Monthly Archives: August 2010

Thinking about RSS

I’ve been thinking a bit about Traci Gardner’s recent blog post “6 Reasons Blogrolls Are Dying” over at pedablogical. She recently found that “blogrolls are a dying breed” (a phrase that, when read just under her picture of a cinnamon roll, is tempting to read as “a dying bread,” but I don’t even know what that would mean). The post’s comments remind us that lots of folks are using other tools to collect blogs these days that are more fancy than old-fashioned links that don’t aggregate or do anything but sit there and link.

It’s got me thinking about RSS, my own use of Google Reader to read RSS feeds, and attitudes/knowledge about RSS in English studies. I think of how our FYC director regularly suggests RSS as a solution for instructors–say, to make a dashboard using Microsoft SharePoint services and plug in RSS-enabled lists and content from elsewhere on our FYC site. But usually, he’s greeted with blank stares–methinks very few incoming graduate students in English have ever heard of RSS.

And even though I know about RSS, as if it were a secret magic hidden behind the face of a small number of blessed sites, I find I haven’t built it into my daily routine as much as, say, Twitter or Facebook or email. I tend to treat my Go0gle Reader as a bunch of stuff I want to skim over when I get a chance, maybe, and which I have to laboriously scroll through and “select all as read” when I haven’t gotten to it for a while, just to clean up the hundreds of updates. (Boing Boing is my favorite site on the Internet, but I can’t stand it in my feed, since they update so often.)

So I guess I’m saying that RSS seems like it has the exact kind of potential that we need in online tools–flexible and automated–but that I (and most fellow English studies grad students at my university) haven’t found a way to seamlessly integrate it into our regular online lives in ways that feel important and worthwhile. Part of the problem is filtering, since so many different kinds of content end up in my feed: video game news! Scholarly blogs! How to hack your computer! Friends from college talking about their kids! But it feels like something else is missing, too, and I haven’t quite put my finger on what it is. (And honestly, I thought by writing out this post, I would kind of start to realize what that is, but it didn’t work. Sorry.)

Are there any excellent feed readers that I should be using to help with this, to help me think of using RSS in more relevant ways?

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I Politely Request that Don Henley Chill Out

Over at (the generally fair and brilliant) Copyrights and Campaigns blog, Ben Sheffner has posted bits from an exclusive interview with Don Henley, regarding the recent settlement and apology he got from a senator who parodied Eagles music in his campaign without permission. (Brief NYTimes summary.)

A couple of brief responses to some of the post’s content (keeping in mind that I’m not a legal expert in any way, and thus am just responding based on my impressions of copyright law, culture in general, etc.):

DeVore argued that the videos were fair use parodies of Henley’s songs, but the court held that the videos were satirical rather than parodic and rejected the fair use defense.

I can’t help but wonder if the satire/parody break-down will (or should) continue, as remixed materials continue to proliferate with always-varying aims and purposes. And will the new DMCA exemptions, which mention some specific genres of remix, also expand the allowed kinds of rhetorical purposes used in digital remixes?

In his interview with C&C, Henley said that his motivation for the lawsuit was not financial or political, but “simply a matter of my copyrights being violated by music being used in a way it was never intended to be used.”

This made me sit up straight. The idea of a composer managing how music (or any composition) will eventually be used feels wacky to me. When I buy a physical object–a plank of wood, a couch, a car, a computer–the creators have no say over how I physically manipulate those objects, crafting and adjusting and tweaking them as I see fit. Increasingly, text and music and visuals are the same: once they’re out in the open, we play with them. That’s just what people do; to reject that basic premise of human creativity seems kind of silly to me. (And yes, I’m showing how much I’ve been influenced by Tartleton Gillespie and Cory Doctorow here.)

He added, “People in my age group generally don’t like it. Songs are difficult to write; some of them take years to write. To have them used as toys or playthings is frustrating.”

But that’s what composing is: taking the ideas and genres we’ve learned, and playing around with them. It might be frustrating, but that’s just how it goes. (I know, I know–this is less of a thoughtful argument post and more of a “Sheesh” emotional reaction post.)


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