Andrew Dubber's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week
from the understanding-the-discourse dept
My criteria for "favorite Techdirt blog posts of the week" are necessarily shaped by what I do for a living. As the leader of an MA in Music Industries at Birmingham City University, it's important for me to understand the key issues shaping the sector in the digital age. Especially since I'm also writing a book on the subject.
But the thing that really interests me (and my students can feel free to recite my mantra along with me here) is that "it's a discursive practice - and it's complicated."
That is to say, if you're going to analyze what's going on in the music industries, and particularly where there are tensions about copyright and intellectual property, the discourse is the interesting bit. What people say, and why they say it.
There are some fantastic examples of all sorts of discourse in Techdirt, which excels at locating some extraordinary pieces of rhetoric and unraveling them in the context of a nuanced understanding of copyright law and (perhaps more importantly) the commons in the digital age.
Even better, the rhetoric that is employed within the extensive comments within this site are an absolute goldmine. The people who read and respond to this blog tend to be thoughtful, articulate and passionate. Or hilarious. I'd struggle to think of a richer vein of vested interests, entrenched positions, ethical frameworks, conservative and progressive discourse, parody, urgent political speech, the language of persuasion, argument and ridicule than the comments of Techdirt.
That's why this website is required reading on my course - as is Music Week, which essentially acts as the centerpiece for major record industry rhetoric in Britain, and could provide a case study in discourse all on its own.
A fascination in what people say about the music industries online - and unpacking why they say it - drives my professional enthusiasm here. So my favorites over the past week will probably come as very little surprise to even the most casual Techdirt reader.
If You're Going To Compare The Old Music Biz Model With The New Music Biz Model, At Least Make Some Sense was an absolute gift to someone like me. Not simply because of the post itself, but because David Lowery from Camper van Beethoven (my favorite of his various musical involvements) weighed in after a while.
He was, it's fair to say, very, very cross. And while it would be easy to compare his outbursts to a child having a tantrum and dismiss him as a slightly absurd and antiquated figure of blustery, reactionary, sweary fun - it's important to reconcile this piece of writing with a man who is clearly intelligent in all sorts of ways. An intelligent man who feels attacked and unfairly represented in a very public forum.
There is no reason to expect a rational debate in this context because Lowery is not saying "You have misunderstood my points - allow me to explain them to you," but "I AM VERY ANGRY!" which is an emotional rather than a rational position.
This is a recurring motif in discussions of intellectual property - and it's a large part of the reason that every day, there are dozens of stories of people who feel transgressed because not everybody is behaving according to their expectations of how the world should work.
And so the tantrum-filled, door-slamming, feet-stamping, territory-claiming behavior that Techdirt reports on (and which is codified in documents such as ACTA, SOPA and PIPA) is at least understandable as an emotional response which can be characterized as "That's not fair!" or rather "That's no longer sufficiently unfair in my favor!"
What people say, and what they mean by it was also the subject of:
And if ever there was a case for one's choice of words being a revealing and significant thing to pay attention to, then If You're Accused Of Trying To Scam Facebook Out Of 50%+ Of Its Equity, Probably Don't Have An Email Account Named GetZuck is it.
But perhaps my favorite post of the week is a fairly dry one (sorry Glyn) about ACTA's compatibility with citizen freedoms as expressed under EU regulations.
What's so good about the post Trademark Lobby Wants To Help European Court of Justice Forget About EU Citizens' Rights is that it lifts out the language from a press release, and holds it up to scrutiny. And it asks some pretty important questions that we should be asking about most of the stuff we encounter in this sort of territory.
What do they say - and how does that measure up to observable reality?
Why do they say what they say?
What is deliberately not said in this context?
Whose interests does this piece of discourse serve?
What doesn't make sense here - and needs calling out?
Discursive practices, such as the copyright industries (and copyright is, in itself, a piece of discourse), change over time, are different in different places and in different technological, social and cultural contexts. It's a shifting ground, and you're never going to be short of people who say extraordinary things, who get angry about what they consider to be their entitlements, and who use language to seek or maintain power.
For that reason, Techdirt is never going to run out of pieces of discourse that need holding up to the light at arm's length and saying "Really?" to.
We just happened to have a particularly good week of it.