11. März 2012
I like to know what’s going on in the world, but generally I’m fine with having a cursory overview of the most important events. This is different in my more specific fields of interest – film, media, music and cultural trends – and I have come to depend on blogs for most of my information in these fields.
Like with everything else, I use Netvibes to organize my feeds and I would be lost without it. The widget mode allows me to see all feeds with one look and lets me decide if I want to read every item, pick out single ones or just mark the whole feed read. This mode of operation also allows me to give feeds different amounts of room according to how often they post new items and how important I find them and also allows for easy cycling in and out of feeds, e.g. when they stop updating or start boring me.
I have organised my feeds in five tabs: film, music, media, “cult and culture” (a term I borrowed from my college newspaper’s miscellaneous section) and “people”, which means private blogs of people I know. Let me take you through those tabs.
As I’ve already mentioned in my last entry, my main blog for keeping track of everything film has become /film. It’s not as good as my earlier key medium, Cinematical, mostly because of its limited (geeky) scope, but it’s okay for keeping an overview on Hollywood filmmaking at least (I’m thinking of switching, maybe to something like “The AV Club”. Any other suggestions?). For arthouse cinema, I rely on the “Film Weekly” podcast discussed in the last episode). In support of /film, I follow the only German film blog worth following, NEGATIV, but I mostly just skim the articles. Because they are opinion leaders in Germany, for some strange reason, I also follow Die Fünf Filmfreunde, who mostly post trailers. PARALLEL FILM is the blog of German filmmaker Christoph Hochhäusler, the only German filmmaker who blogs (the sorry state of the German film blogosphere is a topic for another post or post series).
There are three academic film blogs whose authors I respect and like. Dan North wrote one of the best books on digital aesthetics four years ago (get it here) and he irregularly blogs about sci-fi, puppetry and Naomi Watts. I am especially fond of his Build Your Own Review category. The Film Doctor posts good linklists every weeks and writes delightfully snarky reviews (“The Artist: When Homage becomes Fromage”). And David Bordwell really needs no introduction. He’s easily the most interesting academic film blogger around.
For some (very rarely updated) fun, I follow Adam Quigley’s Tumblr.
I have a problem. I actively enjoy a genre of music that is one of the most reviled among music journalists: prog rock. I also don’t care much for many artists and styles music journalists regularly hype. And I find the kind of writing about prog rock that does exist mostly quite dull and old-fashioned. So I only read three music blogs in support of my wekly dose of the “Music Weekly” Podcast: The Guardian Music Blog for its occasional interesting theses about the music industry and columns like “The Indie Professor”; Eric Pfeil’s Pop-Tagebuch because even though I don’t share his taste, he is a very funny writer; and Jem Godfrey’s (Frost*) blog The View from the Cube, because I’ve grown so used to it.
When I was a media journalist, I had two tabs filled with feeds and added new ones almost every week. After I changed jobs, I kept only the blogs of the people whose opinion I generally find worth reading, no matter what they write about. In addition to the german opinion leader in the field, BildBlog, they are: Stefan Niggemeier, Katrin Schuster, Jeff Jarvis, Ulrike Langer and Christian Jakubetz. Also on my media tab: The Guardian Critic’s notebook. Reflecting now, maybe this tab needs a bit of a shake-up soon.
Cult and Culture
This tab holds the best of the rest and everything else that captures my interest for a while or for longer. A sort of hobby-horse of mine is linguistics and I always get my fix at Language Log. I’ve started to read its German equivalent, Sprachlog, but while I like the topics, I can’t stand the precocious tone of its author (one of the problems with blogs). Two blogs keep me updated on Geek culture, German heavyweight Nerdcore and Geekologie, which is infested with crude humour, but funny nonetheless. And then there’s four bloggers, who stand on their own. Sascha Lobo, a very disputed figure in the German blogosphere but I tend to agree with him; Lukas Heinser, who generally writes about pop culture in an amusing way, even though (once again) I don’t share his taste in music; Michael Marshall Smith, who used to be one of my favourite novelists, but has turned kind of sour, which makes for some interesting blogging sometimes; and finally, Georg Seeßlen, an influential German film/culture critic who has good ideas but always carries them a bit too far into convolution – I watch his blog with morbid fascination.
I read lots of other blogs as well, but I don’t read them regularly. I don’t follow their RSS-feeds, even though I like or respect their authors or their topics. There is only so much stuff one person can read in a week. Luckily, the internet has found ways to let the most interesting posts from those blogs float to the top. One of them is aggregators like Rivva, which I mentioned last week. The other one is soial networks, the topic of the next episode.
19. Februar 2012
Image: Katharina Matzkeit
When I planned this series of reflections upon my personal media diet, I decided that I would write one episode about “everything that’s online, but that’s not blogs or social networks”. Today, when I sketched out in my head, what exactly I would write about, I noticed that when you take away blogs and social networks, there isn’t really that much more that I do online. So maybe this episode will be a short one, but let’s leave it like that as a case in point.
The hub around which all my media activity on the web revolves, is a nifty feed reader called Netvibes which I call my “Everywhere Office”. It allows you to subscribe to feeds of all kinds and sort them neatly in tabs and widgets. I have tabs for “News”, “Film”, “Media”, “Music”, “Culture” and “Entertainment”. The number of unread articles on top of each tab gives me an overall feeling of how much has happened. Most of the feeds I follow are blogs (more on that in the next episode), but there is some other stuff as well and I guess that is everything that qualifies for this episode.
I had just published the first episode of “Navel Gazing” when I noticed that others think about the same things. And I promptly stumbled upon a sentence by Daniel Erk that perfectly reflects my opinion:
Die deutschen Nachrichtenseiten im Netz finde ich alle recht austauschbar. Es erscheint mir vor allem eine Designfrage, ob man nun auf Spiegel Online, Zeit Online oder FAZ.net die neuesten Meldungen von dpa und Reuters liest.
I have personally opted for tagesschau.de for my news needs, which is the website of Germany’s first public service television channel. I find their blue design quite soothing, they seem relatively unbiased and because they are integrated with a network of radio and tv stations, they always offer multimedia content. When I have a general feeling of uninformedness, I like to watch their News in 100 seconds to bring me up to date on the latest headlines in a very short time period.
My college years spent in mass media studies (“Publizistik”) have generally convinced me of the belief that much of what we call “news” is completely irrelevant for me. So I like to keep informed about the trends of what is “viral” in the world right now, for which, I noticed, it suffices to check a news site every few days. Otherwise, I have adapted the strategy of that apocryphal high school intern and let the news come to me, which works surprisingly well (more on that soon). And whenever there is a topic that concerns me or that I feel I should be able to have an informed opinion about (most current example: ACTA), I generally start on a news site for some background and then take to the blogs and columnists to get a wider variety of opinions.
For my film news, I follow /film. While they are, by outer form and also by the tone of their coverage, a blog, most of what they do is reporting news and then adding some personal comment or question with not much journalistic research involved. I simply ignore the personal comments and read the news, which they mostly present in an aggregator-like fashion, by linking to the site that broke the story. Hey, look, a segway to the next section.
I follow the opinion of some bloggers in thinking that aggregating will be an ever more important important part of online journalism in the future. It’s the new form of the very gatekeeping that journalists have always used. I like the fact that there is both algorithms and people that “read” the web for me so I don’t have to. And with the power of the link, that still doesn’t mean that I am dependent on second-hand-news. I can just read it where it originates.
Apart from “/film” mentioned above, I follow the amazing German Blog- and Twitter-Aggregator Rivva, which automatically gives me the topics that Germany’s web opinion leaders are thinking about. For topics that are on the mind of the Chattering Classes in the US, I have found the “Links for the Day” feature of “Slant” Magazines “The House Next Door” very helpful.
I am a big fan of podcasts ever since I discovered that I like it when people talk to me while I run or exercise. So with about four to five hours of physical activity each week, I get through a wide range of podcasts. I always listen to the “Guardian’s” Film Weekly (which might or might not be scrapped soon) and Music Weekly for interviews and opinions on current trends in those areas. In addition, I pick and mix single episodes that seem interesting from the following podcasts: The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith (for in-depth interviews with film professionals), the /filmcast (for discussions about trends in American cinema), Zündfunk Generator (for current trends in German society), Was mit Medien (for media news) and Media Talk (for media news in Britain). A good friend also regularly tries to turn me on to This American Life and I think she may have almost succeeded.
Almost an afterthought: Netvibes also provides me with my very own Funny Pages independently of Facebook Memes. I follow the webcomics XKCD, Multiplex, Girls With Slingshots, Nichtlustig and Partially Clips – and I still follow what’s going on at Lamebook (a good way, by the way, of keeping an eye on general trends of current American [teenage] humour).
12. Februar 2012
Image: Katharina Matzkeit
For the first episode of my reflection upon my own media consumption habits, I have decided to focus on everything that can safely be called “old media” now, i.e. everything that existed before the Internet. I have decided to exclude forms of media where exposure is not really a matter of choice, like billboards.
I always feel a twinge of guilt whenever I say this, because I work for a TV station, but my television set has been a device to display DVDs almost exclusively for roundabout six years now. For about two years, I lived completely without any possibility to even receive a TV signal, then I bought a DVB-T receiver which I have used about a dozen times since, mostly to follow live events like elections, international football matches and the Oscars. Live TV, to me, is really the one thing where linear broadcasting can still shine, although I prefer to watch events like the football matches in the company of others, often in public places.
All this doesn’t mean I don’t like the content that’s on, although, of course, my profession predisposes me towards movies (I used to say that all the time I spend watching TV is time I am not spending watching movies). I could probably do without a lot of the daytime content, but who am I to judge. There is still a lot of excellent fictional and non-fictional content around, I just prefer to watch it when I choose. DVD box sets (currently: Mad Men, season 2) and the on-demand platforms of the broadcasters (there is still nothing like Hulu or Netflix in Germany) quench my thirst for TV programming, whenever it comes up.
I wake every morning by a radio alarm clock tuned, by some sort of personal default, to SWR1, the regional radio station I grew up with in my parents’ house. When I was still living alone, I used to leave the radio running while I got dressed and ready to leave the house and that was about all the radio exposure I got for the day. Now, it’s even less, although we sometimes have the radio on when we’re working in the kitchen. Most of the audio exposure I get these days comes from a number of podcasts I regularly listen to, but more on that in the next episode.
I could never get myself to read a newspaper since high school, when I would still share my parents’ regional one. As a college student, I tried subscriptions to almost every major daily or weekly newspaper in Germany and I immensely enjoyed reading every one of them. But the problem was always the same: I couldn’t get myself to throw the paper away while there were still interesting articles in there. And if I invested the time to actually read everything that interested me, I found that I had no time left for reading books. So rather than pay a bunch of money for something that I don’t actually use to its full extent, I decided to live without it and get my news elsewhere.
The average time spent reading a newspaper in Germany is 40 minutes. It makes me almost physically ill to think of the amount of quality content and the sheer mass of paper wasted every day on stuff that many people won’t even read. Better ways to distribute the content exist now. Newspapers, in the way they exist today, simply must become a thing of the past very soon.
The attention I cannot give to newspapers, I can devote to monthly magazines. I have subscriptions to the American edition of Wired and epd film. Last year, I also subcribed to Creative Screenwriting, but they ceased publication after two issues and kept the rest of my money. When my magazines arrive by mail, I usually read them cover to cover. They cater exactly to my interest, with a little bit of serendipity thrown in here and there. I keep back issues for a year before I throw them away. I don’t own a tablet yet, but once I do, I might change my Wired subscription to the tablet edition. I am not at all opposed to professionals distilling a selection of news and stories for me in a finite publication that is released at a fixed point in time, but my value-for-money lamp only lights up when I can safely say that most or all of the information contained in the publication actually interests me.
I still read books. Between 15 and 20 books per year, split almost evenly between nonfiction (mostly in some way related to my profession), literary classics and genre fiction I read for entertainment. I got an e-reader for Christmas which I haven’t used yet because I still had a lot of “real” books lying around that I wanted to finish first, but I reckon I will probably use it for most of my reading very soon. Having moved house three times in the last two years, I have learned to hate books, as much as I love them, for their sheer mass and weight. My prediction is that in two years, I will probably only buy the kind of coffee table books I love so much in physical form.
Until very recently, I really loved CDs. I have about 250 of them (which, I know, isn’t much for a real music lover but a lot more than most of my friends own) and I like to look at every one of them now and again. Seven years ago, however, I ripped my whole CD collection onto an external hard drive for my college year abroad. I never looked back. Now, whenever I buy a CD, I make myself listen to it once before I convert it to mp3, put it on the shelf, and only use it again when there’s no other possibility. I have really started buying digital downloads last year and it has become my medium of choice for obtaing music. I have a few favourite bands whose future releases I will probably still buy in years to come, just to have the complete collection on my shelf. But everything else is now on my MacBook.
9. Februar 2012
Image: Katharina Matzkeit
Real Virtuality turns three this month – and to celebrate, I have decided to write a series of articles about the way I use and consume media at this moment in time.
As a person working in media, I naturally have a reasonably big ego. However, when I started this blog three years ago, I vowed not to write about myself too much. I would give my personal opinions all the time, I would spin off arguments from stuff that happened to me, and I would sometimes write short posts about career developments or highlights, but I would not use this platform to simply muse about my personal tastes and traits, which – to be perfectly honest – I like to do a lot. I hope that I kept that promise to myself most of the time and that most of the articles collected in this blog have at least some relevance to the world that extends beyond my personal little sphere of self-reflection.
However, since three years is a birthday worth celebrating, this month will see a temporary change in policy. I want to make myself a case study and write up a detailed account of my media diet. And maybe – just maybe – someone else will read it, find something interesting in it, and talk about it with me in the comments. You never know.