From September 2005 to June 2006 a team of thirteen scholars at the The University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Communication explored how new and maturing networking technologies are transforming the way in which we interact with content, media sources, other individuals and groups, and the world that surrounds us.
This site documents the process and the results.
At long last, the Networked Publics book has been published by the MIT Press. At their request, we have taken down some of the chapters. Even with one of the most enlightened publishers, it was impossible to convince them of the virtues of free information. On the other hand, having the object in your hand makes it far more readable, I think.
Meanwhile, the site has been redesigned, to make it more modern and to bring it in line with the look of the book jacket, which was designed by Israel Kandarian of Field of Gray and the Network Architecture Lab (including our summer 2008 intern Susan Surface) and all the original content has been restored, including videos, now hosted on Google Video. We will update the site to account for any Networked Publics related events, of which I hope there will be a few!
Welcome to the new Networked Publics site! We've moved to this more modern server, built a new home page, and are getting ready for the next draft of the book. We'll be posting more soon!
The big hit game of the season for location based entertainment is Oshare Majo Love and Ruby (Fashion Magic Girls Love and Ruby), a game based on collecting fashion items and dance performance. Girls show up at gaming centers armed with binders fulll of cards depicting different fashion items. After inserting their 100 yen coin, the girls get a new card from the machine to add to their collection. They then swipe cards into the machines to dress up the characters, and pick a place to dance and show of their fashions, banging a tambourine in time to the dance beat to try to get a better score than their rivals. Seeing little girls lined up in front of arcade machines is an intriguing new chapter in the ongoing gender politics of gaming.
It has been a few weeks since the Networked Publics conference that we convened at the Annenberg Center. It has taken me a while to dig out from the backlog after the conference and to gather some of my thoughts about it.
Just for starters, I love this photo posted by Jonathan McIntosh that you can see in the Flickr NetworkedPublics tag stream. It exemplifies what was so great about the gathering for me, getting folks across boundaries of academia, activism, and creative practice together like in this photo: Jonathan McIntosh of ad remix fame, uber autonomist Marxist political theorist Harry Cleaver, and our own netpublics fellow Merlyna Lim and very talented graduate students and activists Sasha Costanza-Chock, Aram Sinreich, and Richard Hodkinson. As John Tomasic has blogged with more insightful humor than I can muster, the event was characterized by a series of confusing disconnects. But doesn't everyone look like they are having a good time?
Last week we had the good fortune to have both Yochai Benkler and Henry Jenkins by to visit our Networked Publics group. And as if that wasn't a sweet enough deal, they both have books coming out soon synthesizing their many years of work on networked culture and society, making this year a fabulous one for Internet studies. Henry's Convergence Culture and Yochai's The Wealth of Networks, are the state of the art in thinking about new media and the Internet. Both provide both rich detail in the form of concrete cases as well as frameworks for understanding the social, technical, and economic changes coming down the pipeline that are both highly original and syncretic. But my goal at the moment is not to do a book review. I just want to ruminate on one thread of conversation that emerged from spending a day each with these thinkers and their texts.
Henry and Yochai are in many ways complementary thinkers who share an appreciation for the bottom-up, emergent, and viral forms of social organization emerging from the maturing media ecology of the Internet. Mostly they are in agreement about the scope and nature of the sweeping changes on the horizon as content turns digitally networked, and they both are actively participating in shaping these conditions of the future to be safer for the creative and knowledge production of everyday folks. But they also have some interesting differences. Henry's book is a revisiting of fan culture studies where he did so much ground-breaking worktwo decades ago, looking at how fans "poach" from commercial media. The cultures of appropriation and remix which were a marginal subculture in the eighties are now becoming more and more visible to the mainstream. In his new work, Henry argues that convergence culture means that fan-like relations to mass media are becoming more the rule than the exception. Even everyday media consumption is becoming more partcipatory (ie. fan-like) in an era of Tivo, digital download, and Internet fan groups. In this, his argument has resonances with Stephen Johnson's argument in Everything Bad Is Good for You, as well as my own work on kids' post-Pokemon media mix cultures. Engagement with commercial media is becoming more differentiated, smarter, more activist, and more social and these forms of engagement are crossing over to how people relate to domains such as news and politics.
Yochai also believes in the power of distributed intelligence and wired prosumers, and he sees amateur cultures such as fan cultural production as examples of "the wealth of networks." But his focus is on what he calls "nonmarket" forms of culture and knowledge production. If Henry's central cases are media fandom and alternative news, Yochai's are open source and distributed models of software and knowledge production such as Linux, Wikipedia, alternative news, and some forms of science (eg. bioinformatics, seti@home). He argues that the dominance of commercially produced forms of knowledge and culture is a historical anomaly, and we are in the midst of a correction that will give more weight to amateur, non-commercial and folk forms. In many ways his argument is probably more radical than what Henry or I might say about the promise of amateur and folk cultures. He sees everyday amateur producers as increasingly the source of generative forms of knowledge and culture, that provide a genuine alternative to commercial media.
As Julian had already blogged, we had good conversation about alternative futures that lurked in the backdrops of Henry and Yochai's analyses. In my own work I've really been struggling to define what the emergent role of amateur production is going to be in a reconfigured digital media ecology. I pressed both of them on this point. What do we think is the proper role for commercial media? Can distributed and amateur production become a genuine challenge to commercial production? Or will there always be a center and a periphery?
The discussion was more wide ranging than I can capture a few days after the fact. But at the end of the week, I think what it came down to for me was that this balance depends crucially on the specificities of the cultural forms in question. Yochai pointed out that his argument about distributed nonmarket production really focuses on cultural forms that can be easily decomposed, like software and encyclopedia entries. In his book, he talks about how even in the case of science textbooks, where it seems like this should work, the units are large enough that it is difficult to sustain as a volunteer effort. If we look at music, for example, amateur performance has always persisted because it is a media form that is amenable to local performance. Contrast that with something like feature films or the sustained multi-year (or at least season-long) narratives you get in an anime series, and you start moving into domains that require both a certain amount of capitalization as well as a sustained authorial viewpoint.
I think it is an interesting question what specific forms of culture and knowledge are amenable to development on an open source and distributed model. The answer to that may dictate whether the future is one of the continued dominance of commercial media (albiet on that has figured out a respectful relation to its fans and activist consumers) or one that is dominated by nonmarket cultural forms with commercial media occupying a less dominant role.
Why has this blog been so barren lately? Am I giving up on the Net? No! Far from it. I have, however, been a little busy lately. Now that the project is safely established, we can announce that...
AUDC Establishes Network Architecture Lab @ Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation
Formed in 2001, AUDC [Architecture Urbanism Design Collaborative] specializes in research as a form of practice. The AUDC Network Architecture Lab is an experimental unit at Columbia University that embraces the studio and the seminar as venues for architectural analysis and speculation, exploring new forms of research through architecture, text, new media design, film production and environment design.
Specifically, the Network Architecture Lab investigates the impact of computation and communications on architecture and urbanism. What opportunities do programming, telematics, and new media offer architecture? How does the network city affect the building? Who is the subject and what is the object in a world of networked things and spaces? How do transformations in communications reflect and affect the broader socioeconomic milieu? The NetLab seeks to both document this emergent condition and to produce new sites of practice and innovative working methods for architecture in the twenty-first century. Using new media technologies, the lab aims to develop new interfaces to both physical and virtual space.
The NetLab is consciously understood as an interdisciplinary unit, establishing collaborative relationships with other centers both at Columbia and at other institutions.
The NetLab begins operations in September 2006.
Click Read More for the Culture Essay from the upcoming Networked Publics book and... leave your comments!
Click Read More for the Politics Essay from the upcoming Networked Publics book and... leave your comments!
One of my colleagues at the Institute for the Future of the Book, Ben Vershbow, wrote an intelligent post pointing to a front page New York Times on steps being taken within Wikipedia to deal with controversies over articles.
What Ben's post and the NY article (which was on the front page) point to is that Wikipedia is bringing back the need to read critically, a skill that was increasingly being lost—and not only due to the Internet. Moreover, for any good historian, the controversies and the changing nature of the entries on Wikipedia is a great thing, reminding us that knowledge is always in flux and often contested.
Somehow, in our rush to absorb as much information as possible (or is it to surf as much information as possible?), these age old lessons from historiography seem to have been forgotten. Wikipedia is a great thing since it brings them to the fore. And (especially when downloaded to my Treo) it's so darn handy too! (broken post fixed)
Is exurbia the next frontier for massive digital infrastructure projects? The New York Times explores the construction of the Googleplex on a remote site in The Dalles, Oregon, on the banks of the Columbia River. Google paid $1.3 million for 30 acres! They're going to be paying a lot more to hook up fiber to the grid out there. Is this a response to the concentrated nature of telecoms in cities? Of course, if you have sufficient means, any place can be made a command and control center for the global city. Silicon Valley was once farmland as well.