Tag Archives: internet

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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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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