Recently in Mass Media Category

What if they gagged Gutenberg? Big telecom is trying to throttle free access to democratic Internet

Five-hundred years ago, we had Johann Gutenberg, a German metalworker and inventor who pioneered the precursor to the Internet. His printing press became the first practical mass communications medium utilizing what was then an advanced memory technology -- paper.

Soon after, there was Martin Luther, a German theologian and priest who fervently believed the church had departed from the teachings of the Bible. In 1517, Luther began printing pamphlets condemning the church, and within several months his 95 Theses was being read all over Europe.


Imagine if the leaders of 16th century Germany, feeling threatened by the democratizing forces of the printing press, had taken Gutenberg's invention and limited its use to those they politically agreed with -- or if Luther had to pay licensing fees for nailing up his 95 Theses on every church door in Germany.

That's what big telecom is trying to do: shut the democratic architecture of the Internet. By creating two "tiers" -- one that is fast and charges fees to Web site owners -- and a second class Web that is cheaper and slower and could limit access to independently run sites -- big telecom is hoping to make a larger profit off the Internet.

In other words, opponents to the Internet's open and free access are trying to change the rules -- and they're trying to mislead you, claiming that they're against regulation and that they only want you to pay for the rising cost of their "pipes." That's information warfare.

The Role of RSS in Science Publishing

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December's Issue of D-Lib Magazine brings and interesting article regarding the implication of RSS in the science and research publishing. The Role of RSS in Science Publishing is worth reading. Yet another practical example of how blogs have brought forth a tool that can change the nature of the web as it is traditionally known. Website are no longer the static domains, RSS helps the sites be distributed widely, most importantly as a two-way communication.

About the Potential of E-democracy

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Very interesting thoughts and ideas. Certainly, in the past technology has been a great source of change; maybe the technologies of today that embody the concept of openness could initiate another socio-economical-political change across the globe.

About the Potential of E-democracy

This paper develops a reflection on the potential of E-democracy to strengthen society's democratization exploring historically and technically the possibilities of cooperative organizations. From Singer's historical view about the rise of capitalism it is conjectured that Internet and E-democracy could be the technological innovations capable to trigger off the creation of a virtual network of cooperative organizations and thereby the development of a new economic system, based more on humanitarian values than the present ones.

Who benefits from the digital divide? is a very informative article regarding the digital divide discourse. One would think that such discourse arises with the aim to help the people on the have nots side of the digital divide, by closing the digital divide gap. In this article for First Monday Brendan Luyt shows that the people on the negative side of digital divide are surely NOT the people benefiting from the discourse.

"In this article I have described four groups that have an interest in the promotion of the digital divide issue. Information capital achieves a new market for its products as well as an educated workforce capable of producing those products in the first place. The state in the South benefits through the legitimation conferred through programs designed to combat the divide. Not only do these offer new accumulation opportunities for its elite, they also hold the possibility of defusing discontent over poor economic prospects for the middle class, a volatile section of the population. The development industry, suffering from a neo–liberal attack that views development as irrelevant in the modern world, also benefits from the digital divide. Another gap has been opened up that requires the expertise these agencies believe they can provide. And finally, the organs of civil society are also winners, as they attempt to capture information and communication technologies for their own increasingly successful projects."

Paradoxically, the digital divide discourse does not appear to be helping those it is supposed to help.

In The 'digital divide' and the rest of the population & the digital divide: more than a technological issue I have tried to show that the digital divide discourse might even further increase the existing digital divide gap.

States Warn File-Sharing Networks quotes attorneys general of 40 US states as saying:

"In a letter to the heads of Kazaa, Grokster, BearShare, Blubster, eDonkey2000, LimeWire and Streamcast Networks, the attorneys general write that peer-to-peer (P2P) software "has too many times been hijacked by those who use it for illegal purposes to which the vast majority of our consumers do not wish to be exposed.""

There is no doubt that P2P networks are perhaps used for the distribution of copyrighted material. However, the problem with the argument that they could be shut because they are also used to distribute copyrighted material stands on shaky grounds.

Here are some issues with the argument:
- Why stop with the P2P Networks and P2P software? How about the Internet as the enabler of the P2P activities?
- P2P activities are also used by independent artists and other activist to distribute various materials without any copyright infringements
- Nobody seems to have a problem with physical CDs, video tapes, DVDs and other carrier technology (including roads and highways) as an enablers to carry content (copyrighted or otherwise) from point A to point B.

So, the issues on how to deal with the distribution of copyrighted materials should be looked from a different perspective. I think it is more of a social issue rather than technology. The P2P technology is an innovative way for content distribution and it will be very sad if it is destroyed because some people decide to use it in a manner contrary to the pertinent laws.

In P2P TV - How Independent News Video Producers Will Bypass The Mainstream TV Networks Robin Good brings forth an interesting and almost self evident argument about the potential effect of P2P TV to empower the masses by bypassing the mainstream TV networks.

To further support this position, here are some thoughts build upon Gitlin's (1980), Schiller's (1996), Streeter's (1996) and Fiske's (1996) arguments, emphasizing open communication (i.e. many-to-many) is the liberating technology from the central grip in the way this have been setup so far.

Evident from Gitlin’s and Schiller’s arguments is their emphasis on the necessity of free and open communication among the masses if there is to be any deliverance from the ‘claws’ of the media. On the contrary, it is the one-way communication (radio, TV, cable) utilized by the elites to achieve the subordination and dissemination of the hegemonic ideology. Fiske’s technologised surveillance of the physical goes hand-in-hand with surveillance of the discourse (what issues are raised on TV, radio, etc.) “because unequal access to those technologies ensures their use in promoting similar power-block interests" (Fiske 1996, p. 218). The important point brought forth here, directly or indirectly, is the identification of the closed, unidirectional (with masses on the receiving end) and restricted access of communication technology.

These aspects are identified as necessary characteristics for the maintenance and reproduction of the hegemonic ideology, enabling the elites to set the form, format and content of the public discourse (broadcasting, TV, radio, press, etc.), and as importantly decide who can participate. Therefore, it can be argued that this manifestation of communication technologies, entangled in the web of one-way communication and used by the elites for power control and dissemination of material in support of the hegemonic ideology, has shaped the traditional scholarly and public discourse, as well as their practical use, to view communication technology as intrinsically embedded with features, characteristics and functionalities, for reinforcing and aiding the hegemonic ideology.

This biased view, that communication technologies are inherently suited to help media control, is troublesome and factually wrong. For example, the scholarly and public discourse on early cable technology shows that cable access was intended for use unlike it is being used today (for dissemination popular consumer culture through its various formats with the aims of making profit). Streeter (1997) argues that cable "had the potential to rehumanize a dehumanized society, to eliminate the existing bureaucratic restrictions of government regulation common to the industrial world, and to empower the currently powerless public" (Streeter 1997, p.228). He further notes that the cable system had the potential to enable two-way communication and interactivity, but apparently failed to do so due to the social (un)response on the part of the audience: "Cable television was something that could have an important impact upon society, and it thus called for a response on the part of society; it was something to which society could respond and act upon, but that was itself outside society” (Streeter 1997, p. 225). And then adds that cable should not be viewed as an “autonomous entity that had simply appeared on the scene as the result of scientific and technical research" (Streeter 1997, p. 225). Here we see a distinction between the current social status of cable as profit making machinery and its potentials to have become socially responsible technology that would have empowered the audience with two-way open communication.

Fiske, J. (1996). Media matters: Race and Gender in U.S. Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Gitlin, T. (1980). Chapter 10, “ Media Routines and Political Crises.” In Gitlin, The Whole World is Watching (pp. 249-269). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Schiller, H.I. (1996). Information Inequality: The Deepening Social Crisis in America. New York - London: Routledge

Streeter, T. (1996). Selling The Air: A Critique of the Policy of Commercial Broadcasting in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago press

E-voting: Nightmare or actual democracy?

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The public domain discourse surrounding e-voting is very perplexing. Similarly to other articles, E-voting: Nightmare or nirvana? questions the security of e-voting systems and their viability for use in real elections.

"Once the province of a small group of election officials and equipment sellers, e-voting has exploded into the popular consciousness because of a spreading controversy over security and verifiability. Thanks to a concerted effort by opponents and to the missteps of voting machine vendor Diebold Election Systems, most of the news has been bad."

I have said this before in a previous entry (secure enough for consumerism, not good enough for voting?!) and here it is again: How is it that we can't trust e-voting security because voting would be done over the Internet, when the same Internet is used for millions of dollars in daily transactions between consumers and companies and business-to-business? The same Internet is secure enough for commerce and can be trusted with billions of dollars. Yet, it is not secure enough for voting?

Secondly, the missteps by Diebold Election Systems that produces e-voting machines are curable by the use of open source e-voting systems that are already in use in other places around the world.

Yes, there are potential problems with e-voting systems. These are the same issues that trouble all new technologies in the appropriation phase by the users. However, to claim that these issues are worse than those that troubled and still trouble e-commerce systems is absurd.

As I was reading Wired's article on apolitically encouraging people to vote in the 2004 American presidential election, I kept wondering about media's role in this process. It is interesting to note that all national networks and cable channels cover the presidential elections to a great extend through various debates and candidate coverage’s.

Sadly though, none of the networks and cable channels tries to drive voter registration so we have more voters performing their civic duties. I can't imagine anything wrong with having 70-80% or more of the eligible voters cast their votes.

So, how come then, we do not see an initiative for voter registration by the media?

Is it that the percentage of eligible voters that actually cast their vote has not changed in the past few elections? Could it be that the media are afraid they would not be able to 'analyze' the polls and other statistics if the percentage of voting people doubles?

BBC to Open Content Floodgates

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BBC to Open Content Floodgates:

"The British Broadcasting Corporation's Creative Archive, one of the most ambitious free digital content projects to date, is set to launch this fall with thousands of three-minute clips of nature programming. The effort could goad other organizations to share their professionally produced content with Web users.

The project, announced last year, will make thousands of audio and video clips available to the public for noncommercial viewing, sharing and editing. It will debut with natural-history programming, including clips that focus on plants, animals and birds."

my comments on Thijs' Predictions

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In Prediction Thijs van der Vossen has stated some ideas about how things will be in the future in terms of information and knowledge sharing.

While I agree that what Thij's writes is the desired outcome if we are doing towards a more open world, the outcome is not necessarily so. Yes, information needs to be free so it can be accessed from everywhere, by everyone, through many different devices and access methods. However, the assumption is that the corporate entities will be willing to let go the grip they have on everything information that looks profitable.

So, one of the fundamental assumptions is that all sources of information and knowledge artifacts really want to share their content. In the open source Internet as a possible antidote to corporate media hegemony I have argued that the property of openness (open content and open communication) as a fundamental property of the Internet as we know it today, is perhaps the reason why Thij's predictions look very probably. Hopefully no authoritative entity puts restrictions around what can be said and done online.

From File-sharing to bypass censorship:

"By the year 2010, file-sharers could be swapping news rather than music, eliminating censorship of any kind."
"Currently, only news that's reckoned to be of interest to Americans and Western Europeans will be syndicated because that's where the money is," he told the BBC World Service programme, Go Digital.
"But if something happens in Peru that's of interest to viewers in China and Japan, it won't get anything like the priority for syndication.

Well, hope it does not come to this because of some political decisions. However, media corporations care only about their bottom line. Thus, who cares if there is censorship due to political decisions or due to media's profit making strategies? In any case, the open content and open communication enabled by the internet seems to be our guard (to a certain degree) against censorship.

bad scientific/technology journalism or ...

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In the Supercomputers Think Fast with New Software article there is no mention of the word 'think', even though it is in the title/subject of the article.

Is this just intentionally bad journalism intended to get people to read the article because they believe computers and thinking are interesting conjectures, or, the journalist really does not know that computers (even supercomputers) can really think but only process information/data.

Talking about social construction of concepts. What goes on in those people's minds who believe computers can think? Do they believe that computers are always right and/or should always be trusted as such?

“The conditions associated with a particular class of conditions of existence produce habitus, systems of durable, transportable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as principles which generate and organize practices and representations that can be objectively adapted to their outcomes without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations necessary in order to attain them. Objectively ‘regulated’ and ‘regular’ without being in any way the product of obedience to rules, they can be collectively orchestrated without being the product of the organizing actions of a conductor” (Bourdieu, p. 53)

The above quote by Bourdieu, when viewed from the perspective of the society as the ‘habitus’, is quiet informing (in theory as well as in practice) of media’s interplay with the social structures within which they are embedded.  As we have seen throughout our course readings, media technologies—as important instruments at various levels of communication processes in the society, have encountered resistance by various cultural and social norms, and somewhat mixed response from economical and political forces because of their profit making potentials or power generation ability. More then any other type of technology, media and communication technologies have been the subject of public and scholarly debates because of their intrinsic characteristics to be able to convey (asynchronously) content across time and space (at distance), inscribed in form of data, information, images, knowledge, and wisdom, in mediums such as books, data tape drives, CD-ROMS, video and audio tapes, etc. Additionally, synchronous communication has enabled instantaneous communication among people (e.g. telephone, audio and video conferencing, online chat) enabling efficient, but not necessarily effective exchange of information, ideas, thoughts, and concepts.

The pervasive and widespread use of media technologies, often used ubiquitously for symbolic purposes, is also used by the governing elites to maintain the status quo and ensure stability. The necessity to reproduce and maintain a stable state, the habitus (to borrow from Bourdieu whose habitus concept is similar to the stable state produced and maintained by the hegemonic ideology), requires ways for disseminating cultural and political material of the dominant ideology. Similarly to how Bourdieu describes the functioning of the habitus, Gitlin defines the status quo as hegemony, “a ruling class’s (or alliance’s) domination of subordinate classes and groups through the elaboration and penetration of ideology (ideas and assumptions) into their common sense and everyday practice,” and contends that it “is systematic (but not necessary or even usually deliberate) engineering of mass consent to established order” (Gitlin, 1980, pp. 253). Further, elaborating on the aspect of hegemony and clarifying the composition of the elite, mostly government, corporate establishment and those institutions that produce cultural artifacts, Schiller (1996) explains their economic reason for cooperation: “The American economy is now hostage to a relatively small number of giant private companies, with interlocking connections, that set the national agenda. This power is particularly characteristic of the communication and information sector where the national cultural-media agenda is provided by a very small (and declining) number of integrated private combines. This development has deeply eroded free individual expression, a vital element of a democratic society” (Schiller, 1996, p. 44).

This paper will attempt to elaborate on the interplay between media and communication technologies, and social structures and forces (social, cultural, economical, political), whether institutionalized or not, emphasizing that both the content and the channels of communication through which the content is distributed are important factors in the production, maintenance and further reproduction of the artifacts of the dominant ideology. I will argue that the content that is being represented and recorded, when conveyed via open communication (such as the Internet), can show us the liberating potentials of various media technologies. As such, communication technologies are situated as important actors in the process to displacing or shifting the status quo.

open content, open communication everywhere!

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From Copyright Doesn't Cover This Site:

"To prove that open sourcing any and all information can help students swim instead of sink, the University of Maine's Still Water new media lab has produced the Pool, a collaborative online environment for creating and sharing images, music, videos, programming code and texts. "
"We are training revolutionaries -- not by indoctrinating them with dogma but by exposing them to a process in which sharing culture rather than hoarding it is the norm," said Joline Blais, a professor of new media at the University of Maine and Still Water co-director.
"It's all about imagining a society where sharing is productive rather than destructive, where cooperation becomes more powerful than competition," Blais said.

TV, Violence and Aggression

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In determining which of the four readings to analyze closer for this exercise, the Robinson, Wilde, Navracrus, Haydel and Varady (2001) article presents a more coherent research piece, in my viewpoint, primarily because the theoretical background is better understood (in comparison with the rest of the articles) considering that I’m not very well versed in behavioral and cognitive sciences which seem to be necessary to fully understand, appreciate and be able to provide constructive criticism. Further, Robinson et al. have gone to a great length to elaborate in details on their methodology, the measures used, and their rationale for using them, including a rather detailed report on the statistical procedure used with the corresponding results. The article ends with a great amount, relatively speaking, of concluding remarks including elaborations of limitations and strengths.

Unlike the other three articles that attempt to understand what happens with treatment group(s) when exposed to intervention that increases the dose of exposure to aggressive and violent media or exposure to media in general, the Robinson et al. article attempts to answer whether reduction in media exposure (reduced television, videotape and videogame use) has the effect to reduce violent and aggressive behaviors.

The basic premise in Robinson et al., as it has been shown by the rest of the articles, is that exposure to media increases violent and aggressive behavior (Centerwall, 1989), especially the exposure to violent and aggressive television and videotape viewing, results in the subjects to exhibit less sensitivity and concern about such behaviors when committed by others (Linz, Donnoerstein, & Penrod, 1984). Thus, Robinson et al. hypothesize that reduction in media exposure in general by reducing television, videotape and videogame use, reduces violent and aggressive behaviors in children.

Who Owns The Facts?

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Who Owns The Facts?

(courtesy of slashdot)
"windowpain writes "With all of the furor over the Patriot Act a truly scary bill that expands the rights of corporations at the expense of individuals was quietly introduced into congress in October. In Feist v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co. the Supreme Court ruled that a mere collection of facts can't be copyrighted. But H.R. 3261, the Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act neatly sidesteps the copyright question and allows treble damages to be levied against anyone who uses information that's in a database that a corporation asserts it owns. This is an issue that crosses the political spectrum. Left-leaning organizations like the American Library Association oppose the bill and so do arch-conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly, who wrote an impassioned column exposing the bill for what it is the week after it was introduced."

The Digital Imprimatur

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How big brother and big media can put the Internet genie back in the bottle

The Digital Imprimatur (via Open Access News):

John Walker, The Digital Imprimatur, September 13, 2003 (revised October 9). The co-founder of Autodesk pulls together the grounds for pessimism about the future of the openness of the internet. Excerpt: With the advent of the internet "[i]ndividuals, all over the globe, were empowered to create and exchange information of all kinds, spontaneously form virtual communities, and do so in a totally decentralised manner, free of any kind of restrictions or regulations....Indeed, the very design of the Internet seemed technologically proof against attempts to put the genie back in the bottle....Earlier I believed there was no way to put the Internet genie back into the bottle. In this document I will provide a road map of precisely how I believe that could be done, potentially setting the stage for an authoritarian political and intellectual dark age global in scope and self-perpetuating, a disempowerment of the individual which extinguishes the very innovation and diversity of thought which have brought down so many tyrannies in the past."

social software - what's in the name?

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I've come across few various sites and some articles (blog entries, etc.) talking about social software. The phrase does sound interesting and the name (i.e. social software) appears to promise much more than what actually happens to be.

For example, in iCan for the Public the folks over at Many2Many state:

"The BBC's iCan is in public pre-beta, a social software project to foster social capital and democratic participation. I posted on M2M about the project back in May. (Just a little before that we were having the same power-law inspired discussion of weblog modalities we are today)."

After reviewing the iCan site, it appears to be a collaborative tool/portal where people from the UK can share personal opinions and learn from each other. A clear statement is made at the site that iCan can't be used for commercial purposes.

The common denominator of the tools termed 'social software' seems to be the ability to facilitate open collaboration among the publics or users of such software with the 'publishers/moderators' playing a facilitating role. According to this I would contend that a wide range of software packages that support collaboration have the potential to be used in a way that makes them 'social software'. For example, any software such as mailing lists managers, CMS/portals, blogging software, etc., fit the pattern. However, it is their use that makes them 'social software’ or not. Needless to say, those collaborative software packages that do not support open communication and sharing of ideas and thoughts can't be considered 'social software'.

Where did the technology come from?

Writing a critique on McLuhan’s work and ideas presents the challenge of where to start and exactly what to critique in light of the fact that McLuhan has written so widely and perhaps less coherently than the rest of his contemporaries.

In this paper I’m concentrating on few of his ideas and thoughts, namely McLuhan’s technological determinism viewpoint or lack of one thereof—considering his opinionated statement that “… all media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment” (McLuhan interview, p.54, column 3), in conjunction with his statement that “the medium is also the message” (McLuhan interview, p.56, column 1), and his apparent misdiagnosis of the role of the media in the hegemonic process as described by Gitlin.

McLuhan has so much to say about various technologies and their intimate interplay with human and social senses, yet, he does not say anything about how various technologies are constructed. While McLuhan does not necessarily fit the profile of a technological determinist, he appears to be supporting the view that the human society is helpless and must, or eventually ought to succumb to the technological forces: “The computer thus holds out the promise of technologically engendered state of universal understanding and unity, a state of absorption in the logos that could knit mankind into one family and create a perpetuity of collective harmony and peace” (McLuhan, 1969, p.72). The shortcoming of this argument is that McLuhan does not address the process of technological innovation, despite the fact that this very process of innovation provides the explanation of how various technologies come to be constructed via and through the complex process of interplay of various social, human, and non-human entities in our society. The process of technological innovation is constantly in flux, including here various media and communication technologies. Therefore, the lack of the innovation and the social constructionism argument presents a shortcoming in McLuhan’s overall argument that the human society must succumb to technological forces. Media are not isolated entities that spur by and in themselves. Media technologies are invented, created, and deployed by man. Thus, there is a control factor that determines to a certain degree their use and their potential effect. Even if it can be assumed that the social forces and factors in the process of social constructionism of media technologies can totally imbed and manifest themselves through the technologies that they help create, it wouldn’t be the technology that is the instigator. Certainly, in McLuhan’s arguments this seems to be the case and this is precisely the underlying problem that I see with his argument: while media technologies can and do manifest certain socio-economic and political power structures, media technologies do not create those; media technologies merely mediate and/or reinforce the power of the social structures within which they are imbedded and utilized.

MIT for free, virtually: OpenCourseWare

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MIT for free, virtually (serendipitous link discovery via ResourseShelf)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is making its course materials available to the world for free download

"One year after the launch of its pilot program, MIT on Monday night quietly published everything from class syllabuses to lecture videos for 500 courses through its OpenCourseWare initiative, an ambitious project it hopes will spark a Web-based revolution in the way universities share information."

Let's see how far (in time and space) this ‘revolution’ will reach! Maybe, if each school does not have to (re)create the course materials from scratch, the tuition will go down! :) Or maybe someone will be making more money.

Nevertheless, in terms of information and/or knowledge sharing there ought not to be any doubt that this is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the potentials can be utilized to benefit the society in general.

Discord at digital divide talks

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Discord at digital divide talks:

"Sharp divisions over how to bridge the digital divide between rich and poor have emerged ahead of a UN summit on the issue in December."

No wonder... with the presence of representatives from the private sector who ultimately care about their bottom line (i.e. $$$), it can hardly be expected that much will be achieved in terms of equality to information access. This sort of exercises lead nowhere unless there is a long stick that the ITU can use to implement the promoted initiatives, to even modestly tilt the balance of access to information.

"African nations have been rallying behind a proposal from Senegal to set up a new 'digital solidarity fund'"

"Many industrialised nations are wary of creating a new UN fund. Instead they favour encouraging investment by private companies and re-directing existing aid."

It appears that the issue of control and profits is the sticky point. So, the question does not seem to be as weather the developing countries should be 'helped' with advanced information technology. See my entry the seriousness of equal access to information for all - Information Summit where I've tried to present my concerns.

From Swiss demand clear goals for Information Summit:

"At the opening of the third preparatory meeting for the summit in Geneva, Leuenberger set out his recommendations before more than 1,900 representatives from 143 nations, the private sector and non-governmental organisations. Leuenberger added that the main bone of contention was finding ways to finance the summit initiatives and he urged the participating nations to present more concrete ideas by September 26, the last day of the prep talks."

"The three-day summit, which kicks off in Geneva on December 10, hopes to develop an action plan to provide equal access to information for all people around the world."

The initiatives for equal access to information for all the people around the world are to be admired at least for recognizing the importance of access to information in today’s information society (or better said society relaying so much on information exchange).

However, with the presence of representatives from the private sector who ultimately care about their bottom line (i.e. $$$), it can hardly be expected that much will be achieved in terms of equality to information access. This sort of exercises lead nowhere unless there is a long stick that the ITU can use to implement the promoted initiatives, to even modestly tilt the balance of access to information.

What usually happens in such meetings though is that the private sector that controls the means of access as well as the information itself is unwilling to give up some of its power. So, what ends up happening is that the current private-sector players join forces with local private sector players around the world, as if that means equal access. The private sector is interested about the bottom line whether it is in the developed countries or in the developing countries. So, instead of equal access to information for all, the current private sector players extend their control of access to information even further, paradoxically via the vehicles (such as this summit) that were supposed to enable the equal access.

What is a possible solution? Perhaps the state representatives to the Information Summit need to change their policies in terms of access to access technologies and information. These types of summits are good, but ultimately the mains responsibilities reside with the states themselves, with NGOs playing an important role in pushing their governments to enact 'fair' policies regarding access technologies and access to information.

Senate Votes to Repeal New Media Ownership Rules

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From Senate Votes to Repeal New Media Ownership Rules:

"By a vote of 55 to 40, the Senate approved a resolution that would roll back the F.C.C. regulations allowing television networks to own more local stations and that would have permitted conglomerates to own newspaper, television and radio stations in a single metropolitan market."
"The measure faces a tougher battle in the House of Representatives. And President Bush, who has yet to veto a single piece of legislation, has threatened to veto this bill if it reaches his desk."

Why is the president so strongly opinionated about this bill?

Senate Panel Blocks FCC Ownership Rules

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Senate Panel Blocks FCC Ownership Rules

"WASHINGTON - A Senate committee voted Thursday to prevent federal regulators from letting media companies own larger shares of the nation's television market, defying a White House veto threat."

"The Senate Appropriations Committee's voice vote came six weeks after the House approved a bill that would also block the liberalized ownership rules. After Thursday's vote, the Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee said he believed President Bush (news - web sites) would not veto the measure."

some McLuhan quotes and phrases

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McLuhanisms provides set of quotes by Marshall McLuhan. Here are some that I find particularly interesting:

"With telephone and TV it is not so much the message as the sender that is 'sent'."

"We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future."

"People don’t actually read newspapers. They step into them every morning like a hot bath."

"All advertising advertises advertising."

"The missing link created far more interest than all the chains and explanations of being."

"The future of the book is the blurb."

"The ignorance of how to use new knowledge stockpiles exponentially."

The same site also elaborates on the origins of Global Village:

"In Understanding Media he put the matter this way: "...since the inception of the telegraph and radio, the globe has contracted, spatially, into a single large village. Tribalism is our only resource since the electro-magnetic discovery. Moving from print to electronic media we have given up an eye for an ear." (xii-xiii)"

it explains the concept of media and technologies as Extensions of Man:

"It was R. W. Emerson who wrote that "The human body is the magazine of inventions, the patent-office, where are the models from which every hint was taken. All the tools and engines on earth are only extensions of its limbs and senses" (1870)."

and provides reasoning on why McLuhan considered that The Medium is the Message:

"Each medium, independent of the content it mediates, has its own intrinsic effects which are its unique message. The message of any medium or technology is the change of scale."

Open content and value creation

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From First Monday
Open content and value creation by Magnus Cedergren:

"In this paper, I consider open content as an important development track in the media landscape of tomorrow. I define open content as content possible for others to improve and redistribute and/or content that is produced without any consideration of immediate financial reward — often collectively within a virtual community. The open content phenomenon can to some extent be compared to the phenomenon of open source. Production within a virtual community is one possible source of open content. Another possible source is content in the public domain. This could be sound, pictures, movies or texts that have no copyright, in legal terms."

Not that the "open content phenomenon can to some extent be compared to the phenomenon of open source", from another perspective perhaps it is more appropriate to look at open source as open content. I would argue that open source (as related to software) is a special case of open content. I guess my definition of open content then becomes broader than what the above article suggests in relation to media.

Open Content and Open Communication

link: World-Information.Org

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Courtesy of Information Literacy Weblog:

"For those interested in information society issues, and interesting website is World-Information.Org This is "a collaborative effort of organizations and individuals who are directly concerned with issues of participatory involvement in Information and Communication Technologies, and the Internet as we know it today." It involves artists, scientists and others, and encourages a creative and critical approach to the internet and digital media. They organise conferences and exhibitions (with some online material), and their Read me section includes some interesting material (e.g. on "disinformation", the role of government intelligence etc.)"

Information Access Alliance

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From Information Access Alliance

"The Information Access Alliance believes that a new standard of antitrust review should be adopted by state and federal antitrust enforcement agencies in examining merger transactions in the serials publishing industry. When reviewing proposed mergers, antitrust authorities should consider the decision-making process used by libraries – the primary customers of STM and legal serial publications – to make purchasing decisions. Only then will these mergers be subjected to the degree of scrutiny they deserve and adequate access be preserved."

A noble and very practical effort .... Let’s just hope that the 'right' ears are listening and the powerful publishing corps do not block this effort. See my arguments in open access to scientific information, a response to the article Free Public Access to Science—Will It Happen? (July 7, 2003).

F.C.C. Media Rule Blocked in House in a 400-to-21 Vote

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From F.C.C. Media Rule Blocked in House in a 400-to-21 Vote:

"WASHINGTON, July 23 — The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation today to block a new rule supported by the Bush administration that would permit the nation's largest television networks to grow bigger by owning more stations.
If, as is becoming more likely, the provision survives in final legislation, President Bush will face a difficult political predicament. He could carry out his veto threat and alienate some of his traditional constituents, which include several conservative organizations opposed to a number of new rules adopted by the F.C.C. Or, he could sign the legislation, abandon the networks and undercut his own advisers who have recommended that he reject the legislation."

'the medium is the message' or 'the medium is a message'

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How obvious is McLuhan's statement 'the medium is the message'? When I read McLuhan for the first time, I was a bit skeptical in accepting the phrase at face value. This is perhaps due to the fact that I'm involved in everyday work with information exchange as a systems analyst where the content is an important aspect. However, the acceptance that the medium is the message is at a more profound level of practicality as well as consciousness.

The medium is independent of the content to the extent that the new technologies have tremendous impact in shaping the society by bringing new concepts of understanding of what it means to be 'here' and 'there', both spatially and in time; thus, it is more appropriate to say that 'the medium is a message' in a sense that the nature of the medium by itself is informative about the broader understanding of the new technology and its place in the appropriate social structures. The content comes to play a role once the technology somewhat establishes itself in the society (or the relevant structures) and even then it is heavily interleaved with the medium via which is transmitted.

Is there a fine line where we can claim that the content is independent from the medium? While we may consider the medium independent of the message/content, it is not as easy to consider the content independently of the medium within which it is exchanged. It seems that the content is shaped extensively by the medium for which it is intended.

media technologies for open communication

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While I agree in principle with Fiske in rejecting the technological determinism point of view, I also believe that due to the social construction of communication technologies there ought to be some characteristics of particular technologies that are better fit to serve the designer. My argument is that if a particular technology was designed to serve the corporate interest, most of its features will be driven to maximize the profits. [see the entry on adaptive structuration for this argument]

In contrast, if a group of people is about to design technology for open communication and democratic access to information, the technology in question will have such features as to enable easy of access to information and make it hard for that technology to be used for restriction purposes. But again, it isn’t the technology per se; it is the social structures that tilt technology use for particular purposes.

Unfortunately, most of the communication technology in use today has been built and appropriated for profit making activities. Example: cable could have been made interactive, but it wasn’t. The Internet and many of its communication tools exhibit characteristics of open communication. However, even here the corporate power has entered the arena attempting to strangulate the open communication characteristics by controlling the access…

Fiske, J. (1996). Media matters: Race and Gender in U.S. Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

The open source Internet as a possible antidote to corporate media hegemony

technologies for Free Speech

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From Hacking for Free Speech:

"The free exchange of information over the Internet has proven to be a threat to the social and political control that repressive governments covet. But rather than ban the Internet (and lose valuable business opportunities), most repressive governments seek to limit their citizens' access to it instead."

"To do so, they use specialized computer hardware and software to create firewalls. These firewalls prevent citizens from accessing Web pages - or transmitting emails or files - that contain information of which their government disapproves."

"Hacktivism's approaches raise a number of interesting questions. Can hacktivism really work? That is, can a technology successfully complement, supplant, or even defy the law to operate either as a source of enhanced freedom (or, for that matter, social control)? On balance, will technological innovation aid or hinder Net censorship?"

In response to the 3rd quote from above, whether the technology can “successfully complement, supplant, or even defy the law to operate either as a source of enhanced freedom (or, for that matter, social control)”, the appropriate framework needs to be applied. From the technological determinism point of view it is apparent that the technology does exhibit characteristics that would make it as a source of enhanced freedom or as a tool for a social control. Which in turns leads us to social constructionism to understand how these technologies are constructed in the first place, and why have they acquired the attributes and the properties they have?

Certainly, the appropriate framework cannot be exclusively social constructionism or technological determinism. It has to be a mixture of both as information technology does not exists in isolation—it has been created as a result of the social structures that initiated it (for a purpose) and it has been embedded afterwards. However, once the information technology becomes part of the social ecosystem (this is an iterative process in itself), depending on its properties (whether they are restrictive or exhibit characteristics of open communication and free exchange of ideas) it will project is properties onto the structures within which it is embedded.

Thus, one might see the open source technology as instigator of open communication and exchange of open content, precisely for the reason that it has been build with such attributes and properties.

It is not hard to see that a technology which does not provide the functionality for its end users to freely communication among themselves cannot be used “as a source for enhanced freedom” (i.e. TV as a one way communication tech). In turn, the open source internet manifests itself in many ways that lets the users communicate amongst themselves without control from a third party. Perhaps this positions the open source Internet as a possible antidote to corporate media hegemony.

In Google, Blogging and the Australian Web Model it is argued that:

"... Different to the States, the Internet and more specifically the web [in Australia] is dominated by large companies. In America the web is seen to be a place where the one-man-band and large companies can co-exist and to a large extent it is the little person who drives the agenda for the web rather than a large company."

"In contrast with other countries, there is relatively little real information developed for the Internet by grassroots people."

It is indeed apparent that in the States large companies do co-exist with the ‘one-man-band’. However, the coexistence is not at equally comparative levels and it does not appear that ‘it is the little person who drives the agenda for the web rather than a large company.’

This is not to say that the ‘little person’ does not have the venues to drive the agenda for the Web. Indeed, the open source Internet does provide the capability and the potentials for the little person to drive the agenda. However, just because the capability is there, it does not seem it is exercisable. For one, large companies in the US that are involved in one way or another with the Internet (access or content providers) are interested ultimately about the bottom line (i.e. their profits). Needless to say, if the little person’s agenda does not fit the agenda supported by the large companies, the ideas, opinions, and thoughts of the ‘one-man-band’ will be suppressed from the public discourse by means of restricted access and restricted content distribution.

Having said the above, I should emphasize that I do believe that the open source Internet as we know it today does posses the properties and the attributes to empower the ‘little person’ or the ‘one-man-band’ to impose certain agendas (to some extend) on the large companies. In the open source Internet as a possible antidote to corporate media hegemony I have argued exactly this. The open source Internet, as a result of open source movement, manifests itself as a possible antidote to the corporate media hegemony, not only in the US but also throughout the world.

What makes the open source Internet as a possible antidote to the corporate media hegemony? It is its open nature: open content and open communication. Unless the access points and other ISPs start policing anything and everything that is published and communicated via personal web pages, blogs, and e-mails, the possibility will always exists for the masses to communicate, organize and set the agendas for the discourse and therefore push large media corporations to seriously address them. This however requires a critical mass. And, unless the agenda of the critical mass is in line with the ‘profit’ agenda’s of the large corporations, they will be pushed in the sidelines, away from the eyes and the minds of the public discourse.

In any case, it is quiet apparent that the use of the open source Internet has provided a venue for the ‘little persons’ to make a difference and be heard. The blogging has provided another genre and a unique venue for the ‘little persons’ to communicate and set the agenda(s).

Certainly, so far the large media corporations have appropriated any such capabilities and properties of the Internet exclusively for ‘profit making’. How is this different than Australia?

Is blogging any different such that to escape the ‘profit making’ machinery of the large media corporations? Only history will tell…

Roll Back the FCC's Rule Changes

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ACTION ALERT: Roll Back the FCC's Rule Changes

"Over the protests of hundreds of thousands of Americans, a range of public interest advocacy groups and two dissenting Democratic commissioners, the FCC on June 2 voted to repeal or weaken some of the few remaining checks on the dominance of big media companies. Attention now moves to Congress, as a number of lawmakers attempt to roll back at least some of the changes, some of which now appear to be more drastic than previously reported.

For instance, most media outlets have reported that under the FCC's new rules, a single company can now own TV stations that reach 45 percent of U.S. households, up from 35 percent. Because of a little-reported loophole, however, a single company could actually reach far more people-- in theory, as much as 90 percent of U.S. viewers (New York Times, 5/13/03). "

def: media literacy

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Media Literacy: The ability to decode, analyze, evaluate, and produce communication in a variety of forms.

From Definitions of Information Literacy and Related Terms

Center for Digital Discourse and Culture

"The Center for Digital Discourse and Culture (CDDC) is a college-level center at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the College of Arts and Sciences. Working with faculty in the Virginia Tech Cyberschool, the CDDC provides one of the world's first university based digital points-of-publication for new forms of scholarly communication, academic research, and cultural analysis. At the same time, it supports the continuation of traditional research practices, including scholarly peer review, academic freedom, network formation, and intellectual experimentation. Our aim is to be open to all forms of cultural, ideological, methodological, and scientific discourse, while encouraging diversity, interdisciplinarity, and academic excellence."

open access and ISPs

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In FCC official: No need to regulate ISPs CNET reports FCC official as saying:

"There is no need for the Federal Communications Commission to adopt rules to address concerns that high-speed Internet service providers will favor some Web sites over others, an agency official said on Friday."

Is FCC sleeping or something? It is very obvious that internet service provides (as access agents) care only about their bottom line (profits!) and do not want potential profits to surf away to their competitors or to other content providers with whom they do not have mutual agreements.

The main concern however is that if the ISPs are not required to truly provide an open access (i.e. roaming the internet space without restriction) to their customers, the access to the non-for-profit and other activist organizations' websites would suffer. The ISPs could also use their power to restrict access to websites critical of their business practices.

Further, discrimination to content access might also negatively effects innovation:

"The threat of discrimination against content undermines investment and chills innovation," said Mark Cooper, research director at Consumer Federation of America. " We cannot risk having the monopolist destroy the innovative environment of the Internet. It's just too big of a risk to the public interest."

how to make 'freer information' be better

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The paradox of the information society, or should I better say paradoxes (depending on the viewpoint and sense used for analysis), are more then evident. Bloch perhaps believed that freer information access will enable better historical research: “Our civilization will take an immense forwards stride on the day when concealment, raised to a rule of action and almost to a bourgeois virtue, shall give way to the desire for information which is necessarily the desire to exchange information” (Bloch, p.70).

Unfortunately, information is still controlled by the ‘bourgeois’ of our time and historical research is as hard as before, maybe even harder since the means for information control have increased in sophistication, dampening any positive effect due to the abundance of information. Actually even the abundance has its negative consequences—the difficulty with the concept of relevance. Certainly the Internet provides some hope due to its apparent openness.

However, the real and true freedom of information can be assessed by the degree to which the distribution of information is based on open communication, i.e. free and open access, and many-to-many communication without oversight by the ‘power(s)’. If “in fact, one of the greatest challenges facing the historian is the extend to which his or her research relies on unpublished materials” (Powell, p.172), how does the task of the historian change if all materials are published?

The new information society will perhaps require new tools for researching the past. This could be taken as challenge by information science for it to provide the tools for discovering the tracks and identifying the links in light of free access and open communication within the appropriate context.

Bloch, M. (1953). The historian's craft by Marc Bloch. New York: Vintage Books.

Powell, R.R. (1997). Basic research methods for librarians. London: Ablex. (Chapter 7: Historical research)

The challenge related to track’s ambiguity is manifold considering that “in contrast to the knowledge of the present, that of the past is necessarily ‘indirect’” (Bloch, p.48). Bloch further explains that “by ‘indirect knowledge’ the methodologists have generally understood that which arrives at the mind of the historian only by way if other human minds” (p.53).

This process of knowledge ‘traveling’ through the human mind unquestionably involves the process of presentation and representation (besides for memorization of texts which ‘copies exactly’), usually in a written form. In this process there is a constant meaning making and interpretation (Bloch, p.187) of the available material. Also, words have different meaning in time and space, therefore historical research needs to account to the extent possible for the contextual meaning of the words ‘placed’ in the time and space (Bloch, p.163).


the movement of ideas, thoughts, concepts, and knowledge

Bloch, M. (1953). The historian's craft by Marc Bloch. New York: Vintage Books.

the movement of ideas, thoughts, concepts, and knowledge

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From the viewpoint of historical research, especially interesting is Darnton’s (1990) elaboration on the history of books, or should I better say Darnton’s application of various historical research tools in his study of history of book with its aim “… to understand how ideas were transmitted through print and how exposure to the printed word affected the thought and behavior of mankind during the last five hundred years” (p. 107).

In this sense, it can be argued that historical research as artisan’s tool and methodology falls within the realm of information studies, or even information science, more so when utilized in analyzing and studying the movement and influence of ideas, thoughts, concepts and knowledge, represented at various levels of intentionality, manifested as temporal and spatial information dissemination via the printed press—containing representations of the products of the human mind.

It appears then that information acts as a carrier, a transmission channel on which ideas, thoughts, concepts, and knowledge ride.

information: conveyor of ideas, thoughts, concepts and knowledge

Darnton, R. (1990). The Kiss of Lamourette. New York: W.W. Norton.

Digital Libraries and the Information Society

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“Human-centered digital library design is particularly challenging because human information behavior is a complex and highly context dependent, and the digital library concept and technologies are rapidly changing” (Marchionini et al., p.1)

Digital libraries like many other unique conceptual and practical phenomena resulting from the information explosion have presented both the researchers and the practitioners alike with a challenge to understand its very complex and multifaceted nature. As with any emerging concept and practice, there is a struggle to define its scope and its contextual situatedness. All three articles in one way or another deal with the definition and the meaning of the term ‘digital library’, the social relevance, and its place in the information society amid the multitude of contexts it is imbedded, and its implication for research and practice.

digital open access systems

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In enunciating the third law (“EVERY BOOKS ITS READER”) Ranganathan states that this law: “would urge that an appropriate reader should be found for every book” (p.258). The implication would be to build a digital open access system where users can remotely browse and access all digital information objects in a digital library.

From another point of view EVERY DIGITAL INFORMATION OBJECT ITS READER/USER could mean that there must be a purpose behind digital library’s acquisition (or buying licenses) of a particular digital content. If a user/reader for a particular digital content is not always in sight, what is the point in a digital library to ‘carry’ it? But then, here is the challenge: who determines and knows what digital collections a digital library should ‘carry’ when its scope and user base is potentially more versatile due to the global nature?

Ranganathan, S. R. (1957). The five laws of library science. London: Blunt and Sons, Ltd. pp. 11-31, 80-87, 258-263, 287-291, 326-329

On Open Access

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The Open Access page at the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) presents a critical viewpoint about the need and the necessity of open access in the midst of the corporate attempt to control all major access channels.

Besides the need for open access, there is a need for open content and open communication if there is to be a viable and substantial public discourse on digital democracy.

By Mentor Cana, PhD
more info at LinkedIn
email: mcana {[at]} kmentor {[dot]} com

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Mass Media category.

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