(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Ponderance: May 22, 2003 - March 11, 2007.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I began this blog on something of a whim on May 22, 2003, and I'm making the final post to Ponderance today, March 11, 2007. With over 850 posts over 3 years and nine months, I really doubt I had any idea how significant blogging would be to me personally and professionally at the beginning, but I certainly see it as one of my core activities today. I've always found the Blogger platform to be really easy to use and a great tool, but there are simply too many things I want to be able to manage myself, too many plugins and tweaks I want to make, so I'm migrating over to a new, wordpress-powered blog at my own domain (tamaleaver.net). Of course, I'll be leaving Ponderance here as an archive!

For those who read Ponderance via RSS feeds, if you're getting the ATOM feed and want to get the feed from my new blog, you'll need to manually subscribe here. For those using the Feedburner feed, I'm going to re-direct that to my new blog in the next few hours so the transition should (I hope) be seamless! The only major difference in your feed experience will be that I've changed the del.icio.us links so they won't appear as-posted, but will be collected at the end of each day (at 8am Perth time, or midnight GMT).

I've written a lot over the last four years, but I thought I'd take the opportunity in this last post to finish off by pointing to a number of posts ordered by the themes which have most interested me across the duration of my blogging so far. I'm sure I'll be writing more on most of these issues in my new blog, but without any further ado, I give you my entirely subjective, Best Of Ponderance ...

Citizen Media & Participatory Culture

The Tyranny of Digital Distance

Citizen Justice
I hope you'll come over and visit the my new blog at tamaleaver dot net.

For Ponderance, that's it! All done.

Advertising from the Future - Children of Men

Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I'm giving a couple of lectures this semester in the Ecotexts: Nature/Writing/Technology course which has some great books and films on it. I'm getting to give lectures on Blade Runner and the anime Metropolis, but I've also been exploring links between these and other films on the course, including Code 46 and Children of Men. Of the three non-animated films, one of the most interesting textures they use is advertising; the bleak landscapes and cityscapes of the near-future are awash with commercials and warnings! In my online explorations, I've found a wonderful clip produced as a portfolio piece by the Foreign Office, the design company which worked on many of the media textures in Children of Men:

The future imagined through these advertisements and warnings is one easily extrapolated from today, yet cleverly different enough to suggest a future setting!

[View/Download High-Quality H264 Version] [Via WaxyLinks]

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Human Lobotomy: Great Net Neutrality Mini-Documentary

Saturday, February 24, 2007
If you're interested in Net Neutrality, then check out this evocative mini-documentary on why regulating the internet in the ways being debate in the US are a bad idea of democracy, a bad idea for the US, and a really bad idea for the rest of us!

Save the Internet | Rock the Vote

If you're not interested in Net Neutrality, perhaps after watching this you should be!

[Via Lawrence Lessig]

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Alex Malik on TV downloading in Australia

Thursday, February 22, 2007
The Age has a revealing article on work done by Alex Malik which concludes that the delay between the US/UK and Australia release dates for television are one of the primary reasons what people turn to bittorrent:
Huge delays in airing overseas TV shows locally are turning Australians into pirates, says a study conducted by technology lawyer and researcher Alex Malik. It took an average of 17 months for programs to be shown in Australia after first airing overseas, a gap that has only increased over the past two years, the study found. The findings were based on a "representative sample of 119 current or recent free-to-air TV series or specials", said Malik, who is in the final stages of a PhD in law at the University of Technology Sydney. [...]

Malik admitted there had been some signs of progress recently - programs such as The O.C. air within days of being shown in the US - but he insisted the overall delays had become longer. "Over the past two years, average Australian broadcast delays for free-to-air television viewers have more than doubled from 7.6 to 16.7 months," the study reads. Malik also studied comments by TV viewers on various internet forums, and concluded: "These delays are one of the major factors driving Australians to use BitTorrent and other internet-based peer-to-peer programs to download programs illegally from overseas, prior to their local broadcast."

Malik's findings are perfectly in line with the idea of the tyranny of digital distance which I've written about before (see "The Tyranny of Digital Distance" and "The Battlestar Galactica Webisodes & The Tyranny of Digital Distance"). Malik's study is further evidence that as long as media distributors continue to enforce ridiculous national/geographic-based release dates in an era of global information (and promotion, and fan actvitity), then bittorrent will continue to be a major source of TV for Australians. However, if we could legally download episodes at the same times as our US and UK neighbours, then media companies may very well discover that they could make more money, not less, by giving Australian consumers the choices we want!

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Scouta is Outa ... and Abouta!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Under the banner "Scouting is better than searching", the new people-powered recommendation engine, Scouta, has made its way online. From Scouta's 'About' page:
Scouta is the new way to get relevant online content. It’s the bold new way for you to get personal recommendations to suit your interests and tastes. These online recommendations come from Scouta learning what you like, and from you--and people like you--sharing the best of what you find online. Scouta will offer you new online audio and video you can pick from and rate, listening and learning as you go. It's free. Join now! Instead of searching for information, inspiration, laughs, and contacts, Scouta will do the work for you--delivering stuff you might never have found searching for hours on your own. The more you add or rate, the smarter Scouta gets. And with every new release, and every new member, it just gets smarter.

I've been in the beta-tester group for Scouta for a couple of months, but I must confess I've been one of the laziest beta-testers in history! While I must admit, I wondered what a new recommendation system could offer, I've only entered a dozen media links thus far, and I've already had something recommended to me that I'm really quite surpised managed to slip under my radar. The recommendation was the "Battlestar Galactica: Season 3 Gag Reel" and it's such a funny collection that I have to share it with you:

If my recommendations are this good after a dozen entries on my part, I'm going to have to keep using for a while to see what else the Scouting Community sends my way! And congratulations, Richard, on the big launch!

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From YouTube to the Silver Screen

Monday, February 19, 2007
The big news for YouTube watchers is that YouTube's first megastar - New Zealander Jessica Rose aka Lonelygirl15 -- is making the transition from the tube to the silver screen.

As The Age notes:
Web video star Jessica Rose - better recognised by her YouTube alias Lonelygirl15 - will play a role in an upcoming film starring Lindsay Lohan. The film - I Know Who Killed Me - has reportedly been in production since late last year, and filming is scheduled to wrap up this month. A number of photos of Rose and Lohan on the set of the film have cropped up on celebrity gossip websites. It is a reassuring sign for budding filmmakers and actors seeking to use video-sharing sites such as YouTube as a launch pad for Hollywood success.

While not a huge shock, Lee's move to the cinema will no doubt further fuel the millions of YouTubers hoping that their webcam home movies can be the beginning of a Hollywood career!

For background, see Lonelygirl15: The Story So Far...

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"Not New Media, Now Media!" Seminar: Fremantle, 27 Feb, 7pm

Next week, FTI are running an exciting public seminar entitled "Not New Media, Now Media!":
Last year we presented 'What's all this talk of Cross Platform and New Media' which featured an impressive panel of speakers from diverse backgrounds trying to make sense of the shifting technological and cultural media landscape. Join us again as we look at the situation 12 months later and access the current situation. What will happen to the media landscape in 2007 and what will be the implications for filmmakers?

Taking a look at the most important cultural and technological developments will be Bronwyn Clune founder of Citizen Journalism site Perth Norg, Richard Giles CEO of the soon to be launched Video Bookmarking site SCOUTA, Kate Rothschild who has a background in interactive entertainment including work at Nickelodean in the USA and Producer Matt Morgan from IN8VISIONMEDIA. It's sure to be an exciting and interesting discussion. We will also be using a live internet connection on the big cinema screen to demonstrate some of the panelists key points.

The best thing is it is 100% free! 7pm - 9pm Tuesday 27th February FTI 92 Adelaide Street, Fremantle.

More here (as well as an RSVP email/phone number). [Via]

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Spook Country or ... Spook Country?

Friday, February 09, 2007
I know the old saying warns against judging a book by its cover, but what happens when you have to judge which cover to have for a book? I've always been fascinated by the fact that UK and US publishers frequently have covers for their published books which are quite different. William Gibson has been blogging about the covers for his upcoming Spook Country, and they are fairly different ...



Thankfully, I'm pretty sure I prefer the UK version and this is what usually turns up on Australian shelves. When Gibson's previous book, Pattern Recognition came out, I was in the US and was delighted to get a hardback copy at a decent price in its first week of release. Months later, back in Australia, I found the UK cover version (which had a stylised CD case image) which seemed far more in keeping with the book ...



For some reason, despite the same text in both, I've always coveted a UK cover-design copy. I know that's a tad fickle, but it seems to have considerable impact on often a book makes the journey from my shelf to the bedside table.

It this just something that happens to me or do others hunt for their cover-art of choice despite already owning the book?

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The 79th Academy Awards: the Nominees and the Pirates

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The nominations for this season's Academy Awards are out. No major shocks; it's a little odd that Dreamgirls got 8 nominations, but isn't up for Best Picture. Children of Men picked up two nominations -- Achievement in cinematography and Achievement in film editing -- possibly on the back of the grassroots campaign to get Children of Men noticed by Oscars voters. Pan's Labyrinth did well with six nominations: Achievement in art direction, Achievement in cinematography, Achievement in makeup, Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score), Original screenplay and Best foreign language film of the year. It deserves to win more a lot of those, but I imagine it'll probably only pick up Best foreign language film. I truly hope that Happy Feet wins over Cars and Monster House in the Best animated feature category - I was really quite surprised that Cars won the Golden Globe over Happy Feet!

However, the most interesting Oscars story is that Andy "Waxy" Baio has revived his tradition of looking at how widely Oscar-nominated films are being pirated. He's produced a detailed analysis (provocatively titled "Pirating the 2007 Oscars"), which included these findings:
* Academy members received screeners for 30 out of 34. (Everything except Click, Monster House, Poseidon, and Black Dahlia.)
* 31 out of 34 films were released online in some form, including camcorder footage. (Everything except Letters from Iwo Jima, Notes on a Scandal, and Venus.)
* 24 screeners were leaked online. (In several cases, they were leaked months before Academy screeners were mailed.)
* The average length of time between a film's USA release and its first appearance online is 12 days.
* 9 screeners appeared online before they were mailed to Academy members.
* On average, a screener appears online 24 days before it's received by Academy members. (Excluding these early leaks, the average time is 13 days.)
Andy also touches on one of the more the controversial issue of the film distributors: is it better to limit/encrypt/tightly control Oscar screeners (the free copies of films sent to Oscar voters to garner their support) or is it better to distribute the film widely - and thus more potentially accessible to pirates - with a view broadening the ease of watching and thus appeal to voters (as Andy notes, it seemed to work for Crash).

All in all, this analysis is a solid picture of how the torrent and pirate scene is operating as well as insight into the futility of many RIAA/MPAA efforts.

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The (Data) Pirates of Sealand!

Monday, January 15, 2007

In a move straight out of a Bruce Sterling novel, the Swedish bittorrent tracker group The Pirate Bay have announced they're attempting to raise enough money to buy an "island" data haven! From Boing Boing:
The Pirate Bay is raising money to buy the tiny, bankrupt "island" of Sealand. Sealand is the abandoned drilling platform gun battery near the UK that was occupied, declared sovereign, and turned into a offshore data-center for sensitive information. Sealand's owners have put the "country" on the block, and the Pirate Bay, Sweden's gutsy, notorious BitTorrent tracker, is soliciting donations to buy it. They're even promising citizenship to donors. If they don't get enough to buy Sealand, they're promising to buy another island somewhere!

Data made flesh ... almost!

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