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

Archive for the ‘media ecology’ Category

The Pirate Bay: Commercial acquisition in a media-historic perspective

In file-sharing, history, marketing, media ecology, p2p, politics, post-piratical, Sweden on July 1, 2009 at 9:18 am

On June 30th, 2009, The Pirate Bay announced that they are to sell their trademark and website to the Swedish software company Global Gaming Factory X, with the proviso that said company can raise the 60 million SEK (€5,5 million) needed. If it is true that the purchase will come to pass, it will be a very interesting development in terms of media history.

This is a translation of my editorial published on Swedish debate site Newsmill.se.

As a PhD student writing my thesis on Swedish file-sharing, and with a general interest in digitization as a material and historical process, I instantly thought of two observations, rooted in media history:

(1) First of all, it shows that unrestricted file-sharing need not be antithetical to capitalism. In fact, it can be argued to be as much a product of capitalism as tabloid newspapers, pyramid schemes, and ring tones.

So-called “illegal” file sharing sites and services often have a latent commercial potential, right from the beginning. The Pirate Bay has for a long while been financed by advertising and merchandise sales, for example.

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The supposed link between unrestricted file-sharing and declining CD sales

In content analysis, file-sharing, history, media ecology, mp3, music, p2p on April 24, 2009 at 6:57 am

Some excerpts/cut-outs from my thesis. This one is an overview of that worn old question: Is there a link between falling CD sales and file-sharing, and in that casewhat does it look like?

Regarding the link between file-sharing and falling CD sales, there are various studies having different conclusions. A general conclusion is that CD sales started dropping simultaneously as unregulated file-sharing began to rise (initially with Napster in 2000).

However, a direct causal link is hard to establish, since there are so many other factors that could serve as an explanation to this drop: Changing consumption patterns (with the ascendance of video games, DVD:s, hardware etc. as new expenditures); shrinking profitability from CDs; a decline in the number of new titles; a cyclical slump after the boom of the 1990s; decreased diversity of radio playlists; and so on. Read the rest of this entry »

The Pirate Bay: The verdict marks the beginning of the “post-piratical”

In file-sharing, media ecology, p2p, politics, Sweden on April 20, 2009 at 1:31 pm

We saw a guilty verdict against all four prosecuted in the Pirate Bay trial, but this will be appealed and most likely go all the way to Sweden’s equivalent of the Supreme Court. The ruling symbolises how we are in the middle of a conflict between law and the new realities of the Internet, says media researcher Jonas Andersson.

This is a translation of my editorial published last Friday on Swedish debate site Newsmill.se.

We are entering a “post-piratical” decade. Unregulated file-sharing is a condition, no exception.

We have seen regular attacks against the “pirates”. Serious accusations, severe measures. Even convictions, such as this one. But the effect is fleeting. Some now point to the implementation of laws like IPRED and swear that “downloading is going down”. If only it were that simple. Also this effect is most likely transient. Read the rest of this entry »

The people who wouldn’t allow endlessly molecular slippage

In file-sharing, media ecology, philosophy, politics, post-piratical, Sweden on March 20, 2009 at 5:20 pm

In Sweden, we seem to prefer even the most nebulous, awesomely vast and non-overseeable phenomenon to be formulated in terms that carry at least a modicum of solidarity and national-corporatist coherence.

The state battles file-sharing using corporatist measures, but ironically the file-sharing world itself – as a product of the same society, the same morality and concept of liberty – is also construed in corporatist terms (albeit of a slightly different flavour than the strong-arm authoritarian state corporatism that the EU currently favours towards all things digital). But this is perhaps also what gives the Swedish file-sharing phenomenon its potency; pirates, warts and all.

Here follows some more excerpts/cut-outs from my thesis…

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To speak for one’s own network

In file-sharing, media ecology, philosophy, politics, post-piratical, Sweden on March 4, 2009 at 5:10 pm

The first Pirate Bay trial is over (the verdict is due to be announced on April the 17th, and I write “first” as it will probably be followed by appeals upon appeals).
A new decade is upon us. This comes to mark what I, and many people with me, would argue is the “post-piratical” era
.

The files have already been uploaded. A jurisdictional bulwark (IPRED; ACTA; FRA; data retention) has been raised throughout Europe, to allegedly deal with the nastier sides of unrestricted file-sharing – while the everday, small-scale sharing of perfectly normal individuals continues and seems to do so for the unforeseeable future, and while even bigger, more institutionalised actors like The Pirate Bay seem slippery to blame and to admonish. This, since the entire phenomenon appears to be distinguished by an agency that is so fractured and distributed, that no one actor can be said to bear the only responsibility.
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Differing attitudes towards Spotify

In file-sharing, GUIs, marketing, media ecology, music, p2p on February 19, 2009 at 10:04 am

The discourses around the newly-launched music streaming service Spotify show how Internet users are split into two rather different groupings in their stance towards commercial services like this one.
Just like the American sociologist Danah Boyd has observed a quite distinct split between Facebook and MySpace users respectively, one can observe a similar difference between those embracing and lauding Spotify and those who do not.spotify

The one observation that has said most about these circulating discourses is the following article from Wired magazine. Here, the comments actually says everything about the two rather disparate attitudes we see among Internet users towards Spotify.

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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 »