... in media

Money & Speed - show me the data...

Two weeks ago the 50 minute documentary ‘Money & Speed‘ by Marije Meerman aired in the tegenlicht (backlight) series of the VPRO (a dutch public broadcaster). ‘Money & Speed’ casts a light into the world of high frequency (or rather algorithmic) trading, a subject that i have been fascinated with for a while. The documentary attempts to explain the event’s behind the 6 may 2010 ‘flash crash‘ and does so by interviewing a number of experts that are more or less involved in the (aftermath of) the crash.

money & speed title screen

While ‘Money & Speed’ stops short of pointing out who (or what) was responsible for the events on may 6th 2010 (there are conflicting theories and tegenlicht’s prime source Eric Hundsader of Nanex clearly has been advised not to mention on camera whoever he thinks caused the events) it is quite a remarkable documentary that gives an fascinating insight into a world that is most likely completely unknown to more the 95% of the television audience.

I also really like how Meerman has woven George Dyson and his theories about differences in time perception between humans and computers into the narrative of the documentary. That guy certainly makes more sense than Kevin Kelly.

What makes ‘Money & Speed’ even more interesting is that next to the broadcast version the VPRO (together with catalogtree) has released an iPad version of the documentary in the form of a free iPad app1 that contains the entire film in high quality as well as a number of supporting assets such as infographics, short bio’s and a glossary of terms used in in the documentary.

At the first glance (and certainly for a first attempt) the app version of ‘Money & Speed’ seems to be crafted really well. The app is really responsive which makes pulling up extra information while watching a pleasure. You simply click on one of the thumbnails in the top right corner and the video stops instantly and resumes instantly after you are finished reading the text-box.

money & speed

The absence of noticeable delay makes this process work very well (it does not feel as an interruption of the flow at all even though the video itself stops). In the case of a couple of the bigger infographics there is an annoying delay before the infographics appear, but the transition back to the video is almost instantaneous.

Unfortunately those big info graphics (tick for tick visualizations of three different stocks, a visualization of the fall of the dow jones index, a map showing possible locations for financial data processing centers in the vicinity of New York City, and a delayed real-time stock market data map) are not really connected to the storyline of the documentary.

These are clearly the most labor intensive parts of the ipad app, but they do not add to the understanding of the events described: The delayed real-time stock market data map is a complete waste of resources (although it has a vey nice darkish background noise that i am listening to right now) and the map of the data centers, while visually striking does not even show the locations of the data-centers that are depicted in the documentary. The tick for tick visualizations (visible on the ipad in the screenshot above) while impressive simply fail to convey much information (Alpher suggests that this is because ‘the information density is low’).

Given these shortcomings one might come to the conclusion that adding extra visualizations to a documentary like Money & Speed provides little extra value to the viewer. I am pretty sure that this is the wrong conclusion and that the real problem at hand is that the creators of ‘Money & Speed’ have simply selected the wrong data to visualize2:

money & speed

Towards the end of ‘Money & Speed’ Meerman juxtaposes two different views on what happened on the the 6th of May. That of the official SEC & CFTC report and that of independent data analysis done a by the Chicago based financial data services firm Nanex. Both identify different triggers for the flash crash and their disagreement seems to come from the granularity of time applied to their analysis. While the SEC & CFTC report works with seconds Nanex claims to be able to identify events on the nanosecond level that are averaged out (an thus invisible in the SEC & CFTC report) when looking at the events with less granularity. During this part of the movie Eric Hundsader is shown pointing at this data on one of his computer screens and if you ask me it is this crucial data-set that should have been included in the iPad app instead of the tick for tick visualizations:

money & speed

Still the ‘Money & Speed’ iPad app (the VPRO calls this format a ‘touchdoc’) shows a lot of promise. i can imagine that once the technology for integrating linear video content with additional assets like data visualizations becomes more common, attention will shift towards editorial concepts that better integrates the extra assets with the main narration. In an ideal case scenario that would mean that the underlying research assets of the creators are available to consumers both as extra information but also in order to independently verify claims made by the documentary makers. Given this ‘Money & Speed’ tastes like one possible future of investigative documentary film making.

  1. At the time of writing the app is only available in dutch and only in the dutch app store. the VPRO is working on an english language version that will be available in other app-stores for a fee. It is free in the Netherlands because for regulatory reasons the VPRO cannot charge the public for content it has produced with public broadcasting money. This is not the case outside of the Netherlands and it will be very interesting to see how much income ‘Money & Speed’ will generate outside of the Netherlands. I could very well imagine that a documentary-app (is that an existing category?) of this quality could easily generate income that exceeds the production costs (of the app, not the entire project). ↩︎

  2. Of course this might not have been entirely voluntary. It is possible that this is the only data that they were authorized to include or that they had to make choices which data to visualize really early in the project and as a result could not react anymore once the more interesting datasets appeared. ↩︎

All this trouble from this matchbox

29 Jan 2011 | 478 words | egypt future media revolution

When i visited Al-Jazeera back in november last year, Moeed showed me around the campus starting at the brand new Al-Jazeera English newsroom (depicted in the photo above) and ending the tour in the original Al-Jazeera newsroom that now seems to serve as a rather unorganized tape archive (this is the newsroom that features so prominently in the 2004 documentary ‘control room‘). While showing me around Moeed mentioned that Hosni Mubarak when he visited Al-Jazeera was heard to remark “All this trouble from a matchbox like this”. The guardian also mentions this remark in a 2003 piece on Al-Jazeera:

Al-Jazeera’s headquarters is pretty small. The squat, blue-roofed building in Doha is dwarfed by surrounding palm trees, satellite dishes and transmission masts. “All this trouble from a matchbox like this,” the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, once exclaimed when he arrived to take a look.

These days AL-Jazeera’s operation has certainly outgrown the shoebox that it started in and it is clearly causing Hosni Mubarak even more trouble. In fact it is probably contributing to the end of his regime while i am writing this.

As a matter of fact Al-Jazeera (English – but i assume that this is the case for their arabic channel as well) is doing an impressive job at covering the events unfolding in Egypt. This is not only true for the journalistic quality of their coverage, which as far as i can judge is really good (and if you do not want to depend on my judgement, you might have noticed that even the New York Times, which often describes Al-Jazeera as biased seems to think so as well).

I am equally (if not even more) impressed by the delivery of Al-Jazeera English. No need to have a television anymore to follow events like the ones unfolding in right now Egypt. I started following the events yesterday afternoon at the office via a mirror of the Al Jazeera English stream (the official player crashes the flash plugin in chrome for me):

al jazeera english via justin tv

Now this is not that spectacular anymore (guess it would have been 2 years ago) but being able to leave the office and continue watching the same stream on my iPhone is something that still manages to impress me (especially if you consider that they manage to keep the stream stable even though there must be enormous demand).

al jazeera english on the iphone

In fact i managed to continue watching the stream for a good part of the train journey to Eindhoven. Ironically – but not surprisingly to dutch people – the railway company failed to provide sufficient seating capacity so i ended up standing while following the events on my phone. Guess that means that we have really arrived in the 21st century where you ubiquitous access to video streams is more reliable than railway services…


16 Dec 2010 | 472 words | conspiracy feminism wikileaks media

It is pretty obvious than there is much more to the whole #cablegate/wikileaks story than i was willing to concede in my last post (i might even be a bit embarrassed about it). anyway below are some pointers to some of the more interesting writings from the last couple of days. Also it seems that the pakistanis (who are not commonly known for their sense of humor) are really enjoying the whole wikileaks thing: Ad for sanitary napkins close to Tariq Road in Karachi via kabobfest. A good place to start if you want to put the rant from my last post into perspective is this post at zunguzungu that analyses Assange’s 2006 paper on ‘State and Terrorist Conspiracies‘ (pdf). If you are so inclined you can read this paper as an attempt to argue that reporting on the non-news contained in the cables will (or at least could) have a lasting impact on the operational capacity of nation states (which, of course would be a good thing).

Not directly related to the release of the cables are two articles that try to shed some light on the drama surrounding the sexual assault allegations against Assange. Naomi Wolf has a furious piece in the Huffington post in which she puts the international arrest warrant for and subsequent arrest of Assange in the context of how poorly nation states normally deal with sexual violence against women. Based on this she comes to the conclusion that ‘Sweden, Britain, and Interpol Insult Rape Victims Worldwide‘. Over at 538 Nate Silver applies bayesian reasoning to arrive at pretty much the same conclusion.

update 22.12.10: here is another one, ‘the blast shack‘ a really long writeup by Bruce Sterling that is full of absolutely delightful observations and analogies. Here are two of my favorite ones, a description of Assange as the personified internet…

If the Internet was walking around in public, it would look and act a lot like Julian Assange. The Internet is about his age, and it doesn’t have any more care for the delicacies of profit, propriety and hierarchy than he does.

… and a comparison between Bradly Manning and Jerome Kerveil:

Instead, he’s very like Jerome Kerveil, that obscure French stock trader who stole 5 billion euros without making one dime for himself. Jerome Kerveil, just like Bradley Manning, was a bored, resentful, lower-echelon guy in a dead end, who discovered some awesome capacities in his system that his bosses never knew it had. It makes so little sense to behave like Kerveil and Manning that their threat can’t be imagined. A weird hack like that is self-defeating, and it’s sure to bring terrible repercussions to the transgressor. But then the sad and sordid days grind on and on; and that blindly potent machinery is just sitting there. Sitting there, tempting the user.


29 Nov 2010 | 715 words | media wikileaks

So twitter (and the CNN programming in this generic bar in the European Quarter of Bruxelles that i am currently sitting in) are abuzz with #cablegate (twitter) / U.S DOCUMENTS EXPOSED (CNN) and nobody really questions if this whole affair (the leaking of those documents) is even remotely relevant. me thinks it is not. if this ‘unprecedented leak’ has any significance at all that would be that it illustrates (once more) that the news media have completely lost it and that signal has definitely lost it to noise.

So what is at stake here? an ‘unprecedented leak‘ of formerly secret (or better: not freely available, since something that 3 million people have access to can hardly be called secret) diplomatic communications between the US state department and the diplomats working for the state department. for the news media there are two triggers-words here that make this a irresistible target: ‘secret’ and ‘unprecedented’ both of them attract media like shit attracts flys on beautiful summer days.

The substance of that leak? almost nothing, at last not anything that the public has a good reason to want to know. this is where this leak differs from the iraq and the afghanistan files that predominantly dealt with facts many of which had been willfully kept secret from the public.

Instead of dealing with descriptions of facts the leaked diplomatic cables are consisting of opinions communicated internally among the people working for the state departement. it is highly absurd to see the media (and many activists) get all wound-up about the fact that the internal style of communication of the state department is different from how the organisation communicates with the public1). happens all the time2. yes there is some interesting stuff in there, but it is hardly newsworthy by itself. most of what has been disclosed so far is of the nature ‘that soandso has told me that soandso thinks thisandthat about soandso’. this can hardly be called news and any serious news outlet should have probably limited its’s coverage of the leak to noting the fact that the cables have been posted online, explaining the circumstances and pointing the audience to the URL of the cables.

Yes there are some interesting statements in there and there are some juicy characterizations to be found, but on the other hand it is not exactly news that Guido Westerwelle appears to be3 incompetent (to the credit of wikileaks this simple statement finally can be made on wikipedia in accordance with wikipedias editorial guidelines), that berlusconi is4 vain and that the behavior of arab leaders can be at times questionable.

None of this really challenges how we should look at the world around us and if the past performance of the the news media gives us and indication, all of it will be forgotten well before xmas. unlike the spiegel claims this is not how america sees the world: the cables are individual observations by state department employees and they surely contribute to americas worldview, but so do a lot of other things like satellite images, telefone taps and analysis of publicly available facts such as economic growth or percentage of GDP spend on military equipment…

In the meanwhile this ‘unprecedented’ leak will have made it much harder for real whistleblowers to gain the attention of the news-media (or wikileaks) for some time to come. also, personally i would have preferred not to know that ghaddafi uses botox

  1. Which makes me wonder what the media and the twittervesre assumed to be contained in diplomatic cables before these cables became public? ↩︎

  2. This morning a i had a meeting with two representatives of another organisation. after the meeting i reported back to my colleagues who were not present at the meeting making statements about the intentions and demeanor of the people i had met with that i would never make in front of those people. i am pretty sure their report to their colleagues contains statements about my intentions and demeanor that they would not make in front of me either. ↩︎

  3. Now here we have an issue that would warrant some serious journalistic inquiry: is there any evidence that he is indeed incompetent? ↩︎

  4. By contrast this clearly is a factual statement, the real question being, why does the italian electorate accept his conduct? ↩︎

NRC writes about piracy, plagiarizes statistics in doing so

06 Nov 2010 | 569 words | copyright media music piracy journalism

Had a bit of a deja-vu this morning when browsing through the economics section of friday’s NRC Handelsblad: Page two of that section contains a full page article (‘free jukeboxes against piracy’) on music streaming services such as spotify.com (click to enlarge, no online version available):

As you can see from the photo above, the article does come with a nifty info-graphic that illustrates how little artists earn from their music being available on services such as spotify (the number 4.882.758 in the green circle indicates how many times a single song needs to be played by users of spotify in order generate an income that is equal to the minimum wage in the Netherlands).

Now there is nothing wrong with this info-graphic as such, but there are two rather dubious aspects: the article is not providing any information with regards to the source of the data used and i had the strong impression that i had seen this info-graphic before (the deja-vu mentioned above).

A quick google query reveals that this was indeed the case: in april 2010 informationisbeautiful.net published a strikingly similar info-graphic (‘How much do music artists learn online?’) that obviously served as the basis for the illustration in the NRC:

The overall numbers are different, but that is simply the result of the fact that the NRC article is using dutch minimum wage (€1.416) as a reference point while the original used the US minimum wage ($1.160). this results in different sales numbers required to generate minimum-wage level income but for the rest the data used to illustrate the NRC article is identical (even worse they simply took the original artists revenue numbers that were expressed in dollars and simply re-stated them in euros).

It is bad enough that the NRC simply lifts these numbers from a website (which itself did took most of the figures from another blog, but makes that very clear by giving credit both to the originating blog and pointing out additional data sources) without giving credit. This is not only plain old-plagiarism (especially dumb if the subject of the article is ‘piracy’) but also grossly misleading: If the NRC article would have given credit to the source readers would have had the opportunity to take a look at the source themselves and would have learned that the figures presented by the NRC are missing an important caveat that is present in the original blogpost on informationisbeautiful.net:

Note: these figures do not include publishing royalties (paid to composers of songs). The full spreadsheet of data does though. You can see all the numbers and sources here: http://bit.ly/DigitalRoyalty

If you click through to the google docs spreadsheet with the full numbers you will see that if you count publishing royalties the amount of plays of a song on spotify required to make minimum wage is reduced by almost 75%. This still means that you need north of 1 million plays (which still is outrageous) but apparently 4.8 million required plays look a bit better when you want to illustrate an article.

This once again shows that the NRC really needs to realize that the days where they were the ‘quality newspaper’ more or less by default are over. Pointing out your sources is one of the key ingredients of credible journalism and unfortunately for the NRC it seems that new media outlets such as informationisbeautiful.net are lightyears ahead of the NRC here…

Apparently the dutch had video telephony well before i was even born...

15 Apr 2010 | 95 words | design history modernity technology media

Last year i spend a fair amount of energy to get the open video platform openimages.eu off the ground, but so far the videos that have been uploaded there (mainly from the polygoon collection of the institute of sound and vision have utterly failed to impress me.

Now after 4 month of operation there is finally a video that i can approve of. It has the perfect combination of techno-optimism, cuttting-edge design and sideburns:

if you do not see a video here you need a better browser

‘first test with videophone’ on openimages.eu / cc-by-sa

Taking the copy out of copyright

15 Jun 2009 | 1243 words | amsterdam copyright piracy media

Last Wednesday I attended the launch of ‘Adieu auteursrecht, vaarwel culturele conglomeraten‘ the new book by Joost Smiers. In this book he argues that (a) copyright is harmful, because it has led to large conglomerates dominating the production of culture and that (b) the world would be better off without copyright because it would be better of without these conglomerates and therefore (c) copyright needs to be abolished and the conglomerates must be broken apart. According to Smiers and his co-author Marike Schijndel this will lead to a level playing field for artists and other cultural producers and result in both a more diverse culture and better abilities for artists and cultural producers to live off their work.

Now I have not read his book yet, but I have listened to Smiers for a number of times, and he always looses me at the point where he assumes that the absence of copyright and conglomerates will quasi automatically lead to a more just distribution of attention and wealth among artists and cultural producers.

Regardless of his rather haphazard line of argumentation the public at the Balie seemed to like his ideas a lot (not really surprising since just about everybody can agree on the fact that the current copyright system is not working very well in ensuring that artists can live of their work, and the public that frequents these kind of events sure loves to see the blame laid on American cultural conglomerates) and there was no real discussion about the validity of his analysis or the nature of the ‘new business models’ that Smiers and Schijndel predict to emerge once we have gotten rid of copyright and the conglomerates (the last one being a bit of a shame).

During the non-debate (you were assumed to argue form a the perspective of a society without copyright and conglomerates) a number of people came up with arguments against copyright that were based on a variation of the argument that copyright restricts dialogue and is therefore a constraint on artists practices.

This argument is very much in line with a recent paper1 by the Canadian copyright scholar Abraham Drassinower. In ‘Authorship as Public Address: On the Specificity of Copyright vis-a-vis Patent and Trade-Mark‘ Drassinower makes the argument that “copyright is not about copying, pure and simple” [p.205] but rather about the right of an author to be associated with his work. Or to put it in Drassinowers own, more legalistic language:

Thus, copyright is less an exclusive right of reproduction than an exclusive right of public presentation. [p.221]

Drassinower arrives at this conclusion by examining the differences between copyright law, patent protection and trademarks. From these differences he tries to distill which particular kind of wrongdoing copyright law sanctions and tries to prevent. According to Drassinower this is not the simple unauthorized use of the a copyrighted work by persons other than the author or his agents, but a very specific form of use:

Put in terms of copyright doctrine, we need to understand (1) that originality is not about the absence of use, (2) that fair dealing is not about the absence of originality, and (3) that therefore originality and fair dealing are not opposing impulses or exceptions to each other, but rather radically continuous and integral aspects of copyright law as a whole. The fundamental problem is that of grasping the nature of the continuity. […] Thus, copyright is less about a prohibition on copying per se than about a distinction between permissible and impermissible copying—that is, between saying things in one’s own words and merely repeating the words of another. Authorship is less about the absence of copying than about the cultivation and exercise of modes of imitation that amount to more than mere repetition. Copyright law can no more prohibit copying per se, than it can prohibit authorship. [p.208-9]

According to Drassinower the fact that copyright law regulates cultural production which he (and many of the participants in the discussion following the book launch in the Balie) sees as a form of speech (or dialogue) means that copyright law can’t exclude others from using protected works as part of their own engagement in this dialogue: “… Persons are entitled to use the works of others provided such use is consistent with the equal authorship of those others” [p.213]. According to this conceptualization of copyright law no harm to the original author is done as long as I do not present someone else’s work as my own work, but rather use it in a way where it is instrumental to my own undertakings.

This gets more interesting once Drassinower expands this argument and applies it to other types of activities regulated by copyright law. In the 2nd part of his paper he applies his concept to copying in the digital context and comes to the conclusion that the mere making of digital should not trigger copyright law, since it rarely happens in order to communicate the copied works as a work:

The distinction between the reproduction of a work in the physical sense and its reproduction as a work in the normatively relevant sense is also at play in the ongoing encounter between copyright law and digital technology. It is generally accepted, for example, that Internet browsing— which requires the making of temporary copies—is legal on the grounds that by posting the work online, the poster is granting an implied license to others to reproduce that work in order to view it. […] Whereas the implied license and public interest approaches more or less successfully cloak the rupture between copyright law and digital technology, the authorship as public address approach interprets the legal significance of technology from the viewpoint of a renewed understanding of the law – that is, of the nature of the right and wrong at issue. Because it dislocates the centrality of reproduction as the organizing principle of copyright law, the authorship as public address approach can find that the reproductions involved in browsing and caching do not amount to uses of the work as such. Instead, since browsing and caching2 are neither implied licensing nor public interest exceptions, they constitute user rights precisely because they amount to non-authorial use. [p.227]

While Drassinower’s paper is somewhat complicated and lengthy3 I do think that his approach is well suited to bring copyright law back into line with reality: In a time where copying is one of the most basic cultural technologies it is more and more absurd (and inefficient) that copyright law even attempts to regulate the mere making of copies. The beauty of Drassinowers argument is that he does not depart from this observation but rather arrives at the conclusion that copyright law cannot be about the regulation of copies by looking at the balance between user and author rights. By framing the subject matter of copyright as ‘dialogue’ between author/users and user/authors he saves copyright law from falling prey to the explosion of everyday copying.

  1. Drassinower, Abraham, Authorship as Public Address: On the Specificity of Copyright vis-a-vis Patent and Trade-Mark. Michigan State Law Review, No. 1, 2008. Available at SSRN ↩︎

  2. Of course the same argument can be made for private copying [a.k.a. unauthorized downloading] which Drassinower considers to be a user right as well. ↩︎

  3. On the other hand he references Jorge Luis Borge’s 1956 shot story ‘Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote‘ which, as far as i am concerned, is the most insightful essay on copyright ever. ↩︎


16 May 2009 | 830 words | media publishing technology

Spend the last two evenings at the print/pixel international conference on the current shifts in print and online media production (warning: most dysfunctional conference website ever) organized by the research project Communication in a Digital Age at the PZI in Rotterdam. Most of the discussions were (not surprisingly) on business models for print publications and the role of print journalism in the current technological and economic climate. Unfortunately the whole thing has not really resulted in much new insights (& all the speakers i really wanted to hear did not show up).

At times the discussion reminded me very much of the discussions around file sharing of music from a couple of years ago. At that time the music industry was claiming that they needed to be in control of distribution (and thus eliminate file sharing) because they had a god-given task to do the (expensive) discovery of new artists and transforming some of them into stars, which could only be done as long as they were able to extract enough surplus from distributing recorded music.

Now the print people are structurally repeating the same argument: self distribution via the internet must be limited because (small) publishing houses use parts of their revenue in order to filter the quality texts from the much bigger reservoir of general text production. The argument goes that in order for this quality filter to survive, authors must continue to publish through publishers instead of relying on internet distribution.

Of course this line of reasoning is not only stupid but also incredibly arrogant. If i was a publisher i would rather invest my energies into figuring what i have to offer to authors and readers once the perfect shitstorm of cheap generic electronic paper reading devices1 and wide available of e-books on the file-sharing platforms breaks loose. judging from the discussions at print/pixel it appears that very few people are seriously preparing for this inevitable scenario.

The entire event reminded me of a passage in the first half of David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest‘ (which i have almost finished reading by now). It describes a fictional future scenario in which the digital revolution re-structured the economics of entertainment (=news) in a completely different way from the situation as it was discussed at print/pixel2. When it was published in 1996 Infinite Jest was situated in a near future that roughly corresponds with the current present (predictably wikipedia has an entire section of the ‘infinite jest’ article devoted to the question which year in the book corresponds to which year in the Gregorian calendar).

In the scenario described in Infinite Jest, television has been replaced by the a entertainment mechanism for entertainment products (called cartridges) called InterLace. InterLace is also the name of the company that has complete control (i.e a monopoly) over the distribution of entertainment cartridges. People pay for the on demand consumption of cartridges (and those who can’t afford it re-watch old cartridges all the time). In the book the emergence of InterLace is described in a term paper written by the main character Hal Incandenza, a marihuana addicted junior tennis player (pages 410-418 in the back bay 10th aniversary paperback edition).

According to Hal’s paper the shift from Network television to cable television and then to InterLace as the dominant entertainment medium started when advertisements on network television got so repulsive that people viewers abandoned network television in favor of cable television which offered more choice and less advertisement. While the cable TV stations rested in their new found popularity, a video rental chain owner called Noreen Lace Forché bought up the production facilities of the bankrupt TV networks and used them to produce content for InterLace which offers pre-produced on-demand entertainment. From the consumer perspective the appeal of InterLace over cable television is that one has complete control over the choice of programming (i.e one can select from a huge library) without any advertisement. In the scenario described in infinite Jest this is a business proposition that people are happy to pay, which not only puts broadcast and cable television out of business but also eliminates most of the advertising industry.

Now the obvious difference with the the current reality is today there is no monopoly provider of entertainment (or news) products that can afford to set a price for access. Instead we have the open internet offering free access to almost all entertainment (or news) and one of the very few business models that offers some relief to producers is online advertisement. Makes me wonder if we would not be better of in the infinite jest scenario, paying for our entertainment and news and being spared of the advertising onslaught…

  1. In the short term this probably means jail-brokenkindle’s that display standard .pdf and .epub files. ↩︎

  2. The free availability of news in real time all over the internets undermines the very structures involved in producing these news and in the long run will affect the quality and diversity of the news available. ↩︎

Dark fibre

23 Apr 2009 | 323 words | copyright india film media photos piracy technology

In march we spend a week in bangalore with jamie and the darkfibre crew. we had flown there to take pictures of them while they were shooting for dark fibre (more pictures will become available later).

Dark fibre crew at work on the rooftop terrace of a IT office building in South Bangalore

It was fun and extremely interesting to watch the production from behind the scenes and i am really looking forward to the film (jamie has promised that there will be a trailer on the 13th of may). in the meanwhile there is an interview with jamie and his co-director peter mann on the website of the center for internet and society in bangalore:

‘Dark Fibre’ is set amongst the cablewallahs of Bangalore, and uses the device of cabling to traverse different aspects of informational life in the city. It follows the lives of real cablewallahs and examines the political status of their activities.The fictional elements arrive in the form of a young apprentice cablewallah who attempts to unite the disparate home-brew networks in the city into a grassroots, horizontal ‘people’s network’. Some support the activity and some vehemently oppose it — but what no one expects is the emergence of a seditious, unlicensed and anonymous new channel which begins to transform people’s imaginations in the city. Our young cable apprentice is tasked with tracking down the channel, as powerful political forces array themselves against it. Not only the ‘security’ of the city, but his own wellbeing depend on whether he finds it, and whether it proves possible to stop its distribution. Meanwhile, mysterious elements from outside India — possibly emissaries of a still-greater power — are appearing on the scene. This quest for the unknown channel is reminiscent of a modern-day ‘Moby Dick’, with the city of Bangalore as the high seas and our cable apprentice a reluctant Ahab. The action is a combination of verite, improvisation and scripted action.

Digitofagia: net_cultura 1.0

Yesterday evening i found an envelope copy of the book Digitofagia – net_cultura1.0 by Ricardo Rosas and Giseli Vasconcelos on the stairs to my apartment (thanks for the relay Geert!). This book has been in the making for more than 4 years and i had more or less accepted that i would never see it in print). The idea for this book cam up in the context of the Waag-Sarai Exchange platform in late 2004/early 2005. The book collects a number of articles and assays that discuss the – very lively – netculture/hactivism scene in Brazil at that time. It is the outcome of a number of discussions we had with people around the projects midiatactica and metareciclagem around that time.

Realizing this book was one of the more complicated things i have contributed to over time (transferring money to Brazil is a real nightmare) and when we were ready to go to print we learned that Ricardo who had spend an enormous amount of energy chasing authors and finding a publisher had passed away. The book was finally published late last year in Brazil (by Radical Livros) and although i cant read Portuguese i am happy that it is finally available:

The book is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share alike license. A pdf version (missing a page in memory of Ricardo that was added later) can be downloaded here (the book cover here).

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: