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Institutional Designs for Digitising Democracy

I'm spending the afternoon at a public lecture by Georgina Born from Cambridge University, at the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland (who, as it turns out, for some time was also the cellist and bassist in British Prog icons Henry Cow). She begins with a nod towards Habermas's public sphere concept, which in relation to broadcasting has been seen as having been imperfectly realised (e.g. through the universalism of service, reach, and programming of the BBC in Britain). In these media debates, the specifically literary and cultural dimensions of the original conception of the public sphere appear to have been ignored, however, and there is also a gender issue here which privileges 'hard' content (e.g. news) over 'soft' content such as drama.

e-Voting, Media Consumption, and the Future of Intellectual Property

Tartu
Wolter Pieters starts the post-lunch session at CATaC 2006. He describes current moves towards e-voting as they have happened here in Estonia and elsewhere: is Internet voting the future? Estonia was the first country to use e-voting in local elections, but in the Netherlands and elsewhere there still exist many questions around it. There are promises that e-voting would increase voter turnout, but the Estonian experience does not necessarily support this - here, e-voting was introduced for its ease rather than to increase participation.

Surveillance vs. Democracy

Dresden
A new day has dawned on us at ICA2006, and the first session of this Wednesday has started. I'm in a session on Surveillance and Control, and Josh Lauer makes a start with a paper on the development of credit reporting agencies (or mercantile agencies), framed here as a surveillance technology. The emergence of such agencies in the U.S. in the 1800s can be seen as a sign of modernity, increased population movements, and the breakdown of trust in the public sphere. Initially, such systems were framed mainly as a simple extension of credit checks already conducted by individual merchants, but in the form of an impartial national service. Credit information was tightly protected - no written traces of credit checks were allowed to leave the business premises of the initial credit checking agencies.

Globalisation and Its Effects

Dresden
My next session again involves Mark Latonero, speaking on remix culture. (I missed the session's previous presentation, on the World Trade Organisation.) Mark describes the delegitimising force of traditional copyright industries, but notes the rise of alternative modes which involve the active production of content by non-traditional producers operating outside the status quo production processes, in a user-based, bottom-up, and grassroots mode. Remixing embodies a set of social practices that are indicative of digital technologies imbued with an ideology of freedom. Are remixers aiming to transcend the constraints of space and time? What are their cultural characteristics and personal identities?

Communication, Power, and Counterpower in the Network Society

s0619-castells

Dresden
Finally for today we've moved to the first conference keynote, by Manuel Castells. His talk focusses on the relationships between communication, power, and counterpower in the network society. The fundamental battle here is over the minds of the people, which in turn determines the values and norms of society. If majority views are different from the prevailing values of those in power, then ultimately the system will change - and the battle over the human mind is largely carried out through the processes of communication. Recently, of course, the electronic networks have further extended the modes of human communication. Powers and counterpowers operate in a new technological framework, in which vertical mass communication has been joined by a new form of horizontal, 'mass self communication'.

Journalisms in Flux

Dresden
The first session of the 56th annual International Communication Association conference has started now - and as always I'll do my best to report what I see. There may be some delays in getting this out, though - surprisingly, it looks as if the only Internet access made available here to conference delegates is by way of a handful of machines in the Cybercafe. No wireless - a very disappointing start to this event... I should also note that of course there's a plethora of papers being presented here - so what I cover may not at all be representative for the conference as such.

New York Visit - Talks Announced

With my host Trebor Scholz from the Institute for Distributed Creativity I'm now confirming the various talks and presentations I'm giving in Buffalo and New York City as part of my research residency at the iDC - my thanks for them for having me and organising these events. For any readers based over there, here's what we have planned so far:

Buffalo

  • 28 Sep., 1-3 p.m. - Workshop at SUNY Buffalo
    Produsers and Produsage 
     
  • 28 Sep., 6 p.m. - guest lecture at SUNY Buffalo (room 235):
    'Anyone Can Edit': Understanding the Produser
    The Mojtaba Saminejad Lecture (see announcement)

New York City

  • 11 Oct., 10 a.m. - guest lecture at the New School:
    'Anyone Can Edit': Understanding the Produser
     
  • 11 Oct., 6 p.m. - guest talk at The Thing:
    Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production

    Recent years have seen the emergence of collaborative publishing models in key news Websites ranging from the worldwide Indymedia network to the massively successful technology news site Slashdot and further to the multitude of Weblogs. Such sites have been instrumental in debunking political misinformation and providing first-hand coverage of unfolding events from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina, but also provide an important corrective to the mainstream news media in their everyday coverage of current events.

Media Frenzy

Don't know why this is suddenly all happening now, but I've been contacted by a good cross-section of the Australian media over the last couple of days. In addition to the Online Opinion piece which is now up, at first Jennifer Dudley from Brisbane's Courier-Mail approached me as an expert commentator on blogging; she's published an article about information addiction in today's issue (which itself is based on a posting by blogger Om Malik who points to a kind of 'Internet Anxiety Disorder' that results from the vastness of information now available to everyone). Then I was approached by Peter Gooch from ABC radio to do a live interview on the same topic, sparked by that article. I was on air around 1.30 p.m. today.

(My) Online Opinion

Hmm. I've been invited to contribute a piece to the April feature of Online Opinion, which will look at online and alternative media in Australia. So, I guess I'll have to make up my mind about what I think about this topic... Here's a first take:

News You Can Produse

Much of the debate around online, and even alternative online media in Australia continues to miss the point. So much of online publishers' thinking about their work is still couched in an outmoded language which upholds increasingly hollow and counterproductive approaches to publishing. Indeed the terms 'publishing' and 'media' may be part of the problem themselves. 'Media', after all, implies the existence of a mediator, an agency presumably in the middle between producers and consumers which 'publishes', that is, makes public what was previously unavailable.

M/C Journal 'bad' Issue Launched

I've just sent out the official announcement for the latest issue of M/C Journal, for which I'm General Editor. Kylie Cardell and Jason Emmett have put together a very nice collection of articles on the (unlikely?) theme of 'bad'. On the site I've also added the blurb for our upcoming issue 'copy' and confirmed the last issue for the year, 'affect'. We're still looking for an editor for 'scan', by the way - email me...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 24 March 2005

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