Latest read: The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

Tim Wu’s second book The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires is wonderful examination how American information empires were established and stifled innovation at the same time. This is my second book by Wu following his brilliant Who Controls the Internet.
The Master SwitchWu identifies long business cycles surrounding the birth of information systems. While they begin open over time they were consolidated and driven by the market to become closed.

We displays how they become open again following amazing innovations force a business change in order to survive in the new marketplace.

The Master Switch opens with the birth of the Bell AT&T telephone monopoly. This is a facinating story when held against the garage startups of Apple and Google.

There is an amazing look at how countries and cultures also view information empires differently. The case for Wu is the capitalist, independent market approach to radio vs the UK’s BBC dominated by the royal family.

The Master Switch reveals how four key markets actually hold government infrastructure: telecommunications, banking, energy and transportation. These four and their capitalist owners for generations established control over any citizen’s attempt at challenging their monopolies. The lesson Wu establishes is corporate control by closed technologies. Yet one cannot help but understand they magically protected the country from the devastating affects of revolution leading up to and more importantly the horrific aftermath of World War I that forever removed Paris as the hub for film entertainment.
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MDNA: sales vs. torrents

I simply burst out laughing reading the Detroit News‘ article regarding Madonna’s sharply falling record sales.  Her latest release MDNA debuted at #1 last week after selling 359,000 copies according to Nielsen SoundScan. Yet as the article indicated: Madonna set to make the wrong kind of chart history.  Clearly author Adam Graham (@grahamorama) has no idea how torrents have simply crushed the music industry.  If he does understand — it was not mentioned in his article.

Riddle me this: How does Nielsen, Billboard or any other entertainment resource accurately reflect the impact of torrents on sales?  Ah….they can’t. The fact that Nielsen/Billboard still lists “traditional chart history” tells me another analog business is choking to death on the globalized internet.

I have come to accept that illegal downloads are no different than drugs, ebooks, guns or music.  All are in heavy demand.  The only difference: ebooks and music use the internet. Supply and demand.  Nothing more.

Its been a long standing issue for me to see mainstream media really show how inept they are when it relates to the globalization of the internet.  So what exactly did Adam Graham miss?

If you really want to understand the way the world works…

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Latest read: The Wealth of Networks

I have been looking at The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom as a learning tool for social networks impacting society and found this a very deep read….like a college econ/sociology textbook.  Caught myself thinking I was actually back in school. This goes much deeper than Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies.

Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler has written a very comprehensive book to describe conflicts between analog and digital data creators in society and how internet based technologies are changing society and commerce.

It’s a good read but hard to grasp due to a focus on economics. Don’t be fooled the by title if your looking at computer networks….he has written it into the binding that ties his arguments together.  It is truly worth the read.

Benkler shares how technology has merged the professional and the consumer into a ‘prosumer’ due to low cost and high performing computers and robust networks have made distribution of information cheap enough that community is now empowered to drive change.

Take a look at how the internet has evolved.  The Akami to YouTube migration showed how multimedia has found a free, reliable distribution center.  When you also migrate 1st generation complex, large scale websites to new blogs and content management systems under the open source business model Benkler states that data is now a “non-rival” product that has democratized the digital workflow of data from brick and mortar to community, peer-developed content solutions.

Benkler suggests modern computing drives new, strong and deep collaboration that can have a large impact on the global economy and society.  Benkler also suggests that as more consumers embrace technology collaboration, change to our culture is possible due to engines of free exchange (wikipedia, creative commons, open source and the blogosphere) could be more efficient (when shared) than current models that are restricted by copyright and patents because the ability to duplicate (or reproduce digital content) makes little or no impact on business.

Tags: The Wealth of Networks, Social Technologies, economy, society, Yochai Benkler, education, change, reading, trends

Latest read: Cognitive Surplus

Remember the last time you read a great story that you caught yourself peaking at the remaining unread pages because you didn’t want the story to end?  That’s how I can best describe Clay Shirky‘s book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.  His stories were coming to a close before I was ready to put the book down.

cognitive surplusThis is a great follow-up to his first book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.  Shirky is right on target with engaging, connecting stories to share his ideas about our new ability today to share collective knowledge.

Over 1 trillion hours of TV is watched per year. Imagine what can happen when people turn TV off and begin contributing.  And Shirky elegantly shares the shifting nature of professionals vs. amateurs in the age of the internet.  Pretty amazing reading.

I believe there have been attempts to move in the direction he outlines but a tipping point has been the mass availability of consumer devices at very affordable price points.  I recall Peter Gabriel‘s interview on the Today Show in 1988 talking about the efforts of Amnesty International and their attempts to videotape human rights abuses with large, analog cameras.
Today we know all to well from the murder of Oscar Grant that cameraphones have made their efforts real.

The Napster thing
IMHO Clay’s single oversight in the book surrounds Napster.  I think he was trying to communicate a holistic answer to why people (not just Gen Xers) were stealing music.  He called it sharing — it was stealing plain and simple.
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Latest read: Remix

Regrettably the Vancouver Olympics interrupted my reading pattern and its been a slow recovery.  I blogged about this book as soon as I learned it was in production back in August.  Yikes!

Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid EconomyI have been following Larry Lessig‘s work on copyright and our digital culture for some time, reading his positions online, previous books and keynote addresses at TED, Wired and last week to Italy’s Parliament among others.  His work on Creative Commons is a direct action from the creative limitations of copyright.

His latest book Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy is a very easy read for anyone who has also known his work.  He tells an important story about how new technology is clashing with old money.

Lessig illustrates how copyright’s old money (the big media empires) are clashing with today’s society and technology.  Old money is winning financial amounts here and there, but ultimately they are cutting their own throat as they can no longer control content.  Their motto: since we cannot have it our way anymore (due to the easy distribution of digital content) we are going to sue as many people as we can and take outrageous amounts of money along the way.

Lessig simply points out the two different camps: Read-only versus Read-Write.  Look at popular consumer phones and computers.  Today anyone can create a short video and post it to YouTube.  And by today’s “standard” in social networking — your somewhat expected to post multimedia content on Facebook and YouTube for example.

But post a 29 second video of a baby dancing to Prince’s Lets Go Crazy and Universal Music (they own Prince and his music) files a lawsuit claiming copyright violations.  Its old money trying to control society and Lessig points out it clearly no longer works.

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