February 23, 2011

Fanzines book has no fans

I'm a little slow in catching up to post this, but there are some interesting discussions surrounding Fanzines, a new title by academic professor, Teal Triggs. The main discussion I'd like to direct you to is a blog post by Jerianne of Zine World, where she explains the problem with this new text and its implications.

This new book documents zines, with visuals and historical information. Although it is true an academic book about zines and zine history could stand to further legitimize the medium in research and academia, there are some problems here, which I learned from Jerianne's post. These problems center on copyright and accurate factual information. I won't repeat everything Jerianne discusses in her blog post, but do want to point out some key information:

  1. Zine images were used without notifying zinesters prior to publication (in most cases, if a zine creator even was contacted, it was an afterthought).
  2. Perhaps related to this snafu (lightly-stated), there is information about the zines and zinesters covered in the book that is incorrect.
This translates to: well, zinesters being pissed, and rightfully so due to someone profiting financially and profesionally off their DIY/not-doing-it-for-profit ethos; as well as now having a text covering a topic that is not highly documented -- that will be imprinting incorrect information into history (with not much else in formal print to contest it).

Jerianne quotes Tobi Vail:
As Tobi Vail pointed out in her blog entry about the book: “I think there should be a way to contest ‘false information’ in published works. Because once it’s in a book, it’s a ‘fact.’ People will use this book as a source for further writing on the subject matter. … Because once something is in print, it becomes an authority.”
This is true, and I see it often in student research. If information is printed, it will often be repeated without question. So, what good could come of this situation? It looks like there is no effort or interest on the author/editor or publisher's part to rectify the situation, so what to do? Using this as an example in teaching critical thinking skills in information literacy is a start; I'm not suggesting to purchase the book at all, but explaining the issue to students and showing them how misinformation can appear in authoritative-seeming sources, even by a credentialed professor, is possible.

This example could also be used to show that research is truly a discussion. Look at Wikipedia, with all the arguments that spawn out of incorrect information in entries, or even just differences of opinion. Of course, the book in question is not a matter of opinion, there is simply factual information that is incorrect, but it could be a good segue into also showing Wikipedia can be useful for the zeitgeist and basic information, but it's still necessary to double check, consider motivations, and question "authority." Wikipedia is not the only source that can have faulty information, but could serve as familiar grounds for comparison. And, hopefully, someone with more accurate information might consider publishing a book to rival Fanzines.

February 11, 2011

The Adventures of Unemployed Man

Received a copy of The Adventures of Unemployed Man recently to review from the perspective of a community college librarian.

At first, when I got through the first third of the comic, I was a little concerned that the material could be too advanced for some community college students, especially in highly disadvantaged areas with poor school systems. But, after reading through it and taking in the story more, it really would be a great jumping off point for discussion on how the economic crash happened, who is responsible, and where we're at now.

Unemployed Man (first known as Ultimatum) starts off the comic trying to "help" the unemployed and destitute by forcibly making them think positively and giving them his book to learn about/accept responsibility for their supposed failures. In one frame, he tells a dumpster-diving woman, "In America, we don't beg and steal. We get a job." I found this very funny.

Eventually, Ultimatum gets fired, hence, the titular hero name. The Just Us League gives him the axe because he begins questioning the League's corporation and its exploitation of workers. Through the hero's journey of learning the grim realities of his former victims/charges, the reader of course gets a glimpse into how and why the economic crash happened through witticisms, satire, and very nice illustrations.

What I had been concerned about being too advanced for some students was that to understand much of the culture jamming and social commentary in the comic, one would need some background knowledge of the economy and politics (as well as knowledge of comic formulas). For example, understanding golden parachutes and the scandals with AIG and Goldman Sachs (some Adbusters-style jokes are invoked by having these companies appear in a skyline frame). Another example refers to a glowing, green alien: Alien Greenspan. There are also a number of references to comics past.

Again though, I think if jokes are missed, or preferably, questioned, it could open a good dialogue about the recent and current economic climate. It can be easier to talk about a comic than a cold, likely boring textbook. I love that humor is a big part of the comic as well, because I truly believe humor aids a great deal in learning.

The Adventures of Unemployed Man looks at the crash from a variety of viewpoints that I think a highly diverse campus would appreciate. There is something for everyone. It's exciting to see a subversive, social justice-driven comic that could have very good potential for education.

It gives some hope to the reader as the story progresses. I enjoyed it and think students would as well.