Week 11:

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2011 by themichaelreilly

B) Medosch argues that: “piracy, despite being an entirely commercially motivated activity carried out in black or grey markets, fulfills culturally important functions” (Reader, page 318).

Discuss ONE of these arguments while giving an example online.

Why can’t my illegal downloads finish this quick? Considering moving to Seoul.


Is it me or are all those crimes linked? He stole the car to move the t.v. to watch the movie. Poor guys just a huge cinephile. The handbag was probably for popcorn or something.

Medosch comments “Our research has shown that piracy fulfils an important role by giving access to cultural goods which otherwise would be completely unavailable to the vast majority of the people.” (Medosch p. 81) This comment highlights the usage of intellectual property legislation by neo liberalistic multinational conglomerates to perpetually deny the contemporary proletarian class of the means to social empowerment and allows me to indulge in my copyright abolitionistic leanings. In this context piracy does not fulfill a “culturally important function” but a culturally vital function in its progression and survivability.

Medosch’s example of Brazilian LAN houses or ‘favelas’ is a particularly astute example of constructive piracy. People living in the slums of Rio de Janeiroare are unlikely to scrap together the spare change for computer components and software that are marketed to a predominately western audience. These products are heavily patented and are heavily controlled in pricings which I believe is intended to purposefully limit the access of such commodities by a perceived underclass. The benefit of connective technologies such as computers and the internet is self evident. Providing a large underclass the means necessary for social ascension could potentially offset the socioeconomic balance that contemporary western culture exploits for its self perpetuation. If a sweatshop worker gets online what would be the repercussions to the sports wear industry? Globalization while drastically broadening the market for western products also introduces foreign competing industries and commodities that threaten western industry’s profitable simply through their existence and accessibility. Intellectual property law provides an effective means of controlling such competitors.

In order to make my contempt for intellectual property a plausible argument we need to reexamine the role of intellectual property and of ownership within our society. As discussed in last week’s blog entry the original intention of copyright law is to encourage scientific and cultural progress by offering an incentive for truly innovative works. Innovative is a categorization that I struggle with. All inventions ranging from the internet, printing press even the wheel are part of an ever evolving dialogue in technique. A discovery no matter how culturally significant is nothing without the dialogue that leads to it. To illustrate this take any random invention and try to discern the different technologies that went into its inception. Photography as an arbitrary example is the synthesis between photochemical reactions and the camera obscura. The guy who invented photography rather then pulling the plans for a camera out of his brain merely combined two existing inventions and participated in the technical dialog of technology. The same is true of all works both those of cultural significance and those that aren’t. To deny someone accessibility limits the overall level of participation in this dialogue and thusly hampers the progression of society.

It is in this context that piracy offers humanity the only real chance (even if slim) to finally realize the dramatic shift in cultural paradigm and democratization that utopian cultural theorist talk about every time a new medium comes into vogue. But more likely they’ll just get sued and keep working in the local sweatshop.

Vandana Shiva talking about seed patents and how they screw over farmers. The Monsanto corporation also has patents on different genes found naturally in livestock. Also i’m like 80% sure that most human genes are already patented. Just sayen.



Week 10:

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2011 by themichaelreilly

Following week 10 tutorial’s exercise, explain why you chose the Creative Commons license that you added to your blog and discuss the relevance (or not) of adding the license.


I chose not to include a Creative Commons license in this blog to avoid perpetuating the fundamentally flawed intellectual property system.


Article I of the U.S. Constitution explains the role of copyright as “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” (Katz p.179) It endeavors to strike a balance between the exclusivity that favors industry and the openness that favors technological and cultural progression. In this way American intellectual property relies on the balancing of two polarized extremes. Exclusivity and the favorable conditions it creates for business is evident enough in that if a person or organization holds a patent for a product then the production, distribution and more importantly the pricing of that product is at their discretion. Alternatively if a patent has fallen into the public domain competing business or even technically proficient amateurs can replicate and alter the product to sell at a price determined via a competitive market. The intention of copyright legislation is to create an artificial incentive to the production of innovative technologies or works by making the environment such that one has for limited time a monopoly. However recognizing the conception of the new relies on access to the old such control is secured “for limited times”. In this way legislation seeks to force the relinquishment of this control at a predetermined time for the benefit of society.


In its inception patents lasted for a maximum of fourteen years which was arbitrary manifestation of “for limited times”. Over the last two centuries due to revisions and persistent lobbying this period has increased to the active life of the author plus an additional seventy years. Obviously the excessive length of patents does little to promote scientific and cultural progression seventy years after the death of an author. Instead this duration shifts the balance of intellectual property away from the access that facilitates progress and towards the control that facilitates business. There is none left to profit seventy years after the death of the author but the large corporations of the manufacture and publishing industries that tend to be significantly longer lived. Even an argument for the continued royalties of an author’s decedents is absurd and not in the sprit of progress which is copyright law’s intention.


This difficulty in balancing control and access becomes even more problematic with the advent of digitalization. Using the music industry as an example we see that the medium has moved away from the physical production of compact discs and records and gravitated towards the perpetual copying of files and bytes. Mark Katz explains the ramifications “MP3s are nonrivalrous, meaning that when I download something, I am copying, not taking. No one is being deprived of any previously held property.” (Katz p.178) Like an equation or idea an individual that shares their copy of a digital commodity does so without degrading their own. In this way due to digitalized media’s lose of physicality it escapes traditional definitions of theft.


There are no original ideas presented in this blog. I have endeavored to correctly attribute credit via referencing whenever possible however due to human error there is an unavoidable possibility of something being missed. Even ideas that at first appear to be the result of naturally evolving lines of reason are often born out of the influence of some long forgotten source. It seems entirely inappropriate to place any sort of patent on intellectual material for which I can not honestly claim as my own. Instead what I offer is a small contribution to a grater cultural dialogue that takes places amongst all academic works both patented and not. By placing a creative commons license on this blog I feel I would be perpetuating a flawed system that impairs the intertexuality that is essential to the greater cultural dialogue a pivotal element to societies progression .

First adverts now this crap? Time to migrate.


Basically my point.


I really like this guy. Kinda utopian but whatever.



Katz, Mark. “Listening in Cyberspace” Capturing Sound: How Technology has Changed Music. Berkeley:University ofCalifornia Press, 2004.

Week 9:

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2011 by themichaelreilly

A) Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269).


Jean Burgess and Joshua Green explore the growth of DIY media in formats such as Youtube and its relationship with traditional mass media. This relationship is simultaneously one of appraisal and hysteria as traditional media flip flops between two contrasting perspectives. This duplicity Burgess and Green argue is the result of new media’s association with youth culture and is a similar phenomenon to the “media images of youth in postwar Britain where young people are represented as an exotic other, at once exuberantly creative and dangerous.” (Burgess and Green p.17) Like most instances when old people get scared there is the potential to change the status quo. A shift in media paradigm would necessitate a reevaluation of our moral, ideological and financial structures while redistributing power across this new medium. Traditional media is on the one hand fearful of losing control of an industry that is largely regulated and monopolized while on the other exited by the rags to riches, self made nature of new media personalities which satisfies the values that have been historically promoted by traditional media.


Recognition of media stardom becomes difficult in the new media landscape however this may actually serve to maintain traditional media’s relevance. The grassroots nature of Youtube and its ability to transcend participates into the traditional media arena has been one of its most prominent arguments in self promotion. Burgess and Green recognize this in the comment “Youtube has been mythologized as literally a way to ‘broadcast yourself’ into fame and fortune.” (Burgess and Green p.22) Despite this self promotion however the nature of stardom has been left largely unaltered. “Rather than blurring distinctions between the ordinary person and celebrity, rags-to-riches stories and reality TV alike reproduce the distinction between ‘media world’ and the ‘ordinary world,’ which ‘disguises (and therefore helps naturalize) the inequality of symbolic power which media institutions represent.” (Burgess and Green p.23) What other measure might we judge the ascension of a Youtube personality into stardom then their acceptance by traditional media? We see this in the record contracts, television pilots and news attention that a successful Youtubber will attain. Rather then democratizing fame Youtube has reinforced traditional media classification.


The existence of amateur media producers who are able to accumulate enough advertisement revenue to rival traditional incomes is a fact often cited to argue a cultural shift away from the traditional media industry however this is an embellishment. Already stated is the regular occurrence of these individuals being accepted into traditional media however the exchange occurs on both ends of the spectrum. Many of the more popular contributors demonstrate production values that rival traditional media. This it is claimed is proof of the effectiveness of a democratized media however what is actually occurring is traditional media’s transcendence into a new format in this case Youtube and dominating it due to their technical expertise. Individuals who have acquired their skills via traditional media employment can not be said to demonstrate quality contribution by amateurs. Rather then shifting the balance of control away from the established media Youtube has reinforced the industries dominance in producing content of actual relevance. Amateur contributions will always be viewed as exactly that, amateur.


Jean Burges and Joshua Green, ‘YouTube and The Mainstream Media’, in YouTuube: Online and Participatory Culture.Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009.

Week 4:

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2011 by themichaelreilly

Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.


Blogging seems unlikely to change the effectiveness of the media in informing the public and will be used by established industry to continue the previous journalistic paradigm albeit in a more fiscally efficient way. Russell argues that “Evolving digital communication tools and practices are clashing with those of traditional news media, resulting in paradox and contradiction” (Russell p.66) This situation has polarized cultural theorist into two distinct perspectives. The first being those that advocate the demise of traditional media and thusly the public sphere and the second being those who claim that new DIY media will usher in a new age of truly democratic peer created media. (Russell p. 66) A more conservative view lies somewhere in the middle and I believe that so called new media will simply be assimilated into traditional conglomerated media having little to no impact on the effectiveness of the public sphere.


We see this assimilation occurring in the republication of blogs and online articles in newspapers as well as other traditional broadcast styled mediums. A blog post or any new media material that attracts viewers and due to its grassroots beginnings can be purchased cheaply if not free offers established media a great way to source talent and cut costs. Similar to the exploitation of prosumers argued in week 3 blogging offers established media conglomerates a cheap and efficient labor force. This covergence works both ways as many of the more successful blogs are maintained by professional writers, journalists and individuals who are in or aspire to be in the media industry. The idea of passive audience who now actively contributes to the public sphere is largely a fallacy. Blogging rather then redefining the industry merely facilitates outsourcing and the exploitation of user generated content for profit. In this way new media creates an environment that benefits the established media industry.


The mass participation that cultural theorists claim will lead to a utopian age of truly democratic news is equally unlikely. Firstly the level of participation envisioned seems unachievable despite the sudden increase in connectivity. Not everyone has a blog and more importantly not everyone has a blog that is read. Participation surly means that one has an effect on the public sphere even if in a small way but if your blog is unpopular you have had no effect on the public sphere. The second reality of blogging that will prevent the utopian age of peer created news is a quantity too vast for our actual media consumption. Pick a random news story and try to get a comprehensive understanding of the blogger’s perspective. It will take you years and that’s assuming there is no additional developments to the story. While not meeting the mass participation necessary for truly democratic media the participation is currently to great for our traditional media needs. It is this over publication and the lack of quality control that doomsayers claim will lead to the demise of the traditional media industry however I believe that it creates an environment that will not only perpetuate it but also make it significantly more lucrative for industry shareholders.


In this environment of “paradox and contradiction” what better role for media conglomerates to fill then that of assessors of quality and distribution. Someone needs to separate the wheat from the chaff and such a role would allow the media industry to retain its claim of contributing to the public sphere. A democratic media envisioned by cultural theorist is fundamentally flawed in that freedom and access are irrelevant if not acted upon. Just because you speak what is right does not mean they will listen. Obviously this change to the role of media conglomerates from that of media production to media assessment will lead to the exploitation of individual writers but lets face it they were getting screwed already. The effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the public sphere will be unchanged.


Adrienne Russell, Mizuko Ito, Todd Richmond and Marc Tuters. ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’. In Kazys Varnelis (ed.) Networked Publics.Cambridge,MA: MIT, 2008.


Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2011 by themichaelreilly

While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). How do ranking tactics impact on the formation online ‘communities’?


José van Dijck argues that the utopian arguments for online communities of prosumers who have radically shifted the paradigm of traditional media regime is a fallacy and instead proposes that these communites “have limited potential to ‘wrest power from the few’, let alone to ‘change the way the world changes’. (Van Dijck p.42)  Van Dijck suggests instead that user generated content such as that found on Youtube is capitalized on by neoliberalists as both a cost efficient labor force and lucrative consumers base perpetuating the media industries control by conglomerates. This is seen in the failure of online communites to redefine a consumer driven marker and in the structure of such user generated content sites which serve to facilitate the industries collection of marketing data perpetuating the traditional media paradigm of producer and consumer.


New media and the advent of prosumers have been largely embellished by many cultural theorists. Firstly of the user base for a service such as Youtube over 80 percent conform to the traditional paradigm of passive consumer. (Van Dijck p.42) Of the remaining percent of actual content contributors an overwhelming majority represent either already established media industries or amateurs with desires in said industry. In this context the argument for technically proficient amateurs or prosumer who contributes to content that perpetuates a cultural dialogue outside of the traditional media traditional media industry seems unfeasible. Even that minority that does selflessly contribute content with no link to established media do so in a way that benefits the media conglomerates.  An example would be the advertisements on Youtube which effectively allows Google to profit from the unpaid labor of someone else.


Other then providing content the transition of consumer to contributor is often proposed to be the result of the ranking tactics employed to organize content which inherently require participation of the audience. Convergence theory argues that “convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connection among dispersed media content.” (Jenkins p. 3) It is via this act of purposefully seeking that patrons are said to make the transition from passive consumer to active prosumer however such an argument fails to recognize the influence of audience on traditional forms of media. In broadcast as an example the viewing habits of the audience has a massive impact on the content produced. If a television show receives a low rating then it is unlikely to attract advertisement dollars and thusly will be dropped by the station. In this way consumers have exercised a similar influence on content to that seen in the rating systems found in sites such as Youtube. Van Dijck recognizes this in the comment “American media have always been driven largely by market forces – forces that control production and distribution of audiovisual content through reaching audiences and profitable markets”. (Van Dijck p 46)


The formation of online communities is most commonly a result of marketing which allows the values often associated with community such as loyalty to be infused into a particular brand. An online community suggests a decentralized organizational structure in which contribution is equal and proceeds shared. If we examine Google and its ownership of Youtube and the community that has formed around that service we see a very different trend. What has occurred is not a collaborative audience but the neoliberalists ideal audience one that serves not only to consume but also to contribute and moderate lowering the functioning costs of that industry.  In this way by exploiting the loyalty inherent to community Google is able to acquire a cost efficient online labor force to produce Youtube content.

Ted talk on motivation in the workplace by Dan Pink. Relevant examples.



Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old & New Media Collide. New York: NYU Press, 2006.

José van Dijck. ‘Users Like You? Theorizing Agency in User-Generated Content’, Media, Culture and Society 31. 2009