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Pirated Lives

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Week 11:

B) Medosch argues that: “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions” (Reader, page 318).

Discuss ONE of these arguments while giving an example online.

In Brazil, India and to some extent China many live “pirate lives”. Not in the sense that they wear eyepatches and wave swords, but in that “everything” they use is pirated, from “water to electricity to bandwidth” (Medosch 2008, 81). Piracy provides these people with not only entertainment but more deeply “cultural goods”, “civil rights” and “better chances on the labour market” (Medosch 2008, 81, 82).

For example, Techno Brega are music remixers who combine recent pop tunes with traditional Brazilian sound and sell these on CDs (at ‘pirate’ prices of less than five dollars per CD). The CDs are promotion, Techno Brega makes its real money off live gigs where they play mishmashes of music and the crowd dances mishmashes of dance moves. Just as the dance moves are neither Brazilian nor American, Techno Brega’s music has used the “cultural goods” of America – their pop culture – to create a new culture in Brazil. It wouldn’t have been possible without piracy.

About Techno Brega – from “GOOD COPY BAD COPY” – Part 1 of 2: (6min20sec)
About Techno Brega – from “GOOD COPY BAD COPY” – Part 2 of 2: (6min11sec)

According to Fleischer, “the religion of copyright” has a “weirdly restrictive notion of “culture”, seeing it as nothing more than copyrightable things” (2008, 100). Remixers like Techno Brega have, to a certain extent, pirated culture rather than music, thereby showing the difficulty in Getty’s idea that “intellectual property” is the “oil of the 21st century”.


Medosch, A. 2008, ‘Paid in Full: Copyright, Piracy and the Real Currency of Cultural Production’ in Deptforth, TV Diaries II: Pirate Strategies, London, Deptforth TV.

Fleischer, R. 2008, ‘Re: “Paid in Full”’ in Deptforth, TV Diaries II: Pirate Strategies, London, Deptforth TV.

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June 3, 2011 at 5:23 am

Youtube Fame: Is it Any Different?

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Week 9:

A) Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269).

Discuss ONE of these arguments giving an example of a YouTube video (embed it into post). Specify chosen argument in your answer.9

While I agree mostly with Burgess and Green’s argument that ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269), I believe this argument, while describing the system, does not account for the differences on an individual level in “internet celebrities”. This is because while they work within the system of the mass media, they interact and intersect with it differently in two key ways: firstly, on the question of authenticity, and secondly in level of experience.

The question of authenticity is referred to be Burgess and Green as “gotcha energy” – the power of a celebrity to pull audiences not based on entertainment but a quest to find out his/her ‘true face’ (2009, 28-29). While this happens to a lesser degree in mainstream media, such as the search to find the people behind Gorillaz, only in the internet does it gain pulling force of its own, unrelated to the media the person is producing. People expand effort to find the ‘true faces’ of celebrities whose music they do not listen to, and whose writing they do not care about – and yet they read the writing and listen to the music, all the better to find the identity. Secondly, mainstream celebrities are legally bound to declare, if not honestly, things like name or location. On the internet, I can be named “CoolCat123” and live “on a planet of dreams”, and still produce songs and get fans.

Also, when these entertainers do decide to enter the media, they do not enter as amateurs. They enter as “internet celebrities” with some degree of experience in the game, and existing fan bases. Therefore, they are given a degree of largess under the banner of “internet fame” with its image of amateur productions and hardworking single entrepreneurs, doing it for music not money. How many times have Youtubers defended their favourites thus – “He’s never been on a stage before, so excuse his bad hair/lousy fashion sense/nasal tone”?

In conclusion, Burgess and Green’s argument is valid only to the extent the mainstream media imposes its system upon the celebrity. For the celebrity, entrance to the media means losing the innate characteristics of an internet celebrity to become a mainstream one. Ultimately, this is an individual choice.


Burgess, J. & Green, J. 2009, Youtube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge, Polity Press.

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June 3, 2011 at 5:18 am

Creative Commons: Why?

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Week 10:

Following week 10 tutorial’s exercise, explain why you chose the Creative Commons license that you added to your blog and discuss the relevance (or not) of adding the license.

This blog is now under a Creative Commons License, a Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported one to be exact. This means it can be shared and/or used to create works, commercial and non-commercial, as long as those works credit me and share with the same specifications. Why this license?

This is what Creative Commons is, in better terms than I can put it.
Standard YouTube License
Director: Jesse Dylan Producers: Michelle Meier and Priscilla Cohen Editor: Justin Giugno Cinematographer: Francis Kenny

Firstly, this blog is educational – for a university course, i.e., writing as part of the learning process. Under “fair use”, “reproduction of a work for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching…, scholarship, or research” (Olson, 3) is considered legal. This protects my use of sources and ensures that anyone wanting to use my blog for academic purposes could. However, I feel that as the basic tenet of education is the sharing of knowledge no matter the context, academic or not.

Knowledge is ideas. This blog is a collection of ideas from myself and others, and ideas cannot, “in nature, be the subject of property” (Lessig 2005, 353). Lessig believes in Jefferson’s conception that ideas are part of ‘Nature’ or the “public commons” and can be shared without having to ask for permission (2005, 353). But “whether the net is unregulable depends, and it depends on architecture” and as code is the architecture of the net, it has become a means of regulation (Lessig 1999, 25). “Cracking code,” Lessig writes, “is breaking the law. Code is law” (2005, 354). In this new man-made ‘Nature’ of cyberspace, Hollywood and others were able to create new ‘laws of Nature’ called ‘code’ to restrict ideas. The Creative Commons license allows me to put the ideas in the blog back where they belong – in the “public commons”.

Why is this a good idea? There should be a reason why Nature made ideas free, and that might be because, as Stallman argues, the “cost” of having “owners” is high (2002, 122). It obstructs everything from use of programs, to development and “custom adaptation” of programs; and damages social cohesion by making “good neighbours” into criminals who have violated copyright law (p123-128).

On the flip side, there are many benefits from not having owners of ideas, the “inexhaustible” resource (Lessig 2005, 353). Boyle states that open source is “a community creating and offering to the world the ability to use, for free, nonrival goods that all of us can have, use, and reinterpret as we wish”, which in turn helps “an innate love… for sharing” (2008, 186, 189). Stallman says that people program because “programming is fun”. Boyle goes one step further to say it doesn’t really matter why people program, as long as they do (2008, 189).

But not having owners does not mean not having authors. Boyle writes that Creative Commons, “was conceived as a private “hack” to produce a more fine-tuned copyright structure, to replace “all rights reserved” with “some rights reserved” for those who wished to do so” (2008, 183). Gareclon writes that “their project required neither alteration of copyright law, nor copyright holders to cede legal rights” (2009, 1313). What they gave to authors was control over what rights to choose.

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Do join! Really! Most of my classmates did..

Joi Ito’s Web (Joi Ito) / CC BY 3.0

Before the reference list, some cute comics from Nina Paley:




Boyle, J. 2008, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind, New Haven and London, Yale University Press.

Ito, J. 2008, ‘Creative Commons 2008 Fundraising Campaign’, weblog post, October 16, Joi Ito, viewed 14 May 2011

Lessig, L. 1999, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, United States of America, Basic Books.

Lessig, L. 2005, ‘Open Code and Open Societies’ in Feller, J. et al (eds) 2005, Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 349-360.

Garcelon, M. 2009, ‘An Information Commons? Creative Commons and Public Access to Cultural Creations’ in New Media and Society, 11:8, 1307-1326.

Stallman, R. 2002, ‘Why Software Should be Free’ in Gay, J. (ed) 2002, Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard Stallman, Boston, GNU Press, 121-133.

Olson, C. 2005, ‘A Practical Guide to the Fair Use Doctrine in American Copyright Law’ proceedings of Signal or Noise 2k5: Creative Revolution?, Harvard Law School, 4 August 2005.

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May 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Fun Web Art!

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A post unrelated to the answering of questions, this is to introduce some more ‘fun’ (a subjective term, I understand) web or digital art. I’ve included some one-line descriptions that hopefully will help.

‘If You Want me to Clean Your Screen’ by Olia Lialina:

Grib, Dragan Espenschied:
… it’s in the public domain, I think I read him say.

Electronic Disturbance Theater, FloodNet:
… I don’t know if it’s activism, hacking, or art, but I’m finding it really cool.

Yes, no screenshots and stuff. Wouldn’t want to spoil the fun! ^_^

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May 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm

A Cool Web Design is Fantastically Real

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Week 8:
Alan Lui discusses the use of visual metaphors from older media in web design and argues that such metaphors “naturalize the limitations of the new medium by disguising them within those of older media” (Reader, page 228).

Discuss while giving an example of a website.

What makes a “cool” webpage? According to Alan Lui, cool webpages “understand the disturbances inherent in the medium so well that they do not attempt to accommodate them within a fiction of elegant harmony but instead make disturbance their medium.” (2004, 228) Web design is the result of “antifoundational axioms of design”, that “content is not form [and] form is never stable simultaneous or total” (2004, 228).

The designs described above reveal how designers have worked around the “extensive” and “intensive” “lack of determinate boundaries” (Lui 2004, 223) in the web. Other designs have chosen to embrace older media as a way to “naturalize” these “limitations”., ranked as one of the “Most Innovative Websites of All Time” (Huffington Post 2009), is one example. A graphic of a time-machine dominates the middle of the page, a scene in a particular time period forms the background. Postcards, posters and listings that have been ‘stuck’ to the machine are links. In this way, loading is disguised as ‘time travel’ and ‘clicking links’ is ‘looking at posters’. The website uses Flash for more ‘realism’ to make papers flutter in the wind.

A screenshot of SensiSoft’s website, in London 1880:
SensiSoft website
Image from Sensisoft

The need for “naturalizing” is a result of Helmond’s and Berners-Lee’s arguments for the importance of a “continuous… experience” by “masquing the database”, as “technology should be transparent, so that we interact with it intuitively” (2007 45- 46, 53). The Sensisoft website makes its technology a fantasy world to disguise the scripts running and HTML loading.

Manovich’s description of new media in terms of a “cultural layer” of “story and plot; composition and point of view”, and a “computer layer” with “process and packet”, and how these layers have “significant influence on the traditional cultural logic of media” (2001, 63-64) agrees with Lui’s idea that design is achieved by “understanding disturbances in the medium” that are unique to the internet. In this analysis, web tools such as Flash created a need for a fantasy script in which to place them for users to use the resulting website “intuitively”, which in turn created a new design/culture/story.

“While information may be delivered faster over the internet, design is as such is delivered faster in a physical book”, Lui (2004, 227) writes. The scroll bar on posters proves this – were the papers real, the user would have no need to scroll, looking down would be enough.

Sensisoft’s website demonstrates many Lui’s ideas – it is born from a commercial impetus, guided by a design that is appealing because it makes the computer simulate an impossible reality, and uses an “elegant fiction” to create a fantasy of time-travel unique to the internet (2004 206, 222, 228). Digital artist Olia Lialina (2009) defines “digital folklore” as “[encompassing] the customs, traditions and elements of visual, textual and audio culture that emerged from users’ engagement with personal computer applications during the last decade of the 20th and the first decade of the 21st century.” SensiSoft is a participant in this folklore, not because it has time machines, but because in the 21st century Flash can be used to create time machines and clicking can become time travel.

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Helmond, A. 2007, ‘Software Engine Relations’, in Blogging for Engines: Blogs under the Influence of Software-Engine Relations, MA Thesis, Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam, 44-80.

Huffington Post 2009, Most Innovative Web Site Designs Of All Time: Inspiration And Ideas From Elite Designers (PHOTOS) retrieved 11 May 2011 from

Lui, A. 2004, ‘Information is Style’, in Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Lialina, O. 2009, ‘Preface: Do You Believe in Users?’ in Digital Folklore Reader, retrieved 11 May 2011 from

Manovich, L. 2001, The Language of New Media, United States of America, MIT Press.

SensiSoft, Sensi Soft, retrieved 11 May 2011 from

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May 8, 2011 at 7:34 am

Ranking Tactics and Communities in Youtube

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Week 3:

While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). How do ranking tactics impact on the formation online ‘communities’?

Dijck argues that Youtube users are “steered towards a particular video by means of coded mechanisms which rely heavily on promotion and ranking tactics” (2009, 45), limiting their choices by popularity if not content. Communities often coincide with “consumer groups or entertainment platforms” (2009, 45), which use rankings such as “most viewed” or “most popular” to find videos for likeminded interests. How would this affect them?

“Individual viewers tie in their personal taste and lifestyles with shared ‘mediated’ experiences,” Djick writes (2009, 44). Sharing is the “default” of Youtube, “the world’s largest video-sharing community”, as people share not only videos but also their opinions on them in the form of comments, and their preferences in the form of ranking statistics. While the method of calculating them is secret, they are of huge importance to users to build up “street-cred’ to hang with other pages in first string YouTube SERPs” (Rivas 2009), the most visible and the most easily clicked. It is possible that “communities” will become groups of people who not only like the same things, but have also watched only the same things, as they watch only what has been recommended to them by many other viewers are thus ‘mediated’.

To Dijck, Youtube is a “trade market in potential talents and hopeful pre-professionals” (2009, 53), who use Youtube fame to go to Hollywood. Here, he appears to buy into Burgess and Green’s idea that “Youtube has been mythologised as literally a way to broadcast yourself into fame and fortune” (2009, 22), which they deride as flawed. They argue that the ‘Youtube celebrity myth’ in fact “relies on the existing structures of celebrity” (2009, 23), and Djick himself admits that commercial radio stations also employ categories like “Top Hits” and “most discussed” (2009, 45). Thus, fan communities have changed little. For example, in Korea, online fan communities often gather to give their celebrities food or gifts, copying the actions of traditional fan communities with the only difference one of scale, a unique attribute of net-coordinated activity (Dramabeans 2009).

Politically, many grassroots movements are helped by Youtube or Google to spread a message. During the Singapore GE Election, opposition parties, usually stifled by the ruling party’s restrictions, used Youtube to spread their message by uploading their party videos and speeches to allow them to reach a community (Lim 2011). Politically motivated communities formed as a result of these videos and linked them to blogs and RSS feeds (Lim 2011).

Youtube also uses ranking tactics for commercial purposes, as communities and preferences make for good target markets. In an essay criticizing the PageRank system in Google, Pasquinelli calls Google a “global rentier” that exploits the net with “no need to produce content” (2009, 159). Applying this to Youtube, the “coordinating mechanism between individual and collective creativity” (Burgess and Green 2009, 37), it could be said it does the same by simply hosting videos and communities without producing them.

Thus, communities are affected by their “active creators”, but also “joiners”, “critics”, “collectors”, and most importantly, the seemingly uninvolved “passive spectators” (Djick 2009, 44). For these last, their contributions are not comments but the invisible statistics that become page ranks. These page ranks influence what communities see, how they see it, how they form, and how they can be marketed to.

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Burgess, J. and Green, J. 2009, ‘Youtube and the Mainstream Media’, in Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge, Polity Press, 15-37.

Dijck, J. V. 2009, ‘Users Like You? Theorizing agency in user-generated content’ in Media, Culture and Society, 31: 41, viewed 14 May 2011,

Javabeans 2009, ‘Overseas fans surprise Lee Junki with good-luck cranes’, weblog post, 17 November, Dramabeans, viewed 14 May 2011,

Lim, C. 2011, ‘How GE 2011 proved me—oh, so wonderfully!—wrong’, weblog post, 9 May,, viewed 14 May 2011,

Pasquinelli, M. 2009, ‘Google’s PageRank: Diagram of the Cognitive Capitalism and Rentier of the Common Intellect’, in Becker, K. & Stalder, S. (eds), Deep Search: The Politics of Search Beyond Google, Innsbruck, Austria, Studienverlag Ges.m.b.H (134-152).

Rivas, M. 2009, ‘YouTube Ranking Factors: 15 Guerrilla Tactics’, weblog post, 27 August, blog AimClear, viewed 14 May 2011,

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May 8, 2011 at 6:54 am

Journalists and Bloggers in the Iraqi War

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Week 4:
Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.

Coverage of the Iraqi War has been derided as marching to the American government’s tune. Deaville describes how the Iraq war was “sold” to citizens by the mainstream media, with even its music “telling TV viewers and radio listeners what to think and how to feel about the war on Iraq” (2006, 29). Thus, the public, beginning to distrust the media, began to accept blogs as alternative news sources.

Firstly, blogs like Salam Pax offered the Iraqi viewpoint. “Someone (Iraqis) who was not allowed to talk, or use his voice, for long, long years now [has] started talking with the outside”, Landman writes, and people are even willing to pay for these independent journalists (Rettburg 2008, 101; Lovink 2006). Such “first-hand reports” with “political importance” because of personal experience “made reading the blog a far stronger experience,” Rettburg notes (2008, 95). Perspectives were unique and individual – Smash’s blog had a business-like approach to grief (Rettburg 2008, 96). Blogs were faster – “when big news breaks, it’s tough to beat a Weblog” (Bruns 2006, 13). Blogs provided credibility, timeliness and a personal touch, which journalism had been unable to provide. Unsurprisingly, mainstream media (MSM) began to source blogs and try to recruit noted bloggers (Rettburg 2008, 97).

Blogs are “Gatewatchers”, Bruns writes, which is “the observation of the output gates of news publications… in order to identify important material as it becomes available” (2006, 16). Bloggers linked to news on major news sites, offering their own analysis, and thus “significantly [reduced] the power of the journalistic profession to affect public opinion” (Bruns 2006, 16). is a network of blog rolls that links to blogs of civilians, soldiers, and refugees, giving allow viewers ‘the big picture’ from different viewpoints. Unlike traditional news media which summarises such experiences, Streamtime allows viewers to select what to read and comment on it. This reflects the “postmodern truth” Singer claims blogs believe in, that “[acknowledges] that everyone holds his or her own version of the truth; brought together, those views form a subjective, multi-faceted but cohesive whole.” (2006, 25) Viewers, suspicious of opinions as truth and music as feeling in MSM coverage, appreciated the choice blogs gave them to build their own picture of Iraq.

However, Gatewatching and commentary still need MSM. Blogging “often depends on direct poaching of mainstream news products” (Russell et al 2008, 70). The analysis of blogosphere cannot happen without MSM, as bloggers typically link to news pages then provide commentary (Bruns 2006, 14). Viewers appreciated the commentary that many Iraqis offered on what American news sites had been reporting.

Thus, Singer and others argue for a “symbiotic” relationship, where bloggers need journalists for information and publicity, and journalists need bloggers for “an extra pair of eyes on the ground” and as “gatewatchers” (2006, 28). Interestingly, many guidelines for news bloggers look like guidelines for journalists, with “transparency” replacing “accountability” and a distaste for secret sources (Singer 2006, 27).

Many people wonder if they are journalists or bloggers, or what they should be. Why not both?

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Bruns, A. 2006, ‘The Practice of News Blogging’ in Bruns, A. & Jacobs, J. (eds) 2006, Uses of Blogs, New York, Peter Lang Publishing, 11-22.

Deaville, J. 2006, ‘Selling the War in Iraq: Televisions News Music and the Shaping of American Public Opinion’ in Ingram, S., Reisenleitner, M. & Szabo-Knotik, C. (eds) 2006, Floodgates: Technologies, Cultural (Ex)change and the Persistence of Place, Frankfurt, Peter Lang GmbH, 25-36.

Lovink, G. 2006, ‘Support Iraqi Bloggers: Interview with Cecile Landman’ in Narula, M. et al (eds) 2006, Sarai Reader, Delhi, Sarai Media Lab.

Rettburg, J. W. 2008, Blogging: Digital Media and Society Series, Britain, Cornwall, Polity Press.

Russel, A. et al 2008, ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Network Culture’ in Varnelis, K. (ed) 2008, Networked Publics, Cambridge, MIT Press, 43-76.

Singer, J. B. 2006, ‘Journalists and News Bloggers: Complements, Contradictions and Challenges’ in Bruns, A. & Jacobs, J. (eds) 2006, Uses of Blogs, New York, Peter Lang Publishing, 23-32.

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April 23, 2011 at 1:57 pm