This week in ICM 501 – Theories of Interactive Media at Quinnipiac University we are learning about the future of interactive technology. This includes robots, cyborgs, virtual reality and augmented reality.
As our technology gets better, we are starting to become more symbiotic with it. We have seen how our social lives have changed with the advent of social media. There is more, though, to come. We are becoming “one with technology.” As the Borg say, “Resistance is futile.”
There are a few fields that have been quietly advancing in the way we are being “assimilated”. They are as follows:
Aside from what we have seen in the movies, there have been actual advances in robotic technology. The Navy is even working with robots for firefighting. But here are a couple examples of where we have come to in robot technology:
As robots are autonomous of humans, there has been development in the way humans have been infused with cybernetic technology, making more cyborgs:
I remember when I was younger playing the Virtual Boy. This shows that we have come a lot further in Virtual Reality technology:
I have talked with many folk about implementing augmented reality, and the response I typically get is “What is AR?” Here you go:
This week in ICM 501 – Theories of Interactive Media we are learning about Intellectual Property and Copyright. There are two sides to the debate over these two ideas and how distribution of such should be handled.
Most of us that have watched a movie within the last decade, either at the movie theater, or on a DVD, have seen the following advertisement:
Stealing is admittedly wrong. I would not argue that taking someone’s purse or car would, in any way, be right. I am sure that there are those that would justify it so (perhaps under ideals of communistic equal-access “rights” for everyone), but in a society such as ours, where goods are bought, sold, and traded, these material goods are individually owned and should thus remain the property of the owner until that owner deems they no longer wish to retain ownership through official channels, like commerce. The advertisement relates physical commodities: cars, DVDs and purses; to intangible goods: movies, music, and literature.
So then the debate comes to be, to what extent do, and should, individuals retain proprietary rights over intellectual property (IP) through the use of copyright, trademarks, and patents?
Copyright was invented after the advent of the printing press and with wider public literacy. As a legal concept, its origins in Britain were from a reaction to printers’ monopolies at the beginning of the 18th century. Charles II of England was concerned by the unregulated copying of books and passed the Licensing of the Press Act 1662 by Act of Parliament, which established a register of licensed books and required a copy to be deposited with the Stationers’ Company, essentially continuing the licensing of material that had long been in effect.
The Statute of Anne was the first real copyright act, and gave the publishers rights for a fixed period, after which the copyright expired. Copyright has grown from a legal concept regulating copying rights in the publishing of books and maps to one with a significant effect on nearly every modern industry, covering such items as sound recordings, films, photographs, software, and architectural works.
Prior to the passage of the United States Constitution, several States passed their own various copyright laws between 1783 and 1787, the first State having done so being Connecticut. Contemporary scholars and patriots such as Noah Webster, John Trumbull, and Joel Barlow were instrumental in securing the passage of these statutes.
The Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution (1787) authorized copyright legislation: “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.” That is, by guaranteeing them a period of time in which they alone could profit from their works, they would be enabled and encouraged to invest the time required to create them, and this would be good for society as a whole. A right to profit from the work has been the philosophical underpinning for much legislation extending the duration of copyright, to the life of the creator and beyond, to his heirs.
The original length of copyright in the US was 14 years, and it had to be explicitly applied for. If the author wished, he could apply for a second 14 year monopoly grant, but after that the work entered the public domain, so it could be used and built upon by others.
Thomas Jefferson, who strongly advocated the ability of the public to share and build upon the works of others, proposed as part of the Bill of Rights that a short timespan be protected:
Art. 9. Monopolies may be allowed to persons for their own productions in literature and their own inventions in the arts for a term not exceeding — years but for no longer term and no other purpose.
The 1886 Berne Convention first established recognition of copyrights among sovereign nations, rather than merely bilaterally. Under the Berne Convention, copyrights for creative works do not have to be asserted or declared, as they are automatically in force at creation: an author need not “register” or “apply for” a copyright in countries adhering to the Berne Convention. As soon as a work is “fixed”, that is, written or recorded on some physical medium, its author is automatically entitled to all copyrights in the work, and to any derivative works unless and until the author explicitly disclaims them, or until the copyright expires. The Berne Convention also resulted in foreign authors being treated equivalently to domestic authors, in any country signed onto the Convention. The UK signed the Berne Convention in 1887 but did not implement large parts of it until 100 years later with the passage of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988. The USA did not sign the Berne Convention until 1989.
The United States and most Latin American countries instead entered into the Buenos Aires Convention in 1910, which required a copyright notice (such as “all rights reserved”) on the work, and permitted signatory nations to limit the duration of copyrights to shorter and renewable terms. The Universal Copyright Convention was drafted in 1952 as another less demanding alternative to the Berne Convention, and ratified by nations such as the Soviet Union and developing nations.
Essentially, the Copyright began as a short-term ownership of the IP during a span that would last just long enough to cover a career for the individual that created it. This is reasonable, as it offered the chance for artists, creators, and those with ideas the ability to make a living off of their work, allowing for innovation, but not at the expense of the next generation. Even when Walt Disney started his cartoon empire, his stories were borrowed and copied from other people’s material, other IP, but with a twist. This allowed him to build the collection of movies we loved as children and our children love today. Take Snow White, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, Jungle Book, Treasure Planet, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast for example. Yet Disney owns the copyrights to these movies and restricts anyone from attempting to recreate Disney stories in their own fashion. The kicker, copyright law today says that anything you create lasts for your entire lifetime… plus 70 years! Why does anybody need to continue to keep a monopoly for two more career lengths after their deaths? To sum this up:
Digital Rights Management
Along with Copyright, Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is another piece of the IP monopoly that companies have been using to wage the war against creativity and innovation. DRM is essentially “technology that controls what you can do with the digital media and devices you own.” This is part of a letter from Peter Brown at Defective by Design:
You might be aware that the DVDs (or Bluray disks) you buy are encrypted. All of the video and audio on these disks are coded using a key that the hardware attempts to keep secret. Hollywood requires that all DVD manufacturers participate in this restrictive practice, and they can use the DMCA to make any device that doesn’t participate in their scheme illegal.
This type of nuisance is but the foreshadow of greater ones to come. Standing behind the technology companies, the film and music industry (Big Media) loom large. To increase their control, they demand technology companies impose DRM. The technology companies no longer resist. Of course many of the technology companies now see themselves as part of Big Media. Sony is a film and music company, Microsoft is an owner of MSNBC, and Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, sits on the board of Disney. These technology companies cannot be expected to serve the interests of the technology consumer.
Big Media hope that DRM will deliver to them what their political lobbying to change copyright law never has: they aim to turn our every interaction with a published work into a transaction, abolishing fair use and the commons, and making copyright effectively last forever. They will say that you accepted DRM and willingly surrendered your rights. That you did so under duress, they will call irrelevant.
Amazon’s new movie download service is called Unbox and it outlines what DRM implies. The user agreement requires that you allow Unbox DRM software to monitor your hard drive and to report activity to Amazon. These reports would thus include a list of: all the software installed; all the music and video you have; all your computer’s interaction with other devices. You will surrender your freedom to such an extent that you will only be able to regain control by removing the software. But if you do remove the software you will also remove all your movies along with it. You are restricted even geographically, and you lose your movies if you ever move out of the USA. You of course have to agree that they can change these terms at any time. Microsoft’s newly upgraded Windows Media Player 11 (WMP11) user agreement has a similar set of terms.
Each time Big Media force you to upgrade your software, they downgrade your rights. Every new DRM system will enforce a harsher control regime. Apple’s added more restrictions to their music service, and their new video service is yet more restrictive. And so it goes. But this is not just happening with music and video, DRM is being applied to knowledge and information. Libraries, schools, universities are adding DRM, sometimes under duress, often without understanding the consequences.
What does this mean for the future? No fair use. No purchase and resell. No private copies. No sharing. No backup. No swapping. No mix tapes. No privacy. No commons. No control over our computers. No control over our electronic devices. The conversion of our homes into apparatus to monitor our interaction with published works and web sites.
If this type of invasion of privacy were coming from any other source, it would not be tolerated. That it is the media and technology companies leading the way, does not make it benign.
Users of free software are not immune to DRM either. They can be locked out, and their computers won’t play the movies or music under lock. Products can “tivoize” their code (remove their freedom through DRM), delivering it back with malicious features and blocking removal. The RIAA and the MPAA are actively lobbying Congress to pass new laws to mandate DRM and outlaw products and computers that don’t enforce DRM. DRM has become a major threat to the freedom of computer users.
When we allow others to control our computers and monitor our actions we invite deeper surveillance. With our personal viewing, listening, reading, browsing records on file, are we not to be alarmed?
In September 2005 a Disney executive named Peter Lee told The Economist, “If consumers even know there’s a DRM, what it is, and how it works, we’ve already failed,”. A year later, on October 3rd we made that prediction come true. Now with your help, we can work to put an end to DRM. You are encouraged to Join the campaign at DefectiveByDesign.org and take action.
Defective By Design
Free Software Foundation
Share and Share Alike
The following is a Documentary that describes the fight against copyright in the form that it stands today:
These are the views of the people, the general public. Imagine if Shakespeare’s works were still under copyright today. How much of our film industry would exist if the laws we have in place today were around since the 1600s? How much creativity and innovation would have been squashed out? What would we have today that we don’t because of the current expansions of copyright law?
This week in my ICM 501 – Theories of Interactive Media class at Quinnipiac University, we are assigned to make a video and post it to the web. Since I am visiting Texas this week, I made a short video about one of the sites I visited.
In Greek history, the Battle of Thermopylae is a significant part of the turning point of the Greek rebellion which would eventually defeat Xerxes and his massive Persian army from their world conquest. Though the Greeks were eventually defeated in this last stand that lasted seven days, Leonidas’ small army of about 7000 was able to hold off the Persian army (legend has it, their numbers were more than a million) with enough passion (standing until the vast majority had been killed) and giving rise for the rest of Greece, with their Navy, to eventually come around and push back, eventually earning their freedom from Persia. This was dramatized in the movie 300.
Similar to Thermopylae, the Battle of the Alamo is an American last-ditch defense for the freedom of the Texians from Mexico and Santa Ana‘s thirst for expanding territory and centralized rule. Santa Ana’s army marched hundreds of miles with roughly 1500 soldiers to take on about 100 defenders at the Alamo. Among these defenders were members of 22 of the United States and 7 nations. Notable figures include James Bowie, for whom the Bowie Knife is named, William B. Travis, and Davy Crockett, with his coon-skin cap.
Though there was only two survivors on the Texian side of the battle, it lasted about two weeks and led to Santa Ana personally marching to San Antonio with a larger army. When he was captured, as a prisoner of war, he negotiated the freedom of Texas for his release.
Both of these last-stand efforts may have ended in immediate defeat of their individual battles, but were the turning points for their respective wars. They led to the eventual victory and freedom for their nations who were inspired by a few martyrs that were willing to risk everything for freedom.
The following is the video I produced on location at the Alamo during my visit:
This week in ICM 501 – Theories of Interactive Media at Quinnipiac University we are discussing user-generated content on the internet. This includes innovation in innovation through open-source collaboration as well as the Do-It-Yourself aspect that has made blogs and YouTube so popular.
Every so often there is a paradigm shift in the world that alters the way we do business. At the turn of the last century, Henry Ford introduced the assembly line, making production faster, easier and cheaper. In the 1400s, Johannes Gutenberg developed the printing press, allowing information to be more quickly and massively produced, helping more people to become literate and to help spread religion more vastly throughout the world. More recently, as in the 1990s, Tim Berners-Lee introduced the world wide web to the internet, making Marshall McLuhan’s concept of the global village become that much more of a reality. The latest, the world wide web, and more specifically web 2.0, has innovated the way we innovate throughout the world.
We will look at all of this in three major parts:
Everywhere you look on the internet, you can find a lot of garbage, with the occasional treasure in the mix. Youtube has 72 hours of video uploaded every minute. That means, if you were to watch all the new YouTube videos put online over the course of one day (just 24 hours), it would take you almost 12 years to watch. That’s 12 years without sleeping or any breaks of any kind. 12 years of video every day. You’re going to need a lot of Powerthirst to keep up with all of that.
But there are benefits to this. We have the ability to create, to innovate, to share, and so cheaply that we can do it to such excess that it has even become a joke. Most of the video online is amateur, to be sure, but we don’t mind that. Even the Powerthirst example is extremely amateur. But it has been viewed more than 25 million times as of the date of this post. Even professional organizations like Doritos have used these “amateurs” to attract the attention of millions for their Crash the Superbowl Competition each year.
A lot of this comes from the Do-it-Yourself (DIY) lovers out there that enjoy putting things together on their own. With the ease of access to video (even your iPhone will shoot and edit video) and the ease of distribution (through channels such as Youtube and Vimeo), it is no wonder that we have so much DIY video going on. But this only helps to enhance DIY in other aspects as well. You can learn to teach yourself how to play guitar on Youtube, how to build a house, or even how to Dougie.
While the traditional means of publishing information was to plan, develop, edit, then publish, with the ease of editing “on-the-fly” on the internet, it is a lot easier, and more common, to write, publish, then review and make changes if necessary. Some times, these changes are even made in participation, such as wikis like wikipedia. You put the information you know, and then someone else puts what they know. I like to call this the “swiss cheese theory”.
My “swiss cheese theory” goes like this: everyone has holes in their knowledge. Generally, though, no two people have the same holes (though they may be similar, depending on how close they were cut to each other, such as attending the same class or reading from the same book), but if you get a few people together, the holes start to overlap with other people’s knowledge, thus making the holes less and less. Get enough people, enough collaboration, and you will have enough to fill all the holes. Like swiss cheese.
So how do we harness this?
Wikinomics is a term coined by Don Tapscott in his book, appropriately named Wikinomics. Essentially, he talks about how we can apply the concept of wikipedia, that is, open-source sharing of knowledge, to places other than the internet (though, of course, the internet is a tool used to do the collaborative work). The example he used was Goldcorp and how a young CEO took the company from near bankruptcy, and, through the use of unprecedented sharing of knowledge and a cash incentive, used the internet to open-source his gold dig to try and find new veins of gold to get his crew back to work. This saved the company three years of testing and experimenting to find these veins and caused them to become a world leader in the gold business.
Another example I can think of is the recent breakthrough in the AIDS curing department. For years, scientists have been stumped with how to find a cure for the virus. But when they open-sourced the problem, through the use of a video game, the gamers were able to, in ten days, solve a problem that the scientists had been working on for years. This kind of collaboration helps out with more than just business, it helps out with medicine and health, as well.
The theory is that the future of our economy will not be based on the hierarchy we are currently used to, but rather, the use of collaborative teams of open source projects that are uniquely designed for each problem.
But for all the great things on the internet, there are some drawbacks that come with it as well.
Nicholas Carr warns us of the problems of our Google generation in his article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” In his article, he talks about how the internet has destroyed his attention span, and how he cannot even concentrate on articles more than a few hundred words, whereas, when he was younger, he was a voracious reader. He notes that his friends have had the same issues, and talks about how the population, as a whole, is beginning to think differently due to the new medium.
Of course, his own article is written longer than the attention span he claims to have, and in it, he even asks, nay, demands that we be skeptical of his skepticism, using examples of Socrates skepticism of the written word on our ability to memorize, and even the skepticism of the Guttenberg press on laziness of the mind.
I believe that we are more judicious with what we choose to focus on now. In a time when all the information in the world is so readily accessible, we have to be convinced a lot more quickly and a lot more often that the material we are reading is relevant if we wish to continue giving our attention. In economics, the law of supply and demand still applies. Because the supply is so high for content generally, the demand is so low. But the demand for quality is still high, higher in fact, due to the fact that the supply of quality content is so low, comparatively. In this, I am thankful to Youtube for making quality video that much more in demand.
With naught much more to say, I will leave you with this TED talk from the leader of the TED community: