Archive for the 'Web 2.0' Category

Digging this user rebellion

The corporate media world loves to lock you out of sharing files. There have been more insidious acts of control as well, such as designating region codes for DVDs so that you are forced to buy media only for the region you live in. This has been a huge pain for me because after moving to Europe from the US none of the DVDs I bought at home can play on machines made in Europe. It is ridiculous that I would have to buy something twice. It’s highway robbery.

Anyhow, there have been efforts to control HD-TV programming through an encryption code, but it has been hacked and now authors are posting to Digg the code so anyone who needs to can use it. Knowing the encryption code is not just about facilitating privacy. It’s also about enabling users to to save and back-up their files, but more importantly have control over their own content. At first Digg took down the articles with the code, but a rebellion ensued, with users adding the code to articles posted to the site. Digg’s staff decided to side with its users, and is now allowing people to post the code. Incidentally, if you want to Digg the encryption code, click here.

To explain what is happening, Digg’s Kevin Ross writes the following…

Digg the Blog » Blog Archive:

Today was an insane day. And as the founder of Digg, I just wanted to post my thoughts…

In building and shaping the site I’ve always tried to stay as hands on as possible. We’ve always given site moderation (digging/burying) power to the community. Occasionally we step in to remove stories that violate our terms of use (eg. linking to pornography, illegal downloads, racial hate sites, etc.). So today was a difficult day for us. We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

Digg on,


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How much is a friend worth?

A study that examines the monetization of relationships. Who’s your best bud now? Nike or Johnny?

Advertising Age – Digital – What’s Making ‘Friends’ With a MySpace User Worth?:

“It’s when I take the brand, put it on my profile page and then all the people would develop a deeper meaning for what Adidas stands for because of where it stands in my own personal story.”

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Rebooting the classroom with DIY social networks

Anastasia Goodstein of YPulse and author of Totally Wired refers to a great article in Wired about how some classrooms are getting smart about incorporating online social networks rather than resisting them. At the center of this paradigm shift is an interesting software package, Elgg. I think the idea of a DIY social network in your classroom could get students to direct more energy and attention to what is happening in the class program than outside of it.

Here Goodstein discusses some ways teachers could jump to the new paradigm in an imaginary Web 2.0 bootcamp:

Ypulse: Media for the Next Generation:

The challenge for teachers is to find ways of adopting and integrating technology students are fluent with outside of class inside the class room in ways that are educational and help them accomplish their core teaching objectives (vs. just make class less boring). All of this got me thinking again about a post I did a long time ago where I suggested that the big tech companies join together and create “bootcamps” for every public school teacher in this country. Instead of just giving them more free versions of Power Point, immerse teachers in the technology their students are fluent with and explain how young people use it and why they love it. Here’s a sample “teacher bootcamp” schedule:

Let’s get social. Teachers learn how social networking got its start, tour the most popular sites with teens and create profiles on MySpace and Facebook. Teachers or librarians who have used social networking successfully in an educational capacity come in and present case studies.

Teens & their iPods, a love story. Every teacher gets an iPod. They tour the sites where teens download music for free and then go to iTunes and get to create their own playlist. Teachers who have integrated iPods into the classroom successfully present case studies.

Blog it! Teachers are given a virtual tour of the most popular blogging sites/software with teens. Every teacher sets up a blog, learns how to link and upload photos, comments on each other’s blogs. Teachers who have used blogs successfully in class present case studies.

Game on. Teachers are given a virtual tour of the most popular video games and online games with teens – including virtual worlds. Case studies then given on how educational games or educational activities in some virtual worlds are helping teens.

You get the drift. The idea would be immerse teachers, let them play with the technology in the same way kids do, then have the trailblazing teachers show them how these technologies can be used in ways that are educational. I think every teacher at bootcamp should also have a teen partner who does all of this stuff with them — and ideally who can be a TA (and help with tech support) when teachers go back to the class room, hopefully armed with more than just free software.

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Are media companies imploding?


Advertising Age – Caught in the Clutter Crossfire: Your Brand:

NEW YORK ( — Somewhere between 254 and 5,000 is a number that represents just how many commercial messages an average consumer gets each day. Attempts to beat clutter only end up yielding more of it, a bitter irony bound to have dire consequences for a business already struggling with questions of relevance and effectiveness. There’s no consensus on it, but just about everyone agrees on two things: It’s way too high, and the industry’s not doing anything to reduce its own overproduction.

That’s our clutter problem — and yours.

I appreciate AdAge’s candor (truly); they are almost as hard on their own industry as we media critics are on advertisers. In particular the article above verifiers my own belief that we give marketers too much credit for forming our attitudes. As the story indicates, there is just too much clutter. How is one to from meaning from this chaos other than, as The Clash would say, to be lost in the super market? This is not to say there other ideological consequences, but rather than position ourselves as victims of marketing abuse, perhaps we have an opening here, a leverage point, if you will.

As one executive quoted in the article states,

“At the end of the day, the ability of the average consumer to even remember advertising 24 hours later is at the lowest level in the history of our business,” said Bob Barocci, president-CEO of the Advertising Research Foundation.

As opposed to this being a problem, I love the situation. However for activists this creates two difficulties. One, to deal with the predicament, the industry will simply create more clutter. Second, how do you spread socially constructive messages in this kind of environment? A PSA would be like a glass of water thrown into Niagara Falls. The solution I think is that more interactive, peer-to-peer media is the solution, not for marketers, but for us activists who want to reach people. If we focus on our own grassroots strategies rather than trying to repeat the corporate model, I think we will ultimately succeed. Look, for example, how much the Internet has transformed national politics. Whereas Dean’s grassroots media efforts flew under the radar of national media, ultimately most candidates are now emulating his 2004 campaign’s approach.

Finally, I have enjoyed Bob Garfield’s “Chronicles of the Media Revolution” in AdAge, and his latest dispatch, “The Post Advertising Age,” is worth a careful read. AdAge also provides a really nice downloadable chart that details a timeline since Garfield’s “Chaos Scenario” originally appeared. One choice snip:

Mass media, of course, do not exist in a vacuum. They have a perfect symbiotic relationship with mass marketing. Advertising underwrites the content. The content delivers audience. Audiences receive the marketing messages and patronize the advertisers, and so on in what for centuries was an efficient cycle of economic life. The first element of Chaos presumes the fragmentation of mass media creates a different sort of cycle: an inexorable death spiral, in which audience fragmentation and ad-avoidance hardware lead to an exodus of advertisers, leading in turn to an exodus of capital, leading to a decline in the quality of content, leading to further audience defection, leading to further advertiser defection and so on to oblivion. The refugees — audience and marketers alike — flee to the internet. There they encounter the second, and more ominous, Chaos component: the internet’s awkward infancy.

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Digital ethnorati


Using the term digital ethnorati, Steve Wilmarth from The Center for 21st Century Skills presented at South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin. Here is a Flickr slide link to his interesting Digital Ethnorati panel presentation.

Also, check out AfroGeeks.

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“Everyone’s library”

CteULike is an interesting self-organized library system for researchers and academics. You can create your own library of documents to share with others or simply find articles that others are referencing. Very cool. And it’s free.

CiteULike: Frequently Asked Questions:

What is CiteULike?

CiteULike is a free service to help academics to share, store, and organise the academic papers they are reading. When you see a paper on the web that interests you, you can click one button and have it added to your personal library. CiteULike automatically extracts the citation details, so there’s no need to type them in yourself. It all works from within your web browser. There’s no need to install any special software.

Because your library is stored on the server, you can access it from any computer. You can share your library with others, and find out who is reading the same papers as you. In turn, this can help you discover literature which is relevant to your field but you may not have known about.

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Sometimes you can feel an idea in the air and grab it. Before Wired came out with it’s Media Snack Attack, one visionary educator in the UK had already thought of the concept. He observed that youth were like media snackers and went on to create an innovative training around this idea. The website is a great resource for podcasts and useful info. I think the intro video above explains it all beautifully.

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Indy media 2.0

Steve Anderson of COA News has written a nice little summary of how some activist media portals are going Web 2.0:

Independent News Portal COAnews: : Independent Media Goes Web 2.0:

With their exceptional popularity, these social web tools are increasingly important, and it is incredibly significant that independent media organizations are developing these tools before the corporate news outlets. As Alternet Personals illustrates, independent media can capture significant audiences if they are innovative and timely in offering social web tools.

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Text vs. hypertext


Hey, nice handwriting! This video is in response to “The Machine is Us/ing Us,” which I posted about here (if you haven’t seen it, you really must!).

The text in the video reads as folllows:

Media philosopher Marshall McLuhan observed that “The Medium is the Message”. That is, the form of media is what changes consciousness irrespective of the content of that media.

Michael Wesch speculates that the accessibility of the internet both to add and receive content is leading to a massive paradigm shift in human thought and society.


The internet still follows the fundamental form of the written word and the motion picture: non-participatory reception of information.

The exact interface of scripting language is irrelevant… The internet is essentially a series of Guttenberg presses and Edison kinetoscopes connected by telegraph wire.

The accessibility of these devices to add content had only changed the scope of the content, not the basic form. Regardless of who made it, I’m still reading text and watching movies.

A semi-global library is a remarkable acchievement (Remember that most people in the world still don’t have net access).

But the real acchievement of the internet has been to SIMULATE participation. It has made non-participatory addition of responsive content more rapid… even instantaneous.

E-mail or a chat room, for instance, has infinitely sped up communication across distances… But it is still not a fully sensory, participatory conversation, and we’ve had to find ways to compensate for that…


This trajectory will eventually lead to virtual reality… Increasingly sophisticated pseudo-sensory simulations of the full sensory, participatory reality of which we are a part.

This is a movement towards making the non -participatory form imitate the participatory reality.

We’re trying to makle the printed word imitate what we already experience every day…

The natural interaction between us and the world.

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Greatest generation gap since rock and roll?


Yet again the new cultural practices of kids are getting demonized by left and right. Geeze, adults can be so lame sometimes. One article in particularly really got under my skin, “Mirror, Mirror on the Web” by Lakshmi Chaudhry. She thinks kids are too narcissistic. This is how I responded in my letter to The Nation:

While it’s easy to appreciate the sentiment of Lakshmi Chaudhry’s article, “Mirror, Mirror on the Web”– that the tendencies of our young narcissists are exacerbated by new media– I wonder if this article really serves any purpose other than to gratify a sense of superiority over pop culture that is so common in the Left. No doubt the human tendency to show off is enhanced by the number of outlets available to create opportunities for bloated egos to wend their way to audiences though the Web 2.0, but to paint such a picture only tells one part of the story and unfortunately promotes a subtext that is shocking to see in The Nation: the demonic matrix of youth and media strike once again! These are the same tropes you’ll see cycled repeatedly through the conservative press, and it is one of the many curious commonalities that Left and Right share these days.

As a youth media educator who has worked with thousands of kids across the United States, I have found maybe 5% fitting the description of the raving narcissists described in the story. I found it particularly troubling this notion that feel-good messages from the ’70s are the culprit. Many kids of color I work come from broken homes and could use TLC to build self-esteem. The anger towards this parenting approach is unfathomable to me.

The underlying motive of all children (adults too!) is to connect with others and to be loved. Media education programs help build esteem because they enable kids who normally have few venues for expression to have a voice and learn the tools of a system that is so regularly derided on these pages. This has great benefit to the society. Sure some kids want be famous. Don’t we all? This is America, darn it! (After all why do we write and produce media anyway?)

And I thought their war mongering parents were bad! Anyhow, there is actually a more balanced view over at New York Magazine, a choice observation (below) comes from video game theorist, Clay Shirky:

Kids, the Internet, and the End of Privacy: The Greatest Generation Gap Since Rock and Roll — New York Magazine:

Shirky describes this generational shift in terms of pidgin versus Creole. “Do you know that distinction? Pidgin is what gets spoken when people patch things together from different languages, so it serves well enough to communicate. But Creole is what the children speak, the children of pidgin speakers. They impose rules and structure, which makes the Creole language completely coherent and expressive, on par with any language. What we are witnessing is the Creolization of media.”

That’s a cool metaphor, I respond. “I actually don’t think it’s a metaphor,” he says. “I think there may actually be real neurological changes involved.”

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War of (media) worlds


This video by Kansas State University’s Mike Wesch explains so much better than text as to why new media are in many ways vastly superior modes of production and communication, which begs the question: how is an education system based on 19th Century modes of thinking going to deal with this emerging reality? More importantly, how will society grapple with this interlinked, intertextual, networked form of exchange? To quote McLuhan:

The United States of 2020 will achieve a distinct psychological shift from a dependence on visual, uniform, homogeneous thinking, of a left-hemisphere variety, to a multi-faceted configurational mentality which we have attempted to define as audile-tactile, right-hemisphere thinking. In other words, instead of being captured by point-to-point linear attitudes,… most Americans will be able to tolerate many different thought systems at once, some based on antagonistic ethnic

(From Global Village– a book I HIGHLY recommend!)

The last phrase, “antagonistic ethnic heritages,” might seem a bit antiquated, but I believe McLuhan means that some cultures have different learned perceptual modes that are circular, and therefor may seem “backwards” to Westerners, but are in fact better capable of interfacing the multidimensional realm that new media are moving in. McLuhan has also stated that wars can be the result of clashing paradigms, not just of the opposing society, but as a means of controlling the internal society’s evolving dynamic. In other words, the war in Iraq could be as much about asserting a dominant mode of perception and control locally as it is about dominating a foreign territory.

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This portrait, “YouTuber,” reflects a mix between the impulse of early actuality films when the form was still novel, and Warhol’s screen tests, which are motion portraits of fame. This video, of course, is an incomplete picture because there is a lot of other stuff going on at YouTube, mainly sharing media detritus and ephemera of interest to niche audiences. For example, as an old school punk, I’ve been fascinated by the veritable oral history that YouTube has facilitated as many have posted old home movies and videos from the scene and in the commentaries people impart and contest stories from the past.

Media critics tend to focus on the superficiality of people talking about boring stuff going on in their lives, but remember back in the day when we wrote letters with pen and ink? I’d venture that the majority of human communication is mundane and self-centered. That it’s amplified by YouTube challenges our notion that media should be special or interesting. What is happening is the de-specialization and de-professionalization of media. Not surprisingly many ads these days are appropriating the rough aesthetic of homemade blogging sites. Perhaps we are witnessing the composting of media glamor. This was Warhol‘s prediction, but perhaps he didn’t imagine it coming in the multisensory, networked environment that McLuhan foresaw.

This video also reminds me of when the national zine movement peaked in the early ’90s. Various citizens of earth documented their lives in little photocopied journals and traded them through a vast postal network. At the time I had a small independent distribution company and saw hundreds of these cross my desk, mostly awful. Although I was and remain a firm believer in DIY media, I recall that at the time my sentiment was that even though anyone could produce media, not everybody should. Still what strikes me about this compilation of self-made video portraits is something very human and basic, which is a desire to connect with others. Forget the narcissistic aspect of it, even self-centeredness comes from a need to be loved. I don’t feel it’s right that many critics (from both the right and left) judge people who ultimately crave the same thing that we all do; we just sometimes get too caught up in our theories and ideologies to remember how simple the desire really is. I find it quite beautiful that YouTube can be an outlet for that expression, no matter how trivial it may appear.

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Patterns of the medium


What does “convergence” mean?

Web exclusive: ‘Technology and frustration’ by John Browning | Prospect Magazine February 2007 issue 131:

Technically, the internet treats all information flows alike, as digital data which can be edited, linked, searched, displayed or whatever. More important, it provides a common means of transmitting all of that information. While every previous new media from vaudeville through VHS had to develop its own transmission infrastructure, new new media can simply use the internet….

Today, the message is the medium. Or at least it should be, if our collective imagination is up to it. So what will the new new media be like? The short answer is that nobody knows, because it really is hard to think outside of the categories of existing media. That said, there are tentative, early signs of a blurring of boundaries: newspaper websites show video, the iPhone organises voicemail messages as a browsable list, “mashups” combine different types of information via the web—restaurant reviews plus maps, say. None of these could seriously be called revolutionary. But the “collide-oscope,” as McLuhan called it, has been shaken. Soon we’ll see what new patterns start to emerge.

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Media threat?

(Art by the amazing eBoy collective)

The article is called “Media Threat,” which is a terrible choice of words because everything the article is about concerns new media. Just because it’s interactive doesn’t mean it’s not media. And though interactive, social media my threaten old models, it doesn’t mean they are a threat per se. However, though I don’t quite agree with the singularity theory or necessarily with the Utopianism of the following article, I do think it’s an interesting, updated look into the whole Web 2.0 social media phenomena. If you don’t know what that last sentence means, please read on.

NY Free Press, Media Threat:

In 1993, computer scientist Vernor Vinge published an essay titled “The Coming Technological Singularity.” It detailed a time, in the relatively near future, when the exponential growth of computing power and disparate technologies would coalesce, leading to a single moment of sudden technological evolution that would fundamentally change the fabric of reality for humanity and usher in the “post-human” era. While famed scientist/inventor Ray Kurzweil predicts this singularity won’t occur until sometime in 2045, this week may very well go down in history as the moment when the Internet hit a “singularity moment” that accelerated the evolution of the Web in such rapid fashion as to move the space into heretofore unknown territory. Quietly, nearly unnoticed—as are many of history’s major events—two recent announcements that could dictate the very future of media slipped into the news stream amid the din of billion-dollar digital Internet deals and print media buyouts…

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