Archive for October, 2007

The end of the internet as we know it – again

October 23, 2007

It looks as though there is yet another way to end the internet as we know it. Italy is doing it this time, by drafting a law which will, if enacted, make it compulsory for every blogger to register, to pay tax (whether or not the blog is for money-making), to form a publishing company that will hire a registered qualified journalist to be the director of the blog…

Which would wipe out upwards of 99% of blogs – and that is probably the idea. For more, see Beppe Grillo’s Blog.

Some folks don’t seem to like the fact that citizens are currently able to publish what we like, and to sometimes contribute significantly to public affairs. Fixated on that, these legislators also forget that most blogs are innocuous expressions of people’s daily lives. I mean, what about knitting blogs? Will they have to do all that too? What a farce. The Italian legislators are starting to resemble Senator Ted Stevens I am afraid.

[I know knitting blogs were unfairly bagged out during the Aulstralian Blogging Conference, and I defended them. I promise I will post some of my knitting soon.]


my political views, or lack thereof

October 9, 2007

It has been suggested by an academic colleague that we post our political views online. Could be a good way of making sure we never get that job we are after, but never mind. Let’s not be silenced by that kind of intimidation… After all, the silences we participate in can be damning.

Anyway, having been through 1960s radicalism / revolutionism, a few years ago I wryly came to the conclusion that contrary to orthodox left opinion, the revolution actually did happen, but most of the lefties were looking the other way at the time. The revolution of our era is the one you are looking at now – the digital revolution, the networked society. It is mind-blowing, and at the same time it isn’t all good. It is a stupendous collaborative achievement, but it is so far from doing everything and righting every wrong.

My brain hurts (mostly) when I have to listen to conventional politics. It reminds me of when my mother used to participate in market research. She’d be given two packets of laundry powder, one yellow and one blue. She had to use them both, and answer a questionnaire about the differences between them. But she wasn’t dumb. She knew they were both the same, and they were testing the color of the packaging. Nonetheless she kept it up for free stuff. But I get sick of “Brand A” and “Brand B”, same-shit-different-bucket, especially when it’s not just washing powder – and people’s lives and our entire habitat is at stake.

But I can’t fix it all by myself, in fact there is very little any of us can do. So then I start thinking that if each of us does our little bit it might be good. For this reason I have decided that while I will no doubt support some political issues and causes as they come up (e.g. I’m attending a memorial vigil for the SIEVX in late October), my civic engagement is going to be mainly with the politics of the internet. I’m well placed to do that, as I am working toward a Master of Internet Studies.

Most people aren’t aware of internet politics, so I have a lot of work to do (along with all the others who are doing this) in a limited time frame, because the structures being developed now will have a decisive impact. Our collaborative tasks incude educating the public, and all decision-makers, about the social and economic importance of a neutral internet; curbing the excesses of digital copyright so that creativity can flourish; and maintaining the networked public sphere free from undue political or corporate pressures. Of course, there’s an endless list really. Just like everywhere else, it is about ownership and control, and the social implications of that.

So there, good people, are my political views. If you expected something along the right-left dichotomy, go to politicalcompass and see why I don’t think like that. Who will I vote for in this year’s election? Wishing the Liberals would listen to Malcolm Fraser but they hate him; wishing the local Labor guy wasn’t a speedbump; wishing the local Greens hadn’t expelled some people I trust; keeping an eye out for a Climate Change Coalition candidate… sigh.

copyright and surrealism/dadaism

October 6, 2007

Some of my recent research was about the effect of digital copyright laws on the practice of dadaist photomontage. That involves appropriating images, often from popular culture, then juxtaposing these images with other images and/or text to create new meanings. Often those new meanings are satirical, but there are no rules about that. Needless to say, on image-sharing web sites this art form cannot be practiced. Yes you can do photomontage, but keep it to your own images and don’t enter into visual dialog with mass culture.

I was seeing that as one of the excesses of the digital copyright regime, but something has happened this week that makes me wonder if indeed those who I thought were fascist copyright freaks are not actually surrealist conceptual artists working with society as their canvas.

So what happened? The Canadian Mint has declared that it owns the words “one cent”, and it owns the image of that coin (also called a penny), and needs to be paid money for the use thereof. It has actually sent a bill for over $47,000 to the OneCentNow campaign, which is a good start. Think of the scope of this one: all the coinage of all countries using decimal currency could fall under this copyright claim, and every time anyone advertises the price of their goods they should pay a royalty to the Canadian Mint, and so on. And it is cheap at the price, compared to what happened to Jammie Thomas over her music downloads.

I’m so glad my name is not Penny.

That’s my two cents worth anyway (uh oh).