making and sharing; and learning. Findings are discussed for specific art forms and trend data provided where possible. Also includes links to additional data and resources for researchers.

Younger Americans’ Library Habits and Expectations

June 25, 2013 Comments off

Younger Americans’ Library Habits and Expectations
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project

Younger Americans—those ages 16-29—exhibit a fascinating mix of habits and preferences when it comes to reading, libraries, and technology. Almost all Americans under age 30 are online, and they are more likely than older patrons to use libraries’ computer and internet connections; however, they are also still closely bound to print, as three-quarters (75%) of younger Americans say they have read at least one book in print in the past year, compared with 64% of adults ages 30 and older.

Similarly, younger Americans’ library usage reflect a blend of traditional and technological services. Americans under age 30 are just as likely as older adults to visit the library, and once there they borrow print books and browse the shelves at similar rates. Large majorities of those under age 30 say it is “very important” for libraries to have librarians as well as books for borrowing, and relatively few think that libraries should automate most library services, move most services online, or move print books out of public areas.

At the same time, younger library visitors are more likely than older patrons to access the library’s internet or computers or use the library’s research resources, such as databases. And younger patrons are also significantly more likely than those ages 30 and older to use the library as a study or “hang out” space: 60% of younger patrons say they go to the library to study, sit and read, or watch or listen to media, significantly more than the 45% of older patrons who do this. And a majority of Americans of all age groups say libraries should have more comfortable spaces for reading, working, and relaxing.

Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading

May 1, 2013 Comments off

Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project

The vast majority of parents of minor children — children younger than 18 — feel libraries are very important for their children. That attachment carries over into parents’ own higher-than-average use of a wide range of library services.

The ties between parents and libraries start with the importance parents attach to the role of reading in their children’s lives. Half of parents of children under age 12 (50%) read to their child every day and an additional 26% do so a few times a week. Those with children under age 6 are especially keen on daily reading with their child: 58% of these parents read with their child every day and another 26% read multiple times a week with their children.

The importance parents assign to reading and access to knowledge shapes their enthusiasm for libraries and their programs:

  • 94% of parents say libraries are important for their children and 79% describe libraries as “very important.” That is especially true of parents of young children (those under 6), some 84% of whom describe libraries as very important.
  • 84% of these parents who say libraries are important say a major reason they want their children to have access to libraries is that libraries help inculcate their children’s love of reading and books.
  • 81% say a major reason libraries are important is that libraries provide their children with information and resources not available at home.
  • 71% also say a major reason libraries are important is that libraries are a safe place for children.

Almost every parent (97%) says it is important for libraries to offer programs and classes for children and teens.

The Expression of Emotions in 20th Century Books

March 21, 2013 Comments off

The Expression of Emotions in 20th Century Books

Source: PLoS ONE

We report here trends in the usage of “mood” words, that is, words carrying emotional content, in 20th century English language books, using the data set provided by Google that includes word frequencies in roughly 4% of all books published up to the year 2008. We find evidence for distinct historical periods of positive and negative moods, underlain by a general decrease in the use of emotion-related words through time. Finally, we show that, in books, American English has become decidedly more “emotional” than British English in the last half-century, as a part of a more general increase of the stylistic divergence between the two variants of English language.

See: Fear Factor Increases, Emotions Decrease in Books Written in Last 50 Years

The Short Stories of Playboy and the Crisis of Masculinity

September 16, 2012 Comments off

The Short Stories of Playboy and the Crisis of Masculinity (PDF)
Source: Utrecht University

We look at the world through media. They bring us the news; they bring us entertainment, science, art. They influence the way we view the world. In a way, they influence who we are. This does not mean that they change a person from one day to the next, but they co-determine structures of thought. One specific area in which the role of media becomes clear is gender – perhaps best described as the culturally defined and self-defined aspects of one’s identity relating to being a ‘man,’ a ‘woman,’ or perhaps something else. Different media propagate ideal images of what it means to be a man or a woman, and in our daily lives these ideal images are not often questioned.

This observation lies at the foundation of this thesis. My initial plan was to examine the ways in which media (re-)present gender identity. In particular, I wanted to examine male gender identity. The first ensuing issue was that as a historian, the historicity of gender and media needs to be acknowledged. In other words, media and masculinities are fluid and change over time. The second issue was that ‘media’ was too wide a category. Since this thesis is of a limited scope, I needed to demarcate the research further.

Ultimately, I chose one case-study of a magazine in a specific historical context: Playboy in 1950s America. The American 1950s were interesting given the subject, since a lot of literature discusses some sort of perceived ‘crisis of masculinity’ – it was a time where historical developments caused tensions with contemporary male identities that required a re-thinking of masculinity. Playboy was perhaps one of the most iconic examples of this re-thinking. The magazine offered a specific masculine identity that reacted to the contemporary gender identity crisis.

In a way, a magazine is a patchwork: It consists of differing elements, from articles to pictorials to advertisements. In order to explore male identity in the magazine in more detail, I chose to highlight one element: short stories. One of the features in Playboy that appeared from its start in December 1953 were short works of fiction. Moreover, these appeared on a highly regular basis. Therefore, the short stories made for an ample amount of source material.

The goal of this thesis is thus to answer the following research question: “How do the short stories in Playboy Magazine (re-)present a male identity in the context of the American 1950s?”

“It is my life”: A Psychoanalytical and an Existentialist Study of People of Suicidal Tendencies in Modern and Contemporary American Suicide Drama

March 8, 2012 Comments off

“It is my life”: A Psychoanalytical and an Existentialist Study of People of Suicidal Tendencies in Modern and Contemporary American Suicide Drama (PDF)
Source: Studies in Literature and Language

This study presents a psychoanalytical and an existentialist investigation into people of suicidal tendencies in modern and contemporary American drama in the elated hope to probe deeper into the minds of such characters and reveal the causes behind developing such suicidal ideation, attempted suicides and completed suicides. Before committing or attempting to commit suicide characters of suicidal tendencies must have experienced many ordeals in their lives that have made them want to commit suicide. They feel or must have felt overloaded by the miserable conditions they find themselves entrapped in. Their suicidality is the culmination of long years of pent up frustration, hopelessness, powerlessness and helpless endurance. For them resorting to suicide seems inescapable to relieve them of the pain of daily living.

Reading About the Financial Crisis: A 21-Book Review

November 5, 2011 Comments off

Reading About the Financial Crisis: A 21-Book Review
Source: Social Science Research Network

The recent financial crisis has generated many distinct perspectives from various quarters. In this article, I review a diverse set of 21 books on the crisis, 11 written by academics, and 10 written by journalists and one former Treasury Secretary. No single narrative emerges from this broad and often contradictory collection of interpretations, but the sheer variety of conclusions is informative, and underscores the desperate need for the economics profession to establish a single set of facts from which more accurate inferences and narratives can be constructed.

Motherhood in African Literature and Culture

April 7, 2011 Comments off

Motherhood in African Literature and Culture
Source: CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture

In her article “Motherhood in African Literature and Culture” Remi Akujobi analyzes the place and the role of women in African Religion and tradition and also interrogates the place of Motherhood in the production, circulation and consumption of items in African tradition. Akujobi examines Motherhood as a sacred as well as a powerful spiritual component of the woman’s life. Emphasis is put on literary discourse where motherhood is a recurrent theme, where motherhood is also a lifelong commitment. The article particularly explores motherhood as a discourse in African women creative efforts. A key intention of the article is to explore their perceptions regarding themselves as mothers and the sense they make of their experiences of motherhood. The purpose is to interpret these from a feminist perspective and see whether or not the institution of “motherhood” can ultimately empower women to be visible in vital areas of human endeavours. The study appraises motherhood as both a concept and an institution.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

My Town: Writers on American Cities

February 9, 2011 Comments off

My Town: Writers on American Cities

Source:  U.S. Department of State, Bureau of International Information Programs

My Town: Writers on American Cities features 12 American authors describing how the U.S. cities where they live contribute to their creativity. Pete Hamill offers a touching reminiscence of growing up in New York, Washington Post critic Jonathan Yardley introduces the reader to his hometown of Baltimore, and best-selling author Jonathan Kellerman describes “the sprawling, inchoate alternative-universe” that is Los Angeles. Also featured are portraits of Boston, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, Memphis, Miami, and Washington, D.C.


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