Dec 13, 2010

Creating order out of chaos: Managing knowledge in a globalized “Ba”

American writer and futurist Alvin Toffler (1928- ) once said knowledge is the most democratic source of power. I’d like to start my review of this course from Toffler’s words. Undoubtedly, we human have been aware of the incomparable power of knowledge and intelligence since a long time ago: from ancient philosophers to scientific revolution pioneers to modernists and then postmodernists, people created varied phrases conveying the same meaning, “knowledge is power” (some of us might have read similar words even in the Bible). For me, knowledge turns into power only when it’s applied into practice. Here is an story about Albert Einstein and the Atomic Bomb, we can see how powerful knowledge is when it is being used in certain fields. And there is something else on my mind when I dive into the whole knowledge management theories and practices, I’m trying to jump out of the circle and check the knowledge-human-power issue in a more objective and macroscopic manner. From my perspective, just like the any other power substance in the world, knowledge, the so-called “most democratic (I would like to add the word “friendly” here) source of power,” requires a highly systematic and effective mechanism in its control and uses, that is why we need to devote our time and energy in exploring knowledge management – as a matter of fact, managing knowledge is also a crucial knowledge and sometimes it’s even more important than the knowledge itself, especially in this information overload era.

We can’t analyze this knowledge-human-power issue without re-discussing the definition of “Ba.” Please allow me to show off my very poor third language knowledge a little bit, this word “Ba” is written as “場” in Japanese, means location, field, or market. In KM context, it is defined as the shared context for knowledge creation . At present and in the predictable future, the Ba, in which knowledge creation carries out its SECI process (Socialization, Externalization, Combination, and Internalization), is becoming increasingly globalized. This trend is part of the macro process of globalization in which economies, cultures, societies etc. are integrated through a global network . A globalized Ba, connect with what we discussed in Dr. Levy’s last lecture, is the foundation of Dr. Levy’s prediction of the future knowledge management revolution, which will be able to realize a semantic computing/addressing system(s) that allows human to create and manage knowledge in a universally shared Ba.

I also want to share some of my viewpoints concerning this “KM revolution.” Generally I agree with Dr. Levy’s prediction of the development direction for KM tools and measures of our human society in the coming generations, and this vision is definitely exciting and promising. In the meanwhile, one can feel a strong sense of cosmopolitanism in this tendency and it obviously pushes the trend of globalization onto a new level (Say, if we are able to create and share knowledge exceeding the boundaries of language, culture, and ethnic groups, what a super species we human will be…). My concern here is the degree of participation (or degree of acceptance) of this universally shared semantic network and its implications on human societies.

Yes knowledge is the most democratic source of power, so is useful information, but maybe they are not as democratic as we assumed. Let’s talk about the social network service tycoon Facebook. As statistics indicates, there are more than 500 million active users of Facebook today who in sum spend over 700 billion minutes per month on it . It’s not difficult to calculate that the users of Facebook have amounted to around 8% of the earth’s population within the past 6 years since its foundation, which is undoubtedly an amazing growth. But on the other hand it also means that there are 92% of the people on earth who are not using Facebook. And it is reasonable to predict that it will take way more than six years for Facebook to obtain another 500 million active users around the world. The reason is simple: there are a lot of factors in real world setting up invisible boundaries to the open access of information and knowledge, for instance, lack of information communication infrastructure, lack of education to use the tools, or too much censorship from the government. Here is the question: is it possible to realize a KM network which connects all human together and functions as a super-virtual-world above the real present world? Just like a cosmopolitan online community?

Our life is so long and so short and that makes us eager to know what the future will be like. I have a video here depicting the future living with the uses of technology about 50 years later, really exicting. So supposedly, at some point in future, a vast majority of the people in the world will possess the knowledge and infrastructure and time and willingness to participate in an universal knowledge creation and exchange system (a cosmopolitan online community), I’m afraid two things will happen before that: 1. the dominant capitalist economic system will no longer exist and global economy is running in a totally new model; 2. there will not be enough energy to fuel the world since every country is so developed. The energy crisis is one problem, not to mention the implications on philosophy, culture, education, political systems and ideologies all over the world. Thus my viewpoint over this issue is, a giant semantic network/system will occur in future and it may cover say 30% to 40% of the human beings on the earth, which will be revolutionary enough, but not a majority (say 90% or more) of the people. I never doubt that computing technologies and human wisdoms will realize a knowledge creating and sharing platform with no boundaries and limitations, but the ones who have access to it will always be a certain group of people compared to the whole human species in world.

We are in the center of a quiet knowledge revolution, and what we are thriving to accomplish is to create orders out of the overwhelming chaos in a highly globalized Ba. I would like to call this trend the globalization of knowledge management – as the personal knowledge management and organizational knowledge management axis and strategies are increasingly relying on the feature of globalization. Thanks to technology, we can have the chance to embrace and explore the world on a level that our predecessors have never dreamt about. On the other hand, in the PKM scenario, it sometimes occurs to me that today’s PKM is more like a game of “unbearable lightness” – the way we are dealing with the knowledge chaos (via the tools of social media and digital technology and so forth) seems always fall behind the pace of the increase of knowledge and information, and we are kind of stuck in the process of receiving, filtering, gathering and accepting new stuff rather than reflecting and thinking about them. In other words, we are struggling to create orders in the oceans of chaotic data, but not everyone in this KM storm can survive and take advantage of it.

Little, S. & Ray, T. (2005). Managing Knowledge: An Essential Reader. SAGE Publications. p. 25
Little, S. & Ray, T. (2005). Managing Knowledge: An Essential Reader. SAGE Publications. p. 26
Bhagwati, J. (2004). In Defense of Globalization. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Oct 24, 2010

Media Convergence, Audience Divergence

Media Convergence, Audience Divergence – Some of my reflections on the book Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide by Henry Jenkins (2006)

Jing Ke
Oct, 2010
Course Title: Knowledge Management

Content Summary of the Book
In short, the book Convergence Culture tackles with cultural changes and social dynamics emerged from the use of new media. As the author delineates in the introduction, this book is about the relationship between three concepts – media convergence, participatory culture, and collective intelligence (p. 2). The word “convergence” in the context of this book means: 1). the flow of content across multiple media platforms; 2). the cooperation between multiple media industries; and 3). the migratory behaviour of media audiences today. According to Jenkins, in the process of convergence, the circulation of media content across different media systems, even different nations and social systems, depends heavily on consumers’ active participation.
As Jenkins points out, the convergence also represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content. In contrast to traditional media ecosystem where the producer and the consumer are playing separate roles and staying on different levels in information communication process, the relationship between media producers and media consumers is changing dramatically in the transformation of digitization: though in varied degrees, they both become interactive participants in media activities, alone with the phenomenon is the fluid power dynamics – this backbones what the author called participatory culture.
One outcome of this participatory media behaviour is the collective consumption of media products, and the emergence of collective intelligence, which is derived from the media consumers’ creative and collaborative interactions with the media and can be seen as an alternative source of media power. With this being said, Jenkins explores in this book how collective meaning-making within popular culture is starting to “change the way religion, education, law, politics, advertising, and even military operate” (p. 4) in contemporary world with a couple of cases in each chapter.
This book also discusses the relationship between technology and human mind in terms of media convergence. Jenkins holds that although technological innovations in the area of information communication have huge implications in our social structure and social behaviour and can always bring together multiple media functions in one device, the main boost of convergence, however, largely lies in the human mind, more specifically, in the brains of individual consumers and their social interactions with others. In other words, Jenkins in this book highlights the cultural and social meanings of convergence rather than simply physical means of media and information communication.
Abstract of each chapter:
Chapter 1 of this book examines the phenomenon of Survivor spoilers in the consumption activities of reality television. This group of consumers is read as a vivid example of a knowledge community whose members work together to forge new knowledge and thus bring about collective intelligence. As a representative of contemporary media consumption, their knowledge becomes an increasingly noticeable power in the age of media convergence.
Chapter 2 focuses on another well-known reality television in the US: American Idol and explores how reality television is being shaped by “affective economics”, which encourages companies to blur the line between entertainment content and brand messages and invite the audience into the brand community. The ideal consumers are supposed to be active, emotionally engaged, and socially networked, thus they can carry out more active consumption as well as protect the brand integrity.
Chapter 3 examines The Matrix franchise as an example of transmedia storytelling emerged in response to media convergence. It concludes that relying on the active participation of knowledge communities, transmedia storytelling has become an indispensible motivator in the commercial success of fictional movies and similar media product.
Chapter 4 is about fan culture, which I personally understand as a subfield of participatory culture. It deals with Star War fan filmmakers and gamers and explains how they satisfy their own fantasies and desires by actively reshaping the scenarios and plots of the films.
Chapter 5 goes further into the fan culture and probes into the politics of participation in the realm of participatory culture. It represents the struggles between fan writing and media producers over the intellectual property issue and the struggles between conservative and liberal Christians over their attitudes on media convergence, globalization, and traditional authority as well as the influences on children’s education. In general, the author holds a positive viewpoint on those issues and stand on the side of participation.
Chapter 6 turns from popular culture to public culture and argues that the lines between political culture and popular culture have blurred in new media era. Giving the example of 2004 American presidential campaign, Jenkins suggests that since citizens today are more engaged in popular culture than political discourse, it is popular culture that should take the responsibility to educate the public about political importance and to make democracy more participatory. On the other hand, with the participation of citizens in the campaign activities, the candidates and parties are losing some control over this political process.
In conclusion, this is a book about convergence, collective intelligence, and participation in new media era. Jenkins tries to give us a bird’s-eye view on how convergence and participation is changing the culture, politics and economy of our society. This process can be summarized in his own words, “convergence culture represents a shift in the ways we think about our relations to media, and we are making that shift first through our relations with popular culture, but the skills we acquired through play may have implications for how we learn, work, participate in the political process, and connect with other people in the world.” (p. 23)

Personal Commentary
Written in 2006, Jenkins’s book was, to a large extent, prospective. His arguments and observations on convergence media and participatory culture turned out to be evidentially appropriate when we examine the societies in the context of developed countries today. However, we have to understand that one can hardly give an all-around portrait on how media convergence changes our society in the era of digital revolution in one single book, and human culture is something that has the capacity to introspect, evolve, and regenerate from time to time. With that being said, I personally hold the viewpoint that Jenkins in this book emphasized too much on the convergence side of media and society but overlooked the divergence side of this issue.
Doubtlessly, convergence is the trend of today’s world: we are talking about globalization and integration in every context of human society; we are building up organizations like EU and APEC from continent to continent; and we are witnessing a growing number of tycoons gaining significant control over the media from which we receive information. The tide of convergence has greatly influenced and reshaped our society in terms of media industry, social institution, economy, culture, communication technology and so forth, pushing them going on the track of convergence as well.
However, here I’d like to turn to the other side and question what the driving forces of this media convergence are. Jenkins in this book pointed out clearly that it is the innovation of technology (i.e. digitalization and Internet) and the human nature (we use media as natural choices) that mainly motivated the trend of convergence. Jenkins was right, definitely, but I’d like to highlight something he also discussed in the book: the divergence of audience, which is also, from my perspective, a major motivation which shifts the model of media communication from mass communication to segmented communication and finally personalized communication in the past decades.
In this book, Jenkins had actually mentioned various examples on audience divergence but didn’t go much further into this discourse. To name a few, the Survivor spoilers and the grassroots fan communities, which are both small groups of audience consuming and producing media product according to their own taste and favour. These groups are just a small part of the big picture of audience segmentation in digitalized era, and in my opinion, the convergence of media platforms, technologies and even the whole media industries is an essential way to maintain audience’s attention in the situation that they have in fact been largely diversified. By means of media convergence, today’s audiences, especially young audiences, are able to keep participating in media consumption via multiple platforms and channels, and in return, they contribute their knowledge and intelligence into the media content production, making the participatory culture possible.
As it’s been illustrated in both the cases of Survivor and American Idol, in today’s media context, relations between media producers and consumers are breaking down as consumers are seeking to participate in the generating of media product – this reminds me the term “prosumer”, which emerged in early 1980s and means the fusion of producer and consumer (or the professional and the consumer). We are living in a commercialized era - the media system is typically commercialized. Thus in my opinion, the surge of “prosumer” in the field of media practice is also largely motivated by the phenomenon of audience divergence, more accurately, by media group’s desire to maximize profit through the media product, by-product and advertising industry. Since in the context of digitization, the only way for media groups to survive and keep a profitable production is to fulfill the highly diversified audience’s taste, to which the best mean is to allow and encourage the audience to join in the production chain and realize personalized product.
Besides exploring the transition in consumer’s behaviour in media convergence and the implications of such transition, in this book Jenkins also points out the power shift yielded by the media convergence and cultural shift, which in my opinion concords with the postmodern way of thinking, say, typically, with Foucault’s statement on power/knowledge. The wide spread of computing technology and digitalized information communication witnessed the collapse of a centralized power and hegemony in our society. With this power collapse, mass production in society breaks into pieces, citizens gain more rights to speak in the political process, and segmented audiences all over the world are searching media product according to their own favour and in the way they feel most comfortable with.
To sum up, in my opinion, we can divide the outcome of digitization into two sides: the convergence side and the divergence side. Convergence is about ICTs, media industries, media product and other services they provide while divergence is about the audience, their needs and tastes, and the media content they are consuming and producing. They are like two sides of a coin; they co-exist and interact with each other in the context of digitization.
Besides that, Jenkins raised a question in his book which I feel worth our noticing: he questioned whether the changes brought about by convergence opened new opportunities for expression or expanded the power of big media. This question requires careful consideration and is kind of alarming. My answer is, though power shifts drastically, the changes are actually expanding the power of big media but this expansion is disguised under the image of new opportunities for expression and decentralization of media power. – Anyway, time will tell to what direction we are going and whether it is a blessing or a curse.

Aug 12, 2010

Legal opinion of a fictional scenario

Jing Ke
August, 2010
Course Title: Law and the Challenges of New Media

[Review of the facts and arguments omitted]

This case is about copyright infringement on a video sharing website which has a world-wide influence. Canada’s Copyright Act has clearly affirmed that “copyright” covers “the sole right […] to communicate the work to the public by telecommunication […] and to authorize any such acts.” The term “telecommunication” is defined as “any transmission of signs, signals, writing, images or sounds or intelligence of any nature by wire, radio, visual, optical or other electromagnetic system.” It is undeniably the fact that, during 2005 to 2007, before YouTube and Google implemented a filtering system and other content protection measures, YouTube users commonly uploaded unauthorized clips of TV shows and movies to the website. The uploading of unauthorized materials by YouTube users is a communication falls within the declaration of Copyright Act, and as the copyright owner of those clips, BEC’s right and interest has been infringed. The question being discussed in this legal opinion is: Should Google and its YouTube property be responsible and to what extent they are responsible for the act of copyright infringement in this case? Based on the arguments uttered by BEC and Google, there are two sub-questions to be interpreted:

1. Does Google or YouTube has the validity of being exempted from the Copyright Act?
2. Is YouTube “looking the other way” when clips from BEC’s movie and TV productions were once plentiful on YouTube website?

Based on the facts of this case and the existing legal grounds, I personally hold the opinion that Google and its YouTube property is responsible for the act of copyright infringement on YouTube website in this case. As a major video-sharing website, YouTube functions more than an innocent third-party intermediary and thus cannot be protected from being held responsible for copyright infringement committed by its users. As to the second sub-question, it is impractical to have a clear-cut evaluation over the subjective inclinations of YouTube when infringing materials burst. However, it is not the aim of this case to determine whether or not YouTube was “looking the other way” when infringement happened, and the answer of this question does not have a direct affect on the judgment of this case.

There is no doubt that the expansion of Internet in contemporary society has created serious obstacles to the protection of copyright, since current communication technology (i.e. Internet based file sharing such as P2P technology) makes it possible to exchange and transfer copyright materials worldwide among large number of people even in a few seconds. Facing the situation, current legal system is struggling to follow the pace of technology. The Theberge case [2002] and CCH v. Law Society case [2004] clearly manifest that the Supreme Court of Canada has described the Copyright Act as providing “a balance between promoting the public interest in the encouragement and dissemination of works of art and intellect and obtaining a just reward for the creator (or, more accurately, to prevent someone other than the copyright owner from appropriating whatever benefits may be generated)”. As Sharlow J.A. writes for the SOCAN v. CAIP case [2004]:

The capacity of the Internet to disseminate works of the art and intellect is one of the great innovations of the information age. Its use should be facilitated rather than discouraged, but this should not be done unfairly at the expense of those who created the works of arts and intellect in the first place.

Section 2.4(1)(b) of the Copyright Act provides that participants in a telecommunication who only provide “the means of telecommunication necessary” are deemed not to be communicators. The “means” include all software connection equipment, connectivity services, hosting and other facilities and service without which communication could not occur. Such distinction between content supplier or obtainer of the Internet and the infrastructure of the Internet reveals the Parliament’s encouragement of the use of new communication technology in balance of the protection over copyright owners. In SOCAN v. CAIP case, Internet service providers such as Bell Canada are exempted from the copyright liability because they limit themselves to a conduit and part of the content neutral infrastructure of the Internet, thus they fall within the protection of Section 2.4(1)(b) of the Copyright Act.

However, facts are different in this case. Google, more specifically, its YouTube website, is a video-sharing website based on Adobe Flash Video technology and on which users can upload, share, and view videos worldwide. Though it provides a “platform” to share all kinds of videos, the role it plays in the telecommunication activity is different from that of the ISPs such as Bell Canada. From my perspective, YouTube functions like an entity of new media on the Internet more than merely a conduit or infrastructure. Here a simple example, suppose a school boy has used Bell Canada’s service to connect to the YouTube host server and successfully watched unauthorized three seasons of The Big Bang Theory on YouTube website, it is obviously improper to equalize the role Bell Canada and YouTube play here. Bell Canada indeed provides the physical means of communication, while YouTube is providing the videos directly and obtains profit from such activity as a commercial website.

Furthermore, as an influential medium based on Internet communication, YouTube has a responsibility to support the legal and moral system of our society and to prevent content like violence, racism, terrorism, genocide and the like as well as piracy content exist on the website. In this case, YouTube, together with the video uploader, can be viewed as a “joint content provider”. In other words, both YouTube and its users who upload the copyright infringing videos are participants in the infringement act, their responsibility in this process cannot be separated, and YouTube should be accused because it provides the platform for the infringement act and appropriates large benefits from the pirate clips.
Some would argue that YouTube can also be exempted from infringement if it proves the service it provides falls within the fair dealing defence. Section 29 of the Copyright Act provides that “Fair dealing for the purpose of research or private study does not infringe copyright.” However, facts in this case do not support the defence of fair dealing exception either. The clips of TV shows and movies are cultural product and mainly serve for the purpose of entertainment, also, BEC produce and market them in pursuit of commercial profitability. The unauthorized clips existed on YouTube website also brought YouTube huge benefits from advertising and so forth. Lastly, the dissemination of videos on YouTube website is a communication to the public. Accordingly, YouTube cannot prove its dealings with these clips are fair under s.29 of the Copyright Act.

Another argument between BEC and Google is whether or not YouTube was “looking the other way” when infringing materials were once plentiful on the website. As I stated, it is difficult to have a clear-cut evaluation over the subjective inclinations of YouTube in this case. The willful blindness of YouTube seems a reasonable deduction since every commercial organization inclines to maximize its profit, but the argument from Google is also powerful and convincing. As a matter of fact, base on present state of technology and the huge number of videos uploaded to YouTube every day, it is impractical to filter and supervise all the video content and eliminate the existence of copyright infringing materials. However, as a principle of law, a reasonable explanation of wrong-doing does not equal to an exception from the punishment. In this case, YouTube participates in the violation of Copyright Act and BEC has suffered from the economic loss, it is not determinate for the result of the case to figure out if YouTube has the intention on the infringement act or not.

In addition, the judgment of this case is not only about copyright infringement of one website, it also has some implications on the issue of proper behavior and business ethics of today’s new media. Personally speaking, our present legal system has already compromised and given enough, if not sufficient, space to the growth and uses of new technology, such as the Internet. However, there has to be a legal and moral bottom line lies in the uses. If in this case YouTube is exempted from copyright liability in its video-sharing services, it is reasonably predictable that numerous websites which provide similar services will take advantage of this judgment and expand their copyright infringing services. This goes against the “balance” Copyright Act strikes to keep and also largely disturbs existing market order. The social influence and future implications have to be considered.

Conclusively, given the facts, the legal grounds and the possible social influences, I hold the opinion that Google and its YouTube property is a participant in the copyright infringement alleged by BEC. The dealings of YouTube in this case neither falls within the protection of Section 2.4(1)(b) nor falls within Section 29 of the Copyright Act of Canada and the intention of YouTube regarding whether or not it allows or encourages the video publishing is unnecessary to identify. BEC is going to win the case.