Archive for the ‘Flickr’ Category

Introduction

Convergence is defined by Henry Jenkins (2006) as “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences.” The ongoing process of convergence is creating a more participatory society for the user by changing the dynamics of media technologies and opens up for new business-models for the industries, like it did with the idea of Transmedia. New technologies enable us to take pictures, record sounds, write and film, and because of the Internet we also have the opportunity to upload, download, remix and share content that are already flowing online. We have become more like “prosumers” (Mitew 2012) instead of consumers.

The audiences’ future is looking bright, but convergence also carries negative baggage. With these new technologies we have started to act as we please online, and thus a fight for survival between audiences and industries has emerged. In this essay I argue that convergence has affected the audiences’ use of technologies and respect for copyrights, the audiences’ choice of technologies, and the emergence of censorship due to the audiences’ use of new technologies. I will use Flickr as an example of technology throughout the essay.

Copyrights

The Internet and our new media platforms enable us to create mash-ups and remixes of the content online, and currently we are actively taking advantage of this. At the same time the copyright rules we have today are very strict, and because of our increasing level of participation the Media Industry keep lobbying for even stricter laws. Many users are frustrated with the copyright regulations, because the things that they create are removed from the web and sometimes the user even gets sued, but we should not forget that copyrights are a necessity and that they are made to protect our intellectual properties as well from being used as others.

We should think twice about using copyrighted material and give the industry another reason to fight for their content, instead we should embrace the solutions that are already out there. Maybe the media industry softens as time goes by, and realises that we are only using their work for new ideas and creativity. It is actually interesting to see how some users complain on copyrights, but still their own work is guarded and cannot be shared or copied.

Trey Ratcliff (2012) says “a pure artist has two motivations: creation for the sake of creation and sharing for the sake of connecting with the world.” If we want to use other peoples’ content to create new material, we need to allow other people to borrow our content as well. By committing to Creative Commons (2012) anyone can use your content as long as they acknowledge you and ask for permission if it is for commercial purposes.

The photo sharing site Flickr has enabled Creative Commons licenses (Flickr 2012) for a long time and it shows how sharing and attribution can be practised. You can choose which images you want to keep as private and which ones you want to share with the public, this way you provide images and videos for other people to use freely. With an open sharing ideology your content can travel all over the world via other peoples’ blogs, newspapers and online albums, and can even result in actual revenue! Although there will always exist thieves we must believe that most people are honest and willing to pay for the work of others, and most importantly this must start with ourselves and our own ideologies.

Generative platforms

A media platform today is expected by the user to grant us constant and immediate access to the world. It must enable us to multitask, and provide a place where everything can be produced, stored and shared. If a media platform cannot follow up on all of these “minimums”, it will be replaced by a more innovative technology. These technologies have “become interfaces to the flow of content” (Mitew 2012) that comes with convergence.

What I think few people realise is that we should choose wisely when we decide which platform to use for participation. There are several industries that fight to regains control of both users and content, and thus construct the platforms to do so. Facebook and Apple are both examples of media platforms that are locked appliances. Everything you post on Facebook are owned by Facebook, and by using it you agree to give them the rights to distribute “your” content as they wish. Apple provide a “walled garden” (Mitew 2012) for its users, a garden where Apple has already decided which applications you are allowed to use, and it is not possible to explore anything else.

I believe that in an era where we are fighting for Internet freedom and milder copyright laws, we should we be aware of ideologies where the Industry controls everything we can and cannot do. There are other media platforms which operate in freer environments, where the users own their own material and are even welcome to explore and improve the operation systems. In a Top Ten (2012) review of Flickr it was said that Flickr “want to get photos and video into and out of the system in as many ways as [they] can: from the web, from mobile devices, from the users’ home computers and from whatever software [the users] are using to manage their content.” In addition to this, Flickr also invite users to construct their own applications via their Application Programming Interface (API) (Flickr 2012).

I believe that by choosing a media platform or technology which is open and generative, we build an environment for ourselves where the flow of content between us and our media platforms flow freely.

Censorship

We are “the people formerly known as the audience” (Jay Rosen 2006), and with our media technologies and platforms today we now have the ability to use these technologies to freely express our opinions and share our knowledge with the world, it is the closest we have ever been to democracy. Social media platforms are increasingly popular in our daily lives; even the industries are finding new and innovative ways to implement these platforms into their businesses. For advertisers sites like Facebook act like a buffet of what is popular and what is not (Li 2012), some newspapers welcomes citizen journalism through to their news via blogs, images and videos (CNN-IBN 2012), politically Twitter has been used efficiently to organize demonstrations in the world and lately news have travelled faster via social media sites than anything else.

As it get more difficult for the media conglomerates to maintain control, they now try to lobby our Governments for a more definite form of control; censorship. Bills like the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act” (CISPA)keep sneaking up on us, claiming that they are there to protect against online theft, but the intended result is to set us back as pure consumers by gradually blocking social media sites which will be blamed for hosting infringing links.

Our new media technologies and platforms can be used for creative purposes, but now more than ever we must remember what they are fundamentally constructed to do; spread messages. Several social media sites have demonstrated against these bills, Flickr for instance, was part of the campaign where they blackened, or censored, a lot of the pictures online to demonstrate what SOPA would look like. So far, the Internet and its users have won the battles, but given the different interests between the media conglomerates who wants to be the sole producers, and us who wants to participate, the war is far from over.

Conclusion

Flickr is a photo sharing site which enables its users to share “objects, knowledge and resources” (Weiss 2005). It was one of the first websites constructed to function in the web2.0 era, and for a very long time it was a revolutionary website. As a member on Flickr you create a profile, you connect with friends and people you choose to follow and you can comment on your own as well as other images. Flickr is a brilliant host for pictures; it is perfect for sharing and having your images discovered, but lately the photo sharing site seem to suffer by a lack of innovation (Dimech 2012). As the ongoing process of convergence continues, we are constantly presented to new technologies and innovations, and the contest is hard between the components. The one which is the most user-friendly and up to date wins the audience. I find it ignorant to choose a media platform or media technology solely on its design and functions, when there are many other important things that should be considered: Are you the owner of your own content? Are you allowed outside of the “walls” of your technology? Is your media platform supporting CISPA? Sites like Flickr, supports our freedom as users and that ought to be a strong argument for choosing it.

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“The Arab Revolution / الثورة العربية” is a group established on the website Flickr and is one amongst many different groups. The Arab Spring started in 2010-2011 and became a revolutionary time of protests and demonstrations in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and more. Although the Arab Spring in itself is an interesting issue, something else rose under this revolution which will have my attention today; Social Media and citizen Journalism.

It is not many years ago since news was received in a “one-way-manner” from mainstream media, to us. At that time we were consumers. Passive consumers relying on the information given to us. The problem with this sort of information is that is has gatekeepers. Publishers, mainstream media and Governments censor the information they provide so that it “fit” in their way of portraying the world.

Social media and citizen journalism has been around for quite a while, but under the Arab Spring it showed the world what kind of power it has. Citizens of the Arab world took use of social media to share their meanings and stories regarding the revolution. They arranged meetings by communicating time and places via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They told their stories by blogging and gave the world an honest and brutal view over what they were up against. In response to this the Egyptian government actually shut down the internet to put a stop to it, but was met with even more resistance when Google and Twitter arranged for a service enabling Egyptians to tweet via their phones. One by one we have seen the regimes fall apart, defeated by their citizens.

What does this tell us? Information is no longer given to us, but it is a shared dialog between everyone who wants to participate. We are no longer consumers but prosumers (Mitew 2012). The Internet has given us free access to an immediate flow of information and there are no filters or gatekeepers to “frame” the stories. I am thinking that if mainstream media is on its way out and the Governments no longer can rely on controlling the media, maybe democracy finally will be 100%. It sounds good, but is it all just positive? The credibility of the stories can be doubtful and it is hard to know if the stories can be trusted or not.

I find it hard to see the best solution. I think it is a relief that we have found a way to challenge our gatekeepers, but I am not convinced we can “be our own bosses”. We need to find a way where we all can participate and have a say, a way where we (the prosumers), the industries and the Governments all have power to influence.

References:

Mitew, T 2012, User empowerment, access and participation, lecture, BCM112, Convergent Media Practices, University of Wollongong, delivered 26 March.

I have earlier discussed the major conglomerates and their goal to gain total control over media content and users. At that point I was referring to copyright and how our rights as participants are being restrained. Most people today own a mobile phone and the opportunity of being online is constantly there, “our phones become an interface to the internet” (Mitew 2012).

Since we use our phones to this extent, should not the restrictions built into them worry us? Many industries today try to regain control over the market after the Internet came, and we should be aware of some of their ideologies. Look at Facebook or products from Apple, these are media platforms used by millions of people, and no one think about how controlled these mediums are. They are closed platforms, with “walled gardens of applications” (Mitew 2012), meaning that the producer decides what you as a user can do. They have taken complete control over the media-platform and the content in it. If you post something on Facebook which they do not like they will remove it, keeping you from the right to express yourself. It reminds me of the big media conglomerates.

Android phones and Flickr are examples of open media platforms. They give the user full control of the content and allow them to participate. Take Flickrs API page as an example. API stands for “application programming interface” and gives the user the possibility to create its “own program to present public Flickr data (…) in new and different ways”. Wikipedia (2012) states:

“The practice of publishing APIs has allowed web communities to create an open architecture for sharing content and data between communities and applications. In this way, content that is created in one place can be dynamically posted and updated in multiple locations on the web.”

There is a backside of many users being able to create and control, viruses for instance, but the way I see it we have two choices: Open or closed? I also see two ideologies: “The industry controls you or you control you own choices” (Mitew 2012). Our lecturer asked us this question yesterday: Which philosophy empowers users the most?

We are afraid that the media conglomerates will take too much control over us, why are we not more worried about the philosophy of Apple and Facebook? They are doing the exact same thing! They want to control you, control what you say, what you share, what you can do, what you buy, what you listen to etc. In the long run this can be a matter of freedom of speech, and that is a something that ought to concern us all. Freedom of speech is a human right and in a way all that we have. Wikipedia defines free speech like this:

“Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one’s ideas via speech. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.”

This is exactly what some industries are trying to prevent us from.

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, Platforms, permissions & ideologies in technological convergence, BCM112, Convergent Media Practices, University of Wollongong, delivered 19 March.