Advanced Media Issues – Week 4

The prescribed readings this week were quite complex, and at first glance, had little to do with media studies. Consciousness, memory and perception are ideas that I rarely link to media discourse, but after considering the readings, I have realised that perception, especially, has a lot to do with media and how we engage with it.

Memory and perception play vital roles within the way which we choose to use media. Perception is very individualistic, and each person has their own ‘perception’ of media use. Take an internet search engine, for example. From my own observations, I have found that how people use search engines, especially for research, varies greatly. Whether individuals search for keywords, or whole sentences, their perception of results will all be different. Memory plays a part in perception, as learned habits or ritualistic tendencies can come into play when analysing perception. How an individual learned to use a search engine will greatly affect how they use one now. The memory of past perceptions will influence our newer ones, and since perception is very individual, not everyone receives the same ‘message’. Some people learned to use keywords, and narrow down their search instantly, while others learned to type in a question and hope for the best. In both these scenarios, perception of results will vary, even if the individuals are searching for the exact same information.

People can experience new perceptions, however, and with that can come the learning of new skills. One might engage with a more efficient method of using a search engine (searching for keywords), in a way as a result of trial and error. In the Alan Kay demonstration, we see a woman with no experience playing tennis, yet in an afternoon, she learns to play a decent game of casual tennis, by way of trial and error. Just as one realises simplicity is the key; that search engines look only for particular words (smaller picture), the woman playing tennis realised in order to play, she must simplify her perception, and instead of looking at the big picture, she must focus on the smaller picture (memorised movements.)

We ourselves must balance the small and big pictures in our memory and perception, being able to accept ongoing change and the varying ways of engaging with media.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under arts3091

Advanced Media Issues – Week 3

Fuller expresses ‘Media Ecologies’ as an “interrelation of processes … of beings … and matter”. I like this interpretation, as media ecologies are exactly that. The ‘ecology’ aspect being, it’s interaction with the living things around it, including us as humans, and the other living things around us. When looking at ecology, you must look at the things around you. I’m fascinated with the idea that media shapes the thing around us. Why are we in a certain place doing a certain thing? Why not somewhere else? Does media decide what we do, and where we do it?

It is known fact that media has changed the way we live our everyday lives. There are certain aspects of our lives however, that are not only changed, but maintained by media, and thus a media ecology is formed.

The idea of ‘feedback loops’ is raised in the ‘Games as a Happening, as a Service’ blog post. The author, Tomas,  states that with certain games, particularly, MMO’s, players’ activity encourages more people to play. This concept of a media event creating loops, linking back to that same event is very familiar in it’s nature. I immediately think of online forums when considering feedback and feedforward loops. What people contribute to forums is very influential in our practices. For example, researching a product online before buying it may lead you to a forum relating to that product. You will read and take on board the comments about that product (good or bad) and thus make you decision on whether to by that particular thing. However, within forums, there are few boundaries of opinion, so pretty much anything can be said. What people say will to an extent influence your decision, whether true or false. You will make you purchasing decision on those opinions. You may then contribute for yourself about the product, once bought and give your own take on it, further influencing what people to come, will think of the product and whether they choose to buy it or not.

We see that within media ecologies, experiences are created by our own interactions with media. It’s astounding to see that most of the time, we don’t recognise that our own contributions shape our experiences.

Leave a comment

Filed under arts3091

Arts3091 – Week 2 Blog

We are introduced to many new concepts through the Murphy reading, which provide a framework in analysing the way in which media (and particularly, technology) interact with the change of culture, society and politics.

Technological determinism is one theory which proscribes the ability of technology to trigger social change. This concept stands out to me, especially because of the way society interacts with technology in discussion and in participation of current affairs. It seems that technological determinism is at the forefront of mediated society at present. I think of the way in which Twitter is being used to co-ordinate and inform both public and private spheres. In San Francisco, Iraq war protesters used Twitter to keep fellow activists informed of their movements throughout the day. In doing so, protesters avoided the use of walk-talkies or mobile phones which would often lead to arrest. What we see here is a bypass of social pressure, where technology has followed a logic of it’s own. McLuhan argues that technologies are extensions of human capacities, and we can clearly see that in this example, where technology has not merely given us a new medium, but a new mechanism with which to work.

Langdon Winner believes that technology is not what matters most, but the social or economic system in which it resides. This is true, in application to my example, where Twitter is not the driving force behind the protest that took place, rather the use of this technology to attract a cultural and political response. This protest made headlines because of it’s manipulative yet very open strategy. Anyone can now view the Twitter posts throughout the protest, and the movement is now ‘public property’ to an extent.

It is fascinating how politics and culture influence the way technology is pursued and developed, in a society that in fact relies greatly on it’s advancement.

Janis Lucis

Leave a comment

Filed under arts3091

Arts 2090 Task Three: Distribution Project

Q: Remix culture is fundamentally at odds with older media institution and practices. Investigate a case study, which illuminates these tensions.

Remix culture is not at odds with older media institutions and practices. Older media institutions and practices are fundamentally at odds with remix culture. Is that not the same thing? To an extent, yes it is. However, remix culture has been an ever present culture in society, and no one spontaneous event or idea propelled remix culture to the forefront of modern communication. Remix culture is indeed at odds with older institutions, most notably, legal institutions. The existence of remix culture in a world so dominated by legal institutions is not a remix culture fully developed. ‘Common sense’ would say that law makes way for the socially valuable culture of remix, but then again, ‘common sense’ is a rare idea in law.

Popular culture has always been a remix culture (Rene Kita), from the earliest forms of music, to the music we listen to now, from early cave-paintings to great works of art. Picasso himself even once said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. Why is it then, that older institutions, most notably, the limits of law, restrict the possibility of “great” creativity to emerge?

Remix has meant consuming and interpreting some piece of work, whether tangible or non-tangible. Interpreting something in your own way is not necessarily stealing; it is remixing. Why then, is remixing being limited by the constraints of legal institutions? According to Australian and American law, permission is needed before altering copyrighted material. However, the doctrine of ‘Fair Use’ proscribes that limited use of copyrighted material is allowed without permission from the rights holders for use such as criticism, commentary, research, news reporting, teaching or scholarship. Therefore, there is a fine line between what is known as remixing, and what is classified as stealing.

The case of Danger Mouse’s 2004 release, ‘The Grey Album’, is an interesting example of how older media institutions, in this instance, legal institutions, are at odds with the culture of remix that emerged in the late 20th century; music remix. Further, the case illuminates the tensions between legal institutions and cultural domains.

‘The Grey Album’, a mash up album released by musician and producer Danger Mouse, contains instrumentals from multiple samples from the Beatles’ LP ‘The Beatles’ (or the ‘White Album’) and an a cappella version of Jay-Z’s ‘The Black Album’. Because Danger Mouse used unauthorized samples of the Beatles’ EP, the album was received with contempt, with EMI, the copyright holder of the Beatles’ music, ordering a complete cease in distribution. Jay-Z’s ‘The Black Album’ however, was released commercially in a cappella form (in an attempt to encourage remixes).

On the surface it would appear that Danger Mouse had indeed ‘ripped-off’ the Beatles’ music, from a legal perspective. However, this is where the tensions between legal institutions and cultural domains arise.

In response to the criticism of ‘The Grey Album’, Danger Mouse spoke out:

“A lot of people just assume I took some Beatles and, you know, threw some Jay-Z on top of it or mixed it up or looped it around, but it’s really a deconstruction. It’s not an easy thing to do. I was obsessed with the whole project, that’s all I was trying to do, see if I could do this. Once I got into it, I didn’t think about anything but finishing it. I stuck to those two because I thought it would be more challenging and more fun and more of a statement to what you could do with sample alone. It is an art form. It is music. You can do different things; it doesn’t have to be just what some people call stealing. It can be a lot more than that.”

Danger Mouse’s response draws some very interesting ideas, which shows the great odds at which legal institutions exist alongside remix culture.

‘The Grey Album’ was meant to be a “deconstruction”, “a statement”. Danger Mouse embarked upon the ‘Grey Album’ project to show what could be done with remix: how remix could be “an art form”.

Professor Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of Internet law at Harvard Law School stated:

“As a matter of pure legal doctrine [the Grey Album] is breaking the law, end of story. But copyright law was written with a particular form of industry in mind. The flourishing of information technology gives amateurs and home recording artists powerful tools to build and share interesting, transformative, and socially valuable art drawn from pieces of popular cultures. There’s no place to plug such an important cultural sea change into the current legal regime. (Rimmer 2005)”

As evident, remix culture does not fit in, nor has the ability to fully co-exist with legal doctrine in today’s society. The onset and “flourishing” of information technology and communicative media has allowed for remix in culture to be more widely accessed and distributed, turning consumers into creators, which in turn has called for an amendment of laws that are indeed outdated in today’s society.

In the eyes of the outdated law, ‘The Grey Album’ was seen as a breach of copyright. However, according to the doctrine of ‘Fair Use’, use of copyrighted material is allowed under certain circumstances, one of which being: commentary.

Danger Mouse declared his desire for the album to be “more challenging” and “more of a statement”. Simply put, he wanted to prompt a realization. The ‘Grey Album’ is commentary.

com·men·tar·y

Anything serving to illustrate a point, or exemplify.

For Danger Mouse, ‘The Grey Album’ was simply meant to serve as a type of social commentary, to illustrate the point about “what you could do with sample alone”. He declared, “It was not my intent to break copyright laws”. Where do musicians and producers draw the line between art and breaking the law in today’s society, where remix, an age-old concept, is attempting to be banished. According to Rene Kita, “Shuffle too little and you’re in trouble with the law. Shuffle too much and the purists start screaming rape.”

Leading media theorist, Lawrence Lessig, talks about the ‘read-write’ culture, where people participate in the creation and re-creation of their culture. This idea mirrors remix culture, where people re-interpret and re-create the world around them, exactly what Danger Mouse set out to achieve through ‘The Grey Album’. However, Lessig emphasizes that through the constraints of legal institutions, we are instead living in a read-only culture, where creativity is consumed, but the consumer is not the creator. In effect, this is how the law wants society to operate. Going back to the words of Harvard Professor Jonathan Zittrain, “copyright law was written with a particular form of industry in mind”. The current bounds of copyright law do not allow for consumers to become creators as well. With the wealth of information and resources available to the public, it is inevitable that consumers will eventually become creators. Video sharing sites such as YouTube and social networking mediums such as Facebook and MySpace, coupled with the low cost of programs like GarageBand and Audacity, allow those who normally would be consumers of media, to become creators of media. We should be living in Lessig’s ‘read-write’ culture, and to an extent we are, but the constraints of legal institutions are stopping us from truly adopting this.

We have always lived in a remix culture, or what Lessig calls a ‘read-write’ culture. Historians quote historians’ writings and textual sources, filmmakers and visual artists reinterpret and critique existing works, and scholars illustrate cultural commentary with visual, textual and sometimes musical example. Remixes, mashups, online parodies, and all the emerging forms of communication in remix culture are partakers of an ancient tradition, that is, the recycling of old culture to make new culture.

Therefore, it should be a matter of working the culture of remix into the existing legal system, rather working legal institutions into the culture of remix that has been ever present in our society. We cannot continue to operate, where we give property rights to creators as a reward for producing culture, and then simultaneously give other creators the opportunity and resources to use that same copyrighted material, but see it as illegal work.

In the early 20th Century, property ownership was protected by law, where land was owned indefinitely downwards and upwards. With the introduction of aviation technology, came so-called ‘breaches’ of this property law when planes would fly through owned land. In 1945, the Supreme Court ruled that the 100-year-old doctrine that protected land beyond the sky had no place in modern society. ‘Common sense’ prevailed.

Today, in the 21st Century, creators are being punished for so-called ‘breaches’ of law. Distribution of great work is being called to cease, and we are potentially being denied the opportunity to experience groundbreaking art due to laws that fail to fall in line with a culture that has existed before law even began. There is no place for remix culture to ‘slot in’ with existing laws, nor can legal institutions work themselves into our remix culture, only one outcome can occur, that is, for ‘common sense’ to prevail.

Internet Sources

MTV http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1485693/20040311/danger_mouse.jhtml

Rene Kita http://sumutia.blogspot.com/2009/06/remix-culture-and-copyright-law.html

Dictionary http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/commentary

TED http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html

Secondary Sources

Matthew Rimmer. “The Grey Album: Copyright Law and Digital Sampling”Media International Australia Incorporating Culture and Policy Feb. 2005: 40-53. Available at: http://works.bepress.com/matthew_rimmer/16/

Janis Lucis

3290099

1 Comment

Filed under arts2090

Impact of the ‘Network Age’ on the music industry – Working musician

Websites such as last.fm and MySpace, in conjunction with the extreme levels of music piracy at the moment, have created a potentially challenging concept for the music industry: the decline of the working musician. With music downloading at such great prevalence, many full-time musicians are having trouble staying afloat financially. Recording contracts are not enough for some artists to be in a comfortable financial state, and thus the idea of music as a profession is slowly drifting away. However, with this challenge, comes a great opportunity, for all musicians to be on equal par with each other. It is a great possibility that soon, artists will be musicians on the side. The idea of the rock star could soon diminish. With MySpace already proving so successful in getting artists noticed, last.fm could become the new promotional agency. Artists who already broadcast themselves on last.fm are gaining fan bases and followings, and in turn, making small profits from record sales. If this trend continues, we could soon see artists break away from the constraints of recording contracts and pursue their career through online ‘marketing’. All artists could be on the same level, and thus create an even field of music variety, with no artist being over-hyped or overplayed. The most talented artists will be the ones who succeed and prosper.

Janis Lucis

Check out:

last.fm

MySpace Music

Leave a comment

Filed under mdia1001

Impact of the ‘Network Age’ on the music industry – Piracy

Piracy, or sharing? Stealing, or borrowing? Many questions are raised by this hotly contested topic, but one point of certainty is that the onset of the ‘network age’ gave birth to music piracy as we know it today. Through the adoption and utilisation of peer-to-peer programs and networks, the web of piracy continues to grow at a rapid pace, and with the onset of new technologies, piracy will only become easier and occur in greater volume. This creates challenges for the music industry, in regulating the distribution of pirated material. Aiden Henry’s blog  ‘Mapping the Web’ raises many interesting points about networks and piracy. In his article ‘Why Music Piracy is Good for Music’, Henry writes “although artists such asMetallica curse at the Internet downloading phenomenon, others embrace this medium.” I disagree with the second part of this quote. While many have embraced the downloading phenomenon, artists have not embraced the piracy phenomenon, which can not be seen as a new opportunity. There is a clear cut difference between downloading music, and pirating music. Both downloading and piracy have been spawned by the ‘network age’, but something people fail to see, is that piracy has no beneficial value. Many bands rely solely on the downloading of their music, to gain recognition. But, once they are noticed, do their fans suddenly start buying their albums? The music industry must work to ensure that artists are not damaged by this phenomenon, and that whether or not the music actually good, copyrighted material must be purchased.

Janis Lucis

Check out:

Mapping The Web

Is Piracy Really Killing the Music Industry?

Recording Industry Association of America

Leave a comment

Filed under mdia1001, Uncategorized

Impact of the ‘Network Age’ on the music industry – User participation

Another by-product of this ‘network age’ we are living in, is that there is greater user participation within the ‘online music community’. This is an excellent opportunity for people to engage with other ‘users’, in sharing artists and musical styles. Users can create accounts on sites i.e.MySpace and last.fm, and proceed as part of a community of ‘hyper-active listeners’, a term used in “LAST FM and the Music Multiverse“, written by Matt Wall-Smith, Ross Rudesch Harley, and Andrew Murphie. This article raises many interesting points about online communities, and their existence as ‘collective efforts’ and ‘open databases’. On last.fm, users are linked to other user profiles if the site recognises that their musical tastes are similar (this is know as ‘audio-scrobbling’). Users can then not only discover artists similar to their likings, but connect with the user in many ways. The music that users share is an ingredient in the community that is formed, “it treats the music as an active component in a vital community rather than a given object in a static reference system”. This allows diverse musical tastes and ranges to be unified, regardless of popularity or market position. This opportunity presented to listeners and fans is a great way to contribute to a community of people sharing the same interests and passions for the sametype of music.

Janis Lucis

Check out:

‘LAST FM and the Music Multiverse’

Leave a comment

Filed under mdia1001