Joyce Goggin – Feminist!

Dr. Goggin was a bit annoyed by a cartoon made by Peter van Straaten on a conference for students. made a little report!


an inventory of future warning signs is funny: should the masters make stickers and distribute accordingly? Of course, the warning signs we have now are not so bad, either.

via Schneier

Locative media is about as vague a term as web 2.0. Essentially, locative seems to be about connecting ‘third nature’ information to real world places and/or objects. But there are a number of ways this can happen.

Below I suggest some basic categories of locative projects, based on techniques (e.g. localizing web content, embedding data in specific places) rather than uses (educational, artistic, community-building, etc.). Making an taxonomy like this is bound to fail, but I think helps put perspective on our work of analyzing developments in that all too hip phenomenon of locative media. Please comment and suggest changes…


Together with the HvA Medialab and Waag Society, Mediastudies is developing a Mobile Learning Game Kit, an educational tool that works with mobile and wireless devices. The Game Kit, developed with funding from SURF, was presented at the SURF Onderwijsdagen 2006 through this little – and admittedly slightly boring – video. (The page requires Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher: apparently Firefox, Mozilla, and Safari haven’t made their way to Wageningen University where the film was produced)

“If only we’d known that iPods would unite and overthrow the very humans they entertained…” From The Plastic Bag

In this Podcast I will be giving a last minute Christmas gift recommendation.


The newest hype nowadays seems to be Twitter which allows you to share what you are doing with your friends every single second. Are you going to the mall? Is your cat sneezing? Update your Twitter page on the web, or by instant messaging, or send a text message from your phone. Your friends will receive this message on the web/IM or on their phone. This phenomenon has recently been named microblogging because your messages have to be short, 140 characters or less. This is of course caused by the restriction on text messaging which is around 140 characters. I am quite curious how this service became such a hype and so popular in such a short time. Hyves, the Dutch social networking site, already had a quite similar function with Wie, Wat, Waar? (Who, What, When?) which also allows you to share what you are doing and where on your site.


So I’m at my mum’s trying to make some progress on writing my thesis, and she complained about one of the sites she likes to visit – UrukNet – being shunned from Google News.googlecensor

I asked her for some links regarding this, and apparently there are a number of curious issues surrounding Google and controversal (leftish) websites.
I’m not sure what to think, but I am certainly not surprised…


Thursday was the day of the Google Geo Day 2007 in Amsterdam. I made a report on it and put it on my personal blog because the layout of the Masters of Media site didn’t want to cooperate! This might be something for you Anne, incompatibility issues within WordPress! Anyway, you can check out the report here: Google Geoday Benelux 2007 Report.


zeldaAs I was playing Zelda: A Link to the Past today on my SNES emulator, something struck me: I had an in-game deja-vu. A feeling as if I had been there before. My mind quickly tried to scan all the options and I found out that I have really vivid memories of various computer games. These experiences are basically stories I could tell to my friends and family at a party. As cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner mentioned in his interesting essay Life as Narrative: all our experiences are in some way structured as narratives, and we remember and learn from these narratives in the future.


Ed Ruscha - Every Building on the Sunset Strip

In 1965, Ed Ruscha photographed Every Building on the Sunset Strip, in a way that may sound familiar to those following the Google Streetview release:

Ed Ruscha took the photographs contained in this leporello with a motorized Nikon camera mounted to the back of a pick-up truck. This allowed him to photograph every house on the Sunset Strip while driving – first down one side of the street and then the other. The pictures were then pasted in order, and the individual buildings were labeled with their respective house numbers.

There is so much to say about Streetview, luckily most of it does not involve any of the weird captures that have been all the rage lately (rivaling Loltheorists? no, but still pretty big). Then again, what seems so fascinating about Streetview is exactly its ‘Hey, look at this!’ value – even for relatively boring photographs – the same thing that keeps us uploading digital photos by the bucket to sharing sites like Flickr.

Streetview aesthetic


As you might have heard Radiohead dropped its major label and put its new album online for download. This is not a new strategy but what is interesting is that they don’t sell their music through iTunes for $0.99 per song or $10-12 per album but through their site only. They are moving the legal download music industry into a new direction. The album doesn’t have a fixed price but you pay what you wish.

Radiohead 01


Adrian Miles at Video VortexThe subtitle of this conference is Responses to YouTube, and at least one alternative to the world’s largest supplier of piano-playing-cat videos comes in the form of ‘soft video’, via Australian media scholar Adrian Miles.

Some of the questions he asks: Where does an online video end – at what point is it ‘complete’? Are those limits imposed by technology or are they lingering clichés of narrative form (as opposed to Manovich’s ‘database’)? Can online video be imagined differently, outside the frames of cinema and TV?

Television Killed the Video Star
The problem with web video now is that it is not television but acts as if it is. YouTube aligns itself with some aspects of TV: it doesn’t allow users to manipulate content, and owns content generated by users. Its affinity with TV is made most obvious by the fact that the site centers around popular TV content (making its biggest problem copyright laws).

On the other hand, Miles says, YouTube helps de-naturalize some industry assumptions about ‘quality’ TV – what good is high resolution version of the Colbert Report if everyone is watching it online anyway? It also promotes dynamic pathways through content, and merely by being popular it contributes to the development of Web video standards (not necessarily a bad thing).

Actualizing the Virtual with Soft Video
Adopting the language of Gilles Deleuze, Miles makes the case for rethinking video. He says that if YouTube is to survive, it will have to make its content granular: tagging scenes and shots, linking between them, making it easy to remix content at the level of the smallest possible unit.

By opening up video – through both industry decisions and by building better remix software – a space opens up for what Miles calls soft video. This would be a move away from what he calls teleological editing – that bane of narrative form that says you need a third act, a fitting conclusion. Rather, following the database form of the Web, online video could become something new (there is no ‘last page’ on the Internet, Miles jokes). The aesthetics of soft video would be less those of cinema or televison, and more those of music: rhythm and repetition, feel and tone. Soft video would not be shaped by a need for closure, and every movement ‘forward’ would open up new trajectories rather than shut them down. Soft video would actualize the virtual.

After some weeks the spinplant is still alive. A search with the query “spinplant” in Google gives an overview of some nice and weird links. For example a mention on a Japanese site, linked to Secondlife. But the spinplant also appeared on the website ‘watvindenwijover’, a Dutch site where people can give their opinion about different things that happen online.
Michael’s article about making the spinplant more relevant is still favorite. Surprisingly Wikipedia is first to be found on the 34th result.

New media signal








Logo Mobile CityThe Mobile City conference
27 & 28 February 2008
NAi (Netherlands Architecture Institute) Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Announcement & Call for Participation

“The Mobile City” is a two-day conference about locative & mobile technologies, urban culture and identity. The Mobile City brings academics, architects, urban professionals and media designers together to address the question: what happens to urban culture when physical and digital spaces merge? Keynote speakers are Stephen Graham, Tim Cresswell, Malcolm McCullough and Christian Nold.

The physical, geographical city with its piazza’s, its neighbourhoods and crossings intersects with the ‘virtual space’ of electronic communication-, information- and observation-networks of GSM, GPS, CCTV, UMTS, WIFI, RFID, etc. At the same time, the domain of digital space is increasingly becoming physical, an “internet of things” is emerging. Another example is the rise of ‘pervasive games’, digital games with a physical component in urban space. Is it still useful or even possible to talk about the city as being only physical? Or about the digital world as purely ‘virtual’ (in the sense of ‘not real’ or immaterial)? The physical city and the spaces of digital technologies merge into a new “hybrid space”. Hybrid spaces are shaped by the social processes that concurrently take place in digital and physical spaces. What is the influence of these developments on the ideas we have of time, space and place, citizenship and identity?

Conference questions
Locative and mobile media can be understood as interfaces between the digital domain and the city, as bridges between the social processes that formerly took place in more separated domains (digital or physical) but now are spilling over into each other. The Mobile City will ask the following questions:

  • From a theoretical point of view, what are useful concepts to talk about the blurring/merging of physical and digital spaces?
  • From a critical perspective, what does the emergence of locative and mobile media mean for urban culture, citizenship, and identities?
  • From a professional point of view, what does all this mean for the work of urban professionals (architects, designers, planners), media designers, and academics?

The full program text is available at our website,

The conference organizers have set up a special weblog devoted to the themes of the conference at Relevant contributions are welcome.

Call for Participation – Workshops
On February 27th two small scale intensive workshops will be held. The first session is about Urban Culture and locative media (with Stephen Graham and Christian Nold), the second session about mobility and new technologies (with Tim Cresswell and Malcolm McCullough). Please send a very brief bio with relevant current and past activities, and short motivation to Indicate what you would like to contribute to, and get from the session(s). Only a limited number of places is available. When interest supersedes availability, the organizing committee will select participants. Registration closes at January 31st.

Call for Participation – Project Presentations
During the main conference on February 28th, Keynote speeches will be alternated with short project presentations about locative and/or mobile technologies for artistic purposes, business, research, etc. We are thinking of: locative media art, commercial locative services, pervasive gaming, mobile marketing campaigns, geo-tagging or geo-storytelling, research projects etc. etc. Your presentation will have to fit in 10 minutes, and be as concrete as possible. Your project will also be featured on our website. If you wish to present, please send us an email about your project at Please do so before january 31st.

The Mobile City takes place 27 and 28 February 2008 in the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
February 27th: Small scale in-depth workshops
February 28th: Main conference with:

  • Stephen Graham – Professor of Human Geography, Durham University
  • Tim Cresswell – Professor of Geography, University of London
  • Malcolm McCullough – Associate Professor University of Michigan
  • Christian Nold – Independent artist and lecturer based in London

From the Netherlands experts such as Rob van Kranenburg (Waag Society), Nanna Verhoeff (University of Utrecht) and Marc Schuilenburg (Free University Amsterdam, Studio Popcorn) will also participate.

More info, call for participants, and registration:
The conference fee is € 25,-

The Mobile City is organized by:

  • ‘New Media, Public Sphere, Urban Culture’ project at Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG).
  • ‘Playful Identities’ project at Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) and University Utrecht (UU).
  • Netherlands Architecture Institute Rotterdam (NAi).

Conference organizers: Martijn de Waal (RUG), Michiel de Lange (EUR), Oene Dijk (NAi).

Via email I was notified that we were tagged by a blog meme, asking to write down sentences 6-8 from page 123 of the nearest book. Just coming home from Geert Lovink’s book presentation and thus having his book ‘Zero Comments‘ nearest, the quote is actually quite applicable:

The time spent interacting with media needs to be understood in terms of three distinctly different activities. The first involves the time needed to configure the machine, install, learn, and operate the software, and to become familiar with the tools for navigation. The second is the time spent with certain application related content such as blogs, e-mail, SMS, and iPods.

As a bonus I will add the 9th sentence too:

“Only after we have downloaded all the e-mail, checked intranets, and blogs do we enter the third activity, the flat, eternal time of pure communication – be it with humans or machines.”

That leaves me the task of tagging all masters of media individually (and making a blog meme network visualization afterwards). Finally, I can get some dinner and have a good talk.

A nice cup of cha in ChenduThis Friday it is finally happening; I will head off to China for my research! After months of stalking people with interview requests and reading everything I could about Internet in China, I am going to visit some of the most innovative and prominent Chinese Internet companies. I am really looking forward to traveling through China, finally meeting all the people I have corresponded with, and discussing my research with them! The focus of my trip to China for my Masters Thesis research will be on the international ambitions and strategy of Chinese Internet market leaders.

During my stay in China I will visit the following companies to talk about their international strategy and ambitions:

Baidu (search engine market leader)
Sina (online media company for China and Chinese communities around the world)
Giant Interactive Group Inc. (online role-playing game developer )
Hipihi (Virtual world developer)
Netease (one of China’s leading Internet and online game services providers)
Perfect World (online game company specializing in MMORPGs)
Sohu (Internet Portal operator)
Tudou (online video site)
Tencent (Internet service portal)

Besides speaking with representatives from these companies I have corresponded and set up meetings with prominent bloggers, research companies, foreign companies in China, intellectual property legal experts, and everybody that could help me create a better insight in future developments of the Chinese Internet market and the Chinese creative industry as a whole.

These are most of the other companies or persons I am visiting:

Danwei (Chinese media, advertising, and urban life)
DLA Piper (International law firm)
JL Mc Gregor and Company (research and consulting services focused on China)
Ogilvy China (communication experts)
+8* (Mobile and Internet business consulting)
Spill Group Asia (casual gaming websites)
Springtime (PR and communications company)
Thomas Crampton (blogger: ‘Internet, media, and new ideas seen from Asia’)

Also I am planning on visiting Shenzhen High Tech Industrial Park (SHIP), Shanghai Pudong Software Park (SPSP) , and ZhongGuanCun Science Park. When on sight I hope to be able to arrange meetings with English speaking officials concerned with these designated innovation, and self-owned intellectual property boosting parks.

After five weeks of research in China, where I will pass through Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai and finally Beijing, I will hopefully be able to answer the following questions: which companies have global ambitions and what are they, how do companies see the near and far future, how are they trying to fulfill their international ambitions, do they stimulate creativity and innovation, and what does their strategy look like, also how will they be able to differentiate themselves from international competitors?

Theories on the development of Chinese cultural and creative industries – from made to created in China – will play an important role in my research. Other elements that will be taken into account are: intellectual property rights, the pro-active role of the government and international political and economic influences.

During my stay in China I will keep track of the interviews, lost in translations, proceedings, multiple 20 hour train rides, interesting cultural experiences, dim sum breakfasts, chicken feet dinners, etc. on my blog ‘Pieter-Paul’s Masters Thesis: Chinese Internet Companies Expanding Overseas’.

For further reading on my Ma Thesis subject I recommend the following books, articles, blogs, websites, and articles:

From made in China to created in ChinaAndrew Keane
My Creativity Reader: A Critique of Creative Industries – edited by Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter
Fast Boat to ChinaAndrew Ross
Silicon Dragon – Rebecca Fannin
China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Inc. – Willem van Kemenade (Dutch)
The Internet an Etnographic approach – Miller and Slater
The World is Flat – Thomas Friedman
Catching Up Fast: PR and Marketing in a Web 2.0 China – Björkstén, Lockne, Spännar, and Thorstenson
China’s Emerging New Economy:The Internet and e-Commerce – Wong and Nah
The Search for Modern China – Pei-kai Cheng and Michael Lestz
CHINA Contemporary
ReORIENT: Global Economy in the Asian Age – Andre Gunder Frank

Blogs and websites:
The China Dreamblogue

Ogilvy China Digital Watch
Ich Bin Ein Beijinger
China Web 2.0 Review
China Blogging
China: Tech news from CNET
Danwei – Media, Advertising, and Urban Life in China
Marc van der Chijs’ Shanghaied Weblog
The MOBINODE – Tracking Dragon’s Web – Best China Tech Blog
Community Blogs: Little Red Blog
Shanghai China Snippets

WangR English
Travelers’ Tales – The FEER Blog
All Roads Lead to China
Thomas Crampton

Web Marketing China
The China Vortex
ING Asia/Pacific’s Blog

BDL Media
Online Marketing in China. SEO.

For my Master Thesis I travelled to Kitwe, a town in the Copperbelt area in Zambia to study the use of ICT’s in Zambian Secondary school education. After a horrible first week of research in which my two laptops where stolen and a really fine second week in which I retrieved my stolen items I now finally have the time and technical resources to blog my experiences so far and explain what my research will be about. In this post I will briefly introduce the current situation of ICT’s in Zambian education and I will also explain something about the ENEDCO project. A project in which Zambian teachers are encouraged to visually enhance their teaching materials and educational content by using ICT’s.

Zambia has a population of 11.5 million people and is one of the poorest countries in the world; more than three-quarters of the population live on less than USD$1 per day. HIV/AIDS is a big problem in Zambia with 16% of Zambians age 15 to 49 years being HIV positive and an estimated 1.1 million children orphaned, many themselves HIV positive. There is chronic food insecurity and weak governance with devastating social and economic consequences. The economy is vulnerable to natural disasters such as flood, drought, and animal disease which impacts food security.

In a country that has so many health insecurity and economic instability the Zambian Educational system is trying to provide it’s students with the best possible learning environments. In 2005 Zambia had 6,962 basic schools with 2.8 million learners and 463 high schools with more than 136,000 learners. The Zambian Government is putting emphasis on ensuring that all Zambian children can follow primary education. Of all these children who are enrolled in primary education less than 20% is entering secondary school and only 2% or the 20 to 24 age group enters a university or some other form of higher education.

The Zambian Government is putting more and more emphasis on using ICT’s in education. The political lobby of organisations like e-brain has been pressuring the Zambian Government in being more open towards the use of ICT in Education. So far this has resulted in the formulation of a National ICT Policy and a draft version of the ICT Implementation Framework. In Zambia, more and more schools are acknowledging computer science as a school study subject and the current policy environment is promoting access and use of ICT’s in Education management, administration, teaching and learning.

Although there are a lot of positive changes in the ICT4E sector in the recent years there are also a lot of issues that still have to be overcome. One can think of constraining features like Gender inequalities within the use of ICT’s, the lacking of fiscal resources and insufficient human resource capacity. A lot of the good IT professionals have moved away from Zambia to make more money. As one of the people from e-brain mentioned to me last week: “All of our good IT people are gone to help build the World Cup in South Africa”.

Last but not least an important constraining feature is that there is little digital educational content based on the local curriculum framework available. This last constraint is one of the things I will mainly focus on in my research. Throughout Zambia there are schools, organisations, projects and lobby groups that are busy with different kinds of programs to stimulate teachers to create content that is based on the local socio-cultural curriculum. One of these projects is the ENEDCO (enhancing the visual presentation of education content) project that is active in the Copperbelt in Northern Zambia. For my research I will stay at the Mplembe Secondary School in Kitwe, one of the 7 schools that is participating in the Enedco project and the main ‘headquarter’ from where the content will be distributed. From here I will try to analyze the content that is made and the way ICT’s are influencing education.

My research will (most likely) contain two different main layers. I want to look at the Enedco project as a case study. I will observe the workshops given to the teachers and will analyze the materials that these teachers produce after following these workshops. My focus in these observations and analyses will be on the specific Zambian Socio-cultural elements within the educational content. Throughout the first week of my research I was fortunate enough to observe workshops that where given to teachers by IICD and AtosOrigin on how to use video-editing and animation software to enrich the teachers educational materials. In the coming months I’m hoping to see how these workshops have paid off and in what way the teachers are using new visual presentations in their classes. During this fieldwork, I hope that I will be able to place my observations within the case study and the material I’m collecting from interviews with teachers into the broader perspective of ICT4E in Zambia at the moment.

This broader perspective will be the second main layer of my research. At the moment there is a lot of activity in Zambia in the field of ICT4E. Both at an NGO as well as at a cooperate and Ministerial level there are initiatives concerning the future of ICT’s in Education. I will try to map out the different stakeholders and involved party’s to get a good overview of the current situation of ICT4E in Zambia. At the moment there seem to be a lot of organisations playing the field and most of the time they seem unaware of what the other is doing. By mapping out the different ICT4E initiatives within Zambia I hope to be able to create a clear overview of the different movements within ICT4E within Zambia.

This coming week I will be joining “computers for Zambian schools” during their “beginners” workshops. In these workshops they train Zambian teachers in computer basics. I will also (hopefully) be attending to the first meeting between different stakeholders and organisations in the field and people from the Ministry of Education. Next to these workshops and meetings I will also try to make appointments with teachers from the ENEDCO schools to visit their classes.

To make a long story short: After a harsh first week in which I lost both of my laptops I was really lucky to get them back. With all the contact I’ve maid in the last week and the appointments in the coming weeks, it will be an interesting time ahead of me.

Mediamatic is a project partner of PICNIC.
Excellent coders, designers and physical computers participate in this heavy duty camp to explore recent technologies, RFID, interaction design and social processes. The goal of the Camp is to realize multiple interactive installations, wearables and spaces for the visitors of PICNIC to play with.

I went to PICNIC a few days before it actually started. I was taking a walk with my friend to see how the place looks like. It was empty but the huge white dome (E-Art Dome) was already there. In a small room located near the Old Gas Factory a group of people was working hard. My friend introduced me to one of the ‘hackers’ so I had the chance to talk to an ‘insider’, Arjan Sherpenisse.
In order to participate to the Social RFID Games you needed to have an ikTag. With it you could start a running race, or test your alcohol intake or support one of the two DuckRace players etc.
Arjan explained to me how two of the projects work. One was the DuckRace: two players start their race cars with their tags. The race track is based on the personal profile and network of the players. Since it’s a social game, the audience could influence the race car with their ikTags.

Two other ‘mediamatics’ were outside carving some wood, building the platforms. Their work was similar to creating small architecture models. I was impressed that they were working with so much passion. ‘We didn’t sleep for a few days’ Arjan Scherpenisse confessed.
Thirty people from all over the world were there, in the small room, working day and night for the Mediamatic projects.

On Thursday, the second day of PICNIC I was back there. This time I was dissapointed that I couldn’t join the conferences and in fact I couldn’t enter anywhere. It would have been a nice experiment for me if I had at least an ikTag to play around.

Conference SuperPowerPointCinema

a project by Re;visie, All Media ism. Het Nederlands Film Festival

keynote speakers
Bruce Sterling (science fiction writer, blogger)
Eboman (DJ, kunstenaar)
Anne Helmond (Docent UvA & Blogger)
Moderator: Koert van Mensvoort

Koert van Mensvoort gives the introduction and he starts by explaining what makes the endeavor of a powerpoint cinema experiment worthwhile. The amount of powerpoint users is approximately 300 million. 30 million presentations are given via this piece of software every day (!), of which at least 50% is totally unbearable.
A clip is shown by a famous comedian Don McMillan: he shows all the cliche uses of powerpoint thus how NOT to use it.
The question raised by Koert is if Powerpoint can be used in a positive way? An example is shown in the form of the famous “inconvenient truth” Powerpoint by Al Gore. The funny thing is that he received a Nobel price with a powerpoint presentation. The question here is: can you make cinema with Powerpoint? Koert shows that this has been done before y showing the movie ” sea of possibilities” (look it up!) a very old powerpoint movie, made by the lead singer of the Talking Heads, David Byrne (very experimental, too).
The larger issue to cover is: can powerpoint be a tool for cinematic production? With everybody having access to cinematic software, who are the new filmmakers now? Within this democratization of media, what is happening? The first keynote speaker is the guru, if you will, of reflecting on our media society.

Bruce Sterling

Currently a visionary in residence at the Sandberg Institute, Sterling starts by saying he has no powerpoint (he is a novelist!). His talk will be about the importance of Lev Manovich (for whom he lectures in his place here today) to him.
Manovich would not use the word new media (it is old already)- also he is a modest man. Critical software studies is the new thing amongst new media gossip in the California new media circle. Go find it on Google video.
Lev is everything – a kind of homo universalis. He talks a lot about Russian constructivism, montage and collage. And about dead media, which is also a pre- cinematic hardware project by Bruce Sterling.

back to the topic; how to make cinema with powerpoint.
The main point to make is about hybrid tools and the compositor. The new way of production. The language of new media, by Manovich is a book that describes these issues amazingly to-the-point. And it is still avant-garde. Lev also wrote a book about also, infosthetics. Infosthetics bothers Bruce.

Compositors are digital methods to add special effects – a sort of after effects for analogue film. These effect- devices overthrew analogue media. This originally happened with text. New/hybrid/meta media are terms used. What is the difference in these tools? It is the numerical representation, modulation, its trans-codedness and so on.
Typical of a tech-revolution (a velvet one) is that a technique imitates the status quo, but with add-ons – new possibilities. The new treats the old the same but then with new options. In this case, making cinema has now cut itself loose from physical limitations. It is just manipulating pixels.
This also brings a total different set of social tools for this data. We still call a picture taken by a digital camera a photograph, but it is not anymore. Physical strip becomes a digital loop. It turns a 2d vision in a 3d space with new options.
This paradigm shift had its intro in text and typography. After that, it saturated in other and more types of media (animation, effects, and so on). About Lev and databases: he is a programmer. You the new filmmaker red.) need to understand databases in order to create tools.
Manovich also started this endeavor by creating “Soft cinema” experiments within cinema. These were all about experimenting with the compositor role within cinema. Unfortunately, these are theoretically interesting but painfully to watch. Within this context, powerpoint is a primitive compositor.
Where all media are becoming digital, the computer has replaced all other; it is the food processor of new media. It is a hybrid metamedium that acts as a cook. Also being able to run parallel sessions, different media. We do not know the difference anymore. There is no information overload, I am just a user, a power user.
Sterling points out the discussion between Jenkins and Manovich. Convergence culture (Jenkins) and the Velvet revolution (Manovich) are two stories of the same cultural event, if you will. Lev says users are not interesting. Jenkins says they are the core.
The problem of the digital is that it is temporal. Film, for instance, is an archival medium, due to the real and analogue chemical process of putting something on a filmstrip. As a working medium however, it is dead. The new media are tools to create pixels and sound and have replaced traditional cinema in terms of tools.

Why would one make powerpoint cinema?

When you make things very difficult, by setting certain constraints, this case the use of powerpoint to make cinema, something good is bound to come out of it, just because of these constraints. Also the formal constraints help you lose focus, forget why you actually started on the project in the first place: a sort of Zen-practice.

Why is it relevant?
Sterling is a metamedium guy – people make search engines, os-es, or webdesigners, or user exp. people, or video gamers and so on are close to cinemators.
Show ends with the statemnet that this was a nice Meta-Manovich performance.

q: Tell us more about the velvet revolution.
a: Although people are not killed (explains the velvet) it still was a clear revolution. The hard edges of what once was a velvet revolution are becoming clear now via – amongst others- copyright discussions and a trend of formalizing the Web. New forms of ‘stuff’, like computing into the physical world are new areas, where we do not have a relevant method/ framework for discussing.

q: What should you do as a moviemaker these days?
a: You should redefine yourself: how much of what you do is cinematic? How much of that can be moved into the digital? What you do is leaking all over the screen. Maybe you should reinvest you energy and efforts in other fields.
The next enterprise in cinema with be huge, but in different ways. Not as a movie, but as a national holiday. it is becoming ways too large in many different methods/ways: a carefully global calculated enterprise.

Sampler Eboman

Keywords of his talk are: event-driven video editing, live editing, sampling.
In his own words, his work is about organizing and presenting nonlinear, modular data or data streams. (nice one!). The first movie showed is an interview with Chris Cunningham in ’96 – made into sample art. (see video here)

Nowadays he is doing exactly thesame thing, but in a more easy way. Now, new tools are available. He used to be working with analogue video editing: a process of three month for a very small video. He is still interested in creating funky, new, creative stuff.
When more powerful tools were emerging, Eboman developed his own software and hardware. To play with video in real-time was very difficult in the end of 90ties; since 2002, computers are fast enough to process real-time video, and store lots of video data. The development of the instrument has taken a lift-off.
Now he shows the instrument. It is called Sense IV. It is a sampler. You can use stuff in an event-driven manner. Also it supports real-time graphic motion design, which is used a lot in advertisement industry or trailers.
Now shows a performance (I like the live-video scratching bodysuit!) See For more…. info.

In the performance, he is wearing a bodysuit that is connected to the SenS IV sampler and he is accompanied with a drummer who is also connected to SenS IV. Together they can record, edit, mix, manipulate and distort audiovisual samples and graphics in realtime in a virtual 3D space.
Where normal tools are batch-driven, this is event-driven, which is so much more live and vivid. Every element and step within the process is real-time. Makes it possible for users to work way more efficient.
Now Eboman want to divide the main contributions of his work in three points, but decides not to, due it’s technicality (I think here Eboman underestimates his crowd: we know about midi, C-sharp, assembly, bitwise programming, video editing, unlimited real-time rendering, microcontrollers, pixel-manipulations and especially, templates!)
He continues by explaining that the market of audiovisual media has exploded and the facilities to produce are way more accessible. A result thereof is that video becomes disposable. Also, because the video posted by a user loses relevance within a day; it becomes temporal. As a video produces, you don’t have much time anymore to invest in you project, That’s why Eboman chose for the most fast way of producing video: REALTIME. (and event-driven, which I think is a very smart thing to do). He does not work with linear video, but rather with templates (prefabbed).

In order to give an idea, the Sense software looks a bit like a combination of GuitarBand and FinalCut pro (put bluntly). You load in a midi file and let that trigger sample movies.
Eboman shows a movie done for Fortis. The reactions to the movie made (a commercial) were overwhelming, but the only thing he did was download ready-made movies and a midi-file (if you are working at Fortis, please consider the former as bullocks). (you should see the movie here ).

The great thing however is that the same process can be done live, with the audience. Here we see an advanced use of templates: he is also adding audiovisual 3d effects. Programmed in the studio, performed live by replacing the original stuff with the now-recorded audience content. (shows the performance on a festival).

The larger pint to make is that via sampling you can create your own stuff without even filming yourself – really remixing – using material made by others. Eboman now shows different user generated videos about hot topics, like the US elections. (Especially the one about the last debate is brilliant! watch the movie here)
Data is much more facilitated on the web. We need the right tools deal with these possibilities properly.

Koert: the content a certain tribal quality.
Eboman: I cannot wait until the next step in tools. I see sampling as a genre, as a medium. Eboman votes for the remixing culture – it triggers you as an artist to stay sharp and to be creative every day. I am a non-linear, modular guy.

Anne Helmond – blogging, software standards and template culture.

Anne is a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam and a blogger. Within her thesis, she writes about ‘blogging for engines” in this talks, she introduces the notion of software studies and (possible?) underlying sub-fields of this new area of study. She is actively involved in the software studies-initiative by Lev Manovich.
The question to answer is how do we establish a new field of study that is about software. And, is there such a thing as a language of media; does this lead to new aesthetics and different languages of media. This should change the way we think about our culture, where software has penetrated our society (I would use permeated).
Manovich described convincingly in his book ‘the language of new media’ that there indeed is a language to be found in new media. From media studies we should move to software studies.

The kind of software studies Lev does is the “million dollar ‘ version of software studies, which unfortunately is not possible at the University of Amsterdam. But there are other ways.
The main point is that software has become a cultural force. As a result, this force is an object of critique, and should at least be studied.
One part of software studies is that of the template culture. The template culture is visible in popular cms (content management systems red.) like Joomla and the popular blog software WordPress. It is all about default settings, templates and themes.
Within WordPress, there are millions of choices in templates; still they all look the same. Template culture define a cultural software – defined by medium and practices, in this case blogging. Blog software enabled easy publishing. One-button publishing software.

Blogging used to be the domain of geeks, nowadays blogging promises some democratic level.
If you really want to be different, you will have to change the code.
Anne shows a Unix-interface blog example to show that a blog is just a database and one WordPress user treated his blog as such. (Anne thinks this is beautiful I say it is very geeky). The point to make here is that blogs are interfaces for databases.

Not everyone is a hacker, so what should this software study look like?
Most of us who use and study media culture are not hackers, but more like a part of a template culture.
Anne continues by talking about the widgetized self. Widgets are a popular way of personalizing your blog using third party (social) software. Widgets are the individualization of the template culture.

Ever since its launch 45 years ago, Nike has been one of the world’s most enterprising companies. By continually re-inventing its products and redefining advertising genres, Nike has firmly embedded itself in the consumer consciousness, but it’s now facing one of its biggest challenges.

Back in 1964, Nike co-founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman were struggling to get their company off the ground. Disappointed after making just $8,000 (£5,000) selling track shoes out of the boot of their car, the running enthusiasts paid a university student $35 (£24) to design a logo that would make their sneakers more recognisable.

Now, just four decades later, Nike generates annual revenues in excess of $18.6 billion (£12.6bn) and its trademark ‘swoosh’ has become one of the most iconic brand symbols of all time.

Nike’s UK marketing director Simon Pestridge claims the world’s largest sports company owes its success to its unshakable brand vision. “Absolutely everything we do is motivated by the fact that we’re here to enable athletes to be even better,” he says. “We know who we are. We know what we want to achieve and we go for it 100 per cent of the time.”

Pestridge, who has worked at Nike since leaving university 14 years ago, lives and breathes the company’s brand values, and it’s easy to see why. Somehow, despite employing 30,000 people in 52 countries worldwide, Nike manages to avoid coming across as the huge corporate money-making machine it clearly is. Even accusations of child labour haven’t managed to damage its image.

This is largely due to an unfaltering desire to innovate and take risks in the name of creating better products. But it’s also down to some pretty smart advertising that has kept the brand values instilled by Nike’s founders at the fore.

Unconventional strategy

Nike’s approach to marketing has always defied convention. It’s been this way since day one. In 1982, after handing Wieden & Kennedy its advertising account, Nike’s co-founder introduced himself to the agency with the words “I’m Phil Knight and I hate advertising.” Ever since, Nike has strived to push the boundaries of marketing, re-inventing print ads in the 1970s before moving on to TV in the 1980s and 1990s. Now its priorities have changed and it’s turning its attention to digital in an effort to get closer to consumers.

“We don’t do advertising any more. We just do cool stuff,” says Pestridge. “It sounds a bit wanky, but that’s just the way it is. Advertising is all about achieving awareness, and we no longer need awareness. We need to become part of people’s lives and digital allows us to do that.”

Nike’s digital swing shift is not motivated by a superficial desire to be innovative or even cost-effective, but by a fundamental need to engage consumers rather than bombard them with ads. “I don’t have any bias towards digital,” claims Pestridge. “I have a bias towards the consumer. Right now consumers are spending their time online, so that’s where we need to be. Will they be in two years’ time? Who knows!”

For Nike, this cultural migration inevitably means a move away from the glitzy TV ads that have given it resonance for decades. The company has always relied on big ideas like ‘There is no finish line’ and ‘Just do it’ to bring its brand to life in the everyday lives of consumers. While Pestridge insists there will always be a place for TV advertising, he acknowledges that the days of ‘interruptive marketing’ are over. “Now it’s all about deciding what you want to say and how you’re going to say it,” he explains. “There are going to be times when a TV ad is the right way to go, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.”

These days, countless brands are rolling out this type of brand rhetoric, but Nike is putting its money where its mouth is. Figures from Nielsen show that in the UK the company has reduced its TV spend by nearly 80 per cent during the past four years, while its digital budget has increased by 200 per cent during the same period.

Nike also now briefs all its roster agencies – AKQA, Wieden & Kennedy and Mindshare – together to ensure it is getting access to the best creative talent. Pestridge insists that Nike takes a media-neutral approach to marketing, selecting the most appropriate channel for each campaign. “I don’t care about individual platforms and how much we spend on them,” he says. “All I care about is good ideas.” While this may be true, the nature of Nike’s young, tech-savvy target audience means that digital is often in the driving seat.

Digital innovation

Nike has already built up a respectable body of digital work to sit alongside classic TV ads such as ‘Bo Knows’ and ‘Instant Karma’. Perhaps the most recognisable of these is its Ronaldinho ‘Touch of Gold’ viral, which has been seen by more than 30 million viewers on YouTube since it launched in 2005. Nike also broke the mould a year later by partnering with Apple to launch Nike+, a piece of technological wizardry that allows runners to chart their progress via a chip in their shoe, which feeds data to their iPod. Budding athletes can then go online to access their training stats and challenge people in more than 20 other countries to a race.

“We’re only just scratching the surface of what’s possible with Nike+,” insists Pestridge. “There are many more iterations of the technology still to come.” The most imminent of these is Gym+, a spin-off utility allowing fitness fanatics working out on a treadmill, a bike or a step machine to log the miles they travel and the calories they burn.

As groundbreaking as Nike’s previous digital endeavours have been, they are just the tip of the iceberg for a company so fundamentally motivated by a desire to innovate. In fact, Nike is currently working to re-invent the online advertising model to allow consumers to embrace its brand, rather than slavishly forcing it on them.

As a rule of thumb, most marketers spend 20 per cent of their budget on creating content and 80 per cent on buying enough media to convince consumers to view it. Nike, however, does things the other way around, choosing to invest the bulk of its spend in creating compelling online content that spreads across the web virally. “Some of our best campaigns have been the cheapest to create because they’ve caught the imagination of users and then taken off like wildfire,” claims Pestridge.

Nike has already proved the success of this model, with its Cesc Fabregas initiative engaging millions of consumers online and on TV. The brand invested 95 per cent of its campaign budget in the creation of a website encouraging internet users to upload video clips, to be included in a live TV show presented by the Arsenal midfielder. Nike shunned online ads in favour of populating the site with widgets and exclusive sports-related content in order to motivate football fans to get their friends to tune into the programme. “We want to inspire consumers to seek out our content,” says Pestridge. “This is the model we will be following from now on.”

As part of this strategy, Nike also recently tapped into the power of blogs with a campaign to promote its new Mercurial football boot, billed as ‘the fastest boot on Earth’. To raise awareness of the launch, Nike created a series of videos showing the UK’s top footballers competing to be the quickest on and off the ball. Rather than investing ads to promote the clips, Nike seeded the videos across a selection of influential blogs ahead of taking the Nike Mercurial Speed Test to football clubs and schools across the UK. The campaign drove 432,000 unique visitors to the Nike hub on and resulted in a 260 per cent increase in blog conversations relating to Nike-sponsored athletes.

Trial and error

With the recession forcing brands to become increasingly risk-averse, it’s refreshing that so much of what Nike does relies on trial and error. Employees in every area of the business, from product design to marketing, are encouraged to experiment with ideas in the pursuit of excellence. This may seem surprising, but back in 1970 Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman set an important precedent. Convinced that Nike’s track shoes could be even better, Bowerman decided to experiment by pouring a liquid rubber compound into his wife’s waffle iron; the result was a sole that forever changed the design of running shoes.

“We’re pushed to take risks in everything we do as long as we’re enabling the athlete to be better,” claims Pestridge. “Sure, we’ll get some things wrong but you’ve just got to go for it.”

Nike clearly relishes the fact that now, thanks to the internet, it can engage consumers in an almost limitless number of ways. The potential to move beyond interruptive advertising and put consumers in charge of the Nike brand has never been greater. “Nobody knows what innovations are around the corner,” insists Pestridge. “Who could’ve predicted Facebook or MySpace would have enjoyed such huge success? That’s the beauty of digital.”

True to form, Nike is perfectly at home venturing into uncharted territory. Its complete belief that it understands its consumer better than anyone means that campaign testing and focus groups are out the window. Obviously, like any other brand, Nike constantly evaluates the success of its digital activity so it can learn what works and what doesn’t, but anything else just gets in the way.

“You don’t get anything from sitting behind a two-way mirror listening to focus groups.

“You learn from living and breathing your brand,” asserts Pestridge. “When anyone in my team comes up with an idea, I tell them go and run it past a kid on a football pitch. If they don’t get laughed at and if they avoid coming across as the kid’s un-cool dad, then they’re probably on the right track.”

Coming from anyone else such gusto would seem absurd, but Pestridge is qualified to talk in these terms having spent his early career at Nike as an Ekin (Nike spelled backwards). Ekins are official company storytellers employed to evangelise about the Nike brand and its sports technology. Before being unleashed on the world, Ekins are required to undergo an almost military-like training regime comprising a nine-day rookie camp at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon and a full day’s running at the Hayward field track where Bill Bowerman worked as a track coach. Almost unbelievably, as a further sign of their devotion to the brand, each Ekin is then invited to have the Nike ‘swoosh’ tattooed on their ankle ahead of their ‘graduation’.

It’s an inevitability that most companies the size of Nike will eventually lose touch with the core values instilled by their founders. It has arguably already happened to Google in a much shorter space of time. However, Nike’s philosophy of ‘innovation and inspiration’ is still present in absolutely everything it does. “Innovation comes in the form of our constantly evolving products,” says Pestridge. “Inspiration comes from the way in which we enable consumers to experience these products.”

Consumer control

The latest chapter in the Nike story has seen the sports giant merge the two pillars of its business: product design and consumer experience. The new NikeiD studio at NikeTown London represents the brand’s most significant attempt yet to put the consumer in control.

Visitors to the NikeiD studio can customise a whole range of Nike products, including training shoes, football boots and sports kits. Consumers are invited to experience the products in-store, selecting colours and choosing materials, before going online to personalise their chosen items with the help of a NikeiD specialist. As part of the same strategy, Nike is also relaunching its global e-commerce store in an effort to provide internet users with a similar experience through interactive online videos and social networking.

Having spent the past 45 years re-inventing sportswear and redefining advertising to get its message across, Nike’s next big idea looks set to be even more impressive. By focusing on digital, it hopes to break down the boundaries between brand and consumer, thereby making its advertising all but invisible. “The great thing about being an innovator,” concludes Pestridge, “is that there are no boundaries.”

This is a tall order even for Nike, but when it comes to digital its message is clear: just do it.


NEIL CHRISTIE – Managing director, Wieden & Kennedy

For Nike, the future is about using new channels to form closer connections with its consumers, and to facilitate ever more intimate and frequent interactions and conversations within their communities the world over.

People aren’t looking for a different relationship with Nike, but a deeper one. They still want it to share stories of athletes that will inspire them, but they increasingly expect them to be delivered in more varied, interesting and interactive ways.

Nike needs to continue to innovate around the unique experiences that accompany these stories and enable its audience to get the most from their chosen sport. Whether these experiences are on- or offline is no longer a valid question – that distinction is now so blurred it’s practically meaningless.

There’s no denying new media and technologies have enabled greater complexity of consumer interactions. Ultimately, however, future success will still come from inspirational Nike ideas.

AJAZ AHMED – Co-founder, AKQA

Nike is moving beyond the ad campaign into something that’s fresh, long-lasting and genre-defining.

People are bombarded with advertising and Nike wants to do something different that’s memorable and has an impact. It’s all about finding new ways and new media to share the passion that Nike has for sport with the world.

Nike is dedicated to innovation and the passion to create great products. The way that Nike tells the story of its products and athletes transcends sports and has a resonance that crosses language barriers and cultural boundaries.

Any good farmer will tell you that excellent soil bears excellent fruit. That’s why much of Nike’s success is rooted in strong philosophies that are reflected in every aspect of its culture, such as ‘There is no finish line’ – or the relentless pursuit of excellence. It’s the same mentality a great athlete has.

Nike has produced an extraordinary body of work, but the momentum is strong, the team is busy and the most exciting work is ahead.

NICK ASHLEY – Client director, Mindshare

When you start working for Nike, one thing that instantly strikes you is its constant desire to try something new and be ahead of the competition. This is rooted in product innovation but transcends all of Nike’s business.

Nike is constantly looking to target new consumers, understand influencers, use new channels and pioneer the use of existing channels.

It is experienced in bringing its big ideas to life online. It is now pioneering an approach to content distribution across its key product categories, particularly football.

Research has shown Nike content is a valuable asset in its own right – usually adored by consumers and always something that prompts a conversation.

Nike knows that early and exclusive communication with influential bloggers can help speed the distribution of content across the web. It now plans to make blogging central to all of its future football-related campaigns.


1996: Atlanta Olympics Nike makes its first foray online by launching a site to support its presence at the Games with details of the athletes and the Nike products they are wearing.

2001: Run London Nike launches Run London, blending experiential and digital marketing for the first time: 10,000-plus Londoners take part.

2003: Nike Bowerman The Bowerman website is unveiled to improve the running experience by providing information on the latest exercise techniques, as well as personalised training schedules.

2004: Nike Speed Launched to coincide with the 2004 Athens Olympics, mixes artists’ interpretations of speed with advanced multiplayer gaming.

2005: Ronaldinho ‘Touch of Gold’ Redefining viral, this film was seen by 30 million-plus YouTube viewers.

2006: Festival of Air The Air Max 360 is launched with Nike Festival of Air, a web portal challenging consumers to do physical challenges that are broadcast live at NikeTown.

2006: Nike+ Nike and Apple team up to offer the ultimate personal workout coach. A chip in your shoe talks to your iPod to give you real-time feedback during workouts.

2004: NikeiD The new NikeiD studio at NikeTown allows sports fans to customise Nike shoes and then star in the ads that made them famous. The ads are beamed to interactive kiosks.

2007: Nike Supersonic Run London is replaced with Supersonic, a live event built around social networking that combines running and live music.

2008: Nike Live Nike Live is a new programme format aimed at connecting fans with their heroes. In the UK, The Cesc Fabregas Show invites Arsenal fans to upload video clips for the show.

2008: Nike PhotoiD Nike PhotoiD encourages people to use their mobile phones to take pictures, which can then be uploaded to the NikeiD website and used as inspiration for custom-made trainers.

2008: Nike Playmaker Nike launches Playmaker so footballers can spend less time organising games and more time on the pitch.


Perhaps I’m jaded. Perhaps I’m a nostalgist. Perhaps Facebook isn’t the most sinister CIA operation yet. But somehow, I cannot stop from thinking that the “Web 2.0” as we know it today is an accident of history, an effect of a US legal decision in 2001 that irrevocably changed the course of the Internet.


Guess who?

Anyone who doesn’t remember Napster gives themselves away as not a good, law-abiding citizen (as we might view those who refrain from downloading today), but rather as someone who just didn’t know, didn’t care, or wasn’t there. Like the reality behind the paternalizing phrase one hears in the USA about hallucinogens and the Sixties, “we were young and experimenting, and everyone was doing it,” those not using Napster were not doing so in order to avoid breaking the law. Some closet freak cases like those aspiring to the Secret Service or politics or neocapitalism definitely prove an exception to this rule. Regardless, at the time there was no legal ruling in regards to the legality of peer-to-peer networking. It was like the years before LSD became illegal: those who avoided it only did so out of a lack of either awareness or interest. While I could not easily find Facebook user statistics, I believe that Napster’s growth rate far exceeded it with a reported 70 million registered users at the time it was shutdown (after less than 3 full years!). Clearly file sharing, Napster’s core function, had serious pull. Compared to other forms of “social networking” whose values are only a function of their own inertia as walled gardens of people, Napster’s assemblage grew insanely fast precisely because file sharing represented the fulfillment of a latent desire to share data. In the initial case of Napster, this fulfillment was delivered through an easy-to-use interface for sharing libraries of music data.

Darknet Rising

In 2001, Napster was ordered to take down the central server that glued 70 milliion music libraries together. But what if that hadn’t happened? What if the right of free sharing had been enshrined and protected? Would Napster have remained the king of P2P?

We should discuss briefly the concrete reality of what did unfold. The ruling against Napster was a referendum on file sharing, effectively blocking the new economic force of data collectivization. Like LSD, P2P’s transcendental capacity would be occluded as a public option and the seekers of such transcendance forced to take alternative, risky, and/or more difficult routes. Another generation gets the reserved right to say, “Oh well, yes I shared music in the 90’s. But times were different then, son. I was young, and I know so are you, but you know it’s wrong. And I didn’t.”

Never since has P2P seen such a social assemblage such as Napster. Enabled by an easy interface and centralized indexing model, Napster provided a first generation look at a new way of networking. Though file-sharing precedence existed, extant examples[1] were simply file sharing piggybacked onto an existing communications protocol (Usenet, IRC). Napster, however, was an application built to do nothing other than to facilitate direct connections between users who wished to share data. However, the application provided a chat interface. This cemented the sharing in an emerging sociality, and it’s rapid inclusion into the Napster application implies that other tools for socializing within the network would also be implemented.

These tools, however, were of no use in the post-Napster world. A world where the legality of participating on the network, indeed of the network itself had been clearly defined. Napster’s liability lay, ultimately, in its role as the “center” of the network. Every P2P protocol since then has focused on avoiding this liability by limiting the role of centralized servers. More importantly, the social climate around P2P is no longer a grey area–it is a decidedly “bad” activity (making it automatically cool in some circles.)

Hypotheticals and Assertions

Even if one still engages in sharing (many repented), it would be extremely unusual to include real personal information in, say, an account on the Pirate Bay. However, if P2P had instead been understood as a natural reaction to distributed networking and a legitimate exercise of the right to free assembly, Napster very well could have evolved many social tools that have since emerged: user walls, micro updates, etc. If this sounds like technological determinism–it is not. Rather it is the expectation that users would demand or invent new ways of socializing within the Napster, a rather social determinist point of view. And if not Napster, then another company, one that promised fewer fake files and better socializing. A Facebook to Napster’s MySpace, if you will. Except that neither of these would need to exist, because we would already be socializing within a more powerful platform: one that offers us the social act of sharing files as well.

YouTube itself might have been superseded, made redundant by the fact that streaming a video from a central server over and over again is less efficient than having a local copy, downloaded from peers and seeding to them as well. After all, by the time you finish the video, you have technically downloaded the entire thing–something that is done over and over. Or perhaps YouTube would have been implemented as a P2P assemblage, rather than a website sitting in front of massive server farms.

There are many hypothetical questions one could pose while pondering what might have happened. Perhaps I am wrong, and the incremental advances in social tools (from email to Wall post, from private picture hosting to a profiles’ picture albums) would still first, or only, emerge on the web. However, I think it is likely they would have evolved around the more powerful social tool of file sharing. Unlike other social tools, file sharing has been disbarred from publicly acceptable practice, meaning its evolution has been defined more by moves towards hiding its presence or distributing liability than by (existing and potential) social practices. Thus, the kind of evolutions of existing tools (again, email to Wall post, web page update to status update, etc) that Facebook, et al. have gone through, typified by increasing ease of use and sociability, have been denied P2P, whose socialization must account for the “unacceptable” nature of its practice.


Social networking as emergent on web sites such as Facebook and MySpace is not the only form such networking can take place. Other systems can be imagined. However, with the stigma of file sharing darkening any P2P project, the most innovative and transformational forms are effectively neutralized of any chance at widespread success. The most prolific P2P platform of all time, BitTorrent, is marked by the distance of deviation from Napster in terms of interface. No search, no chat, no user names. These socializations occur on a sprawling constellation of web sites and forums. In a world with different attitudes toward P2P, it is possible that this division would never have emerged.

I am aware that such hypothetical situations are hard, and possibly even absurd, to research. However, I cannot help but feel that actual “social networking” has yet to emerge. Perhaps by examining the modes and practices of various P2P applications and comparing them with those of web based social networks, a clearer picture of what was lost, or even simply what is needed, can be developed.

[1] Excluding Hotline, which had 1) a less than ideal interface, 2) was not P2P in the sense of peers downloading from one another, and 3) was Mac OS only.

Google Wave is an online communication tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more [1]. In detail a wave means that:

  • Equals partly conversations and shared documents. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.
  • Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.
  • A wave is live. It is realtime. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.


Yesterday I got my long awaited invitation for Google Wave thx to @Zuurstof. The invitations for Google Wave are somewhat scarce so it is pretty cool that I can take a look at it now. My first impression of this new communication tool was in one word: WOW. Edit: it is pretty complex at first, I didn’t have any idea how to get started so I had to take a closer look at some demo videoson Youtube (I was not in the mood to see to the looooong vid) and had to visit the Help section of Google Wave, but what the heck, when I got it it was: WOW! But one of the greatest reasons that I found it so WOW is because it creates a totally new way of creating online dialogues.

A new way of creating dialogue

After a little chat with a friend of mine – who also got an invitation for Google Wave – we came to the conclusion that Google Wave has brought a totally new way of creating dialogues between a group of people. Why? It is realtime! While one of the users in the ‘wave’ it typing a message the remaining users can see what he or she is typing. And this creates the urge to respond immediately to what is being said. It is a more immediate way to respond to the thoughts of others. But this has some side effects…

Screen shot 2009-10-18 at 1.22.51 PMTranslation: I think it’s really vague that you can see what someone else is typing!

Some caution is advisable here

I rarely used the Enter / Done button while ‘waving’ with my friend. Why? Because she already could  see and respond to what I was typing. This way of chatting or ‘waving’ – don’t know what you prefer – creates in my humble opinion a new mindset. And it has effects on the way we write things down. One of the effects is that you have to be really careful when selecting your words before typing them in. What we write down has to be structured in our minds before before writing them down. Even the speed and the pauses someone takes while writing down a ‘wave’message can be meaningful in a conversation.  And that is what I found so interesting about Google Wave.

These quick findings got me thinking. A while ago I read a very interesting blogpost of a colleague of mine on the Masters of Media blog. She argues if technology influences what we write and uses the work of media theorist Friedrich Kittler and ProfessorAlan Lui. In her conclusion she states that Alan Lui proposes that:

…we can only create, share, and write things that can be structured. The technology does not only influence how we write, but also what we write or what we can write. I agree with Liu that the technology disciplines our writings and communications in a technical manner, … but I don’t think that it disciplines in what we write or what we say [2]

You can relate her findings to the Google Wave platform in a way. From what I have seen of Google Wave it is a technology that influences how we write things down; you have to structure your sentences carefully in your head before writing them down. In a way you can compare this to a face-to-face conversation. You structure the story that you want to tell in your head before speaking out the words.  That is why to me Google Wave seemed a more natural way of creating dialogues online.

However, Google Wave also influences what you write and can write down. Sometimes you will deal with users in a wave that you do not want to share particular information with. ‘Fortunately’ Google Wave has a delete and edit function, but in most cases the damage is already done. Besides, the playback function of Google Wave may serve as a function to unhide the deleted and edited messages in the wave anyway. In this example you can see that with the playback mode you can retrieve messages that were deleted:


To conclude: in a way I think that Google Wave is a communication tool that strongly disciplines us in what we write due to the immediate causes of our actions. So the disciplinary factor is inherently present and could be of influence on human behaviour.

Can’t wait to try Google Wave?: Get your own invitation!




Github, online beginning in 2008, has quickly changed the face of source code hosting. Called “social coding” by participants and commentators alike, the site has propelled the adoption of distributed version control systems (DVCS) in general, and git in particular. One of the key features of DVCS is the way in which all individual nodes in a network of source code are equivalent (leading some to wish a more descriptive name had been chosen for this new system, such as “federated” or “peer-to-peer.”) The switch from centralized to distributed version control represents a sea change in the organization of source code online.


Since a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps a few visuals are in order (I hope Kalid Azad doesn’t mind me borrowing his vizporn here):

Centralized Version Control

Centralized Version Control

Centralized Version Control

Distributed Version Control

Distributed Version Control

Distributed Version Control

While code in the centralized example requires an iterative (one step at a time) methodology, code in the distributed example can be undergoing many changes at once in a diverse range of locations. Certain limitations of truly centralized version control, such as allowing only one person to edit a given file in the source code tree at a given time, had already been overcome years ago. The prime differentiation between distributed and non-distributed version control in modern times is the primacy of a given repository (a folder of code that keeps track of changes)–in DVCS every repository is equivalent in importance, whereas previously “true authority” resided with a single repository through which all changes to the code were coordinated. In DVCS, repositorial authority is a social function rather than a technical distinction.

To introduce an analogy, traditional version control systems implemented the equivalent of a central government, with a capitol repository through which all operations are coordinated. Distributed version control, on the other hand, implements anarchy. And does it well.

Github the Virtuous?

In 2006 The Journal of Political Philosophy published a paper by Yochai Benkler and Helen Nissenbaum titled “Commons-based Peer Production & Virtue.” Stepping back from the kind of economic analysis he usually engages in, Benkler collaborated with Nissenbaum to construct a moral argument for “commons-based peer production” (which is a form of the broader concept of “social production” which he describes at length in his book The Wealth of Networks, available for free online). Noting examples such as SETI@home, Slashdot, Wikipedia, and the Open Directory Project, the authors acknowledge that free/open source software (FOSS) is the most pervasive and successful example of commons-based peer production in today.

Acknowledging that virtue is a sticky philosophical subject, Benkler and Nissenbaum take a very broad, zoomed out look by assembling what they consider “clusters” of virtuous impulses. The first cluster includes autonomy, independence, and liberation. The second cluster contains creativity, productivity, and industry, while the third and fourth are composed of benevolence, charity, generosity, and altruism, and sociability, camaraderie, friendship, cooperation, and civic virtue. All of these characteristics are in some way stimulated by, as well as driving forces behind, commons-based peer production. Furthermore, Benkler and Nissenbaum argue that, by its virtuous nature, commons-based peer production may very well encourage the development of virtue. They cite thinkers such as Winner, McLuhan, and others who have noted the shaping of the social by technology.

For the philosophers and social scientists who study technology, this metaphor draws attention to a world in which we are constrained not only through the narratives and expectations of the self and other social agents and institutions, but by the material world which is constituted in increasing measure by technology. (416)

It is clear to me that this is directly borne out by the continuing expansion of FOSS principles and practices throughout the software industry. Hardware is also increasingly open source as well. Considering the explosive growth of Github, which is now home to many high profile OSS projects whether those projects have consciously moved there or not, can it be said that Github is virtuous software?

Since the distributed/federated/anarchic nature of git clearly enables new opportunities for virtuous action through its emphasis on autonomous repositories, perhaps an instance of the phenomena the authors intend to evoke with their statement “[Commons-based peer production] does not bypass virtuous action, but generates new opportunities for it.” (418) It’s virtue emerges through the distributed activities of its developers. Since no one is in true control, the overall form of the code is shaped by individual decisions regarding quality and appropriateness of contributions. Something you perhaps find appropriate for your repository may invoke `git blame` in others’.

The software further induces virtue in its participants through the `git blame` function, which immediately calls up the person responsible for a commit. In practice it used as much to know who to praise as it is to know who to berate, but it fulfills one of the the paper’s common criteria for extant commons-based peer production: that of a mechanism to mitigate the potential impacts of malicious users. Slashdot has its moderation system, Wikipedia its editors, and git has `blame`. In fact this functionality is a crucial part of what enables the ‘virtue spreading virtue’ element of such peer production.

Since Github automatically inherits all the virtue of git, in a sense my question has already been answered. But because Github is also a free service for those who wish to engage in commons-based peer production (and one that doesn’t involve ads, I would add) that makes git hosting “no longer a pain in the ass” (their marketing slogan at launch), they too encourage virtue to spread. It costs money to host your code privately, and thus withhold the source.

As institutions in the past could be considered to spread virtue, is it possible that today software could do the same? To further Benkler and Nissenbaum’s argument, I’d argue that not just the process of commons-based peer production (as they say), but the very outputs of that process in the form of free software are engines of virtue. In the case of git and Github we are faced with ‘recursive enablers’, free software (completely in git’s case, and totally dependent on in the case of Github) that quite directly enables and encourages the spread of further free software.

The question of morality in software is not generally addressed, so Benkler and Nissenbaum’s contribution is a welcome one. All too infrequently do we see moral cases presented before us these days. As such, I would like to leave you with the motivating thrust behind their paper:

Unlike many political analyses of technologies, ours does not warn of a direct threat or harm. Rather, it warns of a threat of omission. We might miss the chance to benefit from a distinctive socio-technical system that promotes not only cultural and intellectual production but constitutes a venue for human character development. (417)


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