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Archive for April, 2010

Future Social Science On and With Digital Media

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

(or: Now I’m a video blogger [sort of])

Here are my notes from our session at HASTAC 2010.  It was a pleasure to convene a virtual panel “there” this weekend with Alison Powell, Richard Rogers, Bodó Balázs, and David Phillips.  The whole thing is online (as a set of linked YouTube shorts, organized here).  These notes include notes on what I said and what everyone else said.

Future Social Science On and With Digital Media

Saturday, April 17, 2010 — 6:15 – 6:45 p.m. — location: cyberspace? (heh.)


What it means to study society is profoundly changing as we are increasingly surrounded by and incorporated into a pervasive network of digital media (Lazer et al, 2009).  In this panel, five scholars will comment for five minutes each on emerging research problems, opportunities, and methods in social science both with and about digital media.  Topics will include computational (or e-) social science, new forms and genres of social media, new methods and tactics, legal obstacles to transformative research, and challenges for future graduate education in the social sciences.

Here are the notes…

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The Television Cannot Be Revolutionized

Monday, April 12th, 2010

(or: Emerging Bottlenecks in Online Video?)

Here is the outline, notes, slides, audio, and video from my talk at Harvard last week ( luncheon/2010/04/sandvig). David Weinberger also liveblogged my talk — thank you David for doing that!  His liveblogging is here.  @ninabeth tweeted my talk.  Thank you Nina for doing that!

[Click to go to the audio/video archive page.
Notes and slides are below.]

The Television Cannot Be Revolutionized

Christian Sandvig

Video on the Internet briefly promised us a cultural future of decentralized production and daring changes in form–even beyond dancing kittens and laughing babies.  Yet recent developments on sites like YouTube, Hulu, and Fancast as well as research about how audiences watch online video both suggest a retrenchment of structures from the old “mass media” system rather than anything daring.  In this talk I’ll argue that choices about the distribution infrastructure for video will determine whether all our future screens will be the same.


Talk Outline as Prepared  [These are ROUGH speaker’s notes.  You have been warned.]

This title is a response to Amanda Lotz’s excellent book The Television Will Be Revolutionized, which is a take off of Gil Scott Heron’s poem/song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.  My response to Lotz is that the Television cannot be revolutionized, as I’ll explain.

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Network Neutrality is the New Common Carriage

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

(Or: I’m feeling prescient today.)

Yesterday’s DC circuit court decision ruled that the US FCC has no authority to impose network neutrality rules.  Comcast, you’ll remember, was doing some hinky stuff where they looked at what you were doing online… then if they didn’t like something that you wanted to send or receive over the Internet, they wouldn’t deliver those bits.  (They were preventing BitTorrent clients from seeding by sending false reset [RST] messages.)

[It has a “C” in it, but this is the logo Comcast doesn’t like.]

This kind of pernicious discrimination in the delivery of Internet content has led to abuses like Canadian ISP Telus’s decision to block its users from looking the web site of its worker’s union during a labor dispute.  It is crucial that the owners of our communication systems not get to decide what we can and can’t communicate about.

Some version of network neutrality rules are a good idea, so you would think I’d be saddened by the court’s decision preventing the FCC from adopting them.  (The hyperbolically charming Huffington Post headline about this was “The Day the Internet Lost.”)  But I’m not sad.  Because it looks like this minor setback for network neutrality may turn out to be a big victory.

The court’s ruling — on pretty arcane grounds — says that the FCC doesn’t have authority to make up network neutrality rules under the act granting it authority to regulate “information services.”  But there are other ways to handle Network Neutrality.  A chorus of voices (see this excellent Ars Technica analysis) is now suggesting that the FCC should classify broadband Internet as a common carrier.

In the network neutrality Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC noted that the network neutrality rules it was trying to set up look a lot like the nondiscrimination rules that already exist for common carriers in Title II of the Communications Act.  The act already says:

47 USC 202 (a) It shall be unlawful for any common carrier to make unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services… (c) Any carrier who knowingly violates the provisions of this section shall forfeit to the United States the sum of $6000 for each offense and $300 for each and every day of the continuance of the offense.

So information services can discriminate, but common carriers can’t.  Now the FCC will consider whether to classify broadband as a common carrier.  Sounds good to me.  In a journal article I wrote in 2007 I argued that these two debates (network neutrality / common carriage) are essentially the same debate.  It’s all in my title:  “Network Neutrality is the New Common Carriage.”  So I’m feeling prescient today.

(N.B. The network neutrality debate has moved on since I wrote this article.  In this article I argue against “one rule” — a reference to Tim Wu’s flat model of network neutrality regulations.  In fact I’m in favor of network neutrality I just don’t think Wu’s particular flat model will work well.  Indeed I characterize, as Wu does, the whole history of telecommunications as being effectively all about non-discrimination rules.)

Google v. China: Principled, Brave, or Business As Usual?

Monday, April 5th, 2010

(or: Just Because You’re Against Censorship Doesn’t Mean it’s Always About Censorship)

This post is a lot like my last one:  I’m pleased to announce that Dan Schiller and I have co-authored another piece for the Huffington Post, titled: “Google v. China: Principled, Brave, or Business as Usual?

[“google v. China” image from Marzieh Ghasi’s blog.]

We seem to have accidentally started a tradition where all of our post titles at HuffPo are in the form of questions.  But that’s OK with me.

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