felix's blog

Using Google Data to Determine "Community Standards"

Source: NYT: What’s Obscene? Google Could Have an Answer

In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.

It is not clear that the approach will succeed. The Florida state prosecutor in the case, which is scheduled for trial July 1, said the search data may not be relevant because the volume of Internet searches is not necessarily an indication of, or proxy for, a community’s values.

But the tactic is another example of the value of data collected by Internet companies like Google, both from a commercial standpoint and as a window into the thoughts, interests and desires of their users.

In the Air. Who says big ideas are rare?

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an interesting article in the New Yorker on Nathan Myhrvold's company "Intellectual Ventures" which tries to come up with a method of the process of scientific discovery. The trick is that you can do it. That scientific discovery is a lot about looking at available information in a new way, relating fields to one another that are usually not considered together.

This phenomenon of simultaneous discovery—what science historians call “multiples”—turns out to be extremely common. One of the first comprehensive lists of multiples was put together by William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas, in 1922, and they found a hundred and forty-eight major scientific discoveries that fit the multiple pattern. Newton and Leibniz both discovered calculus. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both discovered evolution. Three mathematicians “invented” decimal fractions. Oxygen was discovered by Joseph Priestley, in Wiltshire, in 1774, and by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, a year earlier. Color photography was invented at the same time by Charles Cros and by Louis Ducos du Hauron, in France. Logarithms were invented by John Napier and Henry Briggs in Britain, and by Joost Bürgi in Switzerland.

And he continues:

For Ogburn and Thomas, the sheer number of multiples could mean only one thing: scientific discoveries must, in some sense, be inevitable. They must be in the air, products of the intellectual climate of a specific time and place.

Good ideas are out there for anyone with the wit and the will to find them.

'I've Got Nothing to Hide' and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy'

Solove, Daniel J., "'I've Got Nothing to Hide' and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy" . San Diego Law Review, Vol. 44, p. 745, 2007 Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=998565

I. INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................. 745
II. THE “NOTHING TO HIDE” ARGUMENT ................................................................ 748
III. CONCEPTUALIZING PRIVACY .............................................................................. 754
A. A Pluralistic Conception of Privacy ........................................................ 754
B. The Social Value of Privacy..................................................................... 760
IV. THE PROBLEM WITH THE “NOTHING TO HIDE” ARGUMENT ................................. 764
A. Understanding the Many Dimensions of Privacy..................................... 764
B. Understanding Structural Problems ........................................................ 768
V. CONCLUSION ..................................................................................................... 772

And here is the conclusion

Swedish Left Party Wants to Legalize Piracy

It really seems that it now becomes politically acceptable, at least in Europe, to see p2p file sharing not only as socially acceptable (in order to protect privacy and freedom of speech) but even as beneficial.

This Sunday, the Swedish Left Party voted in favor of a motion calling for the legalization of sharing copyrighted files for personal use. The party, which currently holds 22 seats in the Swedish parliament, sees piracy as something positive, much like public libraries.

At the party’s congress this weekend, party members had to vote on a motion that would legalize the uploading and downloading of copyrighted material for personal use, as long as it is not for commercial purposes.

Source: torrentfreak

30 Years of Tactical Media (book chapter)

30 Years of Tactical Media
Felix Stalder

Tactical media as a practice has a long history and, it seems save to predict, an even longer future. Yet its existence as a distinct concept around which something of a social movement, or more precisely, a self-aware network of people and projects would coalesce has been relatively short lived, largely confined to the internet's first decade as a mass medium (1995-2005). During that time Geert Lovink and David Garcia, two Dutch media activists/theorists at the heart of this network, defined Tactical Media, as

what happens when the cheap 'do it yourself' media, made possible by the revolution in consumer electronics and expanded forms of distribution (from public access cable to the internet) are exploited by groups and individuals who feel aggrieved by or excluded from the wider culture. Tactical media do not just report events, as they are never impartial they always participate and it is this that more than anything separates them from mainstream media.2

Like so many other things that are now common in our informational lives, the roots of tactical media lie in the cultural innovations of radical social movements that sprang up in the late 1960s. Not only did they begin to exploit technological changes enabling to self-produce media but they created entirely new ideas of what the media could be: not just conduits for more or less sophisticated state propaganda (as in Althusser's famous analysis of the “ideological state apparatuses”3) or as a source of “objective” information provided by a professional (enlightened) elite. Rather, they reconceptualized the media as means of subjective expression, by people and for people who are not represented by the mainstream.

Tech Talk: Linus Torvalds on git

Tech Talk: Linus Torvalds on git

Torrents of Desire and the Shape of the Information Landscape (book chapter)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.

We are in the midst an uneven shift from an information environment characterized by scarcity of cultural goods to one characterized by their abundance. Until very recently, even privileged people had access to a relatively limited number of news sources, books, audio recordings, films and other forms of informational goods. This was partly due to the fact that the means of mass communication were expensive, cumbersome and thus relatively centralized. In this configuration, most people were relegated to the role of consumers, or, if they lacked purchasing power, not even that. This is changing. The Internet is giving ever greater numbers of people access to efficient means of mass communication and p2p protocols such as Bittorrent are making the distribution of material highly efficient. For some reason to be further examined, more and more material is becoming freely available within this new information environment. As an effect, the current structure of the culture industries, in Adorno's sense, is being undermined, and with it, deeply-entrenched notions of intellectual property. This is happening despite well-orchestrated campaigns by major industries to prevent this shift. The campaigns include measures raging from the seemingly endless expansion of intellectual property regulations across the globe, to new technologies aimed at maintaining informational scarcity (digital rights management (DRM) systems), to mass persecution of average citizens who engage in standard practices on p2p networks.

On the Differences between Open Source and Open Culture (book chapter)

How would culture be created if artists were not locked into romantic notions of individual authorship and the associated drive to control the results of their labour was not enforced through ever expanding copyrights? What if cultural production was organized via principles of free access, collaborative creation and open adaptability of works? As such, the practices of a collective and transformative culture are not entirely new. They were characteristic for (oral) folk cultures prior to their transformation into mass culture by the respective industries during the twentieth century, and as counter-currents – the numerous avant-garde movements (dada, situationism, mail art, neoism, plagiarism, plunderphonics, etc.) which re-invented, radicalized and technologically up-graded various aspects of those. Yet, over the last decade, these issues – of open and collaborative practices – have taken on an entirely new sense of urgency. Generally, the ease with which digital information can be globally distributed and manipulated by a very large number of people makes free distribution and free adaptation technically possible and a matter of everyday practice. Everyone with a computer already uses, in one way or the other, the copy & paste function built into all editors. This is what computers are about: copying, manipulating and storing information. With access to the internet, people are able to sample a wide range of sources and make their own works available to potentially large audiences.

Neue Formen der Öffentlichkeit und kulturellen Innovation zwischen Copyleft, Creative Commons und Public Domain. (Buchkapitel)

In: Hoffmann, Jeanette (Hg.). Wissen und Eigentum. Geschichte, Recht und Ökonomie stoffloser Güter. Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, Bonn. 2006

http://www.bpb.de/publikationen/TRRZ2E,0,Wissen_und_Eigentum.html

In den letzten 10 Jahren ist eine neue, weltweite Bewegung entstanden, die grundsätzlich neue Modelle der Produktion von und des Zugangs zu digitalen Gütern nicht nur fordert, sondern auch bereits im grossen Stil praktiziert. Wissenschaftler, Autorinnen, Künstler, Musikerinnen, Programmieren und andere 'immaterielle Produzentinnen' nutzen dabei das bestehende Urheberrecht in einer neuen Art und Weise. Das Urheberrecht gewährt ja einem Autor geistiger Werke (im Bereich der Literatur, Kunst, Wissenschaft, Design, Computerprogammierung, etc) exklusive Verfügungsrechte über seine Schöpfungen, die nur durch eng definierte Schranken eingegrenzt werden. Diese Rechte entstehen automatisch mit der Kreation des Werkes, ohne dass es registriert oder anderweitig gekennzeichnet werden muss. Der Autor kann (fast) frei bestimmen, wer, wann, wie und unter welchen Umständen sein Werk nutzen kann (siehe Beiträge von Thomas Hoeren und Till Kreutzer in diesem Band). Die neue Nutzung dieser Rechte ziehlt darauf ab, den Zugang zu den Werken zu vereinfachen, in dem etwa das freie Kopieren erlaubt wird, und Möglichkeiten der Öffentlichkeit zu erweitern, mit diesen Werken kreativ umzugehen.

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