Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Save The Internet!

In a previous blog entry I discussed Net Neutrality the importance to protect our individuality and cultures within the World Wide Web. Perhaps, I didn’t explain it enough, perhaps at the time of writing my blog I didn’t understand it enough, but now I have come to the realization of the significance of this issue, and how a world of ‘Free Culture’ is vital to us, as individuals and as a whole society.

I came to this epiphany when I was just about to start this blog, and I realized I had to research an Activist project, and how would I do that? By using the internet. Then, I realized how was I able to write any of my other blog entries; all thanks to the internet. And how am I even ‘handing in’ these blogs? You guessed it, the internet. So if I need my comfy accessibility to the internet to make every aspect of my blogs possible, I realized the internet is definitely important. And that’s only the internet usage needed for my blogs; I use it in many other ways everyday, from keeping in touch with family and friends across the world, to reading daily news resources to know what is happening in the world and even just for fun by reading blogs on celebrity scandal and gossip.

Many of our daily online routines may not be possible for much longer. With the Net Neutrality debate, large telephone and cable companies such as AT&T and Time Warner have the option to be the ‘gatekeepers’ of the internet; being able to “discriminate” against websites that they may not agree with. If the internet is run under their wings, then they would be able to make the decisions of which websites could load at a fast or slow rate, and even not allow some websites to load at all. is a website is a huge advocate of Network Neutrality. The website offers a blog which displays up to date info and recent information on the Net Neutrality debate, the most recent being Barack Obama’s fight to keep the web neutral. The website also provides full definitions and background information on the debate, which allows any curious observers researching the subject to have all their questions answered. On the site, you are also able to research others who are apart of the coalition for net neutrality (including author Lawrence Lessig – author of “Free Culture”), and also able to donate to the cause. The best part is that the website actually includes all the press releases concerning net neutrality so it is very easy for anyone to keep up to date.

By researching and network neutrality I have come to realize that I take a strong stance in saving our internet. It is not only a huge part of my life, but it has become a large portion of our society. It is what makes us such a united nation, and it brings its users, us, closer as a knowledge community. Without our “free culture” access, we are taking a part of our society away that many people have worked so hard to get.

I leave this post with a quotation from someone I greatly respect, and who I respect even more now that I have discovered his strong stance on Network Neutrality.

“To seize this moment, we have to insure free and full exchange of information. And that starts with an open internet. …Because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out, and we all lose. The internet is perhaps the most open network in history, and we have to keep it that way.” – Barack H. Obama - Check it out. Make up your own mind.

Participatory Culture

To consider yourself involved in participatory culture, you need not be a master at a variety of media; you don’t even need to master every angle of one medium. There even no need to spend every last penny on your medium. The point is to enjoy your medium and want to be a part of it – to want to participate in its culture. Active participatory culture involves wanting to share this certain media with others, be it your own individual song or art piece, or one of your favourties.

The medium which I am actively participating in is blogging. This is my first year of blogging, but already I feel I have learned and contributed to the online knowledge community that myself and my peers have created. I am constantly keeping myself up to date on popular blogs such as, and I even have several blogs written by my classmates which I regularly check. I also frequently post entries on my own blog. Aside from the required class posts, I tend to post things I find interesting such as youtube videos or quotations or anything really; anything I really enjoy or feel needs to be seem by others. By reading my blog, you get a taste of my thoughts and opinions and get to know a little more of me through each post.
My blogs have become part of my routine, part of what I do, and part of how I express myself.

During the 13 weeks of my short blogging career, I have started to create my own online footprint. I may only have about five followers who actually read my blog, and only about 60 people know my blog even exists, but it is still online, and part of the World Wide Web; I am now a part of the World Wide Web. It’s good to know that anyone connected to this very large blogging community could potentially read my blog. It’s a big ‘what if’ scenario, but still could happen.

At least I’m here, getting myself out in the open regardless of who is paying attention or not.

I’m an advocate, a creator, an interpreter, a reader, and an admirer.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Culture Jamming

Around this time last year there was an advertising campaign for a product called Obay. These ads were plastered around Toronto on bus shelters, street cars and even inside the subway cars.

The product itself was a pill, and the ads displayed testimonials from parents who have claimed to give their child this pill.

“When Amy started thinking for herself, we had to nip it in the bud with Obay.”

There were several versions of this ad, all displaying scenarios where children tried to make their own decisions or speak out, and their parents quickly and easily resolved this ‘incident’ with Obay.

Come to think about it, this is an example about Culture Jamming a Culture Jam.

At a first glance, these ads seemed ridiculous; truthfully when I saw them I had no idea if they were real or fake. But after seeing so many of them, I soon realized how these advertisements were being used to satire the concept of using media to satirize what it was supposed to originally represent.

If that makes sense.

But it is a smart idea, and thinking back on it, it is kinda funny how I did not know the truthfulness behind the ad, and that in my head it is not too far fetched to come up with a drugs for children who don’t listen to their parents.

That’s the idea though. It isn’t unusual…

They use drugs for everything now,

Hello!? ADD!? What kind of a made up disorder is that.

Unfortunately once the ads revealed themselves to be fake, I bet there were actually some parents out there disappointed that their dream product only existed in their dreams.

Net Neutrality

Soon blogs could be written by you, four business men, their assistants and a censorship committee - Not exactly the kind of input you were hoping for.

Network Neutrality or Net Neutrality for short, is a principle which is applied to all of the content which is available for all to see on this crazy thing we called the World Wide Web. The principle itself is to keep the content under neutral grounds, “free of restrictions on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, on the modes of communication allowed, which does not restrict content, sites or platforms, and where communication is not unreasonably degraded by other communication streams.” (Wikipedia)

What some of the web’s users don’t know is that the web is already controlled by key figures in media industries. They own the companies and the ideas that those companies produce and project to their online communities on a commercial level. However, in North America at this time the content directly placed on the web, such as ideas from an individuals sitting at home and speaking their minds, are not controlled or censored whatsoever. But this Net Neutrality debate poses the threat that all online content will be kept in surveillance and be able to have restriction by the key players in the World Wide Web.

So basically there are two sides of this debate, one side is to embrace what we have now, and realize that our free culture is what makes our web such a respected community, OR you could believe in the ‘necessity’ of net neutrality and believe that it will add shape to the future of our internet.

How you think is not my concern, and I am not really here to tell you how you should think, but then again this is my blog, so what I can do is leave you with a quotation that reflects MY beliefs.

"Allowing broadband carriers to control what people see or do online would fundamentally undermine the principles that have made the internet such a success...A number of justifications have been created to support carrier control over consumer choices online; none stand up to scrutiny." - Vint Cerf, Google Chief Internet Evangelist and Co-Developer of the Internet Protocol

Google, "A Guide to Net Neutrality for Google Users ." Google Help Center. 2008.

Google. 11 Nov 2008 .

Wikipedia, "Net Neutrality." Wikipedia. 11 Nov 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Buy Nothing Day

On a typical school day, I am guaranteed to purchase at least one thing which would be coffee (normally Starbucks), but turn that typical day into a day downtown and up that one item to a minimum of five. Stick me in a mall and I will gladly waste my paycheck on clothing that will sit in my closet with my many other sweaters and jeans. Do I really need my starbucks or that extra sweater? Normally never. But do I want it? Absolutely! Over my years of working hard making my money, I have also worked hard at labeling myself as an ‘avid consumer’; most of the time I don’t even realize it anymore.
On Saturday November 29, 2008 people world wide are encouraged to participate in Buy Nothing Day. A day where people take a break from the typical consumer, and not partake in spending our money on mindless products which we only think we truly need. This day is day for social activists to protest our poor habits of over consumption, and to make us realize that buying into large corporations is pretty much a downfall of our society.

However, will one day make a difference? Buy Nothing Day sounds like a good plan, and an attempt at taking action, but really – one day? So you can’t buy that new purse on the 29th, but its okay to buy it next week, or even on the 30th. How about trying to downsize our over consumption in general, or even informing the public of exactly whose hands their money is in, and where else it could go? Perhaps the issue runs deeper than one day of anti-consumerism. One day may provoke thought, but maybe for just 24 hours, one day won’t change the minds of consumers world wide to forever change their spending habits.

I will try my best to participate in this years Buy Nothing Day, but I will also try my best to be a wiser consumer overall. I encourage others to participate, but also to research the deeper issues behind this protest. is a great resource for videos and other information.

Media Hegemonies - Who Owns What

The Walt Disney Co.

When I was young the only thing that I could always identify with Disney was Mickey Mouse. But as I grew up, I realized that Mickey had more tricks up his sleeve than ‘The Little Mermaid” and “The Lion King”, he was actually a small portion of a multi-billion dollar company – The Walt Disney Company.
But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when in class Ian brought up a web page from the Colombia Journalism Review on ‘Who Owns What’ and as a class we looked up exactly what the Walt Disney Company owned. To my surprise, the Walt Disney Company owns:

Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax Films, Pixar
11 Broadcast Television stations, including ABC
18 Cable Television stations, including A&E and 80% of ESPN
41 Radio Stations
Walt Disney Records, Hollywood Records, Lyric Street Records
Around 17 Book publishing Imprints
16 Magazines, including 50% of US weekly
8 Parks and Resorts
and 16 other entertainment companies such as Baby Einstein and Disney Toys.

In a way, this somewhat frightens me. Because so many media outlets and forms of entertainment are owned by one company, the impact of their influence is a little overwhelming. Like we as consumers could so easily be influenced by Disney’s values and ideas, and we would have no idea, because it would be everywhere and eventually maybe even become a norm. Their ideas are projected to many different audiences, from young children through films and toys to adults through Disney’s many radio stations or magazines. They control such a huge part of our lives, and it would be very difficult to escape the ‘grasp’ that Disney has gained on us, and for those who are not fully aware of the media conglomerates, then it is an ‘invisible grasp’.

After reading Robert W. McChensney’s article “The New Global Media” on The Nation, I discovered that this is not unusual (since the nineties) for this “global oligopoly” to happen in the entertainment industry. And that specifically in the United States, the 5 large Media Companies have slowly been purchasing more and more of our media outlets.

This makes me miss the days with Disney influenced which animation film my babysitter would put on for me. I would have never thought ‘Mickey Mouse’ would have such as hold on me as a grew up, and from the looks of it his influence will continue to impact me long after I stopped watching him and Minnie.