Famous quote about the amount of information in the NYT

This quotation (in many variants) is so ubiquitous as it is meaningless, but it is still interesting to find its source: Saul Bellow, The Distracted Public, 1990

A professor in California has estimated that on an average weekday the New York Times contains more information than any contemporary of Shakespeare would have acquired in a lifetime. I am ready to believe that this is more or less true, although I suspect that an educated Elizabethan was less confused by what he knew. He would certainly have been less agitated than we are. His knowledge cannot have lain so close to the threshold of chaos as ours.

Though, I have no idea who that "professor in California" is. Quote found here

Court: violating copyleft = copyright infringement

Ars Technica writes about a recent federal appeals court ruling:

A federal appeals court has overruled a lower court ruling that, if sustained, would have severely hampered the enforceability of free software licenses.
The Federal Circuit appears to have been heavily influenced by the Stanford brief, as it specifically cited Creative Commons, MIT, Wikipedia, and various free software projects as examples of organizations that benefit from copyleft licenses. In a short, clearly-reasoned opinion, the Federal Circuit summarized the public benefits of public licensing and found that the district court had dismissed its terms too lightly. Unlike the lower court, the appeals court seemed to understand that reciprocity lay at the heart of free software licenses. Just as traditional software firms thrive on the exchange of code for money, free software projects thrive on the exchange of code for code. The Federal Circuit recognized that "there are substantial benefits, including economic benefits, to the creation and distribution of copyrighted works under public licenses that range far beyond traditional license royalties." Allowing those rules to be flaunted undermines the free software model.

The main issue of the case was whether violating the copyleft license was a breach of contract or a copyright infringement. Now it's clear that it's the latter which strengthens the enforceability of such licenses considerably.

Analysis Without Analysis (Clay Shirky Review)

Here is my review of Clay Shirky's new book, which was originally published on the great metamute site.

Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody is reputed to be the best book ever written on Web 2.0. By why the strange silence on questions of copyright, privacy and ownership? Felix Stalder delves beneath the slick prose and upbeat message.

Jean-Luc Godard on "extract" vs "quotation"

Referring to his unauthorized use of material for his major "Histoire(s) du cinema" Jean Luc Godard said in an interview in 1996:

For me there's a difference between an extract and a quotation. If it's an extract, you have to pay, because you're taking advantage of something you have not done and you are more or less making business out of it. If it's a quotation--and it's more evident in my work that it's a quotation--then you don't have to pay.

Of course, copyright does not make this difference (yet). But this was mid 1990s, and times were different. The first two episodes in Godard's series, each of which lasts 50 minutes, have been shown on five separate state-funded European TV channels without any permission from the copyright holders. It's hard to imagine this happening today.

Source: http://www.chicagoreader.com/movies/archives/0297/02217.html

Technologies behind Google Ranking

From Youtube to the Cinema

Before the Euro2008, Detlev Buck, a well-known German director, issued a call on Youtube to send in fan movies, hundreds of people responded, and now he has edited it down to 50 minutes which will be shown in selected cinemas in Germany. The whole thing is entirely non-commercial, the entry fee is €2,30 (which is less than one third of the normal price) and the proceeds will be donated to charitable orgs. It probably will also be posted to Youtube later on.

Which begs the question: is editing the new directing? In the age of information overload and remixing, the likely answer is yes.

Update: The film has been released on youtube.

Stephen Wright, Digging in the Epistemic Commons

This is an older text, from 2005, but it's still one of the best on the issue of the paradoxical relationship between the attempts to privatize knowledge and its inherent tendency to be social, because it's based on a shared language.

The gentrye are all round, on each side they are found,
Theire wisdom’s so profound, to cheat us of our ground
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The Diggers’ Song, Gerrard Winstanley & Leon Rosselson

Using the ideas of Gabriel Tarde, Ludwig Wittgenstein and George Herbert Mead, writer and critic Stephan Wright reflects on the question of how, in a capitalist knowledge economy, to prevent intellectual property from being commodified and knowledge from becoming increasingly privatized.

Source: http://www.skor.nl/article-3090-en.html

Bourgeois anarchism and authoritarian democracies (First Monday, 07.2008)

First Monday published my paper in its current edition. Below is the abstract, the full text is here

Digital communication is profoundly affecting the constitution of (civil) society by drastically lowering the costs to speak across time and space with individuals and groups of any size, and by producing abundant records of all activities conducted through these media. This is accelerating two contradictory trends. On the one hand, a new breed of social organizations based on principles of weak cooperation and peer production is sharply expanding the scope of what can be achieved by civil society. These are voluntary organizations, with flat hierarchies and trust-based principles. They are focused on producing commons-based resources rather than individual property. In general, they are transformative, not revolutionary, in character. This phenomenon is termed "bourgeois anarchism." On the other hand, the liberal state - in a crisis of legitimacy and under pressure from such new organizations, both peaceful (civil society) and violent (terrorism) - is reorganizing itself around an increasingly authoritarian core, expanding surveillance into the capillary system of society, overriding civil liberties and reducing democratic oversight in exchange for the promise of security. This phenomenon is termed "authoritarian democracy."


This article was first published in Italian, in the journal Millepiani. An earlier version was delivered as a talk (view stream presentation at Ars Electronica, 2007, and published in their catalogue under the title "Our new public life".

Another Music Recommendation Engine

Hype Machine is a blog that aggregates music blogs and automatically generates playlists and let's you "spy" on what other people are doing on the blog.

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