Dr. Wu’s* The Master Switch

July 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Copyright and IP, Technology | Leave a comment

I first learned about this book when I got the news that Tim Wu was going to be coming to the school to do a talk on it.** It’s a really engaging read. He sets the scenes well and pulls the reader in, while still advancing his larger point.

Which is basically that with the introduction of any new technology–and the disruption of the old models of monetizing whatever previous technology or methods are being displaced by the new innovations–there’s a period of openness. Experimentation prevails. There is a flourishing of creativity and of different models, different voices and so on. People can set up backyard equivalents of the new technology and put out their services or creations and reach some audience.

And then, things start to close down. The public, initially enamoured of the wide selection and the plurality of voices, starts to get drawn to something that is more mediated–and therefore of more consistent quality. And so, the entrepreneurs who manage create a model that mediates and distributes most effectively while using the new technology will prevail. Continue Reading Dr. Wu’s* The Master Switch…

Copyright in the Digital World Part I: The Challenge

July 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Posted in Copyright and IP, Technology, writing | 2 Comments

Here in Canada, there is a great deal of discussion about (c)–copyright–reform. But there’s a problem. Where before, the process of copying was limited by technology, these days, you can copy with the right click of a mouse. You can then disseminate the work to a vast number of people with a few more clicks.

From what I can tell, in order to get a functional legal regime in place, you have to strike the right balance between culture and law. Right now, the two are widely divergent. We have laws that say: don’t copy. It’s illegal. It’s not your right.

And we have a culture–and supporting technology–that makes it absurdly easy to copy and ridiculously difficult to catch infringers and enforce any restrictions on copying, without raising privacy and security issues (e.g. once there’s a gap created to monitor copying, others can also exploit said gaps).

So, why are we so big on protecting the right to copy? There are a lot of stakeholders in the current regime–people who have business models built around protecting the right to copy. And that right goes back a bit.

Continue Reading Copyright in the Digital World Part I: The Challenge…

Eschatological observation?

December 6, 2010 at 12:46 am | Posted in Notes, Technology | 1 Comment

I find it somehow interesting that the one of the major companies that supplies us with personal portals into the biggest repository of knowledge we have ever assembled over the course of human history, uses a symbol as its mark of trade that hearkens back to one of our most famous stories of creation–and of downfall.

This struck me last year in class, as I sat near the front of the room and turned to see which computers people were using. A lot of apples, with single bites taken out of them, glowing back at me: yea, for I have partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.  Delicious.

The circle is complete.

Is this the Face of a Cyborg?

February 6, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Posted in Technology | Leave a comment

In university (the first time), I wrote an essay about the ways in which technological devices enhance and extend our abilities. In the context of books like Neuromancer and Microserfs, I postulated that as our self-images are increasingly integrated with our virtual selves and the presences we create in the online world, those hybrid, virtual selves are, in fact, cyborgs of a sort.

Further down the line, as we ourselves are changed by our virtual identities, and we grow increasingly dependent on our connection with the interwebs–and the time we invest in that presence and those interactions–we become more and more like cyborgs ourselves.

I was reminded of this today, as I reflected on this mobile device I’ve been using, to update my blog, and the way it pulls my connection with the cyberworld into the everyday to a greater degree than ever before.

It made me think of the broader connections involved. The way that our facebook profiles are extensions of ourselves–and how our interactions there extend our social spheres into the virtual world, while bridging extraordinary distances and expanding our presences, via its incursions into different points in all corners of the Real World. Cyberspace elides distances because it is Random Acces, and our real world notion of spatiality is no longer meaningful–for all that we continue to cling to it in interpolating our conception of cyberspace.

I don’t feel like a cyborg. But am I? Is the person who walks the everyday world a cyborg at this point–someone who would feel reduced without acess to her virtual presence and contacts (email, skype, facebook, news and information, maps, instant answers to most questions that arise)? Or, is it *this* virtual self–the voice behind the blog post, the facebooker and email correspondent, the inextricable blend of my organic self and the electronic technologies I use to project myself into the online spaces–that is the cyborg? In other words: is it the picture and the words, and all the other fragments of myself that are online which are, compositely, the cyborg, or is the cyborg actually the person who created and uploaded them?

What do you think?

Sent from my iPod, so please pardon any typos!

the iPad. LOL!

January 28, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Posted in Technology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Apple – iPad – The best way to experience the web, email, and photos.

I love these promo videos (click the link above to check it out, if you’re curious). I love the look of dewy-eyed wonder that all of the Apple people have in them. The one designer guy, Jony Ive, looks like he’s just made contact with an intelligent, alien life form or something–and he has the best lines, too. Like…

“When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it sort of becomes magical. And that’s *exactly* what the iPad is.” -Designer Guy

…and here I thought it was just a giant iPod? Is it really all that wondrous that it can support the same apps that the iPod supports? That it allows you to do the same stuff as the Touch? Admittedly, that technology did feel pretty magical when the Touch et al. came out–and it’s still a gold standard. But all this “the iPad is magic and I just created life from inanimate matter” stuff seems a bit much.

“There’s no up, there’s no down, there’s no right or wrong way of holding it. I don’t have to change myself to fit the product… it fits me.” -Designer Guy

… in the way that a rectangular product with a flat, interactive surface (which is admittedly cool, but not particularly new), that can operate in either portrait or landscape orientation “fits me”? I mean, it’s neat that it flips (what was that? Oh yes–just like the iPod), but I don’t really know how he manages to deliver these lines with a straight face–leave alone with that ardent look of love in his eyes. (And, for the record, there are many wrong ways to hold it. Fact.)

Of course, he’s not the only person with great lines:

“Its going to change the way we do things every day.” -Marketing Guy

… I really don’t understand what he means by this. We’re still going to surf the web, watch videos and read email. We do that on our laptops or on our ipods, while sitting on the couch, the bus, etc. already.

Anyway, it’s a cheesy video. I suppose they have to make it seem like it can walk on water–and turn said water into wine in the process–but I find it both funny and slightly offputting. It makes me wonder who exactly they think they’re kidding.

I wonder–are they trying to over-hype it, knowing that as savvy viewers, we’ll parse out what’s actually kind of different & cool from the (admittedly cool) stuff that’s basically imported/recycled from other products? Or, do they really think we’re going to swallow this nonsense, hook, like and sinker? Most of it is simply not new. It really isn’t. The iPod was a revolution. This is an evolution–but I also question whether or not it will be a particularly viable one.

I fail to see the use of it–at least for me. I already carry around my Macbook Air, and have to baby that. I already have an iPod that I use on the bus and for quick email checks etc. I have a book reading program loaded on it, which I use with some regularity. So why would I need a third product–particularly one that I can’t easily type on, without getting out a little keyboard and special stand? I might as well use my laptop instead. If I’m going to get something for reading all my books on, I’d prefer something like the Kindle because the screen is easier on my eyes.

Now, if they had law books available on it, I might, admittedly, be tempted–and that’s about the ONLY reason I’d be tempted (I’m fine watching videos on my laptop, or on t.v.. Or on my iPod). But, if they somehow artificially prevented those books from being accessible on the iPod simply because they want people to shell out for the iPad, then I’d probably be too irritated to bother.

On the road from Kingston…

December 22, 2009 at 5:34 am | Posted in Technology, World History, World of Ideas | 2 Comments

On our way back from a night’s stay in Kingston, we tried to stop in at a Canadian Penetentiary Museum in town, but alas, it was closed. As we were turning to leave, a red fox streaked by at a fast run.

Later, we stopped in at the Canadian Aviation Museum (or maybe the Canadian Airforce Museum?). I didn’t expect to be engaged, but ended up finding it fascinating. The planes themselves were the most interesting. They had a full-scale replica of an early flying machine. The wings were of stretched silk, the body of wood, with copper strips and rivets holding the separate pieces of luminous, varnished planks together. It had a single “ski”, instead of dual pontoons, for a water takeoff or landing, and the two wings had tiny little wooden pontoons at the very ends. The seats for the two riders were miniscule, and I cannot imagine even a regular-sized adult fitting into either of them, today.

The device, the gears, the rest of it was all lashed together with an exquisitely crisscrossed mass of thin metal cables. It looked beautiful–a strange mix of organic warmth (the wood, the silk) and rigorous, symmetrical structure. It also looked dauntingly fragile–those cables were thin, and I can only imagine the kinds of stresses they would be subjected to in flight. And nothing–no protective metal covering or any other kind of reinforcement to help alleviate that stress. A few, key snaps of cable and it all would come tumbling down.

Somehow, it felt like it had been pulled from a dreamer’s fancy–and, too, it seemed like a testament to the amazing, fragile wondrousness of our ability to imagine, and plan and then bring those imaginings into the world and to give them solid form.

We envisage dreams and nightmares both, and they come when called. This, at least, was a dream, though the nightmares came too–and were hinted at in other parts of the museum (the boys whose planes were shot down–who were immolated in midair, or lived out years in prison camps).

All this (and more), on the road between Toronto and Kingston.

New Search Options, New Issues?

May 13, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Posted in Technology, World of Ideas | Leave a comment
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Slashdot | Google Unveils Search Options and Google Squared.

Google has apparently unveiled a couple of interesting new technologies that will allow for slightly different angles of attack in presenting users with search results. The first would seem to help categorize the results in various ways, while the second would compile the information gleaned, rather than the websites themselves.

It’s the latter that concerns me slightly. As someone who writes stuff and puts it “out there” on the web, I cannot help but wonder whether something like that will end up stripping away any final remnant of authorial attribution? Perhaps that notion is becoming somewhat outdated anyway? I don’t know.

The other, larger concern would have to do with context. We all know that information from the internet cannot be trusted. While having a “digest” type compilation of information searched, will make some measure of corroboration a little easier, stripping the info from its original context means that we might be less equipped to assess the biases that are underlying and mediating whatever information we happen to find. E.g. some info about an archeological finding that sounds somewhat plausible, until you look at the rest of the site and find that the author is a creationist.

Of course, people who worry about that will undoubtedly click through and check the sources for reliability or plausibility (in which case, I’m not sure whether the compliation would be of much use?). BUT, those who don’t will now have little to no chance of spotting any holes–as they might, just in passing, when navigating to the actual site. Skimming through the isolated, compiled information would likely mean that the more subtle biases in particular would be obscured.

Of course, this is pretty preliminary. Perhaps they’ve already thought of this and somehow managed to mitigate it via the interface itself. That would be a Good Thing–so let’s hope that’s where they’ve taken it!

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