Assignment 5: Remix Culture

20 07 2011

Good Copy, Bad Copy was a great documentary on the problems with today’s copyright laws.  The most astonishing fact was that the laws haven’t been updated since the 70’s.  When you’re talking about taking a piece of audio, manipulating it to an extent that it isn’t recognizable from the original, I don’t understand how it can be deemed illegal.  It’s also upsetting that the majority of the suing is done by the record companies, not by the artists.

I liked the chronology from the the Parliament Funkadelic/N.W.A. loop controversy, to Girl Talk, to The Grey Album (though they didn’t include the first mashup ever made…  The MPAA representative juxtaposed with the creators of ThePirateBay was also a great contrast.  The MPAA wants to make it difficult for people to pirate (which seemed kind of immature) while the Pirate Bay was making it easier than ever with no legal ramifications.  Girl Talk also makes a good point about how music has been ‘copied’ in different ways for centuries.  The average pop song usually uses the same few chord progressions and it’s not considered ‘stealing’ when you put your own spin on it.  I don’t think a new technology should be treated differently just becuase it challenges the current way of distributing music.

Also, I made a mashup for the extra credit assignment: (explicit content mainly because it was hard to find acapella tracks that fit with the instrumentals)


Readings 5: Copyright and Creativity

20 07 2011

Copyright, Collage, and Creativity was an interesting lecture.  I defnitely enjoyed its linear depiction of how ‘copied’ art has evolved.  It also gives a great background regarding today’s copyright laws and why they exist.  The mot interesting part of the lecture, to me, was about the DADA movement.  I had never heard of it before and I like their idea of ‘anti-art.’  Randomness and absurdity being art greatly contrasts the previous notion of what defined art.  Also, I thought the unaltered urinal being presented as art, thus making it art, was brilliant.  It reminds me of a song by John Cage in which the sheet music is just 4+ minutes of silence; the idea being that the ‘song’ is only part of the performance.  External aspectss such as background sounds, audience, etc. were all part of a composition.

The Generational Divide in Copyright Morality I could definitely relate to.  My generation just likes stealing things.  In highschool, one of my teachers explained, “Yes the people you are stealing from may already have millions of dollars, but if you don’t want to give them your money, don’t buy their product.  If you illegally download it, you’re stealing.”  So I realize what I’m doing is illegal, but it still doesn’t seem wrong.  I mean, I am not personally upset about a major record label losing profits, so when something like this happens, it becomes their priority to fix the problem.  Now something like 90% of internet media is already paid for by advertising and both sides win.  Simultaneously, I look at the internet as something “destructive for the greater good” (I think that’s a quote from either Bill Gates or the guy who invented Skype but google isn’t helping.)  The playing field has changed, so ‘fairness’ has to be redefined.

In Defense of Piracy also made a lot of sense, especially about revising copyright law.  The final statements about the fruitless attempts to hinder file-sharing and artists still not being paid are the most relevant points about copyright today.  The arguments are all centered around money; the way internet has been directing media, I could see there eventually being a completely restructured (or abolished) monetary system, as crazy as it may sound.  Maybe I’m derailing or even talking about something I don’t know enough about, but we have plenty of planes, plenty of food, and lots of starving people, but hunger is still an issue because of… money.

Lessig’s Lecture was also great; TED is a great site and I haven’t seen this one before.  The two points he made that really struck me as riveting were about ‘common sense’ in law and how my generation is knowingly living against the law.  The first point was cleverly analogized through the ‘planes as trespassers’ and how we make new media from old.  It legitimately plagues me that there are such ridiculous and obviously inefficient laws that are being enforced.  I don’t really know how I feel about knowingly living against the law, but I don’t like the idea of it when our justice system is so binary.  When something is illegal and also commonplace, it’s a real problem; it becomes a punishment lottery.  I don’t think that laws change how people behave, they just make you fear that you’ll get caught.

Protected: Assignment 4: The Real Me

15 07 2011

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Readings 4: Here Comes Everybody: Crowds, Collaborations, and Dialog

15 07 2011

The Machine is Us/ing Us gave a great basic background of how the internet evolved.  It takes you from html to xml and how programmer’s begin really utilizing organization and categorizing information to expand an internet user’s options.  The music was great, the creative way he transitions through text was extraordinary, the video as a whole was just great. 

Clay Shirky makes a fantastic analogy about a temple that has been systematically destroyed and rebuilt for centuries and how computer programming shoud work.  He delves into the details of working for AT&T and how he was able to predict that successful projects derive from working with people who are passionate about their work and care about the people they’re working with.  Success is not rooted in funding from corporations.  He goes on to explain how reconstruction can cause a collapse but ultimately, a stronger structure. 

The Wisdom of Crowds begins with a great anecdote about a scientist (whose name escapes me right now) who witnesses a group of people placing wagers by guessing the weight of a cow.  His results showed that the guesses, when averaged out, gave a nearly perfect prediction of the cow’s weight (off by 1 lb.)  What this suggests is that a democratic group working as a whole is more effective at creating accurate decisions than an individual.  “Two heads are better than one” as the proverb goes.

The Ignorance of Crowds is basically just the opposite of the previous article (as the titles would obviously imply.)  It emphasizes the malleable nature of people; peer-pressure is a strong influence on decision making.  This is much unlike The Wisdom of Crowds because, in that instance, the crowd was working independently of one another.  The ability of one person to coerce another, wether intentional or not, taints the effect of working in a group.  It also demonstrates that the majority decision is not always the best decision.

A history department banning the use of Wikipedia as a reference was not shocking to me.  The information is constantly changing and not necessarily to a more accurate degree.  In an academic frame, I can definitely understand why faculty would not accept sources that depend on group-thinking.  It’s not that it’s bad information, it’s that it isn’t concrete.

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk was an interesting concept that I was surprised I was unaware of; I feel like any way to make money through mindless work is usually common knowledge for college students.  It also showed me that computers are not infinitely capable of performing human tasks.  Something as simple (to us) as identifying an object in a picture is virtually impossible for computers (so far.)

Lastly, we read about the ‘evils’ of crowdsourcing and how Twitter paid only ~$6 for it’s logo.  Crowdsourcing is great in the sense that a person can work on something they like to do without the sole intention of making money, but still possibly be rewarded that way regardless.  Money doesn’t specifically drive artists, so it’s unfortunate that Twitter took advantage of that by paying such a small amount for an icon that they massively use to represent their billion dollar company.

Readings 3: DIY and Self-publishing

15 07 2011

Keen vs. Weinberger

It was quite the heated debate between these two, and both made a number of valid points.  Keen’s main argument is that the internet has been overly credited as an oracle of wisdom when in reality, it’s enabling stupidity.  Weinberger disagrees, claiming that the internet is, in actuality, a brilliantly constructed, open-ended arena for academic discussion.  I genuinely cannot side with one or the other, but I do have my own opinion that lies somewhere in the grey area.

Firstly, Keen points out that a significant amount of content on the internet is insignificant; much of which consists of people leaving meaningless comments on videos, talking about themselves, etc.  He says people ‘live’ on the internet while reality passes them by.  I agree, as it is an incredible distraction; I think the average person has a stronger addiction to the internet than he/she may realize.  I have a disheartening image in my mind of a middle-aged guy living in his mom’s basement, surviving off of Hot Pockets during a particularly long World of Warcraft binge.  Obviously I’m dramatizing a bit, but I’ve even caught myself wasting too much time on the computer when I can be out enjoying life.

For much of the article, I am on Weinberger’s side, as he explains the more sophisticated areas of the internet.  When defending the abundance of information on the web, he illustrates how we have our own filters and devices that lead us towards the more useful information.  He makes an analogy about picking a random page from an encyclopedia where the information is almost definitely useful, which is not the case when picking a random website from the internet; however, creating ways to direct one another to the more important areas of the web evolves into the interdependent process of finding the best answers.

Later, however, Keen mentions the authenticity of already established media, in particular the New York Times Bestseller list.  He gets me back on his side for a moment; the quality of information in the books is superior to the top online blogs.  Granted they are in different formats, but when he explains how he wants his kids to be reading about things that truly matter, I can’t argue.  The distinction between the effectiveness of the two is too large for me to deny.  Lastly, though, Weinberger eloquently suggests that the information posted by amateurs is helpful to the experts who are trying to broaden the general population’s understanding of a specific subject.

They also discuss talent and how it is recognized; I agree with Weinberger that the technical ability of a talent is secondary to the performance as a whole.  Image, persona, and other surrounding circumstances each contribute more to the success of a person’s talent than the actual ability of the performer (I love Bob Dylan’s singing, but his voice is awful; the talent is much deeper.)  Recognition of talent can depend on marketing, production, etc. as Keen suggests, but recognition is not usually a factor when an artist analyzes his/her own success.

Other Articles

It was cool to see that people have had financial success from projects that were started as hobbies.  Though I don’t think my blog will be ringing in $700/month per ad anytime soon, the thought is nice.  I think what the 4 articles were hinting at was that if you actively keep up with an internet medium, then there’s a lot of potential for other real world benefits to arise.

Readings 2: Networks and New Media

12 07 2011

I really liked the video lecture; my knowledge on the history of the internet is pretty limited despite being around it from such a young age.  My biggest misconception was how gradually the internet and world wide web evolved.  In my head, I kind of assumed “Bill Gates invented the internet and the following week there was a PC in every home,” which is obviously not the case, but I guess it’s rooted in my inability to imagine a world without the internet in the average household.  Learning about ARPAnet and how it slowly spread was intriguing; the diagrams were also helpful in conceptualizing how it happened.  The potato root anecdote was a smart way of explaining the nonlinear dynamic of the internet.

Is Google Making Us Stupid? was an interesting read.  To answer the question that the title proposes, I would say “no.”  As it explained towards the end, whenever a new information-spreading technology arises, there is a fear that it will reduce human effort so much that mankind will become stupid.  I think part of this might be because people are genuinely upset that the generation following them has easier access to information… all the hard work they put into tediously finding information is now simple and precise. The article explains, “But the machine had a subtler effect on his work. One of Nietzsche’s friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing. His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic. “Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom,” the friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work, his “‘thoughts’ in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper.”  I couldn’t disagree more; just because a more convenient technology arises, doesn’t mean that previous ones die off.  And the quality of an instrument should not be to blame for an artist’s results; great music is made without state-of-the-art electronic synthesizers, Roger Bannister ran a 4-minute mile in 1954 without Nike cleats.  The proverb “A good craftsman never blames his tools.” definitely holds true here.

I think one of the problems though, is that we can find the answers we want to hear.  If you google “how can I lose weight?” then ‘diet and exercise’ is placed immediately next to ‘try this pill.’  Clearly one is more effective than the other, but the distinction between the accuracy of the two is never made.

Net neutrality was something I was unfamiliar with, but I can’t understand any argument for changing it.  I’m convinced money is the root of all evil; the internet is the greatest invention of our time and people who are already very rich want to become richer by limiting full internet access to only rich people.  It’s disheartening that the debate even exists.


Questions for discussion:

How did the lecture change your perception of how the internet came to be?

Is google making us stupid?

Do we depend too much on technology that we don’t truly understand?

To what extent should Net Neutrality be protected?  Are there any logical arguments for changing the way it currently works?

Protected: Assignment 2: Photo Reviews

10 07 2011

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Readings 1: Digital Photography and Social Networking

27 06 2011

This article, Social Networking Sites: Public, Private, or What? brought up a lot of valid points about the effects of internet privacy (or the lack thereof) but simultaneously reiterated some ideas that the majority of my generation would consider obvious.  Her deconstruction of mediated publics into 4 categories was one of the more insightful aspects of the reading.  Persistence, Searchability, Replicability, and Invisible Audiences are all-encompassing notions that should be understood with regard to the sharing of material on social networking sites.

Persistence, to me, is the permanence of posting on the internet; though the security of privacy has evolved at an incredible rate within social networking sites, there will still always be, somewhere, an exact record of everything one has ever shared.  That is not limited to social networking sites, either, as AIM conversations, AOL profiles, forum discussions, etc. are equally indelible.

Searchability, along the same lines, described the potentially unfair ability of a parent, teacher, employer or other authority figure to track down someone.  It’s definitely an issue in the instance of a parent trying to monitor a child’s internet activity, but I interpreted the author’s message as though the parents are being wrongfully overprotective.  I would say from personal experience that the child is usually at least one step ahead since my parents definitely tried to keep an eye on my internet activity, but I would always have alternate usernames, history-clearing software among other tricks to assure that my tracks were covered if I were to explore sites that they wanted to prohibit.  Really, what I think this illustrates is that parents should focus their concerns on instilling good discipline/morals in their children so that they wouldn’t think to break their rules rather than using intimidation to make the child fear that he will get caught.  I realize I may be dwelling a bit too deeply on this point, but it reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984 vs. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World; in the former, the governing power uses incredible amounts of monitoring and intimidation so that its people wouldn’t dare to think against it (but they find ways around the monitoring) whereas the latter keeps its people so psychologically satisfied that they would never ‘bother’ to go against the rules.  Realistically, somewhere between the two extremes is probably most effective.

Replicability demonstrated the lack of context on the internet.  Material can be copied to and from anywhere.  What is appropriate in one situation is not always acceptable in another (the humorous example she gives us is a person in a bathing suit oiling up in a government building.)  On social networking sites, this can be come a significant problem as potential employers or others may look you up and associate your ‘uglier’ moments with how you always present yourself, even if you didn’t post the incriminating evidence.

Invisible audiences are very broad in the mediated public of social networking sites.  e-stalking has become virtually normal and it seems that people accept that people are following them only because it protects their ability to follow others.  There used to be myspace trackers that would enable you to see who was viewing your page, but myspace put a very quick end to the scripts that allowed that to happen (from what I remember, myspace is java based and facebook is html based.  Because of that difference, facebook never had this issue, possibly contributing to its greater success.)  Most testimonials regarding these trackers explain that the people who follow you are not who you would expect.  I think part of people’s obsession with these SNSes is that they hope the people they follow are following them just as much, which is typically not the case.

All of these ideas factor into why we should censor our internet activity especially when sharing material that is linked to us.  I feel that since my generation has been accustomed to the internet from a young age, we have learned a lot of what this article explains from trial and error.  There is however a deeper understanding as to why we should present ourselves in a different way on the internet when we break down the constructs of mediated publics.

Related (NSFW):

Friend Game was a depressing read; it’s sad to see that a girl’s suicide was linked to a myspace bully.  It’s especially important to note that the girl, Megan Meier, had faked a suicide before the actual suicide; people who threaten to commit suicide are more likely to commit suicide despite a popular belief that people who are serious about killing themselves “don’t just talk about it, they just do it.”

I think the heart of this problem lies in anonymity.  Often, when people find insecurity in themselves, they lash out on others and the internet provides an anonymous, seemingly consequence-free platform for hateful speech.  There was a case in which a teen sent a public myspace message that was actually his suicide note asking someone to call the police to go to his house where he was found dead.  The story drew a lot of attention and people began insulting him on his myspace page mainly for grammatical and spelling errors in the suicide note.  The problem is that insecure people will look for any sort of opportunity to make themselves look better than another and when the person is so distant from everyday life, consequence disappears and cruelty takes over.  To me, the most interesting part of Friend Game was that the bully was a neighbor who continued to harass Meier even after her suicide hoax.  This scenario definitely demonstrates a bully with much sicker psychological problems than the average cyber-punk.

Here I am Taking My Own Picture was on a much lighter note and I could definitely relate to it.  I have had a myspace account since before I can remember and have never had the urge to take a photograph of myself for a default picture.  I have always thought that the point of taking a picture was to capture a moment, but it seems that others are more concerned about choreographing the perfect pose, with their best facial expression, under the most generous lighting situation.  This is understandable, as people have a natural inclination to appear their best to others, but I also believe that it gives people a false impression of how you normally appear.  Taking pictures of yourself is basically the adult equivalent of a kid making faces in the mirror.  Is it an unhealthy habit? Probably not, but it can come across as ridiculous if overdone.  I can’t help but think of a few specific people from my highschool class who literally post 100’s of pictures of themselves a month and there’s definitely a limit of acceptability when it reaches that point.  I also try to remember people who are dieting and constantly judge their appearance to track progress; in that instance, it’s a healthy habit.


Questions for discussion:

Have you ever found it necessary to change any default privacy settings from your SNS of choice? Why or why not?

Should persecution for cyber-bullying be approached differently than real-life bullying? Why or why not?

In your opinion, what defines a good default picture? At the other end of the spectrum, what defines a tasteless default picture?