“[W]riting is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very idea of the body writing.” – Barthes, Image Music Text, p 142
Last year I took the time to read Why I Write by George Orwell. This book is a gem in the Orwell bibliography, mainly due to its often brutal honesty and informal tone. It reads like a diary, or like a blog. Orwell’s conclusion (in my own far too shallow words) was that he wrote to help people think differently about politics and society. Orwell’s goal was for people to understand how competition and greed make us worse as a species, and wanted people to see how working together is working toward a more utopic common goal.
If you are reading this then I am communicating with you. If you comment below you are communicating with me and anyone else who reads your comment. This is public communication, and you are taking part. Online communication allows public messages to travel across vast distances within seconds. A simple click of a “share” button can potentially bring a message to an entire online world.
The system of lantern-communication is an early form of long-distance communications that could travel far as long as visibility was clear. Lighthouses have used these systems to communicate with ships through code and signals for millennia. Prior to the introduction of modern telephony the most likely method of communicating orally over long distances was to climb to the top of the nearest hill and shout as loud as you could. Continue reading →
When Shakespeare plays were originally performed, it was not allowed for audience members to bring in paper for fear that they would write down and steal the plays. To counter this, furtive audience members would go to performances and each remember different sections of the plays, then meet later and write down all they could remember. Each section was then stitched together, and the works were stolen regardless.
With the development of the printing press, pirated material began to be spread rapidly. Action was taken politically to attempt to stop intellectual property from being copied or stolen. In 1662 the Licensing of the Press Act was passed to restrict the reprinting of material without advance permission from the owners. This act planted the seed for the establishment of copyright law. Continue reading →
Firstly, let me briefly apologise for the abhorrent lack of activity on MUW over the past three months. Blogging is time-consuming, and sometimes life is too, and unfortunately the latter has been the case of late. Expect posting to get back to normal over the coming weeks; no posts doesn’t mean no ideas and there is a colossal backlog of brainwaves. Watch this space!
Information wants to be free?
Possession is nine-tenths of the law. In the past wars have been fought and families split over possession and the idea of ownership. However, this tenuous law is dependent on the idea that there is some value in ownership – the economic worth of property guides the idea that possession is valuable. People understand that the boundaries that surround owned areas and objects are respected by a sense of possession that we take for granted. In cyberspace, ownership is more ambiguous as spaces are owned or maintained in virtual areas that are often maintained for free. So how does possession work in a community with spaces and services provided free of charge?
In the late 18th Century, Russian ruler Catherine the Great chose to visit the villages of her country to see how the peasants were living. Her first minister, Potemkin, arranged to have façades of fake villages filled with actors constructed along Catherine’s route that showed a scenic, peaceful and prosperous country. Actors played the parts of the peasants, and Catherine remained in the confines of her carriage as she travelled through. Potemkin feared that Catherine might react badly if she encountered the despair and poverty that was really being faced by the Russian serfs, and as a result of his actions Catherine saw a healthy, happy nation. The idea of a fake façade built to distort a view became known as a Potemkin Village.
There have been many such illusions created by councils and governments in years since. In his book The New Rulers of The World, journalist John Pilger drew attention to how the council of Sydney had hidden the city’s poorer aboriginal communities from the Olympic Committee during the selection process for the 2000 Olympic Games. Continue reading →