OII Day 5

Posted on: July 22, 2007

Copyright 2010: The Future of Copyright presented by Brian Fitzgerald, Wendy Seltzer, Bill McGeveran

This was an incredibly interactive session on copyright. It went really fast, and so the people that did not have previous knowledge of copyright/ip fundamentals might have been a bit lost. However, the discussion was fantasically recorded by Wendy Seltzer on the Wiki.

My favorite part of this discussion was when we broke up into three groups: the content industry, the company (ex Google), and the future. I was in the “future” section which was tasked with figuring out what the future of copyright ought to look like, in any terms including economic, social, or legal. My main contribution to this argument was that we should not erect barriers just to keep old business models. The content industry needs to adapt their business models to the changing world, not attempt to stifle and choke all channels of innovation and distribution. I wish the content industry would learn from its own history and thus try not to reproduce it. For example in 1984, Universal Studios sued Sony who created the Betamax machine (early version of the VCR) for copyright infringement. This became known as the Betamax Case. The Supreme Court found that the Betamax (and VCR) were not liable for infringement because many people were using the technology for non-infringing purposes such as time-shifting tv shows. According to Wikipedia,

“The case was a boon to the home video market as it created a legal safe haven for the technology, which also significantly benefited the entertainment industry through the sale of pre-recorded movies.”

During the 90s, the video market made up more than 70% of the entertainment industry’s profit. Unfortunately, the industry has not learned and are once again attempting to stifle technology, and potentially new sources of revenue, in order to hold on to old business models.

Obama Girl Confronts the Future: New Media Literacies, Civic Engagement, and Participatory Culture presented by Henry Jenkins, Carrie Lambert-Beatty

I introduced Henry Jenkins of this talk. I am a huge admirer of his work (Read Convergence Culture now!), so it was an incredible pleasure both to meet him and also to get the chance to introduce him. I also got him to sign my Convergence Culture book (and was giddy like a fannish girl). In my introduction, my main question of HJ was: How much of the participation and engagement with democracy through popular culture gets translated to action offline? Does engagement and play online invoke a soft activism, whereby people feel that their online participation/engagement is enough involvement in the democratic process?

Henry Jenkins talked very fast and his brilliant ideas shot out at me 100 mph, so I was not able to transcribe as much as I would have liked. Here is what I was able to accomplish:

What images of democracy do we have?

  • Images of founding fathers/colonials
  • In 1930’s, around FDR, citizen participation
  • Same images recirculate today (uncle sam)

The infusion of popular cultural gives us the chance to reinvent images to move towards a democracy that looks to the future instead of in the past. The new images of democracy could look like avatars from video video games or second life.

What does is mean for a country to use massive multiple player games to have protests?

Henry mentioned a case where 10,000 people in China protested inside a video game. We can make an analogy to the masking of identity in history to enable political action. Games allow for the masking of identity in countries where bodily protests would be too dangerous.

What is the mechanism of democracy when we draw a comparison between American Idol votes and Presidential elections ?

    Citizen activism with the power to negate – keeping bad singers on American Idol
    Testbed for Chinese democracy with American-Idol like program

Henry Jenkins highly recommend Steven Duncombe’s book “Dream”, and said that it addresses many of the issues of participatory culture and how the language of popular culture can be used to manufacture dissent. Some quotes from the book which I was able to type out fast enough ..

“Our spectacles will be participatory: dreams that the public can mold and shape ourselves…”

“Spectacles will not cover over or replace reality but amplify it”

Henry then went on to talk about the ideals of progressive popular culture:

  • Participatory
  • Active
  • Open-ended
  • Transparent
  • Transformative

He believes that skills are being learned from play that will later be applied towards more serious ends such as participatory democracy. He says that kids in a hunting society play with bows and arrows, kids in an information society play with information, that could be potentially be harnessed for political ends.

Additionally, much of the language we use to talk about politics shuts people out, its too cold, and well boring. What could we do to enable the same principles, skills, and social affiliation that people feel towards video games worlds towards politics? Perhaps we can develop new language to help engage young people in politics. There is also a question of the viability of long term engagement in our current “snack culture”. Guilds in video games provide different models of engagement, but we need to learn ways to move from guilds to real world. Henry Jenkins does not know how to accomplish this yet, but feels it is an important area of research.

He also mentions that in a hybrid media culture, there is a blur between top-down and bottom-up creation (ex: astroturf, top-down media that is producing fake bottom-up videos). Therefore, new literacies and competencies are required to be able to understand videos that mix up knowledge of both politics and popular culture.

Finally, the Internet is about spreadability, moving from sticky culture to a movable culture. The cultural object gains value from being moved, as from YouTube to being embedded in a blog. We can thus be informed by the locations to which do people move videos (blogs, journals, myspace, ect), what kind of discourse springs up around those videos.

At this point, Carrie chimed in with the loss of the sense of radically itself. Because of the quantity of material that is published there is a form of radicalism fatigue. In the pre-Internet days, underground groups would attempt to provide a big punch of resistance. Now resitance is less about disruption (Adbusters, Cultural jamming) but about participation.

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Alla Zollers

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