Comments on Danah Boyd’s article about MySpace

MySpace logoI’ve only been using MySpace for about half a year now and I can’t say I’ve been using it intensively. I’ve “only” got 39 friends of which thirteen are artists and six are venues I often go too. I use it as a notification tool or as a substitute of the mailinglist. Artists and clubs used to have mailinglists to notify their fans about upcoming events, but nowadays MySpace is used for that same purpose.

I hardly use the comments tool and I often forget to reply to my comments because I have to log in and retrieve the comments after having received a “a friend posted a comment about you” e-mail. This is a smart move, because they don’t actually show the comment in the e-mail, you have to log in to be able to read or reply to the comment. For me this is a big step which I am often reluctant to take, because I am from the e-mail generation.

I no longer belong to the majority of MySpace users who are between 14-24 years old. Danah Boyd gave a talk about these teenagers on MySpace and rewrote it into an article titled “Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace.” In her article about how teenagers are using MySpace she addresses three issues:

  1. Identity production
  2. Hanging out
  3. Digital publics

In the part about identity production she only briefly mentions the aspect of the visual aspects of the profiles.

The dynamics of identity production play out visibly on MySpace. Profiles are digital bodies, public displays of identity where people can explore impression management [2]. Because the digital world requires people to write themselves into being [3], profiles provide an opportunity to craft the intended expression through language, imagery and media. (Source)

She then turns to the aspect of comments which are an important part of the profile. I think more can be said about the visual production of identity on MySpace. Just as clothes and looks are incredibly important for especially teenagers so is the visual appearance of their profile. Even though no research has been done it seems that teenagers are more prone to “pimp” their profile than other users. A search string on on “pimp my profile” returns 5.070.000 results. Nine out of the first ten results refer to pimping your MySpace profile (the other result refered to pimping your Hyves profile which is a Dutch kind of MySpace). It is a big business.
Danah Boyd mentions three important classes of space: public, private and controlled and says that most of teenagers space is controlled space. She draws an analogy between private space in the interstices of controlled space and a bedroom with closed doors. I would like to extend this comparison with the bedroom even further. Teenagers literally transform their MySpace page into their space by completely adjusting their space to their personal taste. It’s like their personal bedroom where there are no parents complaining about the amount of posters on the wall.

MySpace profile

Viewing a MySpace profile often feels like entering a personal bedroom. There are posters everywhere, the CD-player is playing while the TV in the corner is also on. Friends are dropping by and leaving notes. The amount of information that can be added to a profile is incredible: favorite bands/books, sexual orientation, height, weight, interests, previous schools, current school/university, religion, currently listening/watching/reading, hometown, e-mail, instant messenger, marital status, movies, body type, etnicity, birthday, and so on and so on. This can lead to an overwhelming amount of (visual) information on display on the profiles. The average profile reminds me of the 1990s webpages with their animated gifs and blinking colored letters. Am I getting too old for this? Or are the teenagers rebelling against web standards and usability (Weiss)?
It would be interesting to conduct a study about the differences in the use and display and pimping of the profiles.

Today various Japanese media companies forced YouTube to remove 29,549 videos from its archive because of its copyrighted disposition. Google, which recently attained YouTube for 1.65 billion dollars, will most certainly have to do this more frequently. In my reticent analytical judgment YouTube will be wrecked by judicature. In the first place, it will most probably be prosecuted endlessly and eventually lose some vital cases, resulting in the removing of all illegal/copyrighted material, forcing advertisers to draw back their initial interest.

Firefox IconAnd so at last the beast fell and the unbelievers rejoiced. But all was not lost, for from the ash rose a great bird. The bird gazed down upon the unbelievers and cast fire and thunder upon them. For the beast had been reborn with its strength renewed, and the followers of Mammon cowered in horror – from The Book of Mozilla, 7:151 (type about:mozilla in the address bar)

Microsoft and Mozilla just released their new browsers: Internet Explorer 7 was released October 18 and Firefox 2 was on October 24. What can we expect?


A while back I promised to become the first bum on second life, but it seems someone has beat me to it. The NGO Mensajeros de la Paz has created a homeless, teenage avatar to raise awareness (and money?) for abandoned and abused children in developing countries.

Not trying to take anything away from this initiative, but I do wonder how Second Life keeps getting press.. who are the real world avatars that make it such a big deal? There are those that point to new opportunities for experimentation with identity, and those that emphasize the ‘real world consequences’ like making (or losing) money.. I dunno, in both cases Second Life isn’t especially new, is it?
At picnic ’06 there were marketing executives that were very happy about ’embracing’ second life so soon. Maybe we could go ahead and start a Second Life backlash (which, barring a YouTube-like sale, is probably the only real measure of success on the Web)?

In Consumer Technology after Surveillance Theory, Richard Rogers and Sabine Niederer talk about how consumer technology unsettles old institutional power, possibly bringing a whole new set of problems along. There was the consumer-soldier, for example, who produced the Abu Ghraib photos. Today the Iraqi government is talking to the consumer-prison guard who may have filmed Saddam Hussein’s execution, having “pledged to track down whoever is responsible for (the video).” Like with the Abu Ghraib photos, the content of the scandal wavers between what happened and the fact that someone caught it on camera, depending on who you listen to.


Part 1

Part 2

In this presentation Eva Kol and Roman Tol argue that multimedia presentations, that is presentations with the use of external visual tools, are an excellent instrument for stimulating educative progress.

I was originally going to write about smart spam but recent spam led me to write about stupid spam.

Spammers are constantly improving their methods to get through spamfilters. They increasingly use random names and academic, computer and web related words to make spamfilters believe it is a valid message. However poetic these messages may seem they mean nothing to humans:


danah boyd recently wrote an interesting article on “viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace.” She points out that class divisions have emerged and are being played out through aesthetics in Facebook and MySpace. I think this is one of the most interesting points in the article because I tend to “judge” the quality of social networking sites and the people on them just based on the looks of the site. I prefer Facebook and LinkedIn over MySpace and Hyves because of their clean aesthetic looks. The extremely messy look of MySpace and Hyves and it’s abundant use of smileys and animated gifs make the sites look “cheap and unprofessional” to me. I tend to see Facebook and Linked as professional sites because of their clean, elegant and crisp looks.

Do you also judge sites by their looks? Do aesthetics influence your choice in joining a social networking site?

For three executive sunny days last week, the humanity studies faculty of the University of Amsterdam hosted the New Network Theory conference. This four party collaborative initiative – consisting of Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis, Institute of Network cultures, University of Amsterdam, and the Hogeschool van Amsterdam – was to exploit the potential of formulating a post-Castellsian network theory which “takes technical media seriously”. Social Software and developments in technical media have influenced the Web, now is the time to document what exactly changed and formulate an up-to-date paradigm.

New Network TheoryAs I entered UVA grounds my eyes fell upon the two polyester banners waving above the entrance. Besides the name of the conference the banner contained a well designed background which seemed to resemble a gearing mechanism. In Dutch the word ‘raderwerk’ could describe the red, black and green mechanical wheels. ‘Raderwerk’ can be interpreted as “samengesteld geheel van menselijke organisatie” which in English translates into “compiled sum total of human organization”.

More artwork – a selection from the Places & Spaces: mapping science exhibition – decorated the conference hall.

After the essential coffee in the lobby Geert Lovink, Richard Rogers and Jan Simons officially opened a discussion that would take three days and two dinners. After some formalities Jan New Network Theorytold an amusing, yet serious, anecdote of how a mere one and a half decade ago the University was linked to the outside world using one computer and a dial-up modem. The connected computer – set up by a former student – was the only place where teachers and staff members could email and browse the web, its location consequently developed into a sort of social gathering spot and perhaps in a sense a physical network surrounded this virtual interest. Thomas Elseasner spiced up the faculty with laser discs and multi media technologies; a department was born. After several name changes, nowadays Media Studies forms the largest part of the faculty of Humanities, and New Media – next to Journalism, Television Studies and Film Studies – is an independent research area.

Andrew Keen wrote the in 2007 published book ‘The cult of the Amateur’. Keen, who founded a rough ten years ago, went from digital pioneer to digital skeptic. Living in Silicon Valley during the dot-com bubble and being a ‘Friend of O’Reilly’ [Foo for intimae] brought him back into the real world. In the first chapter of his book he writes about being at a camp side with a couple of hundred Silicon Valley utopians. Most of these people were very hostile towards traditional media and entertainment. Everything should be democratized, THE word of the new web. But according to Keen ‘democratization is undermining truth, souring civic discourse and belittling expertise, experience and talent’. This is the starting point for a book about the dark side of the web 2.0. Seen from different kinds of media like books, music and movies, Keen looks at all the implications that the new revolution brought with it. He definitely wrote this book with an eye on the big masses. It’s easy to read and at some points hard to stop reading.

According to all the comparisons that have been made about the users of web 2.0, Keen’s reference to the ‘ancient’ infinite monkey theory from T.H Huxley is so far the best. Imagine all the monkeys in the world having typewriters. Huxley’s theory is that one of those monkeys is going to write a masterpiece, in what form whatsoever. Now the link to web 2.0 is not easy to miss. Can all the bloggers these days be compared with Huxley’s monkeys? Keen isn’t very keen about the whole revolution that is taking place. What happens if the monkeys take over?

The first question we should ask ourselves is if the ‘monkeys’ are really just amateurs posting things on the web. In some cases big companies are behind films on Youtube or entries on Wikipedia. Is the web becoming a place where advertising isn’t even noticed anymore? An example of this is a movie that was posted online a couple of years ago by Marc Ecko. In the movie the Airforce One is tagged. The movie became really popular, only to find out after a few weeks that it was all fake and a commercial for Ecko’s clothing company. But not only companies take advantage of the new medium. Also public persons use the web to become better of it. Dutch royalties Friso and Mabel, who changed the information on the Wikipedia entry written about them their selves, to make it less critical.
But according to this, the meaning of authorship is changing too. Who owns the video’s that are on Youtube? And if someone mixes two works of a professional, can he call it his own? Or worse, can a company like Google legally use the data on our surf-behavior to make money out of it? Keen poses these questions and many more and answers them from a viewpoint that isn’t easy on the innovations side.


Book CoverThis review of Jean-Noël Jeanneney’s Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge will provide the reader with an overview of the questions raised regarding the online publishing of books.

A View from Europe

Branded with the tagline a View from Europe on its cover, the tracts basic premise – and perhaps bias – can hardly be overlooked. Taking a stand against the American dominance – as he sees it – in online book publishing, namely in the form of Google Books, Jeanneney argues for an European counterpart of the search engine and the underlying database. As the president of the Bibliothèque nationale de France one could not deny his particular knowledge and interest in this matter. Without trying to hide his French nationality, he sets out on explaining his motives and actions.

The argument outlined by Jeanneney finds its source in the 2004 announcement of Google to venture into the realm of digitized literary content. The Google Book Search project, as it is now called, strives toward an ambitious goal. Digitizing millions of books in a matter of years and making them freely available to the public through the well known Google search engine. With powerful institutions on their side as the Harvard and Oxford universities, their claims towards universality (not to be taken too literal of course) seem to have a productive starting ground. It is hard not to be mesmerized by the magnitude of the undertaking. The mere thought of being able to access an exhaustive library of books formerly only available in physical form makes for some blissful dreaming. However, as with any projects of this scale, there can not be progress without some controversy. In this case, the instigator is Europe, in the person of Jean-Noël Jeanneney.


Friday the 21st of September, the annual Dutch Big Brother Awards were held at the Balie in Amsterdam. It was organized by the – unfortunately no longer existent – Bits of Freedom, an organisation which came up for your digital civil rights.

The Big Brother award went out to You, the Dutch civilian, who according to the jury is the biggest threat to privacy. Because of the indifference – “I don’t have to hide anything” – and the disinterest at who looks to your personal data, the civilian is responsible for the demise of privacy in the Netherlands. Where Time praised ‘You’ last year as person of the year, de BBA-jury warns you with this price for the ease with which you take far reaching intrusions to your privacy for granted.

Wikipedia compiles a list of Internet phenomenons, categorized under people, bands, games, videos, animation-based, images, films, web sites, and audio. Accordingly, only a “sample of Internet phenomena that have achieved recognition in contexts wider than that of the Internet, such as coverage in the mainstream media”, are present on the list of Wikipedia’s Internet phenomena.

Little Fatty refers to an Internet phenomenon that started in China. In 2002, a photographer took a picture of a 16-year-old high school student, Qian Zhijun, who was attending a traffic safety class. The picture of this overweight boy with his antagonistic glance made its way on the Internet shortly afterwards. Internet users soon started distributing superimposed images of this boy’s face on iconic images such as Mona Lisa, Marilyn Monroe, and movie posters. Qian Zhijun, best known as Little Fatty became China’s most popular household name overnight.

But Little Fatty only appears on the list of images, and is not acknowledged by Wikipedia as a person who became an Internet phenomen. The review log for the deletion of this entry suggested that there are new versions posted about Little Fatty as an Internet phenomenon; but they focussed on the meme, and not the person involved. However, these postings were removed according to the G4 criteria. For those who are not familiar with Wikipedia’s terminology, G4 refers to ” substantially identical copy, by any title, of an article that was deleted according to the deletion policy. This does not apply to content in userspace, content that was speedily deleted, or to content undeleted according to undeletion policy”.

As a first-time user of Wikipedia, I have no idea why the original posting of Little Fatty was deleted in the first place. So I return to where I started. My own presumption is that Little Fatty did not reach as much mainstream media coverages as the people listed on Wikipedia’s Internet phenomenon. If according to Wikipedia, the person in question should achieve recognition in mainstream media coverage, Little Fatty made it in China Daily, the Independent, the Sun (UK), Reuters, and other local Chinese newspapers. Those on the list of Internet phenomena appeared on at least 20 mainstream media, including American news sources such as Washingpost, CNN, Wall street Journal. Little Fatty never made it this big, at least not outside of China.

Tomas Rawlings & Ana Kronschnabl
The main question that was posed in this lecture was ‘Why is this conferention about Youtube, and not one of the other websites that allow people to watch video’s online?’ Because Youtube isn’t the first website that offers people to use videos and images in this manner. Take for instance of Been there, done that?
No, there is something special about Youtube that makes it as big as it is.

Ana Kronschnabl wrote a manifesto called pluginmanifesto which is based on the Dogme 95 manifesto that was written by filmmakers in 1995 to ‘express the goal of countering ‘certain tendencies’ towards ‘cosmetics’ over content in the cinema today’. Partly, the films made by these guidelines can be specifically used on the Web. Eventually, not much of this came true. So Kronschnabl decided to make a point, write a new manifesto and try to let us forget about all that Hollywood has taught us.

On the MofM blog we have thoroughly discussed and questioned the influence of Wikipedia and Google to check if certain topics (like the spinplant) are relevant and viable. As it turns out the general opinion is that if it’s not featured on Wikipedia or Google, it doesn’t exist (or is not significant enough). Of course we (MofM) are here to discuss that, but that’s a whole different discussion.

I wanted apply this notion of checking a external source just to see if a topic has a reason to live to the fantastic world of internet memes. All of these bizarre internet phenomena have a certain point of no-return, a point from where it takes off exponentially into the world of viral distribution. I have often questioned how and why these memes pop up, but I simply can’t put my finger on it. For one, they are too diverse and I tend to think that they are also culturally defined.

Usually the internet community picks up the most remarkable phenomena but there is no real indicator to check if the meme has reached its ‘certified internet meme top status’. Well, I think I’ve found an answer to that…T-shirts! As it turns out the most popular memes have their own T-shirts, so it’s easy to differentiate the not-so-popular meme from the T-shirt owning top-meme. To illustrate my point here are some examples of memes and their T-shirts:


2 girls 1 cup (very, VERY NSFW! If you don’t believe me just look at the reactions)

More Cowbell

All your base are belong to us


Series of tubes

Leeroy Jenkins


Of course these are just a few examples of the numerous memes with T-shirts. I just wanted to point out that having a shirt could be a reasonable indicator for the popularity of a meme. However, sites like Spreadshop make it very easy to create a shirt about anything you like, so I know it isn’t failsafe, but still it shows how much the internet community is into memes and how they want to express their ‘net-literacy’ throughout their offline lives.

It all started in 1997 with a Yale project called Yale Lifestreams and was invented by Eric Freeman and David Gelernter. The original work, Lifestreams dissertation, you can read here.

Many people have been writing about Lifestreams. Some of those people you’ll find when looking for “Lifestream,” are Jeff Croft, Jeremy Keith, and Emily Chang. It where their writings that inspired me to write this post. While reading their posts and all the comments it occurred to me that many people where enthusiastic about Lifestreams.


I think Lifestreams are going to be a very popular “hype” to come. Certainly in combination with Identity 2.0 and OpenSocial. Why? One, because nowadays people have got a numerous amount of social accounts. This could be Hyves,, Jaiku,, Flickr, Twitter, Digg, Technorati, Facebook, Blogger, WordPress, etc.

To keep track of all your posts and activities on the social software mentioned above, it would be easier to see this activities on one overall page instead of having to go to all the different pages themselves. Also, people are getting tired of registrating themselves and adding their friends every time again on all those different applications. Second, when people are going to centralize their decentralized data streams, it will become interesting for companies, for example recruiting agencies or specific branding companies, as well. “They could each greatly benefit from collecting and broadcasting focused and comprehensive data streams to share activity with their community in ways that weren’t possible before.” ((

To centralize all this different data, there are different applications and plug-ins to do so, called: Social Aggregators, see below for some examples:

Second Brain

InfoVis and Data Art

For our literature presentation on ‘Information Visualization and Data Art’ we (Erik Borra, Paulien Dresscher and Minke Kampman) read articles of Pousman, Vande Moere and Kosara. They look at data art from a scientific perspective and discuss how it may be put to use within ‘traditional’ information visualization. Reading the articles, the position of data art within information visualization seems to become a discourse on itself. We decided to make a visualization discussing and integrating the three articles:

InfoVis and Data Art

Pousman, Zachary et al. “Casual Information Visualization: Depictions of Data in Everyday Life” (2007)
Vande Moere, Andrew. “Aesthetic Data Visualization as a Resource for Educating Creative Design” (2007)
Kosara, Robert. “Visualization Criticism – The Missing Link between Information Visualization and Art” (2007)

About the Authors
Zachary Pousman is a PhD student in Human-Centered Computing at Goergia Tech, he’s behind the term ‘casual information visualization’; “which are visual tools for people to ‘see into’ and manage their growing collections of personal data.” With an emphasis on ‘personal’, Pousman is looking at new domains of applying infovis, specifically away from the office. Or rather, anywhere but the office i.e. non-personal data.
Andrew VandeMoere is a lecturer / assistant professor at The University of Sydney. One of his research areas is Information Aesthetics. He is also the man behind, a blog that explores the relationship between creative design and infovis.

Robert Kosara
is an assistent professor (dep. or Computer Science) at the University of North Carolina. He researches the visual display and analysis of data within infovis.

Minke Kampman

This is a summary of Virilio’s book, War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception. I read this for a class on German Media Theory – alongside Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power, Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies and Friedrich Kittler’s Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. I guess it is strange to ‘relocate’ Virilio (a French theorist) like this, but his study of “the deadly harmony that always establishes itself between the functions of eye and weapon” fits in well with the mass psychology and focus on war in Canetti’s and Theweleit’s books, and with Kittler’s media archeology.

There seem to be a number of critical assessments of War and Cinema on the Web; here I pick out some of the key points in Virilio’s argument and use examples to show how his work (written more than 20 years ago) is still relevant today.

Virilio traces a co-production of military and cinematic techniques and technologies, from the mass production of aerial photography and cinematic propaganda to modern flight simulators and weapons that “open their eyes” (e.g. laser guided missiles). All of this falls under the logistics of perception – more than just prosthetic or removed from the body, vision is the result of a detailed coordination of complex operations, a technological exercise that requires planning, material support, engineering, and so on.

Shock and Awe: no war without representation

The first rule or principle Virilio outlines is that there is no war without representation. As scientific and meticulous as war becomes, it never breaks from the ‘pre-technical’ ideas of war as deception and illusion, spectacle and captivation. So in addition to maps and planning (representations of the battlefield) there are mediations such as the piercing sound of swooping planes and missiles, designed to paralyze their soon-to-be victims. What was previously called the “theatre of operations” has been replaced by the “theatre weapon” (7).

Looking to cultural and economic ties between the industries, Virilio argues that cinema fits perfectly within the war machine: he cites, for example, arms industry funding of the German film company UFA in the 1930s, and the role of cinema stars and directors during the two World Wars (in propoganda, but also selling war bonds, etc.). Conversely, he writes that the war machine – with its focus on mass-management over diverse locales, logistics and planning – fits with cinema, and points to the scaling-up of production for films like Birth of a Nation.

What defines cinema, Virilio writes, is not the production of images but their manipulation: pans and tracking shots, zooming in and out, editing, etc. Cinema is the manipulation of dimensions, producing depth through movement. As has been noted by artists and writers before Virilio, this aligns the experience of watching movies with that of flying. And while pioneer directors were coming to terms with this unique aspect of cinema, he argues, aviation in the early 20th century became less about breaking speed records and more about a new way of seeing.

Early Aerial Photography

Aerial photography was introduced during the American Civil War (via hot air balloons), but came into its own during the first World War. It epitomizes Virilio’s logistics of perception, in that it requires a large-scale operation, including planning and post-production.

In light of Virilio’s argument, it is fitting that Google Earth (which uses satellite imagery rather than aerial photography) now includes a flight simulator. As if the experience of hovering over a 3-D image of the earth was not cinematic enough, there are now plenty of Google Earth ‘movies’ on YouTube, complete with soundtracks.

The cinematic manipulation of dimensions has its precedent in the rifle scope. “In his pencil-like embrasure, the look-out and later the gunner realized long before the easel painter, the photographer or the filmmaker how necessary is a preliminary sizing-up. This action, like the seductive wink so fashionable in the thirties, increased the depth of the visual field while reducing its own compass” (49).

Soldier with rifle and scope 2

Such negation or elimination of distance, for Virilio, continues into cinema and on to simulation: writing about Disneyland’s City of Tomorrow and one of its signature films, ‘Around the World in Eighty Minutes’, he says that “in the thirties, it was already clear that film was superimposing itself on a geostrategy which for a century or more had inexorably been leading to the direct substitution, and thus sooner or later the disintegration, of things and places” (47).

Military BunkerThe substitution of places of war goes hand in hand with shifts in technologies of perception: in order to escape the look-out’s view and that of aerial photography, “the army began to bury its strongholds and outworks in a third dimension, throwing the enemy into a frenzy of interpretation. Invisible in its sunken depths, the camera obscura also became deaf and blind, its relations with the rest of the country now depending entirely on the logistics of perception, with its technology of subterranean, aerial and electrical communication”. Virilio writes that the “fortress-tombs, dungeons and bunkers are first and foremost camera obscurae … Their hollowed windows, narrow apertures and loopholes are designed to light up the outside while leaving the inside in semi-darkness” (49).

Directors and Dictators

At different points in the book, Virilio draws comparisons between stars and pilots, and between directors and dictators. Cecil B DeMille and others displayed “a charismatic infallibility stemming from foreknowledge of scripts which, as it happened, sometimes did not exist. For a whole generation of cinematic miracle-workers, the process of direction, even if improvised, literally took the form of revelation — that is divine action which makes konwn to men truths that they would not be able to discover by themselves” (52).

“At the same time … a new breed of military and revolutionary leader was beginning to have a similar charismatic effect on the masses. These men were heralds of the trans-political era: since real power was now shared between the logistics of weaponry and of sound and images, (in other words) between war cabinets and propoganda departments … parliamentary power had disappeared” (52-53)

Hitler’s plan for a new German empire required a “transformation of Europe into a cinema screen” (53). He looked “to relaunch the war as an epic” (54). A major factor was propaganda: the conference from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will was entirely fabricated for the screen – everything was set up and performed with reference to the camera.


A Traveling Shot over 80 years

In the final chapter, Virilio (re)traces what he calls the fusion/confusion of technologies of perception and of warfare. He starts anew, this time with the introduction of searchlights in the Russian-Japanese battle of Port Arthur in 1904.

These searchlights were war’s first projectors – they “illuminated a future where observation and destruction would develop at the same pace. Later the two would merge completely … above all [with] the blinding Hiroshima flash which literally photographed the shadow cast by beings and things, so that every surface immediately became the war’s recording surface, its film” (70).

Hiroshima shadow with ladder (2)

The searchlight was a reaction, of course, to war being waged from the air. It was an extension of what Virilio calls “the deadly harmony that always establishes itself between the functions of eye and weapon,” a truth ominously expressed years earlier in Etienne-Jules Marey’s chronographic rifle. Meanwhile, the military would develop a range of invisible weapons devoted to making things visible. This included the radar picture, but today we might also think of things like smart dust, used to remotely sense troop movement in the desert.


After Port Arthur, total war inverted conventional strategic planning. Virilio writes: “in the wars of old, strategy mainly consisted in choosing and marking out a theatre of operations, a battlefield, with the best visual conditions and the greatest scope for movement. In the Great War, however, the main task was to grasp the opposite tendency: to narrow down targets and to create a picture of battle for troops blinded by the massive reach of artillery units, themselves firing blind, and by the ceaseless upheaval of their environment” (70).

That is, trenches, shell-shock, moving front lines, the destruction of landmarks and so on, all impeded vision in one way or another. This necessitated the mass production of aerial photographs, of a new logistics of perception.

Virilio writes that the “deadly harmony between the functions of eye and weapon”, or the fusion and confusion of these operations, seems complete now as weapons “open their eyes” – examples include “heat-seeking missiles, infra-red and laser guidance systems, warheads fitted with video cameras” (83). A corollary of this for pilots is that they are trained to distrust their own eyes – Virilio points out that the significant moment has passed, in which flight simulation hours are officially recognized as on par with real flight hours for training.

In conclusion, I’ll just say that it is not hard to see how Virilio’s arguments extend to the current War on Terror, where an unseen threat has gone hand in hand with unprecedented levels of U.S. secrecy and spying. Not to mention the nature of terrorism designed with mass media in mind.

First 20th Century Fox Logo with Searchlights

Meanwhile, the searchlight with which Virilio began, remains an iconic presence in nearly every major city, and of course in the culture of cinema. Most eerily of all, though, was perhaps the use of 88 high powered search lights for the 9/11 Tribute in Light memorial.

9/11 Tribute in Light memorial


When Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries announced he solved the Holloway-case and put together his findings, facts, and answers in a two hour film, he did so three days before airing the actual program. For 72 hours the Dutch public was held captive in front of their newspapers and screens. News was primarily dominated by talk shows and articles speculating about the films content prior to its broadcast. In the end the massive media hype resulted in seven million Dutch people staying home on a Sunday evening to watch a Cheech & Chong movie, with all the jokes cut out, being interrupted by commercials. Now the question is: what happens if, instead of three days, you announce a film three months before airing it?

As I am writing this article it is almost four months since Geert Wilders announced that he is preparing a film which elaborates on verses from the Quran, showing they are still being used today, accompanied by documentary footage from the world of Islam, in a 15 minute “call to shake off the creeping tyranny of Islamization”. In the meantime the Dutch government has expressed great concern about the upcoming film release and has made emergency evacuation plans available to all its consulates and embassies worldwide. Also, Dutch Minister-President Balkenende initiated hardening security measurements around military installations abroad. It is feared that the film will lead to violent extremist Muslim protest such as previous protests against the Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoons in 2005. Some critics argue that this governmental involvement adds to the publicity of the film and possibly is the cause of its negative association. Wilders accuses Balkenende of succumbing to professional cowardice for capitulating to Islam.

Nonetheless, on March 6th 2008, the Dutch government raised its national terrorist threat level from the status ‘limited terrorist threat’ to ‘substantial terrorist threat’ because it fears Muslim terrorists will launch attacks against European targets, with the film as one of the causes. Also Wilders received a substantial terrorist threat: a fatwa by Al-Qaeda, calling all Muslims around the world to assassinate Wilders in the name of Islam. In addition, various international relations have threatened to review its diplomatic stance with The Netherlands, should the film be aired. Leading to an investigation of the Dutch ministry of Justice to find out whether publication could be prevented, but this could not be done. Dutch law avoids censorship unless the content is discriminating. At this stage Fitna’s content is unknown.

Yet, Pakistani regulators banned YouTube for several days due to a “blasphemous” video clip believed to be a trailer for Fitna. Google eventually complied with the Pakistani protest and the material was removed. In their attempt to censor, Pakistan accidentally caused the YouTube site to be unavailable worldwide for hours. Moreover, on March 20th 2008, the American internet hosting provider Network Solutions took down Fitna’s website, replacing a placeholder image containing a picture of the Koran and the text, “Geert Wilders presents Fitna”, with a message asserting that complaints had prompted an investigation into whether its contents violated Network Solutions’ acceptable use policy. Notions of the Internet being a ‘free for all’, ‘revolutionary’ and ‘antigovernment’ distributed global network, should be reevaluated. Both YouTube and Network Solutions exemplify the hierarchical authority of control that exists in its decentralized design and the political pressure and power that allow manipulation.

Authority and control are even more evident in old media. Wilders negotiated about a possible broadcast of the film on the Dutch television. At this stage however it appears that no Dutch broadcaster wants to show the film in its entirety without interruptions and editing. Wilders has said that he would “Rather have the film entirely on the Internet, than half on television”. Fitna is a telling example of the conformist practice in Dutch television. The only tolerant Dutch broadcaster turned out to be the Dutch Muslim broadcasting network: the Nederlandse Moslim Omroep (NMO) offered to air the film, but insisted on an assessment prior to its broadcast, which Wilders turned down. I was enthuses when I read that the NMO proposed to show Fitna in its entirety. This could solve all problems. Not only are all bases – from a political perspective – covered; it would have been a beautiful gesture from both sides, hinting at compassion and forgiveness.

Perhaps one could say the conservative structure of television represents contemporary bureaucracy. On the other hand, Fitna demonstrates the emancipating and mobilizing quality of media. Numerous petitions are distributed via Internet channels, various artists have created ‘counter-films’, and the widespread critique of the (unseen) film has spawned protest actions including a protest of 1,000 people in Dam Square in Amsterdam. People gather together allowing the streets and media to become a platform for their neglected voice. Whilst governments are repressing masses by elaborating on increase of threat, religious conflict and censorship; there actually are people who consider Fitna to be an inappropriate political expression for a politician in a country with a multi-cultural population.

When searching for Geert Wilders Fitna on YouTube, you will have a difficult time missing hundreds of unique clips with the word “Sorry”. Inspired by an apology project done in America (concerning their President), Amsterdam-based Mediamatic mobilized professional and amateur film makers on YouTube in an attempt to show the world Holland is not solely inhabited by bitter angry Wilders clones, but flooded with artistic lovable people. And they are sorry. Sorry for the commotion, confusion, and it will never happen again….

But, should we really be sorry? I mean isn’t Fitna a brilliant new media case-study? The announcement to make a film for television and Internet has resulted in a multi-media hype, a demonstration of online and offline mobilization, and has spiced up contemporary debates concerning distribution laws, internet freedom, security, global politics and ‘impactology’. No doubt in the near future Fitna will be a cuisine for many hungry scholars (in domains of media, law, politics, sociology, cultural anthropology, religion studies) allowing them to obtain their Master and Phd degrees…… thanks to Wilders.

(Thank you?)

Stockmarket: live in tha HutongIt has been a while since I wrote my first post on international expansion of Chinese Internet companies and my experiences here in China. I wrote the post during a train ride from Guangzhou to Shanghai. A lot has happened after that. I have met so many interesting people, visited companies, and when there was time I also tried to be tourist. In this post I will tell something about the people and companies I visited in Shanghai. Furthermore I will make an effort to summarize what I have been up to in Beijing so far!


The first company that I visited in Shanghai was JL McGregor & Company, an Urban ShanghaiAmerican research company that keeps track of most companies that I am doing research on. Lucky as I am I was able to make use of their extensive database; two days in their office gathering reports and information! Ofcourse my stay in Shanghai could not be complete without visiting two of the most prominent Chinese online gaming companies; Giant Interactive (GI) and Shanda.

But this is not all, the list goes on: I dropped by the Dutch casual gaming company Spill Group Asia where I spoke with Thijs Bosma. Also at Spill Group I met Marc van der Chijs with whom I talked about one of the biggest Chinese video sharing sites Tudou. Furthermore I visited the leading Chinese social networking site just 1 day before they moved to a bigger building in Zhangjiang sofware park. Finally, last but certainly not least, I met Gang Lu, to who I am very gratefull for sharing his insights with me.

As I mentioned in my previous post on Tencent the International expansion of Chinese Internet companies will most likely start in the gaming market. The outcomes of my meetings in Shanghai confirmed this finding; both Shanda and GI, market leaders of the so called ‘Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games’ market, take te lead in succesfully expanding their operations abroad. Read more about it at MObinoDE where I am guestblogging.

Beijing: the city where it’s at

Mao and his supportersI am in Beijing for nearly a week now but it feels like I have been here for months; I encountered so many interesting persons and companies! Since most of the Chinese web companies are based here I really tried to fill up my schedule as much as I can to gather as much information and learn as much as possible during my stay here. This is a simplified list of the most interesting people and everything that I have encountered so far (companies, events, etc)!


– Benjamin Joffe – Managing Director – Plus8star (Japan, South Korea and China: research, incubator, & consultancy)
– Porter Erisman – VP Corporate Affairs – Alibaba (The worlds leading B2B e-commerce company)


– Patrick Zha – Chairman & CEO – NOVOking (Virtual World)
– Kaiser Kuo – Group Director, Digital Strategy – Ogilvy & Mather China (Advertising) Kaiser has introduced me to a million people, really nice guy, lucky that I met him!
– William Bean – Partner – Softbank, China & India Holdings (VC, investor in an interesting global Chinese web company italki)


– Paul Denlinger – Blogger, Consultant – ChinaVortex (interesting blog with a more macro-economic pov)
– Lonne Hodge – Entrepeneur – Culturefish (Baidu partner, SEO, Marketing etc) I met Lonnie before in Guangzhou.


Attended a WPP meeting through Kaiser Kuo. WPP is one of the worlds leading communications group. The meeting was about the future of video sharing and p2p video streaming in China. Market leaders in this market such as PPLive, HDT, and Youku all gave presentations about their views on the future of rich online media, their businessmodel, strategy, and the future of online advertising in China. After the presentations and mouthwatering lunch I joined Youku’s CEO Viktor Koo and WPP Strategy Director Scott Spirit on their way to the airport for an interview. We had an interesting discussion on why Baidu went overseas, what will be the biggest SN in China and when+why, and the battle of the video sharing websites; who will win when and why?!

After this I had to rush back to attend a monthly web entrepeneur gathering near the Silicon Valley of Beijing (where, among others, Oracle, Google, and Microsoft are located). It was organised, by Bjorn Lee, who I had already set up a meeting with coming monday. Bjorn currently works at Hipihi, another Chinese virtual world. Interesting to speak to some of the younger entrepeneurs on their views on the future of the Chinese Internet market.

Friday (today):

Sinaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!Today I spoke with Zhang Tao, International Sales Manager at Baidu (China’s no.1 Search engine) in the morning, after an interesting interview we had lunch together and discussed the educational problems China is facing. In the afternoon I had a meeting with Cathy Peng, Investor Relations Manager, Sina (China’s biggest portal). Sina is located in the same building as Baidu, which was convenient, especially in Beijing where the average speed of a car is around 15 km per hour because of a constant traffic jam!

I just returned to my hotel in a Hutong close to Tiananmen sq, and I’m glad that it is weekend. After meeting so many people and hearing so much new stuff it is now time to process, and maybe squeeze in a visit to the Great Wall!


I will meet with Ned Rossiter who can hopefully learn me more about the Beijing Zhongguancun Software park and about creative industries in general, it will be very helpfull for my thesis to hear his views on the current situation! I think I will also visit some random Internet cafes and find out what the kids are doing in there.

Next week I have planned several more meetings (Perfect World, Tangos Chan, Jeremy Goldkorn, Douban, etc) which I will blog about later, I just hope I have enough time for my meetings before I head back home on the 15th! Now its time for a cold Tsingtao!

Holiday is over in Zambia. After a couple of weeks in which Zambian teachers had the chance to join in on a variety of different ICT workshops throughout the country it is now time to go back to their pupils and overwhelm them with all the new knowledge and skills they have learned. The last couple of weeks I have been so fortunate to be invited at a couple of computer workshops from different organisations for teachers living in different regions in the country. In this post I want to share my observations so far. Sorry for the long post….When you have fast internet….use it.


The first Workshop I visited was a IICD (international Institute of Comunication and Development) workshop at Mplembe Secondary School in the Copperbelt in Kitwe. This school is the “headquarter” for the ENEDCO (Enhancing the visual presentation of education content) project so it is no surprise that the workshops where about how to enrich your teaching with visuals. The workshops where organized by IICD and IT specialists from Atos Origin. The two main topics of the workshops were movie-editing and creating your own animations. Although I missed out on the first day of the workshop in which all the teachers were introduced and on the last day in which most of the final products where presented by the teachers I still had the chance to work with the participants on their projects for 4 days. A couple of weeks before the workshop started participants where already given the opportunity to exchange information or present themselves online in a specially designed d-group. The participants joining the workgroup mostly came from the Schools joining the Enedco project, although there where also people from Esnet, CYP (Chawama Youth Project) and other schools.

The workshop on animation was given by Atos Origin’s Berno van Soest who taught the 23 Zambian teachers all about using the animation tool Scratch. Scratch is a animation tool by MIT and although it’s fairly basic to use it is a great introduction into the world of animation. After Berno showed a rain animation he has made himself most of the participants were really anxious to get at it themselves. One of the main things I have seen during my observations is that the will to learn and the enthusiasm is enormous. Half an hour into the workshop the teachers are already trying out all the different options. From the way the teachers are looking at and using the examples it becomes clear that most of them don’t have a lot of experience using a computer. A game of Pong, (that serves as a scratch example) was being closely examined by a group of teachers for at least 15 minutes. Four of them where watching while one was playing the game.(pong linkje voor de liefhebber) However, what began as a game of clicking laughing and looking at the examples is slowly moving towards an interest in the possibilities to create their own animations. The different skill levels however are really obvious during this workshops. Some of the teachers are picking up the material pretty quick while others are still figuring out the precise way a scroll-bar works. Some of the participants are running in to some basic problems while for instance running the installation wizard and they tend to stop trying to figure it out on their own quite quick. They are expecting Berno or me to figure it out for them. Although Berno is trying to encourage and trigger own initiative from the participants some of them are still so unfamiliar with the computer that they tend to keep a safe distance. Although some have their difficulties and are progressing slowly others really start exploring the possibilities together: “You can make your own adjustments you see”…”yes, I see it, now it makes sence”…”can you also drag this”…”now,what about this stuff?”…”Can you make him do that”….”look, this makes it move around”…”Now…let’s get into, remember, where did you get them”.

Apart from practical hands on teaching there is also room reserved in the workshop for some basic explanations on storyboarding. Atos Origin’s Fabiana De Boer is doing a presentation about the importance of having a good storyboard. During the presentation she asks the teachers for tips and tricks of presenting and making a movie or animation. The things the participants come up with vary from: “if you want stability during filming you can use one hand butt maybe you can use the other to hold the stability. I don’t know how to phrase it” to “You should choose appropriate scenes for your film. You should choose a scene that is appropriate to what you say” Although these tips al seem pretty obvious to me personally the group is discussing them exhaustively. I think this pretty much shows the basic levels on which the participants are starting. One of the participants, in a part of the workshop about moviemaking asked:

“The digestive system, how do I film that?”

After a short explanation that this would pretty hard to film Fabiana explained that it would be possible “reconstructing” the system by using an animation.

At the end of the workshops most people had learned the basics of either Scratch or moviemaker and presented what they had made. Although some of the teachers had made some fairly simple movies with low educational value other have made beautiful animations of the spreading of the HIV virus or movies about the computer basics of hardware for their computer studies class. I personally was most impressed by the work of Douglas Mazimba, a Biology teacher from Ibenga Girls High School who made impressive and educational animations of biological processes. Within a couple of days he had really mastered Scratch and made usable and educational animations. After the presentations all the teachers where rewarded with a certificate.
(observation report)


After the workshop with IICD I also visited a Computers for Zambian Schools workshop. Com4Zam Schools is an NGO that hands out second hand computers to schools in Zambia and also provides basic training in the use of computers. Their aim is to provide the schools that receive the computers with a beginner and later on an advanced course in the use of IT’s. Since 2002 6000 computers have been given away to more then 800 teachers. The workshop I observed in Kitwe was a beginner course and took 5 days. In these five days the participants where invited to discover basic Microsoft programs such as Word, Powerpoint and Excel as well as learning looking at hardware, doing some problem shooting and getting a basic explanation in browsing the internet. Most of the participant where from the Central Province (around Kabwe) in Zambia.

Compared to the IICD workshop I’ve visited last week this one is at a an even more beginner level, when presenter Chester asked what the teachers know about computers half of them state that they have “no computer knowledge”. The other half “knows” programs like word, “Microsoft” and excel. The workshop therefore starts of with the basic question: “What is a computer?” After giving basic definitions of terms such as: Computer, Hardware, windows, microsoft and Software one of the participant comes up with the following question:

“I have a question…The windows itself, it comes into an environment. It is software that is planted in. What is the name of that environment? I mean: Windows is a system that requires a system….What is that system?”

Poor Chester struggles to explain and is relieved when he finally managed to get everyone behind a keyboard. For some of the teachers this is a new experience. This is really strange to see. It seems like such a huge gap between on the one hand being confronted with all these big stories about importance of Computers in their teaching, the huge possibilities, the “new worlds” it will open for their students and so on…and on the other having to listen to Chester who is explaining that “The long key is the space key. It allows you to move one space”.

Throughout the first 3 days word, excel and powerpoint basics are being explained to the teachers. The instructors try to keep everybody in the same pace by constantly asking: “Are we together?” A problem with this kind of basic beginner workshop is that there are a lot of participants who already know the basics and are ready for some more advanced training. This group seems to be bored a little bit. Instead of trying new things they are just follow the instructions that they already seem to know. An important part of organizing workshops such as this one is to make sure that the groups you material you are teaching is in line with the hopes, expectations and needs of the invited target group. Although this (once again) might sound pretty logical this seems to be a big organisational issue in a country like Zambia.

The last day of workshop to most teachers is like the icing on the cake. The last day will be about using the internet. Although most teachers heard stories about the Internet and have a vague idea about what it can do half of them has never used it before. Some of the participants have brought out business cards or other material on which it shows website names or e-mail addresses. They have been carrying them around for quite a while and seem anxious to finally check out what the fuzz is all about. Two participants where really disappointed about the fact that the e-mail addresses they have been carrying along where no addresses to a website. “You can not see anything there when you type it into the browser, You can just send a message or information yourself…sorry.” I think this is one of the many examples that show how sincerely interested and intrigued by the Internet most teachers are. They see websites/e-mail addresses all around but just don’t really know what it is exactly and how they can use it…They seem anxious to learn.

To explain some features of the Internet Chester often uses compares it to a mobile telephone or mobile telephone network. In Zambia there is a big mobile hype going on at the moment. (Everywhere you look you see huge advertisements of providers Celltell, CellZ or MTN and almost everybody (even in the more rural areas) have/has access to a mobile telephone. Ringtones are a big thing and people tend to show off wit their phones in public.) Chester compares mobile phones to the Internet a couple of times for instance by saying that “your e-mail address is like your celtell number. Typing www is the same as 0976, (the beginning code of all celtell numbers).

During the workshop I got the chance to hand out some questionnaires to the teachers. In these short questionnaires I asked them to explain how they personally looked at the use of computers in Zambian education. I also asked them about what kind of users they themselves are and how they envision the role of computers in their own classes in the near future. At the end of the workshop when all the participants get their certificate handed out by Mr. Makondo (the vice principle) one of the instructors called Mapache stated that: “the bal has been thrown in the court now…you can play now.”
(observation report)


For my last workshop visit I traveled to a little town in the Eastern Province of Zambia called Sinda. The Eastern Province is a more rural and poor area of Zambia. The workshop was supposed to be about administrational tools in Zambian Education but after I arrived I discovered that it would basically go into the same Microsoft programs that the Workshop I visited last week was about. A little bit of a disappointment. This is one of the hardest parts about doing research here. Most of the communication is really bad so it’s hard to know what to expect sometimes. I for instance would send a lot of e-mails to ask if it would be alright for me to visit this workshop and what exactly it would be about but I never got an e-mail back from anyone. After deciding just to show up they where welcoming me with open arms. “Yes, we heard that you where coming…thanks for the e-mail messages…” pfffffff

The workshop was organized by Schoolnet Zambia and the readers where provided from other Schoolnet projects from around Africa. Although the readers all looked good I was surprised that in their workshops the presenters themselves didn’t use the computer or projector a lot. They didn’t use any PowerPoint presentations and used a large chalkboard to draw out certain things. During this workshop we experienced a lot of power blackouts. This is a big problem in huge parts of Zambia. Here in the Eastern Provence we would have around 3 blackouts with a duration of at least 2 hours each every day. Because of a lack of power there was a lot of time for wrecking apart computers and looking at the internal hardware. The participants seem to be especially interested in this ‘hands on training’. One of the teachers stated that: “We need to know how to handle the machines that are there. Otherwise every three months you have to get this guy from Lusaka to fix it and give him a lot of money.” The participants really want to learn to be able to fix the machines. This is something I have seen in all the different workshops. The participants, especially in the rural areas, are well aware of the fact that when something breaks there is not always a technician around to fix it.
(observation report)

During this workshop there was no Internet connection. This is a big problem in most parts of Zambia. Internet connection is expensive and a lot of school heads are not convinced about the importance of having an Internet connection. Chassa Secondary School is one of the most ‘ICT-fixated’ schools in the Eastern Province. When there are conferences are workshops about the ICT’s for the Eastern Province these are often held at this school. That was the main reason I was surprised by the lack of Internet connection. Making people ICT literate in the most basic sense (learning them how to type and use a computer) is seen as a first important step but this is still miles away from actually being ‘connected’. Even within the Enedco project, which is based on sharing content, there are a lot of problems with connectivity. Although all the workshops I have visited have put big emphasis on getting connected and the teachers seem really interested in the possibilities the Internet has to offer it still seems a long road to getting everybody connected.

Now that the Schools are starting again I will try to get some visits to different schools done. I will also try to get some more interviews with people from different organisations. I already had an interview with Mr. Mwale from the examinations council in Lusaka that was pretty interesting and I hope to get to talk to more “big-fish” in the near future. Last but not least there is also a big project in the copperbelt where the mines are contributing almost 400 computers to the mining schools that I would like to get some more information about. Lot of observing and interviewing ahead but first meeting up with Piet’s girlfriend tomorrow and trying to convince her to do the bungee jump with me at Vic Falls….

LOL :) I don’t think we made it to the front page of any important newspaper, but I found the picture of us getting a tan in between classes on the ANP-website :)

 Have a break

“AMSTERDAM – Studenten ‘nieuwe media’ van de Universiteit van Amsterdam genieten op het Binnen gasthuisterrein van het mooie weer. De komende dagen wordt het volgens de weersverwachtingen nog warmer.”

While nothing is decided yet, it looks like (note: article is in Dutch) consumers will be forced to pay extra taxes on their mp3 players and TiVo-like recorders, a kind of pre-penalty for the copies they will ‘inevitably’ make. These taxes are already added to the cost of blank media (dvdr’s, etc.).

The article says the money goes to the artists hurt by (il)legal copying, but I wonder how much goes into the RIAA’s budget for fighting piracy with lawsuits and technologies that make sure we can’t copy anything anyway (I’m thinking in cool cybernetic loops again, sorry). They expect the law to work for them, and they like to police the law (DRM).

In other news (also in Dutch), conservatives are looking to kick under-25 year-olds off welfare. But surely it’s the record and movie industries who are the real ‘welfare leeches’ of our time?

testHow to keep up as schools in a world where even e-mail is outdated and social networking is the new big thing? Some schools say that the answer is setting up a MySpace page. Can it be that education has sunk to a new low? Or is this the new high in school/student communication? Nate Anderson wrote an article on about this.

But the question how to communicate with the younger generation is also very actual for parents, they just don’t know what can be done with a computer. Jonathan Duffy wrote an interesting article on the BBC website called IT-support for your parents.