Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Check It Out

I wish I could tell you that I didn't know anything about threatening to kill the president.

But I have a schizophrenic cousin who did federal time for menacing the Commander in Chief two decades ago. It apparently involved state lines, a vehicle, and some actual weapons.

When Harper's literary editor and Virtualpolitik friend Ben Metcalf declared his intention to murder the son of the man my cousin had threatened to assassinate, his stunt in the name of free speech was only dubbed a "hissy fit," and Metcalf stayed out of jail.

If anything, Metcalf was probably more capable of carrying out the act before being detected by the authorities, but the context of his announcement made his violent sentiments seem more benign.

Recently New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has argued that the poisonous atmosphere of death-threat rhetoric toward Obama could be compared to the environment in political discourse around Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin before he was killed by an ultra-nationalist extremist. One of the pieces of evidence that Friedman points to is a Facebook poll.

What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, “Should Obama be killed?” The choices were: “No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.” The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

In "Secret Service investigates Obama poll on Facebook," the Los Angeles Times presents a somewhat more complex account of how the poll might have been received by Facebook users, given the tone of satire in many polls and quizzes on the popular social network site.

But officials also said that tasteless comments or idle bluster are probably not enough to trigger legal action. The agency seeks to determine whether the person who made the threats had some intent to carry them out or to otherwise incite violence against the president.

Facebook members had their own quick response Monday. A second poll was launched asking whether the creator of the first poll should be arrested.

I would probably vote "no" on that poll, given the fact that it would be relatively easy to argue that this kind of fake interactivity that a Facebook poll represents is an obvious vehicle for parody, particularly of the kind of simplistic binary thinking being exploited by the president's most virulent opponents.

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Time Marches On

This beautiful image from the Flickr stream of the Software Studies Cultural Analytics Project shows how the covers of TIME magazine can be graphed over time.

The x axis is time, the y axis is a composite dimension of brightness, hue, and saturation measures that were automatically extracted from the images.

The graph shows the complicated transition from black and white to color printing and indicates some basic design trends in various eras of the publication.

Given the valences of TIME magazine covers in the history of American political rhetoric, it is an interesting set of images to digitize and data mine.

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School for Scandal

As I think about how digital rhetoric plays and important role in understanding contemporary American politics and in civic education, it is interesting to see curricula that integrate digital literacy with an analysis of the institutions of government. My older son's AP U.S. Government teacher RoseAnn Salumbides has students contrast the image that they get of policy makers from news wrap-up shows on televisions with data from third party sources like and

Of course, as these two screen shots show, these sites have their own visual and verbal rhetorics with logos, stock images, and color schemes that send particular messages about how their authority is constituted.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rivers and Rocks

This "dissertation nightmare" video is of particular interest in light of Jenny Cool's paper about the value of fieldwork, which focuses on the practices of geomorphologists and the benefits of traditional tools like journals in comparison to newfangled digital models that can be more vulnerable to the elements.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

En Garde!

I've written before about the proliferation of government domain names not tied to particular federal agencies and the silliness of long URLs like and and Now the federal government has brought its citizens OnGuardOnline to advise them about computer security and its associated consumer protection issues. In addition to a series of online videos about phishing, the site also offers a suite of online games.

There is Follywood Squares, an easy tic-tac-toe game about online medical claims, which stars characters like "Larry Logo," "Pamela Pils," and "Ms. Naturals" who offer their speech balloons to canned music and a laugh track while directing players to sites run by government agencies and nonprofites. Invest Quest chooses a board game/game of life display to encourage a similar level of skepticism about online economic opportunities.

However, compared to the ACLU's Facebook quiz about Facebook applications that gets at the heart of issues about trust and marketing, FriendFinder shows its inferiority by displaying a predictable game about simple cybersafety that emphasizes denying contacts and protecting privacy at the most obvious level. And correct answers to only five true-false questions allow you to win Invasion of the Wireless Hackers, so it isn't much of a game.

There is more true-false testing in ID Theft FaceOff in which correct answers about preventing identity theft can restore the facial features to your character's visage.

When playing the games, I couldn't help but notice that the phrase "Stop - Think - Click" on the site was trademarked and wonder why government websites continue to feature content that makes intellectual property claims rather than material that is clearly in the public domain.

Thanks to Ian Bogost for the link!

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Rhetorical Train Wreck

As a participant-observer, I've been thinking a lot about the UC financial crisis and the many rhetorical failures that have gone along with attempting to make it an issue on the public policy agenda. Kooky ideas like Leland Yee's plan to take away the UC system's longtime constitutionally protected independence from the state legislature may make sense to people who think that the deliberative processes and fiscal management of the University of California are as dysfunctional as the state assembly. Thankfully, the ten campus system is still producing wealth for the state and educating a generation of deserving students, albeit with smaller incoming classes, higher fees, and far fewer resources. But terrible public relations certainly may make it seem like the University of California is a hermetically sealed site of discontent, back-biting, and disgruntled inertia.

From the awful interview of Mark Yudof with the New York Times that has been turned into "found poetry" to the mock funeral for the Master Plan by Cal State University faculty, it has been one painfully unpersuasive rhetorical occasion after another.

Why would you want to associate your cause with death? When have mock funerals ever worked rhetorically? Why even bring up a cemetery if you are a university president speaking to the New York Times? Doesn't making the institution seem moribund only become a self-fulfilling prophecy? In many ways, unfortunately, our educational "public option" is facing some of the same rhetorical challenges faced by advocates for the commons in the healthcare debate.

And the first rule of rhetoric is that it's not about what you want; it is about what your audience wants. This seems to be entirely missing from public appeals. Thus, the Facebook/Twitter/YouTube attempts at outreach in social media venues are failing entirely.

I also thinkU.C. faculty need to think about rhetorical actions other than campus protests. The gains of the civil rights, anti-war, and social justice movements came about because people saw signs of the debate in their own streets and communities. The question is how to make the U.C. system seem relevant to the non-academic concerns in people's lives. With that in mind, here are five modest suggestions.

1) Blue and Gold Branding If every business that recruited U.C. graduates, benefitted from U.C. patented technologies, and depended on the business of U.C. students and alumni flew a simple blue and gold flag to signify the colors of the public system, there could be whole streets that would testify to the importance of public higher education. Really love U.C.? Please paint your business's facade blue and gold.

2) Life Not Death There's no money for airtime, but a web-based campaign with online video could be very persuasive. "U.C. saved my life" could have former patients from the medical centers, people who were protected by safety technologies, and many other members of the general public who benefit from the presence of public research universities in their state.

3) A U.C. Professor Remembers Me Anyone who's ever stood at the front of the lecture hall knows that it is not the position of invulnerability and impersonality that it may seem to members of the public. What if every U.C. faculty member sent out a t-shirt, e-mail, or greeting card to a former student that he or she remembered well? Perhaps people in the media should be first choices, but the students who also struggled or came into the system with the deck stacked against them might appreciate a warm greeting and a call for support. You remember them and can ask them to remember you in advocating for the public system.

4) We Are the World Counter the perception of dischord with a music video of physicists, economists, critical theorists, philosophers, dancers, etc. lip-synching to a catchy tune, perhaps one written by a U.C. graduate. Make it goofy enough to reach the YouTube million views mark like the Hey Ya video from the Navy.

5) Big Sister / Big Brother Many UC students are the first members of their families to go to college and they represent the rich diversity of the state. What about collecting the drawings of UC campuses done by younger siblings to emphasize the importance of having admission continue to be available to hardworking students from hardworking families? How does U.C. look to them as a site of opportunity?

None of these may be great ideas, but at least they are designed to encourage a serious discussion about public rhetoric. Let's have a serious discussion about sending out a coherent message. Coherent messages work, as Obama's "Change" campaign for the presidency shows. Let's not be so suspicious of public relations that we refuse to engage with the taxpayers for whom we all work.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Found Poetry

After Slate magazine published the "poetry" of Donald Rumsfeld in which the Secretary of Defense's speeches and press conferences were converted into solipsistic free verse, the lines became popular choices for those with some ironic distance on the disasters unfolding in the Iraq War to e-mail to each other.

Now, thanks Professor Howard Winant of the Center for New Racial Studies, University of California faculty are enjoying the "poetry" of U.C. President Mark Yudof in a widely disseminated e-mail based on the rhetorically regrettable "Big Man on Campus" interview of Yudof in the New York Times.

Unlike conservative e-mailers who go to considerable trouble to provide testimonials to the authority of their sources, Winant argues that he is not the author of the electronic text he is presenting, since it "came anonymously, I think from a past student."


And education?

Let me ponder that

The shine is off of it
It’s really a question of being crowded out
by other priorities

I do not

This is a long-term secular trend across the entire country
Higher education is being squeezed out
It’s systemic
We have an aging population nationally
We have a lot of concern, as we should, with health care.

The faculty said furlough sounds more temporary
Than salary cut

And being president of the University of California is like being
Manager of a cemetery
there are many people under you, but no one is listening.

Look, I’m from West Philadelphia
My dad was an electrician
It wasn’t part of what we did
When I was growing up we didn’t debate

I listen to them
I listen to dead people

How did you get into education?
Are you in education?

I don't know
It’s all an accident

The stories of my compensation are greatly exaggerated

I’m there to— some of the things I do very well
I smile
I shake hands
I tell jokes

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Presto Change-o

Digital humanist and designer Craig Dietrich, Vanessa Vobis, and John Bell have created a digital video installation about how humanities scholars adjust to the challenges and opportunities posed by working in new genres that may have very different conventions from those associated with academic print culture.

In addition to myself, the cast of Magic reflecting on these issues includes my fellow NEH-Vectors "Broadening the Digital Humanities" fellows Cheryl Ball, Alexandra Juhasz, David Shorter, and Nicole Starosielski and digital artist Erik Loyer.

I tend to be self-conscious about how I appear in videorecorded interviews, but this is certainly a fair representation of my attitudes about these projects. I appear in sections on "A second life," "Adding voices," "Adopting technology," "Quality of the questions," "Finding new audiences," "Speaking in new ways," and "DIY academics."

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A Meme of a Meme of a Meme

Just when you thought that the Internet couldn't get any better, there comes Animals With Lightsabers, a website that encourages contributors to post images that combine Star Wars geekitude with high-traffic animal cuteness. Rather than offer a web generator that does all the work for them, visitors to the site can download lightsaber image assets to add to animal photographs by manipulating digital content in programs like Adobe's Photoshop. A hummingbird with a lightsaber? Done! Bear cubs dualing with lightsabers? No problem!

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Playing for Attention

It is interesting that UC Irvine's Center for Unconventional Security is honoring Playing for Change with its Human Security Award. Given how the term "security" functioned in the rhetoric of the Bush White House, it is certainly an attention-getting rhetorical choice to redefine the term to encompass a group that I've written about before here on Virtualpolitik. Playing for Change emphasizes collaborative music-making and recruiting musicians with the distributed social networks of the Internet.

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Dear Obama Letter

This letter has been widely circulated among conservatives on the Internet via e-mail, which is still an important channel of communication in the era of the blogosphere. It is interesting to note both the repetition and the initial misspelling of Lou Pritchett's name. Like many chain e-mail letters, establishing the speaker's ethos is an important part of its rhetorical appeal. The rhetorical figure that he is using with the repetition of "you scare me" is known as anaphora among classicists.

Please read, even if you are an Obama fan. It is legitimate, written by respected Lou Prichett, formerly of Proctor and Gamble. Lou Pritchett is one of corporate America's true living legends - an acclaimed author, dynamic teacher and one of the world's highest rated speakers. Successful corporate executives everywhere recognize him as the foremost leader in change
management. Lou changed the way America does business by creating an audacious concept
that came to be known as "partnering." Pritchett rose from soap salesman to Vice-President, Sales and Customer Development for Procter and Gamble and over the course of 36 years, made corporate history.


Dear President Obama:

You are the thirteenth President under whom I have lived and unlike any of the others, you truly scare me.

You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you.

You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support.

You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America and culturally you are not an American.

You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.

You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don't understand it at its core.

You scare me because you lack humility and 'class', always blaming others.

You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.

You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the 'blame America" crowd and deliver this message abroad.

You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of the private sector.

You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one.

You scare me because you prefer 'wind mills' to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.

You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest standard of living in the world.

You scare me because you have begun to use 'extortion' tactics against certain banks and corporations.

You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.

You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people.

You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient.

You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do.

You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O'Relllys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view.

You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing.

Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8 years.

Lou Pritchett


This letter was sent to the NY Times but they never acknowledged it. Big surprise! Since it hit the internet, however, it has had over 500,000 hits. Keep it going. All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing. It's happening right now.

It is interesting that it closes with other references to authoritative citations with a dig at the New York Times and an invitation to check before forwarding. (Many right-wing e-mails do not pass the Snopes test.)


Friday, September 25, 2009

Taking the Rap sponsored a contest designed to get the word out about preventing transmission of the H1N1 virus. This winning entry from "KRS-H1N1" makes reference to rapper KRS-One, who is known for his work on HIV prevention in Africa. Doctor John D. Clarke, the "rapping doctor," has performed other songs in the past about diseases like diabetes that similarly emphasize a few simple rules that patients can easily follow.

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They Call It Tech Now

Last year at back-to-school night, I complained about how PowerPoint software had become such an important part of my son's teachers' presentations to the public that I was concerned that one-to-many forms of corporatized communication might also be stifling interactions in the classroom. This year, only one teacher used PowerPoint slides, and it was a modest sequence of just four rectangles of information rather than a pecha kucha style barrage of text and images. Instead, most of her presentation came in the form of a dazzling display of three flares representing different placeholders in the chemical spectrum while the music from 2001 boomed in the background. Other teachers directed their parents to personal websites or to their Twitter feeds, although some contingents of teachers still use delivery points with highly standardized features like or that are more depersonalized than DIY solutions. As a parent I was concerned to see at least one teacher at Lincoln Middle School directing students to an online textbook site for skill-and-drill quizzes and distant learning videos. California students may be soon getting far too much of that, so we wouldn't want to start the automation of education any earlier.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Side Winder

One of the tech columnists at rival Yahoo is expressing skepticism about the new Google SideWiki feature, which allows users to comment on any webpage, even if the site owner has blocked or has disallowed comments.

Of course, it also isn't the first web annotation system, as the writer observes:

I remember vividly a similar plan from a company (the name of which is now lost to the web) that let users leave Post-It style notes on any web page they visited, a sort of digital graffiti that let them tag pages, telling the proprietor and others exactly what they thought of the content.

It wasn't a hit. At the time -- circa 2000 -- the software faced an immense backlash from observers who felt that the software was devaluing the appearance of the web (at best) and infringed on other people's copyrights (at worst). Some felt it was the equivalent of picketing in front of a retail store.

For those who value the civility engendered by moderated comments, this sanction of what could be treated as a kind of web graffiti certainly still raises concerns. As a veteran of "stickie" services like Diigo, I will grant that I prefer the aesthetic of the sidebar's framing mechanism to cluttered adhesions on the content itself, but I'm not sure that DesignMeme is right to celebrate just yet.

Note, however, that RISD's dean John Maeda has used SideWiki and is featured in the promo video above.

TechCrunch provides more history of the idea here.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cloud Nein

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's spirited rant against the rhetoric of cloud computing is an interesting ejaculation about the nature of metaphorical creation and technological innovation.

Via Mark Zawacki

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

S.O.B. Story is publicizing Will Ferrell's latest political video. It's a slickly produced video with celebrities that is very different from a lot of the DIY video content about the health care debate. Although Ferrell is famous for his Bush parodies, his group at FunnyOrDie has also had fun mocking the green movement as well.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Bureaucracy Can Be Beautiful

The libertarian ideologies that are not so latent in Michael Hiltzik's "The Internet is proof that government doesn't bungle everything" offer a remarkably facile look at the government's involvement with digital communication that emphasizes the conventional myths of the founding fathers of ARPAnet and the local UCLA connection.

Although the article does point out that the early Internet's failure to attract investors as a private start-up did shape some of its subsequent history, it ignores the legacy of those like Vannevar Bush who worked closely with the military-industrial complex and the weirder aspects of the rhetoric of J.C.R. Licklider who is praised in the article as one of what Peter Lunenfeld has called "The Patriarchs."

Forty years on, that remarkable paper reads like a work of clairvoyance. "In a few years," it began, "men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face." It forecast that the network would provide some services for which you'd "subscribe on a regular basis," like investment advice, and others that you would "call for when you need them," like dictionaries and encyclopedias. Communicating online, it concluded, "will be as natural an extension of individual work as face-to-face communication is now." Sound familiar?

Certainly, Licklider "foresaw its development into a public utility," but -- as the last chapter of the Virtualpolitik book describes -- he also hobbled the nascent network by tying it to the gendered office norms of Cold War culture in which women type but men don't.

Thanks to Lisa Moricoli Latham for the link.

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The Rhetoric of Neutrality

The website of the FCC has not done much to embrace the practices of social computing or even the kinds of information design strategies that have made other government websites more aesthetically appealing. But something has changed dramatically at the FCC since the Bush administration: the commission's stand on network neutrality. As a press release entitled FCC CHAIRMAN JULIUS GENACHOWSKI OUTLINES ACTIONS TO PRESERVE THE FREE AND OPEN INTERNET indicates, the federal government may be getting serious about finally formalizing the idea of digital rights beyond simple first amendment anti-censorship initiatives. In the remarks of the Chairman before the Brookings Institution, he makes the case for the economic and cultural value of access and seems to imply that regulation may be needed, given the lack of competition in the telecommunications industry and their desire to maintain their current market advantage in the face of services like Skype that could radically reduce costs to consumers. Of course, by the time the newspapers had picked up the story industry lobbyists were already on the offensive, so it is certain to be a long battle ahead.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Date Knight

Online dating ads and the correspondence that surrounds them clearly have distinctive digital rhetorics about address and brevity that are different from other kinds of communication. This list of tips summarizes research in the field of e-romance and notes how strategies and tactics function in this particular kind of networked public.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Veil of Ignorance

Dear American Voter
is produced by to encourage typical citizens to think about the point of view of political subjects abroad who may be unwillingly affected by the electoral will of those in the United States.

For a country that spends millions on its citizen-to-citizen public diplomacy efforts, it is interesting to think about the appeals that might be aimed at us from abroad. Of course, we might export the words of our poets through organizations like USIA but thinking about us giving our philosophers the microphone seems almost unimaginable.

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Direct Line

This parody of digital parenting practices combines old stereotypes about Jewish mothers with ironic commentary about the absence of audiences for many social network posts in a "zero comments" age.

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Acorny Sentiments

As a recent book on Digital Media and Democracy points out, Internet grassroots media production doesn't necessarily foster progressive politics. A case in point is the recent attention being paid to the online videos of James O'Keefe, who describes himself as an "activist filmmaker," while also using the language of Hollywood "credits" and work "directed, scripted, produced and acted in." Although his work at Veritas Visuals has been getting a lot of airtime on Fox News and other networks for seeming to show a pimp and prostitute being advised about how to falsify documents and hide assets in an ACORN office, he previously boast of creating "a series of undercover videos showcasing racism and statutory rape at Planned Parenthood in 2007 and 2008" and other work for This piece on the "YouTube right-o-sphere" from TechPresident points out that equations between right and left-wing muckraking are part of the rhetoric surrounding the films. As one conservative media operative says, "I couldn't help thinking, this is the Abu Ghraib of the Great Society." Even an interview with O'Keefe in the Los Angeles Times acknowledges that some might have merely been playing along with the spoof, which is one of the dangers of putting in such an over-the-top performance. Meanwhile the website of ACORN itself is dutifully recording its own investigations and censures.

Now ACORN is suing the video's creator for unauthorized filming.

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Morning After Danish

This viral video created by the tourist office at generated a lot of public interest with its mix of a sentimental appeal involving an abandoned woman with a fatherless child and winking European sexual sophistication. Of course, there are already parodies like this one and this one and this one and this one.

Update: As you can see, the tourist agency is using a copyright claim that prevents others from seeing the content of their publicity stunt, which has since been criticized by cultural conservatives.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Search Me

This list of the "funniest Google suggest results" from Mashable do seem to be particularly humorous examples of the search engine attempting to read its users minds. Based on the heterogeneous character of these results, it doesn't give one much hope for the semantic web.

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If You Can't Stand the Heat

A new cookbook based on crowdsourcing sponsored by HarperStudio could be seen as very different from the community-based model of the Unitarians who contributed to the first Joy of Cooking or the Junior League members of Charleston, West Virginia in the fifties who produced the books that still sit on my pantry shelves. As one piece points out, it could be another case of monetizing the labor of others done on the Internet, as even a laudatory blurb like this one makes clear:

These days, more and more books have accompanying Websites and smart authors even try to attract readers online before the book is even published. Sometimes they even try to enlist those potential readers into contributing to the book (for free).

By building on a structure of contests and finalists Food52 hopes to generate a cookbook that could be a profitable enterprise for the two professional writers who are managing the site.

Of course, like fairy tales, I think it can questionable to claim intellectual property over recipes that get handed down over time. My own mother-in-law was very scrupulous about citation in her own making of index cards, so we would know that some supposed heritage recipes actually came from product packaging from the turn of the last century.

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Bad Actors

Interesting to see that even the country's paper of record can unwittingly become a malware distributor, as the New York Times explains in its account of being "a victim of a malicious ad swap."

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Golden Years

Yesterday I appeared at a local meeting of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, where I talked about the Virtualpolitik book and where digital rhetoric has been going since its publication. OLLI holds meetings for senior citizens on several college campuses, and many of its satellite locations emphasize computer training. Not many of the seniors said that they had played videogames or enrolled in social network sites, but it was interesting to see how many of them used genealogy websites, sometimes without thinking about how such sites might facilitate identity theft.

Slides are here.


With Little Prompting

Politico Click has put together a great Twitter Directory. Barack Obama's Teleprompter may be my favorite fictional Twitterer on the list.

(Via GovTwit.)


Game On!

The big news at UCI this week is the launch of the Center for Computer Games & Virtual Worlds, the first such center in the UC system. I'm one of the members of the affiliated faculty, so I was pleased to see news stories like this one beginning to appear. Stay tuned for more about the center's forthcoming seminar series.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Factory Floor

Check out the reading list for the upcoming conference on digital labor at the New School that is being organized by Virtualpolitik friend Trebor Scholz and others. The Internet as Playground and Factory has a terrific line-up of speakers as well, which includes those who've been talked about here at Virtualpolitik, such as Jodi Dean, Alexander Galloway, Lilly Irani, Ulises Mejias, Nick Montfort, Lisa Nakamura, Hector Postigo, Howard Rheingold, Ned Rossiter, Fred Turner, McKenzie Wark, and Jonathan L. Zittrain.

Adorno, Theodore. "Free Time." The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture. Ed. J. M. Bernstein. London: Routledge, 1991. 187-97.

Andrejevic, Mark. "Watching Television Without Pity." Television & New Media 9.1 (2008): 24-46.

Aneesh, A. Virtual Migration: The Programming of Globalization, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006.

Arendt, Hannah, Responsibility and Judgement, ed and intro Jerome Kohn, New York: Schocken, 2003.

Anzaldua, Gloria E., “(Un)natural bridges, (Un)safe spaces.” In This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation, editor’s preface, 1-5. Gloria E. Anzaldua and Analouise Keating, eds. New York and London: Routledge, 2002.

Arvidsson, Adam. "Ethical Economy - Book." Ethical Economy. Web. 07 Sept. 2009.

Clark, Jessica, and Nina Keim. Public Media 2.0 Field Report: Building Social Media Infrastructure to Engage Publics. Rep. Center for Social Media (American University), 2009.

Baran, Paul and Sweezy, Paul. Labor and Monopoly Capital. New Left Review, 1966.

Barbrook, Richard. Imaginary Futures From Thinking Machines to the Global Village. New York: Pluto, 2007.

Barbrook, Richard. The Class of the New. London:, 2006.

Bauwens, Michel. "Michel Bauwens - The social web and its social contracts: Some notes on social antagonism in netarchical capitalism." Re-Public (2008). Re-Public Re-Imagining Democracy. Jan. 2008. Web. 7 Sept. 2009. .

Bauwens, Michel. Passionate Production and the Happiness Surplus. International Conference. On “Happiness and Public Policy”. United Nations Conference Center (UNCC) Bangkok, Thailand. 18-19 July 2007. Retrieved from ; (draft version at )

Beck, John C., and Mitchell Wade. Got Game. How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever. New York: Harvard Business School, 2004.

Beller, Jonathan. The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the Society of the Spectacle (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture). New York: Dartmouth College, 2006.

Beniger, James. The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1986.

Benkler, Yochai. The Wealth of Networks How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New York: Yale UP, 2007.

Boczkowski, Pablo. Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004.

Butt, Danny. “Local Knowledge: Place and New Media Practice”, Leonardo, vol 39, no. 4 (2006), 323-326.

Castells, Manuel. Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Clark, Gregory. "Tax and Spend, or Face The Consequences." The Washington Post. 09 Aug. 2009. Web. 7 Sept. 2009.

Clough, Patricia T. and Goldberg, Greg and Schiff, Rachel; Weeks and Aaron and Willse, Craig. “Notes Toward a Theory of Affect-Itself,” Ephemera, 2007.

Coleman, E. Gabriella,Three Ethical Moments in Debian (September 15, 2005). Available at SSRN:

Crary, Jonathan. Suspensions of Perception Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (October Books). New York: The MIT, 2001.

Crawford, Matthew. Shop Class as Soul Craft. New York: Penguin Press, 2009.

Crawford, Matthew. "The Case for Working With Your Hands." The New York Times. 21 May 2009. Web. 7 Sept. 2009. .

Cvejic, Bojana, ‘What Do We Mean When We Say that We Are Transforming Practice into Production of Space?” in Walking Theory, contribution to Documenta 12 Magazine Project (2007)

De Angelis, M. (2002). Marx and primitive accumulation: The continuous character of capital’s “enclosures.” The Commoner, 2 September.

"User-Generated Platforms," in Working Within the Boundaries of Intellectual Property. (Rochelle Dreyfuss, Diane L. Zimmerman, and Harry First, Editors) (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2009).

Dibbell, Julian. Play Money Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot. New York: Basic Books, 2007.

Drew, Jesse From the Gulf War to the Battle of Seattle: Building an international alternative media network. In At A Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet . Edited by N. Neumark and A. Chandler. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005.

Dyer-Witheford, Nick. Cyber-Marx. Cycles and circuits of struggle in high-technology capitalism. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1999.

Elkin-Koren, Niva. Governing Access to User-Generated-Content: The Changing Nature of Private Ordering in Digital Networks, in GOVERNANCE, REGULATIONS AND POWERS ON THE INTERNET (E. Brousseau, M. Marzouki, C. Méadel eds.) (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2009).

Elkin-Koren, Niva. Exploring Creative Commons: a Skeptical View of a Worthy Pursuit in The Future of the Public Domain (P. Bernt Hugenholtz & Lucie Guibault, eds., Kluwer Law International, 2006).

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Fuchs, Christian. A Contribution to the Critique of the Political Economy of Transnational Informational Capitalism. Rethinking Marxism 21 (3), 2009. 387-402.

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Gregg, Melissa. "Banal Bohemia: Blogging from the Ivory Tower Hot-desk" Convergence 15(4) 2009

Mills, C. Wright. The Power Elite. Oxford UP, 1956.

Golumbia, David. The Cultural Logic of Computation, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009. (esp. chapters 6 and 7)

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Grimmelmann, James. The Ethical Visions of Copyright Law.

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Interactivity is Evil! A critical investigation of Web 2.0 by Kylie Jarrett First Monday, Volume 13, Number 3 - 3 March 2008

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Lefebvre, Henri, and Michel Trebitsch. Critique of Everyday Life, Volume II. New York: Verso, 2002.

Lessig, Lawrence. Remix. New York: Penguin Press, 2009.

Liu, Alan. The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Malaby, Thomas. Making Virtual Worlds. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009.

Marazzi, Christian. Capital and Language: From the New Economy to the War Economy. New York: Semiotext(e), 2008.

McPhee, Christina. "Bare life as editorial subject: on ‘bare life’ in the network –empyre- soft-skinned space." DOCUMENTA MAGAZINE. 08 Sept. 2009 .

Mezzadra, S., & Neilson, B. Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor. EIPCP Multilingual Webjournal

Neilson, Brett; Rossiter, Ned. ‘From Precarity to Precariousness and Back Again: Labour, Life and Unstable Networks’, Fibreculture Journal 5 (2005),

Mitchell, Robert; Waldby, Catherine. "National Biobanks Clinical Labor, Risk Production, and the Creation of Biovalue" (Science, Technology, & Human Values, forthcoming)

Nakamura, Lisa, "Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game," CSMC, 2009.

Neff, Gina, John, Amman, Tris Carpenter. eds. Surviving the New Economy. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2007.

Negri, Antonio; Cascarino, Cesare. In Praise of the Common. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2008.

Nieborg, D. (2005). Am I Mod or Not? - An Analysis of First Person Shooter Modification Culture. Paper presented at the Creative Gamers Seminar, University of Tampere, Finland.

Kücklich, Julian : Precarious Playbour: Modders and the Digital Games Industry.

P2P Foundation

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First Monday, Volume 13, Number 3 - 3 March 2008

Postigo, Hector. “America Online Volunteers: Lessons from an Early Co-production Community,” International Journal of Critical Studies.

Postigo, H. (2003b). From Pong to Planet Quake: Post-Industrial Transitions from Leisure to Work. Information, Communication & Society, 6(4), 593–607.

Rettberg, Scott. "Corporate Ideology in World of Warcraft." In Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader. MIT Press, 2009.

Rodenbeck, Judith. “Creative Acts of Consumption,” commissioned essay for The “Do-it-yourself
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Rogers, K. “Capital Implications: The Function of Labor in the Video of Juan Devis and Yoshua Okón.” In: Social Identities. 15, no. 3. (May 2009).

Ned Rossiter, Organized Networks: Media Theory, Creative Labour, New Institutions. Rotterdam: NAi Publications, 2006.

Rushkoff, Douglas. Life Inc. New York: Random House, 2009.

Marie Evans Schmidt and Elizabeth A. Vandewater. Media and Attention, Cognition, and School Achievement Source: The Future of Children, Vol. 18, No. 1, Children and Electronic Media (Spring, 2008).

Scholz, Trebor. Trebor Scholz and Paul Hartzog: Toward a critique of the social web

Sennet, Richard. The Craftman, Yale Univeristy Press, 2009

Sharshow, Scott Cutler. The Work and the Gift. University of Chicago Press, 2005

Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody. New York: Penguin. 2009.

Shirky, Clay. "Shirky: Social Software and the Politics of Groups." Clay Shirky's Internet Writings. 08 Sept. 2009 .

Sotamaa, O. (2004). Playing it My Way?: Mapping The Modder Agency. Paper presented at the Internet Research Conference 5.0, Sussex, UK.

Tiziana Terranova 'Free Labour: producing culture for the digital economy' Social Text 18.2 2000, 33-58

Terranova, Tiziana (2003). "Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy"

Thackara, John. In the Bubble Designing in a Complex World. New York: The MIT P, 2006.

Eugene Thacker, The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006.

Thrift Nigel "Re-inventing invention: new tendencies in capitalist commodification"
Nigel Thrift, Economy and Society Volume 35 Number 2 May 2006: 279/30

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Turner, Fred. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Turner, Fred. "Burning Man at Google: A Cultural Infrastructure for New Media Production." New Media & Society 11, no. 1&2 (2009): 73-94.

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Ulke, Christina, eds., et al., Journal of Aesthetics and Politics, issue 6 (2009)

Paolo Virno, Virtuosity and Revolution.

Virno, Paolo. A Grammar of the Multitude (Semiotext(e) / Foreign Agents). New York: Semiotext(e), 2004.

Qiu, Jack Linchuan. Working-Class Network Society: Communication Technology and the Have-Less in Urban China. MIT Press, 2009.

Virno, Paolo (2008), Multitude: Between Innovation and Negation, trans Isabella Bertoletti, James Cascaito and Andrew Casson, Semiotext(e), New York.

Waldby, Catherine; Cooper, Mellnda. "The Biopolitics of Reproduction: Post-Fordist Biotechnology and Women’s Clinical Labour," Australian Feminist Studies 23.2 (2008): 57-73.

Waldby, Catherine; Mitchell, Robert. Tissue Economies: Blood, Organs and Cell Lines in Late Capitalism Durham: Duke University Press, 2006.

Walkowitz, Daniel J. Hobbies: Leisure and the Culture of Work in America (review)
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Wark, McKenzie. A Hacker Manifesto, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004.

Wershler, Darren. "Writers of the World, Unclench."

Xiang, Biao. Global ‘Body Shopping’: An Indian Labor System in the Information Technology Industry, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

Zehle, Soenke; Rossiter, Ned. ‘Organizing Networks: Notes on Collaborative Constitution, Translation, and the Work of Organization’, Cultural Politics 5.2 (2009): 237-264.

Zittrain, Jonathan. The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2009.

Zizek, Slavoj. "The Matrix, or Two Sides of Perversion." European Graduate School EGS Media Art Internet Film Communications Master and PhD Program Graduate Post-Graduate Studies. 1999. Web. 07 Sept. 2009. .

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Solar Flair

Victoria Vesna points out an interesting example of data visualization from the Land Art Generator Initiative in which the map of the world is redrawn to show the square mileage required for solar collectors to meet the world's current energy needs. There is also a site-specific aspect to the project in the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) is a landmark initiative to bring together artists, architects, scientists, and engineers in a first of its kind collaboration. The goal of the Land Art Generator Initiative is to design and construct a series of land art installations across the UAE that uniquely combine aesthetic intrigue with clean energy generation. The LAGI viewing platforms will be tourist destinations that draw people from around the world to experience the beauty of the collaborative art creations here in the United Arab Emirates. At the same time, the art itself will continuously distribute clean energy into the electrical grid with each land art sculpture having the potential to provide power to up to 50,000 homes in the UAE.

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Recursive Writing

Cynthia Davidson notes the invention in this interesting machinima video about recursive spaces that was created in Second Life. In addition to the avatars, computer interfaces play a key role. More information about the artist is here.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Captcha or Gotcha

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting on unusual collaborations being formed around so called "captcha" technologies that can do double duty by aiming to screen out non-human spambots while also on capitalizing on free labor from human agents. "Google Says Gotcha to ReCaptcha, the Word-Puzzle Company"explains how reCAPTCHA started as a research project at Carnegie Mellon University. (The acronym means Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart.) Now Google has purchased the company, presumably for use in its massive book digitization effort, so that those who authenticate their Google blog comments and other social media postings will also be aiding in correcting the character recognition capacities of digital scanning technologies. Of course, using free labor in service of two different sides of a corporate business plan may make sense for the company's bottom line, but what it means for what Siva Vaidhyanathan has called "The Googlization of Everything" should be the question the Chronicle is asking. Another aspect of the story that seems to be missing is the credit that reCAPTCHA gives to the open source community by acknowledging that "reCAPTCHA is mostly powered by open source software" and offering thanks to "all open source developers for creating tools that help in developing applications such as ours."

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Revival House

Although media companies often express anxieties about film and television shows being posted on YouTube, more media conglomerates are actually sanctioning the free bandwidth that YouTube offers for older entertainment properties that could have new licensing lives with renewed interest from younger audiences. For example, one of the blogs for the Los Angeles Times has highlighted how YouTube is showing Ghostbusters for the film's 25th anniversary. Of course, the Abba channel may be my favorite site for hawking retro sentiment in the digital age.

Update: And, of course, as a convention attendee back in the pre-cool days of junior high, who can forget the original Star Trek series on YouTube. Luckily only family members remember when I had a pattern book for Enterprise uniforms and a communicator replica that I had airplane glued myself.

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Navy Squeals

Although this video was composed a few years ago, it is interesting to see it back in circulation, during a time long after when vernacular video shot by service people and posted to social network sites was creating a very different reaction, as many members of the public responded negatively to scenes of taunting, desecration, and mockery that reflected poorly on all soldiers in uniform. Speculation about the production methods and the consequences for those who created this light-hearted video is still being generated on comments pages.

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Trade Offs

There is an interesting piece that argues that "Web users will trade off privacy for security and convenience." I've been thinking a lot about how privacy is imagined as a zero-sum with other values in computational culture for a while, and I'm not sure that security and convenience often come bundled together for consumers.

Privacy issues are also being raised by the ACLU, which has designed a Facebook privacy quiz that shows the site's users how third parties can easily get access to private information when Facebook friends take any of the site's proliferation of online quizzes. After the interactive experience of taking the quiz, Facebook users are encouraged to sign an online petition objecting to the way that Facebook acts can harvest information from users without their knowledge or consent.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Writing on the Wall

A recent article in the Washington Post, "A Virtual Revolution Is Brewing for Colleges," which opines that universities must embrace the methods of the distance learning movement, was written by Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, who was once best known for Internet organizing for the Howard Dean presidential campaign and has also served as national director for the Sunlight Foundation. Like many Teachout is making the analogy between newspapers and universities, as institutions of knowledge and credible sources that must adapt to an online culture oriented around new information practices.

Despite her liberal political credentials, Teachout is making an argument for radical efficiency that assumes that students don't need the context of an academic community. She praises product-oriented community colleges and for-profit institutions as early adapters who may be best fit to survive.

Because the current college system, like the newspaper industry, has built-in redundancies, new Internet efficiencies will lead to fewer researchers and professors. Every major paper once had a bureau in, say, Sarajevo -- now, a few foreign correspondents' pieces are used in dozens of papers. Similarly, at noon on any given day, hundreds of university professors are teaching introductory Sociology 101. The Internet makes it harder to justify these redundancies. In the future, a handful of Soc. 101 lectures will be videotaped and taught across the United States.

When this happens -- be it in 10 years or 20 -- we will see a structural disintegration in the academy akin to that in newspapers now. The typical 2030 faculty will likely be a collection of adjuncts alone in their apartments, using recycled syllabuses and administering multiple-choice tests from afar.

The idea that universities don't need more than one scholarly opinion in the country or that having only three news bureaus in Iraq has improved our understanding of that country's political dynamics seems ludicrous to me, and I'm surprised that she pushes the newspaper analogy even when it strains the logic of what could be a compelling argument.

When the Chronicle of Higher Education picked up the story in "Colleges Will Be 'Torn Apart' by Internet, Law Professor Predicts," the author didn't even use Teachout's honorific and many commentators couldn't even seem to get her gender right.

Meanwhile its rival Inside Higher Ed is covering corporate software for "Online Learning, at a pace."

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Delayed Gratification

The website about e-government is already reporting that "Stimulus Data to be Delayed" despite administration promises to guarantee transparency and disclosure in the most rapid possible timeframe. Anxieties about producing "financial figures" that are "free of typos, such as extra zeros or transposed numbers" have prompted government officials from releasing results about spending managed by the TARP program. At the end of the month, government officials are promising a revamped, so the issue is sure to be revisited soon. At the Government 2.0 summit, Vivek Kundra apparently also admitted that may also face roadblocks in bringing user-friendly databases to the masses. Apparently there are many problems, from reliance to older programming languages like COBOL to unreadable PDF files. While the public combs the fine print of current Congressional legislation looking for evidence of death panels, it is unfortunate that the same collective intelligence is not being brought to bear on this significant stumbling block for a smooth-running virtual state.


Balance of Powers

With all of the talk in the past week about Government 2.0 and Democracy 2.0, Tech President has posted an interesting item called "The Three Branches of We.Gov," which thinks about possible configurations that direct democracy could take. Unfortunately, it is grounded on the Tim O'Reilly rhetoric and may be too directed by the idea that "government should open up its information holdings and processes as much as possible and invite citizens in to build useful services on top of that." I would tend to argue that rethinking the balance between representative and direct democracy invites a much more radical challenge to the status quo, although few are engaged with this kind of a fundamental shift in the practices of governance. The writer acknowledges that "commercial or nonprofit service applications" currently embraced by the Obama administration may be less important than the "social and civic engagement hubs that are yet to come," but what about voting, redistricting, and the other ways that the very practices of representational government might change with the availability of computer applications.

Writer Micah Siffry engages with the commonly held truism that "the Internet is mostly good for the campaigning process and not very good for the governing process," which was recently restated in a recent editorial in the New York Times on "Democracy 2.0," but he argues that the jury is still out as Internet-based grassroots efforts are developing on different timelines. Of course, it is interesting to note in retrospect that the Virtualpolitik book was proposed as a book about governance rather than campaigning, at a time when few titles covered the rhetorics of e-government rather than the virtual campaign trail, so I think that that dichotomy might still be telling. The writer also concedes that the recent healthcare debate shows that "organized minorities have almost always mattered more than disorganized majorities, and there’s no question the internet is making it much easier to forge a rapid-response 'micro-mass' of angry voters aimed at Congress than ever before."

Finally, the writer argues for the importance of "real-time transparency." Unfortunately, there are a number of technical and legal obstacles to the idea of transparency in the public record, as the next item on this blog shows.

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Support Troop

This send-up of 9/11 nostalgia and conspiracy thinking theorizing uses the Star Wars storm troopers to look back at the attack on the Death Star as a tragic event.

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NewTube Music

This new mix by Steve Porter uses the cut-together voices of pop music mega-stars to support his claims that "YouTube music" is "experimental" and "rebellious" rather than derivative and that it expresses values of individualism, innovation, and integrity.

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Click Around

In this video Virginia Democrat Charlie Diradour argues that the sight of his opponent, incumbent Republican Eric Cantor, Twittering during President Obama's speech on healthcare serves as a "metaphor for what's wrong with politics today." In announcing his bid for Virginia's 7th Congressional District, Diradour's ad features a number of screen shots from Cantor's Twitter feed along with familiar attacks on "ideology" favored by both parties. It is interesting that Diradour seems to oppose bad interactivity with calculating communication on a Blackberry, the privileged ubiquitous computing device of the political elite, with good interactivity that involves less motivated uses of computing technology in which a visitor simply comes to his website and is invited to "click around."

Thanks to Virginian Siva Vaidhyanathan for the link.

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The Rules of the Biz

This morning, many Twitter users received the e-mail from the company's co-founder Biz Stone informing them that the Terms of Service of the popular microblogging site had changed.

It's a dramatic transition, because the new terms of service consists of 2,883 words by my count, not counting supporting documents, while the old terms of service was one of the most streamlined by the standard of other social computing sites with a mere 743 words. (Twitter credited Flickr as the source of much of their legal verbiage at that time.) The company blog posting that covers the changes doesn't say much about the hefty additions to the copyright policy, even though not much infringement seems possible with 140 text characters.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Must Read

If you haven't been reading the drafts of the chapters from Siva Vaidhyanathan's book in progress, The Googlization of Everything, then you've been missing out. Check out his reading of the post-Habermassian public sphere here in the most recent installment. His blog is hosted by the Institute for the Future of the Book.

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Clubhouse Speaker

The MIT Club and the Harvard Club are sponsoring an event for the Virtualpolitik book this Saturday, September 19th at 3 p.m. at the main branch of the Santa Monica Public Library in the Martin Luther King Auditorium.

The event is free and open to all even if you are not MIT Club or
Harvard Club members.

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Summer Reading

I just put together a bibliography about the rhetorics of e-government and the relationship between democracy and new media more generally. So thought I'd share it with other people working in the field.

Abramson, Jeffrey. The electronic commonwealth: the impact of new media technologies on democratic politics. New York: Basic Books, 1988.
Bimber, Bruce. Campaigning online : the Internet in U.S. elections. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Bogost, Ian. Persuasive games: the expressive power of videogames. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2007.
Boler, Megan. Digital media and democracy: tactics in hard times. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2008.
Campbell, Karlyn. Deeds done in words : presidential rhetoric and the genres of governance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.
Castells, Manuel. The rise of the network society. Malden MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.
Chadwick, Andrew. Internet politics: states, citizens, and new communication technologies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
---. Routledge handbook of Internet politics. New York: Routledge, 2009.
Dean, Jodi. Reformatting politics: information technology and global civil society. New York: Routledge, 2006.
Edelman, Murray. Constructing the Political Spectacle. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1988.
Etzioni, Amitai . “Minerva: An Electronic Town Hall.” Policy Sciences 3.4 (1972): 457-474.
Fishkin, James S. The voice of the people. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.
---. When the People Speak Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation. Oxford, 2009.
Fountain, Jane. Building the virtual state: information technology and institutional change. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2001.
Grossman, Lawrence. The electronic republic: reshaping democracy in the information age. New York: Viking, 1995.
Gurak, Laura. Cyberliteracy: navigating the Internet with awareness. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.
Hansen, Mark. New philosophy for new media. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2004.
Harman, Graham. Prince of networks: Bruno Latour and metaphysics., 2009.
Hart, Roderick P. Campaign Talk: Why Elections Are Good for Us. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002.
Hayles, N. How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Hippel, Eric Von. Democratizing Innovation. The MIT Press, 2006.
Jenkins, Henry. Democracy and new media. Cambridge MA.: MIT Press, 2003.
Lanham, Richard. The electronic word: democracy, technology, and the arts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.
Latour, Bruno, and Peter Weibel, eds. Making things public: atmospheres of democracy. Cambridge Mass.; Karlsruhe Germany: MIT Press; ZKM/Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, 2005.
Losh, Elizabeth. Virtualpolitik: an electronic history of government media-making in a time of war, scandal, disaster, miscommunication, and mistakes. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2009.
Lovink, Geert. Zero comments : blogging and critical Internet culture. New York: Routledge, 2008.
Medhurst, Martin J. Beyond the Rhetorical Presidency. Texas A&M University Press, 1996.
Schnapp, Jeffrey. Crowds. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.
Sturken, Marita. Technological visions. Philadelphia PA: Temple University Press, 2004.
Sunstein, Cass. 2.0. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.
Tittler, Robert. Architecture and Power: The Town Hall and the English Urban Community c. 1500-1640. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Vaidhyanathan, Siva. The anarchist in the library: how the clash between freedom and control is hacking the real world and crashing the system. New York: Basic Books, 2004.
VanFossen, Phillip. The electronic republic?: the impact of technology on education for citizenship. West Lafayette Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2008.
Varnelis, Kazys, and Annenberg Center for Communication. Networked publics. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2008.
Warnick, Barbara. Rhetoric online: persuasion and politics on the World Wide Web. New York: Peter Lang, 2007.
Welch, Kathleen. Electric rhetoric classical rhetoric, oralism, and a new literacy. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1999.

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Hot Babes and Hot Mikes

One of the interesting features of the public disgrace of conservative state legislator Michael Duvall, whose official website is already down, is that it was a sex scandal that involved electronic mediation and remote transfers of information but didn't involve the Internet. He wasn't brought down by traditional means such as an attempted dalliance with an undercover police officer or betrayal by dubious financial records or a madam's black book. But it wasn't a bad e-mail, text message, or YouTube moment either. Instead, earlier this summer, Duvall was bragging about his extramarital sexual conquests to another lawmaker while his microphone for the in-house television station of the state assembly was "live" right below him. Soon a local Southern California news station was running with the sleazy story involving spanking and pirate underwear, as well as improper conduct with at least one female lobbyist. Because the station has been enforcing takedown notices on YouTube, there haven't been many remixes with the Duvall audio track.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Motion Stop

This quarter I am taking an advanced motion graphics class with After Effects guru Warren Heaton. I've been thinking a lot about how what Ellen Lupton says about "liquidity, saturation, and overflow" relates to the larger interest in shifting from "hard" to "soft" type. At this summer's NEH Institute in Broadening the Digital Humanities, the arguments about why digital humanists should be interested in electronic typography were certainly compelling as well.

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Character with More Characters

The publicity manager from MIT Press, Colleen Lanick, who is the publicity manager for my own book, wrote an interesting piece about "Social Networking: University Presses in a 140-Character World."

Lanick makes the argument that it is not just a question of authors promoting their books as online personalities, because whole academic publishing houses need to use sites like Facebook and Twitter to promote their brands and inspire interest and sales. She also argues that having an online presence is also an important part of intelligence-gathering.

Most university presses use social media to discuss what is happening in their community and the publishing world as well as what is going on with particular books and authors. At MIT, we have found it very useful to follow others, including colleagues at peer presses and trade houses, journalists, authors, and other organizations and individuals that are relevant to our list. Editors are using social networking to attract authors. Publicists can quickly scan Twitter for alerts when book review editors resign or contribute to the buzz about a particular topic or title, and authors can keep the press and their followers interested in what they are doing to promote their new book. The possibilities are endless.

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Signs and Design

Virtualpolitik friend Kurt Anderson has put together an online multimedia essay for the New York Times called "Better Signs of Trouble" that deals with one of my favorite topics in the Virtualpolitik book: the Homeland Security threat alert system. As a self-confessed "data nerd" Anderson asks several designers to come up with a better system. Many graphic artists responded with light-hearted witticism, but they still acknowledged that exploiting the capacities of mobile devices might be important, especially in a text message and smart phone world. Anderson's favorites, however, got at the nature of how risk itself is communicated to argue that risk should either be visualized as a graph with many data points or seen as a binary system with only caution and alert settings.

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Athens, Georgia Rather Than Athens, Greece

This Sunday the Week in Review Section of the New York Times was topped with an item about "'Athens' on the Net," which appeared online under the title "Democracy 2.0 Awaits an Upgrade." Given the timing of the piece, which has appeared just after the much vaunted "Government 2.0" O'Reilly summit in Washington D.C., policy makers are likely to take note.

Writer Anand Giridharadas argues that there are serious limitations to the claims of a recent British documentary called Us Now that seems to answer the question "Can We All Govern?" with an enthusiastic "Yes!"

Instead Giridharadas paints a much more sobering picture by citing the work of academics like Stanford Department of Communication Chair Professor James Fishkin and pointing to the failures of recent experiments with using Web 2.0 technologies to encourage participation, as the following excerpt shows.

During the transition, the administration created an online “Citizens’ Briefing Book” for people to submit ideas to the president. “The best-rated ones will rise to the top, and after the Inauguration, we’ll print them out and gather them into a binder like the ones the President receives every day from experts and advisors,” Valerie Jarrett, Mr. Obama’s friend and adviser, wrote to supporters.

They received 44,000 proposals and 1.4 million votes for those proposals. The results were quietly published, but they were embarrassing — not so much to the administration as to us, the ones we’ve been waiting for.

In the middle of two wars and an economic meltdown, the highest-ranking idea was to legalize marijuana, an idea nearly twice as popular as repealing the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy. Legalizing online poker topped the technology ideas, twice as popular as nationwide Wi-Fi. Revoking the Church of Scientology’s tax-exempt status garnered three times more votes than raising funding for childhood cancer.

Once in power, the White House crowdsourced again. In March, its Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted an online brainstorm about making government more transparent. Good ideas came, but a stunning number had no connection to transparency, with many calls for marijuana legalization and a raging (and groundless) debate about the authenticity of Mr. Obama’s birth certificate.

If the Internet needed a further nudge from its pedestal, the health care debate obliged. From the administration’s point of view, the Web arguably proved better at spreading deceptions about “death panels” than at spreading truth, and at turning town halls into brawls than at nurturing the unfettered deliberation that some imagine to be the hallmark of the Internet.

What's missing in the article is some mention of the role that corporate ideology has played in implementation and the way that Silicon Valley works independently from Washington for its own ends in ways that could be very troubling for what Siva Vaidhyanathan calls "the Googlization of Government." The writer notes that utopian enthusiasts celebrate the fact that potentially "our consent is gathered every few minutes, not every few years," but he doesn't deal with how much this consent is compromised by the very platforms being used. With the expanding use of commercial Web 2.0 technologies by government agencies, a number of other scholars have also expressed concern that in the name of “participatory culture” the government may risk compelling its citizens to participate in particular copyright regimes that constrain speech, to submit to corporate user agreements that rewrite the social contract, and to divulge private information to commercial vendors without their consent.