Monthly Archives: March 2009

top 10 time-lapse videos: nature at work

I came across these videos and thought they were worth sharing. It’s so odd to see lengthy natural processes (lunar eclipses, caterpillars becoming butterflies, apples rotting, etc.) sped up. It is an artful approach to such interesting phenomena.

napster vs. pandora – illegal downloading, illegal listening?

One of the things that Than and I discussed while preparing for our presentation of tomorrow’s articles was the concept of Pandora as a potentially illegal form of listening to music. Does Pandora stimulate music sales because people are looking to buy songs that they’ve had the opportunity to listen to via the website? Or do people refrain from purchasing songs because they know they can easily listen to songs of a certain aesthetic/genre for free online? Essentially, does Pandora absorb a portion of the consumer body that would otherwise be purchasing music? Is Pandora stealing a portion of iTunes’ clientele? Certainly, there is something to be said for having a song or album in your possession – you can listen to it however frequently you want, a function that Pandora does not have. However, I would assume that there are people who would cite the radio/Pandora as their primary source for music.  

In following the traditional radio model of streaming free music, it is easy to see Pandora as an entirely legitimate form of listening to music. And yet it has run into issues with federal fees, imposed only on web radio (not on terrestrial radio). Indeed, it seems implausible that Pandora could stay afloat, considering there is no fee for users, no subscription-based method of generating income. It makes sense that people should pay for music that they possess or own, but should people have to pay to listen to music?

One of the interesting points that Charles Bailey brings up is the concept of a free culture versus a permission culture. He quotes Lawrence Lessig: “The technology that preserved the balance of our history – between uses of our culture that were free and uses of our culture that were only upon permission – has been undone. The consequence is that we are less and less a free culture, more and more a permission culture.” It is unfortunate that we would need “permission” to listen to streaming online music. Freedom is part of what the internet prides itself upon, and yet we are beginning to deviate from the liberal, no-boundaries concept of the world wide web. Napster was the epitome of “free culture” and has since disintegrated into a permission-based program, not unlike iTunes. Pandora is one remaining strand of “free culture” on the internet – should it remain a part of “free culture” or become part of “permission culture”?

Copyright and “the new Napster”

As a footnote to this week’s discussion of copyright and the Ham/Atkinson report on Napster and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it’s worth mentioning that after the original Napster’s notorious legal battle and subsequent shutdown in 2001, the “Napster” name was bought out and revived, under new management, as a subscription-based pay service. The service currently has around 700,000 subscribers and was recently purchased by Best Buy for $121 million. For a look at “the new Napster,” click here (but beware the annoying animated lady who pops up to tell you all about how awesome Napster is), and check out the Wikipedia page on “Napster (pay service)” (which “may contain an inappropriate mixture of prose and timeline.” Sigh.)

The evolution of “Napster” illustrates one result of the general trend towards stricter copyright protection Bailey describes in “Strong Copyright + DRM + Weak Net Neutrality = Digital Dystopia?” Following legal lockdowns on peer-to-peer filesharing, pay services like iTunes and the new Napster have come to dominate the field of digital music distribution, forcing other, legally dubious services underground. The interpretation of copyright presented by these services reinforces the mantra of powerful entertainment industry organizations like the RIAA: They own, you pay. As Bailey writes, “The moral of this story is that [large corporations] can afford to pay lobbyists, make campaign contributions, and otherwise exert significant influence over lawmakers, while, by and large, advocates for the other side do not have the same clout.” (18)

But wherever there’s a legal or technical boundary, there’s always a dedicated crew of pirates trying to find a workaround. And, as Bailey argues, sometimes the real solution isn’t breaking the law but changing it. Even the new Napster, which offers only DRM-protected music, can’t stop you from claiming your right to fair use, if you choose to do so. Damn that pesky analog hole!

NAPSTER

I remember using NAPSTER when I was like thirteen years old. My cousin use to download a lot of free music and my aunt use to be so happy. But then, within a few weeks of her being introduced to NAPSTER, she received a fine and her account was terminated. She had to pay a $400 fine. Back in the day the trading form was NAPSTER, but now it seems to be iTunes and LimeWire. It was interesting to see the difference in time with this article. When reading this I kept on forgetting that the article was published in 2000. Some of the statements mentioned like, “…though the average movie file is too large for widespread trading, increases in storage capacity and bandwidth will make movie piracy feasible in the near future,” my reaction was “this person is a little slow”.

I thought it was a bit of a stretch when Shane and Robert mentioned that the internet can be considered to some in the future to turn into some type of anarchy. The government is always involved and people are always being tracked and recorded. The internet will never turn into some type of anarchy. I did not understand what they meant when they stated that “markets only operate in the context of rules designed to protect the players”. Who are the players? Are the players the consumers or are they the celebrities? Is the market benefiting the celebrities in any sort of way?

I disagree with Shane and Robert in the statement “…if an industry changes the way it does a business, it should be a response to legitimate innovations, not a reaction to a technology-driven increase in crime”. I think that a technology-driven increase in crime is a legitimate reason. An industry has to change according to the environment they are in and around. A successful industry/business should be responsive to these types of issues.
I found it interesting when it said that “the Napster Service and its copy cats represent the biggest threat yet to the property rights of song writers, recording artists, and record companies.” I think that being able to put music on the internet was the biggest threat to song writers, recording artists, and record companies. Putting media on the internet is a risk in itself.

EDUCATION

This weekend I was on a POSSE Retreat. Our topic of discussion for this POSSE retreat was education. Over the weekend I faced some realities. As a kid, the message forwarded to us is that we can be what ever we want to be if we study and work hard. As adolescents, the message is we can all go to college and become something great. As a growing adult, I realize that those messages were all bullsh**. Studying hard can make you knowledgeable, but it is not a guarantee that you will be successful. We are not all given the equal opportunity to be what we want to be. We are not all given the option of going to college. Education is seen as leveling the plane field, but how is that so when education itself is not equal? There are students in public high schools that are brilliant, but because of the fact that tuition is high and they come from a low socio-economic background, college is not an option for them. I remember people saying that everyone can go to college, just get financial aid. That statement is not true for everyone. Even with financial aid, with the continuing increasing cost of tuition and the falling economy, people from my community who have earned the grades and the right to be at a great college might not be able to even consider it.
Most of the successful people in this world have started off with some type of privilege. So things were easier for them. I know,this is obvious. But what is not obvious to many, is that for a person of color who came from a low income, it is more than just a higher degree of education. It’s knowing how to “assimilate”, adapt, gain status, and being forced to fit into an environment that strips many of their true identity. I really do not like to word assimilate, but in the real world, that’s what it is. If you do not fit a description of a position you will not get it. But if you really want it, then you are going to have to change yourself to fit that description. Some can adapt and others assimilate.
One of the things that bothers me the most about education is the resources. It is extremely difficult to come to college and achieve if you have never had the programs and resources in your high school to help prepare you. Many college students come to college and forget that they are privileged to even be in a place of higher education. Why not give back to those in need? There are many schools around us that are in need of resources, but cannot afford them. Why are college students not becoming those resources for our future generation?
This blog is just raw thoughts that were going through my mind.

Wikipedia sustainable?

Thinking about how wikipedia asked for funds and included an “ad” by the founder Wales asking for money, is the business model for Wikipedia – collaborative commons-based – a sustainable one?

Here is an interesting blog I found

– http://blog.heebie.co.uk/wikipedia-fundraising-real-truth

-I would recommend also reading the first response to the blog which shows a different side to the story.

I’ve been wondering whether the model for wikipedia is best for wikipedia, and how other models would work. It seems to me that with the donation-funded model that wikipedia presently uses, the contributors and wikipedia community are a large part of the donating group as they are committed to the program, even if they might not be the ones who use the site the most.

So is the funding-base of wikipedia consistent with its democratic, community style of operating? It seems that ads would evenly distribute themselves so that the more you use wikipedia the more ads you would encounter. This way people are indirectly contributing to wikipedia’s funds based on how much they access wikipedia.

Another possible positive for ads is that incorporating them with wikipedia might generate far more income for wikipedia than the organization is getting from donations, and even more than the current operating budget needs. This could be positive in that it could let wikipedia expand, put more money into technology and research, or do something else like start a collaborative charity fund.

But a possible problem to all of this that is brought up in the article is that ads in the modern way they are being used (facebook style, user-specific) are not really feasible on facebook, because like youtube, content is user-generated, and not always screened by the advertiser. So wikipedia would either have to find some way to entirely separate the content of wikipedia from the ads it runs which would seem like a regression back to old-style ads (TV commercials) or could do something like get sponsors for specific related pages, which like the previous problem has the short-coming that users can still change content with sometimes little discretion.

I think it will be interesting to see what, if anything, wikipedia does to solve this issue, and it could have vast implications for the way future wikipedia-style, collaborative, cummunity-based organizations are run and funded.

how the internet improves our lives through fmylife

F My Life is a perfect example about how popular print media cannot guess what people will enjoy reading, and how the internet solves that problem. I suppose it’s obvious that people like hearing crazy stories about how other people have unfortunate lives, but with the formalities and levels of editing involved with print media, I could see how fmylife’s content would not end up being published. Furthermore, the fact that the site can be updated with new content keeps people coming back and keeps the ad revenue flowing, something that print media could never achieve.

But I think the site is an interesting commentary on what our society values in its entertainment, and we never would have realized this aspect of the public preference if it weren’t for the ease of publishing on the internet.

wiki-how

I stumbled across this page on wired.com today that ties perfectly into our readings. It’s a How-to Wiki. From How to brew your own beer to How to cheat at Wii Fit, to How to appear to be in your office while actually working from home, it offers a plethora of tips and advice. Anyone can write articles and anyone can edit them while observing a few rules, much like Wikipedia. Except it seems even more interactive than Wikipedia. It’s almost like a community of neighbors sharing their helpful, ingenuous, and occasionally immoral tips.

further adventures in retro computing

Here’s an educational filmstrip from the 1980s all about setting up a “microcomputer facility” in the classroom. Experience the magic of modern technology!!

Mass Truth

I thought that Schiff hit upon Wikipedia’s greatest weakness in her article “Know it All” when discussing the case of how William Connolley, an expert on global warming, ended up losing a shouting contest on Wikipedia against an opponent with little knowledge of the subject material.

People who edit Wikipedia for purely malicious reasons (aka “Trolls”) are far less of a danger to accuracy than those whose intentions are good (or at least not actively bad), but are misdirected.   With Trolls, a patient expert editting Wikipedia simply has to out-wait juvenile attempts to spread false information for fun (which is hugely annoying, but also usually quite obvious and easy to revert).   People who are spreading misinformation because it is what they truly believe, however, can be very difficult to deal with.

Part of the reason this is more problematic for Wikipedia than it is for a more traditional encyclopedia is because it biases vary greatly from page to page.   Of course, older encyclopedias are frequently biased, as well, but usually these biases are consistent and can be determined, and so a reader can be conscious of such biases when they appear.   On Wikipedia, there is no such consistency.   Of course, this means that no single bias rules the encyclopedia- which is good- but it is also very hard to tell what political or social message any given page supports.