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Annotated Digital Culture Links: March 30th 2009

Links for March 25th 2009 through March 30th 2009:

  • Vintage DHARMA ads.[Flickr] – An outstanding set of fan-made ads for the more banal side of Lost‘s Dharma Initiative! By Adam Campbell [Via io9]
  • Shooter video games ‘sharpen vision’ [News.com.au] – “Slaying hordes of bad guys in fast-paced video games improves vision, a study has shown for the first time. Far from being harmful to eyesight, as some had feared, action games provide excellent training for what eye doctors call contrast sensitivity, the study found. Contrast sensitivity is the ability to notice tiny changes in shades of grey against a uniform background, and is critical to everyday activities such as night driving and reading. It often degrades with age. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a previously unsuspected adaptability in the brain, and could open the way to new therapies, the researchers said.” (This week, video games are good! 🙂
  • When Stars Twitter, a Ghost May Be Lurking – NYTimes.com – “The rapper 50 Cent is among the legion of stars who have recently embraced Twitter to reach fans who crave near-continuous access to their lives and thoughts. On March 1, he shared this insight with the more than 200,000 people who follow him: “My ambition leads me through a tunnel that never ends.” Those were 50 Cent’s words, but it was not exactly him tweeting. Rather, it was Chris Romero, known as Broadway, the director of the rapper’s Web empire, who typed in those words after reading them in an interview. “He doesn’t actually use Twitter,” Mr. Romero said of 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson III, “but the energy of it is all him.” … someone has to do all that writing, even if each entry is barely a sentence long. In many cases, celebrities and their handlers have turned to outside writers — ghost Twitterers, if you will — who keep fans updated on the latest twists and turns, often in the star’s own voice.” (If you need a ghostwriter for 140chars, you’re not trying!)
  • Conroy admits blacklist error, blames ‘Russian mob’ [SMH] – “The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has admitted that Bill Henson images were added to the communications regulator’s list of prohibited websites in error, while blaming the addition of a dentist’s site to the blacklist on the “Russian mob”. Meanwhile, the website of the Federal Government’s censorship body, the Classification Board, was hacked last night and defaced with an anti-censorship screed. The admission by Senator Conroy on ABC television’s Q&A program last night casts significant doubt on the Government’s ability to filter the internet without inadvertently blocking legitimate websites. Q&A was inundated with 2000 questions from the public about the Government’s hugely unpopular policy, and the audience last night ridiculed Senator Conroy by laughing at a number of his responses.”
  • YouTube Being Blocked in China, Google Says [NYTimes.com] – “Google said Tuesday that its YouTube video-sharing Web site had been blocked in China. Google said it did not know why the site had been blocked, but a report by the official Xinhua news agency of China on Tuesday said that supporters of the Dalai Lama had fabricated a video that appeared to show Chinese police officers brutally beating Tibetans after riots last year in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. Xinhua did not identify the video, but based on the description it appears to match a video available on YouTube that was recently released by the Tibetan government in exile. It purports to show police officers storming a monastery after riots in Lhasa last March, kicking and beating protesters. It includes other instances of brutality and graphic images of a protester’s wounds. According to the video, the protester later died.”
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The Future Newspaper … Isn’t?

Clay Shirky’s ‘Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable’ has been getting a fair amount of attention in the past few days and his central point is ringing true for most people: the traditional revenue model of the newspaper is so dead that it might just be time to admit that in many cases news will need to find (a) new platform(s) of choice.  It is worth noting, though, that Shirky is not downplaying the important role journalists have to play in our society; what he has resoundingly challenged is whether collecting their daily output on printed paper has much of a future.  Indeed, Shirky’s conclusion is worth noting:

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.

When we shift our attention from ’save newspapers’ to ’save society’, the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.’ And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work.

I concur; the world at large needs good journalism, but many good journalists will need to find a new home and it’s likely a new medium, too.  On March 12, the New York Times posted this visualisation:

US Newspaper circulation

You’ll have to click and see the enlarged version to read the text, but the brown and beige circles show declining circulation numbers for US newspapers; blue circles show increases (there are very few blue dots).  The US is a country of brown and beige dots.  The fact that neither Shirky nor anyone else knows what should come next is an important tension.  For those currently making a living working for newspapers who are laying off staff, this is a really immediate tension and, to be honest, I’m glad I’m not in those shoes.  For society more broadly, the question of where we get our news, and whether we’re willing to pay anything for it – either personally or through an organisation we support, or even through government funding – is something we do need to consider. I have to say, I’m feeling more protective than ever of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and SBS and have no qualms whatsoever about some fraction of my taxes supporting both.  And sitting at a point of convergence of the best traditional journalism and web 2.0 platforms have to offer, I’m glad that people like Margaret Simons are finding new ways to keep the fourth estate alive and well.  (And to be fair, there is still a lot of quality journalism out there … it just too often gets buried behind the bleeding leads.) 

For Perth folks, the paucity of our current choice in newspapers has been obvious for a long time; we only have one and it has spent almost all credibility it ever had.  A new editor is on board now, but it’ll take a lot before The West holds any serious sway or has most people read it for anything other than the TV Guide and Saturday classifieds.  In a well timed move, Perth’s citizen journalism advocate, Brownen Clune, has just relaunched her own web presence, hitting the ground running a provocative post entitled ‘The Emperor’s New Media’ which argues that many journalists lack credibility, and the profession overall is in disrepute, leaving little wonder why so many folks don’t want to pay to read it anymore:

Can we be so quick to blame the business models of newspapers (selling advertisements) when people won’t miss the service (news) they are providing? For years journalists have been regarded alongside used-car salesmen as the least trustworthy profession and every journalist has certainly experienced the polite disdain from strangers when you tell them what you do.

There is something very wrong with the media and the quality of journalism has a lot to do with it. “News” has become so devalued that people are not willing to pay for it.

Bronwen’s post has attracted some spirited comments from Fairfax journo Nick Miller (continuing an older debate, really) who does remind us that Perth certainly hasn’t really developed much of an alternative model as yet (and Bronwen’s PerthNorg, which is valuable, relies a great deal on filtered content created by the mainstream newspapers).  But to return to Shirky’s point, we need more experiments, like PerthNorg, which are willing to try and find new ways to connect journalists of various types with audiences. 

In terms of the quality of journalism out there, there’s definitely appetite for more transparent reporting and for reporting that returns more clearly to the notion of the fourth estate; keeping the average citizen informed is, after all, the aim.  If nothing else, the fact that Jon Stewart and The Daily Show (a comedy show!) managed to get so many tongues wagging in the US recently when they went after CNBC’s ethics, and then Jim Cramer in particular when he took issue with Stewart’s criticism, shows that there is real desire for a more robust sense of the fourth estate (even if many people don’t recognise the term any more).  As The Washington Post put it:

Jon Stewart has amassed a passionate following over the years as a sharp-edged satirist, the man who punctures the balloons of the powerful with a caustic candor that reporters cannot muster. As public furor over the economic meltdown rises, the Comedy Central star has turned not just his humor but also his full-throated outrage against financial journalists who he says aided and abetted the likes of Bear Stearns, AIG and Citigroup — especially those who work for the nation’s top business news channel.  Stewart morphed into a populist avenging angel this week, demanding to know why CNBC and its most manic personality, Jim Cramer, failed to warn the public about the risky Wall Street conduct that triggered the financial crisis.

Okay, ‘avenging angel’ might be a bit over-the-top, but Stewart has, in my opinion, re-energised the question of journalistic ethics and, if nothing else, we can see responses like Fix CNBC http://fixcnbc.com/; while the sentiment is noble, perhaps, like, Fix the Newspapers, we need to hope for more?

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Celebrity Twittering

I have been meaning to write a very long, complex and cerebral post about the seemingly exponential growth of Twitter in the last few months, but as my list of related bookmarks grows, the time to read them runs screaming, so I thought I’d try and capture a few thoughts in the next week or two in shortform (not 140 characters short, of course).  Today’s topic: celebrity twittering (and, yes, just to get it out of your system, go and watch the Felicia Day Twittering Gaff … okay, moving on …).  Now, if I were to write this properly, I’d have to start looking at Stephen Fry and his more than 250,000 followers … in 140 characters, the witty observer is king, but you can find plenty to read about Fry elsewhere.  I could talk about disintermediation and who needs gossip magazines – or who really does need an agent filtering everything – when Ashton Kutcher is willing to tweet photos like this.  But I just can’t bring myself to read anything else about the Moore clan.  Instead, I want to talk about telepathic ex-policemen.  Or, more specifically, Greg Grunberg, who plays Matt Parkman on Heroes.

Grunny Grunberg is now a Twitter regular, with some 27,000 followers, many of whom only know him for his Heroes role.  He is, however, cleverly using Twitter to promote his other projects and establish his own celebrity presence as ‘Grunny’.  However, what really caught my attention was Grunberg’s tweet about the end wrap-up of the current season of Heroes and how that tweet, out of context, fired off a rumour that the show had been cancelled.  As Zap 2 It reported:

On Sunday morning, Grunberg tweeted the following: "Winding down shooting season 3 #Heroes. Tough to say goodbye to crew not knowing if any or all of us will return next year. Hope all." Over the next couple of days that one message set off a flood of "OMG!! Is Heroes cancelled!?!" musings on the web. …  The posts all mention that Grunberg "later" or "eventually" clarified his first remark with another tweet, that reads, "Don’t get me wrong, #Heroes IS coming back next next year, but some crew take other jobs, so it’s tough… we have the Best. Crew. Ever." But they make it sound like he was responding to all the supposed controversy he created with his remarks. Here’s the thing: Grunberg’s second tweet came all of three minutes after the first one. That doesn’t sound so much like backtracking or butt-covering so much as a guy reading what he just wrote, deciding the thought wasn’t complete and then completing it. I know things move fast on the Internet, but three minutes on a Sunday morning isn’t enough time to create a controversy and then try to respond to it. The incident doesn’t seem to have soured Grunberg on Twitter, although he did comment on a "long day of rain on set and being misquoted" on Monday.

Now, as I was thinking about Grunberg’s tweets and the largely unfiltered access his followers get (albeit in tiny little parcels), I read this:


Sure, he didn’t reveal ending of the season, but this throwaway comment about an episode of Heroes which had just finished screening in the US did tell a lot of people how it ended.  I’m guessing that some of his 27,000 followers didn’t watch the episode live … I wonder if anyone was annoyed by an actor giving away spoilers for a just-aired show?  Certainly for me, in Australia, this episode won’t be aired for weeks so I was a little annoyed.  (If the show was better scripted at the moment, I’d be even more annoyed.)  Perhaps Grunberg and actors who follow suit need to start a few more tweets with #spoilerwarning hashtag.  Either way, I suspect as more and more celebrities of various flavours tweet their fans directly, some new social norms will need to emerge about what is and isn’t revealed. And I wonder if this immediacy will drive more of Grunberg’s followers outside of the US to download Heroes rather than accept delays in being able to reply or (if they want to be unspoilt) read his twitter stream?

(Oh, and he’s not a celebrity, but as Boing Boing pointed out, the funniest person on Twitter is The Mime. Really.)

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The Death (and resurrection) of Scans_Daily

Until very recently Scans_Daily was a livejournal fan community dedicated to comic books.  Their main activity was to post scans from comics, ranging from a page though to a significant portion of a comic book – mainly recent releases but also back issues – and to summarise, critique and, at times, satirise these comic books.  Posting scans of a page or two is generally acknowledged to be covered under Fair Dealing (yes, we’re dealing with US law) but more than that gets into the ‘probably not legal’ territory, and a whole book is obviously in the not legal at all category.  Despite that Scans_Daily operated for years, until last week. As Comics Worth Reading explains:

The popular site Scans_Daily has been suspended by its host LiveJournal. Here’s what appears to be an official mod team statement that includes links to new locations for the material.

This isn’t surprising. The purpose of the community was to post comic pages and stories, which made it a good way to read a wide range of comic content online without the participation of the copyright holders, who tend not to like that kind of open sharing. The site originally started with a focus on slash (male/male fanfic-based pairings) but then widened its focus. While you could find pages from the latest DC and Marvel comics there, they also posted unusual manga and much older stories. It was a great way to check out what people were talking about, if there was a particular panel or scene that got attention.

Brian Cronin speculates that a report by Peter David to Marvel about X-Factor pages being posted may have had something to do with the shutdown. Based on David’s comment, he has the mistaken assumption that if he can remove free copies, all interested readers will buy the comic instead. Many companies assume similarly, that any free taste is a lost sale. That’s rarely true.

Responses to the shutdown from users frequently include statements like “I started buying comics again because of what I was reading.” It’s a shame that IP owners fear the free sample so much, because in some cases, at least, it does work to convert customers. The carrot — “like it? consider buying the next issue” — works much better than the stick — “you’re all thieves who must be forced into spending money with us”.

Now, I’ll return to Peter David in a minute (noting, incidentally, that I think he’s an excellent writer) but I think that dichotomy – fan communities are pirates vs fan communities promote and thus encourage people to buy comics – is a really important one to tease out; Brigid at Digital Strips does a pretty good job of suggesting why the latter makes more sense:

Now, there are two schools of thought on this whole affair. The first, expressed to its fullest extent by Kevin Church, is that the scans_daily folks are pirates with an inflated sense of entitlement, who are stealing copyrighted content and costing the creators legitimate sales.

The other point of view, which seems to be much more widespread, is that scans_daily is a site where people find out about comics and end up buying them. Johanna Draper Carlson and Merlin Missy express it rather eloquently on their sites, without some of the entitlement drama that was displayed in the comments to Mr. David’s post. If nothing else, all these comments and accounts (as well as this comments thread) provide anecdotal backup to the notion that free samples do indeed sell comics.

I’d like to express solidarity with that second point of view. There is a section of comics culture that is all caught up with comics stores and Wednesdays and pull lists and stuff, and if you’re inside that culture you may not realize this, but the vast majority of people have absolutely no idea that this subculture even exists. And you can’t sell something that no one knows is there.

The internet, on the other hand, is everywhere, and from what goes on in my own home, I can tell you with certainty that young people troll LiveJournal looking for stuff to do all the time. And when they find a place like scans_daily, they don’t say “Oh great, now I can find the latest plot twists in the Horned Ant saga without going to the comics store and paying $4,” because they don’t know what a comics store is. Instead, they look at it, and it’s cool, and then they realize that you can buy these things in stores and they seek them out. This is sort of like marketing, except that marketing is done by big companies and scans_daily is pretty grass roots.

And in case you are wondering, this is indeed different from Marvel or DC putting previews on their sites, because no one goes to those sites except people who are already Marvel and DC readers.

My own experience lines up here.  I used to read a lot of comics, many years ago, but have neither the time nor the budget to read a lot today (and exactly how many X-Men related titles are there today??). I don’t claim to be an expert on the sharing of comics online, but I will admit I’ve downloaded a copy here and there, usually on the back of particular media hype – and anything I’ve really enjoyed, I’ve purchased. Similarly, I really don’t want to spend the time going to buy every new issue of Joss Whedon’s Buffy Season 8 but I have purchased every collected edition thus far, and will continue to do so, and thus I feel no guilt in downloading some of the individual issues as they are released.  Dark Horse will get my money, as long as Buffy continues to be a good comic book.  I’m not buying the same thing twice, but I think the number of trade paperbacks, and the speed at which they come out, tends to reflect the fact that these collected editions are preferred by many older readers (yes, I am now an ‘older reader’!).  More to the point, of those comics I have downloaded, I’ve noticed something which I’ve never come across before (which is not to say it doesn’t happen, I’m just not aware of it happening): at the end of each comic book I’ve downloaded, not only does the person or group who scanned the comic ‘sign’ it with their own image, they also leave a clear message: “Like It? Buy It!”.  An example:

Green Giant Scan

This “Like It? Buy It!” strikes me as fans explicitly stating that they’re wanting people to join the comic book reading and buying communities; I’ve never heard of a Battlestar Galactica or Lost episode, or the latest Hollywood  film that’s available online via Bittorrent ending with a ‘Please Buy the DVD’.  So, the way I see it, comic fans scanning, discussing and sharing their fandom and some of the product that they love is, for the most part, good for comic book sales.  Also, many people who legitimately own the physical comic book may actually read scanned versions; one of the annoying facts for comic collectors is that the very act of reading a comic book tends to decrease its value (and tiny fold or tear decreases a comic’s resale value) so I can imagine a lot of people buying, storing and treasuring their hardcopy and reading the digital version.  There is, of course, the downside that if a comic is rubbish, the ability to see commentary and previews would pretty much guarantee low sales.  But, as a rule, I would imagine that good comics = good word of mouth online + free copies online = more interest = more future sales. 

Now, let’s return to the curious point that Peter David is accused of ‘killing’ Scans_Daily. To give a little context (under fair use / fair dealing), here’s a notice that appears on the inside cover of X-Factor 39:


In the internet era, someone explicitly asking fans to avoid discussing details of their chosen media goes against the grain a fair bit, but it seems most reviewers did try and respect Peter David’s wishes.  That said, I did manage to find the entire plot for this issues, and the next, online very easily – I’ll say it’s a very gritty and harsh story dealing with some of those downsides of mutant powers – although the last of this 3-issue arc would need to be very impressive to live into the hype.  However, it seems Peter David was actively patrolling the web, and after following a link back to Scans_Daily who ignored his request, Peter David asked Marvel to look into the copyright violation he saw.  The rest of the story is a bit fuzzy as LiveJournal didn’t say who complained or why they suspended Scans_Daily.  However, Peter David did write about the situation on his website (his position is, yes, he complained, but it wasn’t that complaint which got scans_daily taken down) and, as you might imagine, the comments have turned into something of a flame war with a few useful points made about copyright and fan activities as promotion (or otherwise). I don’t seek to judge who complained to whom, but I do think Peter David went a step further than necessary in complaining to Marvel – I suspect a link from his website asking for that post to be removed would have worked far better – but comic book fans are a fairly small community and I doubt this exchange will have helped the sales of X-Factor – more people might read it now to see if Peter David’s plea was justified, but I suspect a lot more of them will be reading online versions via Bittorrent or the like, just to prove their point. I still like Peter David’s writing, but I do wonder how this exchange has impacted his reputation amongst fans.

And at the end of the day, Scans_Daily is back, just with a new host who seem less likely to be as responsive to the requests of copyright holders to suspect their account.

Update: I was reading the comments on Peter David’s website and I thought this one summed up the fan position perfectly:

Hi. I’m another s_d member, and I’d like to add my voice to the rest of the people who say that if it wasn’t for that community, they wouldn’t have spent money on comics. s_d started me off into buying comics, issue by issue, because from s_d I could see what was good and what I liked and what I’d pay money for.

I don’t doubt that it’s easy to argue that s_d violated the letter of copyright law, no matter how mods tried to keep down the number of pages posted; I would however argue that it tried its damndest not to violate the spirit. The heart of this kerfuffle is not law but perspective: Mr David clearly feels that s_d intended piracy and damaged his livelihood; s_d members feel that its purpose rather was to build a community of like-minded people who could discuss a shared love and help each other decide what best to spend their money on–e.g. YJ. (I for one have chased down back issues from a decade ago because I saw’em on s_d and thought they were worth it.) Yes, Mr David was well within his legal rights to call foul play, and I accept that he was not directly responsible for nuking the site, but he clearly agrees that it could and should’ve been done, and that hurt a lot of fans. Many fans, paying fans, feel that it wasn’t necessary, or even warranted, because harm was never intended. We intended it in good faith, which has not been reciprocated. You can of course say that fans’ feelings have jackshit to do with it, and legally speaking, you’d be right. But it would be so much better for all parties involved if there was a friendly relationship between fans and creator that involved a free exchange of ideas instead of this antagonistic bullshit. This is not a zero-sum game. You could turn it into one–you could even turn it negative-sum–but why would you want to?

tl;dr fans are not always out to sucker the creator and get a free ride, and said fans would be happier (and presumably more inclined to buy things) if creators didn’t kick them inna teeth, even if creators have a perfect legal right to do so. If at all possible–I would humbly beg Mr David to please have some faith in his fans: we’re not out to rob you.

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Talking about Facebook & Privacy with RTR FM

logo_facebook I was interviewed this morning on Perth’s RTR FM about privacy concerns raised in light of media reports that Facebook plans “to exploit the vast amount of personal information it holds on its 150 million members by creating one of the world’s largest market research databases.”  While the reports themselves might have overstated the case in this instance, I’m constantly surprised by how little thought most users of social networking sites give to their own privacy; I’m equally dismayed when it comes as a revelation to people that Facebook is actually about trying to make money – it’s a business, not philanthropy!  That said, any chance to get people thinking a bit more about the digital footprints they leave is a good thing and I enjoyed the this morning’s chat on the air.  If you want you can access ‘Facebook is evil now?’ on RTR’s website, on click here for an mp3 of the interview (10 minutes, around 9Mb).

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Annotated Digital Culture Links: January 20th 2009

Links for January 19th 2009 through January 20th 2009:

  • “Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics” by danah boyd (Phd Thesis, 2.1Mb PDF) – “Abstract: As social network sites like MySpace and Facebook emerged, American teenagers began adopting them as spaces to mark identity and socialize with peers. Teens leveraged these sites for a wide array of everyday social practices – gossiping, flirting, joking around, sharing information, and simply hanging out. While social network sites were predominantly used by teens as a peer-based social outlet, the unchartered nature of these sites generated fear among adults. This dissertation documents my 2.5-year ethnographic study of American teens’ engagement with social network sites and the ways in which their participation supported and complicated three practices – self-presentation, peer sociality, and negotiating adult society.”
  • Facebook irked by ‘burger for friends’ campaign [The Age] – “Burger King said Friday that pressure from Facebook has caused it to yank an application that gave members of the hot social networking website a Whopper for every 10 friends they dumped. Before the Whopper Sacrifice Campaign was halted, 233,906 friends were “sacrificed” by Facebook users more interested in relationships with the global fast-food chain’s specialty hamburgers, according to Burger King. … Changes sought by Facebook reportedly included ditching an application feature that sent deleted friends messages informing them that an online pal preferred a hamburger over them.”
  • The Boxxy Story – From the 4chan meme factory, the story of Boxxy, whose hyperactive YouTube antics caused a hormone-driven civil war, taking her from a micro-meme to the Queen /b/
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Selling Cinderella on YouTube

Sure, it’s a jacket, not a glass slipper, and this time the one that got away is a guy, but “Heidi’s” Cinderella story is clocking up hits rapidly on YouTube:

It’s a romantic tale, of one girl looking for the guy whole stole her heart after a brief exchange in a cafe … he left his jacket behind, but stole her heart.  Now, using YouTube, she’s reaching out to try and find him.  As stories go, it’s got pretty much everything, but it’s just a little too cute.  Indeed, “Heidi” has already managed to cobble together a website to promote her quest and it’s a bit too professional; these photos are more about showing off Heidi and the jacket than about trying to genuinely connect with someone.  In the post-LonelgGirl15 era, people that tend to be too good to be true tend to raise an eyebrow, and The Daily Telegraph seems to have found the likely viral marketing engine under the hood of this tale:

The Sydney protagonist is 24-year-old Elizabeth Bay shop assistant Heidi, who is adamant the incident was absolutely real and says she is desperate to find her mystery man with the laptop. With the help of a graphic-designer friend, she recorded a video for YouTube titled: "Are you my man in the jacket?” Within four days, more than 60,000 people had watched the pretty blonde put her heart on the line and plead for the handsome stranger to come forward. … The problem with this story is that the label on the jacket is linked to a mainstream fashion house. And it’s a label that doesn’t exist. At least not yet. The Sunday Telegraph has learned that the Australian company is on the verge of launching its first menswear line. Heidi swears she is not involved in a guerrilla marketing campaign. "I just picked up the jacket,” she insisted.

Could a new line of jackets called Heidi but about to hit the market? 😛

Update: It’s been confirmed that this was indeed a viral marketing video.

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Annotated Digital Culture Links: January 11th 2009

Links for January 11th 2009:

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Annotated Digital Culture Links: January 8th 2009

Links for January 7th 2009 through January 8th 2009:

  • How to Use Twitter for Marketing and PR (Good advice.)
  • Apple Drops Anticopying Measures in iTunes [NYTimes.com] – In moves that will help shape the online future of the music business, Apple said Tuesday that it would remove anticopying restrictions on all of the songs in its popular iTunes Store and allow record companies to set a range of prices for them. Beginning this week, three of the four major music labels — Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group — will begin selling music through iTunes without digital rights management software, or D.R.M., which controls the copying and use of digital files. The fourth, EMI, was already doing so. In return, Apple, whose dominance in online music sales gives it powerful leverage, agreed to a longstanding demand of the music labels and said it would move away from its insistence on pricing all individual song downloads on iTunes at 99 cents. Instead, the majority of songs will drop to 69 cents beginning in April, while the biggest hits and newest songs will go for $1.29. Others that are moderately popular will remain at 99″
  • Raid Gaza! Editorial Games and Timeliness [News Games: Georgia Tech Journalism & Games Project] – “Raid Gaza! is a new editorial game about the Gaza crisis. Like editorial games should, it takes a strong position. But unlike so many, it also offers coherent gameplay that is related to the conflict it critiques. … The game is headstrong, suffering somewhat from its one-sided treatment of the issue at hand. But as an editorial, it is a fairly effective one both as opinion text and as game. It is playable and requires strategy, the exercise of which carries the payload of commentary. It’s release on user-contributed animation and games portal Newgrounds came on 30 December 2008, only three days after the Israeli Defense Forces launched airstrikes as a part of “Operation Cast Lead.” The rapidness with which the game was developed, combined with its relatively sophisticated ability to mount commentary through gameplay, underscore one of the biggest issues with editorial games.”
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Annotated Digital Culture Links: January 6th 2009

Links for January 6th 2009:

  • Digital guru Clay Shirky’s media forecast and predictions for 2009 [Media | The Guardian] – “The question is who figures out the business model that says it’s better to have 6 million passionate fans than 7 million bored ones? That is going to be the transformation because what you see with these user groups, whether it’s for reality TV or science fiction, is that people love the conversation around the shows. The renaissance of quality television is an indicator of what an increased number of distribution channels can do. It is no accident that this started with cable. And the BBC iPlayer? That’s a debacle. The digital rights management thing …let’s just pretend that it was a dream like on Dallas and start from scratch. The iPlayer is a back-to-the-future business model. It’s a total subversion of Reithian values in favour of trying to create what had been an accidental monopoly as a kind of robust business model. The idea that the old geographical segmenting of terrestrial broadcasts is recreatable is a fantasy and a waste of time.”
  • NIN’s CC-Licensed Best-Selling MP3 Album [Creative Commons] – ” … Ghosts I-IV is ranked the best selling MP3 album of 2008 on Amazon’s MP3 store.Take a moment and think about that.

    NIN fans could have gone to any file sharing network to download the entire CC-BY-NC-SA album legally. Many did, and thousands will continue to do so. So why would fans bother buying files that were identical to the ones on the file sharing networks? One explanation is the convenience and ease of use of NIN and Amazon’s MP3 stores. But another is that fans understood that purchasing MP3s would directly support the music and career of a musician they liked. The next time someone tries to convince you that releasing music under CC will cannibalize digital sales, remember that Ghosts I-IV broke that rule, and point them here.”

  • Twitter accounts of Obama, Britney Spears hacked [ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)] – “The Twitter accounts of US president-elect Barack Obama, singer Britney Spears and other prominent figures were hacked on Monday (US time) and fake messages sent out in their names on the micro-blogging service. Twitter founder Biz Stone, in a post on the official company blog, said a total of 33 Twitter accounts had been hacked including those of president-elect Obama and Rick Sanchez, a CNN television anchor with tens of thousands of followers. “We immediately locked down the accounts and investigated the issue,” Mr Stone said. … Twitter, which allows users to post real-time updates of 140 characters or less, has an estimated 4-5 million users according to a recent study. Launched in August 2006, it has been embraced by a number of celebrities including president-elect Obama, who has more than 150,000 followers, and four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal of the Phoenix Suns.”
  • How Windschuttle swallowed a hoax to publish a fake story in Quadrant (Margaret Simmons, 6 Jan 09) [Crikey] – “Keith Windschuttle, the editor of the conservative magazine Quadrant, has been taken in by a hoax intended to show that he will print outrageous propositions. This month’s edition of Quadrant contains a hoax article purporting to be by “Sharon Gould”, a Brisbane based New York biotechnologist. But in the tradition of Ern Malley – the famous literary hoax perpetrated by Quadrant’s first editor, James McAuley – the Sharon Gould persona is entirely fictitious and the article is studded with false science, logical leaps, outrageous claims and a mixture of genuine and bogus footnotes.” [Margaret Simmons’ Further Blogged Thoughts] [Windschuttle’s Response]
  • Facebook under fire for racist rants [The Age] – “Facebook has come under fire from Australian users for ignoring racial vilification on the site and failing to remove blatantly racist groups even though they have been flagged as offensive. Sydney-based Facebook user Alex Gollan, who has campaigned against the racist groups, has been threatened with violence and fears the site could be used to rally people if another incident such as the Cronulla riots flares up. The site permanently banned one offender this week but only after the issue of racism on Facebook came under the spotlight following revelations that Scots College and Kambala students had created anti-Semitic groups on the site.”
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