Posted at 12:40 in Books, Communication Policy, Education, Free Software, Intellectual Property, Internet, Media Ownership, Music, Music History, Music Industry, Musicology, Network Society, personal, Politricks, Popular Culture, Privacy, Remix Culture, Resistant Aesthetic Practices, work | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tomorrow, at the ICA Conference in London, I'll be presenting data from one of my forthcoming journal articles with my friend Mark Latonero. It's got tons of data from two surveys of over 5,000 people around the globe, tracking the changes in their awareness, engagement with, and opinions regarding "configurable culture" between 2006 and 2010.
Here's a copy of our slides:
Posted at 20:18 in Appropriation, Art and Technology, Communication Policy, Digital Divide, Education, Friends, Globalization, Intellectual Property, Internet, Music, Network Society, Photography, Politricks, Popular Culture, Privacy, Remix Culture, Resistant Aesthetic Practices, Social Media, TV, Videogames, Visual culture, work | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
This weekend, I was fortunate to host a keynote discussion between media theorist (and Moog afficionado) Trevor Pinch and DJ/author Paul D. Miller, a/k/a DJ Spooky. It was part of an excellent conference called "Extending Play" organized by the doctoral students at Rutgers SC&I.
Our panel was a lot of fun -- a freewheeling discussion that ranged from music and tech geekery to broad social theory. You can listen to the audio transcript here:
Posted at 10:28 in Aesthetic Theory, Appropriation, Art and Technology, Books, Class, Communication Policy, Congitive/Neuropsych, Cultural Studies, Digital Divide, DIY, Education, Free Software, Friends, Gadgets, Games, Genre, Style and Taste, Globalization, Hacking, Intellectual Property, Interface, Internet, Media Ownership, Music, Music History, Music Industry, Musicology, Network Society, personal, Politricks, Popular Culture, Race, Remix Culture, Resistant Aesthetic Practices, Subcultures, Videogames, Web/Tech, work | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Yesterday, I contributed to an interesting story on Marketplace Radio regarding Margaret Thatcher's musical legacy. There's a lot to say on this subject, but my basic point was that Thatcherism catalyzed the punk movement, which was still largely regional, at exactly the moment that media deregulation in the US and elsewhere made British culture a hot export. In essence, Thatcherism ended up promoting its own critique abroad.
The text version of the story has more of my input than the audio version.
Posted at 10:44 in Communication Policy, Cultural Studies, Genre, Style and Taste, Globalization, Music, Music History, Music Industry, News Media, personal, Politricks, Popular Culture, Resistant Aesthetic Practices, Subcultures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Posted at 23:36 in Appropriation, Communication Policy, Education, Free Software, Intellectual Property, Media Ownership, Music, Music History, Music Industry, Network Society, personal, Politricks, Popular Culture, Privacy, Resistant Aesthetic Practices, work | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
My dad recently confessed to me that, even after reading 1-1/2 of my books and following my career for 15 years, he has "no idea" what my work or my field is about (my historian sister and law student brother have an easier time justifying themselves). While this is a bit close to home, it is unfortunately not uncommon for people I know to express confusion or even disdain about my chosen field. As the comedian Marc Maron responded when a recent interviewee on his WTF podcast said he'd majored in Communication as an undergraduate, "isn't that just a catch-all field for people who don't know what they're interested in?" (I'm paraphrasing).
At the recent International Communication Association conference in Phoenix, ICA president (and my former doctoral advisor) Larry Gross gave a blistering speech, outlining several challenges faced by the academy in general and our field in particular. One of his points was the challenge of "cultivating engaged scholars and scholarship." In the course of these remarks, he delivered what I thought was a pretty spot-on description of why -- and how -- I do what I do:
Today we see political leaders everywhere agreeing on the necessity of imposing austerity on the 99% to pay the bills run up by the 1% -- and education is prominent among the institutions being sacrificed in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”
While conspiracy theories are often more fervently held than they are empirically sustainable, in this instance a fair case can be made for a conscious effort on the part of the “establishment” of the post-1960s era to roll back what they saw as an assault on their power. The case rests in part on a 1971 memorandum that a successful corporate lawyer named Lewis Powell addressed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The memorandum outlined the dangers Powell believed the corporate establishment needed to comprehend and counter:
"No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack. This varies in scope, intensity, in the techniques employed, and in the level of visibility…what now concerns us is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts…The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians."
The Powell Memorandum laid out in great detail not only the causes for alarm but a strategy for counter-revolution. Powell’s advice has been credited with turning on the faucet that poured millions of dollars into funding right-wing institutes, think tanks and advocacy groups. Powell understood the need for a long march strategy and his vision has been vindicated by the political shifts in the United States during the past four decades. President Richard Nixon must have appreciated Powell’s wisdom, as he appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court shortly after the memorandum was written.
In the spirit of the Powell memorandum the right wing in the U.S. broadened the focus of the counter-revolution from their perennial target of popular culture to encompass the domain of elite culture. Communication scholarship and teaching figured in an important way in the debates over the role of the academy because we are among those who can be accused of "diluting or displacing" canonical texts in favor of the degraded products of popular culture.
By devoting serious attention to the mass media, communications scholars were among the first members of the academy to question the sanctity of the elite cultural canon. In fact, I would argue that the status of communications study within the American academy suffered for years -- and probably still does -- from our association with mass culture.
What these "threats" had in common, and what provoked the enmity of right-thinking politicians, journalists and academics, is that they represented a specter haunting our society: subordinates getting uppity, silenced voices starting to speak out, new perspectives shifting the center of gravity towards the margins. But, despite the ferocity of the counterattack mounted against them, the marginal voices and forces were not in fact remotely as successful as the public was told.
However much communication scholars expanded – or corrupted – the curriculum, and however much they challenged the universality of traditional canons, the field of communication studies in the United States was also retreating from an explicit engagement in the realm of political economy at the very moment that upheavals in communication technologies and media industries were transforming the national and global landscape. Whether by design or unhappy coincidence the critical engagement of communication scholarship with these momentous developments and policy debates diminished, along with the imperative to train our students to participate in and contribute to these important decisions.
The result is that public policy debates are taking place in the US today with little meaningful input from communication scholars, and thus often with too little socially contextualized and theorized empirical data and research to inform them. While many of our programs train graduate students to study media effects, media content, and media processes, too few of our students are trained in the study of media economics, law, regulation and policy, and fewer still are able to do this in a way that produces research that is both academically rigorous and yet useful and accessible to policymakers, media activists, and interested citizens.
We’re all familiar with the condescension if not contempt with which many academics view colleagues who address lay audiences rather than scholarly peers and graduate students. One of the ironies of the hostility to writing that addresses a broad audience rather than a peer cohort is that one such audience is comprised of our undergraduate students (and even some of our graduate students and colleagues in somewhat distant corners of the discipline). As Jan Radway put it,
“the largest and most predictable audience for the material we generate is not composed of our professional peers. Rather it is made up of young men and women, aged roughly eighteen to twenty-two, ranged before us in the classroom, seeking not only professional middle-class validation, but often guidance and reassurance about the appropriate emotional, moral, and political standpoint to take with respect to a confusing and oppressive world.”
Last month, I returned to Moscow to speak at Google's Big Tent Event. My panel, which was entitled "Culture: Create or Copy," was focused on the question of whether configurable cultural practices like memes, mashups and remixes are legitimate and socially valuable, and therefore whether communications and cultural policy should provide a degree of support for them. Obviously, I was there to bang the "yes" drum. This was not an idle "academic" topic; the panel's moderator was Ekatrina Chukovskaya, Deputy Minister of Culture for the Russian Federation.
Here's the video of the panel:
Posted at 14:17 in Aesthetic Theory, Appropriation, Art and Technology, Communication Policy, Current Affairs, Digital Divide, DIY, Education, Free Software, Globalization, Intellectual Property, Internet, Media Ownership, Network Society, personal, Politricks, Popular Culture, Privacy, Remix Culture, Resistant Aesthetic Practices, Social Media, Tech industry, telecom, viral video, work | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
My new book project, loosely based on my LimeWire expert testimony, is called "The Piracy Crusade." Although it will be published as a paper book next year by University of Massachusetts Press, I'm also publishing draft chapters as I write them on an open, Creative Commons-licensed, comments-enabled platform hosted by the MediaCommons project.
This kind of prepublication is increasingly being used as "peer-to-peer review," a crowdsourced alternative to the traditional academic "peer review" process, in which 2-3 anonymous readers with unclear motives and levels of interest weigh in on your work after 6-12 months of waiting. Obviously, when you're covering something fast-moving like law, technology, culture, or all three, that kind of a waiting process can be deadly.
If you have any interest, experience, or opinions regarding music, intellectual property law, new technologies, or the digital media industry, I encourage you to take a look, and leave a comment. All constructive commenters will get a shout-out in the final version of the book's Acknowledgments section.
The first two chapters are already up, and Chapter 3 is in process. Check it out on PiracyCrusade.com!
p.s. I'm also looking for some cover art -- if you're interested in creating something (I can't pay you, but I'll give you a credit on the cover), let me know.
Posted at 20:44 in Aesthetic Theory, Appropriation, Art and Technology, Books, Communication Policy, Cultural Studies, Education, Free Software, Hacking, Intellectual Property, Internet, Media Ownership, Music, Music History, Music Industry, Musicology, Network Society, personal, Politricks, Popular Culture, Privacy, Remix Culture, Resistant Aesthetic Practices, Social Media, Subcultures, Tech industry, telecom, Web/Tech, work | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
A few weeks ago, Reuters TV called me up to record a segment for their Steve Jobs obituary. It's the first time I've ever been asked to eulogize someone who was still living, and I found that task, plus the necessity of boiling down a modern titan's life into a quotable snippet, somewhat unnerving. Nonetheless, i was proud to contribute my little bit to what would undoubtedly be a global outpouring of grief and hagiography, and I tried hard to say something that would both resonate and do some small bit of justice to the man.
I'm not an Apple fanboy -- for instance, I've long been a critic of their music retail strategy, which has served them well and everyone else rather poorly. But I do use a Macbook Pro, iPhone, iPad and several other Apple-produced pieces of hardware and software, and I consider each of them a marvel of engineering and design. This is fortunate, because I probably spend the majority of my waking hours holding, watching, listening to, and communicating via one of these devices.
But to simply point to all the pretty boxes and say "Mr. Jobs made some nice machines" is not enough. It would be difficult to overstate the impact that Jobs had on business and culture at large, especially over the past 15 years since his storied return to the company he cofounded. Socially, he demystified -- and therefore democratized -- computer use, dragging the silicon chip from the desks of dedicated geeks to the pockets of the people.
He did this by meeting his customers halfway -- obliterating the command line prompt and impersonal packaging for the intuitive interface and the sleek, chic curves of haute design. I say "halfway" because he also forced us, coders and users alike, to conform to his vision. We had to adjust our hands and minds to the folder and the swipe, and we had to shun the freer pastures of the GPL and Linux for a walled garden full of proprietary delectables.
Steve Jobs built an empire -- one of America's largest -- on this "halfway" principle, and on the proposition that computers -- the cold, calculating (literally), impersonal tools of eggheads and hackers -- could be reimagined as warm, fuzzy, and even sexy. I'm currently teaching a masters-level course called "Critiquing Marketing Communications," and a few weeks ago I had to institute a ban on using Apple as a brand example, because my students would barely talk about anything else.
Whether we're headed for singularity, cyborgism, fragmentation or obliteration, there's no question that the future of humanity and the future of the digital computer are firmly and irrevocably intertwined. It's impossible to imagine a tomorrow without ubiquitous processing, and yet impossible to fathom the degree to which our fates and those of the machines will continue to blur. If we're able to contemplate this astounding proposition without despair and abject terror, we have Steve Jobs to thank for it.