Re: [-empyre-] bloggers sink the systemic star

Hello list

I am number six. That is, I was the sixth person to subscribe to empyre,
but this is my first post. Like Sumu, I've kept half an eye on it. To be
honest, for the past few months empyre had been piling up in a
Thunderbird folder, unread, until a colleague brought my attention to
this current discussion, knowing my interest in blogs, p2p, email
discussion lists, etc. So I spent last night catching up with the
discussions both here and on Tom Moody's blog.

I was going to reply to my colleague directly, but may as well send it here.

[After being a list-junkie for many years, I have to admit that I've
pretty much sworn off them these days, precisely because of the
all-too-familiar dynamics that I've observed in this discussion. So,
while I'll continue to read empyre from time to time, I probably won't
become a regular contributor. Btw, that's not a statement that 'blogs
are better than lists' or that 'lists are dead', just that these days
I'm generally happier giving my time & energy to the blogosphere than to
lists. Blog dynamics are more interesting, inviting and exciting *for me
at this time*.]

The reason I'm writing here now, is to join a discussion between two old
frenz of mine, Mez & Henry - two people I'm very fond of and have known
on different lists (7-11, severed-heads, etc.) since the mid 1990s.

Henry, I know it's your style to appear all-knowing (which is also
typical of lists in general, and academics in particular - my style is
more about doubt & vulnerability ;)) but I couldn't help but chuckle
when you revealed your ignorance of RSS in a recent post. So forgive me
if I don't buy everything you write here.

> I appreciate the greater depth of the second option.
>>  #blogs *can* [ad nauseam] present as less intrinsically reliant on 
>> fiscal or hierarchical reward-systems [ie such as 
>> newscasting/journalism] + projecting information outside of a 
>> framework formulated within these rigid economic dependencies [ie 
>> having the opportunity (with)in blogdom 2 present ur take thru an 
>> individualised opinion filter as opposed 2 a primarily 
>> monetary_inflected 1]. of course, the risks for those still even 
>> partially centred within a systemic reality should be acknowledged 
>> when Blogging_Against/Outside_The_Machine [eg being dooced 
>> ].
> Interesting. I knew about Dooce - heard her on NPR a while ago. I think 
> her case actually works to undermine your argument of how useful P2P 
> and blogging are. I get to that later.
> First, I don't get the opposition: from my perspective there is no 
> "outside the system". Such a notion is much like the "Define the word 
> 'Universe', give three examples." paradox. There is only The System, as 
> there is only one world we live in: this one.

There are different kinds of 'outside'. Of course there is, in a sense,
only one world, but within that world are multiple 'worlds', or
'frameworks' as mez put it.

To position oneself 'outside' of a framework is actually to define a
relationship with it, which needn't be (explicitly) oppositional. It
needn't even be visible.

Someone who writes much better about this sort of stuff than I can is
Angela Mitropoulos, whose blog 'archive : s0metim3s' is as good a reason
as any for the existence of blogs. See this, for example:

especially the quote at the end from Sergio Bologna, which has been
stuck in my mind ever since I read it:

“Conflict as the moment of identity, as ‘the’ moment of constitution, of
politics, of class constitution … this for me is a forced understanding.
Amongst other things, this conception still attributes great value to
visibility. The ‘other’, in order to be such, must be visible, manifest,
and the more clamorous the conflict, the greater the identity it confers
… This is the back door through which the traditional logic of politics
is returned to play. I prefer the image of beams eaten from within by
termites, I prefer a non-visible, non-spectacular path, the idea of the
silent growth of a body that is foreign to the sort of visibility that
leaves you hostage to the universe of mediation.”

> Hmmm - there are a number of challenges that blogging poses that are 
> rather interesting. For example, one news organisation has opened up a 
> kind of blogging system, using a wikipedial model. I forget the 
> organisation (I read about it in an early morning fog over breakfast) 
> but the writer commented on a fundamental problem with this, which is 
> how it jives with notions of "truth" or levels of trust in a source. 
> For example, wikipedia says:
> "...Wikipedia cannot guarantee the validity of the information found 
> here. The content of any given article may recently have been changed, 
> vandalized or altered by someone whose opinion does not correspond with 
> the state of knowledge in the relevant fields."
> If this notion is extended to news, then the notion of fairness or 
> accuracy in reporting  is problematised: it's all reduced to propaganda 
> and hearsay.

Surely that's one of the most exciting things about blogs ie that they
can reveal the biases, vested interests & spin which are so common in
traditional media, but which are hidden behind masks of 'authority',
'objectivity', 'accuracy'.

It is consistent with a growing public skepticism (sometimes cynicism)
with politics and (big) media in general.

These issues are playing out in different ways. For example the
Guardian/Observer has embraced blogs, the Sydney Morning Herald's
Webdiary experiment seems to be coming to an unsatisfatory conclusion,
meanwhile the New York Times is going to a paid subscription model.
These are interesting times!

See EPIC 2014 for a rather dystopian (Orwellian) speculation on how this
will progress:

> p2p represents no challenge to capitalism whatsoever. As a former 
> employee at Napster during its heyday I can attest directly to this. 
> While there, Napster was bought by BMG, and from there was developed 
> the idea of the billing client for P2P. This vision of P2P created the 
> 95% rule, which was and is how much of the content industry operates. 
> [if 95% of the people do the sheep thing and act as good little 
> citizens and pay up, there's no problem. The point then is to more 
> sharply define the boundary and expand the labour necessary to defeat 
> the boundary, in order to keep the 5% at 5%. Of course, depending on 
> the system in question, the actual percentage varies, but the idea 
> holds.... for verification years after the fact:

I disagree with this. I think you underestimate the growth of
digital/network literacy, and the implications of widespread broadband.

It might have been 5% in Napster's day, but from my observation it's
steadily increasing, to the point where it is becoming a significant
political constituency.

In recent years, politicians have taken the side of the RIAA, MPAA, etc.
But they're soon going to have to realise that this is against the views
and interests of the *people who elect them* who are becoming ever more
informed and agitated about these issues.

People want flexibility about how they engage with culture, and now,
thanks to broadband and p2p (and digital tools for creative manipulation
and reuse) we have it. *Everyone I know* (admittedly mainly
culture-junkies like myself) is downloading music, TV shows, movies,
software, etc.

For example, the buzz in my circle in recent months has been about the
HBO show Deadwood. So friends of mine in .au have been downloading it
the day after it goes to air in the States, and swapping DVD burns of
the divx files.

We're not prepared to wait for local TV to show these episodes. We (in
this case, in .au) demand to be on a 'level playing field' with the rest
of the world.

That said, I have a digital cable subscription and have been rewatching
the episodes as they're screened, because of the better audio and
picture quality.

The way things are going is towards subscriptions for content on demand.
The current trend towards timeshifting (DVR, podcasting, time-shift
cable channels) indicates this. But these providers still have a long
way to go.

For example the work of British satirist Chris Morris has never been
screened in Australia, not even on cable. Many people I know in .au have
watched his most recent TV show 'Nathan Barley' (in fact my blog is
named after a line from it) which screened in the UK earlier this year,
only because it has been available via p2p. In the past we might have
waited for a bootleg VHS if we knew someone, but p2p is *so* much easier.

Again, we demand to live in the same 'world' as others, which is
'outside' of what is prescribed for us by big business. (See also DVD
regions, and DRM in general).

It is a revolution of a sort, make no mistake. Whether it becomes the
sort of revolutionary 'multitude' (problematic term) that Negri & Hardt
talk about remains to be seen.

> and setting up speed bumps will keep the uninformed and incompetent 
> from stealing music:
> media_music_cd_dc

What a waste of time & money. Like all DRM, it will accomplish nothing.

> Things like Limewire et al are temporary and eternal. People will trade 
> warez. But the number of people who do that will always be a minority, 
> as the corporations bank on the basic decency and honesty of the 
> general public. It's been generally proven that piracy did not effect 
> the music industry at all. The same is generally seen as true for the 
> software industry.

Hmm, I'm not sure it's so simple. 'Decent, honest people' are infringing
copyright like never before, with a clear conscience and a sophisticated
knowledge of the issues.

Meanwhile we're seeing media & software businesses merge, and the rise
of free and open source software (which I think is culturally very
closely related to both p2p and blogs).

> I also don't see a devolution of media/power fundaments. I see an 
> increasing centralisation of media and power. Blogging is easily 
> disrupted - just talk to the Chinese and Microsoft - blogs on MSN that 
> have words like Democracy, Tienamin Square, Chinese Reform, etc. are 
> all blocked from even reaching the Chinese servers.

Now this is where things get interesting. As I said above, access to and
flexibility with information is an increasingly political issue.

Although democracy has largely been in the service of capitalism, I
suspect that things could yet flip over, as people have increasing
access to information and culture, and are becoming dissatisfied with
the current limitations and str[i/u]ctures.

Currently the RIAA, MPAA, etc. are lobbying for DRM to become part of
the structure (ie in the routers & protocols) of future versions of the
internet. 'Trusted Computing' (aka Treacherous Computing) is also on the

But I'm not convinced that consumers, ie voters will accept these
restrictions. I really don't know what's going to happen, but I'm much
less pessimistic than you seem to be.

So, from my point of view, that's where we're at. A bit tangential to
the topic of blogs per se, but as I indicated, I think all of these
issues are closely related.

Nice chatting with you - it's been a while.


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