jumping ship

I’ve left Facebook for good. In recent weeks I shed applications, then later removed most of my data (photos, posts, etc.), with each surreptitious nudge that they’ve given us in their relentless quest to end privacy. Previously I was irritated with the constant change in Privacy Policies on FB, but now I’m finding the tradeoff (giving up intricate data about myself – to whosoever – in exchange for the convenient social connectivity the site affords) is no longer worth what it once was.

For those of you (and I know there are many of you) who are also considering this move, you might want to consider some of the following (I did):

  • Not totally convinced that you should quit the FB habit? Consult Gizmodo’s Top Ten Reasons You Should Quit Facebook. You’ll be glad you did. The kicker, for the cynic in me: “the Facebook application itself sucks”.
  • If you’ve installed any Applications on your profile (or had FB do it for you without you realizing it), it might make sense to revoke any permissions you’ve granted (known or not) to them to access/reuse your data. I think this should be done in addition to and in advance of FB account deletion. Why do I think so? Well, recently a developer discovered a data hole in a recent API released by FB to its developer community. All of those “companies” who build FB apps have access to your Events schedule (and god knows what else), and this apparently, whether or not you’ve added the application to your profile. It may yet be that you cannot revoke the permission you’ve granted to (or had stolen from you by) these entities. At any rate, it can’t hurt to try and revoke as much as possible. Seeing that privacy is such a dirty word over at Facebook, I wouldn’t put it past them to just be lax about pretty much any user data they come across…
  • If you have a profile on Friendfeed (or any other property that Facebook owns), it’s probably a good idea to delete your presence there, too.
  • Have an exit strategy. You don’t want to lose contact with all of your friends or those high school dropouts to whom you have no other connection except FB. Take down email addresses, phone numbers, IMs, and any and all other contact deets for your FB friends (the ones you really want to keep, of course). Remember that Facebook doesn’t own your sociality, nor your social capital.
  • Finally, do the right thing. Don’t follow those misleading links within the Facebook privacy settings pages to remove your account. Go directly to this link to delete your FB account. It will vanish instantly, and will (supposedly) be permanently deleted in 14 days’ time.

Take a deep breath. There’s a whole world wide web out here that we forgot to attend to while we were tokin’ from the Facebook bong. And it’s just getting started.

Besides, Facebook jumped the shark over a year ago. I predict a whimper.

Open Web Vancouver

I’m attending (and presenting at) Open Web Vancouver next week, celebrating (and problematizing) with many others the many affordances and limitations of open source and open formats in our digitally mediated world. My talk will likely be rather policy-wonkish, as a current concern of mine (and a crucial chapter in my dissertation research) is that of the potential impact of broad public participation in wireless and mobile internet policy development. If you haven’t yet, register here. The leader of the Pirate Party is keynoting, so it’s well worth the hundred and eighty five clams, to my mind.

Hope to see you there.

The end of free music?

lastfm_redLast.fm (aka CBS) has finally thrown in the towel on free music. Well, I’m not going with them. It’s not that Last.fm sucks; they still offer a great service, one that *might* be worth the subscription fee, even. But for those of us who are trying to give music away for free, there’s simply no place for us on their platform.

It seems that ever since the CBS acquisition in twenty-ought-seven (and likely before that event), Last.fm has been stepping back from its potential to act as a listener and creator driven platform for sharing music. Call me old fashioned, but the listeners and musicians ought to be able to set the terms for their exchanges.

For those who forget, over the past few years, Last.fm (like many successful B2C web enterprises) tested out various revenue strategies on their audiences, in small increments – by introducing a (scandalous) royalty sharing agreement, by increasing the amount of advertising on artists’ pages, and even introducing ad revenue sharing for artists. I suppose none of these efforts eventually generated sufficient revenue to sustain it as a viable division within CBS.

Whatever. Not my problem anymore. Everything in the Simulacre catalogue (A Spectre Is Haunting Europe, Dupobs, and a few new as-yet-unannounced projects) will still be available on other free music-capable platforms (including the mighty Reverbnation, but I’ll go scoping out more of them). And of course, up until March 30 (when Last.fm formally implements its subscription fees in most countries), you’re still free to download any of our music for free there, chat about it, and suchlike. After that, those conversations contained on last.fm (really the glue that binds its circulation structure together) will necessarily have to migrate with us.

Indeed, it seems it does matter who owns what in Music 2.0.

At least CBS doesn’t own me (a government and a few banks do, but that’s another story).

Sharkbook and Twitnets

I’m going to call it now – Facebook has officially jumped the shark.

This comes with apologies to those who thought FB died hours ago, when it made another attack-user-privacy-or-otherwise-degrade-user-happiness move. And gosh darnit, if this isn’t the type of action the FB population was just starting to get used to.

This comes without apologies to those of you who thought FB started to suck the moment the CIA conspiracy theory started circulating. You folks fell on your own sword there, as that rumour has long been debunked (FYI, awesome post, Brainsturbator – who knew Tetris was a CIA plot, too?), even though many news agencies and websites still repeat it, some as recently as this month.

With all of you mentioned above, I disagree and call FB’s failure now. In its move to beat twitter at its own game – by reorganizing its formerly compartmentalized and configurable information structure into the simple, much-maligned “What’s on your mind?” deluge – and best of all, forcing all users to adopt it – FB has copied its best competitor (twitter) in the worst possible way, and ceased being innovative. So they’re basically the new Myspace (when it sold out to News Corp), the new Friendster (when it started banning fakesters) – or, perhaps, depending on where you were in 2000 – the new makeoutclub.

Twitter might survive as a different animal altogether (of the let’s take the “site” out of “social networking site” variety), should it remain an “extensible” “application”. Or put another way, if the high tech venture capital economy really does tank, the twitterverse could still survive in the same manner as Usenet did – free, open, but with perhaps less reach than any present-day social network service. And perhaps the new twitterverse would also be as fragmented and shadowy as that channel-centred realm was.

Then again, perhaps the lure of venture capital is too compelling for Twitter? Might twitter transform, in baby steps of course, into a monolithic entity like FB, too tethered and walled to be revolutionary, too heavy for its own hype, and clinging, like many “web” “sites” to the mere shadow of the VC balloon of yesteryear?

I’m on the side of the Depression-era Twitnet (barring twitter ever becoming some sort of gamechanger that takes us all by surprise, completely transforming the way we use the Internets – don’t count on it!). Given twitter’s ability to cross devices and networks (e.g., to cross over to devices and networks accessible by more people with lesser means), I’m more inclined to see it as a potential class leveler than a class divider. In a depressed economy (that was already depressed for most human beings), where efficiency and thrift constitute the logic that will prevail for most of us, 140 characters beats 160. And SMS beats email.

And blogs.

(throws that in a blender with the critique of television transforming printed news and editorial into dumbed down, ad-driven sound bytes).

Room Enough For Everyone :: Canada On the Web

The Tyee is carrying Michael Geist’s succinct report about the upcoming hearings at the CRTC over the future of Internet regulation in Canada. Most of these proposals don’t make any sense – imposing Canadian content requirements on commercial Canadian websites is dubious at best – how would web content hosts respond to such a scheme? Move south? Sign up with godaddy instead of geohost? We would merely, in some roughshod form or other, reproduce the old Can-U.S. media order, with cross-border broadcasters, Canadian-edition web sites and services (the model of ebay.ca/amazon.ca would extend into domains like flickr.ca, or worse, twitter.ca. yuck), and we’d unnecessarily introduce barriers to communication in what is a global, low-barrier-to-entry medium.

About a year ago I was asked to give an opinion to SOCAN to help inform their proposal. I argued that the Internet is highly resistant to regulation by its technical design (summed up in my persistent “the internet is filesharing” slogan above). I actually agree with SOCAN somewhat – I do support an ISP tax to reward content creators – a levy collected and monitored in ways like SOCAN already does for radio, television, and live performance. Such a proposal would meet little resistance from the public (who cares about an additional 5 bucks on your 70 dollar a month broadband bill? especially if it permits one to download anything with impunity), and would install a theoretically fair (if fairly monitored and redistributed) royalty system by which artists (and the companies they sign their lives away to) get paid.

But this idea needs to be isolated from the wider proposals to reproduce Canadian content regulations which worked (albeit in a broken fashion) during one media epoch, but won’t work within our present media ecology. The Internet is not a scarce medium like broadcast, and so there is room enough for everyone.

But underscoring this point, carriers should not be free to dictate how users access the Internet, which has attained something of the status of a public utility in common understanding. If we want to make room enough for everyone, we need to build networks that are accessible by all, using whatever hardware or software, on an equal footing. This means a nationwide broadband and wireless strategy; this also means Net Neutrality. It also means government support for community wireless initiatives.

The battle for an open Internet that gets along with content creators’ desire for remuneration needn’t be that difficult here. It’s much worse in mobile (where there is a scarcity), as I’ve been saying all along.

Vote for Fair Copyright and Culture

I’ve been brewing up a post that I’d hoped to release today, reflecting on the experience of indie music promotion and how it’s changed in a very short time (2-3 years), but I’m putting that on hold, as there are more important matters to address. Specifically, the fate of creators and the creative industries in Canada.

In case you didn’t already know, we’ve got an incumbent minority government that unilaterally, and without Parliamentary debate, slashed approximately $45 million in funding to the Arts this summer. In addition, this same government has been repeatedly trying to introduce U.S.-style copyright reform legislation that, much like our PM’s speeches, appear to be plagiarized from foreign documents. The framing given for this proposed legislation is that it is intended to protect creators’ rights. Clearly, given the recent funding cuts, not to mention the characterization of artists as “spoiled children“, this claim is hypocritical. Some argue it’s de facto censorship.

Among the myriad reasons to not vote for the Conservative Party of Canada (hey, Net Neutrality!), their inconsistent positions on the value of artists, musicians, authors, and other creatives should convince anyone still disposed to vote for them to change their minds. Either the Conservatives have not thought these policies through (the charitable view), or they have thought this contradiction through and are happy with it – seizing upon any opportunities to reinforce copyright protections for the IP of big business and abandon public funding for creatives.

Michael Geist has posted a Copyright Pledge, which many candidates have signed already, with many more coming on board as I write this. If you care about fair copyright, and if you don’t want to see U.S.-style infringements on Canadians’ privacy, or their rights to fair dealing, then find a candidate you can vote for in this list, or vote-swap if you have to to ensure the Conservative party of Canada does not form even a minority government this time around. Fair copyright policies enable us all to quote, copy, reuse, mix and match, you know, the basic stuff that beings that have and make culture do (there are no arts without copying or mimicry). To vote against fair copyright drives a stake in the heart of participatory culture and media. The foundations of this very Internet medium, and our rights to participate in culture at all are right now at stake.

And now – the punchline. If you haven’t already seen this, or if you’re unfamiliar with the terrain of arts funding in a bilingual, multicultural Canada, this video says it all:

Northern Voice 2008 Day Two – accreted notes

13:30-14:10

Alan Levine. cogdogblog. voicethread. the internet is really big.

Lost in Vancouver

really hilar cinderella story told through PPT.

http://cogdogroo.wikispaces.com/StoryTools

jumpcut=imovie in a web browser

googlemaps api with Flickr, blabberize.com

———

14:15-15:00 –

Kris Krüg and Alex Waterhouse Hayward. “The Other Side of Two Dimensions”

lots of pictures. thinking in 3D is what we do with digital photography and not with analog?

Kris: what are we losing?

Walter Benjamin is sadly not present (e.g., these same arguments were leveled at photography when it emerged, versus painting). the debates runneth under?

———-

15:30-16:00

Susie Gardner – widgets

gawd the wi-fi sux.

slick Dilbert widget.

yeah I’m done buggering around with my prez (many fuzzy pics due to compression needs – some content revised from Nokia presentation last Fall, but much more added in).

Last.fm widgets. How to put it in blogger.

etsy – building widgets. you can sell things

librarything.

polls and surveys. polldaddy.com. thisnext.com

Torrent Tracking on Open Networks 101

Today is Northern Voice (I’m presenting tomorrow, but today is the unconference, most of which I hope to catch!), but right now I’m riveted to my laptop (poring over comments about torrent tracking) before I head out to UBC. Really good back n forth over at Nicholas Weaver’s Random Thoughts regarding claims as to whether it’s actually possible to block torrent traffic (more over at Copyfight). I’m convinced such tracking measures can be circumvented and that torrent sharing can’t be stopped. These debates seem to reaffirm this position, notwithstanding drilling into the tech nitty-gritty.

To repeat – the web is an Open network. Strategies to Close it go against its grain, and are stupendously impractical if not impossible.

The Internet Is Filesharing :: On ISP Levies and Creators’ Rights to Remuneration in Canada

I was recently asked by the Songwriters’ Association of Canada (SAC) to submit a briefing on why file sharing is inevitable, and why a levy system for ISPs makes sense. (The SAC is in the process of submitting a proposal along these lines to the Canadian government, in light of the political deliberations over where our copyright law is headed).

Here‘s the draft of my briefing to them (PDF, 176K). The gist of it? The internet IS file sharing. Comment, suggest revisions, and correct me where I’m wrong, if you please.

Read the SAC’s Proposal and sign up to support it here.

The PhD – the comprehensive exams

So I’m diving straight into my comprehensives now. I’m building lists and checking them twice (and more). While building these reading lists is in many ways a very personal journey, I’ve decided to blog about the process so that I might get feedback from unexpected locales, harnessing the “wisdom of crowds” (while simultaneously, in both comp areas, critiquing how such “wisdom” is in fact problematic). I also hope that documenting the process can help others through it. I won’t be posting my full notes (who’d read them?), but I will share my definitional essays, my questions and answers, and an account of process along the way. I’ve written up preliminary préces of my two exam areas below.

Area 1. Science and Technology Studies. This will involve SCOT, ANT and other critical theories, but it will also dovetail through Philosophy of Technology (I’m thinking Heidegger through Marcuse and Feenberg, and also including Ellul and others, perhaps a few off the beaten track – we’ll see). I want to ask questions through this literature about the relationship of technology, power and social organization/social change. There are also some intriguing connections with Area 2 (below) via Hennion/Latour (their work on culture industries), and, according to one of my advisors, Habermas’ Public Sphere as well as Lazarsfeld.

Area 2. Culture Industries/Sociology of (The) Art(s). Starting with Hesmondhalgh’s (2002) synthesis of political economy of media studies with cultural studies and other approaches to the sociology of art, I plan to broaden this area out to include American and Continental approaches to the study of cultural/creative industries. This will likely include a range of approaches, including Bourdieu (various), Becker (various), and DeNora’s more recent work, but this area is still under development. There are important connections to literature on occupations (Balfe, Latouche) organizational studies (Throsby, Sacco, Menger), and of course The Frankfurts. Essentially, as I told one of my advisors this morning, I want to survey the body of work that theorizes culture industries, without limiting myself to a particular tradition (as approaches vary broadly). Keep in mind that I wish to keep this area current, as well, and as such I will need to make room for Eglash’s (and others’) work on appropriation, as well as Jenkins’ (and others’) work on fan culture. Sprawling enough? It makes sense to me.

My advisors, colleagues and friends (as well as the “social web” hoi polloi) can feel free to jump in any time. Like you have any time.