July 31, 2008

OneWorldTV represents the real sense of Internet community and global collective collaboration. It is a nonprofit website that shows videos related to worldwide environmental and social concerns, ranging from global warming to cancer, made by journalists, filmmakers, NGOs, and people engaged with a social cause.

Users can deliver 30-minute-length videos and there is no limitation on types of format. Documentaries, short-length videos, and also machinima can be uploaded. When I checked the website there was a machinima report on Global Warming, presented by a Second Life avatar.

OneWorldTV is a part of, a portal that focuses attention on minorities, releasing independent media content. The portal is also an online community and it is sustained by NGOs, development-oriented news services, foundations, and research institutions.

Changes in market structure

July 27, 2008

I believe one of the most important and general conclusions I reached reading partially Media Economics and The Wealth of Networks, and The Long Tail is that the changes brought by Internet are not superficial, but economically very profound. The new information technologies are moving market structures to another direction, after decades being anchored in the same model.

I found the explanation of four different market structures in chapter seven of Media Economics interesting: perfect competition, monopolistic competition, oligopoly, and monopoly. This order is from the most to the least competitive markets. The digital revolution, studied in the three books, is causing a decrease in market share concentration in some economic sectors, especially those related to information. If media markets are becoming more competitive, media conglomerates are becoming less powerful.

The barriers to entry in these markets are decreasing, since almost everyone has access to the new production tools. Chris Anderson wrote in The Long Tail that the XXI century is about an economy of abundance, opposing the past century and the economy of scarcity. Another barrier to entry that has been getting weaker is copyrights. The ease of distribution of information enhanced by Internet makes knowledge more available and leads more people to produce and share knowledge. Yochai Benkler spends a great part of his book discussing the open-source benefits and using successful examples as an incentive, such as Linux and Wikipedia.

On another topic, I found an article published by The Economist regarding Anderson’s long tail and citations in academic papers. It summarized research concluding that as more as journals become available online fewer articles are being cited in the reference lists of the papers.

A tumblelog

July 22, 2008

I have been a blogger for at least five years and I had no idea that new categories for blogs, such as the Projectionist, existed. The Projectionist is a tumblelog and, according to the savvy Wikipedia, it is “a variation of a blog that favors short-form, mixed-media posts over the longer editorial posts frequently associated with blogging”.

The Projectionist integrates writing and streaming media in a webpage. The website has links to major streaming media sites, like YouTube and Vimeo, and it also combines audio files (I opened them using QuickTime). The text is very short, usually consisting of citations, and the blog offers an interesting experience to its readers/watchers/listeners. While users listen to music, they can also read the quotations and navigate to its content and other links.

I personally liked that, but I think the page lacks writing. Sometimes, because of the quantity of media and links, it is difficult to understand what the author meant to communicate with the set posted.

More about intelligence (human, this time)

July 22, 2008

After last Economics class, I became convinced that we will still discuss artificial and human intelligence many times during this master’s program and perhaps afterwards. Mike Culver, from Amazon Services, was our speaker yesterday and among other things, he talked about the Amazon Mechanical Turk.

The website gives “businesses and developers access to an on-demand, scalable workforce”, as its definition on the first page. Trivial tasks are published on the website (ex: to draw a sheep) and people get paid a small amount of money (ex: $0.02) to accomplish these little jobs. According to Culver, there are people making real money from it. Nowadays, there are at least 200 thousand registered workers from more than 100 countries. Culver also explained that these jobs are called Hits (Human Intelligence Tasks) because even though they are simple functions they can’t be done by computers.

I was amazed by the number of people working on Mechanical Turk and I became curious about which part of the world they are from. Culver only mentioned that users have different backgrounds and different motivations to participate. However, I believe it is more likely these jobs are an alternative income for the “turkers”, who work very hard in different tasks. It would be interesting to know if there is a relationship between the number of participants per country, technology penetration in these places, and income distribution.

Copyrights and the new information economy

July 20, 2008

Joan Cheverie1 differs with Yochai Benkler2 regarding the changes brought by digital technologies. Although both authors believe that computer networks provide cheap distribution of information, they disagree about the importance of copyrights and other intellectual property protection.

According to Cheverie, copyright systems have been balancing incentives and the public domain. Until now, they have been effective tools to allow authors to profit from their work, but the ease of distribution provided by the internet has made them less efficient. Cheverie believes that the copyright system will have to expand or publishers may have to create ‘digital fences’ to preserve the incentive to create. However, she thinks that digital fences will also enclose portions of the public domain. The author emphasizes that changes in technology or law may reduce the importance of libraries, which have been offering free education, research and content legally.

Conversely, Benkler points out that the majority of businesses don’t depend primarily on copyrights or patents to derive benefits from their research investments. The author shows that there are nonmarket sources (ex: government agencies) and market actors that don’t rely on intellectual property rights. He uses the newspaper industry as an example because their revenues from copyrights are very small compared to advertising and sales at newsstands or subscriptions.

Benkler also writes that there is a little support in economics for regulating information using intellectual property laws: “In the overall mix of our information, knowledge, and cultural production system, the total weight of these exclusivity-based market actors is surprisingly small relative to the combination of nonmarket sectors, government and nonprofit, and market-based actors whose business models do not depend on proprietary exclusion from their information outputs” (pp. 41). He cites other strategies to produce information that do not depend on patents or copyrights, such as “Scholarly Lawyers” who write articles to get clients (pp. 43). Benkler believes that the networked environment allows people to adopt cooperation strategies rather than accept proprietary claims.

1 Cheverie. J. (2002), “The Changing Economics of Information, Technological Development, and Copyright Protection”. Washington, D.C: The Journal of Academic Librarianship 28 (5), pages 325-331.

2 Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Artificial Intelligence?

July 15, 2008

I think the most interesting topic discussed last Monday was the development of artificial intelligence tools. T.A. McCann, our guest speaker, showed examples of online companies that have been improving programs that aggregate user information. He focused on a project that he is currently working on called Minebox.

Basically, Minebox will be a program to prioritize e-mails and contacts based on the frequency that users correspond, on the number of file’s exchange, and some other features. It will also provide information about the contacts and links to the contact’s personal pages (ex: LinkedIn).

In my opinion, this kind of new tech product is much more effective than the filters that are currently dominant. Filters are supposed to help users to find stuff online but many times end up confusing them. However, I am still not convinced that these programs are able to completely understand and predict personal behavior. I just believe they are excellent gadgets to organize and find information, which is a very-welcome feature in a world where people have been ceaselessly stocking, creating and divulging information.

Although we can publish almost our whole life online (Facebook, LinkedIn, e-mails, blogs, video sharing, and so on), we still have our offline existence, where the most important things actually happen.


July 14, 2008

Sevenload is a streaming media website that focus on video and photo sharing. I found two interesting features in this site: it offers content in five different languages and it allows users to present their own shows on the Sevenload channels.

Although YouTube also has videos in several languages, it is still uncommon to find other streaming media websites with this feature. Sevenload provides videos in English, Polish, German, Turkish and French. It is important to point out that these videos are not translated from a language to another- they are singular videos shown in only one language.

The other interesting characteristic is the “promotion of stars”. According to the website, there is no limit to upload content. Users can produce complete series or numerous episodes for Sevenload channels. There are distinct categories, such as Music, Comedy, Politics, and Sports, which producers can use to tag their work.