Digital Documents and their Discontents (2 of 2)

This lecture asks ‘what is a document?’ and takes a closer look at the issues of assessing digital documents for research including authority, authenticity, information overload and information scarcity.

This lecture is based on Chapter 2 of ‘Digital Culture Industry: A History of Digital Distribution’

This lecture was delivered as part of the BA in Sociology at the University of Essex, Spring 2014.

http://www.essex.ac.uk/sociology/

Writing a Digital History with Digital Documents (1 of 2)

Digital Culture Industry: A History of Digital Distribution was the result of a three-year research project into the history of digital piracy. The project attempted to understand how media retail went from discs to downloads, accounting for individual agency, software design and the wider social changes. This lecture will provide an overview of the project and examine how the research method topic and structure all influenced each other within a social research project.

This lecture was delivered as part of the BA in Sociology at the University of Essex, Spring 2014.

http://www.essex.ac.uk/sociology/

My Book is Out Now!

Book cover: Digital Culture IndustryDigital Culture Industry:
A History of Digital Distribution

I’m very happy to announce that my book is finally out with Palgrave Macmillan.

If you’re interested in the history of peer-to-peer piracy and how it shaped digital media today this is the book for you. Covering MP3.com, Napster, GNUtella, Kazaa, Streamcast, Grokster, BitTorrent and The Pirate Bay this comprehensive history is a great read for anyone interested in the field of digital media.

….if I do say so myself.

For a more comprehensive overview of the book head over to the book page where you can see reviews and chapter summaries.

There was a lot of research that went into the book, and a lot of resources to boot. If you’d like to see some of the things I made related to the book head over to this blog post and also take a look at the resources.

Available now from…

PalgraveMacmillanwaterstonesref=sr_1_14

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!

‘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.