Category Archives: Print

Economics, Finance, Capital—and Literature?

Thanks largely to the recent recession, economics has become—for perhaps the first time since the 1980s—a central part of public discourse in America. Economists such as Paul Krugman have become household names, difficult economics texts such as The Black Swan have topped the New York Times Bestsellers list, and hard-to-grasp financial issues such as debt ratings and currency valuations have made it into presidential stump speeches. Within such a context, the de facto position of the humanities with respect to economic logic—that it is either exterior or antithetical to humanistic thought—has been increasingly hard for literature and other humanities disciplines to maintain. The last few years have thus seen an increased interest by both humanities scholars and scholarly organizations in the possibility of a rapprochemont with the discipline of economics.

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Narrative Worlds: A Provisional Definition

In everyday parlance, the word world usually means one of two things. Either it describes a planet—and all of its countries, inhabitants, and natural features—or it describes a confined domain of human experience; that is, a milieu (as in “the world of professional boxing”). We use world in the first sense when engaging in scientific, environmental, or political discourse and in the second when speaking in a sociological or anthropological mode. If you were to browse through recent scholarship in video game studies, transmedia storytelling, and digital-era fiction, however, you’d discover a third usage, employed in discussions of twenty-first-century (and late-twentieth-century) fiction and narrative. Few new media scholars offer explicit definitions of what world means in this context, but in their application of it to fictional texts and intellectual properties they clearly intend for it to signal a new model for understanding narrative. By approaching fictional texts as worlds, it would seem, emphasis shifts from the study of stories themselves to that of the imaginary settings or spheres in which stories happen. It thus becomes possible to think of storytelling as what Henry Jenkins calls “world-building” or, in Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin’s rendition, the authoring of “vast narratives.”

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The Trouble with Digital Comics

For most comic book publishers, the industry’s hot issue for 2011 is digital comics. While sales of printed comics and graphic novels fell in 2010, sales of digital comics increased from a measly $500,000 to $1 million retail in 2009 to $6 to 8 million last year (according to ICv2)—an increase of as much as 1500%. Though the industry is unlikely to see such extreme growth in 2011, digital sales will undoubtedly continue to rise this year. Even if publishers were to do nothing, the increase in tablet sales will create an expanded market for their digital products. For all this growth, however, there remain two huge problems with digital comics that publishers will need to tackle if consumers are to buy these products with any kind of regularity (currently, many consumers seem to be buying them as novelty items or one-off experiments).

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DC Universe Online: 9 Days In

For the last two years, the gaming press has shown particular interest in Sony Entertainment’s DC Universe Online, an in-the-works massively multi-player online game (MMOG) that promised, with its physics-based gaming engine and simultaneous PC/console release, to shake up the MMOG market. Could a real-time action MMOG attract consumers turned off by traditional MMOGs’ roleplaying mechanics? Could its release on the PS3 usher in a new era of console-based MMOGs? After numerous delays (and $50 million in pre-launch production costs), speculators are beginning to get their answers; DC Universe Online launched on January 11, 2011, selling out quickly at major retailers (at the time of writing, Amazon had no stock) and requiring additional servers by day 5.

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Trend-spotting: Out with the New, In with the Old

Scan the contents of this season’s high-end men’s fashion magazines and you will notice a curious trend: male models are getting older. Though young models, aged 16-24, still dominate editorial content, models over 30—once an extremely rare species—are now being featured everywhere. Even stranger, these older models actually look their age. Wrinkles and gray hair seem especially coveted. Men in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and, in a couples cases, 60s can all be found serving as models in current magazines.

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