Thursday, February 10, 2011

photo by 1 hr photo via flickr creative commons

we stole the top image. sorry, patty

De Laude Scriptorium


Any text that has infiltrated the common mind to the extent of Gone With the Wind orLolita or Ulysses inexorably joins the language of culture. A map-turned-to-landscape, it has moved to a place beyond enclosure or control. The authors and their heirs should consider the subsequent parodies, refractions, quotations, and revisions an honor, or at least the price of a rare success.

A corporation that has imposed an inescapable notion—Mickey Mouse, Band-Aid—on the cultural language should pay a similar price.

The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors but “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate.

Contemporary copyright, trademark, and patent law is presently corrupted. The case for perpetual copyright is a denial of the essential gift-aspect of the creative act. Arguments in its favor are as un-American as those for the repeal of the estate tax.

Art is sourced. Apprentices graze in the field of culture.

Digital sampling is an art method like any other, neutral in itself.

Is authorship a social fiction?

Digital technology makes copying and pasting easy, of course. But that is the least of it. The Internet may also be redefining how students — who came of age with music file-sharing, Wikipedia and Web-linking — understand the concept of authorship and the singularity of any text or image.

“Now we have a whole generation of students who’ve grown up with information that just seems to be hanging out there in cyberspace and doesn’t seem to have an author,” said Teresa Fishman, director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University. “It’s possible to believe this information is just out there for anyone to take it."

Susan Blum:

In an interview, she said the idea of an author whose singular effort creates an original work is rooted in Enlightenment ideas of the individual. It is buttressed by the Western concept of intellectual property rights as secured by copyright law. But both traditions are being challenged.

“Our notion of authorship and originality was born, it flourished, and it may be waning,” Ms. Blum said.


The Walt Disney Company has drawn an astonishing catalogue from the work of others: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Song of the South, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Robin Hood, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Mulan, Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, and, alas, Treasure Planet, a legacy of cultural sampling that Shakespeare, or De La Soul, could get behind. Yet Disney's protectorate of lobbyists has policed the resulting cache of cultural materials as vigilantly as if it were Fort Knox—threatening legal action, for instance, against the artist Dennis Oppenheim for the use of Disney characters in a sculpture, and prohibiting the scholar Holly Crawford from using any Disney-related images—including artwork by Lichtenstein, Warhol, Oldenburg, and others—in her monograph Attached to the Mouse: Disney and Contemporary Art.

What is authorship?

If those don't strike you as essential losses, then consider the remarkable series of “plagiarisms” that links Ovid's “Pyramus and Thisbe” with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, or Shakespeare's description of Cleopatra, copied nearly verbatim from Plutarch's life of Mark Antony and also later nicked by T. S. Eliot for The Waste Land. If these are examples of plagiarism, then we want more plagiarism.


All digitial records are montages.
A digital sampled sound takes, effectively, 44,000 snapshot per second, arranges and replays them.
Creative Commons.

Hey, let's take something!

Marcus Boon

Copy my book

Lethem on Music

In 1941, on his front porch, Muddy Waters recorded a song for the folklorist Alan Lomax. After singing the song, which he told Lomax was entitled “Country Blues,” Waters described how he came to write it. “I made it on about the eighth of October '38,” Waters said. “I was fixin' a puncture on a car. I had been mistreated by a girl. I just felt blue, and the song fell into my mind and it come to me just like that and I started singing.” Then Lomax, who knew of the Robert Johnson recording called “Walkin' Blues,” asked Waters if there were any other songs that used the same tune. “There's been some blues played like that,” Waters replied. “This song comes from the cotton field and a boy once put a record out—Robert Johnson. He put it out as named ‘Walkin' Blues.' I heard the tune before I heard it on the record. I learned it from Son House.” In nearly one breath, Waters offers five accounts: his own active authorship: he “made it” on a specific date. Then the “passive” explanation: “it come to me just like that.” After Lomax raises the question of influence, Waters, without shame, misgivings, or trepidation, says that he heard a version by Johnson, but that his mentor, Son House, taught it to him. In the middle of that complex genealogy, Waters declares that “this song comes from the cotton field.”

Blues and jazz musicians have long been enabled by a kind of “open source” culture, in which pre-existing melodic fragments and larger musical frameworks are freely reworked. Technology has only multiplied the possibilities; musicians have gained the power to duplicate sounds literally rather than simply approximate them through allusion. In Seventies Jamaica, King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry deconstructed recorded music, using astonishingly primitive pre-digital hardware, creating what they called “versions.” The recombinant nature of their means of production quickly spread to DJs in New York and London. Today an endless, gloriously impure, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of music.


The name Pop Will Eat Itself was taken from an NME feature on the band Jamie Wednesday, written by David Quantick, which proposed the theory that because popular music simply recycles good ideas continuously, the perfect pop song could be written by [combining] the best of those ideas into one track. Hence, Pop Will Eat Itself.[

]A mashup or blend[1] (also mesh ,mash up and mash-up) is a song or composition created by blending two or more pre-recorded songs, usually by overlaying the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the instrumental track of another.[2] To the extent that such works are 'transformative' of original content, they may find protection from copyright claims under the "fair use" doctrine of copyright law.[3]

Jaron Lanier

In fact, the dynamics of the Web, as the artist and computer scientist Jaron Lanier observes in another new book, are encouraging “authors, journalists, musicians and artists” to “treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind.”

Mr. Lanier, 49, astutely points out in his new book, “You Are Not a Gadget,” of how online collectivism, social networking and popular software designs are changing the way people think and process information, a question of what becomes of originality and imagination in a world that prizes “metaness” and regards the mash-up as “more important than the sources who were mashed.”

David Shields


Mr. Shields’s book consists of 618 fragments, including hundreds of quotations taken from other writers like Philip Roth, Joan Didion and Saul Bellow — quotations that Mr. Shields, 53, has taken out of context and in some cases, he says, “also revised, at least a little — for the sake of compression, consistency or whim.” He only acknowledges the source of these quotations in an appendix, which he says his publishers’ lawyers insisted he add.

“Who owns the words?” Mr. Shields asks in a passage that is itself an unacknowledged reworking of remarks by the cyberpunk author William Gibson. “Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do — all of us — though not all of us know it yet. Reality cannot be copyrighted.”

There is an artistic movement brewing, Shields writes. Among its hallmarks are the incorporation of “seemingly unprocessed” material; “randomness, openness to accident and serendipity; . . . criticism as autobiography; self-reflexivity; . . . a blurring (to the point of invisibility) of any distinction between fiction and nonfiction.”

Helene Hegemann

Her story.

And now this: The culture blog found out that Hegemann plagiarised – mainly from Strobo, a sex, drugs and clubbing novel by blogger Airen (b. 1981) published last year by SuKuLTuR, a small publishing house in Berlin. Not only did she borrow humorous collocations like “Techno-Plastizit├Ąt" (techno plasticity) or "Vaselintitten" (Vaseline tits), she lifted whole lines and scene setups.

Helene Hegemann says she’s sorry, she knows it was wrong “not to mention all the people whose writings helped me”. And yet she stands by her novel: after all, “there’s no such thing as originality anyway, there’s only authenticity”. What’s more, she’s only a “lodger” in her own mind: “I help myself to whatever inspires me.”

The virtual poets' society

So people are now crying scandal, but the spreading hullabaloo over the “Hegemann case” is basically a knee-jerk reflex: we think the aura of authenticity is incompatible with a little cribbing. Yet Axolotl Roadkill constructs an aura that no longer acknowledges any distinction between fact and fiction. Helene Hegemann belongs to the "Virtual Poets’ Club” evoked in Strobo: "We’re part of a strand that occasionally slipslides into fiction. It’s all pretty schizophrenic." Incidentally, it was Carl Hegemann who developed the theoretical superstructure for this hybrid artistry: "A reality is no longer encountered, but brought forth by the ‘members’ of a culture.” In this sense Helene Hegemann did what she knows how to do best: she cut-and-pasted together a novelistic existence for herself.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Against hierarchy

In real simple media theory terms, one thing the Internet did was to push the atomized audience closer together.

Some would even argue that a different notion of "the public" has emerged.

By the time we got to Wikileaks, though, there appeared to be some understanding that there could be a fusion between the anarchic Net and the legacy media.

What's going on today?

Oh, nothing much. News Corp is launching its much-discussed iPad "newspaper."
But somebody already has hacked it.
The New York Times is trying to develop a counter-product.
A website got its hands on an AOL internal document detailing AOL's depressing version of journalism.
Sounds not terribly different from "content farms."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Two things happened simultaneously

The crumbling of the newspaper business model (Cragislist supplanted the classifieds, etc.)
and the end of the acceptance of a hierarchical news model.

Now there are all kinds of experiments that involve getting people to pay for news online. Here's one from Slovakia.

Part of the problem is that the 'Net as an advertising meeting has never quite clicked, even though clicking is something you can track really well. 35 percent of media us = 14 percent of ad dollars, a trend which is leveling off. 8 percent of web users account for 85 percent of click-throughs. Example.

One of the first things to get ditched was explanatory journalism:

Technology is further shifting power to newsmakers, and the newest way is through their ability to control the initial accounts of events. For now at least, digital technology is shifting more emphasis and resources toward breaking news. Shrinking newsrooms are asking their remaining ranks to produce first accounts more quickly and feed multiple platforms. This is focusing more time on disseminating information and somewhat less on gathering it, making news people more reactive and less proactive. It is also leading to a phenomenon in which the first account from newsmakers — their press conferences and press releases — make their way to the public often in a less vetted form, sometimes close to verbatim. Those first accounts, sculpted by official sources, then can rapidly spread more widely now through the power of the Web to disseminate, gaining a velocity they once lacked. That is followed quickly by commentary. What is squeezed is the supplemental reporting that would unearth more facts and context about events. We saw this clearly in a study of news in Baltimore, but it is reinforced in discussions with news people. While technology makes it easier for citizens to participate, it is also giving newsmakers more influence over the first impression the public receives.

We should probably talk a bit about the Courant.

Try to remember

Early newspapers were, essentially, blogs.
And in their history, they have been many things.

The New/Old Echo Chamber

What does the news look like right this minute?
What is that a product of?

From Pew:
Reportorial journalism is getting smaller, but the commentary and discussion aspect of media, which adds analysis, passion and agenda shaping, is growing — in cable, radio, social media, blogs and elsewhere. For all the robust activity there, however, the numbers still suggest that these new media are largely filled with debate dependent on the shrinking base of reporting that began in the old media. Our ongoing analysis of more than a million blogs and social media sites, for instance, finds that 80% of the links are to U.S. legacy media.

Some of the tension between those two sources has led people to expect newspapers to be more open. And this is as good a place as any to talk about the comment function issue. (Remember the Coasean law.)

The bad news

Um, newspaper deaths.
Fumbling efforts with paywalls.

The good news

The incredible role played by YouTube and citizen-generated video.
And perhaps an understanding that "news" can be presented a lot of different ways.
Well maybe not Patch but hyperlocal sites.
When they work.

And here's one close to home.
At a statewide level, we have an unbundled site for government and politics.
Here's a slightly jazzier version. (remember Rapaille and codes.)
And a cool-looking semi-paywall version.
About $150 million in nonprofit money has flowed into news projects since 2006.
In many ways, the home feed of Facebook has become -- or can become -- a multivitamin news source.
Some FB users use their pages as, essentially blogs.
Twitter and Tumblr are elastic, searchable news sources.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A few general principles

Web. vs. Net

The notion of Code -- Clotaire Rapaille.

Short stays, the lack of brand identification, the Code of the Wild West.

The car vs. the bridge. (Hidden elements of Wikipedia and Google)

The Coasean notion of transaction cost. (apply to FB)

Focus-grouping reality on FB.


The tool shapes the user.

Not every tool is right for every job.

Hot vs. cool environments, using Obama's candidacy and the notion of "not a finished product."
Also, two years later, the Tea Party as cool.

Second orality and Walter Ong.
(By lowering the Coasean cost, does the internet make us more oral?)

(Keep in mind that most of these criticisms echo back to, for example, what Plato said about writing. And what scribes said about printing. And so on.)


The history of information, searchability, the 17th century, the impenetrability of the book.

How the world surfs

The population trends.
The trends in use.
The shift from searching to sharing.
The Tunisia example.
What's the relationship to old-line media?


Note to self -- pick this up around 2:30

Let's Get It Started

Monday, September 20, 2010

So why do this at all?

We're living through, I would argue, THE BIGGEST information revolution in the history of humankind.
In many ways, the shift returns us to our pasts, when we relied more on ourselves to circulate information and less on professionals.
That, in a nutshell, is what should make this more attractive to farmers. (There's a dark side to all this, which we'll discuss.)

But let's also make a list of what you want to accomplish.

Let's make a list of your needs.
Whom do you need to reach?
What do you need them to know?
What kinds problem involving communication and information-sharing are you struggling to solve?
What -- in the area of getting the word out and sharing a general sense of your operation -- would make you happier a year from now?
What kind of communicator are you right now? What do you think you do well?

Case study

So here's a very nice-looking website for a farm whose Provincetown farmer's market presence I recently visited.
Let's talk about what it does and doesn't do well.
Should it have an update-able blog?
Buttons for FB and Twitter?
A personality?
Different information on its home page?
A physical presence that points to its digital presence?


The New York Times magazine, conveniently, offered this set of guidelines yesterday for techno-literacy.

• Every new technology will bite back. The more powerful its gifts, the more powerfully it can be abused. Look for its costs.

• Technologies improve so fast you should postpone getting anything you need until the last second. Get comfortable with the fact that anything you buy is already obsolete.

• Before you can master a device, program or invention, it will be superseded; you will always be a beginner. Get good at it.

• Be suspicious of any technology that requires walls. If you can fix it, modify it or hack it yourself, that is a good sign.

• The proper response to a stupid technology is to make a better one, just as the proper response to a stupid idea is not to outlaw it but to replace it with a better idea.

• Every technology is biased by its embedded defaults: what does it assume?

• Nobody has any idea of what a new invention will really be good for. The crucial question is, what happens when everyone has one?

• The older the technology, the more likely it will continue to be useful.

• Find the minimum amount of technology that will maximize your options.

To those, I would add: Have Fun and Don't Be Intimidated.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Assimilate or else

Most of what I'm going to teach you today will be less relevant than your actual performance in Google.
Whoever handles your website should at least glance at Google's copious advice about SEO.
It's also a good idea, probably to have an actual Google account that links to your website. It's all about making their 'bots happy.

Further reading on websites

I don't especially agree with their example of a good farm website.
But I don't know much about the goat business.

But let's just pick a website and talk about it.

Always ask yourself, what's the unit of exchange in the platform I'm in?
In FB, it's the post (and the friend).
On a website, it's the link.

The Social Network

One of the best ways to think about social media is in terms of the energy expended to get a result.
Facebook is the king of low energy expenditure.
And let's talk about event pages.
And the art of the FB post.
And getting OTHER people to post about you.
(But don't completely forget about good old-fashioned email blasts.)

The joys of crowdsourcing

Wikipedia is crowdsourcing.

Let's crowdsource the idea of crowdsourcing for farmers and their friends.

Sites that aggregate

You probably know most of these:

shared harvest.

For PYO, this is a very effective site.

Here are some great-looking sites that, I think, do the social media thing very well.
This one in Chicago.
And this one in Fairfield County.

We should talk, in connection with those, about the idea of parnterships.
(Which goes to the issue of simplicity.)

Let's talk Twitter

So here's Twitter.
Some things you could use Twitter for:
-- real time updates to your customers about the condition of crops, i.e. "this is the last week for blueberries at Piotrowicz Farm!"
-- real time updates from a farm stand or farmer's market. "I've got five heads of bronze arrow lettuce left at the West End Market."
-- talking to (and about) legislators if there's a bill coming up that affects you.
-- to give and receive real time information about weather
If you do Twitter, it makes sense to learn more about hashtags.

One general thing to remember: the news media now troll Twitter and other forms of unpaid social media for news ideas.

The Commandments

Just to review, this is roughly the order in which you should worry about things.
1. Have a website.
2. Get your website listed with all the farm aggregators.
3. Be Google-friendly. It's probably a good idea to have a Google account with a profile that links to your website.
4. Join Facebook. Recruit friends.
5. (Maybe) Create a Twitter account.
6. If you do something that requires fresh content -- a website blow, Facebook or Twitter -- update a lot. A LOT!
7. make a little sign -- with your website and FB and Twitter info, if relevant --for your farmstand and especially for farmers markets.