Archive for June, 2009

Defining Censorship in the Digital Age

Posted in Digital Innovation, Eschatology on June 30th, 2009 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Modern censorship isn’t about stopping the flow of information, that would be impossible, it’s about making the barriers of access to it so high that users can’t easily find it.  Censorship (High barriers, privilege-based production benefits) exists on a spectrum, opposite from peer collaboration (Low barriers, commons-based production benefits).  It’s relationship to artistic and technological innovation is not clear (Metaphor dies without or with too much prudence and censorship) but the popular Western view is that it is one of the evils of the barbaric past.  And then, as if we’re stuck in season 8 of an endless sitcom, the producers said, “Why don’t we do a censorship episode?”

It turns out Wikipedia took part in the coverup of journalist David Rohde’s capture by Talibani forces in Afghanistan.  Conversely, China has agreed to delay implementation of Green Dam–software designed ostensibly to censor pornography but also used to censor political information deemed unacceptable by the Chinese government.  And then, just when you think China and Wikipedia are enough to fill 44 minutes plus commercials, you find out that The Pirate Bay sold out.  It’s an almost maddening, Bizzaro World of events.  Wikipedia is supposed to be practically uncensorable, China is supposed to be the Final Boss of Censorship and The Pirate Bay wasn’t just a search engine for illegal movies, hacked software and who-knows-what-else, it was also a major proponent of radical intellectual property rights reform.  If this keeps up, the Semantic Web will arrive by Friday.

What follows is the Ancient Greek interpreted version of this post, which will not display properly if you view this page from a system outside the Bizzaro Universe:

Bar bar bar bar bar bar bar.  Bar bar, bar bar bar–bar bar bar–bar.  Bar, bar bar; bar bar bar bar bar bar bar.  Bar.  Bar bar bar!  Bar bar bar, bar bar, bar bar bar bar bar.  Bar bar bar bar.  Bar, bar bar bar bar bar bar bar bar.  Bar bar bar bar.  Bar bar, bar bar bar, bar bar bar bar bar.  Bar bar bar bar-bar-bar-bar, bar bar bar bar bar bar bar.

Bar bar bar: Bar bar.

Provides 7XP, and Mutton

Posted in Art, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena on June 30th, 2009 by admin – Comments Off

And then, of course, there’s something like this:

MMORPG, oil on canvas

MMORPG, oil on canvas

The Future of Learning in the Digital Age

Posted in Academia, Digital Innovation, Eschatology on June 26th, 2009 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Available here.

tl;dr The university needs Wikipedia more than Wikipedia needs the university.

The Death of the King of Pop as Digital Phenomena

Posted in Art, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Eschatology on June 25th, 2009 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Thanks to Wikipedia’s tech-blog we can see how Michael Jackson’s death looks from the perspective of server load and traffic:

Wikipedia Load Spike - MJ RIP

Wikipedia Load Spike - MJ RIP

Traffic Spike

Traffic Spike

This kind of epiphenomenon is the bread-and-butter of research that tries to interpolate social causes from digital reverberations.  Not that any such research is going on, but once we’ve all grown sick of mining vulgar Latin textbooks for word preference, we’ll develop procedures to handle stuff like this.

Updated to note that the second-order epiphenomenon related to this is the crash of Wikipedia’s tech blog due, I assume, to the massive amount of traffic I’ve sent it.  In 30 years, I imagine some poor PhD student will be trying to track the traffic-related crash of tech blogs to the death of pop icons.

Are Internet Activists the Ultimate Paper Tigers?

Posted in Digital Innovation, Eschatology on June 22nd, 2009 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

I recently received an email from my aunt, who works for the International Rescue Committee.  She’s in the Sudan, helping people as she’s done for years now.   Her work, and the work of people like her, who are willing to place themselves in harm’s way to educate and ameliorate, stands in stark contrast to the growing hacktivist movements.  While the attempt, for instance,  to ID Iranian paramilitary forces, may provide some support to protesters in Iran, I’m starting to wonder how much real change can be effected via purely digital means.  As a society, we’ve fetishized hackers, but when you examine the Iranian manifestations for Hackers Without Borders, it’s remarkably weak.  A group like HWB draws its name from MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, but suffers in comparison.  It’s time hacktivist action lives up to hacktivist rhetoric, or it’s time that we acknowledge that a socially aware hacker needs to turn off the computer and travel to sub-Saharan Africa if they really want credibility.

Google Revolution Beta

Posted in Digital Innovation, Eschatology on June 21st, 2009 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Google has released updated kmls with fresh satellite imagery of Tehran, though it’s from June  18th, so it can’t begin the real process of commons-based examination for clues as to what’s going on in Tehran.  According to their update, they’re trying to get higher resolution imagery which, assumably, would also be more recent, in which case we’ll see a flood of image analysis.  Unlike the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which used high technology to organize protests but was an internal Ukrainian affair that was only analyzed and watched by the world abroad, there seems to be a growing desire throughout the Internet to try to do something to facilitate the Iranian protests.  There’s only so much one can actually do with computer networks, but DDoS attacks, image analysis, spatial analysis, tips for dealing with tear gas or performing field first aid, even the ubiquitous “Switch your Twitter ID to Tehran”–all of these have been occurring and still people are struggling to do more than just watch.  I wonder if it’s because there’s a growing sense of activism or if it’s because this is all considered to be a big interactive game.  Or maybe those two aren’t as different as we may think.

Updated to add a link to a Slashdot report on the gaps in Iranian Internet censorship.  Interestingly, World of Warcraft and XBox Live network traffic aren’t being blocked, so you can play Halo and pass along critical revolutionary information at the same time…

Final Boss of the Internet

Posted in Digital Innovation, Eschatology on June 16th, 2009 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Whyweprotest.net, the activist faction of Anonymous, the collective entity that exists as the sort of summa cum laude reductio absurdum of all that Web 1.0 was, is running a secure site for news and communication and distributed denial of service attacks in support of protesters in Iran.

I suppose this is what the world looks like when the hackers become more aware of systemic social issues.  If all the energy, technology and networks that have heretofore been directed at pranking corporations and distributing media of dubious aesthetic value were to be instead channeled toward social change…  I don’t even know what to call it, but it should be interesting.

Update:  You can Digg it here.

Manifest Destiny

Posted in Academia, Digital Innovation on June 16th, 2009 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Just finished another read-through of the new Digital Humanities Manifesto and it’s interesting to see how the Digital Humanities continues to position itself as an academic, intellectual ally to so many of the progressive movements found on the Internet. Still, the discipline, or “array of convergent practices” as the UCLA folks like to call it, is struggling with a crisis of identity. Namely, there’s the nervous hipsterism (including scatalogical gif humor*–boy, there’s a strange phrase) injected into a thoughtful examination of a field that doesn’t quite how to describe itself to the lay and academic audiences simultaneously, but there’s also a tension that exists between the old-style Humanities Computing crowd and the more spatially and social computing-oriented Digital Humanists. As an admission of bias, I took the liberty of merging Humanities Computing into the Digital Humanities entry on Wikipedia 3 years ago (For which Willard McCarty apparently asked an audience at a conference, “Does anyone even know who this guy is who’s setting the agenda for our discipline?”), and so I reside firmly in the pro-Wikipedia, pro-multidisciplinary, pro-spatiality camp represented in this new manifesto.

Of particular saliency is the claim that we’re in the second wave of digital humanities work, which moves beyond trying to shoehorn quantitative functions in ArcGIS or MySQL into qualitative exploration of history, literature and art.  It also demands a reevalutation of Intellectual Property, especially in regard to the better-safe-than-sorry approach present in the modern university.  I’ll take issue with the call to free poor Shepard Fairey, but I’ve dealt with that in detail in an earlier installment here on Seven Lions.  In all, though, it’s the best example of aggressive, digitally-forward humanities thought since Unsworth’s Scholarly Primitives paper.  Regardless of your feelings on the place of the University in the digital world and the positive benefits of integrating wikis and twitter and GIS and any other new media into humanities scholarship, I’d recommend a perusal.

* This seems to only be present in the pdf version.  Maybe I have a rare, mashed up and graffito-laden copy.  I’ll save it for the grandkids.

A bit of peril

Posted in Art, Digital Innovation, Print on Demand on June 12th, 2009 by Elijah Meeks – 1 Comment

For those of you unaware of Ani DiFranco, she’s the authentic version of Alanis Morissette or, shoot, my musical knowledge fell to pieces during the Y2K disaster and I can’t even make a hip Joan Jett reference because she’s coming back into the limelight and, frankly, once I’ve exhausted Ani, Joan and Alanis, I’m stuck.  Anyway, I was bouncing around through the horrendous music available on YouTube (Is there some kind of requirement that all music videos on YouTube not officially sanctioned and promoted by McDonalds should consist of crumby live shows with too much crowd noise?  Can’t a guy listen to the Five Stairsteps without being subjected to 70s-era variety shows?) and I came upon Ani giving a well-thought out and reasoned reply to the question of intellectual property rights infringement:

If you’re not familiar with the artist, you’ll probably expect some Metallica-style anger/anguish (Angeruish?  We’ve already so butchered this language, why not take it to another level?) and you’ll be disappointed, because she acknowledges that the revenue streams, especially in her own career, are malleable and often take into account the free distribution of music to attract an audience to a live show.  It seems like there’s a glut of content creators and a contraction of paying audience throughout every creative sector and while that’s not exactly news, it’s less and less clear who the artists are and who the audience is.  Whether you’re a quasi-amateur YouTube star or selling giclee prints on-demand (Or novels, for that matter) it seems, at least unofficially, that America is experiencing a massive explosion in the arts.

Sure, you have to wade into the question of whether digital photography and Scrubs episodes set to emo music are art, but even if you disregard the mashups and the countless pictures of cute kittens, you can still wander around DeviantArt and Etsy and YouTube (and even 4Chan) and see an enormous amount of artists out there.  They’re not all American, but the majority are, and I don’t think the explosion of artistic impulse was ever part of the projected trajectory of the Internet, which is a good sign (I haven’t bemoaned the Semantic Web recently, so I’ll take this moment to look around and… nope, still not here).  If that’s the case, then the growing sector of Struggling Artists would do well to look up Ani and her history and her business model.  Maybe Righteous Babe Records is Web 3.0…  I’ll have to ask the 4th graders.