Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets

Touring the digital through type

Tag: culture

Review of Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture

Image courtesy of the MIT PressGillespie argues that we must examine the technical, social-cultural, legal and market approaches to copyright in order to understand the ethical, cultural, and political implications of how copyrights are secured in the digital era. Contemporary measures predominantly rely on encryption to survey and regulate content, which has the effect of intervening before infringement can even occur. This new approach is juxtaposed from how copyright regulation operated previously: individuals were prosecuted after having committing copyright infringement. The shift to pre-regulation treats all users as criminals, makes copyright less open to fair use, renders opposition to copyright law through civil disobedience as challenging, and undermines the sense of moral autonomy required for citizens to recognize copyright law’s legitimacy. In essence, the assertion of control over content, facilitated by digital surveillance and encryption schemes, has profound impacts on what it means to be, and act as, a citizen in the digital era.

This text does an excellent job at working through how laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), accompanied by designs of technologies and the political efforts of lobbyists, have established a kind of ‘paracopyright’ regime. This regime limits uses that were once socially and technically permissible, and thus is seen as undermining long-held (analogue-based) notions of what constitutes acceptable sharing of content and media. In establishing closed trusted systems that are regulated by law and received approval from political actors content industries are forging digitality to be receptive to principles of mass-produced culture.

Continue reading

Why Mash-up Matters

livemashupdj[Note: this is an early draft of the first section of a paper I’m working on, presently loosely titled “Mash-up Meets Deep Packet Inspection: Culture, solutions, and the demand for transparency”. Other sections will follow as I draft them. I’ve adopted this format based on positive reactions to my similar drafting process last year on ‘Who Gives a Tweet About Privacy?‘ Comments welcome. I’ve excluded full bibliographic information, but retained enough that you can find my sources. Text has been copied and pasted from a word processing document; this may result in some links being broken *cough* footnotes links *cough*]

I’m composing the beginning of this article to the sounds of Girl Talk’s ‘Like This’ from his Feed the Animals album. His artistic technique is to take very short samples from a variety of artists – twenty-nine samples are taken in the three minutes and twenty-one seconds of ‘Like This’ – and remix the work to create entirely new songs.[i] He isn’t a DJ but a self-described musician of the digital era, and when his work was presented to Marybeth Peters of the US Registrar of Copyrights she recognized that his music was amazing. She also recognized it was likely illegal, and the fact that his own creativity clearly imbued his creations offered no defense against copyright infringement: “You can’t argue your creativity when it’s based on other people’s stuff.”[ii] This position is mirrored by Barry Slotnick, head of the intellectual property litigation group at Loeb & Loeb, who has stated that “[w]hat you can’t do is substitute someone else’s creativity for your own.”[iii] Girl Talk’s work is recognized as amazing and creative, even by defenders and advocates of the present copyright regime, but is still questionably legal (at best). Feed the Animals is a popular album that pulls together anthems of pop culture, and its artist has been used as a defender of copyright reform movements,[iv] but it is only one item in a rapidly developing and emerging ‘mash-up’ culture that draws together existing cultural artifacts to in the creation of a recombinant digital culture.

Continue reading

Techno-magnates and the Third World

magnateIn recent years we’ve seen some of the most powerful men in the world decide to turn their gaze towards the third-world. What has been surprising is that their intent has not been to solely dominate and exploit the most economically disadvantaged peoples in the world, but to try and relieve some of the ills that they face.

Techno-magnates – Bill and Nicholas – and their projects

The two most prominent individuals that have turned their attention to the third world have been Bill Gates, who is spending billions through the Melissa and Bill Gate’s Foundation to try and raise standards of living by improving literacy and fighting disease. The foundation is best known for its in work fighting disease – it has targeted Acute Diarrhoeal Illness, Acute Lower Respiratory Infections, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis (to name a few) as their primary targets.

Nicholas Negroponte, the magnate and visionary behind the One Laptop Per Child Program, want to bring the digital revolution to poor children and let them enjoy the ensuing benefits of the digital revolution. The theory is that, by distributing textbooks electronically, by giving children a way of learning to program, by giving them rugged pieces of technology that can be powered by a bicycle or foot loom, children can receive top-rate education despite living in Less Economically Developed Countries (LECDs).

Continue reading