The Generosity of New Media

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“THE SCIENTIFIC PAPER HAS LONG BEEN THE UNIT OF SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE. NOW, WITH PRINT MEDIA LAPSING INTO OBSOLESCENCE, THE INTERNET IS POISED TO TRANSFORM SCIENCE PUBLISHING AND SCIENCE ITSELF.” (Seed Magazine)

Most media students would hardly consider science, let alone the way new media impacts progress in science. This week’s topic, the generosity of new media, brought to light the way in which new media has contributed to scientific developments.

To be honest, the idea that new media helps in scientific discovery makes complete sense, in the same way we have realised that we depend on new media for a variety of things. It’s not an entirely new idea. However, we never really think specifically of how it would be without new media. Elizabeth Pisani’s article in the Guardian comments on the differences.

“In the early 1980s, geneticists worked away in their different labs, racing to sequence genes and patent them before the neighbouring lab could. The result: duplication, very slow progress and a huge bill. ”

“Nowadays, gene sequences get posted on the web daily and scientists build on one another’s work. The pace of discovery has increased exponentially and, as a result, so have diagnostics and cures.” (Pisani 2011)

The title of her article, “Medical science will benefit from the research of crowds”, hints at micropolitical theory – the power of the people. Most importantly, we see how new media enables scientific knowledge to be quickly discussed and shared. Being a worldwide platform, we also experience efficiency that a printed journal or published document doesn’t provide. But scientists are hesitant to accept these new methods, and scared of the dangers that lurk beneath. Pisani explains that while there is efficiency and the benefit of collaboration, there are fears of people stealing research and claiming it as their own.

Seed Magazine states:

“EMERGING GLOBAL CHALLENGES DEMAND RAPID RESPONSESFROM THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY. THIS CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED THROUGH A REFORMATION OF THE CULTURE AND PRACTICE OF SCIENCE—AND ITS RELATION TO THE WIDER WORLD.” (Seed Magazine)

The fear that Pisani mentions holds scientists back, but in order to progress and have the same impact in the world, it has to change. Andrew Murphie drew upon Keller Easterling’s approach to infrastructure has what controls and defines the past, present and future.  This is the idea that our infrastructure, particularly in terms of new media, is determining our future.

I feel the idea that scientists are forced to interact with new media or their research is irrelevant and ineffective is similar to the social status of someone without Facebook. So many people are forced to join Facebook and the social network to stay connected with social activities; if there’s an event on they won’t know about it unless they are invited on Facebook. Andrew Murphie used the example that facebook wants to determine the future of social networks, and this is similar in the science world.

New media once again sticks its nose into everything.

Pisani, Elizabeth (2011) ‘Medical science will benefit from the research of crowds’, The Guardian, January 11, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/11/medical-research-data-sharing>

http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/on_science_publishing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keller_Easterling

Reorganising the social

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Over the last few years, people have been becoming increasingly aware of the power and potential that media technologies and networks to be a catalyst in so many aspects of our society. This week’s focus zoomed in on micropolitics and the way technologies contribute to influencing social organisation, particularly politically.

What we see happening is less “Politics – with a capital P” (Himada & Manning, 2009:5 in Disorientation and micropolitics: a response) and more micropolitics. Micropolitics is the “use of formal and informal power by individuals and groups to achieve their goals within organizations, as opposed to macropolitics” (Wikipedia). The key difference, I believe is that “micropolitics operates transversally, activating the “affective potential of the interval between feeling and doing” (Himada & Manning, 2009: 5).” (Disorientation and micropolitics: a response)

What this means is that members of the public hold the power to communicate and instigate because they are members of the public. Their position as “little people” as opposed to the “big people” in the government means that they are on the same level. It’s our human nature to want to feel powerful, but also that we are being listened to. Why else do politicians now upload youtube clips and twitter on but to reach out to the common man?

I believe the fact that social organisation can be done locally, gives people the feeling that they are making change.P2P Foundation is a good example of this, and is embodied in Margaret Mead’s quote: “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. – Margaret Mead”. It empowers people. As we have seen previously, empowering people is both good and bad. Riots and revolutions like the recent Middle East events are an example of social organisation that relied on technological networks.

Coalition of the Willing is a volunteer network that recognises this power and on their homepage, they state: “We are interested in social technologies and innovations that accelerate processes of change, transition, and resilience.” The idea of “acceleration” is an interesting concept. In looking at new media, one of the key features is the temporal; the fact that communication happens a lot quicker since mobile media and internet. P2P Foundation’s homepage quotes Buckminster Fuller in “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” (Fuller), which builds on this idea. Is it possible that soon old methods of politics and social organisation will be so ineffective in comparison to new methods that they’ll be obsolete?

Just as we have seen in previous weeks such as the paradox of virtual realities and the potential harm it presents, social organisation through new media empowers the little people, but it can easily be abused.

References:

P2P Foundation

Disorientation and micropolitics: a response

Coalition of the Willing

Big Politics – The Fate of the State

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In looking at State 2.0 and challenges to government, Paul Mason’s ‘Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere‘ struck me as an interesting commentary on the tension between new and social media and government discourse.

We have heard and seen many instances where social media such as Facebook and Twitter have played a crucial role in organising riots and protests. Charles Hirschkind examines the situation in Egypt and the role of social media: “The seeds of this spectacular mobilization had been sown as far back as the early 2000s and had been carefully cultivated by activists from across the political spectrum, many of these working online via Facebook, twitter, and within the Egyptian blogosphere. Working within these media, activists began to forge a new political language, one that cut across the institutional barriers that had until then polarized Egypt’s political terrain, between more Islamicly-oriented currents (most prominent among them, the Muslim Brotherhood) and secular-liberal ones.” (Hirchkind 2011)

Hirschkind identifies new methods through media as ‘forg[ing] a new political language’ separate to the already existing discourse. Mason examines the social and the political, and and claims that these new methods that are used mainly by young people create a danger of a growing divide between the young tech-savvy, new media-using generation and “the values and language of the state” (Mason 2011).

Basically, young people are engaging in politics through network technologies, but not in the traditional mainstream politics. Mason suggests that young people can’t tune in to mainstream politics, and likewise officials and older generations are not yet in the loop with network technologies. The popular suggestion that young people are apathetic to politics is in a way disproved, but also strengthened for they are involving themselves, but not in the usual way.

Perhaps it’s the notion of power that overcomes any apathy that is attributed to younger generations. “Young people believe the issues are no longer class and economics but simply power: they are clever to the point of expertise in knowing how to mess up hierarchies and see the various “revolutions” in their own lives as part of an “exodus” from oppression, not – as previous generations did – as a “diversion into the personal”” (Mason 2011)

But I think Mason makes a really interesting point; how do we get these two generations to interact with each other properly? Mason questions whether social network methods could be employed by ‘opponents’ or the other side of the argument. “Also we have yet to see what happens to all this social networking if a state ever seriously pulls the plug on the technology: switches the mobile network off, censors the internet, cyber-attacks the protesters.” (Mason 2011)

What would happen if the state took away our freedom and power to organise ourselves and interact with each other? The power would be out of our hands and back into the institutions people resist, the apathy would be back and a feeling of helplessness would replace the empowerment we experience  now.

References:

Mason, Paul (2011) ‘Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere’, Idle Scrawls BBC, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/paulmason/2011/02/twenty_reasons_why_its_kicking.html>

Hirschkind, Charles (2011) ‘From the Blogosphere to the Street: The Role of Social Media in the Egyptian Uprising’,  Jadaliyya<http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/599/from-the-blogosphere-to-the-street_the-role-of-social-media-in-the-egyptian-uprising>

Too much information!

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Motion to change the meaning of “media” to paradox creator. Because not for the first time in this media course have we been presented with the idea that media creates, negotiates, or manipulates conflicting possibilities. This week consisted of a look at the relationship between data and media, media enables data to be transmitted more easily but also opens up the doors to information overload.

So much information, how are we supposed to know what to take in? Howard Rheingold, in his mini-course on infotention, talks about it as a matter of attention; where do we focus our attention on. He has coined the term ‘infotention’ to describe “the psycho-social-techno skill/tools we all need to find our way online today, a mind-machine combination of brain-powered attention skills with computer-powered information filters.” (Rheingold 2011) We need to filter information with our own brain, but we are also fortunate to have computer-powered filters who do it for us.

Rheingold speaks of digital media as “tools” meant to “magnify our capabilities” in extracting information. Paul Edwards in ‘A Vast Machine’, also iterates a similar point. “You build new tools, gain new perspectives, and discover what you still don’t know,” (Edwards 2010) Even a Google search, filters out all the websites that are irrelevant to what we are looking for, and there are many of them!

Edwards uses the term ‘data friction’ for a vital part of filtering information and data. Journalists have the task of sorting through the material they gather from research in books, internet, interviews, events etc. They have to do this quickly and accurately, but this also gives them the power of presenting to readers the reality that they want to present. Edward uses the case study of climate change to illustrate the idea that the story changes when our perspective of it changes.

Therefore it’s important that we consider how our brain is filtering the information we see and what tools we’re using to assist us. But it’s particularly important to realise that the information we receive has also been filtered by someone else before us, and we’re getting someone else’s version of truth. Conspiracy alert! Okay, it’s probably not always the case, but it’s definitely something to consider.

Virtual Reality

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Chris Grayson in Augmented Reality Overview discusses how augmented reality is interwoven with technology, allowing for the integration of the virtual and the real. He argues the potential technology has to improve our work environments. The key aspect of augmented reality is that it is a more a mediation of reality as opposed to virtual reality which replaces the real world. For example, a conference on skype can be taken to be augmented reality as it is in real time, but people aren’t physically in the same place for the meeting.

In understanding the readings for the week, many issues arise some with positive impact and others with danger signs. Just as much as augmented reality and mediation has the potential to benefit us, it can also be dangerous. In Slavoj Zizek’s Perverts Guide to Cinema, he makes this statement:

“Our fundamental delusion today is not to believe in what is only a fiction, to take fictions too seriously. It’s, on the contrary, not to take fictions seriously enough. You think its just a game? Its reality. It’s more real than it appears to you. For example, people who play video games, they adopt a persona of a sadist, rapist, whatever. The idea is, in reality I’m a weak person, so in order to supplement my real life weakness, I adopt the false image of a strong, sexually promiscuous person, and  so on and so on. So this would be the naive reading… But what if we read it in the opposite way? That this strong, brutal rapist, whatever, identity is my true self. In the sense that this is the psychic truth of myself and that in real life, because of social constrains and so on, I’m not able to enact it. So that, precisely because I think it’s only a game, it’s only a persona, a self-image I adopt in virtual space, I can be there much more truthful. I can enact an identity which is much closer to my true self. “

Zizek raises a very interesting point; the mediation of reality doesn’t change the person, but it often puts them in a position where they do things wouldn’t ordinarily do. And this can be seen a wide range of augmented realities; from the teenager talking on MSN to their crush who they wouldn’t dare approach at school, to Zizek’s example of a brutal rapist using technology to behave in a socially unacceptable manner. Murphie says this idea is “in any given moment of individuation there is an excess over the actual expressions of this individuation. This excess – the real network from which real potentials arise – is the virtual”. Individuation and the idea of true-self comes out of these augmented and virtual realities but to a certain extent confuses things.

The potential that Chris Grayson describes in augmented reality is exciting, and will no doubt be further developed as technology advances. However, the idea of individuation and the dangers that lie behind giving people too much freedom and taking away social values in mediated realities is questionable.

This has some relation to the memory topic we looked at last week, and is potentially something to pursue for the research assignment – the role mediated realities play in the externalisation of memory.

References:

Grayson, Chris (2009) ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, GigantiCo

Murphie, Andrew (2004) ‘The World’s Clock: The Network Society and Experimental ecologies’, Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 11, Spring

 

Global Mnemotechnics

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Mnemotechnics describes the externalisation of our memory. Upon first hearing this, the notion can sound daunting and almost like some Frankenstein experiment where our they extract our brains and memory. But really, we’ve been externalising our memory for years through even the most simple of things like writing. Bernard Stiegler labels these forms as mnemotechnologies:

“Ideogrammatic writing springing up after the neolithic period leads to the alphabet – which yet today organizes the agenda of the manager, but this calendary object is henceforth an apparatus : the personal data planner; and it is no longer a mnemotechnic, but a mnemotechnology”. (Stiegler n.d.)

We write notes to ourselves and use diaries to plan our weeks because our own minds cannot keep track of it all. Stiegler’s claim that to write these memories down makes it knowledge. This gives it great value for if a piece of paper with important notes is lost, that knowledge is also lost.

Stiegler describes our growing reliance on technologies: “Now, these cognitive technologies, to which we confide a greater and greater part of our memory, cause us to lose an ever-greater part of our knowledge. To lose a cell phone is to lose the trace of the telephone numbers of our correspondents and to realise that they are no longer in the psychical memory but in the apparatuss’s.” (Stiegler n.d.)

The more we understand this, the more we can recognise how reliant we are on external objects to hold our memories and knowledge. Andy Clark and David Chalmers consider this in their book The Extended Mind and look at our cognitive processes and external objects as a system. This reminds of me of the European theory of media ecology and the idea of complex systems, interdependent upon each other.

Do we become more dependent on mnemotechnologies and external objects because our own memory can’t contain it all and we need to be, or because it’s easier for us? In the movie Memento, Guy Pearce’s character suffers from short term memory loss and can’t create any new memories. Instead he takes polaroid photos of people he meets and writes notes about them, and tattoos important information on his body. Here is forced to rely on external objects to help him remember, but at times his short term memory loss is dangerous.

Perhaps we need to consider whether our dependence on mnemotechnologies means our memory is not getting the credit it deserves and we could find ourselves in situations where we need to rely on our own memory but can’t.

Final Project: This has got me thinking about how new media extend our memory potential, and our relationship with them because of this.

References:

Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’ <http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesis>

Chalmers, David (2009) ‘The Extended Mind Revisited [1/5], at Hong Kong, 2009’, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc>

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_Mind>

Dynamic media ecologies

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Of all the aspects and interpretations of the term ‘media ecology’, the idea that has struck me most is the notion of dynamism. Fuller captures this when he says, “The term ‘ecology’ is used here because it is one of the most expressive language currently has to indicate the massive and dynamic interrelation of processes and objects, beings and things, patterns and matter….” (Fuller 2005)

Lance Strate’s definition, where the focus is on the idea that “technology and techniques, modes of information and codes of communication play a leading role in human affairs,” is crucial in understanding that media ecology does express a sense of dynamism. How can something that is so closely connected to humanity be static and unchanging?

In looking at the different elements (particularly in Strate’s definition), it becomes clearer that ‘ecology’ is indeed the most appropriate term. To a certain extent we can call it a network but it fails to capture the dynamic essence of the way media and society interact. Nor is ‘chain’ accurate enough, for we established last week that each element has an influence upon the other. I can’t say that the technology and techniques are what create new modes of information and codes of communication alone. ‘Ecology’ illustrates the complexity of the system.

But why is it so important to use the term ‘media ecology’ and understand it? Tomas, in his blog A Great Becoming, sees the term ‘media ecology’ as “an approach that offers us new ways of viewing the world.   Once you start to see media as networked – connected – then the realisation of this confluence changes how you approach design.” I think he makes a really important point; understanding how we are connected to media either through influence or being influenced, will change how we respond to it.

Therefore, it’s important that we see look at media, society, culture, technology, techniques, communication, information, etc., all as part of media ecology and understand that they all feed off each other and play a vital role in the evolution of media and society.

Final project: In terms of the final research paper, understanding the complexity of media ecologies is something I need to keep in mind when choosing a specific topic, because everything is in some way interrelated.

References:

Fuller, Matthew (2005) ‘Introduction: Media Ecologies’ in Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture Cambridge, MA; MIT Press: 1-12

Media Ecology Association ‘What is Media Ecology’ <http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/>

‘Media Ecology’, Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_ecology>

Technological determinsm or Cultural materialism?

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“Necessity is the mother of invention”.

It’s a well-known phrase that is often quoted by people, and while the meaning is clear to all who use it, no one really knows where it comes from. (Click here for possible origins) Academics like Raymond Williams and Brian Winston have built upon this notion in supporting the idea that technological inventions emerge from social needs. Winston suggests that ‘supervening social necessities’ play a large role in directing the process of innovation (Murphie and Potts 2002). Williams used the term ‘cultural materialism’ to describe this idea that economic, political and institutional factors influence cultural change out which comes technology.

Canadian philospher and cultural theorist Marshall McLuhan proposes an alternative idea:

“Invention is the mother of necessities.”

Found on Marshall McLuhan’s website, this phrase is a “McLuhanism“. McLuhan believes that our culture is dictated by the technologies we have, all which are merely extensions of our human capacities. But in response to this, Williams says that: “if the medium is the cause, all other causes, all that men ordinarily see as history, are at once reduced to effects.” (quoted in Murphie and Potts 2002).

But why can’t it be both? I think we can see the ways where technology does influence culture and create new values, but there are also times where necessity has influenced new technology to fill the gap that is required. Stephen Hill says, “Technological change…is not, by itself, productive of social change. Instead, the direction of change is a product of the particular alignment between the technological possibilities and the society and culture that exists (1989:33).” (quoted from Murphie and Potts 2002)

I think Hill’s claim captures the reconciliation of technological determinism and cultural materialism. This suggests that the context in which technological advances are made influences how it impacts society and culture.

Saskia Sassen in “The Internet as Playground and Factory“, talked about  Forest Watch and and Indigenous group of people who had their own form of communication. Their communication is determined by the technologies they have. Likewise, in the last few years our forms of communication are changing. It used to be that phones were the best way to get in contact with someone, then mobile phones and now it’s often quick and more effective to e-mail someone or message them on Facebook. But Hill is saying that the existing culture is an important factor, it’s not an effect, which is what McLuhan implies.

For instance, if (and you have to ignore a lot of impractical and illogical factors in this ‘if’) the iPad was invented over 100 years ago, how would it have impacted the culture that existed then? They don’t have the same experiences that we have now to help them understand the impact. It’s not just the fact that technology is created, but rather it builds upon a previous version of itself. There are very few technologies that just appear having no base technology at all.I think to a certain extent that’s one of the distinctions that can be made when looking at technological determinism and cultural materialism. You can’t really argue one without the other.

References:

Murphie, Andrew and Potts, John (2003) ‘Theoretical Frameworks’ in Culture and Technology London: Palgrave Macmillan: 11-38

Saskia Sassen (2009) ‘The Internet as Playground and Factory’ <http://vimeo.com/6789940>

Remix culture – what’s it all about?

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Remix culture. Changing, adapting, appropriating, improving, integrating, mixing, mashing, combining, compiling; a free culture movement is being nurtured as the work of artists, whether it be images, music, videos or text, are being used to inspire others to work and create improved or maybe just different versions of the work in the form of a remix.

Yeah, you think sceptically to yourself, but so what? What’s so significant about taking ideas and parts of other people’s work and using them in your name that it’s been given the term ‘remix culture’?

In actual fact, remix culture causes much debate amongst academics, copyright activists such as Lawrence Lessig who coined this phrase, people in the media industry such as record labels, etc., because it stands in opposition against another type of culture sometimes called permission culture.

Remix culture and permission culture are stark opposites. Where remix culture desires a free and open system of sharing to encourage creativity and peer-to-peer sharing, permission culture seeks to protect the artist’s work so that they get the correct recognition and attribution for their work. The more I think about it, the more I realise that arguments for both sides make sense.

The original Green Day album, American Idiot

In 2005, the struggle between remix culture and permission culture manifested itself when two DJs, Party Ben and team9, produced a mash-up album based on Green Day’s American Idiot called American Edit under the very clever alias Dean Gray. Using samples of each song on the album and a collection of other songs, they reproduced an equivalent album. Instead of ‘Holiday’, they had ‘Dr. Who on Holiday’, instead of ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ it was ‘Boulevard of Broken Songs’.

The remix - Dean Gray, American Edit

After releasing the album online, popularity grew. Unfortunately for the creative DJ team, Green Day’s record label, Warner Records, was unimpressed. Within 12 days, American Edit was shut down after receiving a cease and desist order from Warner.

So what are the arguments? An article on ‘Catapult’ on the ABC website looks at it from the side of encouraging creativity and empowering people:

“We now inhabit a ‘remix culture’, a culture which is dominated by amateur creators – creators who are no longer willing to be passive recipients of content,” recently wrote Australian lawyers from the Queensland University of Technology in their report Mashups, Remixes and Copyright Law.

“Instead, they are demanding a much broader right, a right to mashup and remix material – to take on the role of producers – to cut, paste, sample of jam with content, in order to produce something which is distinctive of their own social and creative innovation.”

Which makes complete sense, for in today’s society where everything is interactive and all about moving from the passive user to a produser, how can anyone expect that people would to be less active?

Well the answer to that question can come from the other side of the coin – that is, why not consider the initial creators who pour out their time, energy and efforts into creating something original and then see their masterpieces taken apart and used for something else, often without receiving the recognition they deserve?

The whole point of copyrights and intellectual property laws is to protect the owner of creations from people using their ideas and handiwork for their own purposes, ultimately stealing. This is something that is much easier now thanks to the internet and the wide availability of programs and sharing. Ben Sheffner has an interesting blog that looks at issues of copyright and considers its value.

It’s fair enough that people get credit for their original work. In a way it’s similar to illegal downloading where the proper royalties are not given. It is also argued that forbidding people to use others’ work for remixes is restricting people.

“It’s not a stupid debate and I understand the debate,” says Ian Heath, director of IP Australia. “The system is designed to promote innovation, but the consequence of granting a limited term monopoly [as is done in both patents and copyright] is that restrictions are put on what others can do.” (ABC News)

So intellectual property is designed to protect the person’s assets and economic interests, but what about the public’s interests? I guess the question to ask is: are these restrictions put on media beneficial?

People like Simon Lake, who is a CEO of Screenrights, a not-for-profit company that collects royalties for filmmakers, doesn’t think that copyright laws stifle creativity. In fact he believes that this idea is ridiculous.

“If you put those two things together, copyright is the end process, it’s what protects creativity. And to suggest that copying is creating is ridiculous. Copyright doesn’t stifle creativity, it stifles your ability to use other people’s work,” he says. “I’m a creator and I don’t have a problem in being creative. Ripping off another person’s songs isn’t about the free-flow of ideas. It’s about ripping off songs without paying royalties.” (ABC News)

Some pretty strong words. But to a certain extent, I agree that restricting remixing does not necessarily stifle creativity. Is it not said that necessity is the mother of invention? Then perhaps when people are forced to start from scratch, they may come up with something amazing.

And again, does creativity have to be completely original? Definitions will say that creativity has to do with the generation of innovative ideas. I’d like to argue that just because the ideas came from other sources, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the creator is any less creative.

In fact, Dean Gray’s American Edit was so popular that despite the initial cease and desist order, through word of mouth and a large fan base, the album endured. Fans organised protests and American Edit was even performed as a mashup rock operain San Francisco.

On the other side of this argument of course is the simple truth that nearly everything we create has been influenced by something that we have seen or experienced in life. For some who describe remixing as integrating parts of various already existing formats, how is this not the similar? So where is the line drawn?

This is where Creative Commons comes in. The Creative Commons (CC) movement is almost a middle point between copyright law and a fully open sharing system. It provides legal forms for creators to specify how their work can be used.

Remix Reading is an artistic program that works with Creative Commons in encouraging artists to share their work.

“Copyright puts an artificial barrier down and says what we can and cannot do without special permission. Creative Commons licenses simply move that barrier slightly farther to the left (in my diagram), giving you slightly more freedom than Copyright. It is a reformist attempt to break down the user/producer distinction that dominates the culture industry, helping artists promote creativity rather than consumption.” (Free Software Magazine)

The idea behind this claims that giving some freedom stimulates creativity, unlike what Simon Lake believes. Perhaps it can be looked in the same way as legalising drugs. When drugs are completely criminalised, more issues arrive as drug users will try to find ways outside of the system usually creating more problems for themselves and for others. Whereas when drugs are legalised, proper measures are taken so that drug use is safer and there are ways to help those who need it. Taking this example back to the issue at hand, does copyright law just encourage illegal use but giving some freedom through movements like the Creative Commons provides ways to use artists’ work but so that they also get their proper recognition?

Lessig made the example in his article Free(ing) Culture for Remix of the original camera, the daguerreotype. In the beginning, anyone could use this technology to capture images without getting permission. He claims that it is this freedom that allowed for the photography market to explode as it did. There would have been no further development and growth would have been stunted.

Creative Commons is also beneficial for the artists themselves as they have more control over their work and how it is used. And this makes sense because there are quite a few artists who produce work for the sake of the public, merely to express ideas and not for commercial value. Or perhaps they want to encourage remixing and mashups.

A.R Rahman, the award winning composer of ‘Jai Ho!’, a song from the movie Slumdog Millionaire, allowed for his song to be reworked by the Pussycat Dolls. In an interview with Time magazine, he said he wanted his song to be well known and not just fade away when the hype from the movie died down. He acknowledged the understanding that improvements must be made in today’s quickly changing society. He made a wise decision as the Pussycat Dolls’ version made it to 15 in the US Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

In the case of Green Day and Dean Gray, Billie Joe Armstrong, the writer of the American Idiot tracks, actually expressed interest in the remix ‘Boulevard of Broken Songs’. Green Day actually liked the album, but it was their record label that had the problem with it.

This brings me to my final point that was inspired by an article on a website called techdirt. (How’s this for remixing text?) The article is titled Remix Culture is About the Culture as Much as the Remix. Basically it suggests that in our culture, for something to matter it must go beyond the artwork itself but most look at the people who experience and share it with others. The claim that remixing is stealing and not creative is not the point.

“Art is not about just the creator. Without the shared experience, it’s a lot less valuable — and what we’ve done with copyright laws is make it that much more difficult to share that experience through our own eyes and our own cultural views. And if you don’t see the shame in that, then you’re missing a lot.” (techdirt)

Maybe this is something that should be looked at in more depth. A view from the perspective of the creators could possibly be in favour of copyright laws. The opposing view, favouring the public and society, will promote the creation of remixes. But a true artist focuses on the art itself, and the culture and meaning behind it.

Some interesting websites:

Green Day & Dean Gray

Green Day Mash-Up Leads To Cease-And-Desist Order, Grey Tuesday-Style Protest

American Edit (Wikipedia Article)

Remix Culture: a rights nightmare

Remix

Article: Remix Culture is about the Culture as much as the Remix

Free(ing) Culture for Remix

Remix Culture (about Remix Reading & Creative Commons)

Tesco vs. The Guardian

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There’s only so much you can learn about public relations from reading long, boring paragraphs of theory from a textbook. The best way to learn about PR is through examining the blunders of corporations facing a real life reputational crisis. It’s even better when the parties are one of the UK’s most well known news publications and retail corporations.

“A Chill on The Guardian” examines The Guardian’s standpoint on a conflict between retail giant Tesco and this media watchdog. When a reporter from the news publication developed a ‘hunch’ that Tesco was avoiding almost $2 billion in corporation tax, they attempted to expose the ‘injustice’ of the company. Later it was revealed that the article got the details wrong – it was only Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) that Tesco was avoiding and Tesco took the matter to court, arguing that its name had been defamed and its integrity and ethics brought to disrepute.

An organisation’s reputation or image is central to its public relations success. Since The Guardian’s image is that of a quality media watch-dog, its journalism must meet that standard. By failing to meet that standard through lack of substantial research, The Guardian lost its credibility. This raises the question of whether a scorching hot headline is more important than responsible research. The Guardian therefore faces the reputational and ethical issue of whether it is truly doing its service as a ‘watchdog’ to the public. So the basic lesson is: GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT. Despite the editor’s defence in “A Chill on The Guardian”, the danger in printing inaccurate information is that readers, a key stakeholder, may lose faith in the newsworthiness of the publication, which would make them an “urgent” public (Agle, Mitchell & Wood, 1997) in their ability to simply stop reading the publication.

Because of this, The Guardian must immediately re-establish its credibility. The editor’s piece was part of The Guardian’s programme to vindicate it from being labelled the “bad guy”. This is where the systems theory (Grunig, Grunig & Dozier, 2002) comes in. Organisations and their environments are interdependent and each presents problems and opportunities for each other (Ibid.). The editor of The Guardian explains that economic conditions and increased competition increases concerns of corporations about their economic viability (Rusbridger, 2009) and uses a similar excuse that the news industry’s decline puts pressure on journalists to report on these issues. But the “external envrionmental” problems for The Guardian don’t stop here. The Guardian’s parent company Guardian Media Group (GMG) has also used tax-evasion strategies of setting up an off-shore company to make its acquisition of Emap (a British media company that specialises in business-to-business affairs) tax-efficient (Farey-Jones, 2008). Therefore, while The Guardian may claim that its reportage about tax evasion is for the sake of the public, it must look to its own methods of dealing with tax before playing the victim card. If other news media find out about the issue and become ‘aware’ stakeholders (Grunig, 1984), then The Guardian’s hypocrisy will escalate, sinking its reputation further. Therefore before pointing the finger at other companies (and using the claim that newspapers are underfunded, lawsuits are unfair, all private corporations are evil, money-hungry blood-suckers, etc) it should examine its own corporate structures first.

Tesco also has lessons to learn, lessons involving corporate credibility, responsibility and ethics. Tesco’s public relations mistake was making a bigger deal than necessary out of something that key publics (customers, shareholders and The Guardian readers) would have forgotten within a matter of weeks had Tesco settled the issue quietly with The Guardian. As a consequence of launching drawn out proceedings and extra publicity, the aforementioned publics are likely to become aware and even active (Ibid.) This will mean that Tesco will take much longer to dig itself out of this reputational pothole. Tesco, like The Guardian does in the article, needs to establish mutual understanding of its policies and issues with these key public to generate positive publicity. This lesson involves being honest and open and rectifying its mistakes.

The situational theory (Grunig; Hunt, 1984) also presents a lesson for both parties. The situation arose from lack of effective communication which lead to the reason to why Tesco sued The Guardian which was a direct result of such misunderstandings. Tesco saw The Guardian’s initial publication about their tax evasion as inaccurate and a threat to their reputation. Knowing that The Guardian’s claim was not based on valid facts, Tesco believed that if they sued The Guardian they could save their reputation. However, it created the opposite effect as Private Eye discovered the truth about other illegal practices. Tesco’s lesson would be to more personally communicate with journalists in a quieter form of conflict resolution rather than promptly launch into a drawn out legal proceeding. The court case has further damaged, rather than healed its reputation, as Tesco is scowled upon by the media as “being too big for its boots” (Greenslade, 2009).