Unsafe is safer. (18).

It sounds like Orwellian doublespeak but in this case its not.

Zittrain shows that drivers in the Netherlands behave more responsibly on the street when they have an incentive to preserve other people’s safety as well as their own in the absence of signs and the presence of generalized rules, such as yielding to cars on your right at an intersection.

Signs and complex rules dehumanize our interaction. When we have to rely on our own minds for public safety (out of a commonly shared self interest), then we re-humanize our roads. We “see other drivers rather than other cars.”

Zittrain ties this analogy to the Internet. On one extreme, corporations are using every legal tool they can to reign in copyright abuses, and on the other, hackers do their best to defeat copyright and spread “illegal” files as much as possible. In the middle are all the things academics love. Fair use, cultural creation, personal expression, and community building.

How can a place where both extremes operate settle more towards the middle ground and allow the Internet to survive?

The secret, like in the Netherlands, is to make a depersonalized space human again. So, Zittrain asks, “What are the online tools and social structures that inspire people to act humanely online?”

Zittrain uses Wikipedia to show that standards, instead of rules, can reach a consensus through online discussion and democratic voting.


All we need now is a centralized giant forum which guides Internet standards. By the people for the people. Holla!

a humane death

a humane death

Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 4:49 pm  Comments (1)  

Google’s motto: Don’t be evil. (9)

In the final minutes of a Google Authors talk by Slavoj Zizek, professor and philosopher, one of Google’s employees asks Zizek what he thinks about Google’s informal motto: “Don’t be evil.” In essence, what are Google’s unknown knowns, or as Freud would say, unconscious elements?

Is Google aware of its potential for abusive power?

Is Google aware of its potential for abusive power?

As discussed in the previous post, Google’s ownership of Youtube has led to increased detection of copyright infringement and the removal of videos that contravene its pornography and obscenity guidelines.

Zizek responds by wondering why Google is worried about being evil, and which model of evil they subscribe to. Perhaps being the most powerful search engine, they could be open to manipulating what the public sees when they search for a term like “McDonalds” versus “McDonalds food poisoning.”

Zizek defines evil as something which “brutally interrupts the normal running of things, evil is a cut, which is why for certain pagan religions, Jesus Christ is evil embodied. And in a way they are right,” because he signalled an end to obeying Karma and believing in reincarnation.

Zizek interprets Google’s motto as “we are doing something terribly great lets not do it too fast.”

Google does fit Zizek’s simplified model of evil, in that they have broken ground (from a software perspective), and changed the way a new generation watches video and finds its information. This affects, according to Zizek, normal community life and a small part of what it means to be human.

Published in: on February 4, 2009 at 4:09 pm  Comments (3)  

Youtube – The new video monopoly? (8) (video 3)

“No freedom, no content”

Fakesagan, a quasi-famous Youtube user with 6,010 subscribers, has recently decided to quit supplying Youtube with content.

After receiving a second strike to his account for including a segment of his girlfriend’s amateur cartoon which included a cartoon depiction of breasts and buttox which Youtube deemed to be pornographic, fakesagan claims Youtube’s censorship has gone too far.

“Its about power, that’s what censorship is really about,” says fakesagan. The popular misconception that censors hate offensive art is wrong, he says. Its more about a jealous control over artists.

Fakesagan claims he stopped watching TV and made his home on Youtube to escape TV’s “banal corporate fluff” which insulted his intelligence. But the corporation has followed him onto the Net.

As Strangelove has said, Youtube has cornered about 60 per cent of the video watching market on the Internet. Youtube’s inital autonomy and relatively lax rules for posting didn’t last long. Under the economic pressure of powerful corporations, they have just recently become more stringent.

New detection technology has targeted the audio tracks of videos automatically detecting copyright infringements when a protected song is used without permission and removing it from the video.

Fakesagan is perhaps correct in his decision to “stick it to the man” by halting content creation.

“I’ve always understood something about the nature of freedom that other people don’t. Freedom is ephemeral. You can’t bottle it. You can’t engineer a free society. You can’t develop a philosophy or a religion that’s conducive to ‘setting one free’. You can’t write freedom into a constitution or any document. Freedom is fleeting. You can’t catch lightning in a bottle,” he says.

Fakesagan promises to take his anti-establishment political v-logging to another website. But he understands that freedom on any given website can only last so long.

The good thing about the internet, is there’s always another website just waiting for users jump ship. Youtube will have to be careful that its monopoly doesn’t evaporate as quickly as it appeared.

Published in: on February 4, 2009 at 3:32 am  Comments (1)