Readings | Additional
10.10.01 Our first meeting was taken up by the mundane tasks involved in creating a working group. We decided when all of us could conceivably gather in one place, we exchanged e-mail addresses, and we discussed (very briefly and broadly) what each of us was interested in topically. The most important information divulged was that one of us had the necessary skills and desire to become our "webmaster", which provided a great source of relief to the rest of us! We also discussed which science fiction films we were interested in viewing.
10.17.01 Our discussion this week centered on a reading assigned by Richenda, "Cybersnooping for Sounds and Images, Not Suspects." This article deals with Alex Galloway's computer-art project, Carnivore. The project takes its name from the FBI's digital surveillance system of the same name. Galloway thinks of Carnivore as an art installation, only its installation is on a computer network rather than in physical space. Once installed, the program grabs bits of data from the network. Images, e-mail, sound files, etc. are plundered; the program does not distinguish between "public" and "private." Once data is gathered it is manipulated by specially designed software programs that filter and transform this raw data into art. Matthew Mirapaul, author of the article writes, "by digesting the data and spitting out art instead of incriminating evidence, [Galloway's] 'Carnivore' defangs the threat of electronic-privacy violations." We found this claim to be preposterous. While the net product of Galloway's Carnivore is innocuous enough, surveillance, generally, is not. The "surveillance" carried out by Galloway's Carnivore probably isn't any more harmful (but is surely much more interesting) than that employed by The Real World, Big Brother, Temptation Island, Survivor, The Mole, Love Cruise, Road Rules, Chains of Love, etc. In a nutshell: there is a huge difference between art/entertainment and hard-core surveillance.
10.24.01 Most of our meeting time was spent discussing Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The majority of our observations focused on the extreme sense of disconnect in the movie, both between the classes, and between the workers and that to which their work contributed. A connection was made about the way that certain new technologies have lately been termed "sexy" and robot-Maria's strip tease. We also discussed the way that signs (e.g., the image of Maria) are appropriated and revalued in entirely contradictory terms by those in power, and the authority and control these tweaked signs exert over social groups. Finally, we felt that Lang was trying to communicate that by the time we realize the negative effects of industrialization and our obsession with new technology, we will be so entirely dependent on it that its destruction will be our destruction.
10.31.01 Halloween. No costumes. The group continued to discuss Metropolis in preparation for the class discussion. All agreed that the societal problems of industrialization depicted in the film still exist in the technological workplace. Turning to our readings, we discussed "Licensed to Bill" an article outlining the future of digital rights managmement (DRM) in the October 2001 Wired. DRM would allow a consumer to download encrypted media files (music, films, etc.) after paying a licensing fee. However, the initial payment would only cover licensing for computer use. Copying the file or burning a CD to play on any other device would require more money. We noted that this aspect of DRM would make this distribution model a difficult sell to the average media consumer who is accustomed to the rights allowed by First Sale. Bryan commented that media companies would be smarter to use the Internet in the same way they use radio, as a broadcast/advertisement tool. Unfortunately, these companies could also use the Internet as their sole distribution arm, only releasing new music as encrypted files and removing any consumer choice.