The Internet of Things

This will be my last ever post for¬†DIGC202! ūüôĀ

During this final week of class, we have been looking at the notion of the ‘Internet of Things’.

This is the idea that all physical objects can be linked to the Internet, thereby ‘transforming it [the Internet] from being a mostly intangible collection of data to encompass ‘things’ that people can touch’¬†(McDonald¬†2012). ¬†Physical objects connected to the Internet (through RFID tags, barcodes etc) are thereby able to communicate with each other.

This is an amazing notion which means that everyday objects can become active participants which are ‘contributing to networks of social exchange and discourse, and rearranging the rules of occupancy and patterns of¬†mobility within the¬†physical world’ (Bleecker¬†2006, pg 2).

I find this notion both exciting and scary.

We are already a networked society, however the ‘Internet of Things’ signifies the introduction of real-world objects to this network.¬†The Internet is already pervasive, yet our future will be filled with networked objects and the world will essentially be running online.

The video we watched in the lecture demonstrated a life where communication between people and objects is commonplace; the fireplace knows when you are due to arrive home and starts warming up, or the stove turns off when it discovers you are ordering takeaway.  These smart objects are intuitive and adaptable. It reminds me of something from a sci-fi movie which you wish could be real-life, but never thought possible.

The ‘Internet of Things’, however, means that this is completely possible.

So what are we waiting for? An article by Rowinski (2012) notes that we already have most of the technology that we need to make the ‘Internet of Things’ a reality, however the technology needs to be refined and made ubiquitous. This connected society would need collaboration between telecommunications companies, product producers and software developers. There are also numerous privacy and security issues that need to be addressed.

I think the potential impact of the ‘Internet of Things’ is amazing, especially in areas such as healthcare and the environment. So whilst I think the concept is a bit creepy and seems to humanise inanimate objects, I must admit I am eager to see how the ‘Internet of Things’ develops in the future.

That’s it from me! I’ve really enjoyed this semester of DIGC202 ūüôā

Thanks for reading.

Katie

References:

  • Bleecker, J 2006, ‘Why Things Matter: A Manifesto for networked objects’, accessed 25/10/2012 via here.
  • McDonald, S 2012, ‘How the Internet of Things could change Australian homes and businesses’,¬†Techworld Australia, 15 August, accessed 25/10/2012 via here.
  • Rowinski, D 2012, ‘Futurist’s Cheat Sheet: Internet of Things’, readwrite, August 31, accessed 25/10/2012 via here.
  • Imaged sourced from¬†here.

Pareto Principle No More

 

This week we looked at the concept of the “Long Tail’ – this is the idea that we as a society are changing from a focus on a smaller number of ‘hits’ (the mainstream range of products) towards a focus on the incredibly large amount of niche products (Anderson 2004).

In the past, the marketplace was seen as being dominated by a small number of top-selling products. It is in the best interest of bookstores, for example, to only sell popular books that have a high number of sales. ¬†This is known as the Pareto Principle (or the 80/20 rule), which states that 80% of a business’ sales come from 20% of their products. ¬†Anderson (2004) notes that the reason that this principle suited businesses before the Internet and online sales were possible was the ‘tyranny of space’ – a bookstore only has so much floor space and the radio has a restricted amount of stations, for example.

However, with the rise of Web 2.0 there has been a trend away from the Pareto Principle towards a new theory which values the wealth that can be achieved through the large amount of niche products that exist Рthe Long Tail theory.  In the realm of books, for example, an online stockist like Amazon can stock a incredible number of books that cannot be found in bookstores Рwhilst each book individually may not receive a large number of sales, the combined value of the sales of all of these niche products produces a large return for the company.

Basically – making fewer sales on a wide variety of products can produce a quantity of sales that compete with making more sales on a narrower range of (mainstream) products.

I think the Long Tail is an exciting concept because it finally acknowledges that we as consumers have interests that are much broader than the mainstream; there are many niche interests that may not have a large audience, but there IS an audience nonetheless.¬†So how does this impact the entertainment industry?¬†Businesses need to respond to these changes by stocking a wide variety of products, as a reflection of the incredibly diverse taste of consumers. Anderson (2004) also acknowledges that is important for retailers to stock ¬†mainstream products as well as ‘Long Tail’ products – consumers need a ‘familiar point of entry’ from which to begin their search.

I think the most interesting question to arise from this dramatic shift is how retailers with no online presence will be able to compete with online stores.  Physical stores have space restrictions that make it impossible to compete with the large warehouses of online retailers such as Amazon, and therefore they are unable to reap the benefits of the Long Tail.

Thanks for reading!

 

Katie

 

Image sourced from here.

References:

Anderson, C 2004, ‘Long Tail 101’,¬†The Long Tail, 8 September, accessed 8/9/2012 via¬†http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/faq/

Anderson, C 2004, ‘The Long Tail’,¬†Wired Magazine, issue 12.10, accessed 8/9/2012 via¬†http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html

The Benefits of Convergence

“Welcome to convergence culture, where old and new media collide, where grassroots and corporate media intersect, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways.”

Henry Jenkins – Introduction to ‘Convergence Culture – Where Old and New Media Collide’

This week in class we looked at the growing phenomenon of convergence, a phenomenon which Jenkins (2006,¬†pg 7) describes as ‘the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the coorporation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want’.

It is now possible for consumers to access the content they wish to consume on a multitude of platforms; books can be read online or on mobile devices such as an iPad or iPhone,¬† television shows and movies can be watched on the Internet or downloaded through the television,¬† the majority of newspapers and magazines have an online counterpart and the sales of CDs has dropped with a corresponding increase in the sale of digital songs on iTunes and other online music sellers.¬† There has also been a convergence of platforms; modern smart phones are aptly described by Jenkins (2006, pg 5) as ‘the electronic equivalent of a Swiss army knife’, allowing the owner to¬†perform¬†activities normally conducted on separate and distinct platforms to be undertaken on a single device.

Whilst media corporations have been using new technologies to distribute media content through various platforms, consumers are also using these technologies to take control of the media flow (Deuze 2007).  However, as the amount of control that we have as prosumers (consumers with the ability to produce) has increased,  concentrated media ownership has also intensified.

Before, television as a medium was controlled by TV stations, the film industry by film companies and the music industry by record companies – corporations focused on a specific media

Now, massive media corporations no longer put all of their eggs in one basket, investing in all areas of the media realm.

These media conglomerates need to understand the ways in which a modern user consumes media.¬† I believe that a rewarding relationship between media producers and consumers can be created if these corporations utilise the collective knowledge of the people who access their content. The case studies provided by Deuze (2007) illustrate the benefits that companies who listen to their customers receive – for example,¬† instead of discouraging user modification of game content, games such as Half-Life and Counter-Strike actively promote collaborative authorship, resulting in games which intensely appeal to the ‘prosumers’ who were involved in their creation.

Overall, we need to understand that things have changed and consumers are no longer passive – they are hyper-connected and have the ability to produce content online without the risk and financial cost associated with traditional media. Encouraging a participatory culture has benefits for both the corporation and the end-user.

Thanks for reading!

Katie

Image sourced from here.

References:

  • Deuze, M 2007, ‘Convergence culture in the creative industries’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 10, no. 2, pp 246-263
  • Jenkins, H 2006, ‘Introduction: “Worship at the Altar of Convergence’, in Convergence Culture: Where Old And New Media Collide, pp 1-24,¬†New York: New York University Press

Fan Fiction & Copyright Law

This week in DIGC202 we looked at Intellectual Property and copyright, and how creators and producers have been turning to the legal system to seek protection for their unique ideas. ¬†Boldrin & Levine (2010) state that there is a general agreement that “some protection is needed to secure for inventors and creators the fruits of their labors”. I agree with this notion but suggest that the real question is the amount of protection that should be provided, and the reach of this protection.

We have to be cautious about the amount of protection afforded to works, as there is potential for an intellectual monopoly to occur – this is when creators have total control over how purchasers use an idea or creation, which leads to a monopoly over the idea (Boldrin & Levine 2010).

The discussion in classes this week had me thinking about how often everyday people breach copyright in their online activities. Specifically, the article by Lessig (2004) discussed derivative works which immediately brought “fan-fiction” to my mind. ¬†As I have been a reader of fan-fiction in the past, I began to wonder about how copyright covers the use of characters, settings and plotlines from movies, books and television shows in stories written by fans.

Lessig notes that it is an infringement to “make a copy or a derivative work without the original copyright owner’s¬†permission”. ¬†I took a look at US copyright law, which defines a derivative work as follows:

A ‚Äúderivative work‚ÄĚ is a work based upon one or more preexisting works,such¬†as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion ¬†picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications, which, as a whole,represent an original work of authorship, is a ‚Äúderivative¬†work‚ÄĚ.

So, with this definition in mind, ¬†works of¬†fan-fiction¬†would generally be defined as “derivative works” as they are based upon¬†pre-existing¬†works. ¬†However, according to US copyright law, if the fan-fiction work is considered to be ‘fair-use’, then this makes it exempt from copyright – making the line between legal and fair fan-fiction and copyright infringement very blurry.

Referring back to US copyright law, the considered criteria for defining fair-use are as follows:

  1. “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a¬†commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

As each work of fan-fiction is different and would meet varying criterion,  assessing fair-use on a case-by-case basis is logical (e.g. the majority of fan-fiction works are non-commercial, however the extent that they utilise the copyrighted material of the original work varies). However, this means that a blanket rule cannot be applied.

Most fan-fiction sites respect the wishes of authors to not have derivative fan-fiction stories based on their original work published on their site; for example, fan-fiction site FanFiction.Net publishes a list of authors who do not want fan-fiction based on their works to appear on the site.

What do you think? Does fan-fiction constitute a breach of copyright? Or, should these works by fans be considered “fair use”?

Thanks for reading!

Katie

Image sourced from here.

References:

Boldrin, M ¬†& Levine, D K 2007) ‘Introduction’, in ‘Against Intellectual Monopoly‘, pp 1-15, ¬†Cambridge,¬†UK: Cambridge University Press accessed 25/8/2012 via http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/papers/anew01.pdf

Lessig, L 2004, ‘Creators’, in ‘Free Culture: How Big Media uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Strangle Creativity‘, pp. 21-30, New York: Penguin, accessed 24/8/2012 via www.authorama.com/freeculture-4.html

This Modern Liquid Life

There is no denying the incredible impact that technology has had on industry, the economy, and the workplace. Advancements in technology have enabled mass-production, mass-communication and have made the manipulation and storage of data quick and easy.

However, this week in DIGC202 we have been looking at how the workplace has been transformed by digital technologies ‚Äď in more of a detrimental sense. The reading by Gregg studied the phenomenon of workers using these technologies to keep up with their workload out of office hours, eroding the distinction between work and home life. With the pervasive use of email, social networking sites, collaboration platforms and mobile technologies, it has become easy for employees to work from home; a physically presence is no longer required at the workplace to engage in work. Deuze (2006) describes this phenomenon as a ‘liquid life’ where work and life patterns have converged.

It is so easy to see how technology allows this liquid life to occur.  With my iPhone, I have the ability to check my work emails and engage in work communication from a café, the kitchen bench or even during a holiday.  For many employees, this is combined with an expectation from employers to keep up with increasing workloads and to enter the office in the morning up-to-date with workplace happenings. These expectations place an increased pressure on employees to maintain a connection with their work from home.

In my opinion, technology has given companies the ability and power to let the workplace invade our personal lives.

An article by Bardoel (2012) discusses the challenges that technology has caused for the work-life balance.  She acknowledges that we need to strike a balance between allowing technology to be a useful tool and having a negative impact on our lives by not allowing us to detach from work.  Bardoel notes that companies such as Volkswagen have recognised the threat that technology is having on the work-life balance of their employees, deactivating emails outside of work hours except for half an hour before and half an hour after the work day.

I think the trend of working outside of office hours is concerning.¬† It is getting to the point that employees are like the little stick man in my picture at the top of this post ‚Äď almost constantly working around the clock! ¬†This liquid life may have benefits from a business perspective, but I definitely think employees are losing out.

Thanks for reading!

Katie.

References (excluding subject readings):

Bardoel, A 2012, ‚ÄėTool or time thief? Technology and the work-life¬†balance‚Äô, The Conversation, 30 July, accessed 14/8/2012 via here

Image sourced from here.

The Civilisation of the Mind

This week in DIGC202 one of the main themes we looked at was cyber-utopianism Рthe belief that the Internet has the power to democratise and change society for the better.  I found the concept of cyber-utopianism a little bit difficult to get my head around, but I found this YouTube video where Evgeny Morozov explains cyber-utopianism with cool animated drawings as support:

In this video, Morozov explains that cyber-utopians believe that if we are all connected, then democracy is inevitable, which is a very deterministic view of technology. He dispels what he considers to be the naive belief that technology is emancipatory and has the power to free society.

I would have to agree that many people give too much weight to the democratising power of the Internet.  Among the youth, at least,  the Internet is mainly used for entertainment and communication between friends, rather than political activism.

The utopian mindset that Morozov is combating is what is expressed in Barlow’s Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which declares the Internet as a place independent of external governmental control – no government can silence the voices online. ¬†He believes that the Internet can liberate our world, transcending governance leading to a united civilisation.

Amidst reading about all of these pro- and anti- cyber-utopian views, I started reading the book ‘The Cult of the Amateur’ by Andrew Keen. It’s making me realise that I am not exactly a cyber-utopian. Keen does not believe in the all-mighty democratising power of the Internet. His book definitely challenges Web 2.0 utopians, arguing that the overwhelming use of blogs, YouTube and other social media sites which allow for the creation and promotion of user-generated content are having negative consequences on our creative and financial economies.

I think Keen has a point. Yes, we are a networked society and we all have the power to blog, tweet and voice our opinions about political and social issues. But I believe the majority of us do not do this – and even if we did, our voice is merely one of the billions of voices screaming across cyberspace, trying to get attention.

Thanks for reading!

Katie

 

The Power of Connections

This semester in DIGC202 we will be exploring the concept of the ‚Äėglobal network‚Äô; we will discover how new media and modern technologies have transcended the boundaries that previously structured society, changing the way that society is organised.

One of the main points that Castells makes in his afterword ‚ÄėWhy networks matter‚Äô is that power lies in the networks that organise society and our lives. In today‚Äôs society, the rapid rate of technological advancement has created a networked, interconnected society characterised by real-time communication. Our society is not bounded by geographical restrictions; we have the ability to transfer a wealth of information across the globe almost instantaneously. Communication across the world occurs around the clock in a global space provided by the Internet.

I think that these networks are powerful because as a connected society we have the power to disseminate information worldwide in such a way that the world loses its boundaries and becomes a cohesive space. An article by Mathew Ingram (2011) discusses how the Internet, specifically social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, played a significant role in the uprisings that occurred in both Tunisia and Egypt. He notes that critics of this notion believe that too much power is afforded to these platforms in a form of ‚Äėcyber-utopianism‚Äô. However, it is impossible to deny that the Internet has provided a means for rapid communication, which inevitably is a powerful force in political uprisings. Ingram notes that the ‚Äėreal weapon is the power of networked communication itself‚Äô, and I think this is the main point that Castells makes. The structure of our society has changed immensely due to technology, and it is within these communicative networks that the power lies.

In terms of DIGC202, my areas of interest in digital media are in social media and online gaming; more specifically, I am interested in the impact that new trends in digital communication have on society and the  social interactions between people. Academics may state that we are a networked and highly communicative society, however it is interesting to discuss whether this ability to digitally communicate afforded by the Internet has had a diminishing affect on our communication skills face-to-face in the real world.

Thanks for reading!

Katie

 

Image courtesy of this page.