A recent standup set in Berlin
I was in this v funny sketch written by my friend Randall Otis
Yes it is suspicious that since we hired Mark, the new intern, our office has suffered bizarre string of employee deaths. Yes, the deaths do all have the appearance of homicide...
Quick update with links to my piece in Vice & my appearance on the RISK! podcast
Okay children, fine, have it your way this year. Yes! You may actually box on Boxing Day. You may don nothing but high-top boxing boots with thick waisted Everlast shorts and engage in the sweet science of bruising...
Peter Thiel...Naturally we can use a 2-by-2 matrix to help us think about American literature. On the horizontal axis you have earnestness & sincerity in the author's depiction of the living world. On the vertical axis you have form...
As soon as the download completed and I opened Secret for the first time to read posts I was filled with anxiety. I knew something was off. Secret allows users to share short anonymous messages with their social circle. If a secret message becomes popular in one social circle it propagates to tangential social circles, the extent of the propagation furthered by the popularity of the message. The subtitle of the app is "Speak Freely" and the constraint that it unburdens us from is the obligation to be considerate to others when we choose to express ourselves to others (the thought of how people respond to my comments is too troublesome, I want to say weighty things without any accountability).
This is a long overdue post mortem of NYC-Dems my participatory visualization of New York City resident endorsements in the 2013 Democratic primary. As stated in the visualization's about section the idea was born from my experience as a political organizer for Barak Obama's general election campaign in 2008 and for the Oregon Democratic party prior to that.
Fair use is the facet of intellectual property law that allows portions of copyrighted material to be used for criticism and parody and it is a hot button issue in the online content world. For instance, major fair use issues that have popped up at YouTube in the last few months include permanently disabling the account of a prolific video film critic and using its ContentID system to remove Warner content after a dispute between the two companies. And in another high profile fair use clash, the AP is suing artist Shepard Fairey over his iconic Barack Obama prints which the AP claims were based on a photo of Obama owned by the AP. According to Fairey and Obama for America, the original print was based on an AP image but when Fairey began to work with the campaign in an official capacity they provided Fairey with a campaign owned photo of Obama to work from. So if two people own similar photos of the President and an artist makes a print from one of them, how do you decide what photo was the inspiration? I want to highlight a couple helpful resources on fair use law, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's fair use guide and the Stanford University Copyright and Fair Use Center. The most frustrating aspect of fair use is that the burden of proof is on the user. Furthermore, there is no clear criteria for what qualifies as fair use. This allows large conglomerates to easily push around individual artists and critics who do not have the money to fight costly legal battles even if the individual is clearly using copyrighted material in good faith. As the EFF's FAQ points out, it is also unclear if fair use is a right or just an acceptable defense against copyright infringement. What is clear is that the law is not adequately protecting the average citizen's right to expression, as well as stifling the sharing of art and criticism. What is most frustrating about the current situation is that the legalities do not appear to be in anyone's best interests. Artistic derivative works and criticism do not serve as adequate substitutes for original works so they are not actual threats to original rights holders, in fact they often serve to spark interest in the original works. Legal battles with critics and artists are not in the long term interest of large conglomerate rights holders. However, legal departments feel like they are serving the short term interests of these conglomerates by bullying and possibly winning settlements. Reform of intellectual property law to catch up with modern technology is going to be a long arduous process. I am curious and excited to see what direction the Obama administration takes us in. Sadly I expect we will have to wait a while given the number of higher priority crises in President Obama's docket.
After all my posts on the Israel-Palestine conflict it is nice to get a reminder that YouTube is more than just a instrument of war (it's weird to be able to write that). According to Reuters, the Vatican is opening a YouTube channel to show Pope and church events.
After the Obama campaign's deft use of new media it comes as no surprise that one of the first acts of the Obama White House was starting a White House blog. That said, I do not expect a lot of truly interesting content to show up here. What I am really looking forward to is when we start to see activity from the activist arm of the Obama camp, Organizing for America, rather than the administration.
I am sorry about the recent dearth of posts. I have been in Washington, DC for the inauguration but this post should mean that the blog is rolling once again. While I initially hoped to blog a bit about my inauguration experience for Yes We Might, thus far it has been a bit of a disaster after being kept out of the swearing in ceremony due to poor crowd management and missing Obama's appearance at the Youth Ball for the most trifling of reasons that are not worth getting into here. Hopefully my luck will change this evening at the Obama For America staff ball.
Hamas has launched a new website, www.palutube.com, to highlight pro-Palestine videos from the war in Gaza and assorted other pro-Palestinian content including nationalist songs and spirited demonstrations. This is in response to Israel's already strong Web 2.0 presence covering the war. Palutube is in Arabic by default but a drop down menu on the right side allows you to switch to English. Currently I am having a great deal of trouble loading the site so don't be surprised if you have trouble as well. Nonetheless I will try to embed a video from Palutube below. It is worth noting that because Hamas has chosen to host their own website (though not host all of their own videos), they are not bound by any other web portal's terms of service (like the IDF is bound to YouTube's TOS and authority). Thus there is some powerful and controversial language on Palutube. Most notably a banner that reads "The Zionist Holocaust in Gaza of the Innocent People [sic]".
We are now talking about a war in which Israel refuses to allow foreign journalists access into Gaza, and both sides are battling for global support and to shape the narrative of the conflict via Web 2.0 strategies. As the Gulf War was the first cable news war, the current Israel-Palestine conflict is the first YouTube war. The obvious question being: is this the future of wartime journalistic propaganda? It is clear from watching just a few of the videos available on Palutube that there is a different tone here than on the IDF's YouTube channel. The IDF's content has focused on justifying their attacks, which have been widely criticized as a disproportionate response to Hamas' aggression, through videos of Hamas' rocket attacks and evidence of other Hamas wrongdoing. In contrast the new Hamas site is a mix of videos that either display the large scale suffering that is going on in Gaza or provide evidence that Palestinian morale in Gaza is not dead through songs and videos of demonstrations. The latter videos are particularly of interest considering the character of the Israeli attacks. It is quite clear that Israel's attacks are an act of aggression by the side with the upper hand. Hamas rocket fire into Israel, while indefensible from the perspective of someone who would like to see the conflict resolved through diplomacy, is essentially impotent in comparison to the Israeli response. The Israeli message is that Hamas is thoroughly out gunned and by continuing to fire into Israel Hamas is inviting Israel to respond tenfold simply because they can. In a recent New York Times Op-Ed piece Rashid Khalidi presented a particularly insightful quote from former IDF chief of staff Moshe Yaalon: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.” Temporarily setting aside how disturbing that statement is, with Palutube Hamas appears intent on saying it is also not correct.
My friend "Joe Glo" made a great comment on my original post covering the IDF's YouTube channel.
These images may be enhancing the realness of military violence, but they are also coded to be received in the same vein as movies, as videogames. They allow the IDF to control the narrative of the attacks; the IDF can retroactively write the script of the invasion.
The IDF has released two new YouTube videos that are sure to add new sparks to a number of already contentious debates. In the video below IDF Captain Benjamin Rutland explains the IDF's motivation behind controversial mortar fire on a UN school in Gaza. Another video cited by Captain Rutland shows the alleged Hamas rocket fire from the UN school. Israel is correct that by housing their forces in a UN school Hamas is in violation of international law however Israel's attacks on Gaza are also in violation of international law. Due to the density of the population in Gaza Israel's attacks are in violation of Geneva Conventions. And here we violate international law to punish those who see it fit to violate international law... UPDATE: The UN has issued a statement denying there were any Hamas militants in the attacked school.
We live in a truly absurd age, if you require evidence of this notice that the Israel Defense Forces media & PR wing has setup a YouTube channel to share videos of the IDF's air attacks in Gaza. Anyone want to join me on a trip to Montparnasse Cemetery for a seance with the spirit of Jean Baudrillard? In the last year we have seen a rise in "citizen based journalism," but it is strange (though unsurprising) to see a nation's military attempt to usurp media coverage of their tactics with video recorded during missions. It is even more strange that the IDF's idea of justifying or explaining their actions is to provide the world with video of who they are blowing up as those people are being blown up. Yet I must admit, it worked. The first thought that came to mind when I saw what appeared to be Hamas operatives loading and transporting rockets was "Yeah, maybe someone should blow those guys up." Allow me to say that I am not voicing support for Israel's actions, just that on the shallowest cognitive level, maybe more visceral than cognitive (maybe visceral, then cognitive?), the IDF's videos were effective. Among the interesting ironies here: in a culture that has trended towards fantasy, digital existence and detachment from basic human experiences, here YouTube is allowing the violence in our world to be made more real rather than less. These videos are not the sort of images one would typically find in war coverage on the world news. And to further entangle things some of the IDF's videos have been taken down, most likely due to graphic content but YouTube policy is not to offer comment on why particular videos were removed from the site. According to the IDF's brief statement on their YouTube channel's home page YouTube has allowed some of the censored videos to be accessible again. I would also like to add that despite my claim about these videos enhancing the realness of military violence I am not wholly uncritically accepting these videos as the real of the Gaza attacks. If the IDF has say, videos of two different bombings. One video is clearly targeting Hamas operatives while the other is more ambiguous, targeting Palestinians believed to be Hamas operatives but not engaged in suspicious activity and possibly innocent civilians. I realize these two theoretical videos would not have an equal likelihood of making it to YouTube.
Warner Music recently pulled their artists' music videos from YouTube after negotiations between the two companies broke down. Warner Music is seeking an increase in the fee they receive when one of their videos is watched on YouTube. There is also rumor that a group of major music labels, including Warner Music, are considering founding their own rival to YouTube. The proposed new site would be similar to Hulu, a partnership between major television networks to offer full programs online with commercials. It will be interesting to see the direction YouTube chooses as it begins to accrue rivals. Three years ago when YouTube was first becoming popular it was essentially the only site specializing in providing video on demand. Hulu seems to be less of a threat to YouTube because YouTube's strength is providing brief clips rather than half hour programs. A music video website launched by major music labels would be a real threat to steal some of YouTube's traffic as music videos are a major chunk of YouTube's content. It is not wholly unlikely that we will reach a point where most large corporate content providers either provide content on their own websites exclusively or via consortiums like Hulu, at which point the interest in YouTube's more grassroots content will truly be tested. I believe YouTube will have staying power even if it loses most of its major corporate content. YouTube will be moving from being the entire online video encyclopedia, to being primarily a site for user generated content. But as we've seen users love uploading videos to YouTube and some people have even been able to launch careers that way. I also cannot imagine YouTube losing favor among smaller entities like independent record labels. For smaller entities YouTube's market dominance is a chance to easily make your work available to a vast audience rather than a threat to your profit margins. I imagine this is what Google envisioned with their purchase of YouTube in 2006, despite some critics' concern that YouTube would fold or be unprofitable without full corporate support. There was never any reason to believe corporate content providers would stick with YouTube as it became easier and made more business sense to host their own content but it is difficult to envision the entirety of the internet suddenly deciding they no longer want to share videos with each other.
Australia is planning on becoming the first western country with a nationwide web content filtering system. Supporters of the filter cite protecting Australia's children from illegal content (such as child pornography). Detractors are concerned that the filter will slow browsing speeds and incorrectly block legal content. Other concerns about the filter include unclear or even arbitrary guidelines for blacklisting. The question at hand is what is the best way to protect children from inappropriate content on the internet while still respecting the civil liberties of a population, and Australia's answer strikes me as odd. Instead of expecting parents to be responsible for protecting their own children by doing things like not allowing their young children to use the web alone and installing private content filters, Australia plans to compromise the quality of their entire population's internet connection and block legal sites via false positives. Many people pay extra for a faster internet connection, yet Australia is flirting with slowing down traffic nationwide. Perhaps one could argue this is analogous to the FCC dictating guidelines for what appears on television in the United States, however FCC guidelines do not apply to all forms of broadcasting and do not deteriorate the quality of your television signal (although, I suppose sports fans may disagree). Even more murky is that Australia hopes to extend their filter to Peer-to-Peer file sharing networks. I am sure when and if the Australian filter is installed despicable forms of child pornography such as videos and images will be blocked. But I am also curious where the line will be drawn. If someone were to say write a song about an infamous child rapist and murderer, would that song be banned in Australia?
We have reached a point where it is taken for granted that the internet is the most important invention of our lifetimes. Particularly for those of us who were born after the invention of the atomic bomb. Given the importance of the net it is also of great import that we keep a close eye on our rights online, the ability (or perhaps more accurately, frightening inability) of lawmakers to keep up with rapidly changing technology and how culture is expressed online. And also to have many sites to share our thoughts and engage in discussions about the internet and our relationship to it. When thinking about our relationships to technology it could be said, and I would argue said accurately, that we are cyborgs. Beings that are both part human and part machine (if you disagree allow me to ask how you felt the last time you lost your cellular phone?). I am not the first to present this idea in one form or another, I am only here to urge us all to take it seriously and to hopefully create a community where these issues can be discussed at length. With this blog I intend to highlight and comment on digital rights issues, expressions of digital culture and our relationships to our gadgets. In addition to having a great topic I have some great future plans including unveiling my own cyborgy blog design. And as a teaser to the design I'm working on, here's the logo: