Friday, October 28, 2005

untitled sad piece of wool in the snow

And so we reached the end. Thanks for listening and don't forget to go to the wrap-up party Darklight After Party at 4 Dame lane. Featuring DECAL plus awards ceremony for the Nokia/Darklight Pocket Movie Challenge. YOSH!

The Panel 2: Alan Toner

Tying into earlier discussions, Mr Toner returned to the notion of p2p file sharing and internet broadcasts. He warned that even approaching from a non-commercial POV, one must keep an eye on costs, or risk losing their work. He discussed three essential criteria for networks and content: first, producing a competitive piece of media; second, robustness in case of technical failure and legal attack; third, availability.

The solutions developed have ironically come from the world of piracy. p2p has allowed for a grassroots movement of video distribution to sprout up through New Global Visions, particularly useful for people trying to find specific information files. E-Donkey is another superior program for such downloading, due to ensuring a persistent network presence. NGV has also made a big push in the Creative Commons, with over 150 films free and ready to download, in five languages, as well as numerous links to public domain materials and films. Emphasis was also placed on V2V, as a resource for incomplete projects which can be shared and re-edited.

He finished by echoing previous speakers hopes that although we hear continually about people using p2p being prosecuted, we're headed to a turning point where the conglomerates will adapt the system and it will eventually become the norm.

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Panel 2 Q&A

Q. If people are going to have their phone turned on and absorbed into an ad hoc network, there should be some sort of reward or benefit--

Tim Forde: The problem is that is a completely different business model, which is anathema to the existing companies.

Q. On the alternative business models, I'm in the process of putting a business plan together, but there are none that exist to my knowledge, if you'd know of any...

TF: I'm afraid not.

Q. What is the position of RTE making the archives available to download?

Anne O'Connor: We have actually something in place and started - we have a deal in place with the producers for materials, and so much of the material is already on digital already. On the website, we have clips etc - its not ideal, but it's a start. But we've started and we'll continue.

Q. The RTE website is vey disappointing - not a personal criticism - the audio archives, for example, are badly edited.

A O'C: Under the legislature, we cannot use public or commercial money on the website. The website can only be funded by itself - that means it has to make money, hence the advertisements, and the poor editing. I agree with you, but there are reasons.

Q. As I understand it, RTE automatically takes all of the rights for exploitation from Independent Producers, even on the website. Is there any plans to adopt the BBC modelof rights-sharing?

A O'C: All I can say is that RTE is undergoing a lot of change, particularly in the interactive sector. I am optimistic, however.

The Panel 2 - Tim Forde

Present in place of Linda Doyle, who was unfortunately unable to attend, Mr Forde discussed the nature of Ad Hoc (or self-configuring) Networks. A newer form, they require an alternate infrastructure to what's in place currently. Whereas existings systems are hierarchial and high cost with the users present solely at the end, Ad Hoc networks are composed of various technologies - TVs, computers, mobiles, etc. Far more flexible, they are designed to be mobile, thanks to wireless technology which is quickly increasing in quaity and range, to say nothing of a standardised international charge rate (unlikely the fudged standards of 3G). The absence of central control is relaced by a distributed decision making system, with each user allowed input.` The main joy, Mr Forde concluded on, is that it's a DIY effort - the network is yours, and you no longer need to depend on an inferior ISP.

The Panel 2: Dr Anne O'Connor

Dr O'Connor was present to discuss the implications of new media for the IPUs (Independent Production Units), as RTE are required to spend a minimum amount therein. Circling around the notion of the digital home, we're faced with a multiplicity of methods of entertainment, a diversity which RTE must ultimately strive to serve, as a public service broadcaster, a factor strengthened by EU legislation. Dr O'Connor took us down along memory lane, from the early days of formation as Raidio Eireann in 1926 to the inclusion of television in 1966, the inevitable website, and that now RTE is gearing up to meet the new paradigm of self-personalisable content-on-demand. Dr O'Connor also shared information on the World Telecommunications Conference which will define the requirements RTE must match to meet international standards, while also breaking down RTE's plans for their existing and impending platforms, particularly the coming of 3G, DVB-H, digital TV & Radio, High Definition TV and podcasting (which is starting next month). Dr O'Connor closed by psing the question of what we, the public, think.

Be curious and curiouser

PANEL 2: ISSUES FOR DISTRIBUTION is starting up in a few minutes - why not post a question and see it answered through The Power of Technology, Progress and Thar Intarwebs, Yo?

In case your whistle needs whetting, we will have Dr. Anne O'Connor, (Special Adviser to the Director General at RTE), Dr. Linda Doyle, (PHD lecturer Trinity College Dublin), Alan Toner, a man whose work has focussed on leveraging p2p technologies such as Bit Torrent and eDonkey to enable distribution production of critical audio-visual works on sites such as V2V, and returning for an encore from their rockstar performances this morning, Prof. Barry Vercoe and Benjamin Mako Hill, all of whom will be chaired by Prof. Marie Redmond, Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Trinity College Dublin & Course Director of the MSc Multimedia Systems programme.

The Panel 1 Q&A

Q. How would the advertising companies enter into the likes of video blogging, torrenting and the like?

Steve McCormack: You're never going to get away from advertising. With v-blogging, the easiest way is to get a sponsor for example. It doesn't have to be an evil corporation - it can be a local coffee shop with WiFi. At the end of the day, everyone needs funding, and they will always find a way to get the ads in, in different forms.

Q. Why should someone bother to deal with a distributor when they can do it themselves with Bittorrent?

Michael McMahon: There's no reason you shouldn't. The easiest form of funding in the media is usually sponsorship and advertising. You need to have extremely compelling content to get people putting their hands in their pocket, but sponsorship is often easier to come by. It's one solution

Q. What do we stand to lose with the current growth of digital television?
Maeve Connolly: We;ve been seeing the audiences breaking up into niches for some time now, and the beauty of a broadcasting model that is diverse is that they'll find surprising new things they might not otherwise have had access to. What we may lose is that chance encounter, in favour of knowing the range and diversity.

The Panel 1: Michael McMahon

Mr McMahon addressed the notion of bittorrent and mass-media piracy. High levels of bandwidth are expended daily on the illegal downloading of TV shows, from Lost to Coronation Street, a feat much easier in this heavily digitised world. Meanwhile, the digitisation has also spread out the audiences throught hundreds of channels as they search for their favourite niche shows - a thin spread which also pushes people to download rather than search. The advent of TiVo and the like has also stregthened the audience's desire to watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it, rather than at the convenience of a man in a suit far away. It is becoming increasingly apparent that a new method of distribution is needed to keep up with the audience, particularly for the sake of advertisers.

The Panel 1: Lisa Roberts

Ms Roberts discussed the development of the media through a smaller screen - our phones, our iPods, and how we have another avenue in which to tell and share stories. In essence, we need to learn a new language of story-telling which is, by default, more intimate, since the smaller screen negates the possiblty of a large widescreen shot in favour of closer, tighter shots. Also of importance is gauging the opinion of the audience and working in concert with what they want.

The Panel: Dr Maeve Connolly

"I'm intersted in the parallel between innovation and obsolescence."

Dr Connolly discussed the notion of technology advancing, while at the same time older technology is not so much obsolete as they are primed to be seen in a new light - limitations are, in effect, no longer an issue. Also important in the new media looking at the Irish context, and our reaction. Furthermore, the playing field has been levelled, as the internet has allowed a huge ground for self-published work and developing a modern something not dissimilar to the indie writing scene that gave the world fanzines at the like.

The Panels

The Panels are about to be set in motion. Maybe you have a question - now's the time to ask it, for later it will be over and our sage panellists gone, Post it here, or do it the old fashioned way an raise your hand. This may be your only chance to achieve omniscience - don't miss it!

Panel 1: Audiences and Interfaces is an i
nvestigation of the impact of networks and digital platforms on content design and audience.

Panel 2: Issues for Distribution looks at n
etworks and software and their impact on cultural distribution.

What would you like to know?

Steve McCormack and the Modern Communications

Steve McCormack joined the proceedings to discuss the emerging and increasingly popular methods of communication and interaction opened up by the internet, breaking his discussion up into six easy-to-follow sections, as a primer for the n00bs and a refresher for the old hands.

1. Blogging - Why do people blog? What started out as a simple way for the common man to have a website, share links and goings-on with their friends has become an industry in itself, as corporate blogs emerged to share mission statements and brochures, while others became recognised enough to actively alter, expose and control public policies.
2. Podcasting - The audioblog. Anyone with a microphone and something to say can load their mp3 online, have it caught by an RSS (or Really Simple Syndication) Feed and dowloaded straight into your computer and or iPod. The format has been popularised by Apple and iTunes, and have become the new indie radio.
3. Web 2.0 - A term given to the new community-driven websites in which friends can interact easily, be they near or far apart - sites such as My Space, Flickr and Friendster. The sites are seemingly in permanent states of "Beta" development, which likely means they will always be worked upon and improved.
4. Web TV - Does exactly what it says on the tin, and now finally feasible as bandwidth and download speeds are less of an issue. Such sites include the daily alternative news show Rocketboom, iFilms and mania TV.
5. The Long Tail of Online Stores - While regular stores are limited by shelf space, and as a result the amount of stock they can carry, online stores have an infinite theoretical shelf space, and as a result can offer a far greater range of stock. The result is more obscure titles and works can become readily available, and profits are no longer limited to the more mainstream titles and hit-driven economy of old.
6. Mobile Videos - The slowly burgeoning range of mobile devices which bear visual fruits, be it a phone or iPod or PSP, whether you want to watch Lost or Kung Fu Hustle.

The Q&A has been delayed until the laster panel.

Opening Shots: Steve McCormack

"The revolution will not be televised. But it may be blogged."

Benjamin Mako Hill on copyright in the technological environment

Benjamin Mako Hill made a name for himself in Free Software ad Open Source technologies, a background which makes him a natural choice to discuss the nature of copyright in an era of free information, piracy and p2p file sharing.

The Problem: In the digital context, information is defined by technology and copyright, the the emergent technologies are making the definition of ownership and copyright increasingly muddied and strained. How can the information be controlled and authorship retained? As the gap between the legal reality of copyright and the people's right to information are obvious and deeply problematic, Mr Hill stated. After all, if everyone eeverywhere had everything at no cost, what is the justification of depriving anyone of anything? It's an interesting moral and ethical question. More importantly, what are the solutions?

The first suggestion: Make copyright stronger - expand it to match current requirements and technology. But does that make much sense, when current laws are already so hard to enforce? Both copyright holders and pirates feel it is unlikely at best.

Second: Copyright reforms. The initial take on the notion would be to reduce length of cpyright, that certain goods would not be protected, the return of registration... But even if such a reform were feasible, Mr Hill pondered, it would be unfeasible. More likely would becompulsory licencing - or access on set terms. Such a movement would be more likely and easily executed, with taxes applied and appropriate monitoring systems.

Third: Piracy - ignore the distribution companies long enough, and eventually they would indeed go away, but not without severely undermining the production, and as a result, the point of the exercise.

Fourth, and most supported by Mr Hill, would be the development of an "alternative ecosystem". That is to say the development of a new system which abandons the older distribution and production models in favour of something which more closely follows modern technology, and utilising voluntary licencing schemes for consumers and modifiers, a la open source software. Such a project would follow the Four Essential Freedoms - to run software for any purpose; to study how the program works and make improvements; to give away copies; and to also give away and improvements added.

Furthermore, he posited, such notions should also be taken into consideration by people developing creative works - such as artists and writers - and not just those creating functional works, such as software developers. He also stated his hope to see an emphasis on the Creative Commons and the positive impact of collaboration.

When questioned on the nature of derivative works, Mr Hill expressed favour for them, taking the obvious example of Disney, who frequently use stories in the pulbic domain for their movies. He was also asked about the notion of sampling in music genres such as hip-hop, to which Mr Hill mused upon how the form lost something as its sampling was crushed by legislation, in spite of the genre having a long-standing prior history.

When asked how you could stop people from altering software, he replied that it would require the alteration of the licence, but this would also become a legal minefield as that could be construed as a breach of licence itself, with the most recent modifier in a position to sue if they so wished. In closing, he was also asked how sustainable production would be in open source production without patronage, he admitted it's a difficult situation. One potential solution would be a basic amount of capital would have to be received before the software would become freely available to everyone, but he admitted this is only one possibility.

Opening Shots: Benjamin Mako Hill

On the divisive nature of copyright for both sides of the argument: "In this situation, doing nothing is not an option"

Prof Barry Vercoe on the new media

After a pleasantly musical opening, Prof. Vercoe discussed the motion of the evolving audio industry, and how the evolving technologies will shape the future of how not just how we will listen to music, but how we will buy it, how we will find it and even how we will play it, as well as the implications such ventures would have for the industry as it currently stands and other media.

Prof. Vercoe's main emphasis was on the speed at which the industry of 'push' - the more tradtional means of accessing music, such as CDs, shops and all the means we are used to - and 'pull' - the new means, such as downloading, p2p technologies and mp3s - are converging, and the necessity of understanding the use and power such a notion can hold.

He centered his thesis on the seven technologies driving the convergence:
1. Audio coding - how music is stored and compressed, with the desire for as much compression in size and complexity in the track as is possible, copyright protection and how the mp4 format fits into this.
2. Time-caching.
3. Interfaces - how we access the music.
4. Network Technology and Infrastructure.
5. Viral communications - a superior means of sending and receiving information than traditional telecommunication networks.
6. Cultural Community Metadata - how, rather than being blanket-bombed by recommendations and advertising (often via collaborative filters), data-mining and language processing can better gauge what we would want to know about.
7. Embedded Processing - how specific processors can work together for superior playback, and the porting core technology of MPEG4 to low cost technology.

He closed his address with two truth-laden statements: first, that technology has created higher consumer expectations; and second, that consumers have shown they will move forward with the technology with or without the industry.

Opening Shots: Prof. Barry Vercoe

On the industry: "The traditional roles of 'push' and 'pull' [or traditional sales and new media such as P2P] are headed towards a convergence - the industries must realise change is going to happen. They must be aware and they must move forward."

The start of a beautiful friendship...

The Darklight Symposium is about to begin, but not everyone iss going to be here. But hope is not yet lost: if you would like to listen in, you can get a stream by downloading Streamer P2P from and install it - the URL is the remarkably straightforward!

Then search for the Darklight broadcast, right click and select "listen".

Highlights, questions and commentaries will of course follow here as the words are verily spoken, so don't forget if join in the discussion , email us and let the party begin!

A big up and many thanks to Indymedia Ireland for helping this to happen.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Welcome to the Darklight Festival

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