Eight minutes of truth-editing

This link is very interesting; an (almost) real time geo-locater of anonymous Wikipedia entries.
During a workshop on Recalling RFID, I got interested in where the actual story (in this case wikipedia entries) was being made on RFID. In a first attempt, a map was created that shows the sizes of countries in relation to its contribution to the RFID story.
I recently received the above link form a fellow blogger and decided to explore a little with it.

Below you can find eight minutes of recorded truth-editing compressed in two minutes. In this dance of red dots, what do we see? And what is the world editing about within these eight minutes of reality? A nice add-on would be if one could track changes per edit-topic. This could create a kind of ‘truth-status-bar’ of topics of your interest. Next step will be to record an hour and create one static image with all layers of edits. This in order to see where the weight of edits will lie (and maybe on what topics/issues).
Here you can find the movie.
In this movie we can actually see the different entries over time, chronologically. What also seemed interesting was to create again, a static map, that shows the (share of) contribution per country during a specific period of time.

Via Processing, I plotted the map of two minutes editing:
visual
With many thanks to Erik, it worked out.
Below you can find the source code (which actually will not work, because first you will have to create a movie from the site and then separate them into single images and load them into your sketch folder within Processing…). You can actually use the movie above to subtract images from.
Here is the animation of two minutes Wikipedia.
Source code: source code

Here is a cross-post.

Skype is no longer spam free. This afternoon I was asked to add a new person to my Skype. The message it sends is the following:

Dear Sir/Madam:
first of all, thank you very much for your attention!
We are one of the leading international-trade wholesalers in China, mainly dealing with digital cameras,PSP,LCD TV,Laptops
Notebooks,Digital Video,Mp4,GPS,and so on.
we are the sole franchise manufacturer as well as agent in China for giant international companies such as IBM, samsung,
sony, NOKIA and so on . Therefore, all the goods have the lowest price and best quality.
in order to establish long-term business relations, we are ready to offer you the most reasonable price sharing more profit
with you. we are sure that you will obtain more after browsing our website,Please connect to us whenever you have any
question,we will give you satisfying answers.
Our Web address: …
Our MSN: …
Our mail: ….

Is this the beginning of a new era of spam?

‘Constructive instability’ is how Condoleeza Rice described the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in the summer of 2006. It’s a term that brings to mind tropes of globalization – maybe a synonym of precarity, or the state that produces a desire for sustainability. Thomas Elsaesser uses it to describe the kinds of experience engineered on the Web, especially through collaborative filtering. He asks how our experience of the new forms of artificial life – “or art made more life-like” – known collectively as Web 2.0, might help us think about the whereabouts of ‘the human’ in the new ‘posthuman’ landscape.

In the mode of Web flâneur, Elsaesser took his questions to YouTube. Starting with the notion of ‘collapse’, he followed a semantic trail that led from the Honda Cog advertisement to the film it references (Der Lauf der Dingen), on to a Japanese television show and, finally, world championship domino tipping. The collective efforts of users, software, statistics and sorting algorithms presented him with a path through YouTube, one that wavered consistently between the joy of epiphanies and a constant threat of entropy. But rather than understand this pathway in the new media lineage of hypertext, Elsaesser turns to the language of cinema.

Elsaesser’s talk centered around Der Lauf der Dingen – the 1987 film created by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The famous film is a 29 minute long take that follows an elaborate cause-and-effect machine made of a range of heterogeneous materials – planks, tires, candles, and so on. The film is hard to stop watching, and gains its suspense from an engineered potential for failure – its ‘constructive instability’.

Elsaesser uses the translation ‘The life of things’ rather than the official one, ‘The way things go’, and connects the film’s tension between balance and collapse to life online. The Web flâneur finds pleasure in the added value of Web 2.0 – its own versions of adaptive evolution – but there’s always another collapse, the anxiety of oncoming entropy, “the evolutionary dead-end”. Ontologically, the path through YouTube might be likened to a digital picaresque novel. It is an episodic narrative of loosely connected elements – not random but on its way there. A constructive instability whose attraction relies on that which destroys it. Going to back to his initial question, Elsaesser says that failure is the all too human factor that underlies the new forms of so-called posthumanism.

Elsaesser’s talk was itself a series of ‘aha’ moments – for me, a real highlight of the conference – and I’d never manage to capture it all in a blog post. I tried not to mangle his ideas too much, but I’m not so sure. (If his paper is published online I’ll make sure to link to it here.)

This part of the conference is dealing with curating online video and was moderated by Vera Tollmann. The main question was why filmmakers and artists working with moving images don’t occupy Youtube as the perfect way to archive and distribute their work and to reach larger audiences. Bands and musicians inhabit Myspace, but why don’t use artists the online databases as a perfect place for their portfolios? And if artists were going to do so, what would happen with the curator? Would there be something left to do for him?
Sarah cook picuture Anne Helmond
(more…)

This session is the most concrete session of today. The focus is on practical views on online video from the perspective of speakers’ practices. How do video artist, activists, programmers and curators deal with copyright issues, publishing and distributing videos? Main issue addressed in this session relates to the most ideal alternative platforms that can be created for online video. What are the differences and similarities compared to YouTube? How do these alternatives deal with open source software and p2p processes? And how do they deal with user agreemenst and proprietary software? Why not YouTube?

Seth Keen

Moderated by Seth Keen, the speakers in this session will investigate developments in the field of open source software in creating alternatives to proprietary software like Windows Media Player. Through investigating p2p alternatives and open licenses, both users and programmers aim to create a truly distributed network, in which content can freely float around without having to use centralized servers and sign strings of user agreements. Moderator Seth Keen and Geert Lovink developed the concept of the Video Vortex conference together.

Michael Smolens

All photo’s by Anne Helmond


Michael Smolens – Cross-cultural communication through real-time translation

Last minute addition to this session and first up is Michael Smolens. His main interest lies in cultural needs around the world and how digital technology can provide new means for cross-cultural communication. A documentary like 9/11 Truth shows the impact one documentary can have on public opinion. It is not hard to imagine there are numerous movies around the world with similar impact but are not accessible due to language issues. His project aims to use open source-wikipedia like software to make every movie available in all languages, in all kinds of formats. His project dotSUB does this by making use of RSS in 24 languages. It is basically a real-time translation tool on the Web. This project shows a sensitivity for cultural significance. Language is impediment in understanding other cultures but can also be a barrier that creates misunderstandings.

Matthew Mitchem

Matthew Mitchem – Video Social: Amateur video and virtuosity in collaboratively produced media
Matthew Mitchem shows a political/activistic clip “A Cold Day in DC” that reflects on the second inauguration of the Bush administration. This documentary was his first involvement in making videos. With a background in philosophy and an interest in politics, he positions himself as a political video maker.

What are YouTube alternatives? Matthew explores this question by looking at the first answer that comes to his mind: television. In his presentation Matthew argues lines between television and online video are blurring in two ways. First of all, the boundaries between old and new media are blurring because YouTube is becoming a popular source for mainstream media to reflect upon. One consequence is that YouTube is getting more political importance. The video “Vote Different” shows a 1984ish movie based on a 90ties Apple commercial. The maker was slightly related to the Barack Obama campaign and was fired after this video got enormous airtime. During the Hurricane Katrina, CNN advised people to stay in doors, but requested viewers if they did get out anyway, to take their video camera with them. Eye reports or citizen journalism via videos were a substantial part of the CNN reports on Katrina.

For this conference Matthew decided to become a YouTube addict and got involved with commenting and replying. He shows an online video concerning Hillary Clinton and repetition. The video “Hillary Clinton: Favorite Word” shows a very narcissistic Hillary Clinton (lots of “i’s” and “me’s”). Right after the interview this video was online. Most hits for that video were on the next day. Since there were a lot of videos responding to that interview it was difficult to get many hits. If you want to be viewed tag well. The point he makes is that YouTube has become part of the political project, not separated form it.

Secondly, he argues television is not at all that distinct from YouTube because there are numerous sites that provide channels or topic specific online videos, including Godtube, Gospeltube, Ning, Channelme.tv. They are basically a ‘filter’ for online videos. In the example of Ning, you can create your own social networking site (under a license agreement) Also, Channelme.tv, is quite big and allows for alternative use. From this television perspective we don’t need to construct more alternative to YouTube because public access television is already available through these filter-like sites. These sites are often built on top of mayor sites like YouTube.

His project Multitude.tv is one such examples that provide means for Web users to create and share their filtered channels. Multitude.tv is recently redesigned and now makes use of a WordPress-like cms called Joomla! Joomla! works on database management and FTP. The benefit is that you can use your own user agreements and it has the-same functionality as YouTube, with lots of open source plugins. You can basically create your own YouTube. Unfortunately he didn’t elaborate on Multitude.tv much. Questions from the audience were mostly about Multitude.tv which provided him with the possibility to elaborate on this project. Multitude.tv is a also a filter-like project, like for instance Godtube and has multiple channels. Since they also make use of YouTube content and therefore also transferring copyright with the content they copy to their site, there was also a question relating to this. How do they deal with that? The answer was simply put: they don’t. They don’t have lawyers, mostly because they are not as financially attractive as YouTube. Furthermore, when they receive complains about a specific movie being copyrighted they remove it. Another interesting question was about the collaborate aspect of the project. When Matthew and his colleagues were filming “Cold Day in DC” they saw that lot of people were filming. Although they were only ones making feature documentary about second inauguration, there were a lot of citizen journalists. Multitude.tv is also a platform to create collaborative group where these videos can be collected and shared.

Valentin Spirik

Valentin Spirik – Open source ways of producing, distributing and promoting online video
Valentin Spirik is part of P2pFoundation.net. He approaches alternative ways of producing, distributing and promoting online video by looking at free and open-source software like 3D modeling/animation application Blender and open-media platforms and tools. Valentin is film maker and into collecting and filtering open source video tools. In the last couple of years his focus moved to online distribution. He discusses open source software by talking about the ways he as film maker promotes, uploads and distributes own videos. Providing a kind of HowTo for finding ways into existing alternatives to YouTube. With this he hopes people to be inspired and find alternatives to YouTube. His method of working with online video is illustrated with examples such as “Indiworks Channel” which involved remixing video, 3D animation and vlogging.

His first recommendation is to have a blog. Valentin uses uses WordPress, but it can also be Blogger or another blog software platform. The downside of WordPress is that it cant embed Blip.tv videos because of some security issue in the code. Only YouTube and Google Video can be embedded which is not a good thing. Valentine prefers Blip.tv over YouTube because it supports creative commons license which YouTube does not. Blip.tv also support more file types next to Flash which is the only type YouTube supports. Before using Blip.tv he used Archive.org. Archive.org is an important site because it is a free and big digital library. Archive.org doesn’t charge for storing videos. They only make you agree that people are able to download your video. In the open-source pond his video’s can still be found such as his first (half) feature film “Vincent“. Valentin makes an interesting remark about online video distribution. The notion that everything is getting faster and smaller and easier is only half the story. The other side of the story is slow distribution via the internet. In traditional cinema movies go away can not be seen again.Archive.org for instance lets you see movies and files over and over again, when you want to; it allows you to distribute your movie into eternity. And for free. This argument taps into the argument made by Florian Shneider that the Web is not about real-time but rather about “anytime wherever”.

Nicely complementing the previous speaker who talked about ‘filters’ for online videos, Valentin discusses a possibility for creating alternatives to YouTube by creating channels. On Videobomb.com you can bookmark favorite videos and make playlists. After making a playlist, you can create a feed and it becomes basically a channel. In aggregators such as Getmiro.com you can can submit your channel. Before this possibility of creating channels existed he used Ourmedia.org. Ourmedia.org is very simply put a community built on top of Archive.org. This was actually an ‘alternative to YouTube’ before YouTube existed. These alternatives are both mainly about link copying. In linking it to your own site, you create your own video channel – a very strong and easy alternative to YouTube. This is great for independent film makers because you can create your own channel. According to Valentin there is no excuse left to not post your stuff online. On the p2pfoundation.net wiki on the Audiovisual Guide page, there are all kinds of documentation on ways how to get your stuff online.

By showing trailer mash-up between terminator and E.T. “The Real Digital Revolution” Valentin shares his thoughts on copyright issues. The mash-up is a commentary of what is going on online. Concerning copyright, this trailer has some discussions around it. The power of video is that you can show it. Strange is that we are allowed to quote text, but not video. While the thing is with videos that you have to show them, not talk about them. To not be able to show videos is absurd.

The last open source solution Valentin addresses is Blender, which is a 3D application. You can even change the code if you want. While the commercial version of software like this costs between 2000 and 5000 dollars and the code cannot be changed. Blender is free and works. To demonstrate Blender Valentin ends with a preview of a Blender-made movie that is not yet finished called “Vivaldi-rock”.

Philine von Guretzky

Philine von Guretzky – Bridging the gap: Redefining the platforms for moving image
Berlin based Philine works with an organization called Tank.tv. Online gallery Tank.tv is dedicated to showing video artist in different contexts. It is an alternative to YouTube specifically for video artist. The artworld is at a change this moment, also in video art. Recently video art is been made more available, blurring the line between traditional art categories. Tank.tv is experimental and acts as an online gallery especially for independent and new artists. Since 2003 they have been online and mayor changes are happening now. The number of viewers increase, content increases, and ways of working change.

Artists and traditional galleries initially were afraid for publishing online because it would devalue the work and make it easy to copy. Tank.tv is now more accepted within institutions and they curate shows a couple of times per year in collaboration with other institutions. The videos shown online are reduced to three minute-videos and in museums (such as Tate Modern), on a big screen, full videos are shown. Together with Park.nl Tank.tv has also curated for a whole year an Urbanscreen in the south of Amsterdam. No commercials, just video art.

In what way is Tank.tv really different than YouTube? First of all videos are not embeddable on sites. They have the philosophy that it is more respectful to the piece and more about the piece itself when it is shown on this curatorial site. Some artist don’t want to be shown next to a funny kitten movie and Thank.tv provides a platform for such artists. The strength of Tank.tv lies with the group as such. It is a small curated amount. Copyright issues are not a problem for this alternative and dealt with rather easily; the artist signs that its not Tanks.tv’s problem if it turns out to be a video that is copyrighted by someone else.

Ian White wanted to create a list of lists of videos. They are an online gallery that only show what is admitted. Therefore you are invited to submit to the list of lists. Best is on minidvd for submission.

Jay Dedman

Jay Dedman – Show-in-a-box, WordPress video distribution system
Presentation of videos is very important for online works and media activists. Open source and sane copyrights are also important. Jay Dedman and college Ryanne Hodson have developed Show-in-a-box, a tool that makes WordPress better suitable for WordPress. With the goal of creating the ultimate videoblogging platform by providing WordPress installs, this alternative builds on YouTube and WordPress.

In asking for a revolution in online video, he claims that it already happened. YouTube is a revolution. However, “YouTube makes my work look bad”, that is the main problem. Although this argument for an alternative to YouTube sounds similar to the argument made by Philine, Jay does not argue for presenting the pieces he makes as stand alone videos. Jay considers himself a storyteller and requires good quality for his videos. Showinabox.tv. mixes your WordPress site with good video displaying. Most storytellers are not familiar with php, html etc. so they really need tools otherwise they will get left out. Voices need to be heard. What he considers problems concerning online video can be solved by adjusting WordPress. A blog works well for text, but not really for video.

Jay started to make a list with critical thinkers, film makers to see how they deal with distributing and presenting videos and the problems they come accross. Momentshowing.net was the blog he started with. The blog format looks like a diary and it is almost impossible to find old videos except on date search or clicking through the archive. As more speakers have addressed in this conference, it is important for video artists videos can be found “anytime wherever”. Because video archiving and searching does not work good, the blog does not serve this need.

As a second example he shows Politicalvideo.org, a political video scraper that allows you to mix these videos. The blog does not allow video to easily work with it: too much text-based. For visual creators, a blog often does not suffice and support creativity. Also when vlogging is about raising money for visual projects, donating via paypal for instance, again a blog is not ideal. For this to work they even needed to hack WordPress.

Another project deals with getting 8mm movies online, still difficult to find a format that handles these files. The Show-in-a-box project is about volunteers that create open source plugins in order to create a good alternative YouTube that does not scramble with your quality. A first pilot is Ryanishungry.com. It is a blog, but offers different video formats and shares (called VPIP, video paste in place). Point to make is that video artists need to get involved in the creation of new media tools. Pledge drive features plugin for WordPress is about also financially helping each-other out (because youTube isn’t gonna!).

Tatiana De La O

Tatiana De La O – Independent media
Tatiana approaches alternatives to YouTube yet from another way. Not addressing YouTube alone, rather the Web 2.0 revolution as a whole. Tatiana is part of Indymedia, however she is not representing them. It is the first open independent open source publishing site and she wants to talk about how they are different to the 2.0 revolution. Independent media sites are looking at web 2.0 with two different attitudes. On the one side they want to learn to network the different producers better and spread good material better. On the other, narcissism and individualism of the blogosphere is seen as counter productive by most of the activist programmers.

Sites like Indymedia and Archive.org are about seriousness of the information that is on display. They are often event-driven and reactive to reality. Independent media are mostly run by volunteers and reactionary. The problem is that they are sometimes anxious that the police will come and shut their servers down and they do not have that expensive professional software. This does not always makes them look as professional as commercial Web 2.0 sites. It is however not so that Indymedia is unstable and Flickr or YouTube is stable. The police can also remove your video from YouTube.

2.0 is about friends of your contact list. The advantage of 2.0 sites is that you can control the feedback, It is gentle, more stable, more fun. In many independent media sites one cannot do this. She makes a point about content politics, taking democracy to media production. Her main argument against 2.0 is that it takes down democracy. People that like kittens and fun are free on YouTube. People that are serious or political not always. Who is adjusting content? What is democracy? Something unequal. Just like 2.0? A pervert thing in Flickr is that they have sneaky ways of hiding content by not showing tags in searches. If your pictures are dirty they get tagged nipsa which means it can not be found in a search. If you admit to Flickr your picture is nipsa yourself, only that picture is removed from the search results. When Flickr find out themselves, then the whole account is removed. This is about diverting information (agency and control). Old-school politics are transferred onto media sites. Indymedia did Web 2.0ish things as well, but called it open-publishing.

Tatiana ends her talk with 2.0 lessons. Indymedia were fighting for revolution and people went to 2.0. Their first reaction was “why! have you seen the licensing!”. The first lesson is that they learned not to be jealous. People use the tools they can use and they will use it (YouTube, Flickr). Why fight it? Secondly they think more about syndicating content via YouTube. Try to talk more with users what features they like (not too much though). About marketing and means, they want to make revolution irresistible! if content is elaborated, it gets more attention. Still, it has to be quick. Lots of open source and free software is emerging. We are now preparing tools for this new revolution. We show what we are doing. They are not reactive to market (2.0 buzz), but to what people are doing.

The last few weeks it has been in the news numerous times; in Guangzhou, South China, snow and ice storms have stranded tens of millions of people, most of them migrant workers traveling to their families to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Since the storms began on January 10 officials have tried to keep more travelers from coming to the stations by closing them off in order to prevent riots. Furthermore the government has urged migrant workers to cancel their travels for the New Year. (more…)

Radio Dada

The video-images are constructed out of nothing but the image that feedback created [I focused a high end camera to my screen that showed, in real time, what I was filming, which created a feedback loop]. Then I glitched the video by changing its format and subsequently I exported the video into animated gifs. I [minimalistically] edited the video in Quicktime. Then I send the file to Extraboy, who composed music for the video.

The composing process started with a hand held world radio. Extraboy scanned through frequencies and experimented with holding the radio in different parts of the room while touching different objects. Eventually he got the radio to oscillate noise in the tempo that he perceived the video to have. The synthesizer sounds that were added were played live to further build on a non-digital sound and rhythm. This was later contrasted with drums which were digitally synthesized and processed through effects with a very digital sound to them. Just like the video, the music is a mix of digital and analogue.

rosa-menkman.blogspot.com
internet2008.se

Background statistics for the internet are kind of hard to come by, mostly, they are kept in the iron vaults of the upperclass Internet companies, but Akamai (responsible for 20 procent of internet traffic) put out a very worthwhile report that brings together loads of interesting and usable data. Akamai sees that in the first quarter of 2008 (the period this publication spans), the growth of the Net didn’t stall, it continued to develop in rapid fashion.

This report shows a whole range of data, from the amount and location of DoS (Denial of Service) attacks to the amount of cable breaches, amount of broadband connections and speeds per country. But also the enormous impact of rerouting by governments is talked about in this publication. Although I haven’t been able to analyse the data, I think these statistics allow students (and researchers longing for some good data) to incorporate this in their works. Seen any interesting data in this publication? I’d like to hear it, just write a quick comment.

To download it, simply go to the following website Akamai State of the Internet (English) or Computable (Dutch). It’s free, but you do have to register, but it’s worth to take a quick peek.

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Fatima Mernissi

Original Text: 2004

Pages 240

Published in Italian and Dutch

 

 

 

Stereotype 1: Changes are most seen in the central part of Morrocco than in the more rural regions.

Stereotype 2: The technically developed west is superior then the weakened East, that since the Stone Age remains the same.

Stereotype 3: Graduates of the University generate more riches than those who never have the chance.

Stereotype 4: You are rich if you have a lot of money.

Stereotype 5: The conflict between man and woman will take centuries to solve.

Stereotype 6: The two cultures in Morocco (the Arabic and the Berber) are the source of many conflicts.

Stereotype 7: The populations living in the southern part of the country are called Berbers.

 

 

This is only a short list of the common generalizations Fatima Mernissi aims to dispel with her bookSheherazades Weblog. And if anything, she asks the reader to look beyond these generalizations in the effort to realize how fast Morocco is changing as a country.

 

 

It is no secret that Internet and mobile technology are quickly changing the way we live and work. Surprisingly, however, the impact of these technologies can best be seen in places other than Asia, Europe and North America. Increasingly, technology seems to have its greatest impact on places least suspected. This is only one of the many acute observations that come out of Fatima Mernissi’s latest book, the Sheherazades Weblog.

 

 

 

This latest book offers an interesting and unique look into the rising Internet culture in Morrocco. In the effort to connect the dots, we join Fatima Mernissi on a trip that extends well beyond the country’s urban centers and well into the highlands of the Atlas Mountains and the desert regions beyond.

 

 

 

It is in these more rural areas that we see the most dramatic change, the most creative use of new tools, and a combined community effort to harness their potential. It seems that communities in these remote areas have the most to gain from a digital revolution and at the same time can be the most creative in its uses.

 

 

 

One phenomenon that cannot be overlooked is the dating site revolution. A number of platforms have been mentioned in her book and are a testament to the desire and interest people have to connect and communicate. You can visit some of these websites, however, a few of them are no longer working. You can still look them up on the way back machine for an idea (http://www.archive.org/index.php).

 

 

 

Moroccan Dating sites :

www.imilchil.com

www.robatzoom.ma

www.unieis.co.ma

www.zawgaty.com

Note: Would be interested to know of new sites that might have replaced these services. Also, would be great to learn of other entrepreneurs in Morocco who have found there way successfully online. Feel free to share stories and update this posting with additional links.

 

 

 

But Morocco’s changes reach far beyond dating. Mobile and Internet are increasingly being used to introduce new and innovative services across the country. One website, that still remains a prominent information portal, was started by a young couple in Marrakech (www.emarrakech.info). The founders exemplify a new breed of young entrepreneurs looking to engage their fellow citizens, taking active roles in the democratiziation of information. It is in these young people where Fatima Mernissi sees one of the country’s greatest strengths.

 

 

 

“Either way, feeling at home between tradition and modernity is without a doubt one of the most exciting characteristics of the Morrocan youth, who one evening sing along to pop tunes and dance to the rhythms of the sama’ the next. I believe this is one of the secrets of the new Arabic generations.”

 

 

 

It is interesting to note that the original text was written in 2004. What makes my head spin is to imagine what has happened since Fatima Mernissi made these observations. Where is the revolution now ? It is no surprise that the mothers of some of Morocco’s most promising Internet entrepreneurs still weave traditional rugs. Of course if you are interested in buying one, you can always shop on SouthBazaar (www.southbazaar.com), a Moroccan based website dedicated to artists who might otherwise not have an online presence.

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting Statistics

MA – 34,343,219 population – Country Area: 458,730 sq km

Capital city: Rabat – population 1,754,425 (’08)

7,300,000 Internet users as of Mar/08, 21.3% of the population, per ITU.

390,800 broadband internet subscribers as of Sept/07, per ITU.

Source: Internet World Stats

 

 

 

Freedom of Use

 

“The government of Morocco does not restrict access to the Internet or censor content, according to several Internet users interviewed in Morocco. Accounts are easily obtained from dozens of private service providers, and users can access the unfiltered World Wide Web from home, the office, or one of many cybercafés operating in the big cities.” Read More

 

An interesting application on the web, made as an alternative to Flickr, Yahoo’s web 2.0 app for sharing images on the web is FuckFlickr. According to its own description its ‘open-source image gallery software that won’t narc you out. We created it as an alternative to hosting your photos on a certain Yahoo-owned photo sharing site’.

The FuckFlickr application is an initiative by the Free Art and Technology Lab (F.A.T.)  an organization dedicated to enriching the public domain through the research and development of creative technologies and media‘. This particular application is a lightweight php program, which can be installed onto your own server and does not require a database. Just upload the pictures to your server and a FuckFlickr page with thumbnails is automatically created in the ‘fflickr’ directory. Although it’s a handy app, the interesting part is that its created as an alternative to Flickr, as a statement against Yahoo and its practices in China.

In 2002 Yahoo already began drawing criticism for agreeing to limit search results relating the Taiwan independence. In 2005 however Yahoo was discredited for providing information about the Yahoo mail account of a journalist named Shi Tao. In April 2004 the Chinese government ordered the news media not to write about the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest. This order was send to the pro-democracy group by using his Yahoo mail account. Upon request Yahoo handed over the information to the Chinese government, which led to the raiding of his house in November 2004 where his computer was confiscated. In March 2005 he was given a sentence of 10-year imprisonment.

The fact that Yahoo sold its interest in Yahoo China to the Chinese Internet Giant Alibaba.com but retains a 40% stake in Alibaba.com complicates the matter. Yahoo claims it has no control over the operations, but it also provides Yahoo with a screen to hide for US regulation. Lucie Morillon an RWB’s representative of Washington DC states that “If Yahoo succeeds in not being under US jurisdiction anymore and then is able to do whatever it wants, then it sets an example for other companies that want to free themselves from the Western countries they are based in. It looks like a legal trick, but it does not change the issue“.

It would be too simplistic to just bash Yahoo for trying to establish a presence in a new region with very different national politics. China is becoming an important power in the global market and being in a field where Yahoo has to compete with giants like Google and Microsoft, from a corporate point of view it’s hardly surprising that they stick to their ambitious ‘What we don’t value‘ section on their website and avoid ‘missing the boat’ or ‘passing the buck’. Having to join in the global market, the desire to bring their service to a new world (which may or may not is being viewed as needing the aid of our western services, enlightenment if you may) and having to abide to the local laws and regulations is quite a straightforward argumentation from this view. A journalist breaking the local law will be sentenced according to those same local laws. From a cultural perspective it however is much more problematic. Its interesting to see that with the exception of ‘discrimination’, in the Yahoo ‘What we don’t value’ section of their website, there is no reference to human rights, freedom of speech or any other well know western values.

Being one of the web giants you could see them as one of the big powers in the online realm and this denial of western ideology is conflicting with norms and values of the (web) society. Where once cyberspace was seen as cross-cultural, surpassing the confinements of the borders of the nation-state, the contemporary web is far from surpassing the nation-state (also displayed in the previous quote of Lucie Morillon). How China deals with basic human rights is heavily conflicting with the western view. By being such a large institution within the web society and the realization that the web did not live up to its utopian promises, Yahoo now needs to take their position as a major power into consideration and take responsibility on how their actions will relate to real life situations, sentiment and politics. They are, but more importantly, they are seen as a western company, a company that operates in cyberspace where the fantasies about the web freeing us from the problem of the world still linger on.

Art is often the medium to express resistance or protest. F.A.T. lab’s FuckFlickr is an art project but fights with the same weapons on the same battleground as their opponent. By offering a way to create an online gallery as an alternative service to make a statement against Yahoo, they seems to fight their battle from within. Yahoo and many others who have made a good (and fruitful) transition into the new web, exist on the basis of their users. Not by selling their product or service, but by the users continuous involvement in the community.

Browsing through the piles of web 2.0 applications available on the web, sometime a feeling of claustrophobia comes over me. A feeling of being trapped in a network of services, all making me connect, hungry for my data, longing to become the “the next big thing” or “killer app”, the new YouTube, an improved amazon.com or a smart mashup. Services that will make my online experience better and even simplify my life in the physical world, they need me and I need them. True, I’m an addict too, I want to share, I want to experience the full potential of the web, but at the same time I want to be free and I want the same for every human. It’s the major powers like Yahoo who can really make a difference and it’s us, the users, the soul of their capital who need to guide them in the right direction. FuckFlickr is a good example of this and I hope that F.A.T. lab will continue fighting.

Video: the best way to end your Flickr career…


YAHOO IS A NARC – Screencast from fi5e on Vimeo.

“In long distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.” – Haruki Murakami (Japanese novelist, marathon runner)

What increases a person’s motivation to start running? And if a person’s already an experienced runner, what helps him or her to cope with the loneliness of long distance runs and improve their performance? Nike and Apple recently established a collaboration called Nike+, which intends to support runners combatting motivational issues. From a New Media perspective, two applications of Nike+ are of our particular interest: the GPS sensor and the web 2.0 social community site that has been established by Nike+ to virtually connect runners all over the globe.

Nike+’s promotional video

Evaluation of Nike+’s features

One of the key features I love about Nike+ is that the application allows you to set up a goal before running and provides you real-time data on your run. This is great for several reasons. In the past, when I was training for a race and want to go for a 10K run, I’d have to plan a fixed 10K route beforehand and stick to it. With Nike+, I’m able to experience the freedom of running wherever I wish, while keeping track of my distance. This increases the levels of spontaneity and unexpectedness in my runs. Secondly, during my run, my Nano will tell me when I’ve reached the ‘halfway point’ and congratulating me when I’ve ‘achieved my goal of running 10K’. And if I happen to achieve a personal record, Lance Armstrong will congratulate me as well.Such features add an element of competition to running, which makes running less dull and more interesting.

What I currently miss in Nike+ as a ‘fanatic runner’ is that the application does not offer an interval training programme. To improve your speed and performance on races, interval training is a must. But yet, interval training is something most runners do not particularly enjoy. Nike+ would be more interesting for professional runners if it would offer a feature that indicates if your current speed is inline with your set goals, or if you should take it up a notch.


Another point of critique with respect to the GPS system, concerns issues of privacy. Recent research has shown that it is relatively easy for hackers to track the runs of Nike+ users. For instance, if President Bush would use his Nike+ in Washington D.C., within a couple of weeks vicious hackers would exactly know what his favourite running route was, and hence they would be able to stalk him.

Nevertheless, taking these issues into account, Nike+ is a great application to keep runners motivated. Nike+ increases the running experience by bringing Nike+ runners from all over the world in contact with each other on a virtual 2.0 platform and creating elements of competition. And doesn’t every runner secretly want to know where he or she stands in comparison to others?

Interested in Nike+ ?

Check here for an inspirational movie.

* By placing the sensor in a small plastic bag and tying your shoelaces over it, you are able to avoid paying 110 euros for a pair of Nike Airzoom shoes, and hence have the freedom to choose your own running shoe brand.

 

Web 2.0 for a Global Society ?

As defined by Wikipedia, the term Web 2.0 “encapsulates the idea of the proliferation of interconnectivity and interactivity of web-delivered content.” Tim O’Reilly, often recognized as the first person to coin the term, classifies the companies and products into four levels of Web 2.0 sites:

Level 1: pure Internet based platforms and applications that make use of human-to-human interaction.

 Level 2: offline based platforms that offer augmented services when online.

 Level 3: applications operate offline but gain features online.

 Level 4: applications work as well offline as online.

 O’Reilly then goes on to explain that non-web applications like e-mail, instant messaging client and the telephone fall outside of the above hierarchy. (Wikipedia).

Although the term Web 2.0 is clearly explained by O’Reilly, I wonder if the definition is complete. Specifically, what about all of the people who are not connected to the Internet or do not have access to the platforms, applications and technologies needed to “participate?” Do these people simply miss out on the opportunity presented by Web 2.0 or can they still benefit from the same basic principals, ideas and way of thinking the term has come to represent?

“O’Reilly regards Web 2.0 as business embracing the web as a platform and using its strengths, for example global audiences.”(Wikipedia

It is clear that Web 2.0 applications and technologies benefit by their access to great numbers of users, however, we know that business cannot engage a ‘truly’ global audience when a mere 22% of the world’s population have access to the Internet. (Wikipedia)

Personally, I am most attracted to the ideas the Web 2.0 presents as a philosophy, but see a need for tools, technologies and platforms that make the philosophy accessible to a greater number of people i.e. the 88% of the population that still needs to be connected.

As a result, I prefer to use a definition that characterizes Web 2.0 more as a set of value and beliefs:

“…the philosophy of mutually maximizing collective intelligence and added value for each participant by formalized and dynamic information sharing and creation.” (Wikipedia)

From my perspective, this means looking beyond more traditional definitions that only characterize Web 2.0 as web-delivered content, and into the technologies that allow the “non connected user” to participate. This means having access to content and being able to contribute to its development regardless of a person having an Internet connection. The idea is that any person anywhere in the world can participate in the exchange of knowledge and as a result become part of a global movement to collect, find and share a combined database of information.

Case Study: The Reality of Radio in Africa

Given a lack of ICT infrastructure on the continent, radio is by far the most effective means of communication. Radio networks are spread across the continent and broadcast in thousands of local languages. “Across Africa, the radio is the primary communication medium for reaching to the largest segment of the population. The radio is a constant presence on the streets, in homes, market places and workplaces. Radio is also cross-cutting in its penetration, serving divergent populations, languages as well as gender, economic and ethnic affiliations.” (Gateway NLM)

The power if this media is especially apparent when compared to the relative small number of Internet users and mobile subscribers.

5.5% of the population have access to internet (Internet World Stats)

34% of the population have access to mobile technology (Telecoms.com)

It is clear that the situation is starting to change. The explosive growth of Internet and mobile in Africa is a development impossible not to recognize. However, given the current reality, it is fair to say that radio could still play an important role in connecting people to the digital networks. 

DAB and FM/AM compared

DAB technology works to expand the number of stations that can operate within a comparatively small amount of spectrum. This is opposed to FM and AM that use a large amount of spectrum for only a few stations. In this way, DAB works to expand the range of possibilities for data transmission.

“DAB is a digital radio broadcasting system that through the application of multiplexing and compression combines multiple audio streams onto a single broadcast frequency called a DAB ensemble.” (Wikipedia)

Benefits include improved end user features, more stations, reception quality, less pirate interference, and variable bandwidth. For me, the greatest power of Digital radio is seen in its ability to transmit/broadcast content. An example of data transfer includes the WSF Multimedia Service:

“The WSF Multimedia Service enables these groups to transmit Web-based material to targeted audiences in Africa. Text and images supplied by the group are digitally formatted and transmitted via the satellite to the computers of its target audience. The data is downloaded through a WorldSpace receiver connected to the computer by a special adapter. As much as 600 MB of data can be downloaded in a day at a rate of about 64 kilobits per second.”

Example of useful content: Digital radio relays text to remote doctors and nurses in Africa

Public health educators will use satellite technology to link remote healthcare workers in Africa to high quality sources of health information.

The new service, called the Public Health Channel, will use a combination of satellite, digital radio, and text to enable healthcare workers in even the most remote parts of Africa to have access to the information and support that most doctors and nurses in the developed world take for granted.

The channel will be piloted in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia, but the coverage of the AfriStar satellites, which transmit the signals, includes the whole of the continent. Future initiatives by the non-profit organisation involved, the WorldSpace Foundation, include a similar service via its AsiaStar satellite to Asia.

The initiative has been made possible by a commercial satellite company, WorldSpace, donating 5% of its bandwidth to charitable use. Users can download audio material to a special digital radio receiver, or, with a specialized computer adaptor, use the same bandwidth stream to download text to a computer.

The information charity Satellife acts as content provider, making its combination of electronic archives and digital content available to its network of users.

The chief executive officer of the WorldSpace Foundation, Gracia Hillman, said: “Our service is cost effective, and provides a way of reaching people disadvantaged by poverty.”

The digital receivers come with a built-in dish and retail in Africa for about £156 ($250).

(This project is explained by Douglas Carnall and more information can be found on the website of WorldSpace.)

Digital Radio and the Open Platform – An innovative project

Last week I visited the IBC 2008 week in Amsterdam. I met up with Jonathan Marks, the founder of Critical Distance, and we went out looking for new technologies that offer surprising applications for the developing world.

The most interesting project was the demonstration of the first mobile broadcasting handset that Canadian researchers have based entirely on an open source platform. For more details on the project see an interview I conducted with the researchers:


 

For the project they have implemented the DAB standard on both the transmission and the reception side. This included the development of a full transmission chain based on DAB.

As explained by the project manager Francois Lefebre, “So it is a DAB multiplexer that you can update in real time and a DAB modulator that is done in software defined radio as DR. This means you use a piece of equipment that generically produces any kinds of modulation.”

It is interesting to mention that the project makes use of open source standards. This means that developers can leverage a large network of researchers and access a long list of applications. For example, pre-developed modulations for GSM and GPRS technologies.

I have taken the liberty to copy the press release for this posting:

CRC to Demonstrate First Mobile Broadcasting Handset Prototype Based on an Open Platform

5 September 2008

The Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting (MMB) team of the Communications Research Centre Canada (CRC) will showcase its new broadcasting handset prototype called openmokast in Amsterdam at the IBC 2008 exhibition this week.

The prototype, based on the openmoko FreeRunner manufactured by FIC Inc., is the first open handset to integrate the reception of live digital radio, video and data services with typical smart phone functions such as mobile telephony, wireless internet and GPS positioning.



A complete software stack was developed and integrated at CRC to control an attached receiver and decode various services such as DAB, DAB+, DMB, Slideshow, Visual Radio and Journaline. A physical extension was also built to seamlessly integrate a USB-based receiver and its antenna at
the back of the FreeRunner.



Three key factors made this breakthrough possible:

1)    The extreme level of openness provided by the openmoko platform

2)    The many open source software building blocks available from its growing community of developers

3)    The broadcast standards that are accessible and open.


The most important and disruptive feature of the openmokast prototype is that it allows any interested developer to access raw bit streams directly from the broadcast chip set to create innovative software applications that are limited only by his/her imagination. This is not possible with current broadcast-enabled handsets based on various standards such DAB/DMB, DVB-H or MediaFLO because their application sets are pre-determined by manufacturers or mobile operators, and can be modified only by them or authorized developers.



Other open platforms were also considered for this project but none appeared to be as advanced and open as the openmoko framework. It is also interesting to note that none of the major open platforms, including openmoko, have indicated plans to support digital broadcasting hardware in the near future.



CRC’s mission includes helping to identify and close the innovation gaps in Canada’s communications sector by engaging in industry partnerships and building technical intelligence. With this project, the CRC team hopes to catalyze broadcast application innovation for mobile handsets through a more open ecosystem, accessible tools and lower barriers to entry. In an effort to leverage global expertise, CRC invites players from the whole mobility value chain, more specifically broadcasters, application developers, users, device integrators and chip set makers,
to collaborate on this initiative and embrace new opportunities emerging from open source business models.


If you want to know more about this project you can visit the CRC website.

Relevance for unconnected populations?

 This application holds a lot of potential. To start, the price of the transmission unit can cost as little as USD 800. The cheap cost of this technology makes it an affordable option for many broadcasters. The fact that the project makes use of open source software only increases the number of people who can use it. At the same time, the open source approach means the technology can be adapted and modified in a way that best serves the specific needs of each project.

One drawback is the lack of digital radio’s available on the market and their lackluster sales in even the world’s most developed markets. Part of the problem is that they are quite expensive when compared to traditional FM/AM receivers. An FM/AM receiver can cost as little as one USD where a DAB enabled radio implanted in a cell phone can cost between 50 and 100 USD. The question for DAB technology is to know when you will have receivers available at a similar price point as seen with FM receivers.

That said, the technologies greatest impact might not come from its traditional application i.e. radio and television broadcast. One area of particular interest could be in the sending/transmission of data. As an illustrative example, Francois Lefebvre notes that you could take all of the daily web log postings in Canada and transmit them by a DAB radio using less then 1/10th the capacity of a DAB channel. This gives us an idea of the amount of content we could actually send via such a device and clearly there might be other business/content models that would make better use of what this project has to offer.

One idea proposed by Jonathan Marks, Founder of Critical Distance, looks into using the radios as nodes in a local network. For example, a number of the radios could be distributed across a region. Different broadcasters could use the technology to exchange programming with partner radio stations. The individual programs could be then be downloaded and then converted for broadcasting via well-established analog networks.

Funny enough, the idea of local communities downloading a program, reformatting it to local taste and then uploading their own contributions doesn’t sound so different from the Web 2.0 definitions and technologies we know and use today.

Interesting quote: Wikipedia

(The noun “broadcasting” itself came from an agricultural term, meaning “scattering seeds”.) 

Charles LeadbeaterAfter the opening of Picnic Amsterdam, Charles Leadbeater (author of the book ‘ We Think‘ ) talked about the new dynamics of creativity and innovation using new media. Firstly, he briefly discussed the influence of the web by comparing people and their postings with pebbles on a beach (similar to the butterfly effect). Finally, he discussed how we could use our social networks and collaborations to enhance our society while avoiding the pitfalls.

(more…)

Ethan Zuckerman

Ethan Zuckerman

Binyanvanga Wainana

Binyanvanga Wainana

Hellen OmwandoA presentation by Ethan zuckerman;  co-founder of Global Voices, a research fellow at the Berkman Centre and a prodigious blogger interested in the impact of technology on the developing world.

Binyavanga Wainaina Kenyan author and journalist and Helen Omwando head of market intelligence for royal philips electronics were at hand to comment at the end of the presentation.

The presentation took place between 17.20 and 18.00 at the E-Art Dome in Amsterdam on 26 September 2008. It was an eye opener on the vibrant and fast-moving technological and creative developments in cities and rural areas across Africa, from mobile banking to new communication patterns.

In a fast paced tone, Zuckerman explained what surprising Africa is all about. He explained that it is not about disease, war, conflict as portrayed by the media, but about the new innovative and profitable Africa.

He used many examples of nations in Africa on the move. Madagascar, he claimed was the third largest island in the world with special wildlife and people. He informed the audience about a young Madagascan boy who dropped out of school because his parents could not afford US $90 per year fees! The boy went ahead and invented a windmill using a bicycle dynamo which now powers his parent’s house. A Malawian blogger uploaded this story and it was picked by a Kenyan-American blogger. The story was picked from there by the West and the boy was invited to the US.

This shows that out there are many such stories that go untold!

Well meaning white guys like U2 singer Bono and Sir Bob Geldof, long advocates for international aid to Africa, have led international effort to focus on Africa.

The world of African bloggers is quite active.  There are thousands of Kenyan bloggers. They are influential and their postings are popularly used by radio talk shows. During the presidential elections in Kenya, there was a media blackout- except blogs. Bloggers documented the election fiasco and posted on their blog.

In Africa, there exist 3 groups of people. Group 1 includes leaders, despots and aging politicians. Group 3 are the kids and group 2 the new generation. The latter are the group with disposable income. They are producers not consumers. Their symbol is the mobile phone. This is an important phenomenon for the whole continent.

Everyone in Africa can now access a phone. In Tanzania, 97% of the people interviewed can make a telephone call. The mobile telephone infrastructure is shared in Africa. This is the beginning of solving Africa’s problems.

Cash is now sent via the telephone by way of telephone credits. Someone in the city can now send his/her relative in the village cash via the mobile. This system was developed in Uganda. It is called sente local language meaning money.

In Kenya a cash transfer system called pesa Kiswahili for money is now well developed to international standards. One can now pay his tax and other payments using a mobile phone. Kenyans in the Diaspora exploit this means of transfer and thus avoid the exorbitant charges by western union and other money transfer agencies.

This system is also available in Zambia.

In Nairobi an 18 year old built a car safety system with a mobile phone. A stolen car can be disabled by a mobile phone. A recording of the conversation of thieves can also be made.

In Zimbabwe, Mugabe was forced to share power because rigging could not take place. The opposition used the mobile phone to report results at their headquarters. They compiled the results before the electoral commission. There was therefore, no way could Mugabe’s party rig the elections in their favour. Mobile telephony can now fix elections.

Zuckerman advised the West to invest in infrastructure in Africa and stop trade in cash crops, human beings and other smaller imports. The way forward is to invest in mobile telephony, power generation and roads. The returns from Africa are more than 50% on stock markets.

China is busy investing in infrastructure in Africa and will reap big in future. They will be able to access minerals and oil more cheaply.

Africans in the Diaspora are also an inspiring lot. They have answered the call to go back and develop Africa. A  Ghanaian formerly working with Microsoft Corporation returned home and invested in a university. It is now one of the most respected in Ghana. This is replicated elsewhere in Africa.

At this point Binyavanga Wainaina Kenyan and Helen Omwando came in. Helen discussed the corporate perspective. She highlighted the fact that almost 30% of the African countries have reported a more than 6% GDP growth rate over the last 5 years unlike western countries. However, she averred that out of the 26 billion Euros annual Income for Philips only 1% comes out of Africa!

Wainana was optimistic of the future of Africa saying presently, platforms are being created around things like governance. He asserted that people are wilfully finding their way around.

When asked how Kenya recovered so quickly after the election fiasco, Wainana admitted that the violence shocked everyone. On the other hand, he said the system simply buckled, yet everyone had confidence in it. Nonetheless, the politicians quickly pulled their act together, talked and the systems were revived.

Wainana claimed the difference between Africa and other countries was that Africans live in tribes, well as the rest of the world lives in states, nations and realms. This therefore is the big problem for Africa.

In 2007 the Virtueel Platform started the HOT100. The HOT100 is a group of the most promising and successful new media talents in the Netherlands. It gives Dutch talent the opportunity to get together and present themselves to potential clients. This year’s venue for HOT100 was PICNIC.

Several (ex) UvA-students were on this year HOT100-list – like Esther Weltevrede, Laura van der Vlies, Tjerk Timan, Rosa Menkman, Anne Helmond, Edial Dekker, Erik Borra, Marijn de Vries Hoogerwerff en Inge Ploum – giving the University of Amsterdam and ‘New Media and Digital Culture’ a good rep. As HOT100 representative, you were invited to a special Picnic day. This day included a varied programme of meetings, keynotes and an ‘intensive’ workshop.

The day started with a business breakfast meeting at PICNIC’s Buzz Hall intended for businesses to get acquainted with the HOT100. Unfortunately no business representatives were at this meeting, that I was aware of, so that was a downfall. After breakfast the HOT100 got together and did the ‘e-Art’ tour at Westerliefde, where several cross media art were exposed. Then, after lunch, we prepared ourselves for a debate on collaborate creativity. We were divided into three groups; commercial, art and research/education. These group had to come up with new ideas on the subject matter and had to choose a spokes(wo)man to defend their statement at the end of the day.

Following the debate preparations, four presentations were given by Stefan Agamanolis (Chief Executive and Research Director of Distance Lab in Scotland), Werner Vogels (Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Amazon.com), Martin de Ronde (game developer of OneBigGame) and Loïc Le Meur (CEO Seesmic). Stefan Agamanolis talked about creating slow communication and exposed his vision on the future of human relationships as mediated by technology. Werner Vogels discussed co-operative, flexible and innovate tools that could be implemented in an enterprise based on his experience with Amazon. As game developer, Martin de Ronde explained his view on the tension between commerce and creativity, and how this issue could be resolved. And last but definitely not least, Loïc le Meur whose inspiring presentation depicted the issues one would have to resolve in creating and implementing a web 2.0 application.

After this amount of information and inspiration, some of the HOT100 had their chance to pitch their ideas/products/company. The pitchers only had 3 minutes to convince the audience that their idea was the best. After some of these hilarious pitches, the debate started. In my opinion it was more an open discussion than a debate, since the spokespersons and the speakers weren’t well prepared. It was more about sharing ideas/opinions, than about coming to solutions or solving problems. Finally after a relatively long day of sitting/waiting/contemplating, we kicked back at the Buzz Hall for some drinks.

Even though it certainly is a good idea to get all these young talents together, I think this HOT100 day could be improved with regard to peer-to-peer and peer-to-professional communication. At the end of the day I haven’t truly networked with corporate representatives or my fellow HOT-100’ers. Maybe it’s only me, but I feel that these two points should be changed. If corporations would recognize the significance of events like the HOT100, than the HOT100 event could become an even more important steppingstone for new media talent.

This is an excerpt of an interview with Israeli conductor Itay Talgam done by Markus Huendgen during Picnic ’08 (26.09.2008). Talgam illustrates how conducting an orchestra can be a metaphor for the collaboration of people in general. The interview on video can be seen here.
 
Itay Talgam:  “Conducting is somewhat different from being a manager. It has not exactly the same meaning as being dirigent or chef or even leader. In english orchestras the leader is the first violin player. But the conductor has another job. He has to make people connect. So it is about connectivity, about becoming a conductor to enable other people to work together. So that is quite a funny profession. In internet, I guess people are very much interested in the ways people come to collaborate and to create together. There was this notion- you just open a site and other people come in and all is very well. But in order to achieve something you need a sort of a guiding hand. It is not as Clay Shirky put it today, it is not complete democratic, égalité– so how do you manage to on one hand direct, to bring the people together towards a goal and on the other hand still enable them to feel completely free in their personal motivations, how to do?

I think great conductors have come up with quite interesting answers. Of course that was before the time of the internet, so it is a traditional thing. And yet it can be translated as a metaphor for what is happening now. Herbert von Karajan was a wonderful conductor in his own way. But his own way was: he never looked at people. He always closed his eyes, implying: “I do not have to look at you because you look at me. The music is the music playing in my head. So what you have to do is to guess my mind and then come up with an organization.” That was wonderful on one hand because it made the players sort of interpreters of what he did. On the other hand he was the only one who was creating an interpretation. All the rest has just to be a reflection to what he was. That is why he was conducting so undecisive unlike other conductors who just tell you what to do. You see, if you look behind it it has a double meaning: I trust you but I trust you to do what I want.

I would say almost anything in the world can become a good metaphor if you have the ability to translate it. Music is a great metaphor – for everything, if you think about education, if you think about business, if you think about culture in general and internet culture also. But there has to be the ability to build a bridge in between. I think that is one of the most important things we learn here in this conference: how people really build bridges among different disciplines. And therefore are able to see what they do in a new light.”

To understand the logic of Twittering or micro-blogging as a blogging practise it might help looking at the concept of ‘Mcdonaldization’. The term Mcdonaldization was first used by sociologist George Ritzer in his work ‘The Mcdonaldization of society‘ (1996). Mcdonaldization is seen as a modern extension of Max Weber’s theory of rationalization of modern society and culture. How Mcdonalds operates is used by Ritzer as an example to describe a sociological phenomenon:

“…the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world.” (Ritzer, 1996)

According to Ritzer this process has four dimensions:

-Efficiency

Getting from point A to B as efficient as possible. The goal is to get the costumer from hungry to full as fast as possible. The production process is stripped from all actions that don’t contribute to this goal.

-Calculability

The focus is on quantity of products sold and the streamlined process of delivery.

“quantity has become equivalent to quality; a lot of something, or the quick delivery of it means it must be good.” (Ritzer, 1996)

Predictability

Service and products come in predictable forms. Employees behave according the same script and the standardized efficient way of work makes sure every BigMac looks exactly the same.

-Control

Control is caused by the substitution of non-human for human technology. Computers regulate most what is happening inside the kitchen. All cooking temperature is regulated by computers and a zoomer goes off when employees need to flip a burger or take the fries out of the deep fryer. This leaves less room for human errors and makes sure employees don’t need allot of talent nor training to perform the necessary tasks. As long as they obey to the machines.

Twitter & Microblogging

If we look at twittering as a blogging form we can see comparable logic behind its use and success. Twitter brings a very efficient way of blogging. There is no need anymore for time consuming practises like planning and thinking to make an elaborate blog, that needs to have a certain degree of quality before publication. A spontaneous one liner is enough to get the message across in the fastest way possible. No time goes to waste to get behind a computer, a mobile phone is sufficient to write and read the blogs on the go. Twitter makes its users blogging machines, augmenting the quantity of their blogs per time to never seen before heights. A lot of blogs by a quick and convenient delivery process, means it must be good (calculability). Twitter controls the way you blog and when you blog. You can only write your blog under a box that says “What are you doing?”, also there is a 140 character limit. Pushing the blogs in the well know Twitter convention “X does / goes to Y” (predictability). Also if a user hasn’t even blogged for more then 24 hours straight there is a nice solution. Twitter will send a message to the users’ mobile phone so he or she knows its time to flip the burger.. I mean write another blog on the spot.

The Irrationality of Rationality

Ritzer believes like Weber that systems that are rational within a narrow scope can lead to outcomes that are irrational or harmful for a bigger picture:

“Most specifically, irrationality means that rational systems are unreasonable systems. By that i mean that they deny the basic humanity, the human reason, of the people who work within or are served by them.” (Ritzer, 1996)

We are well informed of the “irrational” effects Mcdonald’s rational behavior can have on the individual and society as a whole. Obesity, environmental degradation, poor working conditions, etcetera (Play the Mcdonalds game to learn more!). But what could Twitters irrationalities of rationality be? Getting flooded with useless information? Users wasting time, stuck in the endless inviting flow of micro-blogs?

6 days ago Lev Manovich released his softbook Software Takes Command. He described his book as a software, as it will have its patches in the same way as a new installments requires its bug (big?) -fixes:

One of the advantages of online distribution which I can control is that I don’t have to permanently fix the book’s contents. Like contemporary software and web services, the book can change as often as I like, with new “features” and “big fixes” added periodically. I plan to take advantage of these possibilities. From time to time, I will be adding new material and making changes and corrections to the text. All previous versions will be still available, and I will tell you what I changed. (Don’t worry, I promise not to change the book’s ideas from versions to versions. Think of the subsequent versions as new software releases with big fixes and new features added.)

I designed a cover and yeay, Mr Manovich has added it to his site! The starting point of my design was a still from the glitch-based music video Radio Dada. The still has been vectorized and rescaled so I am not sure if i would still call it a ‘clean’ glitch. But it still stems from a moment that I let Software Take Control, and then me taking back the control afterwards. Check, Download, Read it!

Also please check Rhizome.


Facebook Connect officially launched on Thursday and gives its members access to third-party sites using their Facebook login/password. This feature is available to all FB’s members on (so far) 24 partner sites including: Digg, Twitter, Citysearch, CBS, CollegeHumor, Hulu and others. In addition to instant access, Facebook Connect promises data portability: taking your friends, profile pics and privacy settings with you as you transverse the web. Facebook Connect will give us a well needed rest from profile-fatigue, but at what cost?

The data portability debate has been going on for some time now. The DataPortability Project has been promoting open source standards for data portability since 2007. They encourage use of the well known OpenID authentication protocol which has already been adopted around the web by Google’s Blogger, AOL, Yahoo, etc – as well as having been incorporated into open source platforms like Drupal and WordPress.

It seems now that it may be Facebook Connect (with their 120 million users), and not OpenID, that will lead the data portability movement. This is alarming news for privacy advocates. Facebook has had controversial privacy issues in the past with its Beacon failure, misleading delete buttons, and opt-ing out. If Facebook Connect does eventually become the standard ID for the internet, then one of the obvious question is: Do we trust our online identity to the Facebook corporation, with almost every page on the Internet arguably becoming a Facebook page, or serving as some extension of the Facebook platform?

"imagine owning your identity"

Chris Saad from the DataPortability Project helped answer a few of my questions about Facebook Connect’s departure from open source standards. “Facebook Connect does not use open standards. So we do not endorse their implementation”, Saad explained. “Facebook Connect is much like Microsoft’s Passport/Hailstorm project from a number of years ago. It’s an attempt to provide a proprietary single sign-on for the web”.

I asked, “How does Facebook Connect differ from OpenID?”

Saad: “OpenID is a key building block towards an open data portability ecosystem that will rival Facebook in both size and scope. A solution that no one owns and is open as the document web is. OpenID is a piece of technology that is critical to the data web. It’s not a complete solution by itself however. What’s needed is agreement on the methods and protocols for a user to control the sharing of their data as well. The community is working hard on all of these issues, however, we’re just at the beginning of the story.”

We seem to be staging the next format war for our digital identities[1] – and as history has shown us, the best standard doesn’t always win. In the famous QWERTY vs. Dvorak keyboard battle, the “inferior” QWERTY keyboard had already gained widespread adoption by 1936 when the “better designed” Dvorak layout was developed – here it is often said that the early adoption of a standard, or as many say “luck”, influenced the market’s choice. In the famous VHS/BetaMax battle it has been said that Sony, despite releasing the BetaMax one year prior, lost out to JVC’s VHS due to JVC’s “aggressive licensing” techniques[2]. The point being that independent of the quality, the commercial sector can greatly influence standards. Yet, the VHS/BetaMax battle is an interesting metaphor here for Facebook because perhaps the first one out the gate doesn’t have to prevail in light of a better alternative. Futhermore, on the web we’ve seen dramatic format switching take place over only a few years (ex. Friendster -> MySpace ->Facebook).

So another way of thinking of it: Facebook Connect may be Facebook’s Achilles’ heel. This war might play out more like the Internet Explorer vs. Firefox debate, where open standards, open source and customizability can slowly triumph over evil corporate ownership. If Facebook is unwilling to evolve – or if Beacon-esque privacy troubles arise – there could be backlash. IF we are optimistic, Facebook Connect may actually be one of the “best things to happen to OpenID” and data portability in general.

1- Yahoo, MySpace and Google have also launched similar data portability projects this year
2 – In addition, BetaMax had better quality, but shorter record time than VHS
* – Get OpenID: http://openid.net/get/

This blogpost is a chapter of my paper for the New Media Theories course, updated and with little changes.

BlackPlanet

Started as a community site, but now more linked to the ‘category’ of social network site, BlackPlanet shows how race is established on the Web. ‘BlackPlanet.com is your place to meet and connect with African Americans around the country’, states the website, continuing with ‘Chat or post photos and videos to share your black experience.’  Thus, on this social network site, being a member of a specific ethnic group (African Americans in the United State) seems to be an experience. Social network sites like Facebook and MySpace don’t aim on a specific group. BlackPlanet does.

Dating with other African Americans is an important feature of the site and is promoted, again on the starting page:

Finding someone tailor-made for you is a hard thing. We’ve done our part to make it a little easier. Search for love, lovers or mates and make connections with infinite possibilities—all at a place where like-minded people from your community hang out. Skip the superficial dating barriers and find lasting, real romance based on common interests and roots in a shared black culture. Flirt with thousands of others just like you at BlackPlanet.com.

BlackPlanet aims on African Americans, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the website is exclusively for African Americans. To analyse, I started to create my own profile and after registration this screen appeared:

Mostly for fun, I created a profile of a barely educated rich Native American with Cuban ancestor(s), simply because it is possible. But here it is not important how to play with online identities (obviously, I am not a low educated rich Cuban Native American). The twofold of the social network site interests me. At one hand, the site seems to aim on a specific ethnic group: African Americans. At the other hand, after registration, everybody can join the network. Unfortunately, my profile is recently deleted. Why?

Hi MoM_Arno,

Your account has been closed. It was closed either at your request or because we determined you have violated our Terms of Service.

At BlackPlanet.com, we embrace freedom of expression. However,
we also make it our duty to consider the interests of the larger community of
members who use this site. This means keeping free of as much profanity,
offensive and derogatory material, and SPAM as possible — in the form of,
but not limited to, images and text.

Should you decide to open a new account, please take a moment to familiarize
yourself with our Terms of Service at:

http://www.blackplanet.com/misc/tos.html

Sincerely,

Your friends at BlackPlanet.com Member Services

(We still are friends…)
Dara N. Byrne explores community life on this social network site and how users participate in public discussion, but she argues that discussions on BlackPlanet stay on a discursive level:

…participants are deeply committed to ongoing discussions about black community issues. However none of these discussions moved beyond a discursive level of civic engagement, suggesting that the potential for mobilization through social networking online has not yet been realized, despite the traditional orientation to community service among blacks in America.

BlackPlanet is owned by Interactive One, a company with a ‘mission’:

Mission
* We will embrace and positively impact the lives of African Americans.
* We will empower our community by providing news, information, entertainment, community, tools and services which speak uniquely and directly to our audiences values and needs.

Empowerment seems to be the goal of the company (of course, a company’s goal is always making a profit) and it will empower the African Americans with … information.

Orkut

Google’s Orkut is not aiming for a specific ethnic group and promotes itself as an application ‘designed to make your social life more active and stimulating’. But ethnicity is a part of the profile:

One thing immediately stands out: one can be black on his or her profile, but being black means being an African American. But what about Africans not living in America? A whole ethnic group here is categorized in ‘other’. Being black in Orkut means being an African American. And being white means being Caucasian. Drifting from the ‘ethnicity’ box to ‘religion’, it becomes clear how the categorizing on this social network sites his organized:

One can associate oneself to on of the several predetermined chooses. One can link oneself here to a particular religion. And if one’s religion is not on the list, there is, again, the ‘other’ option. Orkut requires the user having a religion, or at least being spiritual. This list of options says ‘atheist’ is a religion and not being religious means the user is spiritual. One can choose to not answer, but answering by definition means atheistic users do have a religion.

This blogpost is a chapter of my paper for the New Media Theories course, updated and with little changes.

 

On Wednesday 8 April, I escorted Ben to Makerere University Faculty of ICT. During our discussions with the deputy dean, we were introduced to the communications manager. After explaining our fields of study, I was requested to make a presentation to the final year class of mass communications on the subject of the New Media. I could not let such an opportunity go by, so I immediately accepted.

 

We made an appointment for the following Tuesday, but it was later postponed to this week. I was indeed excited to be back to the institution I left 25 years ago. My first impression of the students was their appearance. One could mistake them for secondary school students on a day out. They were so young and seemed so vulnerable.

 

I was escorted to the class by the head of department, Mass Communications, Ms Marjorie Kyomuhendo. I had prepared around 20 power point slides for my presentation. The projector was connected, but alas! It could not connect to my laptop. It did not have a USB jack!

 

I immediately took control and asked the students to make a sort of circle where we could see each other. After the introductions, I told them we were lucky because the projector didn’t work. We therefore had to improvise. I assured them this was not a lecture but a session for sharing experiences. I explained that our session would have 4 phases: the first is by them telling me what they were studying; the next was I to tell them about New Media, the third how to connect the two and last discussion points.

 

The discussion was interactive. I made sure everyone had something to say, however silly. And before long the ice had broken and we were all laughing. They contributed information over media and their course. I asked leading questions to enable them understand the media better.

 

I took them through the history of both the media and mass media, while allowing them to add their own dimensions. I used the knowledge I acquired from Aaron Barlow’s book “The rise of Blogosphere” to build a case for the metamorphosis of the media industry culminating in what is called the New Media.

 

I brought up examples of media theorists from Vannever Bush, Marshall McLuhan, Bolter and Grusen, Foucault, Deleuze and others. I also provided a few examples of their theories like the memex; the medium is the message, remediation, discipline societies and rhizome respectively.

 

Finally we came to the New Media proper and tried to define it. Everyone by now was very active and from the students all sorts of New Media examples were elicited. The mobile phone, radio, Internet, blogging, digital camera, digital television, etc where mentioned. It was quite interesting when the students made the connection themselves between the New Media and Public relations, which is their specialty.

 

Lastly, the students discussed the best New Media tools that enable a PR person to do a better job. And these were: FM radio, mobile phone and Internet in that order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News has reached us of the soon-to-be passing of GeoCities.com. Its adopted parent Yahoo! Inc has decided that it can no longer live with dignity and will soon pull the plug on the comatose Yahoo! GeoCities. In the 1990s, GeoCities was the hottest place of Web 1.0., where you could create a free website with those weird long URLs like geocities.com/RodeoDrive/102538/. Purchased by Yahoo! in January 1999 for no less than three billion dollars, the popularity of GeoCities slumped after Yahoo! imposed restrictive terms of use.

The passing of this iconic Internet site is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, GeoCities (and its competitors like Tripod and Angelfire) were an important catalyst for the development of a World Wide Web with massive user-generated content. Secondly, Yahoo!’s incompetent handling of the GeoCities franchise gives interesting pointers about how online consumers will vote with their feet and abandon a once popular site when its terms of service are no longer to their liking.

In the 1990s, everybody wanted to be on the Internet, but buying a domain name and server space was relatively expensive. Sites like GeoCities offered free server space for web sites to large amounts of users. When Yahoo! purchased GeoCities, the latter had 3.4 million members, who together had created roughly 29 million pages. 3.4 Million members, that is about the number of people living in Albania or Panama. If portals like GeoCities and Tripod had not existed, many of these people would not have been able to create web sites. And it is those personal websites, that user-created content, that has characterised the Internet as a many-to-many communication medium: online you don’t just consume one-way communication, you publish you own stuff as well.

Yahoo! purchased GeoCities in January 1999 and soon the portal entered a downwards trajectory. Yahoo! imposed restrictive Terms of Service, and learnt the hard way how easily online consumers vote with their feet. Yahoo! learnt that a three-billion dollar brand name like GeoCities means nothing to users if they feel that the site no longer takes care of their needs. If GeoCities users had no problems switching to a new provider when the former defaulted, how easy should it then be for users of other sites to take their business elsewhere when the terms of service change? What if it suddenly comes out tomorrow that Facebook is monitoring all private communication of its users? We consider Facebook a very strong Internet brand name today, but it has in no way a monopoly on social networking. Like GeoCities, Facebook renders a service that is replaceable.

GeoCities died because the service it offered was non-exclusive. Brand names suddenly become worthless if users feel that competing services have more respect for them. For this reason, sites like Facebook are vulnerable to competitors if they mess something up their service. That the lesson of the short life of GeoCities. Maybe the only really secure web site services are those that are not replaceable, like Google, because they possess valuable intellectual property of their own: in this case, a search algorithm that cannot be replicated by others. In the survival of the fittest that is the web economy, Yahoo! GeoCities has been marked for extinction. It ought to be placed in a museum of Internet history to remind us what happens when web sites screw up.

The definition of a blogger is commonly given as “someone who maintains a blog”. Yet on many sites, including Wikipedia and Dictionary.com, ‘blogger’ does not have its own page, ‘blogger’ forwards to the page for ‘blog’. This week I made an attempt to define ‘blogger‘ on Wikipedia using references from Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere, a Pew Internet survey and an essay from danah boyd.  In summary:

A blogger is person who writes a blog (or weblog). Bloggers are not a homogenous group. They have a variety of personal and professional motivations for blogging and they come from a variety of political, economic and social backgrounds. Blogging is not a full-time job for most bloggers, nor is it their main source of income. A blogger can also be a doctor, a mechanic, a lawyer or a musician, and thus bloggers typically maintain a variety of professional professions for which the act of blogging is their communicative outlet with the public.

During the research for my MA thesis titled “What Musicians Can Learn From Bloggers” I spent some time talking both with bloggers and musicians in order to see how the responsibilities of the musician are being affected by the medium. What I found is that the defining characteristics of the 21st century musician reflect those found in the definition for a blogger.

Over the next few weeks I’ll discuss my findings here on the MofM blog – in the meantime, please feel free to comment here on this post or update the Wikipedia page for ‘blogger’ if I left something out.

The term ‘music industry’ is a misnomer. In reality the ‘music industry’ is not one industry, it is several independent industries. This is an important distinction because if we say that there is a “crisis in the music industry” it suggests an equal amount of misfortune for everyone (musicians, the recording industry, the live-music industry, Internet radio, etc.) and in fact this not true.

Misuse of the term ‘music industry’ distorts the reality of the situation. For example,

  • The RIAA occasionally misrepresents itself as being a figurehead for the entire “music industry” when in actuality it is a trade organization for a group of labels in the recording industry.
  • Peter Jamieson, chair of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), attempted to speak about the “The Music Industry Crisis” at an industry convention in the UK in September 2003, but instead outlined issues particular to the recording sector.

In the media, long-winded articles documenting the decline and future of the “music industry” have been a recurring theme over the past few years. Almost every major news outlet including the NY Times, MTV and Billboard Magazine have weighed in on the topic:

  • In the aftermath of the Napster shut down Wired Magazine ran an article “The Year the Music Died” predicting that in five to ten years file sharing will have completely torn apart the “music industry”.
  • Nearing the close of 2007, MTV.com began a three part story that began with the article “The Year the Music Industry Broke” and asked, “If The Old Music Business Is Dead, What’s Next?”
  • In 2007 Rolling Stone Magazine published “The Record Industry’s Decline” highlighting “how it all went wrong” and the “future of the music business”.

Common throughout all of these articles is the conflation of the term ‘music industry’ with ‘music business’ and ‘record industry’. Surprisingly the same ambiguities are present in university texts and academic reports. Considering the abundance of writing on the subject it is surprising that so little attention has been paid to how the term “music industry” is being (ab)used. For instance, when a headline declares, “Piracy is Killing the Music Industry” or “The Music Industry Sues 482 More Computer Users” it oversimplifies the issue by assuming that the music industry is the only music economy.

The ‘Music Industries’
A paper entitled “Rethinking the Music Industry” published by John Williamson and Martin Cloonan has helped demystify the media’s use of the term ‘music industry’. They argue that the concept of a single music industry is inappropriate for understanding the economics and politics that surround music. Therefore, they suggest, “It is necessary to use the term music industries (plural).”

What are the ‘music industries’? At the most fundamental level the music industries encompass a wide-range of individuals, organizations and corporations that sell compositions, recordings and live performances of music (e.g. musicians, the recording industry, the live music industry, the music publishing industry, etc). Williamson and Cloonan recommend using the term ‘music industries’ when speaking generally about more than one of the sectors, and referencing the specific industry name when speaking about a particular sector.

While it may be difficult to completely eradicate the term ‘music industry’ from our everyday vernacular, journalists and media outlets should certainly be more conscious not to say “the music industry” when they specifically mean to say “the recording industry”.