Wednesday 23 June 2010

Can you believe this is part of my schoolwork?!


Tuesday 22 June 2010

MED104 - 2.2 Don’t touch that! Copyright, ownership and institutionalcontrol

This week's main reading was Recovering Fair Use by Steve Collins (2008), about the impact of the Internet on copyright law. We covered some of this during Web101 last SP, which I discussed here. We also viewed A Fair(y) Use Tale, and a talk by Lawrence Lessig about the impact of technologies and regulation on creative experimentation and expression, which I really enjoyed.

Copyright was originally introduced in England in the 18th century in an attempt to ensure that "culturally important creative works were not the victims of monopolies and were free", which is ironic because nowadays it seems to be the exact opposite - large corporate media organisations such as Disney Corporation making huge amounts of money from their creative works, often based on older legends that they didn't create, while preventing others from doing exactly what they did. Talk about monopolies!
"Fair use" (or fair dealing in Australia) is supposed to be a process that allows an author to use a portion of somebody else's work, which they can then expand upon. However, nowadays the focus seems to be less about the expansion of creativity and almost all about money, and who owns what, and preventing others from using anything, and how much they are entitled to if somebody else does it. Fair Use is often not taken into consideration, and has taken a very distinctive backseat to ownership and corporate dollars.

The example that immediately sprang to mind while reading this article is the recent case brought by Larrikin Music Publishing against the Australian rock band Men at Work, alleging that the flute riffs from the song Down Under were illegally reproduced from the Australian folk tune Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree. Anybody who knows me will verify that I'm somewhat tone-deaf but I've listened to the comparisons several times and I just can't hear it. Apparently neither did Larrikin, until the ABC program Spicks and Specks brought it up as a quiz question during a 2007 episode, at which point Larrikin decided to act. Now seriously... Kookaburra was written in 1934 and the copyright registered in 1975. "Down Under" was written in 1979. And nobody noticed the so-called similarities until a quiz show in 2007?! I don't know what anybody else thinks but to me this is complete madness, and a great demonstration of everything that is wrong with the way copyright is enforced today.

During Lessig's talk he showed a couple of remix videos, as an example of young people using digital technology to produce content "for the love of what they're doing, not for the money". One of them was a video showing a modern-day Jesus Christ, set to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive", which I thought was very clever and found quite hilarious. Another student asked on our discussion forum about what should happen if this video had resulted in sales of "I Will Survive" taking off again - should Gloria get the money, or the reworker who created the video, or both? Would it be courtesy to offer the re-mixer a share considering Gloria wouldn't be getting any if the reworking had never taken place? My belief is that Gloria wouldn't be getting anything without the reworking being done - but without Gloria, there would be nothing to rework. :> I think it's slightly different in the US but according to Australia's "Fair Dealing" exceptions to current copyright law, material can be used for the purposes of parody or satire. My view is that if Gloria happens to benefit financially from something she originally created for a financial purpose, good luck to her. If the reworker did the work for love then he should be happy if his material goes viral and lots of people see it. If he did it for financial gain then he should've written his own material. I think that was pretty much Lessig's point, that it should be OK to rework other people's material provided it's being done for artistic, creative & cultural purposes and not just financial. The story within Collins' Fair Use article, about a mother who put up a home video on YouTube of her child dancing to a Prince song and got hit with a takedown notice, was just ridiculous, in my opinion - she had no financial motives and probably wasn't even aware of what the song in the background even was, her video was all about her young child dancing.

My husband watched the Lessig video with me last night and reminded me of the Hugh Grant movie "About A Boy", where Hugh plays a rich guy who lives off the royalties of a Christmas song his father wrote. He's telling someone how he gets paid everytime somebody sings the song and he gets asked "Do carol singers have to pay you 10 percent?" and Hugh says "They should, but you can't always catch the little bastards." I thought this was funny and quite topical. :> As Lessig says in his talk - common sense is not apparent in this copyright issue at the current time.

This week we were also supposed to develop an outline for Assignment 2, and identify any problems about copyright that we are likely to encounter in Assignment 3. I am working on this now but as this Portfolio is online I've chosen to keep it in a separate document offline for now.


Tuesday 15 June 2010

MED104 - 2.1 Entertain Me! Who makes your entertainment? Institutions,audiences participatory culture

The reading this week was "The promise is great: the blockbuster and the Hollywood economy. Media, Culture and Society, 31(2), 215-230 by M. Cucco (2009), which covers the origins and main features of a movie "blockbuster" in relation to the Hollywood economy. The first thing that sprang to mind when reading this was the movie Sex and the City II (SATCII), which I was unwittingly dragged along to last week. While I wouldn't previously have considered SATCII to be a "blockbuster", when reading this article it seemed to meet most of the criteria - simple characters, pre-sold identity (ie. it is a sequel and also based on a successful TV series) and a large opening weekend. I found these stats which provide information about the movie's cost, opening weekend takings, number of cinemas shown in, etc. which show that the distributor, Warner Bros, were definitely throwing some money into the movie. On a personal level, as soon as I've mentioned seeing it to friends they've almost all said that they too wanted to see it, even though the nicest description I could provide about it was "I'm glad I saw it so I know what other people are talking about" - as far as movies go I thought it was complete nonsense, but there you go. :>

One interesting aspect of the article was the notion that while in the past a movie would win awards for high quality in all aspects, today's blockbuster tends to be more about who has the best special effects, which I would tend to agree with. On the previously mentioned statistics page is a link to Warner Bros. which displays the top 10 movies they've distributed - 8 of those movies are science fiction or fantasy, which all contain extensive special effects. I don't recall seeing a lot in the way of special effects in SATCII (although the storyline seemed to be complete fantasy in many regards!), but it is certainly making money by having simple, recognisable characters and being pushed to a large number of cinemas, so perhaps Warner Bros decided that that was enough to make it worthwhile making. This week I saw a trailer for a new Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz movie named Knight and Day, distributed by Fox, which I thought was clearly aiming at "blockbuster" status by including a couple of famous leading names, a simple "on the run" storyline enhanced by lots of stunts and special effects. I'm not convinced Tom will ever do better than Top Gun but it seems Fox are hoping he will!

We also watched some videos about vidding - I have to say I'm not much of a fan of fan-fiction like this. I can't help seeing it as making a mess of the real thing. I can appreciate people's passion, and that it provides a creative outlet, and it's good that the internet allows them to collaborate with other like-minded individuals... but the actual process of WHY people do it completely baffles me. All I could think of was how wrong it was to do that to Harry Potter! Possibly I'm missing something. :>

The other thing we were asked to do this week was choose a text and identify the individuals, organisations and technologies involved in the production, delivery and consumption of the text. For this activity I decided to look at the TV series Heroes, which I LOVED. Heroes was created by Tim Kring, and shown on NBC for four seasons from 25th September 2006 in the US, until 8th February 2010. It was shown in Australia on Channel 7, although due to Channel 7's remarkable ability to mess up programming schedules, I ended up doing the illegal download thing immediately after it was shown in North America. It turns out that I wasn't alone - in 2009 Heroes was named the most pirated TV show of the year.

While NBC and Tim Kring were in control of the writing and production of Heroes, Tim Kring in particular was also very receptive to fan feedback. The first season of Heroes was named by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten best television programs of the year but the second season was less popular and the show's ratings dropped by 15%, which resulted in Tim Kring issuing an apology to fans. Throughout the series NBC, the writers, directors and production team all participated in science-fiction conventions, blog discussions and online interviews where they answered fan questions and regularly released spoilers about upcoming episodes and storylines.

Apart from creating the TV show, NBC did a pretty good job of creating a Heroes web presence by creating and promoting a range of other types of Heroes media, including graphic novels, which were written by the show's writers and drawn by a company called Aspen Comics, and webisodes, which were available on the NBC website but also appeared on Youtube and other video sites. These media complemented the TV show with additional characters and storylines but didn't substantially impact on it, so if an individual only watched the TV show they would still be able to follow it.

NBC's official Heroes website includes links to games, video, Twitter and Facebook and several other options. An extensive HeroesWiki was also available, which had over 5500 pages and allowed fans to discuss the show, compile information and put together theories. Initially this was a fan-created site but in 2008 it was officially partnered with NBC in exchange for NBC having the rights to display station advertising on the site. There were many other fan-created websites and Wikis as well, but the NBC one was the most comprehensive. NBC's marketing department also made an attempt at creating a viral campaign with the Zeroes parody videos, in which they completely removed all traces of "NBC" and station advertising as an experiment to see how far they could go. Although the Zeroes videos racked up more than 1.5 million views, I personally thought they fell a bit flat which I suspect may have been avoided if they'd gotten Tim Kring involved instead of purposefully keeping him out of it.

Unfortunately Heroes was officially cancelled in May 2010 due to continually falling ratings, which I think occurred as the result of a number of different issues. Firstly, while Heroes web presence was far more comprehensive than many TV series have today, a large percentage of it was created and controlled by NBC and I can't help wondering if that helped the show or eventually contributed to its demise. My feeling is that if NBC and their marketing department had loosened their grip a bit and allowed/encouraged more fan involvement early on, and listened/responded to the feedback of fans regarding the second season, then they may have kept the initial fan-base and even built on it. Unfortunately, even if Tim Kring had had intentions of responding to negative fan feedback and changing the writing after his apology to fans, the 2007-2008 Writer's Guild of America strike effectively cut the second season in half and only 11 episodes were eventually made instead of the planned 24, which disrupted the flow of the storyline. There were high expectations for the third season, where Tim & co. did attempt to speed things up as promised and while some of the special effects were great, unfortunately some of the storylines were overly complex and often created more questions than answers, which ended with NBC firing some of the main writers. Now that I look back it seems to me that Heroes was doomed at the beginning of Season 2, so I suppose I should be grateful that we got 4 seasons of it. :-)

Until next time,

Thursday 10 June 2010

MED104 - 1.2 The Medium is the Message? When the media converge

This week's reading was Four Puzzles From Cyberspace by L. Lessig (2006), which puts into words and provides examples for some things I've thought about a bit over the years. It basically examines the issue of Regulability, which is "the capacity of a government to regulate behavior within its proper reach", within the context of cyberspace. This reading is written from an American perspective and discusses certain aspects of the US Constition which I'm not sure have parallels in the Australian constitution, but the issue is still the same. According to Lessig "To regulate well, you need to know (1) who someone is, (2) where they are, and (3) what they ’re doing. But because of the way the Internet was originally designed <...>, there was no simple way to know (1) who someone is, (2) where they are, and (3) what they ’re doing."

To me, what is appropriate or offensive in one culture vs another culture is pretty much the essence of the whole issue. Until now laws and morals have always been "country" based, the will of the people and all that. For instance, if a country has 2 different major religions, then they have to talk and negotiate and juggle their laws and morals to get the right balance that everybody can live with, and if they don't then they inevitably have issues until somebody comes along that can come up with a solution. But the Internet has taken that to a global level, which just introduces many more times the complexity. Look at the recent Emissions Trading meetings - the chances of getting every single country in the world to agree on anything nowadays is miniscule! The world can't even agree which is the best side of the road/car to be on, or which format to transmit TV signals in. The only examples of "global" that I can think of that actually work is the telephone country code system, and World Airport Codes (ie. MEL is always Melbourne), and they're both decades old and fairly simple. So our government falls back on the old "country" based solutions, which aren't really solutions, because they just don't have any better ideas. Maybe our esteemed lecturer is right - maybe we SHOULD be looking more at Star Trek for guidance! :>

The other thing we were instructed to watch was a Henry Jenkins video on Participatory culture. Thinking this through today, I see a bit of a contradiction between this video and the previous reading - the first one focuses on government regulation (ie. restricting) and the other is about mass participation (ie. expanding individual opportunities to participate), which is a bit hard to do if restrictions are government-sanctioned. One of the things that Jenkins says is that the challenge is to make sure that these tools get in the hands of the people who have been most oppressed and dispossessed to get their stories out into circulation. I think that social media allows that to an extent - until governments start imposing things like mandatory internet filters anyway!

We were also given the following links as suggested additional reading. I've added a few of my thoughts below each.

Henry Jenkins talking about the Columbine massacre and ensuing moral panics about youth and the internet.
This video briefly reviews the moral panic about mods and rockers in 1950s UK with commentary from Stanley Cohen who first coined the term “moral panic” in his book based on these incidents.

Both of these videos covered "moral panic". Interestingly, the first was current and the latter was from the 1950's, well before the age of the Internet - but the moral panic theme was identical. So although nowadays it's all about "youth and the Internet", the reality is that it's really just "youth". :>

Hungry Beast episode 11 - covers 'Operation Titstorm' - the anonymous hacker attack on the Australian Government

The anonymity of this made me think of the Cold War - two opposing views, fought under a veil of secrecy. Same theory, not necessarily dependent on the Internet, however I did like the quote "In an inter-connected world, we're all open for attack."

An ABC 7.30 Report on Mandatory Internet Filtering

One of my pet subjects. I wrote a blog post as part of Web101 here that addresses my thoughts on this issue.

Clay Shirky on the use of social media to overcome internet censorship

A discussion about new ways to use technology to take action against oppressive governments. I liked this quote "This isn't just an example of media leading to collective actions, also an example of collective action leading to more media".

Until next week,

Tuesday 8 June 2010

What is Stephen Conroy?

Google knows!
(or go to and type "stephen conroy is" and see it for yourself!)

Saturday 5 June 2010

MED104 - 1.1 Introduction: How does the media engage you? How do youengage with the media?

This week we were introduced to the unit and asked to watch the following video:

Did You Know 4.0

and read the following blog post by Henry Jenkins:

"Critical Information studies for a participatory culture (pt 2)"

and asked to discuss the following:

* Identify personal media use and preferences; survey group and classify according to entertainment, information, communication uses;
* How do views about recent developments in the media differ between students and friends/family/older generations/different cultures? Why?

I posted the following in response to the class discussion question:

I started working in IT in 1993 so I've been a bit of a geek for years now - my husband jokes that if it's not online then it doesn't exist in my world (although he's almost as bad). I read newspapers online and get other news delivered via email but I rarely read a "real" newspaper. I use Facebook for personal use, LinkedIn for business and a few different Twitter accounts for personal, business and now Uni, although I mostly use Twitter as a reader. Any holiday or show I've booked in the last few years has been done almost entirely online, and I do a fair bit of shopping online as well because I find it far more convenient. I also (naughty naughty!) download TV shows and watch them in my own time, rather than relying on the TV networks to actually run the shows a/ in a timely way after they're released overseas and b/ in the right order (one network in particular used to drive me insane by regularly showing episodes of ongoing series out of order). That being said, I don't want to sound TOO geeky - I still do normal offline stuff like shopping, travel, going to the footy and getting out with friends and family when I can. :>

As a rule though, most of my friends and family (ie. people aged 30+) haven't been as quick to adopt new media and even those that have mostly did so when those things became "mainstream". I remember when my daughter was born in 2003 and I was put in a mothers group, and I suggested getting everybody's email address - 3 of the 10 girls didn't have email at all and several others had it but rarely used it, or only had it at work and they weren't working at that time. Nowadays they all have email, broadband in the home and they're all on Facebook too, but I got my first email address in 1994 so I don't really see that as a quick uptake! My Dad is now hooked on eBay but that was largely because the Trading Post stopped printing - he does find it convenient but he still struggles with typing on the keyboard and would prefer to speak to people on the phone. So I think that while there are lots of changes happening with regard to "new media" and a lot of people find it interesting and exciting to imagine what might happen in the future, there are also a lot of other people who aren't interested and don't embrace change - so what people envisage and what actually happens are often two different things. :>
With regard to a response to Jenkin's blog post, I sent the following:

I found the first concept in this article, about fear, particularly interesting because I think that fear influences a lot more of what happens nowadays than it did in the past. I find it sort of ironic, when you think about the so-called freedom that the Internet has provided society in the last decade, and then think about whether the Internet has actually enabled the spread of "the politics of fear" as well. I found a good article here (, written in 2006, titled "Fear as a political weapon and how we should respond" which gives some interesting examples. 

I'm trying not to drag this into every single discussion I have in my life nowadays (but it's tough because I'm so cross about it!) but the first example that sprung to my mind when reading Jenkins' blog post concerned the methods used by the current Australian government in pushing through their proposed internet filter, which I think is a great example of policy-by-fear. Jenkins referred to this exact thing when describing the group who questioned "sexual predator" myths. Virtually every speech that Senator Conroy has given in the last few months has included the term "child pornography" and he has even attempted to turn that phrase around on his opponents in the type of smear campaign that Jenkins describes. It seems to me that it's all a blatant attempt to scare as many parents into agreeing with him as possible, even though the proposed solution has been demonstrated to be technically unfeasible, will not result in a single arrest, and does nothing to actually combat the problem. So I'm very interested to see how it might all end up. :>
At this stage I'm not really sure what's required of this Learning Portfolio so for now I'll leave it at that!


Thursday 3 June 2010

Lego Hello World

Lego printer connected to an Apple Mac. The geek in me is in AWE of this...


Wednesday 2 June 2010

Your online identity...

One of the main things I've gotten out of my study so far this year is to further investigate my own ideas about online identity and privacy. We've all heard the stories about people who have posted something on Facebook about their job, forgetting that their boss could read it and ending up with them being fired. I've spent the best part of 15 years actively masking my name and IP address and generally doing my best to stay as anonymous as possible online, all the while being quite involved in various online mediums and as a result I was initially extremely wary of things like Facebook, which seemed to me to have very little security and far too many people who were adding a lot of personal information into them without much thought.

However, while I've always been very conscious of online privacy I'd never properly considered the impact that my privacy actions may have had on my online reputation, or web presence - that is, the concept that more privacy equals less reputation. This essentially means that if somebody else decides to post something false about you online and you have no web presence at all, then that falsehood is the only thing that people will read about you online and you could be judged by others based on that falsehood. Blimey!

Here are a few examples of online reputation gone wrong:
* Ghyslain Raza, who in 2002 became known as the "Star Wars Kid" - and when you Google his name now, 8 years later, still is.
* Ann Kerr and Helen Casey, who unwittingly made headlines earlier this year because a journalist Facebook "friend" decided to publish personal photos of them in a newspaper.
* Stephanie Rice, who luckily has many positive things that outweigh the "raunchy" publicly-accessible Facebook photos "scandal".

My conclusions about all this are - establish a presence, but minimise what you put out there and be conscious about what you're displaying to the world. And hope to God that you never end up like poor Ghyslain. I've now separated my online identity somewhat, using Facebook only for friends and family, and LinkedIn only for my professional world, and I've got separate Twitter accounts for both and another one for Uni. That way, I don't need to bore my mostly non-technical friends with geekspeak, and I don't need my professional or school worlds to know details of the latest funny thing my 3yo has done. And with any luck any drunken photos of me will remain inaccessible by any potential employers. :>

To keep an eye on your own online identity - Google yourself. And if you're so inclined, consider setting up a Google Alert - that way, anytime anything appears on the Web, you'll be notified.

Until next time,