Saturday, 29 May 2010

I need your help!

It's the last week of my degree (dun dun dun!) and I'm back. I'm here, cap in hand, asking for your help.

It's really very simple.
All you need to do is read out the text below, in your best speaking voice, record yourself (either video or audio - whichever you prefer) and send it to me. It will form part of a video I'm putting together for my final project hand in. Please help! Many thanks, Keira.

Ps. I realise that files may be too large to attach to an email (my email address is however incase needs be). If you post the video to YouTube I have a very nice, mildly illegal video grabber so I can snatch it from YouTube's clutches.

Here's the text:

Its 30 years later and we’ve seen a lot of changes. Most of the population are computer literate. Those who were in their 50s at the birth of the internet are 80 or 90 now. The majority of them learnt how to use the internet for work. And for a long time now education has been largely web-based.

Since the dawning of the internet we have seen a change in the way we are entertained. As free content began to pour onto the internet, nothing the media industries or government could do stopped people from sharing their ideas, the ideas of others, information and skills.

As media industries began to claw back their copyrighted material the general public began to abandon traditional recorded entertainment including recorded music, television and books. Increasingly people turned to each other for entertainment – posting free amateur film, music and written word. Collaboration was the norm and authorship became increasingly irrelevant.

Masses of information could be stored and accessed through cloud computing. Most people need only carry small devices or epaper to access the entire internet and all of their personal files. Increasingly in public there is barely need for a personal device as our streetscape becomes more and more technologically advanced.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Ash Clouds can't stop Cloud Computing (or rock gigs).

Gig reviews aren’t usually what I use this blog for – but I’ll make an exception this time. Regular readers (if there are any, hello?) may think I have an unhealthy obsession with musician Amanda Palmer. She has f

eatured several times on this blog – she even twittered me after reading my dissertation, which is posted below (@amandapalmer @akidfromkibble Great paper.). But she has appeared her for good reason – her acceptance and innovative use of the Internet.

Evelyn & Evelyn are conjoined twin sisters who recently released their debut album “Evelyn Evelyn” under the band name Evelyn Evelyn.

Except they are not. They are actually Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley (right hand and left hand respectively) and were set to embark on their first European tour as the sisters.

And then Iceland exploded.

Amanda Palmer had landed in Iceland on a 45 minute stopover just as the volcano erupted. You can read about Amanda’s adventures in Volcanoland here:

The rest of the tour team were stuck in the US, including Evelyn Jason. Through a series of serendipitous events Amanda made it to Glasgow alone where they were due to play a gig in Oran Mor.

So myself, Lynsey and our friend Ruaraidh arrived, expecting a solo Amanda Palmer show or there abouts. We got something quite different.

Clearly making it up as they went along, but in

the most enjoyable way ever, Jason appeared to us via Skype on a MacBook, held up by a fan. The whole show was webcast by another fan holding Amanda’s MacBook, which was eventually crowd surfed through the front row for the best view. Jason was at Amanda’s apartment in Boston and they attempted to play the entire set/cabaret event transatlanticly! Jason was heard to say “Um… Amanda… I’m worried they wont believe we are conjoined sisters now…”

Jason’s sound was hooked up through the Mac’s headphone output to a PA and wasn’t the greatest I’ve ever heard. It worked pretty damn well if Jason played first and Amanda followed (due to the time delay!) There was a puppet show – provided by the drawing skills of another fan. Interlude music was played by Bitter Ruin – the band who had Twittered to fill in as support and come up from Newcastle. Other items such as kazoos, ukeleles and piano stands were Twittered from fans. Cowboy hats, feathers and a gun were all borrowed from the crowd. It was fantastically unorganised but some how just about worked. We all agreed that maybe it would have been better had she only played a few songs with Jason and then played a solo set – which is what she did in Dublin the next night. But I’m grateful that we were the experiment because I’ll never forget the sight of watching conjoined twin sisters playing on each side of the Atlantic.

I just want to go where nobody knows my

And no one notices or cares whether I came.

I just want my friends altogether in one place.

I just want control over the way they see my

I just want to friend the entire human race.

I just want my space.”

Lyrics from Evelyn Evelyn’s My Space

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Oh Steve...

At the start of this project Apple launched their tablet.

As I'm sure you are aware, they took lea
ve of their senses and named it: the iPad.
Oh Steve Jobs. You've let me down.
I'm waiting for the shuffle version - the iTampon. Although, arguably, the shuffle version is just the iPhone/iTouch.
Not available to buy yet, the iPad doesn't seem to have impressed too many people.

It might revolutionise the e-reader - the Kindle e
tc are all a bit blah. They aren't very functional, they can't do much. Supposedly the iPad will bridge the gap between smart phones, laptops, netbooks and e-readers.
I'm not holding my breathe. Admittedly, its an improvement. Maybe I'm just turned off by the name. iPad? My bad.
Still, who needs love when the sandwiches are wicked and they know you in the MacStore?

Music in the Clouds


Let's start again. Ironic that in the project about Cloud Computing I would neglect my blog. Sorry mate.

The Internet changes things. That we know.

As discussed in my dissertation (see previous posts >>>) the music industry is a good case study of this. It's nature of being fairly small files meant that it was the forerunner in a lot of ways.
We had Napster, we have Limewire - these early music distribution tools use open sourcing to share tunes between users, using the new and popular MP3 format.

"I have this great software, you can have it for free!"
"Oh, wow, thanks! I'll share all my music for free and everyone can have everything for free and be HAPPY!"

But the music industry weren't keen on this model - of course they weren't. Traditional record labels were loosing millions of pounds/dollars/yen in this. After all, it was Piracy. Sharing records, while technically not legal, was always accepted. It was so small scale it had no real effect. A massive file sharing network meant the industry had to sit up, take notice, and clamp down.

So hey, great idea from Apple, who with their iPods were largely responsible for the transfer of music to MP3, the iTunes store was born.

"Look guys, you can now legally BUY music on the internet! How neat is that?! It's cheaper than records, and virus free!" "Oh cool, I respect that the artists should be paid for their work. That's cool. I'm in."

And most people were in. Of course piracy will never completely disappear, but with a lot of high profile court cases people were put off. They didn't want to steal music - it was simply the only option to begin with.

And hey... what's this? Oh, it's Spotify. Now there is a nifty idea.

"Hey, you can download this software for free (for a limited time only, or be invited by a subscribed user). Then you can access the music we have (limited access for free users, premium members get all our tunes for a small fee.)" "So I don't have to store it on my hard drive? Awesome! 18GB of music was really slowing up my computer! And I can access it anywhere I have an internet connection? Well with my iPhone, that's EVERYWHERE. Magic! And if I want it for free I just have to listen to a couple of (very smart) adverts every few songs? Hey, I can do that. Thanks!"

So we can see how music on the cloud has progressed from
1) Napster - free software, free to the user, accessible by everyone, illegal
2) iTunes - free software, small pay-per-download fee, accessible by everyone, legal
3) Spotify - free software, free to the user (paid for with ads) or small subscribtion, accessible by everyone (because the users don't OWN the files), legal
We need to watch for stage 4, when the music industry works out how to keep selling us singles, instead of just making a few bob off of Spotify. Spotify must be a threat to them. They are big and strong and angry.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

You've been in the clouds. Welcome back...

... Cloud Computing. Here we go.

Keeping it in this same blog because this new project is so tied to my dissertation.

After weeks of diligent research *ahem* I've found myself here. This was written on Wednesday 27th Jan - Just before the iSlate/iPad/iTablet launch... keep watching folks...

My area of interest is entertainment - probably because of things discussed in the aforementioned dissertation.
I looked at music and how we started off with Napster and Limewire, illegal file sharing programmes which allowed users to pirate music files.
To combat this, the iTunes store was introduced - a legitimate service for buying and downloading music files. This was hugely successful - as most people didn't want to steal music - there was simply no service for them to purchase it legally.
Now we are seeing a move to services such as Spotify - where all the music is stored via cloud computing and no one needs to buy any music, so long as they can get access to the internet.
Books are a little newer to the digital world. While online newspapers and blogs are everywhere, only in the past few years have books made an appearance.
So how can we buy books online? There's Amazon, eBay, and other booksellers who will post you your physical copy of your title. Most titles, particularly older ones and second hand books are very reasonably priced, don't cost too much to post and arrive quickly. It's a great way to find rare or hard to get hold of books, such as ones out of print. Books can be dispatched worldwide.
Google Books, launched in October 2004, set out to scan thousands of books, for free perusal online. Of course, on lesser quality screens, the legibility of the text is limited. There is also a limited number of titles available, and sometimes only a limited amount of the text available. Most titles are those which have lapsed copyright or are considered to be "within the public domain".
The Amazon Kindle and it's store were launched in the US in 2007 (2009 in the rest of the world). While not the only ebook reader on the market, thus far it has the market share. However it's success has been underwhelming. Perhaps books don't quite translate to a digital screen in the same way that music does - music is aural and it doesn't matter the physical format. Books are tactile, text is tactile, and there needs to be an enjoyable format.
Something that is lost through the ebook is the status that comes with having a vast collection of books. You can't leave your kindle casually lying around, opened on a particularly hard book to impress your friends. Well... you can... but its a little less subtle than the ol' leave-em-on-the-coffee-table trick.
I'd like to keep the book physical. What do we do with all the books otherwise? Book Burning is a bit of a taboo...
The disappearance of the independent bookstore from our streets would break my heart. Theres nothing like going through those dusty shelves is there?! But we know that both music and book sales are down in shops - not just because of the digitalisation of media, but also the ease of online shopping.
Bookclubs haven't translated particularly well to the internet either.
And what about book exchanges? What happens to the serendipitous act of leaving a book you have read lying in a bus, train, station etc for the next reader to find - and you yourself picking up left books.
So I made some sketches looking at keeping the book physical, and using cloud computing to do this.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Virtuality There: Journeying to Internet Maturity.

What appears in the following posts is my dissertation, with each chapter as a different post. Comments and criticism encouraged. It turns out that I am by no means done with you yet Web 2.0. Don't worry, I'll buy you dinner first.

Here is the summary that opened my dissertation;


This essay looks at the way the Internet is evolving in its current “Web 2.0” manifestation and looks to where it might evolve beyond that. There is a particular focus on modern society’s relationship with the web and the way this effects their treatment of themes such as reality, identity, truth, secrecy and privacy. Looking at examples from popular culture, it considers new formats and models for future Internet behaviour.

What I REALLY meant to say was;

"This dissertation is the result of a misspent adolescence, wasted on the Internet. And after all, it's only the beauty on the Internet that really matters."

Keep it virtual. xxx

You Never Know Where You Will End Up. (See


The term “Web 2.0” does not refer to any technical advancement, but instead to a change in the way software developers and end users are using the World Wide Web. The idea behind this new model for the Internet was that everyone would be equal and would have the opportunity to share their opinions or administrate their own websites. User generated content is an important aspect of this, where a site requires a certain amount of input from the user to create the content. Obvious examples of this change are social networking and media sites such as Facebook or MySpace, video-hosting sites like YouTube as well as blogs, Wikipedia and Google Maps’ Explore function. Most of these websites allow other users to comment on or reply to the original object.

In this essay I intend to explore these sites and their role in modern society, particularly focusing on the way they are affecting our relationship with themes such as identity, reality, truth, secrecy and privacy. In 2009, it was estimated that a quarter of the world’s population use the resource of the Internet. It has never been easier for people to connect across the world. Millions of strangers now have the ability to come together and share common experiences and interests. Thus far, people seem to be far more open on the Internet than would be socially acceptable in reality. There is something about the format, which allows people to lose their inhibitations.

I have held an interest in this subject ever since I was first linked to Frank Warren’s in 2005. This site asks users to send secrets on one side of a postcard to Warren’s home address and to use a certain amount of creativity in their efforts. Postsecret is the most popular example of a confessional site, but I am also interested in things like Twitter and Facebook, where it is easy to quickly display one’s life to the world, or online banking, which asks a person to trust the internet with all their finances – even when they are aware fraudulent “phishing scams” exist. I find it fascinating that the Internet offers a chance to change your identity, to become whomever you desire. This feature can be used innocently, in online games such as Second Life, where the user creates a persona, which can be as life like or as fanciful as they wish, or for the most sinister means such as fraud or for grooming.

Discussions such as this are so new – the internet was only set up in a meaningful way in the mid-1990s – that it can be quite difficult to find relevant, academic literature, which can be regarded as more than just opinion. A Google search of “Web 2.0” using the Timeline application yields results no older than mid-2005, with the majority falling between 2007 and 2008. As we begin to harness this new model of the Internet, and technologies adapt to work within in it we see new fascinating behaviours emerging. It is now we must decide whether these are an acceptable model for the future, or whether we should attempt to steer ourselves in a different direction.

Everyone is an Expert Now...

1: The Death of the Professional & the Forming of New Identities.

As mentioned above, Web 2.0 does not represent a change in technology, merely a change in the behaviour of the Internet’s users and developers, which lead to the emergence of user-generated content sites. These websites require some form of input from the audience to make up a portion of their substance.

As these tools become more and more common to everyday use it is possible to see a shift towards the Internet being greatly edited and used by the amateur user. Is this change in power a positive or negative transformation?

During the summer of 2009, after the controversial election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, the Iranian government imposed strict limits on foreign media within the country, requiring journalists to obtain permission before leaving their offices. As the majority of media in Iran is government controlled, protests against the government and the violence involved were going largely unheard. Iranian’s began Tweeting their experiences and soon ‘#iranelection’ was a Trending Topic (and remained so for a considerable time). Since then the hash-tag has never disappeared from Twitter (see Figure 1.)

Taken from (01/11/09)

Soon, eyewitnesses were uploading their pictures and videos to sites such as Flickr and YouTube – many showing graphic scenes of violence and bloodshed. Users also began to overlay their avatars in green to show their support for those in Iran. So this seems like a positive shift towards users having greater power on the Internet – giving repressed people a voice, raising an awareness of the situation and letting others show their support. However, as was discussed on the 04/11/09 edition of Radio 4’s Moral Maze, which was about Twitter and its power to create protest and “mobs”, this wasn’t necessarily the positive, free protest of the Iranian people. It is known that many accounts Tweeting about the election were actually agent provocateurs working for the Iranian government, which were trying to give out misinformation. While it would seem that a large amount of attention was being drawn to the plight of the Iranian people by the movement, many of the Tweets coming from outside Iran clearly were ill-informed about the situation or were viral RTs (RT stands for “ReTweet” where one account holder reposts the Tweet of another, at marks it with “RT” to show this). Social media such as Twitter allows the user to express an opinion, or re-express the opinion of someone else, with little thought or consideration. On the other hand Twitter is often used as a place to bounce readers to news sites and blogs, which can help them, create more enlightened opinions on a subject. Those who argue for Twitter would say that the Iranian people would not be on the streets protesting if Twitter had not been there to organise and liberate them. Those opposed argue back saying that they were on the streets because they had been oppressed for 30 years.

With this ability for amateurs to take control of the web, there is clearly a loss of professional opinion – informed experts, professional journalists and newspapers, web designers and official sites all lose out. And we lose their expertise. While it may be liberating for the man on the street, or rather behind his computer, to express his opinion – “the opinion of the people” (which it is so often not) – he has no real knowledge of what it is to practise professional journalism. Usually this information will be at least second hand, or mere opinion, rather than the more reliable first hand experience that a journalist has the resources to find. In his book The Cult of the Amateur (2007) – an exploration of the way the Web 2.0 revolution has handed the web to the narcissistic citizen - Andrew Keen gives his opinion of this shift;

“For the real consequence of the Web 2.0 revolution is less culture, less reliable news, and a chaos of useless information. One chilling reality in this brave new digital epoch is the blurring, obfuscation and even disappearance of truth.” (2007: p.16)

He also warns that this model of media breaks the world into “a billion personalised truths, each seemingly equally valid and worthwhile” (2007: p.17).

Of course there are examples of professionals and experts abusing the opportunity the Internet presents for them to pretend to be amateurs. For example, a video appeared on YouTube, parodying Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth (2006), mocking its serious message. This seemingly homemade video, which has at the time of writing received 602,000 views, turned out to have originated from DCI Group, a conservative Washington, D.C. lobbying firm whose clients include ExxonMobil.

Many commentators claim that the Internet is having a detrimental effect on society. The tagline of Keen’s book reads:

“How blogs, MySpace, YouTube and the rest of today’s user-generated media are killing our culture and economy” (2007)

As mentioned above, Keen’s work focuses particularly on the opportunity Web 2.0 gives its users to consider themselves, and be considered as experts or professionals, and to feed their egos. Keen appeared on the BBC4 show It’s Only A Theory (BBC4, 17/11/2009) arguing his theory that “User generated media is killing our culture and economy” – and specified that he is focusing his attention on sites such as Facebook and YouTube. His theory stated that our society is suffering and that the Internet has become merely “a platform for our feelings”, suggesting that we had a great opportunity in the Internet, but we have wasted it on Web 2.0 interaction. As an example he asked the panelists to imagine that they selected members of the audience and asked them to produce the show – “it would be a farce” quipped Keen. His argument followed that there are two main problems with the Internet – that it is a technology which allows us to express ourselves freely, without thought or with prior knowledge of a subject, and secondly that we are consuming less mainstream media such as newspapers and television, which tends to come from an informed perspective.

If it was discovered that an article, in a national newspaper, posing as a researched piece, was written by a naïve member of the public, speaking only from their own opinions and hearsay, there would be public outcry and the paper would have to publish an apology or an explanation. Writing in his book Here Comes Everybody (2008), Clay Shirky, talks about the publishing and journalistic worlds of the past,

“…we have a professional class of truth-tellers who are given certain latitude to avoid co-operating with the law. We didn’t have to worry, in defining those privileges, that they would somehow become general, because it wasn’t like just anyone could become a publisher.” (2008: p.71)

Shirky then admits that, in the current version of the Internet, anyone can become a publisher. Viewers are (generally) aware that the majority of blogs, YouTube channels, Wikipedia and Twitter feeds are run and updated by amateurs (of course, professional journalists, scientists etc also update and maintain information on these sites, but are a minority compared to the overall population of the Internet). However most still demonstrate an instinctive trust in these sources. We know that sites such as Wikipedia are written and moderated by amateurs but most would admit that it is their first port of call in understanding a subject. The word “wiki” is Hawaiian for “fast”, but has become a meme on the Internet for a collective knowledge. Rather than a factually accurate account of the subject, Wikipedia gives a quick snapshot of it, in a language understandable by the average citizen, even if it is not very academic. Traditionally, we are taught from the moment we begin to read that most written media – textbooks, newspapers, non-fiction books, journals – are intrinsically correct. Of course, free-thinking is encouraged, but the sense that the author knows their subject well, and thus has an elevated status above us, always lingers. It may be the transfer of these paper-based skills to the relatively new platform of the Internet, which causes users to trust online sources.

When one uses the Internet, a strange thing is happening. With face-to-face interaction, and even with a phone call it is possible to know something about the person with which you are communicating. If you can see them then you can make a guess at their age, can read their body language and make assumptions about their character based on the information your eyes have collected. When speaking on the phone things such as accent and tone of voice give away personality traits and basic personal information. The Internet however provides a completely anonymous communication platform. This puts an interesting spin on our ideas of trust, truth and privacy.

Anti-virus software and data protection firm, Sophos, conducted a probe into identity theft via Facebook (published on 07/12/09). In their investigation they created two Facebook profiles, both with names based on anagrams of the words “false identity”. “Daisy Felettin”, 21, displayed a picture of a rubber duck as her profile picture. “Dinette Stonily”, 56, was represented by two cats lying on a rug. Facebook users were randomly chosen in their respective age-groups and 100 friend requests were sent out to each profile. Within two weeks, 95 users had accepted the friend requests from these false profiles. This proved to be an even higher rate than when the experiment was first done two years previously with a plastic frog. Eight users added Dinette without being asked. Of those who befriended the profiles 89% of the 20-somethings and 57% of the 50-somethings gave away their full date of birth. On top of this, just under half of the 20-somethings and just under a third of the 50-somethings gave out personal information about their friends and family. Paul Ducklin, Head of Technology at Sophos’ Sydney offices, who conducted the study said,

“Our honeymoon period with social networking sites ought to be over by now – but many users still have a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude to their personal data.”




Friends accepting



Total friends gained



Full d.o.b. (D/M/Y)



Partial d.o.b. (D/M)



Email address



College or workplace



Town or suburb



Full address



Phone number



IM screen name



Family and friend data



Average no. of friends



So why do people readily accept complete strangers as friends on the Internet? The design and concept of social networking sites tends to be inherently narcissistic. Users are usually represented by photographs of themselves, there is often a ‘status feed’ where they can update thoughts, feelings or activities, and they are asked to list their hobbies and interests. There are reams of applications to show how well travelled you are, to test your knowledge of popular culture or to test your IQ. Less of a communication tool, social networking often acts as an advert. There is a pressure to prove how cool, how funny, pretty or intelligent you are and of course, how many friends you have.

On top of this, the amount of information people are giving freely is alarming, a perfect hotbed for identity theft. Many social network users are sharing all of this data with criminals, who themselves are only traceable through their IP address – and even that can be concealed with free software such as Tor (ironically Tor describe themselves as “free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known traffic analysis.”)

Hopefully in the coming years this trend of sharing too much information will stop. To make this happen, user-generated content sites will have to change their formats to some extent in an effort to protect the identities of their users. Currently people are positively encouraged to tell all, but there is a pressing need for the format of these sites to mature.