April 27, 2007

Friday at MiT5

by Nick Montfort · , 6:35 pm

Here are a few brief snippets from Media in Transition 5 today. My fellow panelist Jill Walker blogged about the introduction, so, on to the first session…

In “Folk Cultures and Digital Cultures,” Thomas Pettitt, Lewis Hyde, and S. Craig Watkins took us from the appropriative practices of Shakespeare, through the (potential) piracy and refusal to patent of Benjamin Franklin, and the plundering and reworking of musical history done by DJ Kool Herc and others.

On the Second Life panel, we got a walkthrough of the Knowledge Gates from Mary Hopper; a discussion of how even copybots get copied and spoofed, by Burcu Bakioglu; Brent Britton’s discussion of to what extent Second Life needs a second law and to what extent existing law reaches there; and how much (and why) fashion matters, as explained Jeffrey Bardzell.

In the evening plenary session, moderator Thomas W. Malone introduced the idea of collective intelligence and then introduced Trebor Scholz, who talked about work and play in social media systems and the issues of property and ownership. Then, one of the Lindens, Cory Ondrejka, spoke about Second Life’s virtual geographic area, its relationship to the more solo Web, and user protests on the platform. Mizuko Ito introduced “hypersociality,” the process of expression through abundant media that range from Pokemon and Tamagotchi through YouTube, “the media mix.”

There’s a great group here and, while the schedule is really full and is also stacked with concurrent sessions, MiT5 is nevertheless turning out to be a great place to make connections, see distant colleagues once again, and have conversations outside the official sessions. If this hint of the conference interests you, read on through to the abstracts and many full papers that are online.

3 Responses to “Friday at MiT5”


  1. jill/txt » introduction to MiT5 Says:

    [...] ttering from the Second Life session, where I am not, and Jean Burgess is on twitter too. [Nick Montfort wrote about the rest of this plenary over at GrandTextAuto, as has Axel [...]

  2. scott Says:

    It’s been a very interesting conference so far. A few notes on those first couple of talks:

    Thomas Pettit’s talk — during his time, a contemporary of Shakespeare, Robert Greene, referred to him as “an upstart crow beautifying himself with our feathers.” Many felt that Shakespeare was simply a hack recycling old plots and mashing together familiar plots for the groundlings, a kind of Stephen King figure in Elizabethan England. Pettit’s paper centered on the idea of “the Gutenberg parentheses” — the period in which the idea of the author and of proprietary ownership of the text were predominant. His thesis is that different cultures, different genres, entered this parentheses at different times, and that Shakepeare’s time was just pre-parentheses for plays. In Renaissance England, plays were often written for hire by committees of hacks and university wits. The players owned the play thereafter, and the value resided in the performances, not in the text. Playwrights sold the texts, the players owned the site of cultural value. Playwrights often mashed, mended, patched together plays. Pettit thinks we’re currently entering the end of the parentheses, returning, in terms of contemporary textuality, to pre-parentheses values. In response to a comment on authorship, Pettit theorized that the valuing of the author happened twice — first in the classical age, in order to canonize particular works — ie attributing works to “Homer” — and again in the Gutenberg era — more or less as a way to create an economic relationship. We are now experiencing “the freedom of the breakdown of the system.”

    Hyde’s talk was on Benjamin Franklin. Franklin both advocated patents, encouraging an English friend to immigrate to America and promising him a 7-year exclusive import license on a particular optic device, and simultaneously piracy — as the friend had not himself actually developed the device. Early patent law did not actually reward innovators who designed inventions, but the people who brought them forth to the public.

  3. Grand Text Auto » Another Media in Transition Conference is in Store Says:

    [...] next Media in Transition conference (see reports from the last one: 1 2) will focus on storage and transmission – a hot topic in digital media that continues to heat up. [...]

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