Life Aboard an Academic Supercarrier

In May, when after a year of teaching graduate school courses, I wrote a column lamenting how resistant to change many media schools are about New Media, I was amused when my friend Jeff Jarvis tried to hijack my column and turn it into an advertisement for his smaller and competing school.

“Reading Vin Crosbie’s piece about the resistance to change and general obstructionism he has found teaching at journalism school (he doesn’t say it, but he has spent the year at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University), it makes me triply glad I am teaching at CUNY [City University of New York] Graduate School of Journalism. This will come off as blatant self-promotion for the school but so be it….When I arrived at CUNY, I feared I would find what Vin did. But I haven’t, not at all. I thought I might be marginalized as the crazy guy. But that hasn’t happened….Instead, in the last few months, I’ve been teaching the faculty itself in all the tools of online: blogs, wikis, RSS, video, SEO, and on and on. The best part of this has not been my colleagues’ receptivity to, curiosity about, and eagerness to adapt the tools themselves in their classes but the discussion we have shared about the impact of these tools on journalism and education. We’ve had rich back and forth on the new architecture of media and news that the impact of this change on journalism education.”

Reading that, I felt like an American does when he reads a Hungarian or Malaysian write, ‘Look at all the trouble the U.S. economy is in! Come start your new business in my country, whose economy is growing.’

Well, much as I love Budapest and Kuala Lumpur and congratulate their countries about their economy’s growth, I’d much rather be working here in the United States. Indeed, when my one-year contract to teach graduate school courses at Syracuse University expired a week after I wrote my column and that university offered to renew it, I did so without hesitation, despite offers from other media schools.

There might be some old-fashioned professors, including a few obstructionists, in my school, as there are at most schools, but I’d rather help navigate a supercarrier with its awesome firepower, than serve in the navy of a smaller country of lesser prowess. When I recently read about Arizona State University receiving a $552,000 grant “to create an incubator where students will learn how to create and launch digital media products,” I had a similar feeling as I sat in my office within Syracuse University’s 72,000 square-foot, $32.5 million dollar Newhouse III building, which is devoted to New Media.

With all due respect to Jeff and his school, I was miffed about seeing my column hijacked into an ad for another school. I’ve been meaning to respond. Had I known someone would use what I wrote to tout another school, I would have balanced the disadvantages I mentioned by also mentioning my school’s overwhelming advantages.

Jeff is improving CUNY. As he has written, he’s teaching his school’s faculty how to use blogs, wikis, RSS, video, SEO, and Twitter. We’re doing that here at Syracuse, too. Moreover, the other New Media professors and I have begun cross-training Syracuse faculty, whose ranks number several times larger the size of those at other media school. We’ve begun teaching photography, audio, and video to the professors in the newspaper, magazine, advertising, and public relations departments, and also teaching all of the schools’ professors how to build and operate Web sites (including Dreamweaver and XML), nonetheless to use RSS, blogware, etc. Our efforts are helped by having all three Newhouse School buildings networked with 25 miles of 100-gigabyte Ethernet onto a 72-terabyte server array. Our supercarrier has nuclear propulsion.

At Syracuse, we’ve also been lucky to have some wonderful guest speakers in the school. Sports broadcaster Bob Costas was in today, as was ESPN’s Mike Turico last week. I want my New Media Business students to listen in particular to Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts and Optimedia CEO Antony Young, who each will be here next month. Last semester, I had Rob Curley, Bob Cauthorn, and Rafat Ali each meet with my New Media Business class.

Those are only some of the reasons why I’m now in my second academic year of teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Last year, I taught New Media Business as two weekly classes over 15 weeks, a total of 28 classes not counting mid-term and final exams. This year, because of the school’s class scheduling and my classroom preference, I’m teaching it as 14 once per week classes. So, the course’s syllabus can vary semester by semester. However, here is what I’m teaching this semester:

August 27 – Course Introduction and Syllabus. Discuss the students’ expectations and the instructor’s requirements for the course, grading, assignments, papers or projects, and the syllabus.
The Internet Timeline: A brief history of the Internet, its parts, who invented it, and how it works. What are ‘Web 1.0’ and ‘Web 2.0’? Why each is significant.

September 3 – Digital and Interactive. Why the true definitions of these terms matter in a world of hype. What is digital and how do its technologies work? What characteristics and capabilities make it different than traditional forms of media? What is interactive?
What is/are New Media? The Theories of New Media. Is it anything that is put online? Is it only things that are not associated with traditional media? What new dimensions, if any, does it give to media? The four common characteristics of successful New Media business plans: ‘Bits not atoms.’ Digital addressability. Quantum shift in control over media. How Open triumphs over Proprietary systems.

September 10 – Creative Destruction in the media industry. What are the long-term trends? How to discern between fads and trends? Why the daily newspaper industry is collapsing. Why the television affiliate networks will destruct. Why radio is in crisis? Media ‘train wrecks’ and ‘mine fields.’
A World Tour: Cultural and Geographic Variations in New Media. What can be learned by studying New Media outside of the United States? Who has the best Web sites in the world and why? Who has the best mobile media and why? Who most uses which parts of the Internet, where, and why?

September 17 – How Do the Economics of and Laws about New Media Differ from Traditional Media: The economics of scarcity versus the economics of surplus. Finite ad inventory versus infinite ad inventory. the costs of streaming versus the costs of broadcasting. COPA. CAN-SPAM. Legal jurisdiction. Digital Mellennium Copyright Act, Webcast royalties. DRM. US vs. EU ‘Safe harbors.’ Etc.

September 24 – Alphabet Soup, Metadata, and ‘Web 3.0.’ SGML, HTML, CSS, XML, Exif, NewsML, AdML. How XML lets machines talk to each other. The Semantic Web and content distribution in the 21st Century.

October 1 – Paid Content, Permission, & Personalization: Why information doesn’t necessarily want to be free.What will people pay for online content, when, and why? The three criteria. Individualization/Personalization of content and advertising. Permission Marketing.

October 8 – Social Media & Virtual Words: How to publish, broadcast, market, advertise, and handle chat boards, blogs, MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, twitter, Second Life, virtual worlds, and other current or future forms of Social Media.

October 15 – Streaming Media: Webcasting, podcasting, vodcasting, peer-to-Peer, BitTorrent, YouTube, why Blue-Ray’s victory over HD DVD will be moot, and an examination of new forms of broadcast that are unique to New Media.

October 22 – Metrics & RSS: Server logs, clickstreams, analytics, Phorms, Really Simply Syndication, and the gaps in the world’s most accountable form of media.

October 29 – Search Engines & Optimization: Why more than half of all online advertising today is about search engine marketing. How does search engine marketing work? How to optimize content for search engines?

November 5 – Banners & ‘Rich Media’ Advertising: The history of online advertising. Clickthroughs. Targeting by demographics, context, behaviors, geography, affinity, or purchases. Dayparting. What is ‘Rich Media’ advertising.

November 12 – E-Mail Marketing: Why electronic mail is still the ‘killer application’ despite Spam. How e-mail publishing/marketing works and its metrics?

November 19 – Mobile, E-Paper, Print, and the Future: Publishing or broadcasting to mobile phones, Playstations, iPhones, and other mobile devices. WiFi, WiMax, 2.5G, 3G, 4G, and 5G. PDF Editions, electronic paper, Kindles, OLEDs, and digital presses. A world of ambient information.

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