Deember 15, 2006
MIT C3 WEEKLY UPDATE
December 15, 2006
*Opening Note: William Uricchio with "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning," Part II.
*Glancing at the C3 Blog
*Closing Note: Stefan Werning on Implied Interactivity, Part II.
--------------- EDITOR'S NOTE ---------------
Welcome to this week's Weekly Update from C3. As usual, this week's update includes links to all the entries published during the week on the Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog. We have had continued discussion based on the debate about Fair Use and the posts on the blog from Ted Hovet and Jason Mittell, as well as the new new post added to the discussion this week from GSD&M's Joel Greenberg. We have the conclusion to William Uricchio's piece about fair use in this week's newsletter, and the coming weeks will feature responses from Chris Weaver and Shenja van der Graaf as well.
Also, the site now features tools to favorite the blog on Technorati, so be sure to do so if you read on a regular basis.
This week's update features an opening note from C3 Principal Investigator William Uricchio, co-director of the Comparative Media Studies program here at MIT, concluding his response to Jason Mittell's call for dialogue regarding fair use and media education. You can look back at last week's article for the first half of this piece, "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning...or the raison d'etre for copyright."
The closing note this week is the concluding piece from C3 affiliated faculty member Stefan Werning, who includes thoughts from his doctoral dissertation in his piece "Implied Interactivity--Rediscovering (and Utilizing) the Roots of Interactive Media." Again, the first half is available from last week's newsletter, which can be accessed from the archives on the password-protected section of the C3 site for partners.
If you have any questions or comments or would like to request prior issues of the update, direct them to Sam Ford, Editor of the Weekly Update, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
--------------- OPENING NOTE ---------------
An Act for the Encouragement of Learning...or the raison d'etre for copyright, Part II
By: William Uricchio
Last week, William Uricchio responded to Jason Mittell's questions about fair use and intellectual property protection with an historical overview of the questions surrounding copyright and fair use, going back to England in 1710 for the historical basis for our current notions of copyright.
So from our position in the information age, with ever more of our cultural life taking media form, and our media forms enjoying ever-greater copyright protection, what's an educator to do? 'Fair use' usually springs to mind as a way to get on with the good work, so perhaps a word or two on the notion of fair use is in order. Although frequently invoked as a 'right,' certainly among educators eager to use examples in the classroom, legally speaking it is in fact more of a defense (an 'affirmative defense'). And although the terms for its invocation are clear enough, the burden of proof for showing that the use of copyrighted materials did not infringe falls on the defendant. Not surprisingly, this has encouraged more than a few rights holders, when in the slightest doubt, to claim infringement, forcing the defendant to engage in an expensive legal process in order to claim their right. Although such threats might be frivolous, the result is a highly effective chill effect, where the legal representatives of academic publishers and universities routinely turn down legitimate requests to include the fair use of copyrighted materials in books, websites and classrooms rather than face the challenge of well-financed rights holders. With corporate legal representatives responding in un-nuanced ways to fears of legitimate use of copyrighted materials, and educators' legal teams advising in equally un-nuanced terms to their fear of litigation, and with the relentless pressure to extend yet again the terms of copyright protection, is it any wonder that we all seem trapped, paralyzed by the circular logic of the system?
Although learning is centrally at stake, so too is cultural creativity. Shakespeare's plays preceded the Statute of Anne, and have gone on to sustain an industry in cultural tourism and publication. But more importantly, they have stimulated the process of creativity, enriching our cultural lives and thriving as the plays morph into countless retellings, derivatives, and adaptations. Plays, operas, films, television programs, and video games have embraced, profited from and gratefully acknowledged the Bard's works; they have offered us a way to connect both with our deeper natures and with our cultural past; and they have done so thanks in part to the copyright-free status of the plays. What is so vividly demonstrated by the long history of creativity and industry surrounding Shakespeare's plays can also increasingly be found in the work of fan communities, as Henry Jenkins' work demonstrates. And it can be found in very different ways through the collaborative efforts of digitally networked recyclers, remediators, and co-creators. The difference is that the creative efforts of fans and digital participants are almost inescapably transgressive. As the term of copyright coverage creeps ever forward, the cultural expressions and artifacts of nearly the last three generations are bound up in its web of control. The cultural icons and practices cherished and paid for by the public, given meaning and invested in by them, remain tantalizingly out of their grasp.... This stance neither stimulates the creativity that we can see with more open forms, nor does it do much for our notions of citizenship and common culture, since it leaves a stark choice between transgression and cultural amnesia.
As we continue to work through the shift from the physical artifact to the far more ephemeral data stream, as we struggle with the implications of this shift for how we produce and circulate, and how we will express ourselves and govern, it is clear that we will have to rethink many of the systems and logics that we have traditionally depended upon. The success of the open source software movement is inspiring in this regard. The benefits are evident: unlike the encryption-intensive, highly centralized, slowly evolving "big software" sector, open source applications draw on a vast distributed talent pool, evolve rapidly, enjoy low costs, and are quickly penetrating even the most established sectors of the market, IBM, international banking, and the governments of Mexico and India included. The change has happened quickly, smoothly, and with sufficient mutual benefits that it continues unabated. The paradigms will shift in the cultural content sector as well, and the fault lines in the façade of the established system are increasingly apparent. But change will need leadership, it will take vision and understanding, and this gets back to Jason Mittell's point: it will take education.
Seeking a common ground means realizing that to some very real extent, our two operations are tied at the hip. As the Shakespeare case shows, a vibrant and economically successful culture morphs, changes, recycles. It is not about the eternal return of the same dusty artifacts, carefully protected and intact. It is about transformation, inspiration, citation, and a dialogue between the past and present. Extending copyright protection 'forever less one day' does our cultural producers no favors. And even the current copyright regime, in which our limited 'rights' of fair use are subverted by a network of fears and legal fees, does cultural producers no favors. Particularly as the pace of change to the media infrastructure quickens, as models for amortizing the audience collapse, and as a digitalized participatory culture begins take form, we need an educated public so that the future of our creative industries - and with it our culture - can thrive. The need for a dialogue has never been greater, and a crucial site where dialogue can intervene and make a real difference can be found in the fair use of copyrighted materials for education.
William Uricchio is a faculty investigator for the Convergence Culture Consortium and is also Co-Director of the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT, in addition to professor of Comparative Media History at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Uricchio studies comparative national constructions of media, trans-national content flows, the way the media are drawn upon for identity purposes, and the transfirmation of media technologies into cultural practices.
---------- NEWS FROM THE C3 BLOG -----------
Firefly Universe Lives on through Massively Multiplayer Online Game. The Multiverse version of the Joss Whedon-created world is set to be out in 2008, keeping the narrative universe alive for a television show that didn't even make it through a full season.
Bendis on Transmedia and Continuity in the Marvel Universe: Thinking About Comics Vis-a-Vis Television. The comic books creator voices his opinion on working in multiple media forms, as well as the deep histories of many of the characters that can be both a blessing and a curse for creators.
In Over Their Heads? Sony Finds Out That Astroturf Marketing Can Quickly Put You Out in the Weeds. Sony's faux fan site "All I Want for Xmas is a PSP" shows the dangers involved in trying to fake fan enthusiasm for a product. There are ways to encourage viral marketing other than manufacturing cheap attempts to fool the public.
Advertising Space in Second Life: How Brands Are Flooding to Virtual Worlds. A recent USA Today piece highlights the many interesting ways that brands are establishing themselves in Second Life, including the virtual Idea City from C3 partner GSD&M.
Times Square: A Publishing Platform? With pictures and blogs helping spread viral marketing at an increasing pace, what value does street-level innovative promotion and marketing have in as visible a place as Times Square?
Enemies Rally Together to Ward Off New Threat: A Meeting of Three Families. Do plans for a YouTube "competitor" featuring official content from a variety of the conglomerates sound like a derivative plot from The Godfather? What degree of user autonomy would be involved in such a product?
Music Choice's Popularity in VOD Opens Up Increasing Number of Distribution Doors. Could VOD eventually become a significant distribution channel in and of itself, without connection to a branded traditional linear network? The popularity of Music Choice and the model of WWE 24/7 On Demand are two interesting case studies.
Ad Sale Increases Continue to be Strongest for Spanish-Language Programming, Web-Based Ads. The latest figures have been released for the third quarter of 2006, indicating continued dramatic rises in the numbers for online and Hispanic advertising, compared to a much less dynamic increase from the usual suspects.
PSFK Asks for Users to Predict the Trends of 2007 Through YouTube. The trends analysts are looking to tap into the collective intelligence of the readers of its blog to help predict what will happen in the coming year, through a series of one-minute YouTube clips.
Internet Television a Reserve for Independent Television Producers? David Haskell's article in The New York Times drives an examination of how the Internet may eventually change the nature of television programming for low-budget and independent production.
GSD&M's Joel Greenberg on Fair Use. Greenberg attempts to explain some of the reasons advertising agencies in particular and the industry in general response in the manner they do toward fair use in an educational setting.
2006: The Year of User-Generated Content, According to Pareles. The Times may have declared some trends that did not rise to the top quite yet, but user-generated content is considered one of the year's most powerful buzzwords. What does this shift in cultural production mean for producers and consumers of entertainment/art and journalism?
Change Sometimes Takes Time: Richard Siklos on High-Definition, Mobile Media, and Virtual Worlds. The New York Times identifies the three major cultural trends that writer Siklos did not feel reached the tipping point in 2006, compared with our writing and monitoring of all three trends throughout the year and what this means for 2007 and beyond.
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Don't forget - you can always post, read, and carry out online conversations with the C3 team at our blog: http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/.
--------------- CLOSING NOTE ---------------
Implied Interactivity--Rediscovering (and Utilizing) the Roots of Interactive Media, Part II
By: Stefan Werning
The following short article presents a set of thoughts and observations I am elaborating on as part of my PhD thesis on the aesthetic and technological convergence of interactive media in commercial and military contexts. The text is deliberately reduced to a set of controversial theses and gives only a handful of bibliographical reference The core argument explained last week is the idea of "implied interactivity as a kind of 'object-based' extension of the 'collective intelligence' model and derivative approaches popular in the study of participatory audiences." Last week's piece looked at historical grounding and examples of implied interactivity in military contexts.
Harnessing Implied Interactivity
The 'musical remix' as a theoretical analogon is already being used as a label, for instance for remakes of the Apple Ipod commercial (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NIWBcrFtgw). The original clip particularly lends itself to recognizable remaking for various reasons, mostly because it is characterized by a number of iconic elements that are easy to reconstruct using off-the-shelf software like Adobe Flash (e.g. full-screen color switching or cycling, silhouette renditions of blue-screen video captures etc.). Moreover, it is not deeply rooted in any culturally or historically specific semantic context, thus meeting the most basal requirements for implied interactive remaking.
Often, particularly in the case of 'interactive' source material, repurposing can be both technologically enabled and (partially) directed, e.g. in the case of AA by providing functionality for recording machinimae, scripting camera movement etc. Controversely rephrased, the technological means of expression provided by AA for fan-based machinima production, i.e. running, shooting, throwing and rotating/zooming the camera POV, rather suggest picturizing a rapid chase than a tragic suicide scene.
In linear media like video commercials, using only few cross-fades and other lengthy transitions facilitates and thus encourages re-editing. As a theoretical frame of reference, a re-reading of established adaptation theory, e.g. criteria like indices and informants as 'functional units' proposed by Roland Barthes, with re-usability in mind could prove fruitful. A consequent simple strategy could be to deploy many semantically synonymous informants to facilitate technologically feasible referencing. For instance, many military organizations like the Slovenian () or the Indian (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlnesiouUK4) army, often following the paradigmatic aesthetics of US military advertising, provide a logo or other emblematic shape at the end of a commercial as well as in different versions in different clips or throughout a clip to encourage visually appealing multiple use in recut footage. Another useful strategy in military promotional videos is the juxtaposition of slow-paced faded-in text, often utilizing catchy rhetoric, with fast-paced, often close-up generic action shots, both of which are technologically very easy to implement, often using template functions in the software, and lend themselves to remaking.
Thus, one of the most fundamental principles to harness 'implied interactivity' is the maximum segmentability of the source material according to potentially usable media types; the most complex example of this is the reworking of different material into an independent game.
For instance, The game Quest for Saddam recently made headlines, at least in Germany, as a rather simple modification built on the dated Duke Nukem 3D engine, often only changing textures and sprites while keeping large sections of the original geometry. The most notable, and newsworthy, aspect consisted in the fact that the game is essentially a playable collage of parodied as well as official images of Saddam Hussein, originally 'published' on-line and in the public domain.
"Harnessing the hive", as J.C. Herz termed the activation of user-driven media creation in 2002, military institutions might, apart from continuing their game industry collaborations, thus be well advised to strategically deploy usable media snippets as 'source material'.
Non-commercial design resource sites already archive a plethora of military-themed material such as 3D models in the most common file formats (.3DS, .OBJ, .MAX), textures and photographic material for skinning or tiling, (e.g. www.3dcafe.com) thus constituting a third complex example of 'implied interactivity'. The strategic deployment of 'official', high-quality textures, models, or even 'authentic' recorded weapons sound effects for interactive media design through these channels might be a lucrative undertaking. The selection of material for release allows for a subtle 'steering' of the expectable final results. For example, the development of independent of MOUT-type (military operations on urban terrain) games and maps (which represent the current focus of both commercial war games and military training simulations) could be further stimulated by providing appropriate wall textures and debris models. Apart from the topicality of the theme, technological criteria like the ease of wall texture tiling, the geometric simplicity of street scenarios and the abundance of sight-blockers to keep the frame rate low already provide a strong incentive. These forms of 'indirect shaping' are not at all compatible with the traditional notion of 'propaganda' and, for the cultural theorist, provide new challenges.
Even the form of distribution of media products intended 'source material' can provide strategic opportunities. For instance, the game Heavy Marine Gunner: Vietnam is shipped with an excerpt of the novelized autobiographical notes of a former Vietnam veteran. Although the game narrative is allegedly based on these memoirs, in fact they do serve as a ready-made model for the player of narrativizing their in-game experiences (and maybe accordingly writing own fan fiction).
Ludic Principles of Implied Interactive Media Usage
All forms of interactive usage of linear media artifacts outlined in this article can be described as inherently ludic, be it the comparison of one's collection of 'digital militaria' with others or the playful recombination of technologically separatable snippets taken either from a linear medium or e.g. sound effects or image files extracted from a game folder on the hard drive.
One powerful ludic topos is the 'collect them all' archetype, i.e. the desire for encyclopedic compleness; this collecting 'script' can easily be activated e.g. by disseminating various version of a commercial. Another, more complex form of inherently ludic (and adeptly channeled) 'implied interactivity' is the forum activity revolving around games like AA. By simply providing an RPG-style system of experience points and ranks as well as separating a thread for 'recruitment' purposes, the forum encourages a playful, eager adoption of the logic of military hierarchy and 'role play'. Many of these forms of implicit interactive usage are actually targeted towards social organization, e.g. producing and recirculating army tribute videos also clearly operates as a practice of establishing social cohesion as the comment threats illustrate.
Thus, while much (scholarly) emphasis is currently attributed to digital games, it might also be worthwhile to think about ludicity as an implied feature of using linear media artifacts in a digital medium.
For Further Reading:
Cover, Rob. "Audience inter/active: Interactive media, narrative control and Reconceiving Audience History" New Media & Society 8:1, 2006: 139-158.
Hujanen, Jaana, and Sari Pietikäinen. "Interactive uses of journalism: crossing between technological potential and young people's news-using practices." New Media & Society 6:3, 2004: 383-401.
Ito, Mizuko. "Technologies of the Childhood Imagination." SSRC Items & Issues 2003/04. http://www.ssrc.org/programs/publications_editors/publications/items/online4-4/ito-childhood.pdf.
Kiousis, Spiro. "Interactivity: A Concept Explication." New Media & Society 4:3, 2002: 355-383.
Kuppers, Petra. "Quality Science Fiction. Babylon 5's Metatextual Universe." Sara Gwenilian-Jones, Roberta E. Pearson (Eds.) Cult Television Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 2004: 45-61.
Oblak, T. "The Lack of Interactivity and Hypertextuality in Online Media." Gazette: The International Journal for Communication Studies 67:1, 2005: 87-106.
Sohn, Dongyoung, and John D. Leckenby. "The Role of Expected Interactivity in Interactive Ad Processing." Proceedings of American Academy of Advertising, 2003.
Wilson, Laetitia. "Interactivity or Interpassivity: A Question of Agency in Digital Play." Proceedings of Melbourne DAC 2003, 2003. http://hypertext.mit.edu.au/dac/papers/Wilson.pdf.
i>Stefan Werning is a doctoral candidate and works as an associate lecturer at the Asian Studies Center in Bonn, Germany. He is a member of the working group ‚computer games' at the German Association for Media Studies and writes on topics including e-learning solutions based on digital games and modeling terrorism in recent military policies to interactive media analysis.
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