farewell

I wanted to write a standard farewell post for the readers of this blog, at least for a while.

The Net Communications experience is drawing to a close in some 10 hours. Thereafter, I am forbidden from editing, or adding to this blog. So as such, this will be our last chance to speak for a while.

For my NetComm compadres, I wish you well in your final few weeks of semester – I’m sure you’ll all find it of some comfort that I am done for the semester with all four or my final assignments due tomorrow at 5pm. Ha!

For now, I’ll leave this little quote that I came across earlier in the semester. I hope you find it as comforting as I have.

Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.
~ Walt Whitman

Best wishes,

//nickkotzman.

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the winds of change

… are blowing through this blog.

As we enter the final ten days of this subject, I’ve decided to rearrange parts of my blog. I’ve been informed that the 500 word suggestion per ‘assessable posts’ is less of a suggestion and more of a rule. In light of this information, I’ve scaled back my posts and hopefully made the argument clearer.

If the comments on edited posts no longer correlate with the content, I’m terribly sorry, but such is the manner of the internet: constant flux… ever changing… etcetera, etcetera.

Thanks for checking in on my blog throughout the semester. I hope you’ve found your visits here to be worthwhile.

Kind regards,

//nickkotzman.

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net neutrality

I came across this story when I was watching Hungry Beast last week, and it seemed appropriate to repost it here.

The video opens with a short and simple description of the internet: its a network which joins my computer to yours and your computer to your friend’s, and so on. But what the video rightly point out, is that the connections between computers that make up the network are owned by ISPs.

What surprised me in this video was the realisation that ISPs have the ability to control so much of the ‘free’ information that we take for granted. Especially in Australia, with only two major ISPs (Telstra and Optus), we are susceptible to the disadvantages of a duopoly.

The thought that ISPs could start providing preferential access to information hosted on servers in the United States or in Asia is a concerning one. As John Perry Barlow is quoted towards the end of the clip; the internet is also very difficult to regulate. While the Australian government would be able to introduce regulatory laws at a federal level to influence the control of individual Aussie ISPs, the Australian Government would be unable to influence American ISPs or Asian ISPs in the same way.

We take the “level playing field” of the internet for granted, but it’s something that needs to be protected. The only question is, by who?

//nickkotzman.

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internet piracy

I was looking to learn more about the basics of internet piracy when I came across this short video. The presenter’s humour is not ideal, but the content of what he’s saying is really worthwhile.

I think what’s most interesting about this video is his differentiation between ‘piracy’ and ‘theft’. He describes that when an individual downloads an mp3, it’s not theft. Something needs to be owned, and have that ownership withdrawn for theft to occur. With mp3s, you are merely downloading a copy of the file, rather than the single file itself. He goes on to describe the premise of ‘piracy is theft’ that underlines so many of the guilt-inducing anti-piracy advertisements rests on a big assumption: that you would have paid for the mp3, if you couldn’t have downloaded it.

Have a look and let me know what you think.

//nickkotzman.

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creative commons licenses

Following week 10 tutorial’s exercise, explain why you chose the Creative Commons license that you added to your blog and discuss the relevance (or not) of adding the license.

Creative Commons is one of the most interesting things I think we’ve covered in this subject. The global nature of the Internet makes it a fascinating thing to study through a legal lens. For centuries, legal systems have been set up in national, state and municipal jurisdictions, and perhaps more recently, in limited-continental jurisdictions (think: the EU).

But the Internet, by it’s very nature is global.

  • So how do you govern it?
  • How do you police it?
  • And how do you put users to trial?

These are difficult questions with essay-long answers. But creative commons makes an attempt to govern the un-governable… or at least provide some form of regulation to internet-based intellectual property. Even in the real world, intellectual property law is a complex area of study. Take this not the virtual world, and IP law takes on a whole new dimension.

According to the CC website:

Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.

The founders of CC grew frustrated with licensing rights on the internet. If you want to use someone’s material that they’ve uploaded to the internet, it’s often very difficult to determine how they want it to be used (or whether they want it to be used at all). In response, Creative Commons was set up: an “infrastructure” that offers a set of “copyright licenses and tools” that allow people to spell out (in layman’s terms and in legalese) how they want their online material (often intellectual property) to be used.

For example, if I wanted a picture of a grasshopper for the front page of my blog, I could jump onto Google, do a quick search, and before you know it, I’d be met with thousands and thousands of results (1,020,000 actually…). But for most of these images, I’d have great difficult discerning who published the photo, or who can be credited as having taken the photo. So for people who get a moral buzz from accurately crediting the work and intellectual property of other people, they find themselves in quite the quandary.

The Creative Commons licensing system meant that internet users could state from the outset that they are happy (or unhappy) for their material to be used in ways X, Y and Z. The CC website claims that the ability to pre-define how your material is used “create[s] balance inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law [establishes]”.

For my blog, I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun. So I had a quick browse of CC’s template-license agreements and made my choice.

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike


This license means that others are welcome to “remix, tweak, and build upon” my material on this blog. As long as their work is “non-commercial”, they credit me, and license their own work “under the identical terms”.

I chose this license for a number of reasons:

  • I am happy to have people “remix” and “tweak” the content of my blog. Having said that, I found that this ‘clause’ was an odd one to apply to a blog such as mine, which mainly consists of text and ideas.
  • I think that it’s important that any users of my work are “non-commercial”. The thought of someone using the text posted here for profit, when I am contributing for free seems most unfair to me.
  • I like to be credited. Who doesn’t?
  • And licensing the work under identical terms. I think that it is vitally important to include this one in any licensing arrangement. Without this it makes it possible for someone to use my material (under the other conditions), and then apply a different license; thus negating my license terms and conditions.

As I said above, the relevance of applying a Creative Commons license to my blog is fairly limited. But I think that the utility provided by CC to internet users who don’t have the time or expertise to draft a legal agreement is very valuable. If I were a visual artist, in a garageband trying to get my music off the ground, or if I was a more active amateur film maker, I would certainly use this valuable resource to protect (and share) the fruits of my labour.

//nickkotzman.

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internet celebrity

Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269).

I contend that despite the spread of the internet medium and the availability of recording and computing technologies, individuals who rise to fame on the online medium rely on traditional or ‘old’ media outlets to sustain their fame. To demonstrate this, I will first introduce the article by Burgess and Green, and second, consider two contrasting examples of ‘famous’ individuals whose origins lie in the digital landscape of YouTube.

Burgess and Green (2009) explore the truth behind amateur video. They attempt to dispel the “myth” that the wide availability of recording equipment and editing software has meant that amateurs with “raw talent” will be able to rise to “legitimate success and media fame”, supported by the distributive capacity of the internet medium. Although the article considers a number of examples of amateur video makers have “made it” from YouTube to the Small Screen or even the Big Screen, Burgess and Green suggest that for the few success stories, their are countless stories of failure (or stories that didn’t end in mainstream “media fame”); indeed, “YouTube has been mythologised as literally a way to ‘broadcast yourself’ into fame and fortune” (Burgess & Green 2009).

The Burgess and Green article considers that for people to ‘broadcast’ themselves to media fame, “the distance between ‘ordinary’ citizen and celebrity can only be bridged when the ordinary person gains access [to the mass (or traditional) media]” (Burgess & Green 2009).

Let’s consider two examples. One of ‘ordinary citizen becomes celebrity’, and one of ‘ordinary citizen remains ordinary’.

Justin Bieber is probably the most widely cited example of YouTube ‘fame’ and success. At thirteen, a video that Bieber had made and published on YouTube was inadvertently clicked on by a record producer looking for another artist. After being impressed by Bieber’s cover performance, he was flown to meet Usher and sign with a record label.

Bieber’s story is one of internet fame (‘Baby‘ is currently the most watched video on YouTube). But his fame has been sustained by the the traditional outlets of the media:

  • Record deals
  • TV appearances
  • Album sales
  • Feature-length films

Justin Bieber’s truly incredible fame finds it roots in the heart of internet culture. But it is his sustained fame, and “pass[ing] through the gate-keeping mechanisms of old media” to traditional forms of media that has cemented his place in the world of celebrities (Burgess & Green 2009).

Let’s consider another story of internet ‘fame’. In 2010 at Blizzard Entertainment’s annual gaming conference (BlizzCon), a game developer (and Blizzard employee) was asked a question in a panel discussion forum (Know Your Meme 2011).

Soon after this was filmed at BlizzCon and posted on YouTube, the man asking the question (that revealed a hole in the storyline of Blizzard Entertainment’s most successful franchise, World of Warcraft) became known as ‘The Red Shirt Guy’. Within minutes of the video upload, Warcraft fan sites exploded with discussion of the Red Shirt Guy – not so much his probing question, but his shaky oral delivery captured on camera and uploaded to YouTube. Comments on the YouTube video criticised his weight, his voice and his face (Know Your Meme 2011).

But unlike Justin Bieber (and perhaps unsurprisingly), the Red Shirt Guy’s foray into the world of internet celebrity failed to “pass through the gate-keeping mechanisms” into the traditional and mainstream media. Admittedly, the Red Shirt Guy’s internet fame was insular to begin with: his fame was isolated to Warcraft fans and other gamers, but without going beyond the internet medium, an individual’s ‘fame’ cannot be sustained.

The Red Shirt Guy also represents the short half-life of internet fame, and the even shorter attention span of the internet’s users. World of Warcraft is a popular computer game with over 12 million players, but the nature of internet fame, the way individuals can rise out of nowhere (see Rebecca Black), facilitates a short lifespan. One week it’ll be the Red Shirt Guy, and the next week, it’ll be someone or something else that’s captivated the attention of internet culture.

If ‘famous’ individuals of the internet cannot extend their fame into the realm of traditional media, their days as a celebrity will be numbered. They best enjoy (or endure) it while it lasts!

//nickkotzman.

PS. This video from Hungry Beast is also worth a look. It takes a brief look behind the computer screen at what really happened to the internet celebrities we loved and forgot.

PPS. Revisit Antoine Dodson. You know you want to!

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meet the new media, same as the old media

Alan Lui discusses the use of visual metaphors from older media in web design and argues that such metaphors “naturalize the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media” (Reader, page 228). Discuss while giving an example of a website.

Let’s reflect.

In this subject, we have focussed on the rise and rise of ‘new media’ or perhaps more specifically, ‘Web 2.0’ applications. We have identified a number of features that help characterise a website, or a software application as ‘new media’: user-customization; interactivity; on-demand, and; community/network focussed.

But up until now, our studies have not considered how these Web 2.0 features are presented in the online medium. While we love the idea of ‘new media’ (as if somewhere along the timeline of history, someone performed a firmware update), for ‘new media’ to be an effective medium, audiences and individual users must still be able to interpret and understand the information presented.

Alan Lui (2004) explores this idea. Lui (2004) contends that information presented in ‘new media’ applications is represented within visual metaphors of ‘old media’. Essentially, he argues that although we describe interactive and network-based mediums as ‘new media’, the ways in which information is presented to users is the same as the way information is presented in supposedly ‘old media’ platforms.

A few examples provide a better explanation.

Here, on the Boost Juice website is an ‘encyclopaedia’ of fruits. As a company that emphasises the use of fresh fruit in their products, they have included a sort of fact book that examines each fruit available in their stores. The designer of this website has used the familiar layout of a book (with pages, text and illustrations) to present the information on a new media platform. Essentially, the information that is presented on this website is presented in the same style and fashion as it would be if it were presented in ‘old media’.

Another example is the iBook app that operates on the iOS system software used on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

The iBook software attempts to take the experience that users have with information in old media, and recreate it (or “disguise” it) in the ‘new media’ platform (Lui 2004). With iBook software, users consume, interact and engage with the information in the same way as they would if the information was presented in a physical book.

Another iOS app that uses the visual metaphors of ‘old media’ in on a ‘new media’ platform is the Flipboard app.

As the video demonstrates, Flipboard serves as a “personal magazine” that shows the genre of news and information that you are interested in, in a magazine-style format. Again, this application presents information in the same way that we are accustomed to in ‘old’ mediums like physical, published magazines.

I think that it’s always interesting to consider, whenever there is an instance of revolution or evolution (either in technology, social norms or politics), how much the new is similar to the old. While it is easy to find oneself swept up by the superficial changes between old and new, invariably it is the basic elements that will remain unchanged.

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.

//nickkotzman.

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