Posts tagged information technology

Posted 3 years ago

What Big Media Can Learn From the New York Public Library

While I don’t much care for the headline, or for the way that Madrigal constantly juxtaposes the library with media companies (it’s not a good comparison), this article is a fantastic exploration of what a non-profit organization is capable of.

Posted 3 years ago

Decentralizing the Internet So Big Brother Can’t Find You

On Tuesday afternoon, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clintonspoke in Washington about the Internet and human liberty, a Columbia law professor in Manhattan, Eben Moglen, was putting together a shopping list to rebuild the Internet — this time, without governments and big companies able to watch every twitch of our fingers.

The list begins with “cheap, small, low-power plug servers,” Mr. Moglen said. “A small device the size of a cellphone charger, running on a low-power chip. You plug it into the wall and forget about it.”

Almost anyone could have one of these tiny servers, which are now produced for limited purposes but could be adapted to a full range of Internet applications, he said.

“They will get very cheap, very quick,” Mr. Moglen said. “They’re $99; they will go to $69. Once everyone is getting them, they will cost $29.”

The missing ingredients are software packages, which are available at no cost but have to be made easy to use. “You would have a whole system with privacy and security built in for the civil world we are living in,” he said. “It stores everything you care about.”

Put free software into the little plug server in the wall, and you would have a Freedom Box that would decentralize information and power, Mr. Moglen said. This month, he created the Freedom Box Foundation to organize the software.

“We have to aim our engineering more directly at politics now,” he said. “What has happened in Egypt is enormously inspiring, but the Egyptian state was late to the attempt to control the Net and not ready to be as remorseless as it could have been.”

Posted 3 years ago

The Agnostic Cartographer


One fateful day in early August, Google Maps turned Arunachal Pradesh Chinese. It happened without warning. One minute, the mountainous border state adjacent to Tibet was labeled with its usual complement of Indian place-names; the next it was sprinkled with Mandarin characters, like a virtual annex of the People’s Republic. The error could hardly have been more awkward. Governed by India but claimed by China, Arunachal Pradesh has been a source of rankling dispute between the two nations for decades. Google’s sudden relabeling of the province gave the appearance of a special tip of the hat toward Beijing. Its timing, moreover, was freakishly bad: the press noticed that Google’s servers had started splaying Mandarin place-names all over the state only a few hours before Indian and Chinese negotiating teams sat down for talks in New Delhi to work toward resolving the delicate border issue.

Within China, Geens pointed out, the law commands that all maps represent “South Tibet” (aka Arunachal Pradesh) as fully Chinese. And Google Maps maintains servers in China that fall under Chinese law. In fact, Google runs an entirely separate maps site,, for Chinese users, which operates within the great Chinese firewall. This isn’t just a one-off concession to the party leaders in Beijing: Google maintains thirty-two different region-specific versions of its Maps tool for different countries around the world that each abide by the respective local laws. Thus on India’s version of Google Maps, for example, all of Kashmir appears as an integral and undisputed part of the country—because Indian law sees it that way. Similarly, “Arunachal Pradesh” is nowhere to be found on What you find instead are all the same Chinese place-names that caused the uproar of Google Maps in August.

I’m really interested in modern cartography and the ways that technology has changed the ways in which people can represent the places in which they live through maps. This is a really cool article. 

(Source: abbyjean)

Posted 3 years ago

mills: Internet Stupidity


Technologies which are vectors for the transmission of information -narratives or datasets or social communication- inform human thought as surely as does language itself. The structures of one’s grammar and the content of one’s vocabulary -both dictional and conceptual- delimit one’s cognition,…

Please read this.

Posted 4 years ago

The Dark Side of the Free and Open–Interview with Geert Lovink


Media Critic and Social Philosopher interviewed By Mateja Rot (Artwords Magazine, Slovenia)

Here is a short excerpt where he discusses real time internet messaging and applications (Twitter etc.):

Slow communication is a response to the development on the level of real-time internet exchange. It is a paradigm shift that we see happening with Twitter and the availability of internet on mobile phones that people carry with them. If it’s done in a playful way there is nothing wrong with real-time but we all know it is quite addictive. These days ‘labour’ and ‘play’ are difficult to distinguish and this has been theorized at the New York 2009 iDC conference (organized by Trebor Scholz). We emphasize the playful level of these communications while attacking their constraints in terms of neoliberal labour conditions. That is quite difficult. I think it would be interesting to create more widgets between them, maybe also to make clear that what starts off as something playful that people like will soon dominate their daily lives and will not only infiltrate their private lives – that’s the privacy aspect – but will also dominate the pace of their work life.

Because it’s harder and harder to separate private life – the offline life and work online. That separation absolutely doesn’t exist anymore. People are going to find out after a while that this necessity to always be online, to tell where you are, what you do, what you think, how you feel is also an incredible constraint, not only a possibility. It becomes an obligation. People will perhaps regain freedom. I’m not a Luddite, I’m not preaching the merits of the beautiful offline life. But what I do advocate is the mastery. Mastery not so much on the individual level as a skill or as a virtue but mastery as a collective challenge. It is important to say that it’s not my individual problem that I’m twittering too much. I don’t want to treat this issue on the level of addiction. It is dangerous to go in that direction because then again you individualize the implications of the real-time internet economy. There is a collective aspect to how we deal with these technologies. We will collectively try to understand the good part of it but also crush down and say no to the bad side of it.

This is a fascinating article for anyone interested in the impact of “Free Software”, the “The Open Source Movement”, the new media landscape and the impact of that Neo-Liberalism and commodity capitalism has on Artists the Internet and Culture.

Posted 4 years ago

Court Rules Against Net Neutrality


WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that theFederal Communications Commission lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks.
Tuesday’s ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a big victory for the Comcast Corporation, the nation’s largest cable company. It had challenged the FCC’s authority to impose so called “net neutrality” obligations.
It marks a serious setback for the F.C.C., which needs authority to regulate the Internet in order to push ahead with key parts of its national broadband plan.

First Citizens United, now this. Bold victories are being won for corporations in today’s US.

Posted 4 years ago

The Madness of Crowds and an Internet Delusion

In the 1990s, Jaron Lanier was one of the digital pioneers hailing the wonderful possibilities that would be realized once the Internet allowed musicians, artists, scientists and engineers around the world to instantly share their work. Now, like a lot of us, he is having second thoughts.

Mr. Lanier, a musician and avant-garde computer scientist — he popularized the term “virtual reality” — wonders if the Web’s structure and ideology are fostering nasty group dynamics and mediocre collaborations. His new book, “You Are Not a Gadget,” is a manifesto against “hive thinking” and “digital Maoism,” by which he means the glorification of open-source software, free information and collective work at the expense of individual creativity.

He blames the Web’s tradition of “drive-by anonymity” for fostering vicious pack behavior on blogs, forums and social networks. He acknowledges the examples of generous collaboration, like Wikipedia, but argues that the mantras of “open culture” and “information wants to be free” have produced a destructive new social contract.

“The basic idea of this contract,” he writes, “is that authors, journalists, musicians and artists are encouraged to treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind. Reciprocity takes the form of self-promotion. Culture is to become precisely nothing but advertising.”

I think there’s something to Lanier’s critique, but only within the current context of capitalism. Culture has become “precisely nothing but advertising” because of commercialization and commodification. The structure of the web that leads to this is the result of broader institutional arrangements- as Marx observed, the distribution is implied by the production. Corporations have leveraged their power to shape the web (at least partially) to their own ends. Integrate the web into a non-capitalist framework and the problems become far less so.

But when Napster and other music-sharing Web sites started becoming popular, Dr. Liebowitz correctly predicted that the music industry would be seriously hurt because it was so cheap and easy to make perfect copies and distribute them. Today he sees similar harm to other industries like publishing and television (and he is serving as a paid adviser to Viacom in its lawsuit seeking damages from Google for allowing Viacom’s videos to be posted on YouTube).

The article continues with a discussion of how piracy has hurt the music industry. Instead of identifying artists as the ones hurt, Tierney talks about the industry as an entity that needs protection. He does this because it’s much more difficult to make the case that piracy has hurt artists- they see very little from record sales and piracy in many cases introduces new people to artists, who sometimes see an increase in concert attendance (which support bands far more than record sales).

“An intelligent person feels guilty for downloading music without paying the musician, but they use this free-open-culture ideology to cover it,” Mr. Lanier told me. In the book he disputes the assertion that there’s no harm in copying a digital music file because you haven’t damaged the original file.

“The same thing could be said if you hacked into a bank and just added money to your online account,” he writes. “The problem in each case is not that you stole from a specific person but that you undermined the artificial scarcities that allow the economy to function.”

Here, Lanier shows us directly the irrationality of the system- he even says that it’s based on manufactured scarcity. If the scarcity upon which a system depends can be undermined so easily, why should anyone be rushing to protect it? It seems like a lost cause from the outset.

Mr. Lanier was once an advocate himself for piracy, arguing that his fellow musicians would make up for the lost revenue in other ways. Sure enough, some musicians have done well selling T-shirts and concert tickets, but it is striking how many of the top-grossing acts began in the predigital era, and how much of today’s music is a mash-up of the old.

“It’s as if culture froze just before it became digitally open, and all we can do now is mine the past like salvagers picking over a garbage dump,” Mr. Lanier writes. Or, to use another of his grim metaphors: “Creative people — the new peasants — come to resemble animals converging on shrinking oases of old media in a depleted desert.”

The fact that huge-selling artists no longer exist is much more a function of the fragmentation of musical tastes and genres (thanks to the web) than an indication that artists are doing badly. Lanier’s metaphor hardly holds up, either- exactly what makes him think that culture is shrinking? Why is the “old media” better than the new, and in what meaningful capacity did culture “freeze”? Were monopolistic intellectual property agreements the only thing driving the creation of culture before the web?

The result is a problem a bit like trying to stop a mob of looters. When the majority of people feel entitled to someone’s property, who’s going to stand in their way?

This is a broken metaphor, because in the case of digital content one person’s ability to use something doesn’t interfere with another’s ability to use it. The property is not the actual data, but the monopolistic exclusive right to that data. Once again, it’s only a problem when viewed in the context of our irrational system.

Posted 4 years ago

Commodification in the Information Age

The images and theme come from the popular YouTube video Did You Know? 3.0

The focus of videos like these on the quantitative aspects of information (measured in bytes) rather than the qualitative demonstrates the treatment of information as a commodity. This focus presents a view of information with value intrinsic to itself rather than use value in relation to other commodities. In addition to reinforcing the pseudo-futurism of high-tech globalization, it presents the idea that regardless of how the information is applied or what the information itself is about, the information itself has value beyond its potential use or exchange value. The very act of producing information, whether that information concerns Harry Potter fan fiction or cluster bombs, is seen as beneficial to society.

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