Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Name Calling

On the cover of today's calendar section in "Do the right thing, WGA," Patrick Goldstein of The Los Angeles Times says a lot of not very nice things about Virtualpolitik pal and Writer's Guild of America President Patric Verrone. What's interesting about this opinion piece is the author's contention that the WGA should have paid more attention to the data about Internet revenues.

I knew things were looking bad for you when the first mom I ran into at my kid's school on Friday recited every boneheaded move she thought you'd made, notably the decision to blow off the DGA when they offered to share the results of their $2-million study about the impact of new media -- a study that now looks like it played a big role in the DGA's successful negotiating strategy.

Of course, since I study the what's visible and invisible on the Internet, I'm not sure that the price tag of research on digital media says much about its quality. After all, the U.S. government paid SAIC contractors seven million dollars to find evidence of terrorist use of the Internet, and the best thing they came up with was a fan film from Battlefield 2 with a soundtrack from the movie Team America. (Details here.) The fact that a high-profile study by the MPAA about illegal downloading had a gross statistical error doesn't inspire much confidence in the entertainment industry's ability to gauge impacts of online user behavior accurately.

Besides, as Jeffrey Bardzell argued in "Developing a 'Sensibility for the Particular': Coping with the Scale and Dynamics of Participatory Culture," at this year's AoIR conference, there's a kind of mathematical sublime involved if one makes materials on the World Wide Web an object of study. It's difficult for quantitative research to say much about the Internet just in the United States, much less in relation to the global distribution chain of Hollywood production.

For more on the YouTube rhetoric of unionization, I do have to show my current favorite strike video on YouTube, however, which was made by another VP college buddy, Rodman Flender.

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