31 March 2009

Facebook and Business: Looking Ahead

There's an interesting post on Gary Hamel's Management 2.0 Blog looking ahead at how the "facebook generation" will, or in Hamel's opinion, will not, fit into the current corporate world. Because of Facebook and other social networking sites, Hamel argues it cannot remain business as usual at the Fortune 500 companies. His arguments focus on the fact that the Web has changed the dynamics to a point where where old dogs will need to learn new tricks to attract talent. He writes, "these features of Web-based life are written into the social DNA of Generation F—and mostly missing from the managerial DNA of the average Fortune 500 company. Yeah, there are a lot of kids looking for jobs right now, but few of them will ever feel at home in cubicleland," and is urging managers to take advantage of the creative and interactive nature that is Web 2.0. He has twelve points, things "that tomorrow’s employees will use as yardsticks in determining whether your company is “with it” or 'past it.'" including everything from "all ideas compete on equal footing," to "hackers are heroes."

Hamel seems to understand that the Web has changed more than just how kids of the so-called facebook generation spend their free time. It's not just a game, and it's certainly not a waste of time. It's how they communicate. It's how they express themselves. It's how they collaborate. And hopefully, at least to Hamel, it's how they'll do business.

Don’t Buy It: Get Media Smart!

I cannot believe I missed this site when I was working on my kids and advertising bibliography! http://pbskids.org/dontbuyit/

Oh well—it’s a fun and informative media literacy resource for kids.
They can review marketing scams of the past and guess whether they were “hot” or “snot”: Menudo = “hot”; ET Atari game = “snot”.

Check out the food advertising tricks section, especially the food styling tips for roast chicken. You’ll need a needle & thread, dishwashing soap and a blowtorch, among other supplies.

Also interesting is “Secrets of a Magazine Cover Model” which reveals just how much tweaking is done to get those images of perfection. Preparation H and Photoshop figure in significantly.

“The Cost of Cool” is fun and interesting too; kids can choose which outfit looks more expensive and then find out the answer. If I didn’t know it already, this would have taught me that I’m clueless regarding coolness; I chose the bargain outfit every time!

The only part of the site I found off-putting was the “free stuff” area, where kids could download—what else?—advertising for this site!

29 March 2009

Natives and Immigrants

When I began thinking about what to post to the blog (my first blog post ever!), I started to think about how different things are for me than they are for my parents, and how different things are for my nieces and nephews than they are for me, and so on. Ultimately, I pondered social networking sites and their users. I have considered the whys, hows and wherefores of social networking for individuals who are digital immigrants as well as for digital natives. While I know that many of the same services are utilized by both groups, the reasons for and the manners in which they are used are probably quite different. I decided to explore those differences in the context of Twitter.

What, you might ask, is Twitter? Well, you can check out the Twitter site to get started, but basically Twitter is another social networking tool. Users can post interesting information (like hyperlinks to articles on the web). Their 'friends' are notified (via text message or through the web) that the user has posted something, and can follow the information. The only issue is, there is a limit of 140 characters (that's right- characters, not words) when you post something. That seems pretty limiting to me, so I decided to find out what the big hairy deal was.

So, why have I been hearing about Twitter all over the place- from Ellen Degeneres to news anchors? Why does it seem that I can't turn around without hearing the words 'twitter', 'tweet', or other nonsense? It seems that Twitter is a technology that has been quickly adopted by those digital immigrants who are testing the waters of social networking tools and user-created media. It is simple enough to use, with very little needed to do so-- just about any connection to the internet or text messaging will do- no fancy 'out of the ordinary' equipment, no knowledge of HTML or anything. Just a thought and an ability to articulate that thought in 140 characters or less. And it makes you feel connected, just like that- prest-o, change-o. Oh, wait, there's more to it than that...

After creating my own account to investigate, I perused through the content that other user's had shared. I immediately realized how difficult my task could get if I didn't define my variables like a good social scientist. To that end, I decided that those users over the age of 40 were 'immigrants' and those under 40 were 'natives'. While I am quite well-aware that those numbers aren't exact, I had to define my variables within the perameters of what was available, and I selected approximations. When I used those age criteria to analyze postings, I noticed a difference in the postings of the two groups. It seemed that most 'natives' posted just little snippits to keep friends up-to-date on what was going on in their personal lives- where they were traveling, what they were doing at the moment, and the like. Updates for them tended to be simple and straight-forward. Immigrants, on the other hand, tended to put up more of a variety of posts. While some still involved personal updates, many of the posts were links to sites with information about upcoming events, or social/political causes. There also seemed to be a lot more back and forth discussion about the economy and other issues amongst the 'immigrants' than the 'natives'. Threads that went back and forth multiple times between users were much more apparent for the 'immigrants' than the 'natives'. In some ways, it seemed to me as though the 'immigrants' were more fully utilizing the interactive nature of the service than the 'natives' were. Granted, the sample size I used was small and I found most of the subjects by following links from one users Twitter to another, but overall the trend holds.

How can it be possible? Every text that I have read seems to indicate that the rise in social networking sites has come about because of the current generation of young people. Many have argued that the very nature of social interaction has changed as a result of the differences between the current group and past generations. Is that possible? My results seemed to indicate that the possibility might exist. Or is it possible that the 'immigrants' I chose were not 'immigrants' at all? Are my results inherintely limited because users of Twitter are probably not the average digital 'immigrant'? Or was my sample too small? How could it be possible that the immigrants were using the service in a more particpatory way than the natives? Does it indicate some underlying difference in the way natives and immigrants interact overall and not just within social networking sites? Are those theorists correct- has the manner in which we interact with one another been altered?

As I struggle to make the connections and understand what's really going on, I wonder if my results would be similar in Facebook or on MySpace. I will have to continue my search and report back...

26 March 2009

And the winner is...

The 2009 Bloggies have been announced.

One of the great things about the award is that it is all based on the readers. Everyday blog readers nominate blogs in different categories, choose the finalist from the top-nominated blogs, and vote in all of the categories. It's like choosing who out of your high school class to nominate and choose for "best smile," "most likely to marry," or "most likely to end up a serial killer." You get to decide.

Since we are looking at youth in connection to media, here's a rundown of the "teen" (as defined as "weblogs written by those 19 and under") category.

Topping the "Teen" Category of the 2009 Bloggies is:

Foodie at Fifteen (now 16)

Foodie at Fifteen (now 16) is the simple, clean, blog of a "now 16" year-old guy, Nick N, that very well could be the next Emeril, Alton, or (insert your favorite Food Network star here). Nick N is so passionate about food, he is current putting a foodie spin on the NCAA tournament (Mac and Cheese and Mangoes both made it to the next round) that he has even been grounded for losing his cool over some fish. Despite his passion and ability to cook complicated dishes, Nick N doesn't seam to be a food snob...he's a fan of a good grill cheese sandwich and even generously shares his ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe. The writing is fresh and funny, and though there aren't photos with every post, but are used to illustrate an idea or accompany a recipe, and they look good enough to eat. Be warned, Nick N may make you hungry...or crave cake batter ice cream.

(aside: have you ever tried photographing food? and having it look edible? harder than it sounds. for example milk has a tendency to look blue in photos, so white glue in a glass often subs in a cookies and milk shot... moral of the story? if it looks too tasty, it probably is motor oil instead of syrup.)

Also nominated, were:


With a tag line of "if you are one in a million, there are six thousand other people exactly like you," and the image a purple-tressed goth chic, Sarcastica has used her blog as her journal since 2005. Be it sharing her thoughts on marriage and her unplanned pregnancy, telling girls "you don't need a boyfriend to avoid feeling alone" in response to the whole Rihanna/Chris Brown thing, or simply venting about the new Facebook redesign, Sarcastica lets us into her life and her thoughts.

Oh Clementine

Her name may be Clementine, but just call her Clem. A Canadian teen writing about everything from 9/11 and American politics, to cell phone dependency and being a teenager, her entries often include fun footnotes, or end with a question inviting comments from her readers.

Sea of Shoes

Judy and Jane, mother-daughter (respectively) duo obsessed with shoes, fashion, "living in suburban utopia and sea of soccer moms and Hollister hoochies, IE: living hell," and blogging about it at Sea of Shoes since 2007. Lots of photos of Jane modeling the outfits she's put together, fashion inspiration, and of course, lots and lots of shoes.


Kaylee, a Canadian teenager, blogs about her daily life at Reliquesce. With a honest style, she writes about everything from being offered drugs, the eco-unfriendliness of phonebooks, to trying to figure out what her talent is, and random thoughts on school, complete with random thoughts footnoted.

So, take a look and see what a sample of the best teen bloggers have to say for themselves.

Random things I noted:
*Only one guy represented...is blogging a female-dominated sport?
*3 of 5 were just basic journals, without a central theme (e.g. food or fashion)
*Fewer photos than I expected (discounting Sea of Shoes)
*Quite a few comments. They've found an audience -- people who care enough to not only follow, but to chime in themselves.
*This year's winner has a really simple (and free) blog...it's not all about the graphics!
*Nice, clean layouts, blissfully lacking the flashing, dancing and annoying.
*Not 100% sure Sarcastica is still 19...maybe when she first started blogging?
*The Canadians sure love their footnotes!
*Keeping in mind that the voters were all ages...who would have won if only teens voted?

What do you think?

23 March 2009

CyberBridge to Nowhere...or Not?

This is an interesting NY Times article about a small portion of the government’s giant stimulus package designed to expand rural broadband access. Naturally, there is controversy over whether this is an appropriate use of funds.


For a counterpoint to the NY Times, check out this viewpoint at the Center for Media Justice:

This is an interesting example of the digital divide that I, at least, don't often think about: the divide between urban/suburban users and rural users. One would assume that speedy access to the internet would be even more important for rural users, since they're spread out more geographically and have fewer community centers, such as libraries, with fast internet access. Having spent some time this past weekend in area of Illinois that is much more rural than I'm used to--the Northwest region near Dixon--I realize even more how critical it is for rural residents to have access to information and communication networks.

16 March 2009

Cutesy-Wutesy Popular Music

“I think the popular music has gone truly weird. It's either cutesy-wutesy or it's hard, nasty stuff. It's good that this has life again with the youth.” –George Harrison

Head on over to Kidz Bop Kids or Billboard and preview some Kidz Bop songs. I'll wait.

Back already? So what did you think? Can you believe that Kidz Bop 14 made it all the way up to number 8 in Billboard 200? The current album, Kidz Bop 15 is number 52 on the list this week, but peaked at number 7 shortly after it was released on Feburary 3, 2009.

The general gist of albums is to have some professional (bonus points if they sound as similar to the original artist as possible) adult sing, with kids singing along on the chorus or the ‘Yeahs,” “Ohs” or other vocal interjections. Think “Now That’s What I Call Music” meets karaoke night at your local elementary school.

The songs are cleaned up to be free of swearing and other inappropriate language so impressionable young minds are safe, no radio edits required.

Lyrics Changed from Kidz Bop 15 (when comparing on Metrolyrics):

“Distrubia” by Rihanna
Faded pictures on the wall, it's like they talking to me
Disconnecting on calls, the phone don't even ring
I gotta get out or figure this shit out
It's too close for comfort, oh

Kidz Bop-ized:
Faded pictures on the wall, it's like they talking to me
Disconnecting on calls, the phone don't even ring
I gotta get out or figure this thing out
It's too close for comfort, oh

“Let It Rock” by Kevin Rudolf
Now the son's disgraced
He, who knew his father
When he cursed his name
Turned, and chased the dollar
But it broke his heart
So he stuck his middle finger
To the world
To the world
To the world

Kid Bop-ized:

Now the son's disgraced
He, who knew his father
When he cursed his name
Turned, and chased the dollar
But it broke his heart
So he raised his hand and waved it
To the world
To the world
To the world

Ironically, the intended audience apparently isn’t “grown up” enough for the original lyrics of “When I Grow Up,” by the Pussycat Dolls.

“When I Grow Up” by Pussycat Dolls
Boys call you sexy
And you don’t care what they say
See, every time you turn around
They screamin' your name

Kid Bop-ized:

Boys call you crazy
And you don’t care what they say
See, every time you turn around
They screamin' your name

When it comes to kids, people self-censor all the time. But aren’t there enough popular songs out there that wouldn’t need to have their lyrics tweaked? And then there’s the question of content. It’s not exactly Raffi. Take another look at the songs. Any that jump out at you as being questionable for kids?

This reminds me of a time a few years ago I was walking by a playground, and a girl, four at most, was belting out Britney Spears “Oops, I did it again,” at the top of her lungs. The scene stuck with me because, somehow, it just seemed so wrong. There is a good chance that this girl still thought of boys as “yucky” or possibly even “icky.” Why she was singing a song about stringing some poor boy along? Was it just because it had a catchy tune? Did she even know what the song meant, or did she just know the words? And come to think of it, she just kept repeating the chorus, over and over.

I can’t see too many in the target demographics identifying with Pink’s bitter break-up anthem “So What,” or “Take a Bow,” by Rihanna, or even with Miley Cyrus singing “7 Things.”

Granted, I’m not their target market, as I don’t like most pop music and am tall enough to ride all the rides at Disney World. I’m not even a parent. But my thought: ouch! Don't kids deserve better than recycled and dumbed down top-40 pop music? Give me more like Bearnaked Ladies "Snacktime." And if not, please, let this trend die before I have kids. I’d rather not have "Kidz Bop" blaring from my mini-van when it's my time to drive the carpool to soccer practice.

Your thoughts?

For more, check out:
The Kidz Bop Website to check them out for yourself.
A great article in Consumers, Commodities & Consumption, entitled "Kidz Bop, 'tweens,' and childhood music consumption," by Tyler Bickford.
The Billboard "Artist Biography" for Kidz Bop Kids.

11 March 2009

It's Teen Tech Week!

It's Teen Tech Week@ your library, sponsored by YALSA. Here's a link to the Teen Tech Week Wiki:


And the Teen Tech Week site...


I know I seem like the YALSA queen but I'm really not...I just stumbled on this while doing some research for work. There is some good information on the YALSA site about Teen Tech Week, and the wiki has some good programming ideas.

10 March 2009

How they done it right - Gaming + Learning Expo

During the last weekend in February, I traveled to Park Ridge (a Chicago suburb and former place of employment) to attend the library's Gaming and Learning Expo, a grant-funded event for students, parents, teachers, and librarians. I decided to make the trip because I was curious to see what this library was doing with gaming, being one of the first in the area to collect video games. Would this be a time to sample their wares? Or would there be more to it than that?

The expo was held at the local high school (good choice of venue) and was on a Saturday afternoon. The first thing that I noticed when I walked into the cafeteria was how organized it seemed. Volunteers were wearing matching t-shirts, tables were labeled with signs, and a projection screen displayed the hour-by-hour events. In the back of the room, seven or eight video game stations were set up for people to try out. Rock Band, MarioKart, Dance Dance Revolution, and Little Big World were the favorite featured games. Now, this is all I was really expecting. After all, a gaming expo should have games for people to play. But this was not just a gaming expo; it was a gaming and learning expo, so there was a little more to it than that.

Around the room booths were set up, with various gaming representatives from local universities who were available to chat and promote their programs. The presentations, however, were what set this event apart from any other I've been to hosted by a public library. Michael Henson from DeVry University kicked things off with a general gaming q&a session where audience members asked questions about the university’s gaming curriculum paths as well as how best to use games in education. Josh Jones from DePaul University followed with an engaging firsthand look into how 3D animation is created - turning a simple bouncing ball into a leaping dragon - by demonstrating the use of the animation software for us all to see. Simeon Peebler from Flashpoint University addressed the younger crowd and gave tips about how to get into the gaming industry, emphasizing game-making at any age and professionalism especially when looking for that first job. Nate Scheidler, a GamesForEducators.com columnist, targeted the teachers in the crowd and showed some educational online games to use in the classroom as well as not strictly "educational" games but games with educational content (a side effect of the fun) that are currently popular. All of these talks took place in the center of the cafeteria, close enough to the games that you could still listen in, but in their own distinct space with chairs, projection screen, laptops, and microphones in place. Like I said, this event was well-organized!

I like the idea behind this event. If you have a gaming collection you want to show off (and even if you don't), hosting activities and presentations about the gaming industry itself seems a natural marriage. After all, those kids addicted to games may just end up being future animators or game designers. As an exploding field, it's a great idea to show students what their options are - yes, they can design games too! Sure, they're fun to play, but there are some kids that really want to make their own. If you're hosting a career fair anytime soon, this is definitely a field you'll want to include. I would also recommend purchasing game design software (in a school or public library) and teaching youth how to use it. If purchase is not possible, I can bet that there is open source software out there that will do just the same. This would be an excellent after-school activity or public library program; you could also start your own game design club, which could alternate between creating various types of games. In many schools and communities, gaming is hot right now, so that seems the best reason, at least to me, to provide these sorts of opportunities to youth. If they're interested, then why not feed that interest and let them explore it better? Finding out what your community wants and giving it to them is part of the job, moreso in the public library but even so in the school, in my opinion. Students learn better when they are interested and personally connected to the material, so why not choose a format that appeals to them? And by the way, all of these things are actually going on in libraries right now! Isn't it exciting?

So, the real reason I trekked up to Park Ridge is because I was an undercover spy agent for Undergrad (sshh!), who will be hosting their own gaming expo next month. I'm not quite sure how organized they've gotten, but they do hope to provide students with more information about the gaming industry and how one can get involved in it. Check out their Gaming Initiative here.

09 March 2009

Listen Up!


Listen Up! looks like a pretty cool website for aspiring teen filmmakers and animators. It reminds me a bit of TakingITGlobal, in that it offers networking opportunities so youth can connect with each other.

Listen Up! also offers kids a free venue in which to show their work and obtain feedback from their peers. The site has a list of potential funding sites as well as links to grant-writing tools, so that aspiring filmmakers can apply to obtain the money they need to create. Also provided are list of film festivals and "calls for entries" to which youth might submit their own films. To their list I would add the After Hours Film Society, a local group in Chicago's western suburbs that has an annual student film festival: http://www.afterhoursfilmsociety.com/sffest.htm

The Research Links section of Listen Up! has an extensive list of links for learning further about various issues of concern for youth, including environmentalism, health & safe sex, animal rights, cultural diversity, violence, substance abuse, and general media topics.

If you know of any aspiring filmmakers, this looks like a worthy site to pass along.

Dora is the new Barbie?

Nickelodeon/Viacom has announced that they are working in conjunction with Mattel to give Dora the Explorer a new, more grown up image this fall. (Full press release linked in my post title.) A preview silhouette reveals a slimmer, taller Dora with longer hair and a short skirt. While it's certainly not the first time a cartoon character has aged -- All Growed Up, the Rugrats spin-off series featuring the characters as teens, is one example -- it is, however, perhaps the first time that a character familiar to the preschool set has simultaneously aged and become a target for an immersive online experience marketed at older girls. The upcoming "Dora Links" doll can be plugged into the computer in order to access a brand-new interactive online world. The press release explains that girls can "customize their doll and watch as she magically transforms right before their eyes. For example, by changing Dora’s hair length, jewelry, and eye color on screen, the Dora doll magically changes as well." The online content will also give kids a chance to "explore Dora’s world, talk to the characters, earn currency, and help Dora solve mysteries which will be uploaded on a regular basis." As they play, the doll's speech will correspond with what they're doing on the website. In addition, the doll will also feature a "magical alert system that lets the doll know when new mysteries are being uploaded to the Dora site. Even when the child is away from the computer playing with the doll, she will let girls know what new things are happening in the online world." (Just as a side note: it's amusing to me that the press release, presumably something only adults would read, keeps harping on the "magic" of the doll when it's fairly obvious that her interactivity probably has everything to do with a USB cable and a wi-fi connection.)

Although the online interactivity seems like it could be engaging for kids, I have to say I'm hesitant about the stylish, older Dora. Although my exposure to the show has been rather limited, I've always appreciated that the character is a bit of a tomboy and doesn't really seem to fit into the stereotypical girly-girl mold. She seemed like a good alternative to Barbie, Bratz dolls, and Disney princesses. I hope that even though the character will become more fashionable, she'll remain as curious about the world. I'll also be interested to see how kids react to the change. My four year-old niece loves the show now and I'm not sure how she'll react to seeing a more grown-up character claiming to be Dora. I can picture her crinkling up her little face and insisting, "But that's not Dorasplora!" I'm also wondering who exactly will be interested in the fashion doll and the online content associated with it. Will kids who may have enjoyed Dora as a preschooler but have since grown out of her be lured back in now that the character is older and hipper? This whole venture seems like a bit of a gamble. They risk alienating their original target audience while trying to reach out to kids who may still view Dora as babyish despite her new look.

Your thoughts?

08 March 2009

From text to movie

This article from the Chicago Tribune features Alan Moore, the author of the graphic series Watchmen.  He talks about how much he loathes his comics being turned into movies, as so many comic features are.  I think it speaks to the importance of text and how much can be lost when text is created into movies.  Of course there are exceptions, but how many times have we said, "Read the book.  It was so much better than the movie!"  

My favorite quote from the article was "With Moore the text matters.  The page matters.  The context matters."

Long live print.


02 March 2009

I can Haz Facebook?

In addition to worrying over what my dad thinks of my latest facebook status update (yes, my dad is the kind of dad who is on facebook), I now have to worry about potential employers looking at my profile. Many of these potential employers not only have individual social networking accounts: entire libraries have their own pages. I’m an adult; I suppose it’s time for me to stop posting fart jokes on peoples’ “walls”. This week I “friended” a few area libraries on myspace and facebook. Their profile pages looked great--professional but trendy. The content on their page was great, too: announcements, upcoming events, recaps of past events, and library photos.

I was happy to see that Evanston Public Library had over 300 myspace friends. “Gee,” I thought, “Think of all the great publicity they’re getting! And they’re probably drawing in so many readers!” So I scrolled through EPL’s friend list, and I realized that the majority of friends were other libraries, other media outlets, and author and book pages. I was happy to see that kind of networking going on, but it made me question the purpose for the site.

For those of you who work in libraries with social networking pages, why do you social network? Is it to draw in patrons? Recruit new patrons? Chat with patrons you’re already familiar with? Is it to spread the word to “peer” organizations like other libraries, or advertise to teens who would actually be using these services? Is it to give information or receive information? Do you check your friend’s pages for updates to their programs? Is this a sort of professional development tool? I’m sure it’s a mixture of all of these things.

I guess what I’m really asking here is, what are your (your library’s) motives behind social networking pages? Whose idea was it to get one, who maintains it, and what sort of information do you gain/give? Is this primarily a tool for patrons or librarians? What differences are there between your personal pages and your library pages?

Has anyone had good or bad experiences with library pages? I work in the children’s department--the oldest patron I see is maybe five. They can barely work scissors, much less internet explorer. I’m wondering how other people feel about social networking through the library. How do you promote your page? Do you ‘friend’ people/organizations, or do they ‘friend’ you?

For those of you with teens, or with access to teens, do they see it as cool that your local library has a facebook account? Or do they think it’s lame? Are we “poseurs” in their minds for setting up a page? I asked my fifteen year old cousin, and she thought it was a good outlet for reference questions, similar to email or live chat, but she reported never wanting to be online “friends” with the library. Giving a library access to your profile opens your page up to criticism and judgment from adults and authority. Of course, officially as a library, we couldn’t really judge someone, but from a teens’ perspective, they would be exposing some potentially scandalous information to a public authority.

This leads me to ask, will teens ‘friend’ a library regardless, because they see the library as a safe place without judgment? Or do they avoid “friending” libraries, teachers, etc, in order to escape the watchful eye of authority? How can we appeal to the secretive teens? To be totally honest, I still avoid ‘friending’ certain people or organizations simply for fear of looking unprofessional. I’m in grad school! My instructors are often peers! They’re not big scary authority figures (sorry, Carol), but I’m still wary of showing them my silly side (And my album titled Casa de Cat, which features dozens of simply adorable pictures of my cats sitting around doing nothing). Should we be teaching teens to avoid creating unprofessional pages? I’m not advocating Girls Gone Wild style profile pictures, but I’m all for letting people wave their facebook freak flag.

As librarians, do we see social networking sites as a positive tool for communication, or a distraction from more important studies? In many high schools, students are blocked from visiting such sites. How do you all feel about this as a teacher? A librarian? A school media specialist? A parent? A student?

Perhaps the move from facebook as a college-student-only outlet to an open-enrollment, all-ages free-for-all has legitimized social networking sites (I know myspace has always been all-ages, but facebook somehow seems more professional, and it’s what I use, so this is what my focus is). Will this lead to greater participation between the Everyteen and professional organizations online? Will online profiles move from bulletin boards to network on to virtual spaces for teens to hang out, feel comfortable, and chat? I hope so. In the meantime, I’m slowly friending authority pictures, though I have yet to un-tag myself from my cleverly named new album, “Cat Crazy”.

01 March 2009

Now In Theaters: finally what people want?

While reading a New York Times article dated Feb. 28, 20089 proclaiming "In Downturn, Americans Flock to Movies" reporting that movie attendance is up almost 16%, I was struck by the following two statements:

Helping feed the surge is the mix of movies, which have been more audience-friendly in recent months as the studios have tried to adjust after the lackluster sales of more somber and serious films.
Over the last year or two, studios have released movies that are happier, scarier or just less depressing than what came before. After poor results for a spate of serious dramas built around the Middle East (“The Kingdom,” “Lions for Lambs,” “Rendition”), Hollywood got back to comedies like “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” a review-proof lark about an overstuffed security guard.
The question I would like to put to the powers that be in Hollywood is why? What's the motivation? Is it butts in seats and dollars in pockets? Are you just giving the people what they want? Is it that we cannot afford a vacation, but can still afford a movie ticket and overpriced popcorn in lieu of someplace sunny with fruity drinks? Are you just filling a need?

And to the collective "us," what do we want? Do we only want "fluffy" escapes from reality? If the hard and depressing tales that have been taking home Oscars as of recent years disappeared, would we miss them? Which do we value more?

When I review the nominees and winners for this year's Oscars, I don't see many "audience friendly" movies that are supposedly now in theaters, the list is primarily composed of the "spate of serious dramas" and other movies that offered "poor results" attendance and therefore dollar-wise. However, I somehow doubt "Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience" or "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" will earning a gold statue next year. However, six weeks later, "Paul Blart" is still in the top ten, according to MovieTickets.com, with weekend box offices tallying $6,821,377. Plus, "Jonas Brothers" are bound to do well because they have a legion of fans who may not be able to make it to a concert, but in all likelihood can swing for tickets to their local movie theater.

Now, I by no means consider myself to be a film buff, as nearly twelve years later, I still have yet to see "Titanic," and at this point, refuse to based on principle, or perhaps stubbornness, and thanks to Netflix only feel the need to see three or four movies in theaters a year, but when I do see a movie I'd rather walk out two hours later, squinting into the sunlight after a matinee, pleasantly stuffed with popcorn (extra butter, please), and entertained. Personally, of all the movies currently in theaters, I'd be most likely to go see "Coraline" rather than "Paul Blart" or "Jonas Brothers" used as examples above, but even though these two films aren't to my taste, I see a place for them, and perhaps even a demand.

Many of the recent Oscar winner's have been bleak, dealing with hard topics, telling difficult stories. Add to that, the fact that the current state of affairs is enough to make even optimists take another look at the glass and consider if it really is half-full, we all could use an escape. Something light for a change. As Martin Kaplan of the Norman Lear Center for the study of entertainment and society points out in the article, “It’s not rocket science,” he said. “People want to forget their troubles, and they want to be with other people.” Besides, as one woman interviewed states, it's cheaper than Disneyland.

This is not a new trend. Looking at the highest grossing films of all time, we do see some critically acclaimed and award winning films, but many are summer blockbusters. And though they may not be Oscar winners, they often receive other more popular-culture friendly awards, such as the MTV movie awards or People's/Teens/Kids Choice Awards. For example, Spiderman (number 8 on the list at a mere $403,706,375) was nominated for an Oscar in two categories, sound and visual effects, but golden spacemen went home with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in the category of "Best Kiss" at the MTV movie awards, and took top honors as "Favorite Motion Picture" in the People's Choice Awards. "Spiderman" and other blockbusters may not be critically acclaimed, but they are entertaining. And the dollars and attendance show, they are what the people want.

Academy Award
People's Choice

Slumdog Millionaire
The Dark Knight

No Country for Old Men
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World End

The Departed
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Million Dollar Baby
Fahrenheit 9/11