Principles for University Presses

My Twitter microrant sideline during the AAUP 2013 plenary

The annual American Association of University Publishers meeting is going on this week. This morning, a plenary was held on “Three Big Ideas in Publishing.” I wasn’t in attendance, but the conference has a thriving Twitter backchannel on #aaup13. I have very strong feelings about university presses, partly because I’ve been so fortunate at their hands, and partly because there’s… read more

Press Round-Up

In lieu of a real post

I’ve been busy since the holidays catching up and preparing for the new term, which makes this the requisite occasional “I haven’t posted on the blog” blog post. Since I’ve been reduced to such self-referential shame, I figured I might as well take things even further and offer my readers a massive dump of recentish press about me. For starters,… read more

A Professor’s Impressions of Facebook

Musings after several months of use, as I prepare to start the semester

This spring, I created an account on Facebook. I’m a web 2.0 cynic (and a cynic in general), so this surprised some of my friends and colleagues. But I was encouraged by so many of them, I wanted to give it a try. For example, Ian McCarthy just wanted an easier way to share pictures with me without having to… read more

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Winning Isn’t Everything

I used to think that games would be the dominant medium of the 21st century. The reality? They’re too big, too complex, and too smart for that to be true.

It’s hard to turn around in video game circles without hearing someone proclaim that “games are the dominant medium of the 21st century.” Deus Ex and Epic Mickeydesigner Warren Spector has a lecture built around the idea. The author Tom Chatfield devoted the subtitle of his book Fun, Inc to the concept. Journey composer Austin Wintory’s uttered the quip in an interview. Film critics writing about recent documentaries about games have even let… read more

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The Secret History of the Robot Car

How self-driving vehicles took off

After attending the 1964 World’s Fair, the science-fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote an essay in The New York Times imagining a visit to the World’s Fair 50 years in the future, in 2014. Among his predictions: “Much effort will be put into the designing of vehicles with ‘robot-brains’—vehicles that can be set for particular destinations and that will then proceed there without interference by… read more

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Why Anything but Games Matters

On isolationism in game development; my Indiecade 2014 talk

A couple months ago, I was talking to a friend in technology media. “Sometimes I wonder why I’m in tech,” he started saying. He paused for a beat. “Then I think, at least I’m not in games.” He wasn’t even really talking about the Voldemortian “you-know-what” that was indeed the original impetus for our conversation. That’s just the latest example.… read more

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Future Ennui

As we march onwards towards wearables and alerts on our wrists, we're no longer shocked by technological progress, but rather exhausted by it.

It’s been seven years since the first launch of the iPhone. Before that, smartphones were a curiosity, mostly an affectation of would-be executives—Blackberry and Treo and so forth. Not even a decade ago, they were wild and feral. Today, smartphones are fully domesticated. Tigers made kittens, which we now pet ceaselessly. Over two-thirds of Americans own them, and they have… read more

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Swing Copters: The Randomness of the Universe, Captured in Pixels

The creator of Flappy Bird is back with a game offering the sublime agony that comes with mastering a craft—and still failing.

Many of the highest-performing professional athletes are also the most superstitious. Serena Williams bounces the tennis ball five time before her first serve, twice before the second. Michael Jordan wore his University of North Carolina basketball shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform. Baseball hall of famer Wade Boggs bore a bounty of superstitions. Among them: He ate chicken before each… read more

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Academic Paydom

Tactical lessons from the Steven Salaita situation

For those of you who don’t follow university labor politics, Inside Higher Ed reported this week that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign apparently rescinded a job offer for a tenured professorship in Native American Studies to Steven G. Salaita, a Virginia Tech English professor. Well, not exactly rescinded. Rather, the UIUC chancellor decided not to advance Salaita’s appointment through a usually pro-forma approval process.… read more

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You Are Mountain

A strange video game from the Her animator bests Spike Jonze's film at depicting what a relationship with an alien really would be like.

Near the start of his relationship with a computer operating system in Spike Jonze’s Academy Award-winning film Her, Samantha the OS (Scarlett Johansson) helps Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) play a videogame. Called “Alien Child” by the filmmakers, the game seems familiar enough to be plausible to viewers, yet foreign enough to induce estrangement. The same could be said of the film’s high-waisted… read more