RIP Flip Video Camera

Flip Video Camera fans, time to say farewell. TechCrunch reported earlier today that  Cisco is shutting down operations of Flip Video and laying off 550 employees.
Though sad news for those losing their jobs, it is hardly unexpected, as TechCrunch pointed out:

In a world where consumers can now record and stream video directly from their iPhone, Android or BlackBerry phone, Flip’s video camera business is no longer novel or useful.

Indeed, I’ve owned a Flip camera since 2009, and I will admit that I’ve only used it about 10 times, ditching it in favor of my digital camera’s video function (when I wanted quality) or my Android (when I wanted immediacy) While the video and built-in audio quality for Flip cameras was never so great to offer any kind of competition to higher end-camcorders, the Flip is a convenient tool for bloggers, “citizen journalists” and small businesses looking to do quick and dirty video on the fly. If nothing else, the Flip camera will have a legacy of  being one of the first tools that really enabled video-based user-generated content.

I suspect we will still see the Flip camera in use for a bit longer; it was the go-to cheap video device for a lot of non-profit social media folks for a long time, and for organizations/individuals that don’t have a large video budget but still want to create video content it’s a great tool. RIP Flip;  thanks for bringing video to the social media masses.

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When Twitter becomes TV:the final hours of @mayoremanuel

Last night a bunch of folks of Twitter said tearful good byes to Chicago’s next mayor. Kinda.

@mayoremanuel was the profane parody Twitter persona of the real mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel. Kind of like Fake Gary Busey , @mayoremanuel was pretty much a running  Rahm Emanuel joke based around his foul-mouthed, larger than life persona. (“Your next motherfucking mayor. Get used to it assholes,” reads his bio)

In a few short months, the  anonymous Twitter account  attracted nearly 40,000 followers. The real Rahm was at the very least amused by the fake account and reportedly offered to donate $5,000 to a charity if the voice behind @mayoremanuel revealed him/herself (which he/she didn’t)  (UPDATE: on 2/28/2010 Columbia College professor and former Punk Planet publisher Dan Sinker revealed to The Atlantic that he was the voice behind @mayoremanuel)

On Tuesday, the same day the real-life Emanuel was elected mayor, @mayoremanuel revealed that he was not long for this world:

While the Fake Rahm tweets had always been great for a laugh, in the waning weeks of the mayoral election @mayoremanuel had started to take on a bit of a serial approach, with ongoing storylines and characters (loyal Carl the Intern, pet duck Quaxelrod, etc) As wonderfully documented (and annotated!) on Snarkmarket, the last few days of the @mayoremanuel story took on an almost mythic quality.

From Snarkmarket:

Yesterday… @MayorEmanuel outdid himself. He wrote an extended, meandering narrative of the day before the primary that took the whole parallel Rahm Emanuel thing to a different emotional, comic, cultural place entirely. It even features a great cameo by friend of the Snark Alexis Madrigal. The story is twisting, densely referential, far-ranging — and surprisingly, rather beautiful.

Definitely check out the storyfied version of the final @mayoremanuel tweets in the rest of the above post or if you have time and paper on your hands, download a 40 page PDF of all of @mayoremanuels tweets here.

I was one of thousands of Twitter fans who “watched” the last tweets of @mayoremanuel in real time – all the while begging him not to go, and retweeting profane eulogies from others. I realized that this was perhaps the first instance during my time on Twitter where there was a shared, mass public experience of watching a fictional story unfold on Twitter (not news, not a TV show)

It was very akin to watching a television program, only rather than collectively watching, say, the Grammys or America’s Next Top Model,  the action itself – the story itself – took place on Twitter. And it was entertaining. This kind of twitter-as-storytelling isn’t totally new. Fans have been using Twitter as a medium for fanfiction for some time now. In a way, @mayoremanuel was basically real-person fanfiction. But what intrigued me was the mass audience that this particular story attracted, and how similar the experience was to other “mass watching” experiences of TV and film.

As far as I know, the voice of @mayoremanuel has not yet been revealed, but regardless of whether we find out, he/she created something special. In the future, could Twitter be a channel for a form of original storytelling to a mass audience? Is it already happening and I just don’t know about it?

I read a book: Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age

Until recently, Clay Shirky was best known as the author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. The book  was widely praised (seriously, Boing Boing calls it a “masterpiece”) and is still referenced  by social media strategist/expert/guru types as a must-read for anyone looking to explore the social dynamics that drive the use of technology, which at the time (and even now, to a certain extent) is not what drives most conversation about the internet and social media in particular.

Rather than focusing the catalyst of online social behavior on specific technologies  (i.e. what makes Facebook so popular?) Shirky argued that social tools facilitates common group behavior, conversation and social interaction. At the time, the beginning of Facebook’s online dominance and in the midst of growing fascination and panic about social media from the mainstream press. Shirky presented a reasoned, articulate and well-researched argument that the idea of “crowdsourcing” was not a new idea, but actually rooted in common, even traditional social interaction. The Internet just made that interaction happen more widely and more rapidly.

If you talk to any social media/internet  “expert” or “enthusiast” these days, this perspective is seen as common knowledge, but without Shirky’s well-presented theory and research to bolster this theory it wouldn’t have taken root.

In 2010, you’d think that this argument wouldn’t need repeating or clarification, but as traditional media continues to evolve and digital use continues to grow and become more ubiquitous, the panic of social theorists and mainstream media commentators continues unabated. The continuing debate of whether the Internet makes you smarter or more stupid seems to have a new chapter each day, but in Cognitive Surplus, Shirky’s latest book, he does add fuel to that fire, but also offers a modified version of his Here Comes Everybody thesis: The Internet has given us the tools to create, publish and share media  faster, cheaper and with more people than ever before

Shirky’s revised thesis is the reason that I think Cognitive Surplus is a must-read (there’s that term again) for media professionals in every field.

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2010: the year when fandom becomes serious business

Around  about the end of last year,  all the big shit web 2.0 blogs started to pull together their prediction list for 2010. I was very close to pulling up such a list myself until I concluded that there was absolutely nothing that I wanted to put out there as a sure-fire prediction? Everything in this online world changes way to quickly for anyone to have a real handle on what the next big thing is, and it’s all subjective anyway.

But yesterday, i started thinking about many of the online trends in fandom, and specifically many of the topics we’ve covered here at The Learned Fangirl,  and they all seem to point to a particular trend that may come to a head in coming year.  So, here’s my one prediction for 2010:

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TLF at New Music Seminar: Chicago

I was lucky enough to score a guest invitation to the New Music Seminar thanks to social media goddess Leah Jones of Natiiv Arts and Media. Being a semi-professional fangirl/full – on professional social media person I was curious to go to this event, knowing the upheaval that the music industry is in the midst of, it’s very similar to what the news industry has gone through.

Similarly, the music industry didn’t seem to take notice – or action – in terms of acknowledging the power of the Internet and the impact of user’s online behavior (not just downloading, but fan activity/word of month) until it was too late.

Either way, the influence of the internet was all over the New Music Seminar, and it was interesting to see Wired editorKevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans theory from a couple of years ago refined and held up as a potential industry model by none other than Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy Records. Over at TLF, we’ve been extolling the virtues of the 1000 True Fans theory for awhile now, so to see music execs really taking notice and talking seriously about the potential of these ideas for the music community at large was heartening.

Not to fangirl over SXSW again, but I still can’t help but think the discussions being had at NMS were still a couple of years behind what was going on at SXSW this past spring. Just the fact that the discussion still seem to focus on the dying breed of “pop stars” the Kanye Wests, Green Days and Lady GaGa’s of the industry rather than on genre and niche-oriented artists said a lot to me about how where the music community is and isn’t. (Stop trying to make mega stars! Haven’t ya’ll read The Long Tail?)

Interestingly, in the middle of all of the discussion and debate, I spent a good chunk of my day on Twitter eagerly waiting for information on a limited vinyl release from a metal band with about less than 700 followers on Twitter, proving the point of panelists Ariel Hyatt and Corey Denis completely.

Still, there were great indications that the industry gets it, for most part. MC Chris and Mountain Goats both got shout – outs, which was a nice change from there usual NIN/Radiohead talk. (Can’t believe that I of all people said that.) Generally, a lot of the enthusiasm and embrace of entrepreneurship and innovation that I see lacking at a lot of the news-oriented conference I go to, I saw here. People see opportunities in the music industry, which is awesome – and makes me want to join them…

Book Review: David Bollier’s Viral Spiral: how the commoners built a digital republic of their own

David Bollier’s Viral spiral : how the commoners built a digital republic of their own is a very good book with a horrible title. While there are many books about various elements of free/open-source software (like GNU/Linux), Creative Commons licenses, peer production (remix and mashups), and open models for success (Wikipedia, open science, open education, and open business), I think this is the first book to discuss these within the context of a social history.

So why is a social history so important? There are other books that discuss what the commons is or what it could be, but this is the first book to truly try to capture the process of creating the framework for the commons by theorists and practitioners. In reading several sections, especially on Creative Commons, I felt like I understood better how the process evolved. Where we are now doesn’t just happen, people create it, and there are missteps and corrections made. Viral Spiral helps to see the warts-n-all process, rather than just showing things as they are now.

So what are the issues with the book?

First, the term, viral spiral. Just no. Bollier does make a good argument for his term — but it just doesn’t have the right sound to it — or capture the holisticness of the idea. My suggestion would be participatory meme (but even that doesn’t quite get there). Maybe Henry Jenkins’ term, convergence culture?

Viral spiral is apt … because it suggests a process of change that is anything but clean, direct, and mechanical. …  Life on the Internet does not take place on a stable Cartesian grid—orderly, timeless, universal—but on a constantly pulsating, dynamic, and labyrinthine web of finely interconnected threads radiating through countless nodes. … Viral spiral calls attention to the holistic and historical dynamics of life on the Web, which has a very different metaphysical feel than the world of twentieth-century media.

Second, considering my interest in fans and fandom, it is interesting how few mentions of fandom there are in the book — excepting musical fandoms. There is the requisite Nine Inch Nails Ghosts mention and a discussion of the Grateful Dead bootleg policy (but no mention of the subsequent changes in policy).

Relatedly, there is nary a mention of pre-internetz created remix / fanworks forms such as vidding and fanfic — and therefore, this social history is incomplete, especially as related to (often-gendered-as) girl or women commoning activities. Additionally, since the book focuses on the names that made this possible (important for a social history), it ironically glosses over many of the small contributions of the commoners.

The gaps in the social history exist, but everything that is in this book is valuable, and likely would be lost but for this book. And this is the win quote from the book:

Individuals working with one another via social networks are a growing force in our economy and society. The phenomenon has many manifestations, and goes by many names—”peer production,” “social production,” “smart mobs,” the “wisdom of crowds,” “crowdsourcing,” and “the commons.” The basic point is that socially created value is increasingly competing with conventional markets, as GNU/Linux has famously shown. Through an open, accessible commons, one can efficiently tap into the “wisdom of the crowd,” nurture experimentation, accelerate innovation, and foster new forms of democratic practice.

This is why so many ordinary people—without necessarily having degrees, institutional affiliations or wealth—are embarking upon projects that, in big and small ways, are building a new order of culture and commerce.

The book has a Creative Commons license and is available as a free e-book; however, it is only available as a whole — rather than also as individual chapters. I understand this way makes statistical analysis of downloads easier — but sometimes one only wants to look at one chapter — or references!

The problem with decontextualization of intellectual property’s cultural role, or why an algorithm cannot determine fair use

Ignoring cultural context has led to some incredibly bizarre cease-and-desist notices recently. Yet intellectual property and culture are tied together. New works are not created Zeus-like bursting forth Athena-style ahistorically with no need for citation or attribution.

In a recent post on the University of Chicago Faculty Blog discussing the need for social and cultural theory in analyzing intellectual property, Madhavi Sunder quotes Henry Jenkins in Convergence Culture, that it is a

“paradoxical result” where “works that are hostile to the original creators” have “greater freedom from copyright enforcement than works that embrace the ideas behind the original work and simply seek to extend them in new directions.” (190)

While technically this is true in the American context, considering that fair use more carefully covers parody than homage, the new non-human computerized “catch-a-copyright-tiger (read pirate!)” lumps all uses together, whether it is one or a combo of:

fair use, parody, satire, homage, send-up, take-off, quoting, remix, mashup, sampling, fanmade, or any other arguably legal use here.

So what does this mean in real life?

Laurence Lessig’s video above has been blocked by YouTube — it is available here from another video service. And why?

“Your video, Part 2: Lawrence Lessig – Getting a Network the World Needs at OFC/NFOEC 2009, may have audio content from Mahna Mahna by The Muppets featuring Mahna Mahna & The Two Snowths that is owned or licensed by WMG.”

Avatar

The IP algorithm can also strike at the heart of cultural criticism. One recent example is a fan campaign calling for the recasting of the live action version of the animated series Avatar: the last airbender with Asian and other minority actors.

According to Glockgal:

All but one of the products on my racebending.com Zazzle store has been removed because “it contained content in violation of Viacom’s intellectual property rights”. This means not just images (all of which were drawn by me), but also WORDS.

Apparently a t-shirt saying ‘Aang can stay Asian and still save the world’ is a copyright violation

The Organization for Transformative Works blogged that the removed items included

“The Last Airbender: Putting the Cauc back in Asian” or “The Last Airbender: Brown/Asian/Colored Actors NEED NOT APPLY”. These design were entirely textual, and obviously political: Glockgal called her store Racebending.com and contextualized its products as a form of political activism: “Stop Hollywood White-Washing of the upcoming movie The Last Airbender!” … since when does [any company] own political speech about its products?

While this story has a successful end, why should preemptive removal be the way that corporate entities react? Because the law is written in a way that fair use is a postaction shield rather than as an anticipatory safeguard — even when the use is culturally significant.

Self-pwnage

But perhaps the best example of why the default should be changed to assumed fair use is self-pwnage — where a company can say “use away!” and “not OK” at the same time.

Recently, Fox had a YouTube user’s account suspended for participating

in a Burger King-sponsored mashup promotion on YouTube, where users were encouraged to use a web-based voiceover-creation tool to dub over videos from Seth MacFarlane’s Google-distributed Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy series.

This isn’t new. Back in 2006, pre the word self -pwnage, though Cartoon Network’s New Media Department decided to place information on YouTube to help fans create their own commercials, the legal department sent out cease and desist letters. In an important moment of honesty, Molly Chase, Executive Producer of the New Media Department said, “Putting the content out there consciously is something we want to do, but we have to communicate that very well internally.” If corporations can’t even figure out what their position is on fan use, why should fans or the public be the ones that pay? Or to determine the outside limits of fair use?

Sunder says that

Culture is the sphere in which individuals create meaning, share ideas and enjoy life with others. Furthermore, culture plays an increasingly important role in promoting freedom in the social, political, and economic spheres of life. Cultural approaches to intellectual property law ought to recognize these interconnections.