Digital Culture Industry: Digital Documentary Analysis


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A set of slides about the issues I faced during my research project Digital Culture Industry: A History of Digital Distribution. It focuses on the use of digital documents in documentary analysis and the issues of using these documents.

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Digital Culture Industry: Digital Documentary Analysis

  2. 2. THE RESEARCH Where did the Digital Distribution of Media come from? Culture LawPolitics
  3. 3. THE AIM Napster GNUtella FastTrack (Kazaa) BitTorrent The Pirate Bay To produce detailed histories of the illicit roots of digital media distribution. To understand how this social change occurred. { }
  4. 4. Structural Biographical Relationship Between Big Picture Focus on Society Little Picture Focus on Small Events THE APPROACH Actor Network Theory Structuration Theory STS approach to innovation
  5. 5. THE DOCUMENTS OF THE INTERNET ARCHIVES Blogs Software Release Notes Social Media Comments Podcasts Forums Court Documents Business Registrars Newspaper Archives Videos THE METHOD Digital Documentary Analysis DNS Registrars
  6. 6. METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES Information Overload Mediated Information Authenticity Information Scarcity Authority
  7. 7. MEDIATED INFORMATION Undisclosed Politics Finding Fact in Fiction Traditional Historiography Default to Distrust Primary > Secondary Internet Historiography Account for Bias Report on Conflict Cross-Reference for Fact Everything is Secondary
  8. 8. LACK OF INFORMATION No custodian Never Recorded Not maintained Can lead to over-reliance on a small group of sources Reliability with a small sample: Does this make sense Chronologically? Biographically?
  9. 9. AUTHORITY Sometimes the ‘real’ reporters are farthest from the source. Under-reporting in traditional news Misunderstanding of technical and organisational details Amateurs Highly integratedTrusted Comments act as editor Anonymity of sources Significant reliance on community reporting
  10. 10. AUTHENTICITY Historical Method Don’t use a Copy, use the Original Which source is the ‘original’? Digital sources can be edited Digital sources can disappear Copies may be more ‘original’ than the original
  11. 11. INFORMATION OVERLOAD Following stories as they break... Inaccuracy Misinformation Conflicting Reports Internet ‘Echoes’can be useful and can be trying
  12. 12. Internet Archives = Too Much Information?Messy
  13. 13. Detail☑is important
  14. 14. ...but it was necessary to [frame]it Identifying the topic What is the story you want to trace? Collecting the dataStoring tagging keywords Analysing the data names dates connections associations Plotting the datatimelines diagrams interacting overlapping narratives
  15. 15. you produce... A Story descriptive, empirically grounded about Change Agency Power Disruption Structures
  16. 16. THE OUTPUTS 4. MP3/.com & Napster: The Entrepreneurs of Risk As I have already mentioned, the popular narrative of how the distribution of media went digital will inevitably always begin with Napster. It holds the honour of marking the ‘beginning’ of our turn to digital distribution as the most prominent and most rapid disruption in media’s recent history. What should become apparent over the coming chapters is that beginnings are arbitrary; the sheer complexity of the influences and pre-requisites required for any event means that to identify one of those pre-requisites as ‘cause’, is immediately contestable. What can be exploited however is that though the conventions of narrative require a beginning, they do not necessarily require a cause. The beginning in this narrative is not a cause, it is an entry point, one chosen for its role as a pre-requisite to Napster and as a pre-requisite to many of the other elements within the story. Broadly speaking, Napster was produced because of the prevalence of the MP3. Our second question then should be why was the MP3 prevalent?; our first question should be, MP3? 4.1 MP3/.com The MP3‘s route to widespread user adoption was circuitous, beginning in the 1970s as an unproven concept of sending music as files over telephone lines. Professor Dieter Seitzer, working at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, was trying to optimise the transmission of speech over phone lines as part of a wider movement to expand the capacities and features of the phone network. The idea of optimising music was a side-interest, but when he was denied a patent based on the examiner’s verdict that the concept was ‘impossible’ he assigned one of his PhD students to prove them wrong. This kicked off a large collaborative process of research across the seventies and eighties to work out how to optimally compress audio whilst still retaining the music itself. Development was slow as often they would only be able to store a short sample of audio at a time due to relatively small storage capacities, and processing time was limited at the universities in which they were working. In 1991 the researchers successfully compressed an entire song, ‘Tom’s Diner’ by Suzanne Vega, and took their work to the Fraunhofer 4: MP3/.com & Napster 69 of 271 5. GNUtella: Decentralising the Masses It was 1999 and Justin Frankel was working in his cubicle at AOL when he came across Napster. As a programmer and music lover Frankel appreciated the ingenuity of the code but took issue with the profit motive that drove Napster inc. Frankel approved of file-sharing as a way of empowering people via the free flow of information, but disagreed with someone making a profit from it. To Frankel if you created a network like Napster, it shouldn’t be about controlling the network, but doing everything possible to stop its control: That was good karma. Of course the Napster that controlled the network also allowed it to form, they facilitated all of this sharing, but Frankel also saw that this centralisation made it vulnerable to control and disintegration. If a truly open and free file-sharing network were to succeed, it would have to operate differently; to Frankel it was an interesting problem. 5.1 Nullsoft Justin Frankel began his coding career before high-school, teaching himself by playing around with his brother's Atari 8-bit computer. By the time he got to high- school he was proficient enough to run the school network, wrote them an email program and developed a key logger to log what his teachers typed on their machines; the latter project more for his own amusement than for school productivity. After graduating in 1996 he went to Utah University to study computer science but dropped out after two semesters due to disagreements with his professors (Kushner, 2004). Like many technically savvy people of the time, Frankel was picking up a lot of music from the internet, but finding that MP3 software to play it was in short supply. Being the tinkering type Frankel began a small coding project to make himself some MP3 software that had the functionality and efficiency he wanted. Shortly after finishing the first build Frankel formed the company Nullsoft - an anarchic nod to Microsoft - and began distributing his software which he dubbed WinAmp, short for Windows Amplifier, under a shareware licence. On his parent's advice Frankel reluctantly added a donation option to the software where users could voluntarily give him $10 for his work. In 5: GNUtella 95 of 271 6. FastTrack: The Business of Piracy The history of FastTrack is convoluted at best: A variety of court cases spanning many years and nations, along with the involvement of many different companies, all with different levels of responsibility for, and rights to the protocol have made pinning down its impact tricky. The FastTrack period can be seen as the boom of peer-to-peer filesharing. With Napster having introduced the habits of digital media consumption to a mass audience and GNUtella establishing a background workshop of peer-to peer innovation the space was ready for someone to try and establish the peer-to-peer network a legitimate method of media distribution. Though Napster had tried it once, it was possible the media industry would be more open to negotiations, especially if dealt with upfront rather than the delayed strong-arm tactics of Napster. This focus on the exploitation of peer-to-peer networks would provide the basis for shifting the technologies developed under the illicit banner out from the underground and into wider operation within the culture industries. 6.1 Zennström & Friis In 1997 Niklas Zennström met Janus Friis: Zennström was employed by the then upstart (now behemoth) Swedish telecoms company ‘Tele2’ and had been tasked with starting up a small ISP business in neighbouring Denmark. Friis was working in customer support for a rival ISP and saw Zennström’s ad for job openings in the Copenhagen papers. Friis went for the interview and clicked with Zennström, devising a business strategy for the new ISP venture that got him hired. From then on wherever Zennström got transferred by Tele2, he ensured that Friis got transferred too. Despite being in the ISP business, by 1999 they felt they were being left out of the innovations going on in media tech.and that rather than working to make Tele2 bigger, they wanted to start their own venture. Friis moved into Zennström’s apartment and the two tossed around ideas looking for the next big hit (Roth, 2004; Davidson, 2005). Despite the correlation of its initial release in late 1999 with their time brainstorming, according to Zennström and Friis they were not looking to make the next Napster. By their account it was Zennström’s experience running an ISP that 6: FastTrack 107 of 271 7. BitTorrent: Revolution in the Network 7.1 Perfect It was April 2001 and Bram Cohen had quit his job. Sitting at his dining-room table, laptop to hand, he was working on a personal project. Tapping away at the keyboard he reeled out lines of code onto the screen, stopping every now and again to pace the house before returning to his seat to tap some more. When Cohen had had a job it had been with a dotcom startup called MojoNation, a company that was looking to create a peer-to-peer network that could store encrypted chunks of files across multiple computers. The idea was interesting but the implementation was still clunky and complicated, not suitable for general public use and money was running out. This was not unusual for Cohen; over the 1990’s he had worked as a programmer for a variety of dotcom startups that had gone bust, every time seeing his project never reach its audience, and it was apparent to him that MojoNation would be no exception. Tired of never seeing anything through to completion, Cohen quit. He didn’t have an income to speak of, instead he was subsisting off of his savings from his string of prior programming jobs and a well executed regime of transferring debt across 0% introductory rate credit cards. Without an income it might be assumed that the personal project was seeking to remedy that, to be the next big dot-com hit: But it wasn’t, it was just an interesting project. Cohen had noted a problem with the way that the internet operated and, inspired by the work he had done with MojoNation, knew he had a solution (Roth, 2005; Thompson, 2005). As prior P2P developers had noted, the contemporary internet was not designed for contemporary uses. Increasingly more and more files were being distributed across the internet, be they music, software, video or images. Napster had clearly demonstrated a demand for music and the GNUtella model had begun facilitating larger file transfers. As much as bandwidth was a defining factor when it came to how fast files could be transferred, a contributing factor was the way in which contemporary ISP’s had designed the architecture of the commercial net. When the internet was originally designed as the Government and University focused 7: BitTorrent 125 of 271 8. Hacking the Market If you had Coca-Cola coming through the faucet in your kitchen, how much would you be willing to pay for Coca-Cola? There you go. That’s what happened to the record business. (Doug Morris CEO of Universal Music Group quoted in Mnookin, 2007) 8.1 Keeping it in the Family When Michael Robertson was looking to promote his idea of selling music as MP3s via his new venture, he found the labels to be cold to the idea. They were disinterested, seeing little benefit in these low quality compressed audio files. When Napster sought licensing, a similar situation occurred: Told by the courts that they required a license to operate, they found the price set to be unattainably high and eventually liquidated whilst their only industry ally, BMG, were punished with liability for Napster’s actions and their eventual consumption into Vivendi. When Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis’ arranged meetings with music and film licensing groups in the U.S. they found themselves not in negotiations as arranged but at the receiving end of accusations and threats. During the rise of media’s digital distribution, the media industry were out of the loop and intended to stay there, a decision which at the time, made perfect sense. The shift from cassette and vinyl to CD had been a sustaining boon at a time when profits were dropping. The CD, an insider innovation from Sony Corp., revitalised the recording industry who had found vinyl’s price to have reached a market low at $8.98. Consumers had become comfortable with the price and any more was considered to be profiteering. However the CD, sold under the banner of its clean digital sound and novelty of the new, meant that the standard price could be set at $16.95 with consumers willing to pay a premium for the format. Though the labels sold CDs under the banner of high quality digital sound, what brought the customers flocking was the new capacities of the CD. They were solid and durable, portable and allowed quick skipping around the album without fiddly re- adjustment of the phonograph arm or repeated rewinds and fast-forwards to locate the right spot (Mnookin, 2007). Even if customers already had the music in another format, the CD, as a way of instantiating music, brought with it a set of capacities 8: Hacking the Market 160 of 271 Histories of Digital Distribution
  17. 17. 1. Conflict between piracy and the media industries drove legitimate adoption of digital distribution. 2. The capacities and standards of these services were defined by the values of hacker subcultures. 3. Digital Distribution has resulted in more varied and interactive media engagement, also greater control over that engagement. 4. The conflicts have led to the politicisation of piracy, feeding into issues of surveillance, privacy and cultural freedom. 5. The materiality and design of networks and software as a key actor in the conflict, often acted as an amplifying conduit for the values of its designer. THE OUTPUTS Key Conclusions
  18. 18. THE OUTPUTS
  19. 19. ATimeline of Digital Distribution THE OUTPUTS
  20. 20. THE OUTPUTS Diagram of Associations Justin Frankel Shawn Fanning Michael Robertson PressPlay Vivendi Napster Napster MK II Skype Gnutella Niklas Zennsstrom + Janus Friis Anthony Rose Kazaa FastTrack Gene Kan Wayne Rosso Grokster Roxio Roxio Sharman Networks
  21. 21. THE OUTPUTS Piracy Network Diagrams
  22. 22. THE OUTPUTS Online Resource
  23. 23. THANKYOU