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[Significant plot spoilers for the film Interstellar below.]
Director Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar opens with a poignant pan across a bookshelf, showing heavy dust falling atop a toy NASA spaceshuttle, symbolic of the near-future world of the film, where climate change has wrought havoc and people have turned their backs on science. “It’s like we’ve forgotten who we are: explorers, pioneers; not caretakers,” pilot-turned-farmer protagonist Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) laments. “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”
Perhaps because of this quite clear dialogue with contemporary politics, many critics have attackedInterstellar’s scientific credibility. Nolan has also weighed into this debate, largely defending his science, and scientific advisor Kip Thorne. But picking the film apart for its lack of fidelity to quantum theory or astrophysics is doing the experience of Interstellar a great injustice.
The film is far from perfect. For such a gifted visual storyteller, Nolan frustrates as he insists on joining the dots with unnecessarily clunky dialogue. For all the visual nods to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Nolan refuses to follow Kubrick’s lead and let the cinematography or visual effects speak for themselves. And there’s something about a misunderstood heroic white man from Middle America saving the human race that looks all too familiar.
But Interstellar’s real value is as an exploration of memory, of hope, and of the power of dreaming of a better tomorrow for our kids.
Let’s take the none-too-subtly named Dr Mann (Matt Damon), for example. Continually referred to as the best, brightest, and bravest humanity has to offer, his improbable appearance in the latter half of the film is one of the first truly hopeful moments, only for that to come dramatically crashing down. The fall of Mann provokes a rather chilling conclusion: it’s not just what’s on the inside, but fundamentally human sociality that keeps us who we are, or at least the version of ourselves compatible with contemporary ethics and values. Staring into the abyss long enough and it’s not the abyss looking back: it’s the realisation that extreme solitude and loneliness breaks even the best of us.
The question of what happens in the final moment of life refracts through the film, and it’s how this moment unfurls for Cooper that shifts the meaning of the film.
One interpretation is, of course, literal: that enabled by future-science so far removed from our understanding it’s incomprehensible, Cooper is able to communicate across the barriers of time and space to his now grown daughter and send her the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe, and save all of humanity. And in an improbable footnote, he also somehow finds his way back to her.
Alternatively, if we can give Nolan’s science the benefit of the doubt long enough to get Cooper into the black hole, then that entire final sequence may just be the adrenalin induced final spark of human imagination before it ceases to be. For a film about the power of imagination, what more satisfying reading can there be than the idea that we get to experience futures where we resolve the differences we’ve had with our children, and along the way play a central role in saving everyone?
Science fiction author Arthur C Clarke once noted that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”; the magic in Nolan’s film is not science, it’s the imagination.
One of the most heartbreaking early scenes comes as Cooper is chastised by schoolteachers because his daughter, Murphy (Mackenzie Foy), refuses to accept their ‘updated’ textbooks which explain that the Apollo missions were faked, to trick the USSR into a fatally bankrupting space race. As someone who dreamt of going to the moon, and beyond, as a child, Nolan’s film feels like a total immersion in that exact youthful sense of wonder. A sense of wonder a new generation might just be sharing as they watch the Philae lander touch down on a comet hurtling through space.
Interstellar’s insistence on looking upward, to the stars, to the future, beyond the confines of what we concretely know: this makes the film more than worth your time.
In the final sequence, Cooper awakens in Cooper Station, and presumes it’s named after him. It’s not. It’s named after his daughter, Murphy Cooper. Murphy and Brand (Anne Hathaway), the daughters of the supposed great men, are the real heroes of the film. They make the scientific data work, and they save humanity; it’s their dreams which ensure our future. Or, at least, that’s the hope.
Links for June 7th 2011 through June 24th 2011:
- Harry Potter and the amazing exploding book industry [GigaOM] – “Despite the obvious demand, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has adamantly refused to offer electronic versions of her phenomenally popular series for young adults — until now. As part of Thursday’s launch of an interactive website called Pottermore, the billionaire writer also announced that e-book versions of the novels will be available directly through the site for all major platforms. In one fell swoop, Rowling has cut both her publishers and booksellers such as Amazon out of the picture. Not everyone has that kind of power, of course, but Rowling’s move shows how the playing field in publishing continues to be disrupted. The author said the Pottermore site will offer extra content that she has written about the characters in the books … There will also be a social network of sorts built into the site that allows readers to connect with each other, play games and share their thoughts about the novels and their characters.”
- Google to be formally investigated over potential abuse of web dominance [guardian.co.uk] – “US regulators are poised to launch a formal investigation into whether Google has abused its dominance on the web, according to reports. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is days away from serving subpoenas on the internet giant in what could be the biggest investigation yet of the search company’s business, according to The Wall Street Journal. Both Google and the FTC declined to comment. A wide-ranging investigation into Google has been discussed for months. Google has faced several antitrust probes in recent years, and is already the subject of a similar investigation in Europe. In the US inquiries have so far largely been limited to reviews of the company’s mergers and acquisitions. The inquiry will examine the heart of Google’s search-advertising business, and the source of most of Google’s revenue. Google accounts for around two-thirds of internet searches in the US …”
- Kind of Screwed [Waxy.org] – The really sad story of how Andy Baio ended up paying over $US30,000 for a pixel-art cover on an homage album because a photographer (and his lawyers) don’t believe it’s fair use: “Last year, I was threatened with a lawsuit over the pixel art album cover for Kind of Bloop. Despite my firm belief that I was legally in the right, I settled out of court to cut my losses. This ordeal was very nerve-wracking for me and my family, and I’ve had trouble writing about it publicly until now.”
- The Social Network’s Aaron Sorkin quits Facebook [guardian.co.uk] – “Aaron Sorkin, 50, was speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity at a session alongside David Simon, creator of The Wire and Treme. His admission came as part of a discussion of the downsides of sites such as Twitter. Sorkin described himself as “this side of being a Luddite”, and said he had been on Facebook while he making the film, but had since given up his account. “I have a lot of opinions on social media that make me sound like a grumpy old man sitting on the porch yelling at kids,” he said. Sorkin’s scepticism of social media was shared by the film’s star, Jesse Eisenberg, who joined Facebook under a false name while in production but left soon afterwards, unnerved by the experience. “[I] was sent a message from Facebook suggesting people I should befriend,” Eisenberg said last October. “One of them was a girl my sister was friends with in high school. I don’t know how they found her, no idea. I signed off right then.””
- “Teen Sexting and Its Impact on the Tech Industry” – Provocative talk well worth reading: “Most of you have probably read the panic-laden stories about teens who got caught sexting. You may even have read the salacious stories about teachers who sext with students. And, unless you’ve been on a remote island this month, you’ve probably heard countless jokes about Anthony Weiner’s recent sexting scandal. While most Americans had never heard of the term “sexting” a few years ago, it’s hot news these days. And while you might have read these stories in the press, you might not realize how relevant they are to you. More than any other teen phenomenon, more than Justin Bieber or cute cats, teen sexting is something that you need to deal with. And you need to deal with it ASAP, both because it’s the right thing to do and because you face serious legal liabilities if you don’t. When first coined by Australian press only a few short years ago …” (boyd, danah. 2011 Read Write Web 2WAY conference.New York, NY, June 13)
- Facebook Changes Privacy Settings to Enable Facial Recognition [NYTimes.com] – “Facebook is pushing the privacy line once again, according to a new report from a security and antivirus company. According to the report, from Sophos, Facebook recently began changing its users’ privacy settings to automatically turn on a facial recognition feature that detects a user’s face in an image. Once the person’s face is detected, the Web site then encourages Facebook friends to tag them. Facebook introduced this feature last year for its North American users; it is now rolling it out globally. Facebook also doesn’t give users the option to avoid being tagged in a photo; instead, people who don’t want their name attached to an image must untag themselves after the fact. In response to a reporter’s inquiry, posted on a Facebook blog, the company said, “We should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process when this became available to them.””
- Apple’s new iOS5 features – really that new? [Ausdroid] – A quick comparison of Apple’s new iOS 5 mobile and the current offering from Android. Good points on both sides, but no clear “winner”.
Links for May 26th 2011 through May 30th 2011:
- China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work [guardian.co.uk] – Chinese prisons used as gold farms (ie playing games to earn virtual gold to sale): “As a prisoner at the Jixi labour camp, Liu Dali would slog through tough days breaking rocks and digging trenches in the open cast coalmines of north-east China. By night, he would slay demons, battle goblins and cast spells. Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for “illegally petitioning” the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.”
- Better Facebook – Browser Extension – Nifty browser extension that makes Facebook more useful – including tracking comments, far more detailed filtering options, unfriend tracking, themes and so forth. Works on most browsers except IE.
- “Literally Unbelievable” – The extremely odd, disheartening and worrying Tumblr blog which captures people’s reactions to stories in The Onion without realising they’re parody and satire. All a little worrying.
- The Tunnel – The Tunnel is an Australian horror film released in May 2011 which took the unique approach of officially and legally releasing the entire film exclusively as a Bittorrent file, while offering other ways to support the film (buy stills and various types of DVDs and extras), betting that working with p2p communities rather than against them would win fans and financial support in the long run. There’s a quick write-up in the SMH and some fascinating background: IMDb initially refused to let the film be listed since it wasn’t using any recognised channels for release (eventually IMDb bowed to fan pressure and it’s listed there now).
- Thanks, YouTube community, for two BIG gifts on our sixth birthday! [YouTube Blog] – YouTube turns six with some amazing stats: “Today, more than 48 hours (two days worth) of video are uploaded to the site every minute, a 37% increase over the last six months and 100% over last year. […] We’re amazed that over this last weekend, you drove YouTube past the 3 billion views a day mark, a 50% increase over last year. That’s the equivalent of nearly half the world’s population watching a YouTube video each day, or every U.S. resident watching at least nine videos a day.”Last year YouTube celebrated their 5th birthday with a dedicated channel page and a 5-year YouTube timeline which are still useful, too.
Links for April 29th 2011 through May 12th 2011:
- Millions of Facebook users under 10 [The Age] – “Some 7.5 million of the 20 million US minors who used Facebook in the past year were younger than 13, and a million of them were bullied, harassed or threatened on the site, an American study shows. More than 5 million Facebook users were aged 10 or younger, and they were allowed to use Facebook largely without parental supervision, the State of the Net survey by Consumer Reports found.”
- chrome-angry-birds [Nelson’s Weblog] – Angry Birds comes in HTML5, too! “One of Google’s big announcements this week was the launch of Chrome Angry Birds, a port of the hugely popular mobile game to Google’s browser. But calling it “Chrome Angry Birds” is missing the point because what’s really interesting is that it’s a real-time multimedia cross-platform HTML 5 app. It runs fine in MSIE 9 and Firefox on Windows (sound and save games included) and I’ve heard reports it works in Safari on Macs, too. And because the game is based on open browser technologies, we can easily pull it apart and see how it’s built just like we’ve been pulling apart web pages since 1993 via the magic of “view source”. [Play.]
- Chromebook – Google partners to release Chromebooks, cloud-centric computers which boot amazingly fast are are designed to operate with everything in and from the cloud. Built upon the Chrome ‘browser’ (or OS) technology.
- Introducing Music Beta by Google [YouTube] – Google introduces “Music Beta”, their entry into the cloud music services, allowing individuals to upload their music collection, then use Google or Android to stream that music to portable and fixed devices. (Currently invitation-only and US-only.)
- Zynga goes Gaga! Lady Gaga and Zynga team up to celebrate new album “Born This Way” [Zynga] – Well, Zynga and Gaga get points for an original combination of media elements, at least: “Lady Gaga and Zynga today announced a partnership to launch the mega-artist’s new album “Born this Way.” Launching May 17, the first-of-its-kind program gives “little monsters” throughout the world a first listen to exclusive un-released songs from the upcoming when they visit GagaVille, a uniquely designed neighboring farm in FarmVille (There will be unicorns and crystals. Enough said.). The full album also comes bundled as a free download with the purchase of a special Zynga $25 game card, available exclusively at Best Buy. The program reaches across Zynga games and across platforms. Words With Friends, the popular mobile social game available iPhone, iPad, as well as Android devices, will feature a daily “Words with Gaga” contest …”
- Google Launches Movie Rentals on Android Market: Online Video News [GigaOm] – Android rentals: “Google announced a new cloud movie service for Android that will be available as part of the Android Market. At its Google I/O developers conference Tuesday, the company said the service will have “thousands of movies available,” with titles including Inception, The King’s Speech and Despicable Me, and rentals starting at $1.99. Users will be able to rent titles on the Android Market’s website and then watch them on the web, stream them to Android devices and even download them to play on the go where no network connectivity is available.”
- Watching Together: Twitter and TV [Twitter Blog] – “Last week, Twitter enjoyed its widest television integration to date via the live coverage of the royal wedding, as Chloe Sladden from our media team discusses on the Twitter Media blog. During the wedding, users interacted with ABC News’ coverage by using the hashtags #RoyalSuccess and #RoyalMess to voice their opinion about the events unfolding in London. They shared their thoughts with CNN by including the hashtag #CNNTV in their Tweets, causing #CNNTV to trend early in the event. And as audiences around the world watched the events live on TV, they posted millions of Tweets, peaking at 16,000 Tweets per minute between 5 and 6 a.m. EST. The royal wedding is just one example of how real-time Twitter integration can enhance TV coverage and help drive viewership …” [ Related YouTube clip: http://youtu.be/Jc8TQppzORE ]
- Obi Wan Obama, Bin Laden’s Death, and Tumblr [Unmuzzled Thoughts] – Kelli Marshall looks at the memes and reactions emerging on Tumblr after US president Barack Obama announced that long saught terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden had been killed by US forces in Pakistan. (The post includes a useful archive of images.)
- Corporate Rule of Cyberspace – Slavoj Žižek [ Inside Higher Ed] – Slavoj Žižek Vs Cloud Computing: “To put it simply, Steve Jobs is no better than Bill Gates: whether it be Apple or Microsoft, global access is increasingly grounded in the virtually monopolistic privatization of the cloud which provides this access. The more an individual user is given access to universal public space, the more that space is privatized. Apologists present cloud computing as the next logical step in the “natural evolution” of the Internet, and while in an abstract-technological way this is true, there is nothing “natural” in the progressive privatization of global cyberspace. There is nothing “natural” in the fact that two or three companies in a quasi-monopolistic position can not only set prices at will but also filter the software they provide to give its “universality” a particular twist depending on commercial and ideological interests.”
- South Korea bans youngsters from playing online games after midnight [News.com.au] – “Young South Koreans will be banned from playing online video games later than midnight after lawmakers passed a new curfew law. Yonhap news agency reported the new law – which bans anyone under 16 from playing online into the early hours – was passed by lawmakers worried about growing levels of addiction to gaming among youngsters. Gaming companies fiercely contested the legislation but the Youth Protection bill passed late Friday.”
- Superman threatens to renounce US citizenship [Books | guardian.co.uk] – “After years of declaring he stood for “truth, justice and the American way,” Superman has provoked the ire of rightwingers by threatening to renounce his US citizenship. In the latest issue of Action Comics, which went on sale on Wednesday, the Man of Steel decides to take the step after he intervenes in a protest against the Iranian government. After the Islamic regime brands his non-violent protest as an act of war taken on behalf of the US president, the DC comic hero says he will renounce his citizenship before the United Nations. “I’m tired of having my actions construed as instruments of US policy,” he says. Although Superman never actually renounces his citizenship in the story, conservative commentators reacted with disgust.”
- Instagram Spawns a Photo Ecosystem [NYTimes.com] – “Instagram, the social-meets-photos app for the iPhone that transforms plain cellphone pictures into vintage-looking works of art, has attracted millions of users. In recent months, it has also begun to draw entrepreneurs who are eager to capitalize on its growing popularity. In particular, people are creating services that revolve around bringing Instagram photos, typically viewed on a phone screen, into the real world. Keepsy lets people quickly build a photobook of their favorite Instagram pictures and share it on Facebook and Twitter. They can then print a hard copy of the photobook for about $30. There is also Postagram, which lets its users mail a postcard created from an Instagram photo to a recipient of their choice for 99 cents. And Hatchcraft will frame favorite Instagram pictures in hand-carved bamboo shadow boxes that can be hung on a wall.”
Links for April 3rd 2011:
- Google +1 Button – +1 = Google’s answer to Facebook’s “Like” button, bringing social recommendations thundering into Google (opt-in for now).
- GoDaddy CEO Shoots Elephant, Injures Brand [Mashable] – “GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons may have achieved a new social media equivalent of jumping the shark. Call it “shooting the elephant.” A video of Parsons shooting an elephant in Zimbabwe made the rounds Thursday, causing the domain registry company to become a Google Hot Topic and the subject of criticism. Leading the charge is PETA, the animal rights group, which has closed its account with GoDaddy and is asking others to follow suit. Parsons, a Vietnam vet known for his brash image, brought on the publicity by posting the video on his blog. The video shows the damage elephants caused by trampling a farmer’s sorghum field. Parsons and his fellow hunters are shown waiting at night for the elephants to return. Then Parsons shoots and kills one of the elephants. […] . Anticipating a backlash, GoDaddy competitor NameCheap.com has already swooped in. The company is running a transfer from GoDaddy to Namecheap.com […] domains for $4.99 with 20% of the proceeds going to SaveTheElephants”
- Facebook ban for boy accused of eliciting webcam porn [WA Today] – “A teenage boy has been barred from social networking sites while he awaits court proceedings for which he has been accused of pressuring girls into performing sexual acts in front of a webcam and posting the videos on Facebook. The 16-year-old boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was charged with encouraging a child aged 13 to 16 to commit an indecent act, procuring a child aged 13 to 16 to commit an indecent act, producing child exploitation material and distributing child exploitation material. […] Today the boy briefly fronted the Perth Children’s Court with both his parents, but was not required to enter a plea as he had not yet sought legal advice. He was remanded on bail to appear again in April. The state prosecutor successfully sought to have his bail conditions tightened, which already banned his use of Facebook and other social media, to include a ban preventing him from any form of contact with either girl.”
- Pediatrics Gets it Wrong about ‘Facebook Depression’ [World of Psychology] – “You know it’s not good when one of the most prestigious pediatric journals, Pediatrics, can’t differentiate between correlation and causation. And yet this is exactly what the authors of a “clinical report” did in reporting on the impact of social media on children and teens. Especially in their discussion of “Facebook depression,” a term that the authors simply made up to describe the phenomenon observed when depressed people use social media. Shoddy research? You bet. That’s why Pediatrics calls it a “clinical report” — because it’s at the level of a bad blog post written by people with a clear agenda. […] The problem now is that news outlets suggesting not only that it exists, but that researchers have found the online world somehow “triggers” depression in teens. Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatrics should be ashamed of this shoddy clinical report, and retract the entire section about “Facebook depression.”
- A new book, more or less accidental [Observations on film art] – As David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s new book Minding Movies: Observations on the Art, Craft, and Business of Film is published, collecting a number fo essays and observations from their blog, the pair reflect on blogging and publishing, the relationship between the two and beyond. For scholars who blog (or might blog) these thoughts are well worth reading. I truly hope their book sells well and moves from ‘experiment’ to ‘successful experiment’ with blog-based publication.
- Amazon Cloud Player goes live, streams music on your computer and Android [Engadget] – Amazon’s new cloud-based music and storage service, just released for users in the US only (for now): “Look who just ate Apple’s and Google’s lunch here? Amazon has just pushed out its very own music streaming service, which is conveniently dubbed the Amazon Cloud Player. Existing customers in the US can now upload their MP3 purchases to their 5GB cloud space — upgradable to a one-year 20GB plan for free upon purchasing an MP3 album, with additional plans starting at $20 a year — and then start streaming on their computers or Android devices. Oh, and did we mention that this service is free of charge as well? Meanwhile, someone will have some catching up to do, but we have a feeling it won’t take them too long.” [Amazon Mp3 CloudDrive]
- The impact of social media use on children, adolescents and families – Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe, American Academy of Pediatrics [Australian Policy Online] – “Using social media Web sites is among the most common activity of today’s children and adolescents. Any Web site that allows social interaction is considered a social media site, including social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter; gaming sites and virtual worlds such as Club Penguin, Second Life, and the Sims; video sites such as YouTube; and blogs. Such sites offer today’s youth a portal for entertainment and communication and have grown exponentially in recent years. For this reason, it is important that parents become aware of the nature of social media sites, given that not all of them are healthy environments for children and adolescents. Pediatricians are in a unique position to help families understand these sites and to encourage healthy use and urge parents to monitor for potential problems with cyberbullying, “Facebook depression,” sexting, and exposure to inappropriate content.” [PDF]
- Australians buy 1 million mobile phones monthly: IDC [The Australian] – AUSTRALIANS’ love affair with mobile phones shows no sign of abating with more than 1 million units purchased each month last year. This means just over 34,000 mobile phones were sold every day in 2010. In coming months Google Android will unseat Nokia’s Symbian as the leading smartphone platform in Australia, IDC predicts. However, despite intense pressure from rivals, Nokia retained its number-one position in overall mobile phone sector after aggressively slashing prices to woo customers. […] According to statistics from IDC Australia, 12.74 million mobiles were sold last year, a sharp increase from 10.99 million in 2009. The research house combines mobile phone sales from two categories: smartphones and feature phones. According to IDC, smartphones — unlike feature phones — run on a standalone operating system such as Apple iOS, Google Android, BlackBerry OS and Windows Phone. Smartphones accounted for around 57 per cent of mobile phones sold last year …”
- Rebecca Black’s First-Week Sales: Not Bad, But Not In The Millions … [Billboard.biz] – “…Rebecca Black is not netting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the more than 33 million YouTube views of her uber-viral video “Friday” or its digital sales. However, she’s not doing badly. The 13-year-old is netting roughly $24,900 per week from track sales of her surprise hit song, according to my calculations. It’s the start of a great college fund, but she’s not making the kind of money from iTunes sales that some writers have estimated. Forbes.com erroneously reported her digital iTunes sales at 2 million, a figure that was picked up by other publications (Forbes has since posted a correction). So how many tracks is she selling? I’d estimate less than 40,000 in the U.S. last week and probably more this week. […] Black appears to own the copyright to her sound recordings — the label is listed as “2011 Rebecca Black” on iTunes and Amazon MP3 lists “2011 Rebecca Black” in the “copyright” field of the song page.” (I’m impressed she kept the copyright! )
- High-Tech Flirting Turns Explicit, Altering Young Lives [NYTimes.com] – A cautionary tale from the New York Times about teens, ‘sexting’ and the long-term impact of digital reputation.
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins Tama Leaver / Curtin University [Flow 13.10, March 2011] – Short article about the Australian-made Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins which began life as a throw-away one line comment in a film review on a radio show and a year later was a fan-made feature film complete with digital download a niche cinema screenings. Convergence, digitisation and all that.
- Lady Gaga first to have nine million Twitter followers [BBC – Newsbeat] – Twitter goes GaGa for GaGa: “Lady Gaga is the first person to have nine million followers on Twitter. The American singer, 24, became the most popular person on the social networking site last August overtaking Britney Spears when they both had just over 5.7 million followers. She joined Twitter in 2008 with her first Tweet saying she was rehearsing for the Just Dance video. Justin Bieber is the second most popular celebrity on the site, with just over 8.3 million followers.”
Links for March 21st 2011 through March 25th 2011:
- Record Industry: Limewire Could Owe $75 Trillion – Judge: “Absurd” [Crunch Gear] – “… this is beyond ridiculous. This is… sublime. The record companies suing Limewire were asked to estimate the damages that should be paid by the file-sharing service. Their estimate? $400 Billion on the low end, and at the high end — $75 trillion dollars. That’s more than the GDP of the entire world. The judge, in a refreshing stroke of good sense, deemed these potential damages “absurd” and the plaintiff’s approach “untenable”. The $75tn figure relies on an interpretation of copyright law that provides statutory damages for each instance of copying, and with the numbers of downloads and individual songs the industry is alleging, the money adds up quickly. Even the $400bn figure is certainly grossly inflated, however “conservative” it may appear to Virgin, Atlantic, Sony, and so on. It was decided that an interpretation of copyright law enabling the music industry to sue for more money than they’ve made in the history of recorded music was necessarily wrong…”
- Troll jailed for posting child porn on tribute pages for dead children [News.com.au] – A MAN charged over Facebook vandalism for plastering child pornography over sites set up to pay tribute to two slain schoolchildren has been jailed. The Brisbane District Court was told Bradley Paul Hampson, 29, posted offensive messages and photographs on Facebook “RIP tribute” pages for a 12-year-old boy stabbed at a Brisbane school and a nine-year-old Bundaberg girl abducted and murdered in February last year. Hampson, of Tarragindi, on Brisbane’s southside, today pleaded guilty to two counts using a carriage service, the internet, to cause offence and one each of distributing and possessing child exploitation material between February 14 and June 4 last year. […] Judge Kerry O’Brien jailed Hamspon for three years, but ordered he be released after serving 12 months. Judge O’Brien ordered Hampson be placed on a two-year probation order upon his release from jail.”
- Tweeting with the telly on [BBC News] – Twitter TV – it can be more than just #qanda! “The days of families reverentially gathered around the box may be long gone but the doom-mongers who said that on-demand would kill linear TV completely may also be somewhat off the mark. A new generation of viewers is watching what has been dubbed social TV – a synthesis between TV and social networking. A recent study from marketing agency Digital Clarity found that 80% of under-25s used a second screen to communicate with friends while watching TV and 72% used Twitter, Facebook or a mobile app to comment on shows. Currently it is little more sophisticated than watching TV with one eye on Twitter or Facebook, but that is beginning to change as TV executives start to experiment with greater social networking integration. In New Zealand, TVNZ has just launched a new youth channel which sees Facebook heavily integrated to create an interactive entertainment and music show.”
- Amazon Appstore: what does it mean for developers? [guardian.co.uk] – Amazon launch their new Android App store. Testimony to the choice available on an open system. However, launching it US-only seems ridiculous. Rovio’s ‘Angry Birds Rio’ is free for the first day of Amazon’s App Store, but no one in the US can ‘buy’ it (ie download it) at all. Not a terribly auspicious start. (Oh, and Apple are going to sue them for use of ‘App’ in the name of their App Store.)
- Piracy: are we being conned? [The Age] – A thoroughly research article which rebukes some of the ridiculous claims in several recent industry-backed “piracy” scare reports: “This month, a new lobbying group, the Australian Content Industry Group (ACIG), released new statistics to The Age, which claimed piracy was costing Australian content industries $900 million a year and 8000 jobs. The report claims 4.7 million Australian internet users engaged in illegal downloading and this was set to increase to 8 million by 2016. By that time, the claimed losses to piracy would jump to $5.2 billion a year and 40,000 jobs. But the report, which is just 12 pages long, is fundamentally flawed. It takes a model provided by an earlier European piracy study (which itself has been thoroughly debunked) and attempts to shoe-horn in extrapolated Australian figures that are at best highly questionable and at worst just made up.”
- Google accuses China of interfering with Gmail email system [The Guardian] – Google vs China, round two: “Google has accused the Chinese government of interfering with its popular Gmail email system. The move follows extensive attempts by the Chinese authorities to crack down on the “jasmine revolution” – an online dissident movement inspired by events in the Middle East. According to the search giant, Chinese customers and advertisers have increasingly been complaining about their Gmail service in the past month. Attempts by users to send messages, mark messages as unread and use other services have generated problems for Gmail customers. In the wake of the catastrophic earthquake in Japan, Google set up an application to help people find relatives and friends lost in the disaster. This service too seems to have been compromised. “Relating to Google there is no issue on our side. We have checked extensively. This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail,” said a Google spokesman.”
Links for December 2nd 2010 through December 6th 2010:
- Facebook Causes One In Five Divorces In US [Link Newspaper] – I think ’causes’ is an overstatement; facilitates, perhaps: “Flirty messages and photographs found on social networking website Facebook are now leading to at least one in five divorces in the US, a survey has revealed. A new survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers also says around 80 per cent of divorce lawyers have reported a spike in the number of cases that use social media for evidence of cheating, according to the Daily Mail. Many cases revolve around social media users who get back in touch with ex-girlfriends and lovers they had not heard from in many years. Facebook was by far the biggest offender, with 66 per cent of lawyers citing it as the primary source of evidence in a divorce case. MySpace followed with 15 per cent, Twitter at five per cent and other websites together at 14 per cent.”
- When Oprah Winfrey educates Yanks on our ‘hip’ McCafes, it’s the dollar talking [News.com.au] – For Oprah, Australia = product placement: “Oprah Winfrey has already given Americans an insight into our culture. This is despite the fact the TV queen some say is the most influential woman in the world doesn’t arrive in Australia until tomorrow. According to Oprah’s Aussie Countdown, which screened to 10 million Americans last week, we Australians call men “blokes”, women “sheilas” and we like to meet up at “hip joints” called McCafes to sip on gourmet coffee. Some of the one-million-strong Australian audience who saw this report on the Ten Network last week were a little surprised to hear of the importance of McCafes to the Australian lifestyle. […] The Australian asked the Ten Network and McDonald’s about the curious reference and they confirmed McDonald’s was a “broadcast sponsor and had a global arrangement directly with Harpo Productions for the in-program McCafe activity that appeared in Carrie’s segment”. In other words, the segment was paid for and funded by McDonald’s”
- Labor to back adults-only games classification [ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)] – Good news: “The Federal Government has announced it will support a push for an adults-only classification for video games. A decision on the matter is expected on Friday at a meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. A recent Galaxy survey has found strong support for an R18+ classification, with 80 per cent of people surveyed saying they believed an adult classification was needed, while a government public consultation on the matter received close to 60,000 responses – with 98 per cent in favour of an adult rating. Currently in Australia, games classed above MA15+ are refused classification and cannot be brought into the country. Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor says an adults-only classification would include games with excessive violence or adult themes.”
- Life on Mars? Not yet. But in the meantime, NASA has found a new kind of life on Earth… [Perth Now] – It’s life, Jim, but its diet is not as we know it: “Lurking in the depths of a California lake is a bacteria that can thrive on arsenic, an explosive discovery that could expand the search for other life on Earth and beyond, researchers have found. The NASA-funded study released today and published in the journal Science redefines what biologists consider the necessary elements for life, currently viewed as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur. Not only does the bacteria survive on arsenic, it also grows by incorporating the element into its DNA and cell membranes. “What is new here is arsenic is being used as a building block for the organism,” said Ariel Anbar, co-author of the study. “We have had this idea that life requires these six elements with no exceptions and here it turns out, well maybe there is an exception.””
- Making Copyright Work Better Online [Google Public Policy Blog] – From the point of view of digital libertarians, Google just got a bit more evil as they’ve pledged to act on reducing the ease of access to links to allegedly pirate material in their index. Google aren’t removing links (except where a DMCA takedown notice is submitted) but will prevent suspect material appearing in auto-complete, act faster on DMCA takedown notices, more carefully ensure AdSense doesn’t get used for ads pointing to pirated material, and other experiments. So the material is still returned in normal search results unless you’ve got the autocomplete on by default.
- BBC Plans Subscription-Only U.S. iPlayer On iPad [mocoNews] – “This is huge. The BBC will launch the long-awaited global version of its iPlayer TV catch-up service on a subscription-only basis, and initially only on iPad. The service, carrying BBC shows like Doctor Who on-demand, will likely be very popular in the U.S., generating new income for the BBC back in Britain. The significance of the move is clear – it means the BBC will operate a subscription worldwide media channel that, in time, could become one of its biggest.”
Links for October 25th 2010 through November 1st 2010:
- WikiLeaks on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan [The New Yorker] – “Whether WikiLeaks will prove over time to be a credible publisher of such truths is another question. Assange disclosed the names of informants in some of the war reports, even though doing so might endanger them and possibly cause their death. […] If the organization continues to attract sources and vast caches of unfiltered secret documents, it will have to steer through the foggy borderlands between dissent and vandalism, and it will have to defend its investigative journalism against those who perceive it as a crime. Assange is animated by the idea of radical transparency, but WikiLeaks as yet lacks a fixed address. Nor does it offer its audiences any mechanism for its own accountability. […] if WikiLeaks cannot learn to think efficiently about its publishing choices, it will risk failure, not only because of the governmental opponents it has induced but also because so far it lacks an ethical culture that is consonant with the ideals of free media.”
- MI6 chief red over daughter’s Facebook shot [The Age] – This seems a ridiculous media beat-up to me: “British spy chief John Sawers is facing public embarrassment after his daughter posted a photo of herself posing with a gold Kalashnikov rifle on Facebook. Oxford graduate Corinne Sawers, 23, is seen standing in front of a family Christmas tree holding the gold-plated weapon – similar to those found among Saddam Hussein’s treasures after the 2003 Iraq invasion – in her profile pictures, The Sunday Mirror reports. The gun is a decommissioned Kalashnikov and is believed to have been a gift to Corinne’s father, MI6 boss Sir John, as a memento of his time in Iraq. All of Corinne’s 873 Facebook friends, and tens of thousands of their friends globally, can see her gun-toting picture on the networking site.”
- New Zealand is still Middle-earth: A summary of the Hobbit crisis [Observations on film art] – An outstanding summary by Kristin Thompson of the issues surrounding the ill-advised actors’ boycott of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, the subsequent debates, deliberations and the eventual change in New Zealand’s laws to accommodate the production and any other films with budgets of $NZ150 million (James Cameron is supposedly looking at shooting Avatar 2 and 3 there). If nothing else, the whole debate shows just how deeply tied New Zealand is not with Middle Earth, both metaphorically and emotionally.
- LimeWire file-sharing site shut down in US [BBC News] – “An injunction issued by the US district court in New York has effectively shut down LimeWire, one of the internet’s biggest file-sharing sites. It ends four years of wrangling between the privately-owned Lime Group and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The injunction compels Lime Group to disable its searching, downloading, uploading and file trading features. The firm plans to launch new services that adhere to copyright laws soon. Visitors to the LimeWire website are confronted with a legal notice that reads: “This is an offical notice that LimeWire is under a court ordered injunction to stop distributing and supporting its file-sharing software.””
- Tweeting celebrities in dash for cash [SMH] – “Australian celebrities are being offered as much as $10,000 for a single tweet endorsing products to their thousands of Twitter followers, say sponsorship experts. But while the US celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan and Snoop Dogg are reportedly already enjoying large one-off payments to promote brands and products on Twitter, the dash for cash is yet to take hold here. The celebrities need only post a one-line product endorsement in exchange for the fee, and according to Britain’s Marketing Week, Range Rover approached 40 British celebrities this week to tweet in a similar way about the recently unveiled Evoque 4×4 in the UK. Bruce Kaider, president of Sponsorship Australasia and founder of a sports management company, confirmed that high profile Australian sportspeople were already being approached to endorse products on Twitter for fees of anything between $500 to $10,000 per tweet.”
- Facebook and Farmville dominate 3’s mobile broadband data [Technology | guardian.co.uk] – Zynga and Farmville second only to Facebook in UK mobile network traffic: “The mobile network 3 has released the first in a series of research papers describing traffic use and behaviour among its mobile broadband customers, published here first by the Guardian. Of the 2,500 terabytes of data used across the network in July, it’s no surprise that Facebook (by several metrics now the most popular website in the world) came out top, accounting for 7.023 terabytes of data use across the network. 3 says the data, from more than 1 million customers, is specifically from mobile broadband or dongles, which evidently have moved far beyond primarily business use; 3 claims its users account for 40% of the dongle market. […] The surprise is that casual gaming company Zynga is second only to Facebook in volume of data used at 3.584 terabytes, while Zynga’s own flagship game, Farmville, is listed fifth with 1.68 terabytes for the month.”
- Go beyond the PC, Microsoft urged [BBC News] – “Microsoft must think beyond the PC if it is to weather the changes due to hit in the next five years. The warning was given by Microsoft’s chief software architect Ray Ozzie in a memo penned soon after he announced he was leaving the company. […] he said, the strengths that had helped Microsoft grow in the past now risked holding it back. The memo, called “Dawn of a New Day” mirrors one Mr Ozzie wrote soon after taking over from Bill Gates as the man in charge of charting the development direction of Microsoft’s portfolio of programs. That first memo imagined a world of seamless computing and kicked off Microsoft’s attempts to get its many different programs working together across lots of different devices. In Dawn of a New Day, Mr Ozzie praised the work Microsoft had done towards that end, but said rivals had done even better.”
- A Labor Issue Entangles ‘The Hobbit’ [NYTimes.com] – The real battle for Middle Earth: “Is Wellywood burning? New Zealand’s feisty film workers have taken to the streets this week to try to keep Peter Jackson’s production of “The Hobbit” in their country, nudging the prime minister, John Key, toward a Tuesday summit meeting with a visiting contingent of Warner Brothers executives. Filming had been threatened by a dispute over whether a New Zealand branch of an Australian union could engage in collective bargaining on the Hollywood films, which they have not been able to do in the past. As of Tuesday afternoon in Wellington — the New Zealand capital and the center of a growing movie industry sometimes called Wellywood — the matter was unsettled. But it was clear that Mr. Jackson’s furry little film creatures were not going anywhere without a fight.”
- Sony Kills The Cassette Walkman On The iPod’s Birthday [Gizmodo Australia] – Steve Jobs killed the cassette playing star? “After 30 years, Sony has announced that they will stop manufacturing and selling the venerable cassette Walkman. In a poetic twist, the official death of the Walkman also lands on the iPod’s 9th anniversary. The Sony Walkman was introduced on July 1, 1979 in Japan and it was a major breakthrough in delivering a low-cost portable stereo. […] Over its 30 year history of the Cassette Walkman, Sony sold 200 million units. A portable music player became a part of our lives, largely in part of the Walkman.”
Links for July 21st 2010 through July 28th 2010:
- How Twitter Is Being Used In The Election Campaign [National Times] – Axel Bruns offers a quick look at how Twitter is being used in the Australian politician election campaigning to date: short version, the candidates aren’t doing brilliantly well and #ausvotes is the real hashtag, while #ozvotes is all about electing wizards! 🙂
- Julia Gillard Impersonators On The Rise [National Times] – There are a lot more fake Julia Gillards on Twitter than the real one (currently our PM); most of the fake ones are much funnier, and all of them get that Twitter isn’t just a broadcast platform (the real one hasn’t figured this out, yet).
- Old Spice Sales Double With YouTube Campaign [Mashable] – Apparently social media + charismatic actor + great scripts = advertising gold: “You know those YouTube videos with that manly Old Spice guy and his hilarious responses to Twitter fans? Of course you do. So does everybody, it seems, because Old Spice body wash sales have increased 107% in the past month thanks to that social media marketing campaign. We already published stats from video analytics company Visible Measures that made it clear that the Old Spice guy was a hugely successful initiative from marketing firm Wieden + Kennedy, achieving millions of viral video views quicker than past hits like Susan Boyle and U.S. President Barack Obama’s election victory speech. The statistic of the 107% sales increase over the past month comes from Nielsen…”
- Amazon’s ebook milestone: digital sales outstrip hardbacks for first time in US [The Guardian] – “In what could be a watershed for the publishing industry, Amazon said sales of digital books have outstripped US sales of hardbacks on its website for the first time. Amazon claims to have sold 143 digital books for its e-reader, the Kindle, for every 100 hardback books over the past three months. The pace of change is also accelerating.”
- Skin Whitening, Tanning, and Vaseline’s Controversial Facebook Ad Campaign [danah boyd | apophenia] – An insightful look at a controversy that has sprung up about a Vaseline ad on Facebook, aimed at India, for a skin whitening cream which offers a preview of a whitened face. boyd does a great job of showing how racism is often culturally and historically specific, and that Americans who are deeply offended by the ads really need to engage with how the ads are read by the Indian internet users who are targeted. boyd stresses that most histories of racism and the meaning of skin-colour are deeply problematic, but the main point is that these operate quite differently in different places and cultures, and that these contexts need to be taken into consideration.
- Gay zombie porn gets festival flick [The Age] – Film censorship returns to Australia – gay zombie film in peril: “The Australian censor has banned a film from screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival for the first time in seven years – a work described as ”gay zombie porn”. Festival director Richard Moore received a letter yesterday from the Film Classification Board director Donald McDonald, stating that L.A. Zombie, the latest offering from Canadian provocateur Bruce LaBruce, could not be screened as it would in his opinion be refused classification. The festival is not generally required to submit films for classification, but after reading a synopsis of the plot of L.A. Zombie, which features wound penetration and implied sex with corpses, the Classification Board requested a DVD to watch, and then refused to issue an exemption. It is the first film to be banned from the festival circuit since Larry Clark’s Ken Park in 2003.”
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