On the transformation of everyday culture in an era of liquid modernity

Archive for 2008|Yearly archive page

The carrot and the schtick?

In censorship, copyright, file-sharing, p2p, politics, surveillance, Sweden on October 31, 2008 at 6:05 pm

Peer-to-peer-based file-sharing in Sweden: Clashing proposals from the interventionist state on what to do with a wildly file-sharing population. Pacify them with broadband-tax subsidised, “free” file-sharing or instil a general fear of uploading by penalising those who do?

In the current, once again harshening legal climate surrounding p2p-based file-sharing in Sweden, where the infamous EU-wide IPRED directive is now making inroads and might be implemented early next year (effectively granting powers to private bodies to monitor and police what they consider illegal copyright infringements), it is noteable that there are two strands of the debate which both assume state intervention, but in different ways. These two forms of intervention – in effect, corporatist solutions where existing industries are subsidised by the state – are, however, seemingly incompatible with one another!

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Information aesthetics: revealing the mindset of both the programmers and the users

In GUIs, media ecology, social networking sites on October 30, 2008 at 4:49 pm

This posting is about information aesthetics and usability, and how it comes to mirror not only the corporate approach to communication behind the interfaces, but also seems to suggest an intended user type, having a lifestyle or sets of user preferences attached to it. I use two examples: Yahoo and Facebook.

Brief introduction
Usability negates the idea of aesthetics being secondary to functionality: With computer interfaces, aesthetics is central to the functionality itself. There is no separation. Usability is applied aesthetics. One could ask if this make us more aestheticised, more sensitive to interfaces, and less sensitive to what is mediated; the medium being the message, to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan.

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Faith in the commercial single? No more

In everyday life, media ecology, mp3, music on October 30, 2008 at 10:41 am

When physical CD singles are available no more – what moral quandaries does that put us in, as music fans?

Popjustice recently adressed the dilemmas facing the contemporary music consumer who loves songs – that is, individual tracks, not albums – and the novelty, galore and fascination of hits. When faced with the fact that new music is only commercially available in lossy, intangible and non-lasting formats, what position does that put us in as consumers – if owning a decent copy of the song itself is what interests us?

Off the top of our heads, here are some things that spring to mind on this topic.

» What constitutes ‘owning’ a song?

» If you can’t see or hold something is it worth spending money on?

» Does that question alter if what you’re spending money on is something you only intend to listen to? Read the rest of this entry »

Afterthoughts on the Pirate Bay controversy, part 2

In file-sharing, media ecology, p2p, politics, Sweden on September 16, 2008 at 6:45 pm

As I have described earlier, an indexing of torrent links constitutes one among many other forms of making-public; that is, publication.

2) Different degrees of making-public
Publication is not an absolute term; there are degrees of making public. A document passing in or out of a Swedish public institution is by default defined as legally public. However, parts of it can be censored under certain conditions. Further, due to more recent data protection laws (PUL), an administrative document like this can actually be public yet simultaneously not intended for further circulation, or mass-reproduction.
In the now-infamous case, as so often when Internet technologies are involved, the agency which acts to make public does not reside in but one actor. It is rather to be seen as an upshot of the sad configuration which arises between actors in a media ecology we are still grasping to fully understand: Read the rest of this entry »

Afterthoughts on the Pirate Bay controversy, part 1

In file-sharing, media ecology, p2p, politics, Sweden on September 16, 2008 at 6:27 pm

…and hopefully the beginning of a debate on what “making public” really means in an era of rapidly increasing digital accessibility and complex media ecologies.

1) The interests and range of action of The Pirate Bay
On Thursday 11 September, Swedish public service television SVT hosted a debate on the affair which The Pirate Bay has recently been the focus of. This whole affair flared up due to the Swedish commercial broadcaster TV4 making the “scoop” that public documents containing forensic evidence from a recent, very well-known Swedish murder case were floating around as BitTorrent files, and that the initial link to these files was posted on the site in question. A veritable torrent of interest was then generated by this TV4 news story, and the number of downloads of said torrent increased near-exponentially. Read the rest of this entry »

The Pirate Bay: the fine line between publishing and “merely providing” data

In file-sharing, media ecology, p2p, politics, Sweden on September 6, 2008 at 2:44 pm

A recent controversy illustrates the dual role of The Pirate Bay. When this infamous web site published links to files containing forensic evidence in a well-known Swedish murder case, and the victims asked to have the links removed, the website administrators staunchly refused.
Is this example of making-public controversial data to be seen as the operation of an allegedly “neutral” service provider? Or should we rather see any such operation as a form of publishing (making-public) in and by itself? Especially since The Pirate Bay is a website which does all this within a commercial remit. And more importantly: the site itself actually serves to change public opinion on what material should be publicised or best left untouched…
Read the rest of this entry »

What MySpace should do!

In APIs, marketing, media ecology, music on April 22, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Basically, as MySpace are slowly moving towards more open APIs, they should be more ambitious and really start making use of the potentials for aggregation in their massive user database. Especially when it comes to music…
These open APIs make possible the relatively new concept (it only opened in March this year) of MySpace widgets which let users use and create applications that plug into the infrastructure of MySpace – something which Facebook has been letting users do for ages, although not in such an open way, since MySpace after all does this under the wing of the more generally applicable and more cross-platform-friendly OpenSocial, developed by Google.
But as it occurs, these types of tapping into the vast banks of ever-shifting user data that in fact constitute these social networks are very limited. At the moment, MySpace Apps are for example unable to be added to what they call “special profiles”, such as bands/artists. Read the rest of this entry »

The fantasy of cultural control, and the crisis of distribution

In media ecology on April 17, 2008 at 5:31 pm

The following blog post is an excerpt from Deptford.TV diaries II — Pirate Strategies, where several contributors problematise the current possibilities for free and alternative media distribution, specifically in relation to urban, up-and-coming areas like Deptford, south-east London.

What strikes me, when reading Armin Medosch’s fascinating account of the increasingly hostile downside to all the “free” culture hype of lately, is how different logics of control become layered upon one another and serve to reinforce each other in rather nebulous ways. New technologies allow for freer exchange, but this becomes seized upon also by the cultural industries which then come to expect cheaper terms of trade for everyone involved, especially struggling artists. All this while we’re all applauding, because “free” is always good, isn’t it? Read the rest of this entry »

The absolute majority of all Internet traffic is p2p file-sharing

In BitTorrent, content analysis, file-sharing, Internet traffic, net neutrality, p2p on March 14, 2008 at 12:34 pm

…and most of the files shared are video files. The biggest p2p protocol, by sheer volume of data exchanged, is BitTorrent.

According to a special report by Internet analyst ipoque (2007), peer-to-peer (p2p) keeps producing more Internet traffic than all other applications combined. Its average proportion of the overall data traffic regionally varies between 49% in the Middle East and 83% in Eastern Europe. The world average share of Internet traffic that consists of p2p-based file-sharing exchange is estimated to around 70%.

In both Germany and the Middle East, web-browsing makes use of the second-biggest share of overall traffic, with a share of 26% in the Middle East and 10% in Germany. These numbers do not include any audio or video streaming content embedded in web pages, like YouTube. This media-streaming content was counted separately. Tellingly, in Germany, media-streaming ranked third with a proportion of about 8%. In the Middle East it was negligible with less than 0.1% of the share. Possible reasons, ipoque argues, include lower-speed Internet access and less media-rich content on local-language Web sites. Read the rest of this entry »

Mp3s and ‘thisness’

In art, mp3, music on March 11, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Mp3, as a format, might lack tactile dimensions, and its nature as pure code might render it ontologically vacuous. Yet, it presents fantastic hope for the song as artform.
I wrote in a previous post about the verisimilitude of mp3s, the fact that in technical terms the digital file is always an approximation; never really the “real thing”.
However, there’s a paradox here, and that is that I believe mp3s, because of their virtual nature, bring back the ‘thisness’ of the song itself. Evan Eisenberg writes about the ‘thisness’ of songs in The Recording Angel (1987): the medieval term that he revisits for this is haecceity, the ontological concept that basically talks about those aspects of a thing which make it a particular thing. Read the rest of this entry »