Category Archives: Mobile

Mash-Up Culture is Still Young

A buddy of mine on IRC posted a YouTube video that mashes up (a phrase meaning to mix up different sources of music and video and other media into one product) drum n’ bass (dnb) music with footage from church sermons with people dancing and being overcome by religious experience and priests giving emotional sermons.  I used to listen to a lot of dnb so I enjoyed the video a lot.

These particular videos below are 3 parts of “Baptazia” called “Super Sunday”, posted on YouTube by a user named airloaf.  I don’t know much about him except for what’s on his profile.

Watch the three below:

Well done, dude! Indeed, there’s a whole slew of related videos that mash up gospel stuff with dnb. airloaf calls it “speedgospel”, but I guess it could be dnb gospel too.

It’s funny posting so many YouTube links; the “other” founder of YouTube, Jawed Karim, used to be in the IRC channel I still use to this day.

One of the more well-known mash-up artists right now is Girl Talk. The guy behind Girl Talk is mentioned quite a bit in Lawrence Lessig‘s new book about remix culture, entitled “Remix”.

Girl Talk, coincidentally, has a similar video for the new single off his album “Feed the Animals”; “Play Your Part” also uses church footage:

I don’t know who thought to put the two together, but obviously mash-up artists like using the crazy dancing in church sermons for their video bases.

Intellectual Property Law Hurting Innovation

In Lessig’s “Remix”, he talks about how intellectual property law is constricting innovation in video and music at a time when it’s possible for any individual to mash stuff up easily on their computers. The freedom we have to mash-up and remix text is what needs to happen for video and music next, but we’re a long way from that both in terms of technology and of legal protection.

The Concept of the Screen

Kevin Kelly, former editor of Wired Magazine and well-known internet visionary, recently published an article in the New York Times Magazine about “screen literacy”. Kelly makes similar points to Lessig, saying that we have already achieved “text literacy”, freely cutting and pasting text and bookmarking and Kindle-ing and quoting and referencing in papers freely. Both Lessig and Kelly point out that no one has any problem or legal disagreement with being able to quote someone else’s text without their permission, as long as attribution is made.

Kelly then goes on to say that video sharing is still in its infancy. We can’t yet really link an article about a scene from a movie to the actual scene from a high-quality feed of that movie. Says Kelly:

“With true screen fluency, I’d be able to cite specific frames of a film, or specific items in a frame. Perhaps I am a historian interested in oriental dress, and I want to refer to a fez worn by someone in the movie “Casablanca.” I should be able to refer to the fez itself (and not the head it is on) by linking to its image as it “moves” across many frames, just as I can easily link to a printed reference of the fez in text. Or even better, I’d like to annotate the fez in the film with other film clips of fezzes as references.”

Kelly then closes his article as follows:

“With our fingers we will drag objects out of films and cast them in our own movies. A click of our phone camera will capture a landscape, then display its history, which we can use to annotate the image. Text, sound, motion will continue to merge into a single intermedia as they flow through the always-on network. With the assistance of screen fluency tools we might even be able to summon up realistic fantasies spontaneously. Standing before a screen, we could create the visual image of a turquoise rose, glistening with dew, poised in a trim ruby vase, as fast as we could write these words. If we were truly screen literate, maybe even faster. And that is just the opening scene.”

The Four Screens

Interestingly, Nokia has been doing a lot of hardcore research into the future.  It employs the now well-known (as the result of an inspiring NYTimes article from April of this year) Jan Chipchase as an anthropologist who goes out and studies how people use cellphones or how they build solutions to everyday problems.

Nokia also published a video called “The Fourth Screen”, about how cell phones are a fourth screen of history that are just beginning to revolutionize our world:

Nokia argues that the moving picture or movie was the first screen we ever used.  It was a public meeting place-type viewing experience.  The second screen was the TV, which allowed us to stay in our homes.  The third screen was the computer screen and internet, which let us share with each other again, but still from our homes.

And now there’s the fourth screen, the mobile phone, that lets us go out and be social again, while still having the power of the internet and digital communication with us.

It is interesting to think about this only being the beginning.  In many ways we consider technology to have a predictable path now.  We have cellphones, and okay, maybe they will be a little faster on the internet and have better cameras soon.  But do we really imagine much more?

Nokia and more international development-oriented organizations (Grameenphone, etc.) think that cellphones can do a lot for poor people.  A lot’s been written on the topic.  But how will humankind interact and mash things up once technology is freed from the tyranny of the literate towards video and music, which even the illiterate and uneducated can relate with?  What will happen when we can search videos with the same relative ease as we can with text on Google?

It’s still too difficult.  I’ve been messing with ACID (audio editing) and Final Cut Pro (movie editing) and it takes a long time and it’s hard to get all the different file formats from different media under one roof.  You have to use the tools a lot to learn how to mix up the content well.  I just made a mixtape for a Christmas gift, under a silly pseudonym I like to use, DJ Industrial Average (for DJIA, the acronym for the Dow Jones index), and the quality of my mixing was poor, given especially that it took me many hours to do it.

So there’s still lots of work to be done before everyone can use this stuff.  But the flood is coming.

More on Girl Talk

To conclude this post, I’ll leave you with some more mashed up YouTube videos, this time using Girl Talk’s blend of 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s music with their accompanying music videos.  Make sure to watch all 14 parts, which are not all from one user as YouTube is probably removing them gradually for copyright infringement (sadly).

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Filed under Anthropology, Economics, Mobile, Movies, Music, Openness, Tech

The Digital Africa Surprise

For my African Development class, I was required to write a 15-page paper on some aspect of African economic development. I chose to write about converging factors, such as the east coast Africa backbone coming online, the cloud, and cheap online tools, contributing to a surprising boom in African digital connectedness to occur in the next decade. Will people be paying attention?

Read my INAF-450 Paper 1:  “The Digital Africa Surprise”.

[I’ve also converted the paper to Google Docs if you’d like to read it. (and here’s the .doc format).]

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Filed under Africa, Communications, Computers, Economics, Education, Globalization, Government, International Affairs, Internet, Mobile, Policy, Tech, Web

Developing Nations and Leapfrogging

In Prof. Nelson’s “What’s Shaping the Internet” class yesterday, one of our colleagues gave a good presentation on broadband in Africa.  We discussed a new backbone cable that will go live soon in Africa as well as the new O3b project to provide satellite service to the other 3 billion global citizens without internet access.

Our Yahoo!/ISD senior fellow, Gaurav, is auditing the class.  He stated that in India, where he’s from, they find mobiles to be the preferred form of access to the internet and to their social networks.  Broadband penetration is extremely low.  Contrast this with the US, where we have grown up with the internet, tethered to it by slow modem, slow DSL, slow cable, all the way up to where we are now.  And now devices like the iPhone and Blackberry are familiarizing us with using the internet on a handheld.  But we think of mobile as an add-on to our hardwired world.

The context and culture in which countries and cultures think and will think about mobile vs. hardline greatly varies.

This made me think about how in Africa, penetration is also low while download costs are still prohibitively expensive.  It will likely be decades before Africa is hardwired, if at all.  Geographic constraints and population dispersion may make it uneconomical.  However, submarine cables will bring in bigger pipes for a continent that has shown itself to be ravenous for collaboration, communication, and awareness of the outside world, while WiMAX-like wireless broadband to the last multimiles.  Have you seen the rise in Africa blogs (see White African, found through Kevin Donovan), the success of mobiles (as a result of lower costs for building cell tower infrastructure than for laying cable), and a more optimistic GDP growth estimate now that Africa is emerging from the IMF’s and WB’s disastrous indentured servitude period?

How will developing nations think about their relationship to the internet?  Americans think of broadband as a Comcast coax that goes into their modem.  Mobile access to the internet is somewhat of a luxury.  What will Africa or India think about hardwired broadband?  Will they understand it in ways significantly different than their relationship with mobile internet?

Will there be more pressure on spectrum policy than there is in the US as a result of more reliance on wireless access?  Will the absence of legacy standards and outmoded ways of thinking help developing nations reach high-speed access faster?  What will the internet look like in Africa?

There is convergence in my studies on tech policy, African economic development, international development program design, and fanatical use of the internet, and I don’t think this is coincidence.

My hunch is that Africa’s cataclysmic decline after independence came as a result of external factors, and that it will surprise the developed world in its future growth.  I also think the conditions are right, along with breakthroughs in participatory and collaborative processes, and a developmental move towards good governance, to encourage a groundswell of a lot of the next century’s ideas and inventions to come out of Africa’s diverse (how many countries are there again, all of them different?), untapped base of knowledge and experience.  Already, success in mobile networking and remittances and payment has come out of Africa.  What will be likely to happen next?  I intend to research all this for a 15-page paper in my African development class.

[Funny that as I wrote this, one of my classmates sent out a message promoting the first event for GAIN, the Georgetown Africa Interest Network.  Contact me for more details about getting in touch with them.]

Am I being optimistic?  Certainly.  Africans and development practitioners have their hands full with various poverty traps and tenuous stability.  Movements in Africa have failed many times.  But some of the larger structural barriers are being mitigated (trade regimes, misguided economic theory from development programs, etc.), allowing for humans’ natural tendency to self-organize to emerge once again.

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My Paper on American and Japanese 3G Networks

I wanted to post the paper I wrote for my “political economy of international communications policy” class last semester (Spring, ’08).  The topic of my research was how the build-outs of the networks in the US and Japan along with cultural differences led to the uses of cell phones and bandwidth that we can currently observe.  I then looked forward into the future to see which country might provide a better operating environment for my web service,

Here is the link (Microsoft Word .doc, no viruses):

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