Struggle over Colbert

Don’t executives at major media companies pay attention?  This parody of the Colbert Report, called Stop the Falsiness is as much an ad for the show as it is its own thing.  There is nothing here that would at all threaten Viacom’s product or in any way go against the political sensibility of the show.  It would appear that a boardroom of monkeys gathered to view the clip and took it at face value.  Won’t anybody explain to them what’s really going on here?

EFF is on the beat.  Here’s a paragraph from their description of the case.

The video, called “Stop the Falsiness,” was created by MoveOn and Brave New Films as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on Colbert’s portrayal of the right-wing media and parodying MoveOn’s own reputation for earnest political activism. The short film, uploaded to YouTube in August 2006, includes clips from “The Colbert Report” as well as humorous original interviews about show host Stephen Colbert. In March of this year, Viacom — the parent company of Comedy Central — demanded that YouTube take “Stop the Falsiness” down, claiming the video infringed its copyrights.

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A Direct to Consumer Democracy?

Getting involved in something takes trust. Whether it’s attending a neighborhood cleanup, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or showing up to a community meeting, people do these things not simply out of a sense of purpose, but often because some one or some trusted organization suggested they do it. Civic engagement is typically preceded by trust in an entity (i.e. a friend, a neighborhood association, or even a government) who can vouch for the system. To invest one’s personal identity, reputation and time in something requires a clarity of purpose and confidence in the return on one’s investment that does not typically come stock with a new system. If there is a new non-profit working on environmental justice issues, before one donates money or gets involved, they will look for who the organization is affiliated with and what they’ve already done. So why should civic-minded software (civic apps) be any different?

Civic apps are systems. And while they can solve some problems pertaining to ease of use and access, they cannot easily solve the lack of trust problem. This varies with specific purpose of the app, but in general, the direct to consumer model does not always yield the best engagement. Civic apps should represent a trusted entity and not seek, at least at the start, to be that trusted entity. Surely there are great examples of rapidly grown online social networks; but when it comes to the question of local civic engagement, the challenge is to enable online social networks to meaningfully interface with the organizations and institutions that shape everyday life.…

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Situated Technologies

The reception for the new Situated Technologies pamphlet series is taking place this Friday at the Urban Center in New York City. I really wish I could be there, but with the end of the semester fast approaching, I won’t be able to get away. This looks to be an amazing pamphlet series that will surely spark some necessary connections between urbanists, architects, technologists and media producers/critics.

BTW, the first release by Adam Greenfield and Mark Shepard, entitled Urban Computing and Its Discontents is available here as a free download.…

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Mixed Realities Symposium

This Friday, February 8, I will be leading a panel discussion at the Mixed Realitiessymposium at Emerson College. The panel is titled “Immersion, Presence and Place.” Participants include John (Craig) FreemanUsman Haque (via Second Life), Pierre Proske (via Second Life), Michael Takeo MagruderDrew Baker, and David Steele. Each of the artists on the panel will have their work displayed in the Mixed Realities exhibit that opens the night before. With the quality of each of the pieces represented, I’m confident that we will have an interesting discussion. The panel starts at 1pm EST at 216 Tremont Street, Boston, MA and here in Second Life.

Freeman’s piece, entitled “Imaging Beijing,” is an extension of his existing work on the “Imaging Place” project in Second Life. Freeman produces panoramic nodes of the streets of Beijing, where locals describe their personal experiences of that space, and more interestingly, how that space conjures up seemingly unrelated personal experiences. He calls this concept a memory map. The Second Life-based artwork enables avatars to walk in and out of the nodes, capturing and inhabiting the intimate street life of Beijing.

Usman Haque will be talking about the piece “Remote” by Neill Donaldson, Usman Haque, Ai Hasegawa, and Georg Tremmel. This piece produces what he calls a fundamentally “human architecture” by suturing the physical space of a Boston-based gallery with a Second Life space. The human actors in Second Life, combined with the human actors in Boston, have to work together to create a merged space – one that is comprised of the collective efforts of the inhabitants.…

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City as Social Network

I recently posted this series of prompts to the iDC discussion list.

Following Google’s acquisition of Feedburner, I want to consider how the threats to privacy that became apparent in that context extend to physical communities (neighborhood, organization, city) that are enabled/bolstered/fortified by social web media. Many community groups and neighborhood organizations are using digital networking technologies to foster community interaction ( And of course, what is widely known as citizen journalism plays into this as well “ placebloggers and Community Media organizations tend towards hyperlocal networked content ( with an aim towards reinforcing existing geographical connections. The processes that bind non-geographical communities in networks are similar to those that are binding geographical communities “ shared interests, practices, goals, etc.   However, unlike traditional online fenced in communities that have a basis in anonymity, digitally annotated physical communities often rely on the full disclosure of identity for their functionality.  For instance, when it comes to neighborhood issues “ it is important to know one™s real name and location.

And as city governments are seeking ways to adopt web 2.0 technologies into their existing citizen management projects, the lack of anonymity and the simple traceability of social actions open up new concerns. Social media tools have the capacity to significantly expand participation in local governance, but they also have the capacity to trace citizen behavior and map social trends. Cities are interested in this technology for the same reason that corporations are “ it offers valuable user data.  Politicians can survey the concerns of their constituency; agencies can identify problems in neighborhoods; and law enforcement¦ well, there are many scenarios possible. …

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