Sunday, February 10, 2008

Captains of Industry

Athough the theme of many of the panels at the conference was DIY tools for digital video media-making, not all of the participants came at the subject from an indie-garage perspective, since the DIY Video Summit included a number of people from industry to add to the mix of academics and activists in attendance.

Marc Davis discussed several U.C. Berkeley/Yahoo! partnerships in his formal presentation and informal comments throughout the conference. Because of the scale of the number of users worldwide, Davis argued that cell phones would be critical in the global multimedia story-telling of the near future, particularly now that image and audio resolution was improving and relationships to "diegetic space" could be facilitated by communication with the computerized tools, such as the tagging of data sent by cell phones with information about the geographical location of the user. Davis showed how the Tag Maps World Explorer prototype could completely automate information from "a collective archive of human attention." In this moment in which "Web 2.0 meets DIY," Davis argued that the questions have become "not just economic or legal" but "also social" and included issues about what Davis called "social compensation" and how "annotation will aid production."

Although corporate discourses about targeted advertising were obviously not that far away, particularly when Davis was thinking about the "range of incentives" available to potential investors in new technologies, Davis argued that entrenched interests of concentrated power would actually be checked by the "sousveillance" practices of users of these mobile technologies, because they could document their counternarratives in service of activist tactics. In the urban environment, in which Davis said we are recorded on average fifteen times a day by the cameras of others, he felt that privacy concerns were misplaced and that automating collective intelligence would ultimately help preserve public spaces and civic activities for participants.
According to Davis, even mobile advertising could be "disruptive in a good way."

Of course, Davis acknowledged that if cell phones were the model for connecting global villages, software development would continue to be a challenge because of the range of proprietary technologies in use by different carriers.

Despite his corporate credentials, Joi Ito claimed to be after no less that the "overthrow of the Japanese government," since there has never been a popular revolution in the country, and he insisted that "even the people who work for the government" agreed that an uprising is needed. He contended that "top-down political interests will corrupt the system" and that "revolution is not about force; it is about information." The issue, Ito said, was "voices not votes."

At the level of technology policy, Ito asserted that it is important to get beyond what Henry Jenkins has called "the black box fallacy" and to accept that what will be produced is "not a single platform," particularly since he argued that innovation is at "the edge not at the center."

He also emphasized a "normative" approach in which he represented himself as a more global citizen than other attendees at the conference. As he put it, "Fair use is very American." In other words, he pointed out what he described as the "parochialism" of the U.S. in focusing on a doctrine designed for defending yourself in court. Besides, he argued, even in the U.S. there are other rights than copyright, such as privacy and publicity rights. Although he didn't sound keen on Egypt claiming a copyright on images of the Sphinx, he did say that being sensitive to the cultural dimensions of the rights of others could be important, for example, by not showing photos of foreign peoples in unflattering ways. He asserted that even within our own country, "you have kids and adults."

On the other hand, Ito is also known as an advocate for an open Internet. He said that ICANN should be wary of law enforcement's desire to know who owns each domain name, since "law enforcement" can wield deadly state violence in authoritarian regimes. As a board member affiliated with Witness, he reminded members of the audience that blogging anonymously with Tor should also be protected in order to publicize human rights abuses.

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Anonymous Sam Gregory said...

Hi Liz,
Great, insightful posts bringing all the weekend back! Do check out coverage of the my panel at
and also BTW Joi is on the Board of WITNESS rather than global witness :)

4:02 PM  

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