How could I blackout a site that hasn’t been updated in years? Instead, to protest the pending Internet regulation legislation in the US Congress right now, commonly known as SOPA (House bill) and PIPA (Senate bill), I will spare my social network followers the incessant snippets, and finally, blog definitively about it.
There is plenty of explanatory commentary on this bill widely circulating right now. I offer a unique treatment of this situation, public reaction and possible resolution.
Simply put, this legislation is an embarrassing blunder of epic proportions by both the Copyright Cartel (MPAA, RIAA, Chamber of Commerce, The 5 Major Media Corps) and their proxy lawmakers, which as of this writing, include my own (Chuck Schumer [D,NY], Kirsten Gillibrand [D-NY], co-sponsors; Nydia Velasquez [D, NY-12], a cagey SOPA Supporter).
It criminalizes the design, structure and usage of the Internet and Social Web.
Imagine the PIPA law is signed by the President. As early as March…
Uploading a Michael Jackson song could land you 5 years in jail. This could happen by accident, as it plays in the background of a home video you make and upload to YouTube to share with friends and family. Not only will YouTube be forced to close down its business because of you, but you will also likely serve jail-time, as the Attorney General has new tools to prosecute you. A copyright owner would only need to accuse you of infringement to shut down the site. There’s only a 5 day window to remove the content before shutdown.
As written, these acts would cut off the digital media technology startup industry. The uncertainty of the regulatory conditions and expense of retaining counsel for constant consultation would eliminate entrepreneurialism. All risk-taking would essentially cease when it comes to Internet-based business development.
As written, these acts would criminalize most forms of media remixing, which scholars believe is a critical literacy for the twenty-first century. Public libraries are currently being outfitted as afterschool media labs so that teens can learn the skills that will … lead to their arrest … as they get caught uploading and linking to copyright material? Yes, that is the bizarre reality if SOPA and/or PIPA are enacted into law.
As written, these laws demonstrate Congress’s appalling inability to show us that they are not bought out by special interests. Their rubber stamping of dangerous language in these laws, probably written by Lobbyists, reveals to us that they do not understand the concept of the Internet or the verdant, world-changing cultures that inhabit it, building value the world has never seen.
As written, these bills reveal that the American Entertainment Complex, acting through its industry associations, MPAA and RIAA, with support from the Chamber of Commerce (CoC) brazenly “purchases” democracy and attempts to regulate the Internet-as-we-know-it out of existence. They cite evidence of their profit losses in amounts that even the FBI cannot corroborate. Most empirical studies point to a link between media sales as a result of bootleg media distribution channels. Consumers demand total media access. Producers refuse to sell it to them, at any price.
Congress and the White House should consider how they could redirect this effort towards a transparent collaboration between the Content Cartel and the immense design and technology capital offered by the free market, (See Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley) to solve copyright infringements through innovation, not totalitarian legislation. The Internet, the Social Web and the Technology Industry is rightly furious that it was not consulted by Congress to craft this legislation. It offends to ponder Congress’s corrupt contempt for the burgeoning bright spot of the American economy.
Congress must acknowledge that the Entertainment Industry fosters piracy by means of their own business model of keeping complete content libraries fragmented across platforms, restricted by arcane rights limitations, and throttled by restrictive rights management. This is a deliberate attempt on the part of IP Lawyers, working for Big Media, to create scarcity where there is none. They only know how to profit from economies based on scarcity. If the combination of the digital Internet, the Social Web, and mobile computing obliterates the scarcity maintained by physical media, then the Cartel must create scarcity by limiting rights, so you cannot download any movie or tv show, anywhere, anytime.
Why can’t consumers download any movie or any song on any device for any price? There is no technological limitation for this not to be standard. The protocols, tools and systems are in place, right now. It is due to an artificial constraint imposed by Copyright implementations, by choice.
If the Content Cartel would license its complete library, open access, all platforms, for any price it would like to charge, piracy would essentially end.
This will be an issue in the November elections. I anticipate a significant number of voters will struggle to cast votes re-electing any member of Congress who fails to take this momentous opportunity to step away from this folly. Let’s dump these evil twin sisters, SOPA and PIPA, for good.
iPhone 4 wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone paying attention. I think this FaceTime mobile videochat is the biggest news (of course his “one more thing”) — it has vast implications for mobile communications of all sorts (and the notion of telepresence, in general). Will consumers fall for FaceTime? That’s the big if. If so, then we are probably officially “in the future.” If anyone could deliver ubiquitous videochat, it would have to be Apple.
The Bad News
Apple still doesn’t have a cloud service (eg., Google Docs) — that’s really holding them back. I was disappointed that rumors of a new cloud product didn’t emerge. This would allow all your files and media files to be synced over wireless and we can ditch that USB cable leash. The iPad really stinks without this capability. To add insult to injury, AT&T’s data-plan repricing will keep us tethered to WiFi and our PCs for some time to come. Let your iPhone share its 3G connection to your iPad? Fuhgettaboutit.
The Good News
I would agree that Apple’s competition simply cannot keep up with this rapid pace of development. Apple has managed to compress the development cycle down to a year and still manage to release consistently significant products that push the whole industry to innovate, and hopefully we all benefit. The cost of the software continues to go down, the revenues for developers go up, and the quality of the experience gets better and better.
No Verizon (and/or Sprint) iPhone until mid-2011, earliest.
Yesterday, Pope Steven P. Jobs convened his disciples to unveil the latest creation of his orthodoxy. In surveying the mainstream, industry and social media response, we have observed the following archetypal reactions to the announcement as negative. We offer these playful animal names to stretch the archetype metaphor as far as it can go:
The Sheep: May have fallen prey to the lead-up media hype
The Elephant: Strong gut instinct to forcefully remain skeptical of new devices and models, especially those from Cupertino
The Crow: Fixates on feature lists and spills vitriol when an expected bullet point cannot be printed on the product’s marketing materials
The Wolf: Rejects the App Store model as the “mall-ification” of the open, free, pastoral internet currently enjoyed
The Beaver: Invested heavily in mastering Flash development and resents how Apple and Adobe relations ends up hanging them out to dry
Therefore, we conclude that the iPad could only deliver rapture to devotees.
The iPad tablet computer appears to simply extend the form factor of the iPhone/iPod touch devices to a larger screen dimension. But to say that the iPad is only an overpriced web browser, or underpowered touch laptop is to miss the point by approximately one mile.
Editor’s Note: we are aware of how our Twitter embeds have failed due to dependency on a third-party. That’ll teach us to not simple screengrab the tweets and link to Twitter as a static image
A Small Herd of Elephants:
A designer/developer retorts:
The simple enlargement of the oleophobic multi-touch screen enables an incremental but significant expansion of the Touch OS to afford a greater set of user interaction complexities and sensitivities to the capacities of the human body. Indeed, the device fashions itself more to the user than anything we have yet been able to purchase. Rather than machining the user into the requirements of the computer, the iPad’s beauty is how it instinctively and delightfully adapts to human factors.
These demonstrations of Apple’s iWork productivity suite exemplify how the GUI and basic modalities of the 20th century operating system have evolved towards a significantly more tangible, less mediated, indeed “intimate” experience. Direct manipulation of objects emerges in favor of severely mediated interactions guided by your disembodied hand, symbolized by the arrow pointer. We remember how Douglas Englebart’s mouse and requisite virtual re-mapping of gesture into cartesian space is an archaic form.
We are not embarrassed about nor pay much concern to the insistent persistence of the QWERTY keyboard, an interface devised originally to slow down the typist, as the mechanism of early typewriters would jam easily otherwise.
The iPad is not cause to celebrate the device itself, but rather to announce the retirement of the 20th century GUI and OS. It has served us well for a few decades and profoundly transformed humanity. Instead, being reminded that Steve Jobs appropriated the innovations of window, menu and icon by Xerox PARC into the Macintosh OS, we revisit Mark Weiser’s (CTO of PARC) vision of the computer for the 21st century. His group’s vocabulary of tabs, pads and boards forms an invisibly cohesive infrastructure of ubiquitous computing as an attempt to deliberately abandon the monolithic totalitarianism of the personal computer.
For certain, Apple leads the industry in being able to amass mighty fortunes ($50 billion this year) to implement our lives with tabs (iPhones, iPods) and now pads (iPad). Of course, there are many more incremental steps to take on the path of computing ubiquity. It did not occur with the singular release of a product and it won’t ever happen at once. But each gradual step is a blip on the continuum, forming a kind of punctuated equilibrium that disrupts conventions sufficiently to shed the cruft and detritus of the regularizing activities of computer industry — feature driven bloatware, piling atop legacy code, reinforcing conservative modalities and affordances that some people “cling to like guns and religion.”1
The tech industry will be in paroxysms of future shock for some time to come. Many will cling to their January-26th notions of what it takes to get “real work” done; cling to the idea that the computer-based part of it is the “real work”.
It’s not. The Real Work is not formatting the margins, installing the printer driver, uploading the document, finishing the PowerPoint slides, running the software update or reinstalling the OS.
The Real Work is teaching the child, healing the patient, selling the house, logging the road defects, fixing the car at the roadside, capturing the table’s order, designing the house and organising the party.
There is an emancipatory promise in the new tablet computing model if it succeeds at eliminating labor involved with using and maintaining a PC. It’s a new kind of casual computing. A revered Mac developer sums it up:
For as frustrated as I was with the restrictions, those exact same restrictions made the New World device a high-performance, high-reliability, absolute workhorse of a machine that got out of my way and just let me get things accomplished.
The bet is roughly that the future of computing:
has a UI model based on direct manipulation of data objects
completely hides the filesystem from the user
favors ease of use and reduction of complexity over absolute flexibility
favors benefit to the end-user rather than the developer or other vendors
lives atop built-to-specific-purpose native applications and universally available web apps
The iPad as a particular device is not necessarily the future of computing. But as an ideology, I think it just might be.
Critics correctly point out that the iPad represents a future that biases media consumption over production while enforcing a strict corporate governance over software and hardware possibilities.
A Wolf in Sheep’s clothing:
Some go as a far as dismissing it as “crap futurism” framing the iPad as the anti-computer, more akin to the strip-mall-ification of personal computing. They cannot reconcile the hegemonic force of Apple Inc. as a primary capitalist enterprise bringing mass scale innovations to market.
Furthermore, we could equate the iPad with the re-enabling of an addiction to the corporate media establishment, at the expense of burgeoning peer-production by the free and open source geek-onomy.
Other voices denounce it as “unnovation” for living room leisure and superficial amusements to merely fill e-waste landfills without humanitarian credentials.
A howling Wolf:
These “doing it because we can” arguments also miss the point. A year from today, in 2011, iPad users will very likely enjoy a rich collection of creativity tools, provided by Adobe and numerous indy developers alike.
Developers cautiously reorient us to the creative potential:
The PC will still be around for some time to come, of course. But when we start carrying tablets and employing them for ambient computing tasks related to both consumption and production throughout our professional and leisurely life, we will enjoy being more human, less dominated by the totalitarian tendencies enforced by using a laptop which demands our full and private attention and fails to afford partial and shared attention. We take for granted what the disembodied interaction of trackpad, pointer and 20th century operating system models forces us to endure. On the contrary, with tablet computing, we start to benefit from the fruits of the next phase of ubicomp where our Apple pads and tabs are at the ready to help us self-fashion ourselves into less-machined casual computing citizens. The tablet helps us return to a day when we were not stuck in front of computers, but instead we clutched notebooks, palettes, and sketchpads and focused on people and ideas, not “the computing administrative debris.”2
Rather than taking on this beast of a sub-topic (again and again and again and again), we will defer to others who are posting on this, and stay on-topic. Briefly:
Leave it to Beaver
Try building a player that runs a huge range of dynamic content written on a variety of tools (some of which you don’t control) by developers with massively varying skill levels. Now try making it compatible, consistent, and performant across dozens of OSes, browsers, platforms, and devices. And maintain backwards compatibility with the last 9 versions even while your target platforms change. And keep it under 5MB. And maintain it in parity with an OSS effort (Tamarin). And try to keep up with the demands of one of the most active and vocal developer communities.
The reactions from these members of the Flash elite reflect a humility and respect for what that medium has been able to accomplish. The bombast from the anti-Flash clique, however, espouses open standards at all costs. Both viewpoints will need to reconcile how ubicomp will simplify and dissolve computing into the background. Against Adobe’s ability to conquer divergent hardware with convergent software, Apple is building a nascent ubicomp empire on unified hardware and software.
A fellow named Neil Curtis chopped up the opening Apple keynote of 2010 to just include the adjectives. A somewhat hilarious synopsis of the keynote ensues.
Naturally, nothing could upstage Bishop Stephen Colbert unleashing the wünder tablet out of his suit pocket at the Grammy Awards to mesmerize and prime the purchasing audience. Tuning the zeitgeist.
It is remarkable how easily Apple can infiltrate cultural feeding grounds like this and inject its new product into our attention space to initiate a brilliant marketing campaign to regularize the iPad into existence. Consider how they deployed the iPod into the cultural discourse and how effectively normal it has become, a fully regular life condition, the way you listen to recorded music. Apple is big music.
The next massive regularization phase established the iPhone as an infiltration into everyday communications, primarily by wireless telephone and its bevy of sub-channels. Apple is at the heels of Nokia, the worlds largest mobile device maker. Apple is big telecom.
The iPad affords a new and novel kind of computing. The full adoption of its use in everyday living will reflect yet another stage of regularizing Apple into our lives. At this stage, Apple is ubiquitous to our daily life, always at hand.
The tweet above implicates multiple layers of private property that mesh the various networked but self-fashioning aspects of a typical public realtime hypertext exchange these days. The layers of exchanged property include Twitter (messaging), Bit.ly (shortlink), Facebook (social web), Google Books (content publishing) and related software (browsers, apps, OS, etc.) to render social media towards public communications.
These private and corporate accumulations of virtual cultural capital derived from user contributed content add value well beyond their physical capital which comprises the workforce, server farms, bandwidth, energy and even brand identity, all subsumed as value commodities optimized for self-fashioning and auto-meshing. The notion of this hypertext broadcast evokes the antagonism between the private property of the communication transported by publishing tools and the public nature of the participants and their expressions. The binary boundaries of labor theory models have been blurred between distinctions of…
Indeed, new language is required to express the hybridity and mutation invoked by the social forces of emergent design technology.
Thumbnail views of Constant’s New Babylon by Mark Wigley
History has presented us with examples of imaginary objects and structures that prefigured our contemporary conditions. In pondering Constant Niewunhuys’ New Babylon as the ultimate imaginary object of urban architectures, there is also Bush’s Memexas the ultimate imaginary object of knowledge consoles. These future-minded design studies arrive out of creative practice and military research disciplines, respectively. But they share a common perspective on the destiny of humankind as a networked and reciprocal society.
Indeed, the Memex already serves as a de facto historical artifact of a proto-hypertext pre-digital device to foreshadow the Internet. By synthesizing the virtual of knowledge networks towards a metaphorical or rhetorical architecture eventually built as the Internet, perhaps the digital memex, maybe the virtual New Babylon, a layer of self-fashioning protocols and exchanges emerged that sit between physical transit and everyday life. Vannevar Bush imagined his Memex microfilm knowledge console as the liberation from libraries, towards exchangeable and reconfigurable knowledge media. He extended self-enrichment through participatory scholarship with the promise of technology to overcome the limitations of physical media and the requisite bureaucracy to manage it. He imagined the basis for the internet before the digital computer and the network were fully conceived and implemented. Meanwhile, before the digital network engendered hyperconnectedness and hyperfragmentation as intrinsic structures and conditions of hypertext knowledge distribution systems, Constant Niewunhuys appears to have applied a parallel idea of hyperarchitecture to the basis of a futurist society built upon a “unitary urbanism.”
The post-monetary vision of Constant’s New Babylon envisages an architectural mesh of “infinitely reconfigurable spaces”2 where a post-capitalist society of self-fashioning actors thrive beyond commodity exchange in the conventional sense. We wonder if the physical architecture of humans will eventually evolve into this rhizomatic, multi-layered, multi-dimensional, network of cellular or atomic structures that represent and disseminate information or embody and interconnect human habitats across the Earth in a uniformly neural network pattern. This pattern resembles the visual forms of the digital network, our understandings of neuroscience, biochemistry and atomic physics. Is it the eventual but wholly natural state of human society?3
The cellular design affords the infinite and reconfigurable mobility of capital and commodity exchange of all sorts across the boundaries of time and place. Humans may eventually construct a habitat that resembles a web of interconnected self-regulating, post-national, post-regional communities who thrive on unfettered commodity exchange, beyond scarcity, beyond the immaterial. Labor and value creation in this kind of a post-monetary urban planning concept depends on an individual’s accumulation of knowledge credentials, artifacts of cultural production and the distributed economics of emergent peer-to-peer micro-transactions — peer production.
“After rehearsing these few salient features of today’s art criticism, I must say on the contrary that for our situationist comrades, for Constant and myself, the three-dimensional explorations in question here can in no way be an object of enthusiasm, as they are but scattered elements on the path toward a future construction of ambiences, a unitary urbanism.” – Guy Debord4
Leave it to Guy Debord to take all the fun out of sci-fi fantasy.
It only just dawned on me. These status-tweet-feed conflations I’ve been following and fueling — this is the MEMEX that I’ve been talking about on these pages. Maybe not MEMEX 1.0 — our trails comprise not only encyclopedic knowledge and book knowledge — they also encompass our communication and social context all wrapped up in knowledge. Social networking is contemporary knowledge machined into media trails.
Whatever “social networking” becomes, Twitter today, who knows tomorrow, we can still be sure that Vannevar Bush was one of the first to fantasize about the business of socially mediating knowledge through machines via exchangeable, reconfigurable machine-readable media (i.e. beyond books and paper).