On Sharing: Wikileaks Documentary

In my previous blog I stressed the notion of sharing, in relation to Julian Assange and his Wikileaks. This documentary summaries the complete Wikileaks-project and process of the past few years. And, in relation to my blog earlier, something interesting is being said in this revealing video:

“The people who are in power, will not give that power away freely. That is just, unfortunately, a fact of nature.” [1]

Made by Jul (Tess).

Advertisements

The Politics and Poetics of Sharing in a Digital Realm

The Politics and Poetics of Sharing in a Digital Realm

About sharing without profit motives: Wikileaks

Introduction

In his 2012 book Sharing. Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age Philippe Aigrain (1949) discusses the notion of “file sharing for creative, expressive or informative works in all media”. [1] He defines file sharing as “the act of making a file available to other individuals by putting it on-line, by sending a copy, or by rendering it accessible through a file sharing software. We defend the view that sharing without direct or indirect monetary transaction – or “non-market” sharing – is legitimate”. [2]

In 2006 Wikileaks was funded. This organisation, that operates via a website, was funded for whistleblowers from government agencies and businesses to anonymously post documents with secret information. [3] The original initiaters aren’t known, though the spokesman Julian Assange was arrested in 2010. Government agencies realized that they couldn’t judge him for violating copyright laws, so they kept him imprisoned on suspicion of rape. [4] Although the Swedish government keeps Lassange imprisoned for another reason than copyright infringement, many think that he is still being judged for his Wikileaks-practices.

In this blog I want to stress the Wikileaks-project. Why are governments so unhappy with the leaking of their documents? Why aren’t they just open for public. Why do governments want to see Assange behind bars so desperately?

Wikileaks: no copyright infringement

As I have said in the introduction of this blog, Wikileaks leaks governmental and business-related documents to the public domain. The involved aren’t glad to see their ‘private’ information circling around on the internet. Though Wikileaks hasn’t done anything illegal: they have, just as Aigrain’s definition poses, made a file available to other individuals by putting it on-line. The organisation did this without the involvement of direct or indirect monetary transactions – or financial profits. So why is it than that the involved governments and businesses become so nervous because of the sharing of their information?

Sharing: Socially valuable or a danger for society?

In his book Aigrain poses on the one hand the rights of the author, who has the right to protect his writings, and, on the other hand, the rights of the users, who tend to make use of texts if (and only if) they’re used for “scientific advancement and its benefits”. [5] In relation to this matter Aigrain says that he doesn’t think that “anyone who makes the digital representation of a work available on a peer-to-peer network is a pirate”. [6] In summary I think that we can conclude that sharing information on-line isn’t piracy, nor can it be considered as a crime (as long as you use it for ‘progressive’ purposses). I think that the government and business’ opposition – or resistance – is due to, again, power-relations.

As I have also posed in two of my previous blogs: French philosopher Michel Foucault ( 1926-1984) thinks of society in terms of power-relations. He says that power arises between people or groups – the viewer (the one with the information: in the Wikileaks-case the governments and businesses) has more power than the one being viewed (the one without information: in this case the people). [7] The viewed reproduces the desired discourse of the viewer; you could say that the viewer is in control over the one viewed.

In the Wikileaks case this would imply that governments and businesses are in control over their people. And then we tend to have, in relation to this, the assumption that governments and influential businesses don’t like the circulation of their ‘private’ information, because it causes their power and control to be weakened. Wikileaks isn’t a discussion about ‘dangerous information for society’, it is about socially valuable information that is being concealed by controlling powers, because these controlling powers don’t want to lose their control.

Conclusion

To conclude: I’d like to say that I really think that governments and businesses benefit from their controlling power. Nevertheless, the discussion about Wikileaks, copyright infringement and piracy is much bigger than this blog implies. On the other hand: if we hold Aigrain’s definition of ‘file sharing’ for truth, then Wikileaks sharing governmental and business-related information isn’t – can’t be – prosecutable. That is what makes this discussion so hard: in strict terms Assange and co. didn’t do anything wrong, yet large groups of people think about this in a different way. And although masses of people tend to think that they should be able to know what their government is up to, maybe we should realise that we do not need to know everything.

Made by Jul (Tess).

Sources

Aigrain, Philippe. (2012) Sharing. Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: 15-25.

Foucault, Michel. (1975) Discipline, Toezicht en Straf: de Geboorte van de Gevangenis. Groningen: Historische Uitgeverij, 2007.

http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikiLeaks (May 27th, 2013).


[1] Aigrain, Philippe. (2012) Sharing. Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: 15-25.

[2] Aigrain, Philippe. (2012) Sharing. Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: 15.

[5] Aigrain, Philippe. (2012) Sharing. Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: 21.

[6] Aigrain, Philippe. (2012) Sharing. Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: 21-22.

[7] Foucault, Michel. (1975) Discipline, Toezicht en Straf: de Geboorte van de Gevangenis. Groningen: Historische Uitgeverij, 2007.

On Transmedia Storytelling: Snarry Fanfiction

On Transmedia Storytelling: Snarry Fanfiction

In my last blog I posed the notion of transmedia storytelling. One form of this interdisciplinary storytelling is fanfiction. Through the Digital Art & Culture course at Radboud University Nijmegen I got introduced with ‘The Snarry Reader’; a homo-erotic form of retelling the Harry Potter book-series (in particular the relationship between Snape and Harry) that made me burst into laughter. Enough said, let’s read!

The Snarry Reader is available via clicking this link: http://snarry-reader.insanejournal.com/

Made by Jul (Tess).

The Contemporary Possibilities of Transmedia Storytelling

About the Harry Potter saga and the ability of telling a story through different mediums

Introduction

Technology has been changing over the past few years. All sorts of innovations have given people the possibility of ‘consuming’ all sorts of media, whenever they want to and where they want to. [1] Also people’s ‘new’ ability of participating and anticipating on new developments (such as Fanfiction) has helped a range of mediums to evolve outside their usual lines (filmic, textual, digital, game-related etc.). [2] This ‘participatory engagement’ has made it likely for people to explore new forms of media, which means that people are becoming accustomed to forms of media that were previously considered as low culture (such as television, games and internet). [3]

This all combined has created a shifting in the industry (which is also due to technological developments). [4] In this blog I’d like to pose the notion of ‘transmedia storytelling’ (a process that has been made possible because of the abovementioned). I’ll pose Henry Jenkins’ definition of ‘transmedia storytelling’ and, in relation to this, I’ll come up with an example of this ‘new media possibility’: the Harry Potter saga.

Jenkins’ Transmedia Storytelling 101

In his 2007 blogpost Transmedia Storytelling 101 Henry Jenkins discusses the notion of transmedia storytelling in a ten-step hand-out. [5] Jenkins describes transmedia storytelling as “a process that represents where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it [sic] own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.”

He here implies that different mediums make the story complete – and more detailed. In relation to this statement I’d like to pose an example, which I think can be seen as a form of transmedia storytelling: the Harry Potter saga.

Harry Potter saga: transmedia storytelling to the fullest

The Harry Potter book-series were published between 1997 and 2007. From 2001 on films were released almost every one or two years. Games for different consoles (such as Playstation and Nintendo DS) were brought out at the same time. Later on a huge merchandise-market arose (ranging from ‘wizardrobes’ and ‘wands’ to ‘bookmarks’ and ‘action-figures’). [6] Lego came up with a ‘Harry Potter series’. [7] The Warner Bros. Leavesden Studios in London became a museum, complete with studio-tour. And, at last, an enormous themepark ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ was opened in Orlando, Florida. [8]

These publications, merchandise-materials, visiting-places et cetera, all add something to the original story about a young orphan boy that turns out to be a wizard with a mortal enemy. Whether it’s about places, information (such as ‘spells’, or ‘ books’ that are read in the world of Harry Potter) or objects; all the mediums add something to the original storyline, so that fans can create their own story within the world of Harry Potter. [9]

There is one medium in particular that struck me whilst looking for transmedia storytelling examples: Pottermore. Pottermore is a website where Potter (or even non-Potter) fans can “explore the Harry Potter stories in a whole new way and discover exclusive new writing from J.K. Rowling”. [10] The Pottermore website tells the Harry Potter story in an interactive way so that the user really becomes a part of the wizarding world. By sorting its users into a Hogwarts-house (Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw) they become part of the world they’re desperately longing to be part of. This site also provides information to that users that really want to get to the bottom of it, or even want to create their own story in the wizarding world.

Conclusion

To conclude this mini-essay I think the Harry Potter saga is an interesting example of transmedia storytelling. Not only are there countless mediums involved in the recreation of a new – more complete and detailed – wizarding world, there are also mediums that really play with the diversity of mediums. Such as Pottermore – a website that tells the textual story of Harry Potter, whilst showing drawings, playing music, and giving information through little videos. By intertwining all these different mediums the user actually becomes a part of the wizarding world – and by experiencing this product the user himself can fill in the gaps, that J.K. Rowling has left open to discover. [11]

Made by Jul (Tess).

PS. Your Hogwarts acceptance letter is late.

Sources

Lecture ‘Digital Art and Culture: New Media, New Stories?’, Martijn Stevens and Lianne Toussaint. (April 18th, 2013) Nijmegen: Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen (Cultural Studies).

Jenkins, Henry. (2007) ‘Transmedia Storytelling 101’. http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html  (May 25th, 2013).

http://search2.lego.com/?q=harry+potter&lang=2057&cc=NL (May 25th, 2013).

http://www.noblecollection.com/index.cfm?fa=products.catagory&catid=21 (May 25th, 2013).

http://www.pottermore.com/ (May 25th, 2013).

https://www.universalorlando.com/harrypotter/ (May 25th, 2013).


[1] Lecture ‘Digital Art and Culture: New Media, New Stories?’, Martijn Stevens and Lianne Toussaint. (April 18th, 2013) Nijmegen: Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen (Cultural Studies).

[2] Ibidem.

[3] Ibidem.

[4] Ibidem.

[5] Jenkins, Henry. (2007) ‘Transmedia Storytelling 101’. http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html  (May 25th, 2013).

[9] Jenkins, Henry. (2007) ‘Transmedia Storytelling 101’. http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html  (May 25th, 2013): “A transmedia text does not simply disperse information: it provides a set of roles and goals which readers can assume as they enact aspects of the story through their everyday life. We might see this performative dimension at play with the release of action figures which encourage children to construct their own stories about the fictional characters or costumes and role playing games which invite us to immerse ourselves in the world of the fiction.”

[10] http://www.pottermore.com/ (May 25th, 2013).

[11]  Jenkins, Henry. (2007) ‘Transmedia Storytelling 101’. http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html  (May 25th, 2013): “The encyclopedic ambitions of transmedia texts often results in what might bes een as gaps or excesses in the unfolding of the story: that is, they introduce potential plots which can not be fully told or extra details which hint at more than can be revealed. Readers, thus have strond incentive to continue to elaborate on these story elements, working them over through their speculations, until they take on a life of their own.”

Your best friends, your worst enemies

My final blog deals with Facebook, boredom and some detrimental psychological effects of social media.

Putting it simply, Facebook is an online social networking service on which a person creates a profile, adds other users as friends and can upload text messages, photo’s or videos. According to philosopher D.E. Wittkower, the use of Facebook is born out of boredom. What exactly is boredom?

Boredom is a listless casting-about for purpose; the drifting existential anguish of one’s life experienced as meaningless, even if only temporarily so. It is the feeling that nothing is really worth it, where ‘it’ may be time or effort, and often a vanishingly small amount of either.[1]

According to German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), boredom alone was proof enough to state that human life is some sort of mistake. Because if life would have any intrinsic positive value, boredom would not exist. The mere act of lying back in a chair, fully satisfied by the awareness that one is alive, would have been enough.[2] In these days however, doing nothing in an empty room can sink a person into existential ennui. So, things such as Facebook (or any form of leisure, for that matter) exist.

Wittkower doesn’t acknowledge Schopenhauer’s view. In fact he praises boredom:

Being bored by something motivates a break, a change, and as such a motivation, requires an opening up of possibilities. Boredom-by, in this way, is the clearing away, the emotional negation of the past and the established, which opens a space of innovation.[3]

The question we have to ask ourselves is: is Facebook a desirable form of battling boredom? Not according to business professors Keith Wilcox and Andrew T. Stephen. They posit that the momentary increase in self-esteem in Facebook users that are focused on close friends, leads to a reduction of self-control.[4] Through five different studies they show us that Facebook usage reduces self-control on a number of important domains: health, mental persistence and spending/finances.[5]

Now let us, for the sake of the argument, translate that into some hypothetical worst-case scenarios. We can imagine the Facebook user buying drugs, giving up on school or going bankrupt. And all of that from a single cause: man’s inability to sit still in a room.

Made by Jut, 2-6-2013

Sources

Wittkower, D.E. (2013) ‘Boredom on Facebook’ in Geert Lovink & Miriam Rasch (eds). Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures: pp. 180-188.

Wilcox, K. & Stephen, A.T. (2012) ‘Are Close Friends the Enemy? Online Social Networks, Self-Esteem, and Self-Control’, in Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 40, no. 1: pp. 90-103.


[1] Wittkower 2013: 181.

[2] Wittkower 2013: 182.

[3] Wittkower 2013: 183.

[4] Wilcox & Stephen 2012: 90.

[5] Wilcox & Stephen 2012: 100-101.

On Panopticism: the World Exhibition of Paris (1867)

Introduction

World Exhibitions can be called the phenomena of the nineteenth century; they were organized to  teach people about the ‘state of civilization worldwide’. The motto of the exhibition was: “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all nations”. This motto implies that there was an equal distribution of exhabition-space between participating countries; in practise, of course, it didn’t exactly work out that way. [1]

In my previous blog I posed the notion of present Panopticism. In this blog I’d like to give you – as a reader – a little insight on the relation between Panopticism and World Exhibitions; in particular the World Exhibition of Paris (1867).

Uncannily similar

For the World Exhibition of 1867 in Paris, a new architectonal masterpiece arose in the French capital. This building should – as the motto implied – be divided in equal pieces; one look at the picture above shows us that the building – almost uncannily – looks like Bentham’s Panopticum. In my opinion, there can be only one good reason why the organisators chose for the Panoptical form.

Arranging the world: obsessive desires in the eightteenth and nineteenth century

Chosing for a Panoptic architecture might have got something to do with the desire of clarity, manageability and orderliness, which we can find again in contemporary (nineteenth century) products such as the Encyclopedia (the almost obsessive desire to arrange the whole world in one book selection), Darwin’s evolution-theory (the obsessive desire of arranging species in one book) or colonialism (the obsessive desire of arranging the world, literally). [2]

Using Bentham’s architectural form of the Panopticum made arranging the world in one building incredibily easy; every country had its own space in which they could show their Works of Industry. There was only one problem: the spaces weren’t equally big, which resulted in few imperial countries having too less space to expose all their ‘high-tech- industry’ and some ‘imperialized’ countries with room left to show-off their greatest Works of Industry. It is said for this reason that the choice for a Panoptic building was a smart ‘Western’ idea to show off their power – when you look at the exhibition from the centre of the building (as Bentham said from off a watchtower), you see a panoramic horizon of Western production. But, you actually look down on the small colonies.

Concluding

To conclude: I’d like to say that this blog is just an idea I had about World Exhibitions. Perhaps I should work out this idea more carefully, but I really do think that World Exhibitions were organised to show off Western superiority; using Bentham’s Panopticum gives Western colonizing countries the ability of showing off their ‘loot’ (colonies). I think this blog has shown, at least, the importance of the Panopticum – in particular in relation to Foucault’s theories – in the Western culture.

Made by Jul (Tess)

Sources

Lecture “European culture: worldexhibitions”, Tom Sintobin (September 6th, 2012) Nijmegen: Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen (Cultural Studies).


[1] Lecture “European culture: worldexhibitions”, Tom Sintobin (September 6th, 2012) Nijmegen: Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen (Cultural Studies).

[2] Lecture “European culture: worldexhibitions”, Tom Sintobin (September 6th, 2012) Nijmegen: Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen (Cultural Studies).

The Panopticum of the Digital Sphere

About a present form of  ‘natural surveillance’: Facebook

Introduction

In his 1975 book Surveiller et Punir. Naissance de la Prison Michel Foucault poses the idea of ‘natural surveillance’ through Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticum. He uses this superior architectonal masterpiece, with it’s characteristic design, as a conceptualization of power relations – between people. [1] The characteristic design, the domed building with it’s centered watchtower (completed with privacy glass), is in use of the building’s functionality; the most important feature of Bentham’s Panopticum, according to Foucault, is it’s ability to create confusion about surveillance amongst prisoners; since they can’t be sure whether or not they are being watched at the moment. The constant possibility of observation – the ‘unequal gaze’ between prisoner and guard – causes an “internalization of disciplinary individuality” and “a natural surveillance”. [2] Or, as Foucault said it: “[…] the major effect of the Panopticon [Gr.: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power”. [3] Foucaults idea perhaps fits a new form of ‘natural surveillance’. One that is generated through social media or, even more great, the complete digital sphere. In this blog I pose the question whether or not Facebook can be seen as a present form of ‘natural surveillance’ – sousveillance or coveillance.

Cascio’s The Rise of the Participatory Panopticum

In 2005 Jamais Cascio wrote an article ‘The Rise of the Participatory Panopticum’, in which he poses a present form of Foucault and Bentham’s Panopticum. He says that – with the arrival of a digital ‘sphere’ – people are internalizing discipline in a different way: This won’t simply be a world of a single, governmental Big Brother watching over your shoulder, nor will it be a world of a handful of corporate siblings training their ever-vigilant security cameras and tags on you. Such monitoring may well exist, probably will, in fact, but it will be overwhelmed by the millions of cameras and recorders in the hands of millions of Little Brothers and Little Sisters. We will carry with us the tools of our own transparency, and many, perhaps most, will do so willingly, even happily. [4] Cascio calls this new digital form of surveillance ‘the participatory Panopticum’. The original Panopticum creates an internalization of discipline, because of the power-relation between the guard (the viewer) and the prisoner (the viewed): the guard gets the power since he’s got the information about the prisoner. The prisoner, on the other hand, doesn’t know whether he’s being watched so he starts to internalize the ‘desired’ discourse. [5]

Differences between the Panopticum and ‘the participatory Panopticum

‘The participatory Panopticum’ is equal to the original Panopticum, although there are a few small differences. The first difference, of course, is that the original Panopticum works in a practical or social realm – ‘the participatory Panopticum’ on the other hand functions in a digital sphere. The actual functioning of the participartory Panopticum’ is possible because of internet, phones, camera’s and other ‘gadgets’ – and more important portable versions of the aformentioned. Cascio gives the example of journalism – anyone who is in the possession of a ‘smartphone’, can be a writer, a photographer or even an interviewer. [6] The above-mentioned creates new forms of power-relations, since there’s not just a few people that have information, knowledge and, therefore, power. The information – and the power – is being spread over the people. The ability of people watching at each other is called coveillance. [7] A second difference between the two ‘Panoptica’ has also got to do with the power-relations. In the original Panopticum the prisoners aren’t capable of looking back at the guard – since they can’t see him through the privacy glass. In the present Panopticum people do have the ability to look back at the ‘guard’ (the other). The ability of looking at each other, or looking back at the guard, is called sousveillance. [8] This ability changes the power-relations, because power is again being spread over many people.

Theory in practise: the participatory Panopticum and Facebook

Now that we know this about the notion of the Panopticum, we can analyze the theory behind it in a casus. Therefore I use the example of Facebook. This social medium, that functions in a digital sphere, is an interesting example for demonstrating the Panopticum: on Facebook we share. Not just an object (I.e. I share my chocolatebar with you), but information. And since Facebook-members are aware of the fact that they’re being watched, they agree to participate in the world of virtual surveillance. The notion of sharing is important since the people with whom we share (the ‘friends’) become our guards. On the other hand they also become our prisoners, because they also share private information with you. The tools Facebook hands the user are also important in relation to the Panoptic view. When you think someone’s ‘personal share’ is worth a compliment, you like his or her post. When you don’t agree with someone’s ‘share’, you react on their post. People’s desire of constantly wanting to be watched and checked, is a matter of self-affirmation (wanting to hear that whatever you do, is considered as ‘good’), but it is also about creating a new self: you have the ability to upload a photoshopped foto of yourself, so that you look more beautiful. You also have the ability of updating your list of interests: perhaps you like reading – by putting some canonical literary works in your ‘wants to read list’, you can make yourself look more intellectual or intelligent.

Conclusion

To conclude: I think it is very interesting that we can still use the notion of the Panopticum today. The majority of the Facebook-users sees this social medium as a way of staying in touch with people, but as I have been trying to prove in this blog; Facebook is much more. Facebook is a medium that can exist because of human desires for information – and more implicit: power. Although the original idea of the Panopticum and the internalization of discipline isn’t really applicable on Facebook anymore, the new ‘participatory Panopticum’ is. We actually choose to share personal information so that others can ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ our behaviour; whether this happens through sharing posts, pictures or personal interests, Facebook helps its users to internalize the socially ‘desired’ discourse.

Made by Jul (Tess)

Sources:

  • Foucault, Michel. (1975) Discipline, Toezicht en Straf: de Geboorte van de Gevangenis. Groningen: Historische Uitgeverij, 2007.
  • Lecture ‘Digital Art and Culture:  Privacy and Surveillance’, Martijn Stevens and Lianne Toussaint. (May 30th, 2013) Nijmegen: Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen (Cultural Studies).

[1] Foucault, Michel. (1975) Discipline, Toezicht en Straf: de Geboorte van de Gevangenis. Groningen: Historische Uitgeverij, 2007.
[2] Foucault, Michel. (1975) Discipline, Toezicht en Straf: de Geboorte van de Gevangenis. Groningen: Historische Uitgeverij, 2007.
[3] Foucault, Michel. (1975) Discipline, Toezicht en Straf: de Geboorte van de Gevangenis. Groningen: Historische Uitgeverij, 2007: 201.
[4] Cascio, Jamais. (2005) ‘The Rise of the Participatory Panopticum’. http://www.worldchanging.com http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/002651.html (May 28th, 2013).
[5] Foucault, Michel. (1975) Discipline, Toezicht en Straf: de Geboorte van de Gevangenis. Groningen: Historische Uitgeverij, 2007: 270-313.
[6] Cascio, Jamais. (2005) ‘The Rise of the Participatory Panopticum’. http://www.worldchanging.com http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/002651.html (May 28th, 2013).
[7] Lecture ‘Digital Art and Culture:  Privacy and Surveillance’, Martijn Stevens and Lianne Toussaint. (May 30th, 2013) Nijmegen: Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen (Cultural Studies).
[8] Lecture ‘Digital Art and Culture:  Privacy and Surveillance’, Martijn Stevens and Lianne Toussaint. (May 30th, 2013) Nijmegen: Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen (Cultural Studies).