New Media: 1740-1915



New Media: 1740-1915, (2003) Edited by Lisa Gitelman and Geoffrey B. Pingree, MIT Press.

Putting media and mediums into historical context is important. This book does a pretty solid job of it.

Description from MIT Press

Reminding us that all media were once new, this book challenges the notion that to study new media is to study exclusively today’s new media. Examining a variety of media in their historic contexts, it explores those moments of transition when new media were not yet fully defined and their significance was still in flux.

For other book suggestions take a look at the books category or visit my bookshelf.

The Day the Facebook Died

Today I deleted my Facebook account. I have to wait 14 days to REALLY be deleted and even then I don’t entirely trust the Zuckerberg empire to remove my data completely. I’m sure my ‘favourite books’ and ‘quotes’ will be knocking around their databanks for a few years yet.

“Why did you delete it, do you hate people?”

People are great, but online they act odd. Facebook allowed me to see into the lives of two sets of people; people I see regularly, and people who should have been lost to time many years ago. The people I see regularly, I like them, but sometimes too much information can be a bad thing. I have insights into the lives of everyday acquaintances  that I wouldn’t have without FB and feel voyeuristic. It seems to me that, going against expectation, people share more online than they would in person. The mediation of the computer provides a false bubble of safety and comfort, meaning the general anxiety of bodily cues that would normally kick in when you were about to announce to a room of people your latest embarrassing factoid, don’t. I would rather engage with the persona that an individual willingly projects, rather than the one they have been lured into revealing.

Then there are the people that I never see in person. The vague acquaintances that, having met them once, forever-on populate my newsfeed. The people from school that, fifteen years ago never said a word to me, and now out of perverse curiosity or an odd networking OCD are now classified as ‘Friends’. They are ‘Facebook friends’ not actual friends. In a bygone age I would have completely left them behind, know nothing about them and have lost nothing in my ignorance. I’m sure they’re all nice people, nothing wrong with them at all, but I’m a firm believer that as time passes, you leave the majority of acquaintances behind so that you can retain the connections that really matter: FB was messing with that mojo.

Does it Hurt? How Do you Feel?

Just before I pressed the button to delete my account, I must admit to feeling that this occasion was incredibly momentous and much hung in the balance. Then I reminded myself that it’s a social networking site, not a newborn child and promptly pushed the button. Afterwards I had a mind rush of all the people that I would still like to keep in touch with, but don’t see them regularly, what will become of them? Have I consigned myself to a life of isolation, an offline existence without laughter, joy and companionship. Will I be left behind in my career now I am severed from those people that I met at conferences, swiftly friended and then never spoke to again? Probably not.

So you hate technology and the future now?

This is not a ‘technology is ruining my life’ statement of action, it’s a ‘Facebook, I don’t like you’ statement of action. Im still on other networks (Twitter, Linkedin, Google+) and that may seem hypocritical if you thought my actions were of an anti-social network crusader. I’m not anti-social-network, but I think they should be used for certain purposes. Twitter is great for tech-news and professional contacts. It’s a communications platform not a social aid. Linkedin is good for careers, it’s an employment tool, not a social aid. Google Plus is… well I don’t think anyone knows what G+ is yet but if I do find a use for it, I’ll make sure it’s not as a social aid. Facebook was beyond my purposes, it had come to supplant my relationships rather than enhance them and had made me socially lazy.

So goodbye Facebook, you shall not be missed.

**If you would like to join me and help work out what Google+ is for you can click this link for access to the restricted Beta.

All You Ever Wanted to Know about the History of Piracy and Digital Distribution…

…but were too afraid to ask.

The site is back!… and mildly snazzier. The UI has had an overhaul and things should be a bit simpler now. The primary addition is that new menu bar up there that should help you get around if you feel like wandering off the blog-beaten trail.

However the real reason the UI got updated was because now the site is hosting a load of new goodies. My thesis is due for submission in just over a week and because I like to be revolutionary (awkward), a lot of the resources I produced to go along with the thesis can’t be conveyed on paper that easily. So instead they’re here for the reader to access, and as a bonus, that means they’re here for anyone to get at. So what can you get your hands on?

Peer-to-Peer Networks: How do they do it!?

Ever wondered how Napster worked, or maybe you’re confused about the complicated
majesty that is BitTorrent. Be confused no more as the video guides show you through handy animations the operation of the most popular peer-to-peer protocols over the last decade.

The History of Digital Distribution: There’s a lot of it.

The main aspect of my thesis is the histories I’ve produced documenting the development and impact of the major piracy systems of the last decade. As part of this history I generated a fairly dense timeline of events running from 1998 to 2010 which helped me keep things in order as I wrote. I’ve provided the timeline here for your perusal.

There’s a bit of Pirate in us All

One of the more interesting things I found during my research was where those legally fuzzy peer-to-peer technologies ended up. The Illicit Influence Map shows how the illicit tech of the piratey world impacted on the businesses and media delivery systems of today. Unfortunately the diagram won’t tell you exactly how (you’ll have to read the thesis for that) but maybe once you see the connection you’ll be inspired to go find out more.

Everything is accessible under ‘Thesis Resource’ and licensed under Creative Commons, so go forth and tinker!

A Future of the E-Book?

So a friend on Facebook was asking for ideas for an illustration project. Their task was to draw the future of e-books. I had a small brainwave and thought it an interesting idea. Here’s what I posted.

How about an actual book, cover, pages, spine, etc, except all the surfaces are e-ink. It can store all your books and if you want to read one you load it up and it populates all the pages and the covers appropriately. That way you get the tactile experiential element of holding the book and turning the pages, but the convenience of only carrying one item whilst having thousands of texts.

Often I hear discussions about books being objects that we often will connect with on an emotional level, and that their physicality is part of their appeal, something we are losing with the Kindle. Perhaps this design would help to retain some of the lineage of the book for us.

Just a thought.

‘Instant Pop’: Give the Kids What they Want

Grabbed from The Guardian

Ten years after piracy first began to ravage the music industry, Britain’s two biggest record labels will finally try to play their part in stopping it, by making new singles available for sale on the day they first hit the airwaves.

Now this, is a good thing.

The further I’ve read into the technicalities of retailing digital media the more sympathetic I’ve become to the difficulties of digital retail. This softening of my opinion has primarily come via reading a healthy dose of intellectual property law and the various EULAs attached to services like iTunes, Steam and Amazon’s digital arm, those things none of us read but sign our souls away to, quite literally in some cases. I’ll post something regarding my adventures in EULAland in the near future; for now we’ll stick to the recent ‘Instant Pop’ announcement.

As much as I have softened in some regards, there are still areas where I’m fairly critical regarding industry practice. Digital retail at first seems to be about manufacturing scarcity in an inherently bountiful product, something that is profoundly difficult. However rather than apply old scarcity economics to digital media, the successful retailers have realised that it is not the product that gains them the custom, but the service surrounding it. The latest pop hit is the latest pop hit, whether you buy it from Amazon, iTunes or pull it down off of some P2P network. What differs is the process surrounding that acquisition. P2P is a pretty good service if you ignore the legality issue; contrary to industry opinion the files are of high quality, speeds are solid and if you are competent enough to operate some P2P client you’ll probably be street wise enough to not get a trojan of some sort.

With a service like iTunes however, because of their nice walled little empire they have something that P2P doesn’t; that nice little button, default on all iPods and iPhones that says ‘iTunes Store’. As long as you’ve got connectivity you can hit that button, search for a track and purchase within about 30 seconds. Then it’s there ready for you to own it at the moment you decided you wanted to own it. Put this hand in hand with radio and you’ve got a brilliant system; song comes on the radio, listener hears it, likes it, wants it. Listener goes to device in pocket and a few taps later they have it. The price is higher than P2P, but P2P couldn’t give it to them right then and there. The customer paid to have the song NOW.

iTunes WiFi Store Logo

People are walking around with miniature record shops in their pocket all day, at any moment they have the potential to purchase a small something that takes their fancy or even go on a media bender when looking to kill some time. Having a gap between radio promotion and single release, to deny the individual the option to purchase it at that moment when they are primed to be consumer, to tell them to wait and buy it in a few weeks, a few days, even a few hours, is a strategy that will lose you that customer. They’ve had the marketing plugged straight into them, they’ve got the shop out of their pocket and are ready to go, but due to a perception that you can still maintain media scarcity, there’s no single in the shop and the customer will look elsewhere because they know they can get it somehow, it’ll just take a bit more work.

This instant pop strategy is a good one, it plays to new behaviours of consumption and takes advantage of the fact that a grand majority of people are hooked up to media retail wherever and whenever. It won’t be a panacea for piracy, there’s more factors in people’s decisions to pirate than simply speed and convenience, sometimes p2p offer a service or a product that the legit spaces don’t. However for those people who previously would have taken the costlier but quicker option if only they had one, this move will bring them back in to the shop.

Guardian Article: Universal and Sony Music plan ‘instant pop’ to beat piracy

Props to @tegularius00 for sending me the article.