Joho the BlogMarch 2007 - Page 3 of 8 - Joho the Blog

March 22, 2007

Candidate tag

Jon Udell suggests the government have an opt-in $3 Citizen Media Fund (to complement the already-existing Presidential Campaign Fund) to pay for the aggregation and tagging of raw video footage of the candidates so that citizens can “slice and dice what politicians and pro pundits say, by candidate and by issue, across venues, recombine that material to support a whole new level of scrutiny and analysis.” Every question and every answer ought to be tagged, as Jon suggests elsewhere.

I of course like the prospect of having a huge pile of well-tagged candidate videos — it’s so miscellaneous! — but I think there’s zero prospect of this coming through the government. Nor should it. We’ve got the pile, thanks to YouTube and the candidate’s own sites. If we get it tagged well enough, someone will build a site that lets us search through them and cluster them. And if someone builds a site, we’ll tag ’em well enough. It could be a citizen group, a media site, or YouTube or Technorati. One way or another, this is likely to happen no check-off boxes required. [Tags: ]

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March 21, 2007

Hillary responds…like a human

The totally brilliant Hillary 1984 ad is so effective because it highlights the gap between her calculated rhetoric about her campaign being “a conversation” and the tight top-down control the campaign exerts. Her campaign is no more controlled than every other campaign in the past 50 years — since TV became the single best way to reach voters — but that level of control is no longer acceptable, thanks to the Web. This ad marks the day that the old style of campaigning looks its age.

But her response today was good. She made a self-deprecating joke: “I’m just happy if it is taking attention from me singing,” she said at a press conference…thus, of course, diverting attention to her singing. Which is to her benefit. The fact that Hillary can’t carry a tune only makes her more fallible and thus more likable. The Internet will expose every foible. Candidates that can’t deal with that are doomed.

From now on, we will never elect a president who is not at least a little bit goofy.

[Disclosures: I will happily vote for Hillary if she’s the nominee. There’s lots I like about her. At this point, I’d more happily vote for Edwards or Obama. And I’m doing a little volunteer advising to the Edwards campaign on some policy stuff. End o’ disclosures.] [Tags: ]


March 20, 2007

[berkman] Mary Wong on copyright and human rights

Mary Wong of the Franklin Pierce Law Center is giving a Berkman talk titled “Copyright & Access to Knowledge: Rights/Rhetoric, Openness/Opacity, Future/Fears.” [As always, I’m typing too quickly, missing stuff, getting stuff wrong, paraphrasing wildly…If you want verisimilitude, the event itself is webcast and recorded in multiple ways.] She’s going to talk about copyright policy and the a2k (access to knowledge) movement and how some important terms that, in their use in rhetoric, have been misunderstood.

She points to the simultaneous increase in openness and opacity. The “existing regimes” have put up roadblocks. “What is the future if we have rights battling rhetoric, openness fighting opacity?”

Copyright began as a tool of censorship used by the Crown, became a type of trade regulation, and then was established as a private property right, Mary says. The tropes we use to talk about it derive from that history. These tropes have been deconstructed by people like Foucault and Barthes. Mary says that she’s not going to examine today deconstructionist issues such as whether the author is a myth.

She says she’s not going to suggest stopping treating copyright as a private property right because she’s trying to come up with workable solutions. Rather, what can we do about the expansion of copyright in order to increase access to knowledge? “Reconize the spectrum of alternative property rights?” E.g., the commons, the public domain. “Establish balance through ‘user rights'”? E.g., elevate and reconfigure Fair Use, and treat it as a right. “Create flexible mechanisms within property?” E.g., Creative Commons.

On alternative property rights: We can all agree that a we need a robust public domain for democracy and for cultural, social and economic development. [No one here exclaims in shocked outrage :)] But how do you turn that into a concrete policy proposal? We don’t even have good definitions of public domain and the commons in a way that would let them serve as alternatives to copyright. Usually the public domain is defined more in terms of what it is not than what it is. Are the commons something unowned or owned by a group of people? Is it owned by society in generally? All of these uses are used in the law, and sometimes they’re used interchangeably with “the public domain.” We don’t have a consensus on a definition for either of these terms, but both have gained currency in the copyright debate, she says. “While they’re useful hooks and very important direction indicators, they’re not necessarily at this stage…the solution.” “How can the current discourse be refocused?” (Mary is encouraged by the fact that NGOs and civil society groups are participating in this debate, worldwide, rather than confining it merely to lawyers.)

Our traditional conception of the author is Romantic and has been affecting copyright law for a couple of hundred years. But this is “inadequate to deal with collaborative, communal and social forms of creativity.” The term “author” shows up all over the Berne convention. But it’s a one-size-fits-all notion that doesn’t work in many of the newer forms of creativity that involve “sharing, collaboration and openness.” “Can we at least try to reconfigure or manipulate the notion of the author to better serve the understanding of what it means to create something?”

She suggests considering this in terms of human rights rather than property rights. She points to Art. 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. UDHR says that if you create something, you have rights over it. But in a case in the UK, the court decided that that property right needs to be balanced with the rights of users and readers. Canada has also talked about “users’ rights.”

She is not saying that copyrightaccess [whoops] is a human right. She is suggesting (she says) adopting the human rights framework to bring in more broad and flexible considerations, to give a foundation to users’ claims. Even within the US’s utilitarian claims (i.e. copyright enables the advancement of the arts and sciences) there is room for natural law claims. And she points to WIPO’s acknowledgement of the special needs of developing countries.

Q: (Charlie Nesson ): I’m completely taken by your initial approach. Asking what we can do rather than just talk about it, and the idea of user rights resonate. The user I’m most interested in at the moment is the university. What would be thread that we can pull to effect change? Right now, the burden of proof of Fair Use is on the user, which is tremendously constraining. How about if we (universities) got behind a law putting the burden of proof on the copyright holder? It doesn’t require changing the basis of copyright law. It could be a focal point…
A: I’m with you on that totally. To do this, we need to change the mindset. Maybe have the university focus on the human rights frameworks.

Q: If we focus on the users, how do we do it? Do we list things you can’t do, or the things you can?
A: We talk about Fair Use as an exception to copyright. What do we do with the existing language?

Q: (J Palfrey ) I love the idea of the university as the user and focal point. But suppose we think of the user as a re-user. Could rethinking who the author is help? Creating isn’t just standing on the shoulders of giants but standing on the shoulders of everyone. [Nice.]
A: The reconfiguring of authorship fits in this paradigm, and fortifies it.

Q: (me) How would this play out when it comes to making the world’s books available on line?
A: Prof. Nesson’s idea of changing the burden of proof would work well here. It would be an opt-out scheme, rather than opt-in, for the publishers. We’ll see a battle between the copyright right holder and another right holder.

Q: (Doc Searls) Terms like “user” implies subordinate status. We’re still using real estate metaphors, e.g., sites. This stipulates the Web as a series of places, and places are owned. So we have to change our metaphors.
A: Copyright came from literal property. We do need to move past that.

Q: (ethanz): I like reframing it, but I worry about doing it on human rights, which is one of the shakiest of foundations. The Declaration of Human Rights is a huge intellectual battlegrounds, with a number of Islamic nations saying it’s incompatible with their views, conservatives in the US objecting, etc. You’re building it on one of the most disputed and least binding of “law.”
A: I’m trying to distance my suggestion from wading wholeheartedly wading into that particular fray. I’m not saying it should be a full-fledged human right. But that framework provides a good “hook,” Article 27 gives us ammunition because it recognizes both the rights holder and the user. .And then maybe tap into WIPO’s new interest in copyright for developing companies.

Q: (ethanz): You’re being aspirational, and the UDHR is the paradigm of aspirational thinking. A different approach is to ask what we’re actually doing as users, and then figure out the legislation we need. E.g., in universities we photocopy chunks of text (“No we don’t!” yell several of the law professors, who are also chuckling) and hand them out to students.
A: Yes, it’s aspirational. I’m hoping that if you change mindsets, you can change policy. Lawyers like starting points that are definable, neat and can be generalized. But if you have fair use for universities, you end up with various laws for various domains.

Q: how do you get people to see rights as community based?
A: It’s a challenge.

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Ranganathan’s fantasy

From Ranganathan, the founder of library science:

“Since multiplicity of helpful order among specific subjects is a fact independent of library classification – a fact to be reckoned with in arrangement – how are we to provide for it? It is a case of arranging concrete materials – books and other kindred materials – in such a way that one kind of arrangement presents itself to one person and another kind to another person. To secure this by pressing a button is obviously possible only in the world of fancy; it is not possible in the world of reality.”

Ranganathan, Philosophy of Library Classification (1951)

Via Tim Spalding via Jacob Glenn [Tags: ]


Britt Blaser: The People Law trumps the Power Law

Usually the first economic argument presented for the importance of the Long Tail is that the area underneath the tail is far greater than the area underneath the Short Head. And since that area represents people with whom the point on the curve communicates, the Long Tail represents a far greater economic opportunity. But, that argument thinks of the points as mini-broadcasters and markets as homogeneous aggregations of consumers. Such a simplistic vew misses the knotty nature of the Long Tail. The points are engaged with one another and with their readers (as Chris Anderson makes clear in his nuanced book, The Long Tail). Yes, Long Tails are conversations, too.

Britt Blaser puts this differently and quite nicely in his most recent post: The People Law trumps the Power Law. Here’s how it begins:

There are five principles I’m playing with lately:

1. The size of your audience confers limited power 2. A network’s value is the square of its nodes (Metcalfe)

3. Network nodes are significant only when they’re verbose 4. Most conversation is among nearby nodes

5. Only interactions count, and the richest count most

He goes on from there…and ends it with a nice motto:

Where there’s folk, there’s fire.

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March 19, 2007

Physical DRM

Dear Logitech:

I’m looking forward to using your “cordless presenter,” especially because of its willingness to vibrate in my hand five or ten minutes before my allotted time. I’ve liked your other pointing devices as well, and over the years have bought dozens of ’em. It’s true.

But it’s going to take me a while to buy another because you seem so determined to keep me from using them.

I just cut my thumb opening the clear plastic Fortress of Solitude in which you’ve packed the cordless presenter. The presenter is a wee bit of electronics, not much bigger than, say, my middle finger, but you’ve got it wrapped in a plastic package that neither scissors nor Xacto can penetrate. You forced me into stabbing your product with a carving knife. Is that really the sort of “initial user experience” you were hoping for? And once you have managed to slice it open, the plastic separates into twin sharpened blades designed to un-man intruders.

Here are things that are easier to open than your packaging:

An unripe, fused pistachio shell

A coconut on a nude beach

A new CD

A space-time portal

A delicious vegan fast-food place

Please remove the pitbulls and razor wire from around your products. And if you don’t believe me, do us all a favor: Have your CEO try to open one of your packages. (No executive assistants allowed!)

Thank you.

A Bandaged Customer [Tags: ]


March 18, 2007

Web of Ideas: Does participatory culture lead to participatory democracy?

On March 21, at 6:30, I’m holding a Berkman “Web of Ideas” discussion of whether and how participatory culture encourages participatory democracy. The discussion is open to all. (The Berkman Center is at 23 Everett in Cambridge: Map.)

It’s not obvious that just because we’re participating in our culture more, our democracy will also change. Certainly, politics and culture are not distinct realms, so our expectations in one should affect the other. But not necessarily. Take some prototypical objects of cultural participation. What would you choose? Wikipedia? Blogosphere? File sharing? Second Life? AssignmentZero ? What is our participation in those and what does that participation teach us? How much of that is political? And do the lessons transfer? For example, Wikipedia teaches us — well, those of us who think Wikipedia is awesome — that credentialed authorities are not the only ones who can be trusted. But does that apply beyond building encyclopedias? Does it affect our view of, say, policy experts in the government? What are we learning and does it apply?

I don’t have answers to these questions. I’m not coming in with an hypothesis. I’m hoping you’ll come and remind us of what Henry Jenkins, Lawrence Lessig, and Yochai Benkler have to say on the topic. And who else?

So, let’s talk. [Tags: ]


Hometown Baghdad

Co-produced by Chat the Planet (NY) and Iraqi filmmakers in Baghdad, the movie series Hometown Baghdad shows Iraqis in Baghdad talking to a camera in their homes, schools and places of business. Simple films of everyday life. A scientific sampling? Nah. But in its ordinariness it’s some of what we’re not otherwise seeing.

The first three episodes are here. [Tags: ]

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Small Pieces Loosely Googled

My book Small Pieces Loosely Joined is now a part of Google Books. Because the publisher owns the copyright, you can only see a few pages of it, but I think it’s very cool — you can search for a term and read the pages it’s on, for example — and I wish more of it were on line. In fact, given that it has virtually stopped selling, I wish all of it were on line. That doesn’t quite align with the publisher’s interests, but someone’s going to figure out a way to make this work. What a boon!

For example, for $100 a year, I’d subscribe to Google Books as a research tool, with some reasonable restrictions (no massive print outs? relatively few complete book read-throughs?) and let Google divvy up the royalties. Or you can come up with a better idea. Please! [Tags: ]


Fired blogger fires back

Drew Townson replies point-by-point to Mercenary‘s explanation of why he was fired.

Here’s Drew’s original post, my original blog post (with a message from Fletcher at Mercenary in the comments), and my post about another reply from Mercenary. [Tags: ]

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