Friday, January 30, 2009

The Manifesto of Independence


A spectre is haunting Music -- the spectre of Digital. All the powers of old Music have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: RIAA and Universal, BPI and EMI, MCPS-PRS alliance and MediaDefender.

Where is the Artist in opposition who has not been decried as encouraging thievery by its opponents in power? Where is the musician that has not hurled back the branding reproach of pirate, against the more advanced streaming media sites, as well as against P2P networks?

Two things result from this fact:
I. Digital is already acknowledged by all Music powers to be itself a power.
II. It is high time that Free Thinkers should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the spectre of Digital with a Declaration for the Artists themselves.

To this end, Free Thinkers of various nationalities have assembled in CyperSpace and sketched the following Declaration, to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages.

The Declaration of Independence of Music

When in the Course of human creativity, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the economic bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of Music, the separate and equal rights to which Justice and Moral Authority entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Music is created equal, that it is endowed by its Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Reproduction, Distribution and the right to Perform. --That to secure these rights, Copyright is instituted among People, deriving its just powers from the consent of the Creator, --That whenever any Form of Commerce becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Copyright, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Prosperity and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Copyright long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that people are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Laws, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Artists and their audience; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Copyright. The history of the present King of Music [RIAA] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over Music. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

They have persecuted through the courts people guilty of no other crime than the enjoyment of music.

They have treated the Internet with contempt.

They have misused and abused the power of authority by representing their own interests as if they were those of the Creators.

They have attempted to impose their will by nefarious means across national borders so as to bring into submission all people of the Internet.

They have made people afraid to listen to music on the greatest medium of modern times by denying their right to privacy.

They have prevented the free association of music, technology and people by the use of DRM.

They have misrepresented their interests by claiming that they invest in the development of new music whereas in truth their interests are best served by protecting and exploiting those rights which they already own.

They have colluded with broadcasters to feed the audience bland and unhealthy fare whilst themselves getting fat and lazy on the proceeds of their misdeeds.

They have knowingly confused and conflated in the minds of both Artists and the public the seperate and distinct notions of price and value, such that as music's money price grows its true value declines.

They have, and continue to, put stars in the eyes of our young, fostered their belief in a perverted cause which fetishises money and fame, and then cast them aside empty and desolate whilst continuing to profit from their demise even after death.

They have taken Music, which should be freely shared amongst people to grant them understanding, beauty and truth, and chained it to their own financial destinies constraining the evolution of Music and denying to the people what was freely given.

They make profane, what is sacred.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. An Institution whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of Music.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to the music business. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legal teams to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement in cyberland. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united independent music artists, in General Cyberspace, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of Music, solemnly publish and declare, That we are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent Artists; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the RIAA, and that all political connection between them and the Old Music Industry, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent Artists, they have full Power to write Songs, play Music, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent Artists may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Please express your support for the Declaration by releasing your music so it can be freely shared.

The Manifesto of the Communist Party was written by Karl Marx and Frederik Engels in 1848.

The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Digital Evolution: Microblogging (Part One)

Some things can be difficult to understand without having experience of them. Microblogging is very much like that.

This sounds like a convient argument for evangelists of microblogging, which it is. But it's also true. If you believe me, you can go here to set up your Twitter account, now.

Postcard, telegram, teleprinter, sms, tweet; short-form messaging combines meaning and rhythm. It can project a powerful pulse of data.

For me, running a microblog is like sending a series of text messages on my phone; just responding to a text from a friend saying 'what you doing?'. To give microblogging a proper go, my feeling was that I should tweet at least once a day. Initially, I thought it would be a chore. But it hasn't turned out like that.

The evolution of short-form message technology means I can send as many messages, as I like; and each message could be read by millions of people.

Every time I look at my Twitter home page I can see 20 messages. I tweet several times a day to my hundred or so followers. Many of them I acquired by spending a day or two choosing people to follow; after I followed them, they followed me back. People say the maximum number of social relations one person can maintain is 150 - the 'Dunbar' number. President Barack Obama is the number one twitterer. He has 165 414 followers, and he follows 168 067. Kevin Rose, the number two twitterer, has 88 202 followers but he only follows 140.

Technology increases the volume of information available to us. This creates problems. But it also creates solutions.

It's a little early in the day for me to say how many social relations I can maintain through microblogging. I reckon 150 is low, though. Some people, internet marketers in particular, follow thousands. To help them exceed the Dunbar number (so named after anthropologist Robin Dunbar who proposed the limit), many software tools are offered to assist in managing a large following. But even so, a thousand twitterers could very easily produce in excess of 5K tweets on an average day; that's a lot of messages.

Time is a limited resource for all. Some messages are read, some are not. But every message we see is assimilated by our 'ambient awareness'.

I don't read my Twitter home page, I scan it. I read only those tweets of interest to me at that moment. But I do feel like I get a sense of those people I follow. By choosing tweets to read, I'm still noticing the ones I've chosen not to read. Plus, its not just the content that tells me about you, the rhythm of delivery is important too. Most of us do similar things regularly through the day. If you don't, then we notice. Of course my *ambient awareness* isn't infallible. But if I miss something important about you, or about something that's happening, I rely on other's awarness. Important news gets re-tweeted and commented upon.

Its difficult to imagine what it would be like to *know* a thousand people. *Know*, so that what happens to them, and how they feel, affects us.

Have you had the debate about whether an 'online' friend is a 'real' friend? It seems to bug people. Of course, on Twitter you follow people, rather than 'friend' them. Generally, you don't know them, before you follow them. Say you liked flying kites. You could search Twitter for all the people who mention 'kites' in their tweets, and then work your way through the list, following anyone you like. You get to *know* them from there, through their microblog and online presence. You can easily, and without much social awkwardness, send them a public @username message. Its more akin to a smile, nod, or 'Good Morning' in normal social discourse, than it is to one to one conversation.

The biggest barrier to the uptake of microblogging is our own fear of public self-disclosure.

People worry about privacy. They worry about giving away too much of themselves, and making themselves vulnerable. I worried. Not about online scammers or any other of the internet bogeymen, though. But about the uncomfortable feeling of putting myself out there; where I could be judged. It felt odd. Anyone can read my tweets, anyone can send me a tweet @jonone100. Anyone, from anywhere, could tweet any words, to me. But most frightening of all. Taking the first steps to running a public microblog I was making myself vulnerable to the thing guaranteed to upset me most - silence.

Mutual self-disclosure is the way we get to know people. It has never been seen on this scale, before. It might change things.

We take the risk of rejection each time we connect with one another. But if neither of 'us' takes the risk, there will be no 'us'. Following rather than friending, and the public nature of the @messages, help to minimise the fear of rejection. That enables people to take more risks, and combined with the technology's huge capacity, to make more connections with more people. Microblogging increases the potential for empathy and understanding between us.

As the microblogging ritual embeds into our daily lives, it's mundane nature belies its power for self revelation.

Framing my thoughts, feelings and emotions into 140 characters, isn't just about dumping my angst into the public sphere. Although, giving a voice to frustration can sometimes be a good thing. The act of microblogging forces me to express myself. This is a revelation to my followers - and to me. A Muslim work colleague once explained to me how giving thanks to Allah five times a day, gave meaning to his life. I liked him and I was a little envious of the meaning that this ritual act gave to him, each day. I'm not saying Twitter is like religion (Tweligion) - I wouldn't be here if it was. But it does take you outside yourself. Each day, in small steps, microblogging creates my own history. It gives me context.

Perhaps I get a little carried away with possibilities. I haven't actually got out and met any of my Twitter people, yet. That, I guess, will be the next step. But I've been around long enough (on the internet) to know that behind every message, behind each and every word, there is a person. I always try to remember that.

This technology takes power from the distances that divide us, and uses it to amplify the resonance between us.

It offers us emancipation from isolation.

That's what I think about it right now. Here's what someone else says:

Laura Fitton, the social-media consultant, argues that her constant status updating has made her “a happier person, a calmer person” because the process of, say, describing a horrid morning at work forces her to look at it objectively. “It drags you out of your own head,” she added. In an age of awareness, perhaps the person you see most clearly is yourself.

The Brave new World of Digital Intimacy - Clive Thompson
(New York Times - 7th September 2008)
You can follow Clive on Twitter @pomeranian99
Here's a link to the entire article.