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Assange’s Assemblage

April 13, 2011

WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organisation launched in 2007 that attempts to break down the barriers of governmental and corporate confidentiality.The organisation has set up an electronic drop box where anonymous informants can drop secret documents so that WikiLeaks can publish the contents to the world. Security and enhanced technology are a big priority for WikiLeaks so they can safely guarantee to potential sources of their anonymity. WikiLeaks does not, however, solicit sources of information. It’s underlying values suggest a longing for a world-wide free press and the organisation is an advocate for revealing state secrets. WikiLeaks very values suggest an open invitation to any potential “leaker”, “whistle blower” or informant inside any governmental or corporate agency to help WikiLeaks succeed in its mission and to thereby supply WikiLeaks with important, compromising and confidential information. It can be argued that this then renders WikiLeaks a powerful institution in itself, the custodian of a vast amount of sensitive information.

The Guardian reports that Julian Assange, the Australian hacker and face of WikiLeaks said “[w]hile the internet has in some ways an ability to let us know to an unprecedented level what government is doing, and to let us co-operate with each other to hold repressive governments and repressive corporations to account, it is also the greatest spying machine the world has ever seen.” It seems that not only WikiLeaks but the entire internet aims at destroying privacy.

Though there has been a vocal public debate on the internal structure of the WikiLeaks organisation on shows such as Insight and the documentary WikiRebels, the organisations key aims are idealistic and respectable.

The case of Bradley Manning is disconcerting. His examples show that whistle blowers, if indeed he was a whiste blower, are at great risk of presecution by increasingly tempestuous and ardent governments.

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Paying Attention to The Commons

April 9, 2011

The MasterNewMedia Blog helps to explain the Commons. The Commons is something that is shared. Something that does not belong to anyone in particular. Something that has its own community of participants or users. The Commons can even belong to the whole world. The Corner House thinks “The commons is neither private nor public: neither business firm nor state utility, neither jealously guarded private plot nor national or city park.”

There are licenses to protect these Commons, such as the General Public License and the Creative Commons License which generally stipulate that you can use a medium and change it but that if a change takes place it will become part of the Commons.

Wikipedia is the textbook standard example for the Commons. It is essentially an archive of information, like an encyclopedia, which allows users to add or edit the entries.

The Commons has stretched to the business world and intellectual capital. The notion of shared resources, ideas, and markets under the capitalist framework seems to have caused some concern amoungst economists and business analysts.

James Quilligan argues  that “[t]hese evolving dynamics — the decommodification of common goods through co-governance and the deterritorialization of value through co-production — are shattering the liberal assumptions which underlie state capitalism. The emergence of this new kind of management and valuation for the preservation of natural and social assets is posing a momentous crisis for the Market State, imperiling the functional legitimacy of state sovereignty, national currencies, domestic fiscal policy, international trade and finance, and the global monetary system.” Quilligan believes a shift will occur to accomodate for the Commons which will threaten capitalism as we know it.

Archive Fever

March 27, 2011

Archives are extremely fascinating manifestations of human organisation, memory and categorisation. So much of what we do on the internet everyday is a form of archiving. Updating your Twitter, Facebook, writing a blog post, creating a music playlist, when you’re travelling or discovering any city in the world… and the list goes on. Although there have been some complaints about the difficulty of accessing older information posted on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. These sites do not yet have a user-friendly archiving system as Matthew Ogle has identified. Most fundamentally, we archive things so that we remember them, as humans we have notoriously poor memories, with archiving we seek to have a fallback.

Derrida’s work on Archives and his coining of the term “Archive Fever” has been commented on and analysed in many blog posts and online publications. Jon Stokes has an interesting web 2.0 reading of Derrida by which he examines the relationship between Google and the web as a whole. If you were to say that the internet is a giant archive, which arguably it is, then Google is an access point, a sorter, a catalogue. This is an extraordinary power which Google, a privately owned enterprise, has obtained. As the world’s most recognised search engine there have been queries about its advertising, page ranking and its technological integrity in giving users the most accurate results. Farhad Manjoo’s writing on Google for Salon is insightful into the world of the search engine and the backlash from bloggers. Manjoo identifies that Google can add the world’s largest advertiser to its list of accomplishments.

It could be said that this fact compromises Google’s effectiveness as an archive ‘cataloger’ due to its vested interest in showing the paid advertiser’s material at the top. In fact Google is using computers to grab information and present it to the user in place of an editor for Google News. Instead of an editor looking through the daily news from a vast array of sources each day, Google has automated this process so that the news is simplified to whatever the system comes up with. This is an efficient system but it may not be using the archive in the most effective way.

The process of archiving was formally a dusty experience. Going through archived material was something the general public have not normally done. Historians had the task of making sure that each significant piece of history was stored, labelled and archived correctly. By in large this process has digitalised with many copies of archived material available for all to see online. The Omeka Project has aided this transition, providing software for easy publishing and archiving programs. The State Library of NSW has an amazing website allowing the public to view historic pictures on flickr and documents on the site which have been scanned. The Apartheid Archive Project also seeks to build an inspiring online archive of oral histories, photographs and memory of racism and human suffering.

Woodeneyes blog put forward an interesting idea that archiving is a system which humans have created as a way of living an existing. We are citizens due to our birth certificate and passport, we a numbers in medicare, university and school, and names, IP addresses and usernames which interact online. We could create a fictional person, give them those things, a record, and they would exist but our system of archiving.

Networks and Assemblage

March 23, 2011

The Actor-Network theory is a theory which tries to explain the material-semiotic network. Material meaning between things and semiotic meaning between concepts. Essentially this theory stipulates that a network is made up of actants which can be human or nonhuman. For instance a university is made up of lecturers, students, buildings, technology and concepts of deadlines, academic pursuit, learning and organisation. The theory also says that the actor-networks are transient, ever improving and constantly changing.

Assemblage is the collection of things. Assembling things together to form a network.

The example of the network of a family can be used to demonstrate assemblage. Families are made up of humans, keeping in mind that the theory of assemblage and ANT believe that a network is made up of human and nonhuman aspects.

  • The material role could be the people that make up the family, their blood that gets passed down generations.
  • The expressive role could be the personalities, interests, careers, religion, education and life choices which the people make.
  • The territorializing role could be love which keeps people together, financial obligations, joint assets, socio-economic status, employment which maintain the lifestyles which each person has and allows for the network to continue.
  • The deterritorializing role could be divorce, death, bankruptcy, disease, natural disaster, poverty, war, prison or murder.

These theories attempt to display the complexity of networks which are made up of actants which are both human and nonhuman, things and concepts.

While the Modern Family and the Bluth family from Arrested Development are both dysfunctional and hilarious, they are both examples of networks in the simplest of forms.

Publishing 2.0

March 20, 2011

Ingenuity

ARTS2090 has been examining how publishing is evolving. One way of demonstrating this change is the tablet (iPad and alike). Apple and News Corp have knocked their heads together to create another publishing feat, The Daily. The Daily is a newspaper only available on the iPad. This creates a paper with a unique experience. Mercury News reported this development as being a “golden opportunity” for newspaper publishers “because they can sell ads and subscriptions at higher prices than they have been able to get on websites”. As identified in my previous post, newspapers survive through advertising revenue. By offering a newspaper with articles, video and audio available only on the iPad publishers will be offering a unique service and be able to charge for it accordingly.

The Green Frontier

The Daily App is available to iPad users for 2 weeks without charge. Greg Mills at machtech.com sees The Daily as a great model but questions whether it will remain competitive when other similar news Apps are offered to iPad users for free. If there is enough compelling content, value for money, innovation and constant improvement then people might stick with it. The establishment of news specialising services is that there are so many, and many of them are free. Mills also identifies that an iPad newspaper also saves on environmental impact. Publishers don’t need to cut down trees for paper, use ink or use cars and trucks for deliveries. On the other side of the coin this also means that the paperboy, printer, courier and lumberjack are all out of work.

Tablet Reading

Zinio is a fascinating tool for reading and interacting with content on the tablet. Although Tech Broiler argues that this tool is being censored by Apple’s controversial Regional Content Review which means that Apple reserves the right to monitor what is being shown on the iPad. Users do not have the full scope of services offered because Apple has decided the material is too sexual or otherwise unnecessary.

Zinio Dynamic Design from zinio on Vimeo.

 

Newspapers, Publishing and the Online World

March 14, 2011

It was once conventional for the consumer to pay for journalism. Publishers charged each reader a fee in exchange for a comprehensive account of current affairs. This fee, while small, was considered a fundraiser for the newspapers. On top of this fee is advertising revenue. Revenue which keeps the price of the daily newspaper low is also responsible for the current free online content. Reuters reported that this year’s advertising revenue on the internet for newspapers surpassed print media revenue. That is to say that readers have moved to view the newspaper online, and advertisers have followed them.

Debate has occurred on the topic of online content and whether or not it should be free. The New York Times announced in early 2010 that it would begin to charge online readers for viewing articles. This ‘metered model’ was purportedly to start in early 2011. Currently, in March 2011, this system has not been enacted. This may be testament to the difficulty in creating the best possible model with minimal implications and disadvantages for the paper. Rivals on the international stage such as The Guardian have responded by attacking the plan, saying it would mean that the industry would start on a “sleepwalk to oblivion”.

The internet has shifted the way people view published material. The New York Times online site has have 17 million readers internationally. The site is user friendly and the content is known for its high quality. It remains to be seen if this vast readership will remain if publishers take the next big step in online media, asking readers for their credit card. Its ambitious chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger seems to think that his soon to be released model will have the ability to retain its large audience. An argument which The Guardian’s editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger believes is unfounded and damaging to the industry

An interesting note about The New York Times and publishing shifts: The paper has more Twitter followers than print subscribers.

A further note about The New York Times and access: Readers can access the newspaper (and many others) online, on Twitter, on Facebook, as an iPhone app and/or as an iPad app. This demonstrates the versatility and capability of Web 2.0 publishing.

UPDATE: The New York Times will begin their paywall on the 28th of March. It will operate under a ‘metered model’ which means people can view 20 articles online per month before they have to pay. The rate is $15 per month for online viewing or $20 per month with combined online and tablet access.

iPad 2

March 10, 2011

Following the theme of publishing and e-readers, I was browsing the Gizmodo Australia website and noticed that the iPad 2 was being released with video demonstrations. Not only is the iPad 2 revolutionising the way we access and utilise information, but the manual for use is also different to the traditional way of operating. Instead of printing and publishing a user manual, Apple has released a series of videos showing customers how to use the product.

The Gizmodo website has a plethora of information regarding the iPad 2.