Digital Culture book

The book Structures of Participation in Digital Culture is now available for download for free. Here is a part of the blurb:

Structures of Participation in Digital Culture, …explores digital technologies that are engines of cultural innovation, from the virtualization of group networks and social identities to the digital convergence of textural and audio-visual media. User-centered content production, from Wikipedia to YouTube to Open Source, has become the emblem of this transformation, but the changes run deeper and wider than these novel organizational forms…

The contents include some familiar and some unfamiliar names and a lot of chapters that seem worth reading, take a look at this:

  • The Past and the Internet (Geoffrey Bowker),
  • History, Memory, Place, and Technology: Plato’s Phaedrus Online (Gregory Crane),
  • Other Networks: Media Urbanism and the Culture of the Copy in South Asia (Ravi Sundaram),
  • Pirate Infrastructures (Brian Larkin),
  • Technologies of the Childhood Imagination: Yu-Gi-Oh!, Media Mixes, and Everyday Cultural Production (Mizuko Ito),
  • Pushing the Borders: Player Participation and Game Culture (T. L. Taylor),
  • None of This Is Real: Identity and Participation in Friendster (danah boyd),
  • Notes on Contagious Media (Jonah Peretti),
  • Picturing the Public (Warren Sack),
  • Toward Participatory Expertise (Shay David),
  • Game Engines as Open Networks (Robert F. Nideffer),
  • The Diablo Program (Doug Thomas),
  • Disciplining Markets in the Digital Age (Joe Karaganis),
  • Price Discrimination and the Shape of the Digital Commodity (Tarleton Gillespie),
  • The Ecology of Control: Filters, Digital Rights Management, and Trusted Computing (Joe Karaganis).

Download the Entire Book

Better Podcasts

Finding good podcasts is really difficult. Not because they are rare but because, like everything online, there is too much to search through. Martin (from the blog with the impossible name Aardvarchaeology) has asked his readers to recommend some better podcasts for him to subscribe to.

So, Dear Reader, you clearly aren’t a moron: in aggregate, Aard’s readers should be a much better authority than the unwashed masses when it comes to podcasts. Please tell me your favourite podcasts with a sentence or two explaining what they’re about…

The list makes a good starting point for those who are looking for better podcasts. My own suggestion to Martin’s list was the University of Bath Public Lecture Podcast. The series features leading names from the worlds of science, humanities and engineering talking about the latest research in their field.

Some of my favorites are:
General Sir Rupert Smith: The utility of force
Professor Allan Kellehear: The history of death and dying
Steve Jones: Why creationism is wrong and evolution is right
Lord Desai: Why is poverty persistent?
Professor Jacque Lynn Foltyn: Dead sexy: The corpse is the new “porn star” of pop culture

Boyle Book Cover Competition

Via an email list I found out that James Boyle, the new Chairman of the Board at Creative Commons and a founder of Science Commons, is holding a contest to design a cover for his new book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. In the book, Boyle argues that more and more of material that used to be free to use without having to pay a fee or ask permission is becoming private property — at the expense of innovation, science, culture and politics.

Details, including specs and a link to some great source material for imagery, are available at the Worth1000 website. Both the book and the cover will be distributed under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial license.

Boyle is a great writer and enjoys exploring legal questions surrounding property in a way which makes it accessible and interesting to the reader. His book Shamans, Software and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society was a real eye opener for me. I am definitely going to get his new book.

When my PhD was almost finished I announced a similar competition for the design of the book cover and was lucky to get it widely publicized. The whole idea of the competition was actually quite resented and discussed on my blog. Professional designers felt I was cutting them out of the market by asking for free work. Interesting discussions ensued. The results of the competition were posted on my blog and the winner was chosen by popular vote and used on the cover of my PhD.

Spellchecker Poetry

Technology such as text messaging and spell checkers are forming our language. Usually I use this as a bad example but this poem comes via techno-culture shows that spell checkers are our friends:

In Praise of Computer Spell Checkers…

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly Marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong

Eye have run their poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew

Digital Billboard Liberation

The higher philosophy behind billboard liberation is the re-appropriation of public space. It is a reaction against the commercialization of the world in which we live where there is a virtual monopoly on the right to broadcast messages into the public sphere. Individuals and organizations (for example the Billboard Liberation Front) carry out acts of adbusting in order to show that culture jamming is a way in which protest is possible.

In a rare example of digital billboard liberation a hacker known as Skullphone has hacked ten of Clear Channel Communications’ digital billboards in Los Angeles. The to achieve this billboard liberation Skullphone had to hack into the Clear Channel network and insert his trademark skullphone between the commercial messages shown on the billboards.

Update: Fresh information suggests that this was not a hack at all but a paid commercial approved by Clear Channel. More information will be presented as soon as it is available.

(via Supertouch who also has more pictures)

Wikipedia takes Manhattan

Free Culture at NYU and Columbia are organizing a photo contest in  New York. The idea is to document the  city and provide  images which can be later used for wikipedia articles. This is a great way to increase awareness and to provide a bank of images for others to use. Does anyone want to organize something similar in Göteborg?

On Friday, March 28th (April 4th rain date), join Free Culture @ NYU and Free Culture @ Columbia on a quest to get the best shots of NYC. Bring your camera and a way to get around town for the biggest scavenger hunt in Free Culture’s history.

All photos will be uploaded to the Wikimedia Commons for inclusion into Wikipedia articles about NYC that need photos. We’ve got hundreds of locations, sites, and things to document for Wikipedia and it should be a really fun day.

Each member of the winning team will receive an iPod shuffle loaded with Creative Commons music! Second and third place teams will win copies of “Wikipedia, The Missing Manual” donated by O’Reilly.

Creative Commons Logo Competition

Creative Commons Sweden goes live and on that occasion we want to ask you how we can best represent you. We are looking for a logo that best represents you, in your surroundings and your culture – a more personalised CC Sweden logo if you will.

So we ask you, as artists, to be creative and make the Creative Commons Sweden your Creative Commons.

Here is the deal:

Take one of the Creative Commons logos (two examples here or/and here) and create something that represents CC Sweden. It can be a variation with the flag, the shape of the Sweden or a cultural sight or something completely unrelated but yet unique. The only condition is, that the logo you use as a basis remains unchanged.

The best 3 designs will be rewarded with a) a price from one of our supporters and b) will represent the CC Sweden from then on, on our website, on T-shirts, hoodies, keychains etc. and wherever the CC Sweden appears.

So, take to you sketch-boards and make the CC Sweden your Creative Commons.

Send your designs including a short mail explaining your thoughts and you idea behind the logo to (text can be either in English or in Swedish).

More information online here. If you have any questions feel free to contact Mirko.

Revisting the Hoax

Back in 1996 Alan Sokal published an article called “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” in the journal Social Text. The article was praised as a breakthrough, written by Sokal the physics professor, it was filled with complex terms and post-modernist arguments. It was laced with references to mathematics and physics (it was a sociology text but this was the trend of the time).

Arguing that quantum gravity has progressive political implications, the paper claims the New Age concept of the “morphogenetic field” (not to be confused with the developmental biology use of the same term) could be a cutting-edge theory of quantum gravity. It concludes that, since “physical ‘reality’ … is at bottom a social and linguistic construct”, a “liberatory science” and “emancipatory mathematics” must be developed that spurn “the elite caste[‘s] canon of ‘high science'” for a “postmodern science [that] provide[s] powerful intellectual support for the progressive political project”. (The Sokal Affair – Wikipedia)

The problem was that the article was not truthful but was written to see if the journal could be fooled to, in Sokal’s words, “publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.” Obviously when the scandal broke out lots of people were very annoyed (The Sokal Affair – Wikipedia).

Via Ting och Tankar I learned that Alan Sokal has now written a book on the affair “Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture” you can also listen to a podcast interview from the Guardian science weekly. Here is the blurb from the Oxford University Press

Now, in Beyond the Hoax , Sokal revisits this remarkable chapter in our intellectual history to illuminate issues that are with us even more pressingly today than they were a decade ago. Sokal’s main argument, then and now, is for the centrality of evidence in all matters of public debate. The original article, (included in the book, with new explanatory footnotes), exposed the faulty thinking and outright nonsense of the postmodernist critique of science, which asserts that facts, truth, evidence, even reality itself are all merely social constructs. Today, right wing politicians and industry executives are happily manipulating these basic tenents of postmodernism to obscure the scientific consensus on global warming, biological evolution, second-hand smoke, and a host of other issues. Indeed, Sokal shows that academic leftists have unwittingly abetted right wing ideologies by wrapping themselves in a relativistic fog where any belief is as valid as any other because all claims to truth must be regarded as equally suspect. Sokal’s goal, throughout the book, is to expose the dangers in such thinking and to defend a scientific worldview based on respect for evidence, logic, and reasoned argument over wishful thinking, superstition, and demagoguery of any kind.

Design of Dissent

Milton Glasher and Mirko Ilic’s The Design of Dissent is a phenomenal repository of political poster art (and more). The book contains 200+ pages of explosive and provocative political art divided into sections that range from “Ex-Yugoslavia” to “Food” to “U.S. Presidential Election”.

The images are part historical testament, part marginalized voice, and part pop culture intervention. Together they make up a book that is an essential for anyone interested in political art, dissent, democracy, and the spirit of creative visual production to pry open the closed spaces of culture and community. (Art Threat)

The school of visual arts in NY has also created a site highlighting some 100 of the political posters curated by Glasher, you can view it here.

Interns to the Open Rights Group

The Open Rights Group is looking for summer interns. If you have the time and inclination this is a really worthwhile pursuit.

Are you a student thinking ahead to the long summer months? Are you itching to contribute to an exciting and socially beneficial cause? If you fit this bill and are interested in computer science, politics, law or culture online then come and intern for Open Rights Group.

The Open Rights Group works to  raise awareness in the media of digital rights abuses and to protect digital rights online.