9/16 Suggested Reading and Viewing

Posted September 16, 2010 by P
Categories: Cultural Resources, Technological Resources

Tags: , , , , , , ,

A bit of a linkdump:

We ran across an interesting discussion on piracy and video game development on the Tumblr blog of independent game designer Notch. Our contribution can be found here.

BoingBoing’s Mark Frauenfelder presents a convincing narrative on the place of DIY in education and daily life through an interview with The Atlantic.

The UK government has announced that while “rights holders” (i.e. the culture industries) will have to pay 75% of the costs related to pursuing illegal file-sharing under the 2010 Digital Economy Act, but ISP’s will have to foot the remaining 25%. For ISP’s, this means footing a multi-million pound cost for law enforcement actions which provide economic benefit another industry entirely. And much like the taxes tacked on to our cell phone bills, these costs are going to be passed directly on to consumers by the ISP’s, so essentially, the public will now be paying to help UK copyright holders protect their profits.

Copyright vs. The Law

Posted September 10, 2010 by P
Categories: Technological Resources

Tags: , , , , ,

Techdirt points us to an interesting conflict going on in Sweden:

The Swedish National Police have been attempting to build a database which allows them to match shoe-prints found at crime scenes with the type of shoes that made them. In order to build the database, they have simply been downloading pictures of shoe treds from the internet. Now, some shoe companies are claiming that those images are their intellectual property and cannot be taken without permission.

The police claim that the law lets them ignore copyright in solving crimes, but an intellectual property professor quoted in the article notes that such an exemption only applies in the direct police investigation of a specific crime — not for the sake of building up a general database. The professor suggests that this appears to be a clear violation of Swedish copyright laws.

Fine points of Swedish copyright law aside (for the time being), what’s interesting here are the two potential ways to approach the dispute:

If we trust that the motive of the police is to protect the life and property of the citizenry, then we can see the conflict over the database as taking root in a claim by commercial brands that the protection of their intellectual property in the abstract (it should be safe to assume that this database will not result in any real economic damage) should trump the ability of the police to solve actual crimes.

If we’re feeling more cynical about state power, we could view this as a conflict between copyright and state power. Which source of authority is exerts more influence: the corporation’s ownership of it’s intellectual property or the state’s ability to surveil its citizens?

Open Universities, pt. 2

Posted August 25, 2010 by pizzapelsa
Categories: Cultural Resources, Technological Resources

Tags: , , , , , ,

In our previous post we discussed the possibility that web-casting academic lectures could transform universities in some way, possibly making academic information accessible to more people outside the university, or helping to keep lecturers honest and accountable. On Monday, the New York Times published this story about attempts by humanities scholars to use the internet to transform the process of peer review:

some humanities scholars have begun to challenge the monopoly that peer review has on admission to career-making journals and, as a consequence, to the charmed circle of tenured academe. They argue that in an era of digital media there is a better way to assess the quality of work. Instead of relying on a few experts selected by leading publications, they advocate using the Internet to expose scholarly thinking to the swift collective judgment of a much broader interested audience.

So the idea here is not that digital information systems will help make education more accessible, but rather that they could be used to allow a broader segment of the public to weigh in on key academic questions: Which research findings are interesting, convincing or valid? Can research that stands the test of peer review by experts hold up in the court of public opinion? In other words, the process of internet reader review could be use to break down the social power and exclusivity of expertise, one important step in opening the intellectual commons.

Liberating iPod/iPhone Power Technology

Posted August 4, 2010 by P
Categories: Technological Resources

Tags: , ,

In this video from MintyBoost, you can see the process of reverse-engineering the proprietary technology Apple requires for charging devices such as iPods. Apple generally requires any company making iPod charging devices to keep this technology confidential, thereby limiting the market on compatible devices to Apple’s whim. However, a little technical know-how allows such a device to be hacked and the specs set free.

Carl Safina on Deepwater Horizon

Posted July 15, 2010 by P
Categories: Natural Resources

Tags: , ,

An informative talk on the scope of this tragedy so far, but most relevant to our purposes here is the following conclusion that Safina makes:

I think we have to understand where this leak really started from. It started from the destruction of the idea that the government is there because it’s our government, meant to protect the larger public interest.

If you look at the page for this talk on the TED website, you can read through lots of comments about the role of de/regulation in creating and prolonging this disaster.

How the Fashion Industry Works Without Copyright

Posted June 11, 2010 by P
Categories: Cultural Resources

Tags: ,

Open Universities?

Posted March 19, 2010 by pizzapelsa
Categories: Cultural Resources, Technological Resources

Tags: , , ,

With growing concern in the United States about the cost, accessibility and quality of education, it may be useful to consider a recent trend in American Universities: many professors now publicly ‘share’ video of their lectures, opening their courses to anyone with internet access, rather than only to paying, enrolled students. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a great story about this.

Personally, as a lecturer myself, I imagine having my lectures taped and shared would make me self-conscious in practice, which might cause me anxiety or help me improve my lectures. It certainly might make professors accountable to a broader public, and help “peer review” their claims. It is also appealing in theory to consider the ethic of open-source teaching, which could push the conventional limits of public education. I have always found that colleges and universities are places where the ethic of an intellectual “commons” is strong; this trend still survives in the age of the corporate university in a somewhat muted form.

I am also a fan and follower of online lectures. The European Graduate School offers many lectures online, and considering their faculty of superstar theorists, this is a unique opportunity to hear from Zizek, Butler, DJ Spooky and a whole slew of continental philosophers, media and cultural theorists, film directors and other media practitioners. John Merriman‘s lectures at Yale in modern European and French history are online. MIT’s Open Course Ware site provides syllabi, assignments, lectures and other media to anyone with a web browser. There must be countless others.

Of course, many universities will worry about harming their bottom line, if prospective students can see lectures without enrolling and paying. Some professors will be uncomfortable, unable or unwilling to share their lectures. No matter how the “classroom” or the price of textbooks and materials might change in the internet era, it remains the case that students who want a credentialed degree will have to enroll and pay. Internet video alone won’t solve a national problem with access to education, rising tuition, failing schools, and so on, but sharing lectures online is already stretching the boundaries of the classroom.


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