Collieshangie

Collieshangie is a Scottish word which literally refers to a tangle of collie pups but often carries with it the connotation of a brawl, a fight, or simply a chaotic jumble. In this case, I am using it to refer to a range of relatively unrelated topics which I am bringing together under a single header. I have always thought Collieshangie was a beautiful word which is grossly under-used in the English language and have wanted to find ways to expand its functions.

So, today, I am bringing together a range of topics that are attracting interest in the CMS community this week — videogames for the visually impaired, the passing of Jack Valenti, Maori tourist performance, and minimalist music.

Games for the Visually Impaired

MIT graduate student Eitan Glinert has been doing some preliminary work for the GAMBIT games lab focused on the design of video games for the visually impaired. He is looking for some help from Boston area people who might be able to test some of his design work. He sent me the following message:

My name is Eitan Glinert, and I’m a student with the MIT GAMBIT games lab. I’m looking for 4 – 6 Boston area blind and low vision volunteers to help test out an early prototype

audio based user interface that will eventually be used as part of an accessible video

game. The testing will take place from Monday, May 7th to Fri, May 11th, and each session

will take about 45 minutes or so. Within those days the timing is flexible, and I will be

able to work around what’s best for you. Volunteers should come to either the Mass Ave

bus stop or the Kendall/MIT T station, where I will meet you and bring you to the lab.

If you think you might be interested, or have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at

glinert-at-mit-dot-edu. Thanks!

You Didn’t Know Jack!

The recent news of the passing of Jack Valenti, the former president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), brought back to mind his 2004 appearance at MIT hosted by the MIT Communications Forum — which turned out to be one of the last public speeches he gave before retiring from his position. For years, Valenti was a symbol of the moving picture industry, helping to establish the current rating system and having taken on the role of defending Hollywood against moral critics, “pirates,” and technological progress. Valenti requested a chance to address an MIT audience, coming to campus with the idea of lecturing us about the immorality of illegal downloads and the ways that it threatens the future of the American entertainment industry. He was meet by a feisty audience, which included protestors dressed in pirate costumes, and some intense questioning from tech and policy-savvy members of our community. He gave very little ground in the discussion but often seemed befuddled and unable/unwilling to understand counter-perspectives on the issues. I had a tangle with him around the needs to create a better framework of fair use to protect media education in this country — an issue which did not concern him in the slightest. The webcast of the event, though, is worth listening to, especially since it may give students studying these issues a rare glimpse into the thinking within the motion picture industry around a set of issues which are increasingly central to our everyday lives.

And, if you listen to nothing else, you need to listen to the final exchange. Moderator Thomas Doherty asks Valenti to describe his own experiences — as an aid to Lyndon Johnson — of the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. In vivid detail, he describes what happened in the hours after the shooting, including some private conversations at the White House as the impact finally hit LBJ, newly sworn in as president. (The site has created a separate file just for this segment because it is of such historical interest).

On Maoris and Minimalists

Two new podcasts of CMS colloquium events have gone up in the web in recent days:

Sharon Mazer, head of the Department of Theatre and Film Studies at the University of Canterbury (Christchurch, New Zealand) and author of Professional Wrestling: Sport and Spectacle shared with our students her reflections on “liveness” and the ways that live events get transformed by the introduction of large screen monitors that are designed to allow spectators to “better” view what is happening on stage. She spoke briefly about the impact of these technologies on the performance of professional wrestling before turning most of her attention to a festival of Maori dance which she recently attended.

Michael Cuthbert, visiting assistant professor of music at MIT, shared his thoughts with our students about “ambiguity, process, and information content in minimalist music.” Cuthbert has worked extensively on fourteenth-century music and on music of the past 40 years. A recipient of the Rome Prize of the American Academy, Cuthbert earned his Ph.D. from Harvard in 2006.

These two events illustrate the expansive understanding of media which shapes our approach in the Comparative Media Studies program. For us, the word, “Comparative” describes an approach which regularly straddles national borders, crosses the boundaries between disciplines, reflects on traditional as well as emerging storytelling and expressive practices, and examines but also often disregards the line between high and low culture. We hope you will enjoy these podcasts. There is alas only one remaining colloquium event this term — a discussion with veteran soap opera writer Kay Alden on May 2.