The 21st Century Album

With Apple’s announcement of iCloud last month, recorded music seems poised to enter a new phase of its Ovidian metamorphosis from physical object to digital file. iCloud, and similar services announced by Amazon and Google, will enable any purchased song to become available on all of a user’s devices through a call to a remote server. In effect, what these services will provide is a further dematerialization of music, another step away from the physicality of the album, with its attendant liner notes, lyric sheets, and cover art.

Curiously, however, at the exact moment when music appears ready to disappear into the ether, Björk is preparing a multimedia experience around her next album, Biophilia. Each song on the album will be accompanied by a smartphone app containing conventional and invented music notation, games, and explorations of natural phenomena. Björk has explained these apps as a new way to mediate between objects and sound: “It seems like every couple of decades this takes a somersault, and I enjoy the fresh point of view, like the honeymoon of the new format where you can really have an effect on the overall direction… I would like to feel the apps are equal to the song in the same way I have always aimed for the music video to be equal to the song: the 1+1 is 3 thing.” Björk is not alone in thinking that Biophilia is pushing toward a new form of artistic expression; some critics have even compared the process surrounding the album to the birth of opera.

Whether or not the “app album” takes off as a format, Biophilia does point toward a potential route for musicians interested in maintaining the album as a focused artistic statement rather than a collection of sound files. The ubiquity of new media, including apps, means that songs can be readily paired with other art forms and experienced as a kind of 21st century Gesamtkunstwerk, complete with YouTube videos, Flickr streams, and blog posts. All that is needed is a media format to encompass these disparate elements.

In the case of Biophilia, Björk has hinted at a “mother app” that will act as a central galaxy in which the other apps appear as constellations. While perfectly illustrative of Björk’s vision for the album, such a model is not scalable, not least because it relies on a small subset of devices for consumption (the iPad and the iPhone).

.ePub, on the other hand (at last the reason for the digression becomes clear!), is uniquely equipped to handle this mix of new media. The file type allows for HTML5 embeds of audio, video, links, editable text areas, and, yes, even games. Anything viewable in a web browser can theoretically be incorporated into an .ePub document. As such, .ePub is the perfect example of an agnostic file format: it is essentially mutable, able to be molded into the artist’s vision. Furthermore, because .ePub is the standard eBook format, an .ePub document has the potential to reach far more people than a device-specific app. Anyone with an eReader will be able to experience an .ePub album as a unified whole. And that is a beautiful thing in an age where recorded music threatens to evaporate into the cloud.

Bjork performing Biophilia at the Manchester International Festival in England.

ePub Does Not Mean eBook

I am a designer. I am an artist. I am an aspiring actor. But I am not tech savvy. Learning new computer programs is a challenge to say the least, yet by an odd turn of events I have found myself in New York City starting a tech company through DreamiT ventures and Startl. This opportunity has required me, in all of my incompetence, to learn ePub development. I read through all the blogs and books you’re supposed to, written by the two master’s of .ePub for the masses – Liza Daley and Liz Castro – but even then I still needed to learn through experience. Though there have been many struggles and are bound to be many more, I am beginning to understand the potential of ePub, functionality that has too long been handicapped by its association with the book. For those of you who haven’t the faintest idea of what an ePub is, hang-on, we are about to establish a new school of thought.

epubBlog defines ePubs as “an electronic book format that has become the industry standard, allowing eBooks that use this format to be read on a wide variety of eReaders.”

If that doesn’t make you jump up and down with excitement than I don’t know what will. If I have learned anything about selling people on an idea in these last two months, it is that language is everything. ePub is actually a really cool format, but if we continue to contextualize it as an eBook, the promise of this format will be constrained.

An ePub is not a book. It is the love child of html and pdf, allowing the functionality of html5 with the ubiquity of pdf. Basically, ePub is the file format that will allow you to embed Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, Charlie Bit My Finger, and the Mona Lisa into that screenplay that you have been waiting to produce. That is pretty freaking cool. We may not realize it, but this is something we have all been waiting for. It is the next logical step in content management and is about to blow up. As great as books are, ePub is something else; a new art form perhaps.

Lets break down “the book” for a moment. Books are comprised of chapters, chapters of sentences, and sentences of words that are signifiers of an author’s ideas. When one reads they are consenting to think with the author in a prescribed manner. There can be no doubt that this format works; however, it is only one of many languages for the translation of ideas (which can take a number of forms). Video, audio, and images serve the same purpose, but the advent of the Internet allows us to consume all in the same space. That is what ePub is.

Inspirations for newquill: New Media Literacies – Visualization

Today marks the end of June, and the end of our focus on new media literacies; the beginning of July, and a focus on the two core pillars of newquill as envisioned by our mentor and friend, Arnold Waldstein:

Publishing and Education

newquill aims to redefine the art of storytelling and learning while reifying individual expression and collective consciousness.

Visit the blog daily to take part in a continual discussion about disruption and transformation in the traditionally controlled silos of publishing and academia. We will attempt to share the insights we’ve gleaned while dedicating our lives to the understanding and hacking of tablet technology, the mystical .ePub format, and developing new cultures of learning accessible through internet access and digital information.

Please comment and tell us what you’d like to learn, any questions you have, and what you think the future has in store for teachers, learners, authors, and creators.

Let the change begin.

Inspirations for newquill: New Media Literacies – Judgment

Today’s Supreme Court decision about video game violence will go down in history as a judgment about media literacy that will pave the way for an entirely new concept of reading, learning, and literacy.

The 7-2 Supreme Court ruling released today in EDMUND G. BROWN, JR., GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. ENTERTAIN-
MENT MERCHANTS ASSOCIATION ET AL. cites that “All literature is interactive. [T]he better it is, the more interactive. Literature when it is successful draws the reader into the story, makes him identify with the characters, invites him to judge them and quarrel with them, to experience their joys and sufferings as the reader’s own.”

This statement is integral to the future of reading, learning, and cements newquill’s place as an ultimate enabler for creating 21st century literature.

Justice Scalia [a real badass] speaking for the majority, also says,

“Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And “the basic principles of freedom of speech . . . do not vary” with a new and different communication medium.”

This solidifies the legitimacy of new media forms of communication and bestows upon them the same importance as the written word by the highest court of the land. This judgment can be used by students defending their use of newquill in turning in media rich essays in public schools, or teachers using quilled works as textbooks for their classes.

This is only the beginning of a supreme literary revolution.

But that is not the only reason why this decision is important.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito [a nice guy] fills up his writing with links to video game websites to give examples of violent video games. And why is this important? Because it shows that a Supreme Court Justice requires the use of media to express his opinion on a monumental legal issue. Here are the websites that he linked to IN his opinion:

The Ten Most Violent Video Games of All Time

Top Ten Most Violent Video Games

Fifteen Most Violent Video Games That Made You Puke

Here are images and video from these sites that SHOULD be directly embedded into his opinion. However, since the Supreme Court uses .pdf – the best that can be done are links that 90% of readers won’t follow. But imagine how much stronger Alito’s opinion would be if the reader could see the media right alongside his words? That is what the power of .ePub 3 and newquill will allow.

 

 

 

              FINISH HIM!

 

 

 

BLOOD SPATTER UH-OH

This judgment ushers in a new era of thinking about literacy, reading, and writing. newquill is ready to give any user the tools to become explorers, excavators, in the frontiers of new media.

ONWARD!

The Sword and the Stone

In the mystical fable of Camelot the future leader of the kingdom was decided by who could pull the magical sword Excalibur out of a stone. Powerful warriors from all over the land came to prove their prowess to the world by lifting the sword out – but none of them were successful. There was only one boy, a lowly child, who had been chosen to lift the world’s most invincible weapon out of its rocky tomb.

This week a massive conference at the Javitz Center in New York City (#bea11, #digbook11) was held under the auspices of networking, moneymaking, and the sharing of new and innovative ideas. In reality, however, it was only a big front for finding someone, anyone, who can lift the publishing sword out of the eBook stone.

Here are the components that I think the Arthur will have:

1. They will know the blogging space better than the traditional publishing space.
2. They will have more of a background in media than in text.
3. They will be as much Silicon Valley as they are New York City.
4. They will think about the importance of shared experience, time spent with the product and the site, and the motivation for repeating the experience of reading outside of “it makes you smart.”
5. They will crowd source content creation.
6. They will give their users creation tools that will empower them and let them know they are valued.
7. They will reveal themselves right around the release of ePub3.
8. They will build bridges between nations, generations, cultures, and technologies.
9. They will take advantage of a hybrid learning/creation space that is both digital and face to face.
10. They will redefine what the world calls a book.

HEAR YE! HEAR YE! ARTHUR, WHERE ART THOU?

The New Classroom

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There’s a new kind of classroom that no one has yet given to the masses. This new kind of classroom is collaborative. This new kind of classroom is practical. This new kind of classroom is not in the future. This new kind of classroom is already here – we just have to see it.

We started our day today with a “lecture” from the two co-founders of SeatGeek, an event ticket availability website. They answered our questions, gave us advice, and encouraged us to go out and DO IT!

Here are a few gems:

“Get a VC that won’t block sales. If you can, you’re golden.”

“Make sure to meet on Mondays and plan out your week as a team for ten minutes to figure out what features you want to add and segment them to make sure they won’t take more than three hours. Update the google doc as they’re finished and see how far you got and how long they took.”

“We didn’t really have an idea at first. We just knew we wanted to build a company. So that’s what we did. We met everyday at Starbucks for five hours a day for a couple of weeks and just came up with ideas. Then it worked.”

“Make sure your team doesn’t ever duplicate anything. Split up and make something your domain. For example, I went and fundraised for a few weeks while he handled all the development work. By the way, fundraising will take over your life.”

“Figure out your value add and your main feature and stick to it. If you have to pivot then do it as soon as possible. It’s better to change as soon as you can.”

After our lecture we broke for lunch and I started making calls to “big deals” that we want involved in our project. Here’s a tip – make a phone call! Phones are extremely power when you need to reach a “big deal” person. For instance, I wanted to contact Claymation creator Will Vinton (as in he created Claymation) about using a clip from a Mark Twain movie he did in our learning environment. So I googled his name, got his company, and found a number. I called and guess who answered – Will Vinton!

We had a good chat about the project and he asked for a proposal about how it would be used. Then he gave me his email. Whoa! Awesome!

Then I emailed the amazing ePub paragon Liz Castro (Liz’s Blog) about getting her support for some of the ePub aspects and, bing, bang, boom, she responded enthusiastically and immediately!

All you have to do is get out there and ASK! Don’t be afraid!

The new kind of classroom requires that you not be afraid and have fun!

In “A New Culture of Learning” written by John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas they ask the question,

“What happens to learning when we move from the stable infrastructure of the twentieth century to the fluid infrastructure of the twenty-first century, where technology is constantly creating and responding to change?”

“[Learning] takes place without books, without teachers, and without classrooms, and it requires environments that are bounded yet provide complete freedom of action within those boundaries. This familiar dynamic, in fact, structures all our contemporary notions of play, games, and imagination” (Thomas and Brown, 2011).

Let there be learning.

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