Archive for January, 2013

1180239_internet_and_future___

Image courtesy CLJUC (2009) Retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1180239

From my perspective, there is a complexity to this question that requires it to be teased into discrete components. I infer from the question a bias that copyright laws are an inherent problem and that the culture as commons (Bradley, 2010) model should prevail over copyright restrictions governing the acquisition and use of Web 2.0 materials. As noted by Jenkins (2004) there is a distinct tension between the media conglomerates who are implementing stringent policies to restrict usage in order to maximize revenues and consumers who are equally resistant to these controls. Even after completing our readings for this module, I felt woefully ill-equipped to make a cogent argument that fully addresses the above question. After a bit of a web search I found several articles that further framed the intellectual property debate. Michael Geist, a well-respected Canadian law professor and columnist who writes about technology and legal implications discussed this topic in his blog. Read this entry that cites the words of Judge Richard Posner regarding the restriction that copyright laws are placing on creativity. Note the fervour with which his commenters debate the issue. I am not alone in my inability to crystallize my views. It is clearly a dichotomous debate.

Jenkins (2004) highlights the belief that the internet’s “gift economy” is being undermined through ongoing commercialization and that the media concentration by conglomerates will reduce access. This concern is shared by Posner who believes that restrictive fair use is inhibiting the creative process.

Hildebrandt (2007) explores the ramifications of both copyright and access using the phenomenon of YouTube. His conclusion (albeit from 6 years ago) is that that YouTube has certainly democratized access and has made a credible attempt to address copyright issues. This action in itself has resulted in a number of other consumer generated content sites that are similar and in the case of sites like Vimeo, less commercially oriented, as consumers try to avoid YouTube’s clutter.

Further clouding my thinking is my response to the excellent Kirby Ferguson video documentaries Remix (parts 1-4) in which he demonstrates the connectivity and creative inspirations engendered between old works and new. Is this the cultural commons as it is supposed to be; shared, inspirational, dialogic? Manovich (2008) celebrates the ability of Web 2.0 to support and disseminate the creation of cultural works by both professional and non-professional producers of art. If there were tighter and more restrictive controls would we have the level of cultural creation that we currently enjoy? A number of my class mates refer with passion the amount of online media that they consume and enjoy as integral to their lives. Conversely, as classmate Bruce laments, the mass production mentality that YouTube supports, may result in a loss of “the art and wonder of the story. That undercurrent behind the visual or auditory spectacle that sticks with you and keeps you thinking long after the image and sound fades.”

I feel strongly that downloading new music, literature and other media without paying any sort of user fee is inherently unfair to the artist, who after all creates to live. Video, music and literature piracy is unjust to the creators and it needs to be controlled. I am also concerned that many legitimate news organizations will cease to exist (many have already) if their revenues from traditional media continue to decline. In the case of news, (see these links that examine the controversy incited by the Toronto Star’s announcement that it intended to launch a paywall) there are many other online options, but are they are credible and reliable news sources? I am a huge user of online content and would find paying for certain things untenable. However, I buy ebooks, use iTunes and am willing to pay some fees for some services in order to preserve them. If we do at some level uphold the idea of intellectual property and are not willing to pay for well-constructed content, are we destroying the incentive to create?

Jenkins (2004) touches on the topic of micropayments which he notes that at the time of his writing were not fully operational. In the intervening years a number of micropayment models have been developed. In October 2012, Google launched a micropayment service for web content. Take a look and see what you think. Is this an answer, at least in part, to the copyright dilemma or is it another attempt by a large media organization to commodify content? In all cases is commodifying content the enemy?

In order to have a balanced discussion perhaps the question needs to be reframed. As our readings and my cursory research would indicate there is a plethora of opinion from multiple perspectives on this issue.

Perhaps the question should be how do we balance the right of producers to be appropriately compensated for their work (not in perpetuity, but to enable them to earn a living) against consumers who are increasingly entitled regarding accessing material on the World Wide Web. That might make the issue less dichotomous.

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Today, two of my courses converged in the most interesting way. Along with this new media course, I am taking Learning in Digital Contexts in my Adult Education major. Both highly interesting and both very relevant in more ways than just academic credit. I completed my readings for the ADED course first and noted the information from a blogger, Josh Bernoff, entitled Social Technographics: Conversationalists get onto the ladder. Take a look at the graphic in the article. It links directly to our conversation here regarding the impact of and our personal engagement with online content.

Using the “ladder” that Bernott references as a form of measurement, I see that my enforced (now happily) participation in the blogosphere makes me one of the 24% who are Creators (albeit minimally). In truth, I have been until this semester an active member of the 70% who have been dubbed Spectators. Manovich (2008) presents online social media use statistics that cohere with this information, and speculates about the huge incremental increases to be seen in 2012, which has of course, occurred.

Relating this occurrence to information in this module’s readings, Jenkins (2004), explains that convergence in media is significantly altering the relationships between “existing technologies, industries, markets, genres and audiences” (p. 34). I am part of this cultural shift as I move from a passive consumer of social media to an active (sort of) participant.

Prior to this I have been a far larger consumer of online content. I use YouTube in my classrooms, Google Scholar and Books in my course research and in my class preparation; Google Docs to work cooperatively, and use a LMS for my own course materials. I have produced presentations and course lectures in SlideRocket which have then been uploaded to the web. Wikipedia is often the starting point when I need a quick and dirty explanation of something and don’t want or need to do a comprehensive search.  As Jenkins notes, consumers of online media are assuming more control and I am becoming part of that phenomenon.

However, I have previously had an inherent aversion to embracing all things in the online social media realm. I feel a decided lack of expertise which is inhibiting – I will not post something with which I am not fully comfortable. I fear being overly visible, even with privacy settings, since as Manovich (2008) states, information that was originally intended to be transient, may now have a permanence and presence that is unwelcome. I have a resistance, perhaps unfounded, to news information that comes from an source that may not be accredited, and have concerns that if information comes from bloggers who have a particular agenda or perspective then a true(er) understanding of the issue might be impacted (Manovich, 2008).

I can see a slow evolution in my consuming and ultimately producing habits, as I acquire more confidence and expertise in using tools in ways that I control and can master.

BTW, I watched a very good SlideShare presentation today (another example of converging material in accessing content online) with a very good explanation on the concept of the “long tail”. Take a look if you have a minute.

wires

CC licensed stock.xchng photo  by Darrell Rogers

So the world has reached the 6 billion mark in mobile phone subscriptions resulting  in a profound shift in socio-cultural interactions that deserve significant examination (Goggin, 2011). Goggin’s view is supported by Castells’ (2007) assertion that “mobile telephony has emerged as one of the defining communication technologies of our time” (as cited in Campbell & Park, 2008, p. 372). Let’s step back for a moment and determine what this means in terms of impact. What is the social utility and what are the attendant social ramifications?  How do we conduct ourselves – when do we access it – where do we communicate and why it is so important?

If, as asserted by Josgrilberg (2008, p. 2), we have reached the age of the digital locus, and that mobile telephony is the “door to this locus”  then is it not time to establish ground rules for the evolution that is occurring in social norms?

Consider Josgrilberg’s concept of a digital locus. He describes this phenomenon as having discrete social conventions with associated material consequences. Wellman (as cited in Campbell & Park, 2008, p. 376) furthers this notion as he shifts the idea of personal connectivity from place, to person – the individual is “an autonomous communication node” or “portal”.

nodes of communication

Nodes of Communication CC licensed from Flickr by Arenamontanus

Josgrilberg concludes that the digital locus “is a site of fulfillment and the struggle for survival” (2008, p. 2). This seems to me to dictate that we need discourse around how this alters current social conventions.

How and where we engage with each other is sometimes problematic as once clear social boundaries are blurred. Campbell and Park (2008) invoke the concept of copresent others. How many times have you been the unwitting recipient of a one-sided cell conversation that left you wishing to be anywhere but where you were? At what point, if ever, is it inappropriate to conduct personal business in a public setting via your mobile telephone? The illusory barriers referenced by Campbell and Park, are just that; illusory. It is time to decide if the encroaching personalization of public space is something with a social benefit or a lamented casualty of the growth in personal communication technology (PCT). Ruty224 poses the very valid question. Are real conversational skills being lost through the frequency and superficiality of some PCT communication?

Post-secondary classrooms no longer are the domain of the sage on the stage as the attention of undergrads is increasingly fragmented and focused on the technology that connects them instantly to their peer group. Absent presence in the classroom is not anew concept; students’ attention has always been divided. However, much of this division was the result of monologic media (in my case a novel inside a textbook). Dialogic media exacerbates the impact of absent presence as it requires active and reactive participation (Campbell & Park, 2008). Consider the perspective of Katie Benedict who freely acknowledges her dependence on her phone and its use in the classroom. Students and faculty need to work together to create classroom norms to govern this phenomenon.

As I referenced in my last post, Cisco Technology sponsored a survey that highlights the ubiquity of mobile phone technology. Read this article and you will likely recognize at least some elements of your own behavior. The car, toilet, workplace, bedroom – nowhere is off limits.

When we access no longer is dictated by the traditional notions of etiquette. Persons (like me) of a certain vintage will remember that it was considered bad form to telephone someone (land line, that is) past 10 p.m.  PCT’s create and facilitate a frequency and immediacy of communication (i.e. texting and Facebook) where these social barriers are shattered.

The why of mobile technology use is most interesting in terms of socio-cultural impact. The mobile youth culture wants to carve out an increase in personal autonomy while they create a sense of personal identity. The intensity and frequency of PCT interaction allows enhanced privacy (from prying parents), increased social membership and interaction without geographic boundaries (Campbell & Park, 2008). This is an excellent tool in the arsenal of self-development and growth. Conversely, has it led to a rise in the helicopter parenting phenomenon by linking parents 24/7 to offspring? Mobile technology has aided and abetted personal political power. Social uprisings such as the Arab Spring were facilitated by social media – often through PCT (Campbell & Park, 2008). Peer created journalism is rising where individual citizens can record and upload eyewitness accounts of breaking news stories. While we have instant exposure to news, we need to ask if  there has been attendant loss in the integrity and credibility of the stories. All of these occurrences create opportunities for reflective discourse, courtesy of mobile communications technology.

Shakespeare, via Hamlet, offers us the notion that “there is nothing either good or bad except thinking which makes it so”. This editorial does not profess to weigh the merits of mobile telephony. What is does that say is discourse is needed, boundaries discussed, impacts reviewed and social conventions established. Not by force, but by dialogue. I am prepared to start the conversation by taking this stand. If you would be uncomfortable hearing a very private conversation in a public space, then don’t engage in one yourself. Let’s tear down the “symbolic fences” (Campbell & park, 2008) and remember that these are imagined barriers that we have erected. Just because we ignore others around us doesn’t mean that they are not there. Followemc asks if smart phones have led to dumb users. Well, we don’t have to be. After all we live in a digital locus where the rules are ours to make, don’t we?

The beauty of this course (COMM2FOO) is that it takes a current issue and makes me examine it beyond a cursory overview. I am forced (willingly) to examine and ponder and relate to the content as it impacts my world. This session is no exception. Our readings for this module present us with an impressive array of information and detail into the world of the ubiquitous mobile phone. Goggin (2011) cites the incredible statistic that mobile phone subscribers have exceeded 6 billion (p.148)! Given that the global population is 7.1 billion, this is an astounding number in terms of the overall reach of mobile telephony. Campbell and Park (2008) present a fascinating insight into the world of current mobile communication technology, not the least of which are the new terms that they have integrated in order to adequately capture and describe the associated social phenomena. For those of us who are not digital natives (Black, 2010) and were born before the advent of the microcomputer, see the table below (Campbell & Park, 2008) .

In their article they assert that there has been a paradigm shift from the mass media world of the mid-20th century to what they deem as today’s “new personal communication society” (p. 371). They invoke Castells (2000) network society research as a framework to describe the degree of profound social change experienced through the introduction and adoption of mobile telephony. Indeed, Campbell and Park (2008) argue that mobile phones transcend communications technology and have become an icon used to express our sense of self that we share with those we include in our social networks, based far more on style, fashion and brand status than on functionality.

So how has all of this impacted me? We were asked to consider how the ‘ubiquity factor’ or the omnipresence of smartphones has impacted our worlds and our relationships. This past Christmas I received a brand-new iPhone5 (soon, I understand from tech bloggers, to be obsolete). It is slick, sexy, fast and light, a perfect representation of our “consuming culture” (Goggin, 2009, p. 231). I love it, but do I consider it an integral part of my identity or a “symbolic representation of self” (Campbell & Park, 2008, p. 373)? I can say at this point, no, at least not yet. I have referenced previously, however, that I am a member of the baby boom generation and a teacher. This matters because what Campbell and Park (2008) dub the “mobile youth culture” intersects both my personal and professional practice. It is rare that a mobile phone does not appear at either my dinner table via one of my offspring (adults) and it is never, for better or worse, that a mobile phone does not impact my classroom. Campbell (2006, as cited in Campbell & Park, 2008) asserts that in 2006, faculty and students agreed that cell phone use in classrooms is problematic. I argue that this is a distinctly outdated piece of information and anecdotally offer the assertion that students in classrooms today are unable to sit through a class to break without sneaking a peek at their phones. Class management is a different ballgame and one whose rules are yet to be solidified. The term ‘absent presence’ deeply resonated with me – see below. How do I work with this phenomenon – do I integrate it – ignore it – ban it – give up? I text – some; I have not (as yet) linked my workplace email to my phone – I do not want emails to reach me at all hours at which they are sent; do I take my iPhone to the bathroom – no – but I have thought about it! I can live without mobile phone access 24/7. Can (and should) Gen Y – who are my student base? Cisco Systems research says No.

Am I ready yet to assert that this technology has either enabled or constrained us?  There are multiple benefits and drawbacks for each perspective. Stay tuned for my next post. I will express a position that I’ll be ready to defend.

Term Definition and Context
apparatgeist The spirit of the machine – a framework that has been developed to explain consistencies in the social change as a result of cell phone adoption
absent presence Being physically present, but mentally and socially elsewhere
hyper-coordination The relational and expressive elements of mobile communication use
micro-coordination Instrumental uses of a mobile phone
monologic media One-sided media delivery e.g. television (as opposed to dialogic)
telecocooning Interpersonal communication without physical proximity to another individual

References

Black, A. (2010). Gen Y: Who they are and how they learn. Retrieved from http://www.isd300.k12.mn.us/tech_inte/soc_media/Resource%20Documents/GenY-Who_They_Are_How_They_Learn.pdf

Campbell, S., & Park, Y. (2008). Social implications of mobile telephony: The rise of personal communication society. Sociology Compass, 2/2, 311-387.

Goggin, G. (2009). Adapting the mobile phone: The iPhone and its consumption. Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, 23/22, 213-244. doi: 10.1080/10304310802710546