Trouble with Sports Blogging


A recent NYT article about sports blogging raises all sorts of questions relevant to our course. It seems that major sports franchises do not like having photos and video of their games posted online without seeing some money in return. As a result, major league baseball and the NFL have imposed specific limits on the amount of game images a given site can post in the name of news coverage. News outlets, bloggers and other fans of the First Amendment are understandably irked.

While the internet, and its capacity for easy video and photo publication, have created this conflict, it seems to me that the central legal issue predates the “web difference”: Are professional sports matches either (1) news events that reporters should be free to photograph, record and write about as much as they want, or (2) proprietary works “owned” by the league, which a reporter can’t justify recording and posting online any more than he could a live musical. The answer, of course, probably lies somewhere in between.

Either way, I think the leagues are approaching the issue in a terribly short-sighted way. Seems to me that any damage done to their bottom line by losing eyeballs to blogs and news outlets is dramatically outweighed by the positives that come with media attention. By exercising too tight a grip on coverage of their games, the leagues risk alienating the media, and ultimately their fans.

Even those who try to protect privacy disclose information


We all (in this class) know that Facebook applications allow developers to view your profile page, and while this is a feature of Facebook that we discussed weeks ago, it seems that the AP is just now starting to take it seriously. This CNN story touches upon the discomfort that users feel when they learn of their lack of privacy.

“People seem to have this idea that, when you put something on the Internet, there should be some privacy model out there — that there’s somebody out there that’s enforcing good manners. But that’s not true.”

Are these expectations of privacy reasonable? If so, how do we get the law to reflect these expectations?

Bloggers in Cuba



Also includes some interesting bits about the government’s efforts to regulate buying of electronics and its own forays into blogging.


The Washington Post has a really fascinating (and entertaining, especially for people who are familiar with the DC area) article speculating what Washington might look like in 2025: “Washington’s Future, a History.” Technology, communication, and the Internet play a major role in influencing where and how Washingtonians live in the future, at least according to the author’s view. (And for everyone who is studying for final exams, this is a good study break!)

A Human Rights Web Difference


This is an interesting story on CNN right now. A UC Berkeley grad student was arrested while attending an anti-government rally in Cairo and used a Twitter message to to tell his friends. They then posted the message (and others that followed) on their blogs, and eventually UC Berkeley sent a lawyer to get him out of jail.

Tags beat the identity out of identity politics


Ike Piggott posts about the effect of tags ‘n’ such on identity politics. (His themes are very close to those in Everything Is Miscellaneous. So, there you have it, a plug for my book. I feel dirty.)

Live Blog for 4/22/08


Today’s class aimed to settle once and for all whether or not there is a web difference. Our answer: 8.4. Here’s how we reached it. (Apologies to those designated as Student X; I’m no good with names).

The class started with a poll on whether students believe the web is different, on a scale of one to ten. As a point of reference, the “television difference” from radio is rated a 3. The average response came out to be 6.875.

Many justifications for scoring the web difference high on the scale were given:

Evan: Qualified his answer- internet has the potential for an 11, though it’s at a 7 now. Mainly because of the ease with which anyone can publish and distribute their creations.

Conor: Agrees internet hasn’t reached full potential. Big difference right now is how people can “self-actualize” on the internet, unlike any other media. People can create communities and have whole identities online.

Mr. Sanchez: Being born into it changes our perspective, but the way we access information now is dramatically different.

Damien: The web is uniquely unbounded in its potential, in contrast to the written word, which hasn’t really changed since the printing press. Distributed architecture is another unique feature.

Self-proclaimed digital immigrant student: The ability to connect with people and stay in touch with people worldwide is a remarkable feature of the internet.

Richard: An “alternative geography” is created online.

Aaron: The internet makes culture more participatory and critical.

Palfrey responds: The potential is there, but when you talk to digital natives, you find that only a very small percentage are actually “participating” in the creation and critique of culture online.

Corey scaled it in terms of the law. The law has had a uniquely difficult time dealing with the internet, indicating a large difference.

Sean: The anonymity granted by the internet makes people act differently, for better or worse.

Evan: The net has an incredible ability to form people into groups, for better or worse, though this potential may not have been realized yet.

Those who gave the web difference a low score on the scale gave their reasons:

Doug: Potential is high, but right now it’s a 6. Referencing Zittrain’s argument, the future of the internet may not be that bright if in response to security concerns, the environment becomes too constrictive to be generative.

Student A: The web is revolutionary as a content delivery system, but its networks, not the web that’s going to change people’s lives. Networked devices like iphones are going to make the big difference.

Meg: The web is currently constrained by norms from the analog world. Like Shirly’s point, the web may just be recreating heirarchies we already have in the analog world.

Student B: The web is an amplifier of things that we already have (publishing, social networking), more than a creator of something new.

Conor, who scored the difference at an 11, doesn’t like this point: Everything can be an amplification of something that came before it. There’s still something new here.

Vera: The scale differs across regions. In the United States, the internet has changed things less than in places like Iran.

Tom: The internet lets us know about what’s going on around the world, but that’s not such a big change from what we had before. It was a bigger change when the television showed us images from around the world that we never previously had access to.

Mariel: The extent to which people “live” on the internet is overstated. There are fundamental institutions in the analog world that have a greater impact on our real world life. No destruction of the “nation-state.”

Christina: The potential to change things like politics is there, but hasn’t been realized yet.

Related point: The tools are there to help people who are already involved, but the tools aren’t necessarily changing who is involved.

Justin: Only a small percentage of people have the internet, and of those the majority use the internet only as amplifier for things that they were already doing.

Damien makes a point that shifts the discussion: Rather than saying that it has the potential to be different, can’t we say that the potential itself is what is different? This leads us to a discussion of the significance of potential:

JP: One way to look at it is that there’s potential in the sense that there’s 5 billion people still don’t have the internet, and therefore there’s still a lot of potential changes for the web to make.

DW: There’s a different sort of potential, one which is built into the technology itself, which makes the web different.
This is the sort of potential that could be curtailed in the manner discussed by Zittrain.

JP: The rate of change regarding the way the internet is being used may itself be a difference.

Conor: If the internet can’t be a 10, because it can be controlled by the state or other institutions, then can anything really be a 10?

Mariel: A lot of the internet’s potential cannot be reached, or at least it can’t be taken for granted that it will be. Too many people are still so far from having access to it.

Tom: Look at microfiche- people thought that was going to change the world, but it never did. There’s no reason to believe that the hyperbole surrounding the internet will come true. It may just be human nature to see a greater potential in technology than will ever be realized.
Counter-argument: But if internet technology is truly generative, then the microfiche analogy doesn’t hold up. This would give the internet a unique sort of potential.

Kevin takes up JP’s point regarding the rate of change on the web as a difference: The rate of change has become so fast that institutions cannot keep up. The first actors are thus able to write the rules in a way that first actors in television and radio could not.

Sean: Can we separate a discussion of the web difference from the PC? Is the PC a limiting factor?

Justin: What about open source? In some sense this is an amplifier of cooperation that’s already been going on, but it still seems qualitatively different.

DW thinks that one’s answer to the web difference question may be a self-fulfilling prophecy: Believing that the web is different may lead to good political and legal effects, while believing otherwise will lead to bad (constraining?) effects. If you are a pessimist, then you miss opportunities to use the potential of the internet. Being an optimist will lead to maximization of the internet’s potential.

Doug: But it’s dangerous to be an optimist to the extent that you dismiss potential problems and regulations which may limit the internet.

A new vote was taken on the extent of the web difference. Potential is to be considered in this new vote, qualified by how likely people think that potential is to be realized. The new total was 8.4.

JP sought some closing comments by posing the question, What does this discussion mean for laws and regulations?

One position: Regulation of the internet is different in degree, rather than in kind from other sorts of regulation.

Pushback: Regulation on the internet is harder to enforce because actions are more diffuse.

Alternately, identifying wrongdoers may be easier on the internet because all of the evidence is available for those with the resources and will to find them. Can these two points be reconciled?

The class concludes. JP and DW exit the room to thunderous applause.

Internet to reach full capacity soon?


Even as we are discussing about potential of the web and how revolutionary a medium it is, AT&T has cautioned that the present architecture may be inadequate by 2010. The existing system may not be able to catch up with the rate of change.

And there’s an article showing how the use of web is growing in other parts of the world. Raises questions on whether the net will take on a new complexion in the future even as countries like China are about to overtake US in web usage. Much depends on who (people, government?) will play a major role in shaping the web architecture and whether the end-to-end structure will be maintained.

“Why Democrats Rule the Web”


As a follow-up to the politics discussion from last week, here is article from TIME stating that McCain is behind the curve on the web…
Why Democrats Rule The Web

Also, here is an old article (from last summer) about Obama’s web campaign.

If the democrats truly rule the web, will that make a difference in the elections?

Online Gaming Nothing New


At least in the context of web-enabled gaming, one expert doesn’t think it’s any different from what came before. Regarding the roll-out of Sony Playstation’s online gaming service, the Reuters analyst said “I don’t get the impression that this is something drastically new. There may be something hidden that is amazing, but I can’t spot it at the moment.”