Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Not-so-Futuristic, The Chapter Mason is Missing

When we think about the future, our juvenile minds take us on a journey to a land where sky scrapers are higher than the twin towers, where cars hover, and we are all wearing sunglasses that wrap around our heads as if it is a virtual simulator. I recently viewed a video on YouTube that portrayed a potential future that is more realistic to the road we are currently travelling; regarding media communication, and everyday tasks. The video depicted a day in the life an average working man, from waking up and turning off his alarm clock by sliding his hand over his phone without touching it. It proceeded to show a girl in the bathroom brushing her teeth, the mirror doubled as a touch screen giving her a day calendar, a clock, with a news feed of current events that she could instantaneously share with whomever she clicked on. The idea behind the video was that new technology is not that far off when we consider how far it has come, and the touch screen has literally swarmed our nation. Cellphones, ipods, and ipads are leaving their mark and sparking the imagination of pirates everywhere.

Although the video was created through editing and adding the touch screens in after the video was taken, the idea is still there. All that needs to happen is for the right pirate to create, or rather manipulate existing software and make this video a reality.

The reality as of right now is that there is technology that exists at this moment of wireless power. Systems currently exist that deliver electricity to devices without wires at all. What needs to happen now is for a skilled programmer (when I say this I can’t help but think about pirates) to tackle the technical aspect of this concept, and design the physical and metaphoric interior.

Our world has mad in necessary to give hands on opportunities to gain insight and real experience. Touch screens are literally hands on equipment and I believe it brings more connectivity to the average thoughts of media such as video games, Facebook, and YouTube. Instead of moving your mouse a few inches to the right you can physically touch where you want to go. In this sense it could minimize frustrations of use of a mouse. Sometimes it’s slow, sometimes it doesn’t connect properly and this is a mild solution to that. Not to mention, we already take our phones with us everywhere and if this desktop mechanism could actually collapse and expand at your desired touch it would round yet another corner in technological myths.

This technology is out there, it just needs to be tweaked and adjusted to our society’s desire.  

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Hip-hop Is Facebook


 The internet has become an industry in itself. Like the hip-hop music industry, or brand name clothing (accessories etc.); both of these industries are discussed by Matt Mason, in chapter five of The Pirates Dilemma. The music business has branches known as genres, the fashion business has branches known as labels or “brand names”, and similarly the internet has branches too, I would call them outlets. Since Web 2.0 has evolved the internet has transformed into a source of entertainment, education and communication. As Mason compares hip-hope to the brand name company FUBU he say, “like hip-hop, FUBU is a grassroot D.I.Y outfit that came up from the streets, remixing existing media into its own pirate material and forging a strong authentic connection with a massive audience.” (Mason, 180) This is exactly where the internet came from, and what is has become.

Clothing, and music have existed for centuries, and on the same wave length so has communication. By taking something as simple at as a sound, or a hat (as FUBU did) and reproducing it with signature changes one can create a whole new product. As Mason frequently states that pirates are entrepreneurs, I must agree with this and defend it. Pirates are not coming up with brand new ideas that have never been heard of, instead they are elaborating on current ones. Mason shares in chapter three: Remix Culture, that our society is lacking originality in our ideas, and pirates are the entrepreneurs that repurpose, recreate and build upon these existing ideas.

Like hip-hop, which is a recreation of disco music the internet extrapolated from letters, telephones, advertisement flyers to emails, outlets such as Skype, Facebook and web pages created by companies to gain clientele.

Hip-hop was a new music that wanted to gain attention, and the internet is thirsty for the same recognition.

Mark Zuckerburg came up with a networking idea that exploded on the internet which we all know as Facebook. Facebook is a rendition of hip-hop, with the same aspirations and growing off MySpace instead of disco the same path was followed to obtain the ultimate goal of audience satisfaction. Along this path Facebook was critiqued, changed, adjusted, and manipulated to perfection as was hip-hop. As Jason Russell, creator of the Kony 2012 video states: “right now there are more people on Facebook then there were on the planet two hundred years ago” this is a staggering statistic it unbelievably believable. Facebook is an outlet the people resort in moments of boredom, curiosity of what others are doing, a desire to talk to friends or family, or to post their own thoughts, photos, and updates statuses.

It does sound superficial as I say it now, but this is the way society has creatively altered the way we communicate, as hip-hop altered our sound interests.

Similarly YouTube has certainly altered our source of entertainment, and elaborated our idea of “home videos” by broadcasting everything and anything an individual does in the comfort of their own home (at their discretion of course).

My point is that hip-hop is a culturally accepted form of music, like anything in our world: some people love it and some people hate it. It is impossible to please the entire population, but it is probable to create an outlet that will impact the majority.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Building a Platform Fom the Web Up.

With the explosion of Web 2.0, people began roaming the internet like never before, and with every click, URL and search inquiry companies began profiling these people. When citizens took to the internet with their blogs of opinions and Fliker accounts of personal photography, companies did not hesitate to invade their client’s spaces. In this aspect, it became easy for the capitalist industry to use their client base as a platform for their personal advertising and gain insight to what was desired by society. Soren Mork Petersen uses the term “piggybacking” in his article Loser Generated Content: From Participation to Exploration, when he describes the relationship between media participants on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc. to those who are attempting to influence them through social networking. The relationship as Petersen describes it reconfigures patterns of use into practices which carries a resemblance of work relations, transforming users into losers.” (Petersen)

Companies infringe upon citizens online opinion outlets in order to build a platform that reflects their online profiles, to broaden their audience, and supporters. Using the incredibly visible outlet of the internet it is a simple procedure to find out information and personal opinions because they are broadcast so consistantly.

The first major topic of discussion Petersen reviews is Google purchasing Usenet. When Usenet was created in 1979 by Tom Turnscott and Jim Ellis the idea was simple, with no main server they constructed virtual bulletin board. A lot like blogging, people were able to post their thoughts and opinions so when Google purchased this system their idea was to get inside people’s minds without them fully realizing what was happening. They used unsuspecting people to change and adapt ad campaigns, computer programs and other media material with the help of these citizens.

Facebook is such a powerful social media it is of course piggybacked upon by larger companies. By creating a Facebook page for your company you can add friends, or people can like your page. With this tactic, the more “likes” you have, the more your page is noticed by “friends” of those who “liked” it and the greater chance you have at building your platform (thanks to Facebook). Inevitably people spend much time committed to Facebook, they don’t hesitate to use Facebook as a mask and post comments on company or brands walls in order to make their voice heard. The companies however love this and take these comments into serious consideration; as simple as writing a letter, this media outlet is public, immediate and other “friends” can comment and contribute to the discussion.

Some may view this as an invasion, but because the internet is so blatantly public already there is a contradicting tone in that statement.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Treat the Threat as an Opportunity

Instead of discouraging open source media, we should all be embracing this social outreach of experimentation and expression. Companies are treating open source media as a threat to their products, revenue, and ultimate success. Matt Mason agrees that we should support open source media, in chapter five of his book The Pirates Dilemma. Mason argues that “society finds new ways to share ideas that advance the common good, private interests move in to stop this from happening, to maintain the old systems that benefit only the elite”. (Mason, 142) The problem with society thinking this way is that the elites are becoming the minority, and in a democratic society we are slowly showing ourselves as the majority. Pirates are part of this majority and they are fighting to create a world of open source media. This notion entails that anyone has access to the workings within a program, or software, and recreation of something existing such as music, or a better example is Wikipedia. Access to Wikipedia is easy, and allows anyone to change content, to some this is an absurd new innovation, but to others it is exceptional and mandatory. As Mason says: “nineteenth-century intellectual property laws suited that past, but they are not quite right for the future, and stifle creativity rather than encourage it.” (Mason, 142)

People are certainly grasping the idea of open source media, the major influence that strikes their appeal is the no-cost factor, but there are many other advantages to this increasing outlet of media.

This media can benefit everyone from the original producer, to the manipulator and the audience, in more ways than cost efficiency.  One aspect that is over looked is the lifespan of these sources; they can live eternally through the expansion and changes made to the original idea. Even if the original creator no longer supports the system, odds are likely that someone will be able to maintain it for you (if not yourself) and expand upon it. In the media industry competition in high and if a company does not use open source media then they are the only ones who can maintain your product and sell you upgrades. Someone like Bill Grates who created the software program BASIC decided that he would not use open source media because he felt his innovation was worth money, and not just for free public distribution. What he failed to realize, but Linus Torvalds did was: “‘in many cases businesses are losing out on opportunities because of their information-hoarding mind-set. They don’t realize that their customers know more than they do’”. (Mason, 150 and Linus Torvalds)

Gates didn’t realize this, and although he made a large profit from his software, because he was the only one with access to the interior no one could tell if there were flaws to perfect or unwanted code within it. Today this is unappealing to the majority because people are extremely interested in recreating their software to their own standards, as well as assisting other with similar views and desires.

When Windows 7 came out with their campaign “I’m a PC and windows 7 was my idea” they are not false advertising, however they did make it difficult for their customers to be satisfied. If they had used an open source media they could have evolved more quickly, and the clients could have become the assistant-creators. Often when a company uses open source media the original producer can see when they change it and upgrade it to their desire, the more people who flock to the new idea, the more likely the company is to change their overall product with societies hands-on help.

Change is a good thing, cliché as this statement is, it holds true to the media industry. Open minds and open source media are part of the growing desires in our supply and demand society. In order to succeed isolation from clients is not the conscientious direction.

Creating Change: Majority vs. Minority

Pirating has become accepted, and necessary in our technological word, as Matt Mason confirms in chapter two of his book The Pirates Dilemma. Throughout this chapter the main themes Mason conveys is that pirating is a good thing. He takes us through the history of pirating, explaining how it has been going on for centuries and evolved greatly in 1906. This is the time when DJ Fezzy broadcasted the first radio show with music and the voice of a human being. He was the inventor of the AM radio that we are all familiar with today. Radio was a breakthrough in piracy, and it sparked the interest of many. Others followed in DJ Fezzy’s footsteps and even resorted to broadcasting from international waters; in order to avoid the laws of copyright and theft. As it has, and continues to evolve it is affecting a great number of participants and viewers in every aspect of pirating. Pirates are not thieves they are just people who want to expand the population’s knowledge of existing material, express their opinions of it, provoke thought, and promote creativity.  Mason states that the common knowledge of pirating is society thinking about a man selling poor quality DVD’s of a movie only released in theaters. This is in part true but pirates are being given a false reputation due to their invasion of media platforms and scolding from corporations that created the original content.

We need to take advantage of the fact that these entrepreneurs are working on solo projects to project material to the population that may not have otherwise been acknowledged.

Society often looks down upon pirating acts because they are gaining more popularity with less political structure. Businesses are losing clientele because pirates are giving them material with easy access. The power has shifted from the “elites” or business corporations to us, the citizens with the help of Web 2.0. By making everything simply, and immediately available there is lack of necessity for these major media outlets. This forces them to inaugurate new policies and attempt to establish or reinforce copyright laws.

Democracy has a strong influence over our society, and today pirates and their audience is becoming the majority, while the law and law makers are becoming the minority. In order for any entrepreneur to be successful there must people who desire their commodity.  Commodities such as DVD’s, music, and blogs that express simplification of a subject, and other pirated materials are desired by the population, enabling the progression of pirates. A good example of pirated DVD’s causing issues for the film industry is the collapse of Blockbuster. With so much online opportunity for customers to find a more convenient, and close source for movies, Blockbuster had little choice; they were not meeting client demands.

Mason says that when pirates do something worth-while, or exceptional it creates a discussion that often leads to changing the law based around the newest idea of pirating. Based on this “discussion” spared by pirates Blockbuster created Blockbuster@Home to compensate for their physical loss and gain an invisible online purpose. There are two ways in which pirates avoid consequences pertaining to privacy – either change the law, or ignore it. Favourable of the two outcomes is ignoring it. This is seen in the illegal downloading of music, movies, and other copyright material.

As well pirated DVDs are not going to disappear anytime soon because the law says so. This is an income for the pirates and their discretion has become impeccable. It leaves me pondering: what’s next? Pirates changed the way in which we view movies by pulling people into the realm of Web 2.0, and I think this is just the beginning. Theaters are not closed due to pirates, and in this sense concerts are still taking place regardless of the fact that they can be streamed live to your computer without leaving your room. Piracy is changing the entertainment industry entirely.

I leave you with this thought: John Berger, the author of Ways of Seeing stated, with respect to art that art comes to us, we no longer need to go to it. He was referring to the media and the internet. This is what is happening with every other entertainment outlet as well. If pirates continue to do what they are inevitably going to, large corporations/companies should prepare for the next wave that washes over Web 2.0. (Berger 123)

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London: Paris, 2008. Print.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Artists and Amateurs

Matt Mason’s book The Pirates Dilemma confronts the current scrutiny of copyright and pirating through remixes in the music industry. The Pirates Dilemma discusses how artists or even companies react to people (everyday citizens sometimes) taking something from them without authorization. In chapter three the main theme is remixing. Remixing has become an entire new aspect of the music industry.

Although we are used to remixing and recreating this does not mean we have lost the spark of originality, in fact, I believe remixing is an innovative way to make something different.

As Mason says “humans have always created new things by repurposing old ones” (Mason, 71) and music is an ideal example of repurposing. Songs that have been remixed clearly made an impact the first time, in order to even be considered for recreation. In this sense one song can be given multiple personalities, and appeal to a larger audience by appearing in different genre settings.

Mason refers to the Grey Album in his book, which is clearly a piracy act violation, however it is an example of a mashup. By taking the White Album (The Beatles) and The Black Album (Jay-Z) Danger Mouse was able to create an intensely diverse mixture of two completely separate artists. By giving the two albums a new voice he was able to prolong the lifespan of them both, and reconnect original fans in a different style. Today DJs are using mashups, remixing, and recreations of old songs to appeal to a new audience. 

Remix DJs are exceptionally talented, and they bring a new diversity to old beats. Hip-hop is today’s most influential music genre that speaks to the young population.  This can easily be used as a tactic to influence and promote revenue in clubs. By taking DJs such as Mikey Bo, who has talent for recreating songs such as Rascal Flat – What Hurts the Most, and Bon Jovi – Dead or Alive and giving them a new perspective. Mason suggests that “rather than taking big gambles on new, unproven ideas hit concepts are repackaged, repositioned, and sold again” (Mason, 84). Sounding as though this is a negative aspect of the remix, I disagree with Mason, by recreating something you can give it the original artist more publicity and create interpellation to a new audience.

Citizen Media is an advancement that should be terrifying to music producers, as this implies that anyone with access to a mix board, or technology such as traktor (which allows you mix songs within other songs and create different effects and sounds) can create their own mashups and remixes, and put them on the internet. Due to the explosion of Web 2.0 the internet has become a place of amateur DJs, and interested teenagers to express themselves. This does pose a conflict with music industry and artists by bringing in a third (uninvited) party who has just as much access to the material.   

The major issue that stands in the way of this remix culture we are creating through the web (youtube, podcasts, blogs ect.) is the copyright laws that currently stand. By changing these laws (which would be an extensive process) we would be able to collaborate successful artists with unprofessional DJs who can manipulate a mix board extensively and bring new innovation to the way each song is heard. There is a Fair Use Agreement which means that items usually under copyright protection can be granted a leeway in such circumstances as commentary, teaching reasons, or research. There should be a law furthering this agreement in the hopes that artists and amateurs can come to an understanding of remix culture. It is a part of society already, and although there are some loop holes, I believe it could bring a new dimension into musical appreciation.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Crowdsurfing into the age of Crowdsourcing

Trebor Scholz wrote an online article entitled Market Ideology and the Myths of Web 2.0,depicting the myths surrounding Web 2.0, but more so the future of the internet altogether. Within the article he touches on social networking, and states that “people like to be where other people are”. He uses this phrase to support the social networking sites such as facebook, and credits their success to the massive audience and dedicated users. Comparing it to previous networks such as myspce, and even before Facebook when there were sites, like for example, created for (in this case African-Americans) particular groups. Although Facebook and Twitter have been so explosive people are neglecting to remember that the internet has been used as a social networking site since 1973; when the invention of the first email, APRNET was introduced. As soon as social networking was exposed there came into being, a free labour execution partaken in by the clientele of the internet, and businesses. By going online and perusing the web you are acting as a host, and your actions directly correlate with marketing schemes. This has made it immensely easy for companies to draw in business without even selling a product, but rather selling a platform. The term crowdsourcing was introduced as a term meaning a job is offered, over the internet, to a large group of people who get paid little, to nothing for their labour. Flowing beyond the internet tasks are now being performed by customers themselves rather than the employees. Examples from this article are self-check-out counters, printing your own tickets in advance, or simply just disposing of trash when leaving a fast food restaurant.

Our society has glided towards a “self-help” alternative route, where we feel independent and assertive by performing our own tasks.

Technology has pushed us in this direction subtly but consistently. We can now use our credit, and debit cards to pump our own gas, and online banking allows us to remain responsible to our bills even in our pajamas. Crowdsourcing is a revolutionary and democratic design which allows the audience to conduct the show. This may be a metaphoric translation but it can also refer to the audience of shows such as American Idol, or Dancing with the stars. In both cases the audience decides who continues on in the competition and who is voted off. This is a marketing scheme to ensure that majority roles apply, and therefore more viewers will stay tuned in to, and support their favourite contestant.

Another example is that, regular citizens with hobbies like photography can be used instead of a real photographer that would be expensive to hire. Even using images that previously been taken can be obtained (with condolence from the photographer) and used again. In newspapers and magazines there are sections which share strictly readers’ comments, humours stories, or opinions. They are not getting paid to write in to these medias, but the media itself is filling pages without having to hire writers. It works because people like to hear others opinions, and be able to relate to them from the same perspective is desirable.

Technology is advancing and in doing so jobs are being cut. There is no longer a need for multiple cashiers at franchises such as Wal Mart, or gas stations because the customers can easily help themselves. Photography has always been a popular hobby among people, and candid shots have evolved with the new digital cameras containing many settings and features to look professional; not to mention the accessible editing programs like photoshop. In this case family members are even being asked to take wedding photos, or talented family friends to take portraits for little or no money at all.

Crowdsourcing is great for franchises and social media, but for independent entrepreneur’s this may mean a new career.