Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Recently in the Information and Media Category

I recently co-taught a class that merged content, students and a TA from MIT with a course that Jonathan Zittrain has been teaching for many years called Internet and Society, the Politics and Technologies of control. In addition, there was a program that ran together with it called the Berkman Assembly. It was a really great program and I hope we can do something similar again. There's an article about it on the Harvard Law site.

Just as the Executive Order from the Trump Administration calling for a travel ban from seven Muslim countries was playing out, I was meeting with Jonathan so I asked him to do a Facebook Live with me to talk about the Internet, politics and protests.

Apologies for the audio quality and sync problems.

You can find the audio on iTunes and SoundCloud.

I first met Jamila when she and her associate Alia reached out to us after we posted a video on Civil Disobedience inspired by and citing Gene Sharp. Jamila is the executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution that Gene Sharp founded to focus on understanding and spreading his methods for non-violent action. We had a conversation about this with Tenzin Priyadarshi - the video is here (Sorry about the poor audio quality).

After talking to Jamila some more, it was clear that she inspired many of us and we could learn a lot from her. In addition, it seemed that many of our technologies could be useful for her in her works so I invited her to join the Lab initially as a research affiliate.

Recently, I asked her to give a talk and have a conversation with the Lab and myself. This is a video of the talk. Audio of the talk and conversation are available on iTunes and SoundCloud.

There seems to be some sort of general rule that technologies and systems like conversations on the Internet, the US democracy (and its capture by powerful financial interests), the Arab Spring movement and many other things that were wonderfully optimistic and positive at the beginning seem to begin to regress and fail as they scale or age. Most of these systems seem to evolve into systems that are resistant to redesign and overthrow as they adapt like some sophisticated virus or cancer. It's related to but harder to fix than the tragedy of the commons.

I want to write a longer post trying to understand this trend/effect, but I was curious about whether there was some work already in understanding this effect and whether there was already a name for this idea. If not, what we should call it, assuming people agree that it's a "thing"?

Seth Godin has taught me so much about communications, leadership, publishing and life that I thought that it was important to stream my conversation with Seth. As usual, it was a great conversation.

Seth is on the Media Lab Advisory Council.

I streamed it to Facebook Live and posted the video to YouTube and audio to SoundCloud and iTunes.

We've been talking a lot about the importance of the Open Web and where Medium fits into the ecosystem of walled gardens and this Open Web. Evan Williams, founder and CEO of Medium, was nice enough to chat on Skype and allow me to post it. I've known Ev from the Blogger days and the Twitter days and have been a user of every one of his products and the conversation reminded me how much I enjoy having product conversations with Ev.

It sounds like while Medium has and is focused on creating a great authoring platform, Ev is more open to supporting the Open Web than some might have feared. Look forward to seeing support for more interoperability and working with them on it.

Ulrike Reinhard posted a nice "best of" video of our DIY Video panel. The panel was a lot of fun. The moderator was Howard Rheingold and the panelists were John Seely Brown, Yochai Benkler, Henry Jenkins and me.

I've blogged about Continuous Partial Attention. There is a difference between having CPA and multi-tasking. Linda Stone is the person who first turned me on to this concept and now she has a wiki about Continuous Partial Attention. Yay!

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Just read the newly crafted elevator pitch for Benetech in a letter from Jim Fruchterman, the CEO, Chairman and Founder.

His pitch:

Benetech creates technology that serves humanity by blending social conscience with Silicon Valley expertise. We build innovative solutions that have lasting impact on critical needs around the world.
Webcams and other digital communication could give ordinary people feedback on results acheived due to donation of their money and time.

This would give the power of oversight formerly reserved for wealthy philanthropists.

Does this hint toward disruptive digital technology underming the NGO world with individualized philanthropy that cuts out the middle men?


Highlights from my story on Lunarstorm, the giant Swedish online community.

Claiming a youth audience three times larger than MTV in Sweden, two times larger than the entire readership of all of the Swedish evening newspapers combined and more members logging on daily than the total number of young Swedes watching almost every television show, Lunarstorm has become an accidental media titan here.

Lunarstorm's impact on Swedish youth is widely recognized. Church leaders used the community to console young people in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami that killed more than 500 Swedes. Meanwhile, concerns over the safety of minors prompted creation of a full-time security staff of six to scour the site for predatory behavior.

The site's question of the day - polling for anything from your favorite potato chips to political parties - garners an average of 150,000 respondents, more than any poll in Sweden apart from the actual national elections themselves.

Can closed garden communities survive - even if free - or are they Compuserves amid a more broadly emergent digital lifestyle?


Spent yesterday reporting on debate about a French law that increases the means of high tech surveillance.

Besides getting a chance to see the sumptuous interior of the Assemblee Nationale (where the press room has gold festooned napoleonic decorations) I got a chance to look at the French attitude towards police power versus individual liberties.

New provisions:

* Increased video surveillance around public buildings, companies, places of worship and transportation centers like train stations and airports. Current restrictions on such surveillance mean that France employs fewer than 100,000 cameras; Britain has more than four million.

* Police officials and prosecutors in France would also have easier access to the data supplied to obtain car registrations, driving licenses, identity cards and passports.

* Internet cafés that allow anonymous surfing would be required to keep a record for up to one year of all sites visited.

Such information collection has raised concerns at the government-financed National Commission for Data and Liberty.

Is this intrusive or necessary for safety?


In studying blogs I have come to notice there are relatively few styles of postings.

In descending order of difficulty, they are:

Conversational: Asks for a response, implicitly or explicity. Often gets no responses but occasionally it hits a home run with a great discussion.

Informational: A "neat-o" style of posting that tells information but does not really encourage discussion. These tend to get links without comment. BoingBoing, Engadget, etc are very successful blogs of this sort.

Polemical: A posting that takes a strong opinion. These tend to get both responses and links. The responses, however, tend to be opinions. Can be dull unless you use it like a drunk leaning on a lamppost: More for support than shedding light.

Additions and comments welcome


Interesting post on the blog of PR man Richard Edelman about the future of media.

Extracted highlights:

* The largest 50 Web companies are attracting 96% of the ad spending on line.

* 9.5 million homes in the US now have TiVo or another digital video recorder. 64% of DVR users skip all ads and an additional 26% skip through most ads. The number of homes with DVRs is expected to triple in the next five years.

* Every dollar coming out of print advertising revenue for newspapers is replaced by only 33 cents online.

Changes to the media landscape are dramatic. I think many in the media industry have not yet internalized these numbers.


Dear All,

As happened in previous posting, I am happy to revisit the issue of my guest blogging on Joi's site.

Why blog with Joi?

As Joi mentioned, I am trying to fast-forward into new media. Whether covering war, disease outbreaks or eathquakes, I always head for the frontlines.

The frontlines in blogging include the readers of Joi's blog. Great ideas have emerged in discussions here on how to combine blogging with more traditional media.

If you want to shape traditional media's interaction with bloggers, please join the discussion. If not, excuse us and rest assured that I will not be here forever (see next question).

How long will I blog here?

I blog here at Joi's invitation and would never impose on his kindness. I will be launching the first-ever blog-based column of the IHT in the coming months and will migrate the bulk of my postings over to that blog over time.

Is someone here paid by the International Herald Tribune?

Absolutely yes! I am a full-time employee of the IHT/NYT and have been for more than a decade. (Details at Other than my salary, no money changes hands.

Back to topic: Blogs and Traditional media

Funny self-observation: Just realized that in my postings I have dropped the Posted by Thomas Crampton in favor of By Thomas Crampton. That makes my online byline similar to my print byline.

Also, my blogging style has changed over time. Specific quesitions get more useful responses than general ones broad ones. You need to know what you are looking for.

What other tips to encourage discussion?


What options to refer to bloggers quoted in the International Herald Tribune blog-based technology page column?

- Shorter references make it easier on the reader
- Longer references make it easier for readers to track the person making comments and encourage the conversational-style that will hopefully develop

BUT Hyperlinks are not yet possible in the printed edition (sadly).

So options include:

- Use only the first name of the blogger (as many comments appear)
- Use the Blog/web address
- Include first name and blog address
- First name, blog address and a qualifying reference (author of XX book, etc)

What would make people more likely to participate? Concrete examples preferred.

PS: In preparing for the blog-based column for the International Herald Tribune I have spent vastly more time brainstorming and discussing issues here in Joi's blog than inside the newsroom. Thanks!


Looking for a model to follow in the IHT blog project and want to figure out what works.

The Guardian newspaper has a tech blog (check out their pipe-smoking tech editor).

But Technorati ranks Boing Boing the most popular blog by far. (Kudos, guys!)

Why do you read Boing Boing?

a - The frequent postings (up to 33 in one day, by my count)
b - The focus of stories?
c - Boing Boing should improve by . . .
d - Blog X is better than Boing Boing because . . .


Funny clash of perspectives in the International Herald Tribune newsroom!

In planning for my blog-based column, I chased down the actual number of letters to the editor we receive each day.

We receive at the IHT roughly 30 letters per day, of which 10-15 are usable, the letters editor said. We end up publishing roughly six.

Historical footnote: We formerly only accepted letters via post, then we accepted fax letters (by early 1990s) and now we almost exclusively receive letters via email.

For a daily newspaper printed in 31 print sites around the world and distributed in more than 150 countries, 30 letters per day struck me as very low, but several colleagues thought it was "a lot".

I sometimes get more than 20 responses - many publishable - for a single posting on this blog.

Once the blog-column is up and running I will be interested to see how many letters to the editor we can inspire. (For the newspaper as a whole, not just for the column.)

If you feel strongly about an article or issue, the email is and please mention this blog so we can get a sense of the level of blogger input.


Pitch to the editors of the International Herald Tribune about launching the paper's first blog-based column went well!! (Incorporating many of the ideas from this blog.)

Sounds like I might be the first-ever official blogger of the IHT.

Still wrestling with a variety of details - technical and editorial - for version 1.0. It will be rudimentary to begin with (and quite labor intensive for me).

Thanks for further ideas and I will be counting on readers here participating through this blog (or directly on the IHT site.)

How would you prefer to give submissions:

a- I edit them from a blog-like discussion?

b- People have a limited space (100 or 50 words) to give their take on something?

Posted by

After spending several days in the Paris suburbs and filing stories non-stop all day today, a few things struck me.

I have written about the first incident that sparked the riots and today's latest news (more violence already starting tonight and plans by French government to use curfew.)

The underlying feeling I got from the young people in Clichy-sous-Bois - where the troubles began - is total despair with no way out.

Seems there must be CK Prahalad opportunities for these young people to make a fortune - or at least a living - if they are given half a chance.

What ideas for businesses or projects that can bring hope to despairing young people in a high rise ghetto?

Are there successful models of what can be done?

Posted by Thomas Crampton

Tech editor of the International Herald Tribune seems open to publishing a column of blog-generated ideas.

I need topics of interest our newspaper's readers (wealthy global audience of frequent travelers with diverse interests in politics, economic and culture).

Conversations on this blog that might work have included my postings on Global Sociology of Online Shopping or Joi's post on ideas for new inflight software.

Input welcome on:

Layout - should it be in blog-style or reworked into a newspaper format. I tend to prefer reworking it, but my editor liked the idea of experimenting with a new formatting that might resemble an online chat.

Topics - Ideas for topics that would get the best response and interest our readers. I prefer things that are less about tech-issues than about ideas that may relate to technology.

Writing form - should it be written from a blog or could it be compiled on a wiki-style platform? This would require me to lay out the format and ask for people to help filling it in, but if someone has some appropriate social software platform, it might be fun to test the concept.

Online communities - A futher thought on the above concept is that it may be fun to involve specific online communities in writing guest columns. This would mean asking for the communities - friendster, asmallworld, openbc or another one. The idea would best to use a community with a particular purpose or outlook rather than a generic one. That would allow us to explore how these communities are different. Anyone senior enough at one of these communities should feel free to get in touch.

Posted by Thomas Crampton

Got an early exclusive look at a fascinating survey by ACNielsen about online shopping worldwide.

The study of 21,000 web users in 38 countries, to be made public later today, found that online shopping habits vary radically by country.

The US is way behind Europe in the amount of online shopping (ranking 11 worldwide), perhaps because mall shopping is so much easier than shopping in a European city. This encourages Europeans to shop online.

What people purchase online is very different country-by-country. In South Korea one third of online shoppers purchase nutritional/cosmetic goods, while the global average is just 10 percent.

Payment for online shopping - not surprisingly - are dominated by credit card (visa) and bank transfer globally.

BUT cash on delivery is the second most popular way to pay for purchases in Europe!

I was surprised by Europe's cash on delivery preference, but affirmed it last night at a dinner in Paris. French people at the supper said they do not trust the web so prefer to see the goods before paying. They also said their lack of trust makes them very reluctant to use eBay!

Similar to cellphones, the technology of online shopping may be uniform, but the way in which people interact with it varies by country.

Anyone come across other differences of usage of an identical platforms?

Posted by Thomas Crampton

Interesting venture launching in a few weeks by a group of Mainstream Media journalists in a blog. It is called Pajama's Media and has contributors from a number of mainstream outlets.

I think a cooperative blog is a good model - style - and would like to explore those possibilities myself. Seems to me the key is finding the right mix of people and then letting them loose.

My company - the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times - is not moving into the blog sphere as quickly as I would advocate.

That said, some colleagues are blogging on their own: Howard French in Shanghai, for example. Don't know of others.

Posted by Thomas Crampton

Inevitable with the narrow-casting of magazines that Germany now has a magazine about divorce.

Reminds me of the launch of a magazine in the US for gay parents. (Apologies for this being a Times Select link.)

These magazines, Rosenkrieg along with And Baby magazine, show how publishers often miss obvious socioeconomic groups due to prejudices or oversight.

Both gay parents and divorcing couples are willing to pay large sums of money for information relating to their situation and there are many advertisers keen to hit those demographics. For years, however, no magazines addressed those issues.

Be interesting to compare the categories of popular Blogsites with the available publications to see where the low barriers to entry of Blogs has discovered a demographic ripe for a glossy publication.

This once again shows the strength of interacting with consumers (readers) during conception of a project.

Posted by Thomas Crampton

As an employee of The New York Times Company, I probably should not raise this issue - but hey! - journalists are instinctive troublemakers.

What views on the decision by and to implement the Times Select paid subscriptions system for the highest profile columnists.

I fear we are giving room for new columnists to arise out of the Blogoshere to rival our own marquee names.

I have not thought enough about it, but I wonder if the opposite tactic might not be best. We give away the high profile columnists and charge for specific stories and local news that people cannot get elsewhere. The columnists increase our footprint and we cut out much of the blogosphere.

The problem, of course, is we need to find a way to pay for my salary and – very modest – expenses. Any thought on how to keep me in a job by earning money off our websites is much appreciated!

Photo Nfl Game Mix Large
NFL Widower

Michele loves her football something fierce. Over the years it's gotten worse, growing from watching the occasional Sunday game with Cincinatti (her hometown team) to watching Thursday Night Football to this year with her enrollment into fantasy football in July.

Last year for her birthday I bought her a special quilting table and she had it placed in the living room so she could quilt while watching football.

For the Superbowl this year, we bought an HDTV so the game could be as good as possible. Now we have the NFL Network, the DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket, and even the DirecTV Superfan package for true football otaku that need to watch EIGHT football games SIMULTANEOUSLY.

This is why I should not be designing media products for the American market. I would never have imagined that something like this.

VideoLAN, or VLC, is a cross-platform media player and is my media player of choice. It plays everything and I just love it. It would be hard to live without it.

VideoLAN page
The end draws near...

VideoLAN is seriously threatened by software patents due to the numerous patented techniques it implements and uses. Also threatened are the many libraries and projects which VLC is built upon, like FFmpeg, and the other fellow Free And Open Source software multimedia players, which include MPlayer, xine, Freevo, MythTV, gstreamer.

Multimedia is a patent minefield. All important techniques and formats are covered by broad and trivial patents that are harming progress and alternative implementations, such as free software multimedia players.

The European commission has just passed its directive on software patents, violating democratic rules and procedures to the sole benefit of big non-European corporation and Ireland and to the detriment of small and medium sized businesses (which comprise 99% of the European software industry) and free software.

The European parliament will now be taking the last stand against software patents in a voting for which an absolute majority is needed. Such a majority is hard to come by in a parliament with a low attendance level.

But not all is lost yet as long as you decide it is time to make a difference and take action. This is our last opportunity to fend off software patents worldwide, there will be no second chance for the foreseeable future.

Signing petitions will not suffice. Contact your local EU representatives and educate them why software patents are a bad idea in the first place and why they must attend that parliament session to vote against them. Make it clear that they need to stop the machinations of the EU council and reaffirm the power of the EU parliament, the only democratically elected EU institution. For in-depth information and starting points to get active visit the software patent page of the FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure) and

Wish us luck, we will need it.
VideoLAN - See the statistics

I've been speaking to a number of parliamentarians in Europe about the danger of software patents. This is a really important issue and here is a good example of a typical victim of software patents. I'm hoping that OSI will be able to help people avoid encumbered standards as part of the open standards initiative.

via ladi

I was IM'ing with Boris yesterday and he said an interesting thing. "He lives on in our media... Forever remembered as the first super mediatized Pope ever. There is more documented evidence of his existence than any Pope ever before. He will NEVER die... as long as we have storage memory..."

I worked with Tony Verna several times back in my MSM days. Tony is the inventor of the instant replay and one of the people behind Live Aid. I learned more about television from Tony than just about anyone else. I remembered Tony telling me an interesting account of his work with the Pope. I remember thinking about the impact of mediatizing the Pope when I heard the story. I decided to email Tony and ask him to share a story about his role in mediatizing the Pope.

Tony Verna
April 2,2005

Hi Joi,

Thank you for contacting me regarding my thoughts about the passing of the Holy Father, John Paul II.

As you may recall, in 1986, I created “Prayer For World Peace,” a one-hour live TV broadcast for Pope John Paul II that I also produced and directed. The program was viewed by a billion people worldwide.

I had directed Live Aid and Sport Aid for Bob Geldof and that made me cocky enough to present the Vatican with the largest satellite telecast of the time.

My idea was to have the Pope lead a worldwide congregation of worshippers on five continents in the rosary, a devotional prayer, where he could alternate the first part of the prayer in one of several languages… and then cut live to that part of the world for their response…

e.g. Paris or Dakar for French, Knock or Calcutta for English, Lisbon or Rio for Portuguese, Mexico City or Madrid for Spanish, and Frankfurt or Marizell for German.

I had worked with Mother Teresa and knew her well enough to ask (impose on) her to do an inspirational intro (from were she was visiting her nuns in Czestochowa, Poland) that would lead to the live presentation from Rome. Mother Teresa was a wonderful woman whom I can’t say enough about.

My reputation was good in Europe due to the Geldof projects plus I had already written 2 of my books that the American communications archbishops had read.

They were anxious to hear my idea even though they warned me that the Pope didn’t do programs other people have created.

Undeterred I moved on, and finally met with the Pope in his private chapel. My wife, Carol, was a devout Lutheran and she was ready to bolt out of the chapel at the sight of the Pope. I calmed her down and when the Pope came over to us, he was very attentive and cordial. He held our hands and gave me his blessing to proceed with my idea.

I was hoping for such, since I knew he was a communications Pope and that he knew the power of the medium.

Later, I addressed the College of Cardinals as a formality and then proceeded.

The live one-hour was done for Global Media Ltd and was possible in part by a grant from BIC. The budget was high at 2 million due to the satellite pickups in 16 locations on 5 continents, Luzan, Argentina; Marizell, Austria; Rio, Brazil; Quebec, Canada; Lourdes, France; Frankfurt, Germany; Bombay, India; Guadalupe, Mexico; Caacupe, Paraguay; Manila, Philippines; Fatima, Portugal; Dakar, Senegal; Zaragoza, Spain; Czestochowa, Poland; Knock, Ireland; and in the United States, Washington DC. All of which was cited and documented on the July 8, 1987 Congressional Record of the House of Representatives

In addition to the hundred plus cameras I had stationed around the globe, I arranged for the congregations (live on monitors) to greet the Holy Father, before and after reciting the rosary with him.

Then the problems began. The religious big shots told me I couldn’t place monitors by the Pope. I objected and told them that the Pope should decide. The next morning the Pope gave me his permission, overruling his big shots.

The insurance company (to cover the $2m) said that the Pope and I both had to take a physical. I took the physical and explained that the Pope wouldn’t. They backed down

Next, RAI television (a bunch of men in suits) said I couldn’t do the pickup from the Vatican. They claimed I was a one-timer and not welcomed. I left Rome determined not to give up.

So…I directed the show from London, England (thanks to the EBU) with the incoming feeds coming to me live from Rome. Strange but true.

The show went off without a hitch. The VCR and DVD are still available.

Another problem was that the church worked in centuries so back in ’86 I gave the Pope his first fax machine…as can be attested to by Archbishop John P. Foley.

Before leaving for Rome to do the show I stopped by Washington DC and had dinner with David Brinkley and others curious on how I could pull off such a complex live telecast.

I felt quite honored by the attention.

As I mentioned, a billion people saw the show, and afterwards the Pope invited my wife, and I back to the Vatican to thank us personally.

It was a delightful visit.

Then another strange thing happened.

After blessing us the Pope moved away but suddenly he backed up to give my wife a second blessing.

Joi, my wife converted to Catholicism but I think the Pope gave her a second blessing because she has to put up with someone like me.

That’s my recollection…… in a jumble.

Best Regards,


Yesterday evening, Marko and I ran the closing session for Doors of Perception in India. Frankly, it was an amazing conference. There were minor logistical gripes like no wifi in the conference center (my excuse for not blogging for the last few days), but it was really incredible. Hats off to the whole team that pulled this together. Presentations ranged from self-organizing networks of manufacturers in slums to alternative currencies to the latest things going on on the web.

In the wrap-up session, I talked a lot about role of the open Internet in allowing bottom-up innovation and edge-inward work. I talked about the barriers created by monopolies. I said that it was the role of government to break up these monopolies and that we couldn't do it alone. I also talked about how Creative Commons was for providing choice and that we weren't saying that tradition media or content production models should go away.

Later, an elderly man stood up and said that all knowledge should be available to everyone and that he didn't think we should compromise on the copyright issues. He then said that the people are ready to fight and march in the streets and turn over the monopolies and we didn't need to sit around and wait for government. It turns out he used to live with Mahatma Gandhi's at his Ashram.

I felt a sudden pain. I realized that I was compromising and in fact evening softening my words assuming that the video of my presentation might end up on the Internet and that I would have to defend any hardline positions I took. I remember watching the movie about Gandhi (Irony alert. It was a Hollywood movie.) and thinking about the power of sticking to your principles and how this purity can move nations without violence or compromise and questioning myself and my methods.

I have always viewed my role as a sort of ambassador or bridge between groups to help provide a dialog. In talks to telephone operators or other somewhat old-school companies, I talk about their "challenges". To left-wing artists, I talk about the tyranny of the monopolies. The irony is that the recent trend of people posting audio or video files of my speeches online has made it difficult for me to maintain this split-personality / facade. I think it's a good thing that these things go online, but it reminds me a bit of politicians being criticized for what they have said at parties or "among friends"... or the Enron telephone calls. I have always encouraged this and poked fun myself. Being on the receiving end of this chilling effect is interesting. The core message I deliver doesn't change but delivery is slightly dampened.

I haven't been "outed" yet and I'm sure most people would understand what I was saying in the context in which my talks are delivered, but I sometimes say things that I'm sure I would say differently on my blog. In my mind, this is translated to words the audience understands in their frameworks in order to be constructive, but in a sense I'm being a bit dishonest. I also pull back on the "radical" throttle when I think it is going to offend my audience so much they will reject everything I say. Having said that, I've had a number of people get really upset. One publisher in Finland called my presentation about Creative Commons "disgusting".

My blog is probably the most "balanced" version of my position so just imagine that I'm slight more radical when I'm talking to the radicals and slightly more "soft" when I'm talking to conservatives. But my question is, am I compromising by adapting my words for the audience and where is the line beyond which I am not adapting words, but changing my position? What would Gandhi do? I suppose everyone does this to a certain extent but I was suddenly conscious of this gap last night.

UPDATE: Related post. "What would GW do?"

Sorry about the light blogging. Have been a bit swamped during my travels. For now I present to you... kittengate.

For some more serious comments on the issue, see the comments on this post.

Seth's Blog
Is there a future in selling digital words?

Sanj points me to e-Books & Docs: Just in Time: Sony Talks About PSP [DOWNLOAD: PDF].

This is a special "flash report" from a reputatable firm. It costs $1,500. According to my favorite review:

If you were stunned by the shocking twist ending of "No PSP for the Holidays," well, you haven't seen anything yet! Quite possibly the best sequel ever written, "Sony Talks About PSP" takes everything you THOUGHT you knew about its predecessor and turns it on its head.

One page of data for $1,500.... certainly there is information out there that's worth that much. I think the interesting question is not "who would have the guts to charge this much?" or even, "who is stupid enough to buy this?" but, "are businesses or consumers willing to pay for a report in a medium that they've been trained should be free?"

Nobody has created a viable channel for selling this sort of information in a format like this. I wonder if they ever will.

I have participated in expensive report writing for companies, but usually it's fairly customized and often full of confidential stuff for limited distribution. $1500 for a PDF on Amazon about one product of one company is pretty amazing. I really would like to know how many of these they will sell.

I'll try to see if I can find a copy this week in Hawaii. Since Mr. Idei Kutaragi and Mr. Kutaragi will also be in Hawaii, I'll see if I can make my own version of "Sony Talks about PSP" here.

Maybe I can pre-sell a $1500 paper called "The market-size for $1500 PDFs" and later send the people a list others who ordered it. They can make a little community or something. Hmm... Maybe the list of people who buy the $1500 Sony report is more valuable than the report itself.

Editor: Myself - Hoder
No more blogging and net-socializing

Friends in Iran, journalists and technicians, are saying that judiciary officials have ordered all major ISP to filter all blogging services including PersianBlog, BlogSpot, Blogger, BlogSky, and even BlogRolling. They have also ordered to filter Orkut, Yahoo Personal and some other popular dating and social networking websites.

Anyone know if TypePad or LiveJournal are being blocked? Is Google doing anything about this?

UPDATE from #joiito: [Catspaw] Joi: Livejournal and Typepad both accessible form the major Iranian ISPs

There is now a draft of the Global Voices manifesto on Hoder's wiki. It will eventually be moved, but we're working on it there for now. Here is the current draft.

We believe in free speech, both in protecting the right to speak and extending access to the tools of speech. We define speech broadly to include many media that facilitate expression.

The broadest right of free speech has always extended primarily to those who owned technology for publishing and distribution, beginning with the printing press. It is now possible for anyone to publish and have access to a distribution channel via the Internet. It is our goal that everyone who wants to speak can be heard.

We believe in the power of direct connection and the freedom to connect. The bond between individuals from different worlds is personal, political and powerful.

We seek to create bridges that cross the gulfs that have traditionally divided us. When we cross these gulfs, we understand each other more fully, work together more effectively, and act more powerfully. With these bridges, we can do together what we could only dream of doing alone.

Direct connection is its own reward. However, in a world full of challenges, it is also the best path to building a future that is freer, fairer, more sustainable and more prosperous.

While we’re all committed to our own work as individuals, we also recognize our common interest and goals. We each speak for ourselves, but we’re all in this together. We pledge to respect, listen to, assist, and learn from one other. We are Global Voices.

What do you think? You can also comment on Ethan's post on the Global Voices blog about this draft.

Dan Gillmor blogs that he is leaving the San Jose Mercury News next month to work on a citizen-journalism project. Awesome. Practice what you preach. Good luck Dan and let us know more about your new project when you can.

joho - I'm VERY excited about the possibilities. E.g., OhMyGillmor.

Reporters Without Borders says that that China has started blocking Google News just a few weeks after Google started self-censorship on their search results.

via We The Media

I just watched this the video that Jon Husband points to in comments on this blog of David Weinberger at the Library of Congress.

For an interesting take on this subject, involving a sizeable audience of (I'm assuming) senior librarian types at the USA Library of Congress, watch David Weinberger trace knowledge from Plato and Aristotle through Descartes to the clash between official objectivity and personal subjectivity, moving deftly to the power and believability of human voice on ... of all things ... blogs (especially those with comments capability, which I think must be well in the majority ;-)
More formats on David's blog. Classic Weinberger. Excellent stuff. Even the bonus seeing Derrick de Kerkhove make the introduction. ;-)

Funny anti-blog anti-Wikipedia article by a librarian Greg Hill who manages to mangle the spelling of Dan Gillmor and Dave Barry's name while trying to argue that "librarians abhor using reference sources that don't have established credibility editorial rigor..." ;-)

I don't usually like to link to stupid articles, but this one's too ironic to just ignore.

via Dan Gillmor

Dan Gillmor
UPDATE: Trudy Schuett posted an extraordinary exchange of e-mails with the Alaska librarian, who has the nerve to say he knows of "no typos or mis-statements in that column, unless they are those of the sources I cite, and every point in my column stemmed from multiple sources. As a rule, there's not enough space in a 700-word column to list multiple sources, but I can readily produce them."

No, he can't. He can't possibly produce a citation that explains misspelling my name and Dave Barry's. He might alibi getting the name of my book wrong, because he quotes an early working title that I used in blog postings here. But even there, a tiny amount of due diligence would have produced the correct title.

I worship librarians as a rule, but I'm going to make an exception in this case.

Truely unbelievable.

Speaking of unreachable sites... George Bush's official site used to time out when you tried to access it from Japan, Australia, New Zealand and a few other places I think. I blogged this back in August. Now it tells you formally:
Access Denied

You don't have permission to access "" on this server.

Much more formal than just timing out on us. But it's more clear now that it is intentional. Why would the Bush campaign want to block access from Japan?

via Jim

As of yesterday, Wikipedia is inaccessible from most of China. It appears to be inaccessible from 11 out of 12 points in China. It was blocked for a few days back in June or so, but this block appears to be broader than the last one. Hope this one gets resolved quickly too.

IBM History Flow visualization of the "Islam" article on Wikipedia.
I think the gaps are where the page has been erased and restored.
See the IBM History Flow page for more details and examples.
I think this has been mentioned in the press already, but I confirmed with Jimmy Wales that a study done by IBM (The group that did the history flow work) tried to measure how quickly vandalism on Wikipedia was identified and corrected. They searched for pages where suddenly all of the content disappeared or a huge amount was deleted. They found that the median time for such a page to be restored was 5 minutes. This did not take into the account the process that where Wikipedians often refactor or move pages and redirect them which would show a similar behavior. So the median time is probably less than 5 minutes. In the context of our discussion about Wikipedia authority, I think this is quite an interesting and impressive statistic.

Mizuka just asked me if I had heard about some guy who was busted for making tons of money trading stocks who claims to be a time-traveler. The story was that he would show them the time-machine if they let him go. She said her Japanese friends were talking about it. I laughed and checked Google News with an assortment of keywords with no results. I wandered over to #joiito. Soon enough nichlas came up with a link to a WWN article from March, 2003 about the story. Just as I was wondering if this was something to blog about, KevinMarks page-slapped us with the entry from April 2003 debunking the story.

I would really love to see the path that this silly story took over the last 1 1/2 years to get from WWN to me via the Japanese girls gossip network.

The AP reports that the IOC bars athletes, coaches from writing first-hand accounts This reminds me of the (now defunct) rule that companies couldn't report earnings and other reports on the Internet until after newspapers had time to print. This was supposed prevent an "unfair advantage" for people who use the Internet. Protecting traditional journalists by muzzling first-hand reports from athletes and coaches is so wrong and stupid.

via Smartmobs

Cryptome is one of my primary sources of documents that get released to the public through a variety of sources. I link to it quite often from my blog. ABC News questions the value of the public's right to know, vs the risk of "helping the enemy." I have a feeling that terrorists are pretty good at using the Internet and probably already have access to most of the stuff on Cryptome. I think that it could be argued that they are helping terrorists by making the information so easy to find, but I personally think that Cryptome and other sites like it are important in fighting against the natural tendency to hide behind secrecy.

My current friend and former nemesis, Hiroo Yamagata and I were on a panel with Larry Lessig last week. He casually mentioned that he had decided to translate Das Kapital into Japanese. He is one of the best translators in Japan and has translated Lessig, Leary, Krugman and many others. Anyway, he said that all of the existing translations were related to the Japanese communist party in some way and were edited and filtered. For instance, violence and other things were omitted. He remembered someone in college who argued Marx with him based on a faulty translation and in retrospect, this pissed him off. He decided to make a more accurate translation. Hiroo is kind of a weirdo, but it's because of people like him that some things that are lost in translation actually get fixed. Blatant censorship is pretty scary, but this reminded me how dangerous intentional mistranslations can be as well.

Rational Ignorance

Academic life is ruining the internet for me. An example: Today I read Joi Ito’s wandering entry on money, economics, and physics, and the first thing I thought of doing was to post a bibliography of all of the reading that should have been done before that post was made. And then I realized that posting such a bibliography is the equivalent of shouting at the television. It doesn’t matter what I say about it. The TV (and the internet) can’t really hear me.

Lago reacts to an interesting point that I in fact pondered yesterday before posting my thoughts from my lunch with Seth. Is it better for me to post my superficial musings with Seth in the one hour that I had before I needed to move on to the next thing, or do I scribble them in my notebook and write a more rigorous treatment with references. I decided, as Cory often says, that my blog is my notebook and that even though many of my thoughts were half-baked, it was better to write early/write often than to back burner the thoughts and probably never get around to posting them.

If you read on in Lago's post, he does raise a very interesting way to look at the trade-offs of shallow vs rigorous. What is the cost of rigor and is it worth it?

I am not an academic. I am an extremely busy businessman who happens be lucky enough to meet quite a few smart people from a variety of fields. As one good friend has told me, my primary purpose is to connect people. It probably adds more value to society for me to spend one hour getting two people excited enough to talk to each other than to sit and ponder a notion by myself. My blog is not a rigorous treatment of the topics that I'm interested in, but rather a collection of links, questions, thoughts and points of view. A great variety of people read this blog and I'm sure that just about any professional thinker in on any topic I write about will find my treatment of the topic rather superficial. The question is to me is whether this is valuable or whether my lack of rigor could actually be a disservice to the discourse.

Getting back to my last post... I actually did think about spending the weekend dragging out my old notes from Hayek, Coase, Arrow, Chandler, Shannon, Mauss, Simon, etc. and digging into my memory and trying to tie all of this together. Instead, I posted a my rambling thoughts because I knew I'd never do it if I put it off. Also, I realize that I will never be able to compete directly with full-time academic and that it is not my position to answer these questions in a rigorous way. I suppose that if I can end up getting Seth, an economist and a rabbi to sit down and chat about world views over dinner at some point, I will have served my purpose.

I don't want to ignite a academic vs non-academic flame-war here. I'm just trying to point out, as Lago does, that we are all making decisions about how much to study in order for us to make the right decisions. I don't have the time or the ability to do "all of the reading that should have been done before that post was made." Having said that, I would encourage people to post "a bibliography of all of the reading" since I am interested and so are many other people.

Gapminder is a truly amazing site of visualizations of stunning facts and statistics.

Thanks for the link David!

I'm off again to the Sony Open Forum tomorrow. It's an annual event. The main event is Sony's sponsorship of a golf tournament, but there is also a small forum where Chairman Idei invites executives of Sony and several other people to discuss some of the key topics for the year. Last year I was invited to speak about the future of Japan. This year I'm going to be talking about media consumption and the future of media. My talk will kick off a discussion session. The conference itself is not public, but I'm assuming my comments are. I've put my talking notes on my wiki and Kevin Marks, Roger Wood and danah boyd have contributed some thoughts on a page about media consumption. The actual talk isn't for a few more days so any thoughts you might have would be greatly appreciated. Please add them to the wiki. Thanks!

My last blog entry about blogs and justice was a bit theoretical and ended with more questions than answers. Maybe it was confusing. Let me try to be specific. I think blogging will go beyond text and by blogging I mean the whole space that includes all sorts of micro-publishing of micro-content in a highly linked and low-cost way. This includes camera phones, video and audio. There are many things going on right now that will be sand in the vaseline from a technology perspective. Most types of DRM will suck for micro-content distribution. So will things like the broadcast flag. The whole notion of architecting systems for streaming video on demand goes against architecting systems for sharing. These technology and policy decisions will greatly affect the ease in which we publish and share information in the future.

When else can we do? At the last GLT Annual meeting Ethan Zukerman raised an important question during a talk moderated by Richard Smith, the Chairman and Editor in Chief of Newsweek. He asked why the mass media didn't cover Africa more. To summarize, Mr. Smith answered that they were a business and had to print things that people cared about and that they had resource constraints that made it difficult for them to cover remote regions. Resource constraints and caring. Mr. Smith seemed genuinely distressed by the inability to report about things the he believed people SHOULD care about. In Aspen the year before last, Jack Kemp said an interesting thing, "It doesn't matter what you know if you don't care." I agree, and generally people don't care to learn about things they don't care about.

I think blogs can help on both points. There are lots of people in these countries that can help provide voice if enabled with some technology and some support. Witness provides a video voice to people who are oppressed in remote regions of the world. Take a look at the videos. Tell me if you still don't care. Salam Pax our Blogger in Iraq provided a real human voice before the invasion of Iraq. This human voice helped me care about Iraq much more than a statistical body count reported in the New York Times ever could. I'm hoping that Creative Commons licenses will allow musicians in remote regions to share music and culture directly so they have a voice, rather than being mined by studios and commercial interests and being turned into an mere ethnic overtone in an otherwise typically commercial business. I think blogs and technologies that allow people to produce and share information help greatly on the "make people care" part of the equation.

On the "we are resource constrained" part of the media equation, blogs can help too. Ethan Zukerman is planning his second trip to Africa with GLTs and other opinion leaders. I hope to join him on the trip after that. Ethan has been working very hard to try to provide technical support to NGO and other people working in Africa. As I propose in my Emergent Democracy paper, I think that there is a way for information to emerge from regions though several layers of blogs. A group of bloggers focused on Africa, working with people like Witness to try to identify issues, getting first hand sources and dialog onto the Net is the first step. We don't need a lot of these bloggers and they probably won't be your average person, but with a few well positioned bloggers in these regions, these regions can be "lit up" with a human voice and feed culture into our collective consciousness. These bloggers would keep in touch with sources and provide a network similar to the way in which a journalist creates a local network of sources and experts.

I think that bloggers can work closely with the mass media. Richard Smith expressed his interest in hooking up with bloggers and other sources with access to information that his journalists could use. The bloggers who are in or care about regions that are not well-covered by traditional media could become sources for traditional journalists and support by providing an audience that cares and resources at a very low cost.

These are just some examples of things that we can be doing to help make blogs provide real value to society, rather than becoming an echo-chamber for local values or chat rooms to promote new media assets.

So when Clay's asserts that:

I can’t imagine a system that would right the obvious but hard to quantify injustice of the weblog world that wouldn’t also destroy its dynamism.
I guess if the primary focus of a good system is to be just, I can imagine it trying to make technology more inclusive and thinking beyond the market of the privileged that danah refers to.

The FCC says it's OK to say "fuck" on TV. So it is OK to broadcast, "fucking USA" ?

Via MetaFilter and Boing Boing

At the joint Social Entrepreneurs and Global Leaders for Tomorrow meeting in Geneva, I met Gillian Caldwell. She is a film maker and an attorney and the Executive Director of WITNESS.

Witness Mission Statement
WITNESS advances human rights advocacy through the use of video and communications technology. In partnership with more than 150 non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders in 50 countries, WITNESS strengthens grassroots movements for change by providing video technology and assisting its partners to use video as evidence before courts and the United Nations, as a tool for public education, and as a deterrent to further abuse. WITNESS also gives local groups a global voice by distributing their video to the media and on the Internet, and by helping to educate and activate an international audience around their causes.
This is incredibly important work. They are causing a great deal of impact already, but I think blogs could help increase their ability to reach a broader audience. This is such a great reason to figure out video blogging.

Ethan Zuckerman is the founder of geekcorps.

A US-based, non-profit organization, we place international technical volunteers in developing nations. We contribute to local IT projects while transferring the technical skills needed to keep projects moving after our volunteers have returned home.
Ethan's a GLT and one of the few blog savvy GLT's here. We've both evangelizing weblogs like crazy this trip. Ethan works a lot in developing nations and we talked about how to get technology to developing nations and how blogs could help get more coverage for issues in developing nations since the mass media tends to underreport them. One important part is to make them feel more culturally "close" in the way Salam Pax created a voice for Baghdad in the blogging community. We need more African bloggers. The other thing is to for other bloggers to understand and blog more about things going on in other parts of the world.

Ethan pointed me to a great resource for news about Africa, I think I'll start here...

The first panel was Richard M. Smith, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek moderating a panel of Newsweek coorespondents. The Panel was Stryker McGuire, the European Editor and London Bureau Chief, Joshua Hammer, the Jerusalem Bureau Chief and Richard Wolffe, the Diplomatic Correspondent in Washington DC.

I first met Richard Smith at the Sony Open Forum where his insights on what would happen if we went into Iraq was in hind-sight very accurate. I met Richard again at the Japan dinner at Davos this year. Richard is one of the most balanced, articulate and friendly newsmagazine editors I've ever met and I'm always impressed by his candor and insight.

The panel was really great. It was a very frank discussion on a variety of issues ranging from American politics, the Middle East to Tony Blair. One notable thing was that when I asked about the role of blogs and amateur journalism with a small "j", I think everyone acknowledged their existence and their importance, but probably thought of them still in the context of email feedback, etc. and didn't really "get" blogging. I cornered Richard afterwards and made him promise to spend time with me to let me go through blogging in more detail with him.

One very interesting thing that came up was the issue of the lack of coverage of important issues in "not so important" parts of the world. Richard discussed the difficult job that he has of trying on the one hand to provide news that people were interested in while at the same time trying to report on issues that were important that people did not feel were important to them. There was a discussion about how the further away culturally people were from you, the less likely you would "care" about them. Since most of the readers of Newsweek were in developed nations, Israel obviously "felt" more important to them than say, Africa. Having said that, Newsweek has reported more on Africa than most major US press. Listening to Richard talk about these decisions reminded me of the struggle that all politicians face -- need to gain public support on the one hand, while on the other having the moral obligation to push forward important policies that were either unpopular or seemed unimportant to most people.

Obviously, I believe blogs can play a huge role here and I've decided to learn more about issues in Africa so I can blog about them.

Scoble blogs about secrets. I'm really bad at keeping secrets. That's part of the reason why I love to blog so much. I love sharing information and ideas because the feedback increases my information. I remember attending a conference on intelligence and one of the US intelligence officers said that Bill Clinton complained that he would get "top secret" reports from the CIA only to see them on CNN the next day. The value of many "top secret" documents that he couldn't talk about with anyone was quite low in a world of exceedingly fast information.

I do see the need for secrecy and as someone who is concerned about privacy and security, I think about secrecy a lot. This also ties in with the issue of who should be allowed to have secrecy and that we should limit, if possible, the secrecy of those in power in order to limit their ability to abuse power.

Bill Emmott, the editor of The Economist on the left and Brian Barry, the Tokyo bureau chief of The Economist on the right
Bill Emmott, the editor of The Economist visited Japan on his tour through Asia. Ever since I met Bill, I've become subscriber of the paper version of and an avid reader of The Economist. Bill is a Japan expert and has written numerous books about Japan. It's great having someone who knows as much as Bill as the editor The Economist since Japan is not getting much coverage these days. We talked about the feedback Bill has been getting on the strong stance The Economist took on the war and how interesting and useful the feedback was. Brian noted that Bill got more feedback because his articles had his name on them. I explained that a lot of bloggers link to articles in The Economist and that if they used Technorati, they could track bloggers writing about the articles and get feedback more quickly and in more detail.

We also talked a lot about Japan and many of the problems Japan faces. Bill is very supportive of our efforts and I hope that with Brian's help, we can get The Economist to cover Japan in an objective way. Media coverage will be essential in our efforts to push for more transparency.

Kevin Marks has written a nice rebuttal to Andrew Orlowski's article about googlewashing.

Also, FYI it wasn't because I am a "a colossus of authority" that Jim Moore's article took off on Google, but probably because the true colossus, Dave Winer wrote about it. Actually, I first heard about Jim's blog because Dave met Jim and emailed Doc and me about Jim's new blog. (In any event, collosal is a collosal word. I think Andrew had probably just finished reading the article about the colossal squid.)

The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today report NBC News fires Arnett Over Iraqi TV Interview. Via The Command Post, here is the official word from National Geographic which co-fired him.

Update from The Command Post: "Peter Arnett, the American reporter fired by MSNBC and National Geographic earlier today has reportedly (Fox News) been hired by the Daily Mirror."

I blogged earlier that I thought that CNN telling Kevin Sites to stop blogging sucked. I recently talked to a friend of mine who works at a major US TV Network and was presented a more balanced view on the issue. I have received permission to quote the following from an email exchange.

All U.S. TV networks have a script approval process and frankly I think overall it leads to better, more focused, and more accurate reporting, not the opposite. We have script approval for the same reasons newspapers and magazines have editors. If you're going to call script approval censorship then you'll have to call the whole editing process censorship.

Its also standard that a news organization has legal rights by contract to all "works" produced by its journalists. this is a basic market reality. Why should we expect a news company to pay us a decent amount of money and then not retain the rights to our news related "works"?  If we want total "freedom of speech" to write or say anything, anywhere at any time - especially on the same subjects that we cover as journalists - then we should expect to work for free.

The weeklies in Japan are writing about a scandal at the Nikkei, one of the largest Japanese newspapers. They report that a whistle blower inside of the Nikkei sent email to the management at Nikkei about the 10's of millions of dollars worth of fake checks that were issued by a Nikkei subsidiary. The whistle blower apparently claims that the president of the Nikkei was involved and these funds were used to create dirty money. According to the weeklies, the president is being bumped up to chairman, which is a Japanese way of removing him from operations. It's the talk of the town. The weeklies are notoriously slanderous and the Nikkei is apparently threatening to sue. This is an interesting incident worth following because a scandal by the head of one of the biggest newspapers is going to be difficult for the mass media to report. Currently none of the major newspapers have reported this incident.

A poll done by Oki Matsumoto and Monex shows that 86% of people polled support Takenaka. The LDP, the opposition, the banks and the Japanese media are picking on Takenaka. The foreign are focusing on the "injection of public funds" rather than the most important point which is the fact that Takenaka is trying to force banks to mark down their bad debt. He's getting it from all sides and I don't think Koizumi is sticking up for him enough. The amazing thing is, the public (at least those who go to Monex's site) supports him. It is so typical for the Japanese media to be taking mean swipes at him and making him look weak and stupid when he is really the main person trying to get people to face their problems. I hate to say this, but if all of the people who voted on the Monex site had blogs, maybe the media wouldn't be able to get away with the horrible spin doctoring. How can they say people don't support him when at least one poll shows him having major public support. Bah!

My comments on "Versioning: The Smart way to Sell Information" (Carl Shapiro and Hal R. Varian, Harvard Business Review, 1998) written July 29, 2001 for Kokuryo-sensei's class.

Information Is a Service, Not a Product

By Joichi Ito
July 29, 2001

In their article "Versioning: The Smart Way to Sell Information" (Shapiro and Varian) suggest that by creating different versions of software and information products, priced differently with slightly different features, publishers can provide products for each of their customer segments and use the segmenting to allow some versions to be highly priced. They explain that prices should be based on the value to the customer rather than cost of production.

Although I found the article useful in thinking about the current models of versioning, especially from a market segmenting perspective, I believe there is a much more important lesson to be learned in the information distribution business model.

Treating information as a static product capable of being packaged and distributed or of being stored and protected in a server has many difficulties. Copyright will become exceedingly difficult to enforce and people who understand the nature of information will see through the segmenting as in the case of airline tickets, which they mention.

I believe the only robust model for information in the future is a services model. People will pay for live contact or highly customized information. People will see value in information as it is produced. I think that non-customized, already-produced packages of information will continue to drop in value.
As long as people continue to be familiar with old marketing and media models, many of the strategies in the article will continue to produce results. However, all businesses should assume that customers will not be willing to pay more just because it is 努orth more to them.・We must try to find business models that allow pricing to reflect both the value to the customer and the work done to deliver the value to the customer.

Services such as support, community, customization, live audio and video streams and other less scalable aspects of information distribution are the easiest to charge for. I believe that
servers that store the information and software that allows users to search the information (New York Times and Business Week) to a lesser extent are still 電elivery services・ We should focus our attention on the point that the company is providing a storage and search service, rather than focusing on the point they are providing more 妬nformation・to paying customers.

As peer to peer networks become easier to use and the cost of hard disks plunge, just having a lot of storage and search capability will not be enough. In addition, although the law can try to prevent the copying of music, software and other digital assets, I believe that it will become quite difficult. Companies and artists will have to come up with models which do not rely on their ability to control copying.

Another way mange this dilemma is to receive payment up front before delivering or even working on the software or information product. 典he Wall Street Performer Protocol・(Chris Rasch, 2001) describes a software completion bond mechanism for funding open source software development. Other ways to do this might be for fans to pre-pay for first rights to receive a new music track from an artist, or for artists fund recording by integrating this with paid performances.

Although I believe that copyright will continue to cost more and become more difficult, it is important to note that it will take time for the current information infrastructure to make it obsolete. Also, buying habits are strongly influenced by media, and although I believe that the Internet will create a new much more active media, mass media still has the most impact on the public. Therefore, I believe all companies and artists should keep in mind that long term trend is away from packaged information distribution, there is still a great deal to be gained short term from finding creative solutions for copyright, versioning, and marketing.

Danny Hillis and Time

February 18, 1999

At John Brockman's "Billionaire's Dinner" I had a chance to talk to Danny Hillis Currently VP at Disney Imagineering R&D, formerly of Thinking Machines. Anyway, Danny is thinking about building a clock that will last for 10,000 years. We were talking about "Time" and I talked to him a little bit about the Japanese concept of "ma" that Takemura-sensei taught me. Takemura-sensei told me that the Japanese got their sense of time from water clocks from China instead of radial sun-dials so the idea of "ma" which means both space and time is more natural. Danny questions whether Japanese didn't have normal radial clocks very early. In fact, he thought that maybe the Chinese had normal clocks before the West.

Danny explained that he wanted people to wind the clock but to make the clock stop if unwound would probably not be a good idea so making the chimes need winding might be cool. He also talked about Ise Jingu, the temple in the Japan that is rebuild next to the old one regularly so the building is always fresh. I suggested a ritual where pieces of the clock were replaced regularly as a ritual so that every once and awhile, all of the parts were replaced. Like cells in our body. A pattern, rather than an object.

I asked Takemura-sensei to send me him paper which I forwarded to Danny. I also sent Danny a Edward Hall's Beyond Culture because he had not read about the idea of mono-chronic and poly-chronic time which Edward Hall describes.

Edward Hall talks about cultures which take time and space and put them in linear pieces. This allows scalable organized development, but is often not guided well by human common sense. In the middle east, time and space are not as defined. Often, bureaucrats in the middle east will have everyone come at once and they will do what they feel they need to do by their own priority rather than on a schedule. When they get too much work, the spawn another organization rather than scale the one that they have. In the West, you get large organizations, in mono-chronic cultures you get lots of small organizations. Anyway, interesting topic, great book.

Below is Takemura-sensei's paper on "ma".

"ma" is time and space in Japan. Before 645 AC(Taika no Kaishin) in Japan, Time idea and concept is nothing. After Taika no Kaishin (like a Tennoh-empelor renessance), time idea begun from Roh-koku(chinese water clock). water colock is just space time. Following my text, please take a look.

best, Mitsuhiro Takemura


"ma" by Mitsuhiro Takemura

It was 9 winters ago, when I visited the McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto to work, with director Derrick de Kerckhove, on the video conferencing project to link France, Canada and Japan. Derrick was repeatedly trying to project the metaphor of the Japanese "Ma" ("interval") onto the time difference and gap in image transmission that arises in long-distance communications. It was indeed interesting that he had focused on the structure of "Ma", which includes both time and space, but I wonder to what extent people are conscious of the concept of "Ma" in Japan today. Although I was born in Japan, I stood speechless and maintained a vague distance in the face of the French-Canadian Derrick's enthusiasm. In response to this unexpected word "Ma" I recalled the decisive difference in sound structure between East and West debated by John Cage and the contemporary music scene in the 1970s, while experiencing the pleasure of suddenly incorporating the conceptual door and inner world of Japanese traditional aesthetics represented by Noh or the tea ceremony.

Cultural DNA is an apt phrase, for there was a decisive experiential resource concerning Japanese traditional culture breathing inside me. Time in Japanese is written with the characters for time and "Ma", space with the characters for empty and "Ma", I suddenly thought of substituting the word "Ma" for media. To place an interval is to embody time, while the six-ma "Ma", applied to the Japanese "Tatami" room, allows one to instantaneously grasp space. For a long time in the West, people have questioned how this one word can express both time and space. The concept of the medium, the in-between, signifies the interval between time and space, and is similar to the concept of the web.

The function of the web, which weaves the internal world and unconsciousness of man, is the most important concept in trying to understand media. Until now, the massive, one-way media network has reflected, as the very word net implies, the ideology of capture, of rounding up the masses into a net. Hakim Bey, an advocate of the web and anti-copyright who had a decisive influence on cypher-punk, expresses with the word web not this type of net, but rather a web as a function of communication, actively weaving together the mutual intercourse of the scattered reference points of information. It could be compared to Sufi philosophy or the ambient "journey" woven together from nomads and nature.

In previous mass society, if you were excluded from the circulation system consisting of mass-produced advertisements and media devices it was difficult, even with superior content, to gain attention. The internet society, or the digital society, dismantles the circulation system that previously required a long duration of time and geographical expansion and infiltration. And as content and context instantaneously form a web of time and space, it produces a knot called"cyber-space/Ma" tying together time and space. In contrast to previous media circulation systems, which closed the gap between time and space, the web has already bestowed the flexible grid of "Ma" and a tribal response onto time and space. In this sense, freeware and web are truly new media systems in the context of cyberculture. The word network should now be converted to webwork.

The internet, by replacing the framework of the copyright with nomadic information, and by making the web, an interval of time and space, into a site of free intercourse, has been widely disseminated as media of a new dimension. It maintains a unique distance woven from webwork. Speed and delay, compression and expansion--such free editing is shaping current cyberspace. The time and space of the web, woven by countless tribes, is also the aesthetics of "Ma".

The fact that every year in Japan, June 10th is designated as "time day" is not well-known. The reason that this day was established as "time day" more than 70 years ago in 1920, is that over 1300 years ago in 671, during the Asuka Period, on April 25th of the old calendar (June 10th according to the solar calendar), the first water clock (rohkoku) was built in Japan. Today, people are not especially aware of this day, but in fact it was a tremendously important event in Japanese history. For until then there were no clocks in Japan, and the Japanese did not have any concept of time. Having only the concept of space as concrete existence appearing before them in reality, the Japanese were able to materialize the invisible, abstract existence of time through the water clock. The water clock measures time in terms of the quantity of water. Thus the physical quantity of accumulating water expressed time, which was understood as material quantity. In Japan, the concepts of ma and time have also included space ever since the appearance of the "rohkoku".

On the other hand, in the European concept of time, space maintained a different meaning. It is the history of the sundial, which follows a graduated row of numbers according to the movement of a shadow. Of course the sundial, which tells time according to a shifting shadow, maintains no concept of quantity as in the case of the water clock. The shadow that was at the previous notch becomes a shadow in the current position, and in the next instant will become another shadow, thus inscribing the passage of time. There is no reflection of the concept of space, but rather a progression along a row of numbers.

The Japanese"Ma", which had grasped space and even time in terms of quantity, has captivated many Western intellectuals as the mysterious spiritual structure of Japan, and has given rise to various accounts of the Japonesque, from the strange worlds of the rock garden of Kyoto's Ryoanji to the tea house.

Currently, the media of the inter-world called the web is weaving a new articulation with the traditional aesthetics that constitute the resources of Japanese experience and sensibility. The digital web, spreading across the earth like a nervous system, is evoking great changes in the physical world, in communication and the formation of communities in cyberspace, as well as in the industrial, economic systems which will be revolutionized by the digital network. We are facing the question not of how to design the completely new electronic world of cyberspace, but rather how to embody it. The historical experience and knowledge that human beings and the natural world have woven together will become an important factor in the design of this new ecosystem of information, the new world that has appeared on the earth, unaffected by gravity and whose concepts of time and space cannot be evoked by the old media. The emergence in the real world of an imaginary real society, in which unrealizable worlds are produced without end, conceals the complicit relationship of desire between human beings and the media. What we must consider seriously is the fact that media is the reflection of man's limitless desire. In the next generation of desire-designing media, we will need to discern an exquisite interval that reflects life-sized bodies and cultures.

Joichi Ito's Reading Notes January 16, 1999
Doubt and Certainty in Science by J. Z. Young

Excellent book. The book was published in 1951 and the references to computers are extremely dated, but his analysis of the brain, thinking, scientific discovery, learning, evolution, etc. are very enlightening.

Young tries to look at human beings from the perspective of a biologist. He tries to describe all aspects of humans including religion from a biologists perspective. He looks at the brain as an organ and begins by describing the brain and the neurons that make up the brain. He explains how these neurons and their behavior can explain most of the behavior of humans. Remeniscient of "Lost Worlds", he talks about the evolution of humans and how we are more a product of our social environment than our DNA. (This is a very old thread for me and something I would like to develop more in the future.) He explains how atoms flow through the human body and explains that we are a "pattern" and have nothing solid that persists over time. We are like a whirlpool. "Piology like physics, has ceased to be material," he says. In this sense, evolution of humans is about learning. Learning is about the brain. The neurons in our brain throb happily until they are disturbed by some outside stimulus. They try to come up with some solution that stops the noise and brings the brain back into sync again. This process of disturbance and harmony is the "doubt and certainty" in science he talks about. Learning, he says, is not all as Pavlov and his conditioning shows. Humans look at things and think in order to disturb or break up the harmony in order to discover better ways. He trys to explain that studying the anatomy of the brain my give us insight into the process of learning and help us evolve.

His vision seems to tie in well with the De Bono book about thinking that I have just begun reading after being recommended to do so by Sen Nagata. More on these thoughts later...

Study Group Meeting December 5, 1998

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Kokuryo, Nakamura, Morita, Shibuya, Mizushima, Mitarai, Yeum, Nagata, Ito, Nohara, Yamada, Sato

A few initial thoughts:

What would McLuhan have said about XML?

Will EDI bring about the collapse of Marketing and Advertising?

What would Blau have said about Linux?

Will OSS bring about the collapse of Commercial Software?


The Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshall McLuhan

Exchange and Power in Social Life, Peter M. Blau



Readings for this meeting: K. Arrow, The Limits of Organization Ronald Coase, The Firm, The Market, and The Law Chester Barnard, The Functions of the Executive Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenburg Galaxy

October 13, 1998
Meeting with Jiro Kokuryo and Masakata Morita

Readings for this meeting:
K. Arrow, The Limits of Organization
Ronald Coase, The Firm, The Market, and The Law
Chester Barnard, The Functions of the Executive
Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenburg Galaxy

We began the discussion talking about the ways that Arrow, Coase and Barnard describe the necessity and the method by which organizations are form are become required. Although while I was reading Barnard, much of what he wrote felt rather redundant and not-so-significant, in the context of trying to describe organizations, I found myself continually coming back to frameworks and metaphors that were proposed by Barnard. The most important aspect in our discussion was the idea that organizations are not merely ways to make economics factors more efficient, but things like vision, authority, responsibility and many other factors guide the function as well as the raison d'etre of organizations. Barnard best described this.

From this discussion, we talked more about the raison d'etre of organizations and Kokuryo-san proposed that maybe we cooperate for the sake of cooperating. What is happiness anyway? Just belonging to an organization can be happiness. This ties into the idea "what is utility anyway?" and other big questions. If the purpose of economy is to optimize utility in society and utility is supposed to make us happy then...

"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" is in the constitution of the United States of America. So shouldn't we be talking about happiness instead of utility? This then connects to Alexis de 's observation that American's do not have equality, but opportunity and "Liberty." The happiness that comes from choice and liberty are is a very strange kind of happiness indeed in that it comes from an infinite ability to have aspirations, but a very difficult time reaching goals. I think Simon talks about the utility function in terms of aspirations and satisfaction. If happiness can be defined in this way, it becomes exceedingly obvious that many of the things that affect our happiness can not be purchased, thus are not connected to the utility function.

Marx might say that labor is a major part of value and that exchange value can not replace the labor value. Bauldrillard might say that sign value can make us happy. Goldhaber would probably say that attention makes us happy. Still... a lot of this we can buy. I wonder if there is anything significant that makes us happy that you really can not buy. What is it and how does it act? This is the question that I am concerned about...

Simon has many very interesting models that he develops for thinking about and describing things. In his words, he describes interesting "states" and interesting "processes".

Simon has many very interesting models that he develops for thinking about and describing things. In his words, he describes interesting "states" and interesting "processes".

Simon seems to conclude that everything might seem very complex, but that actually if you design the way you think about and the way you view everything, it actually can be described. He describes a system of a hierarchy of chunks which are "near decomposable" which means that intra-component (intra-chunk) linkages are generally stronger than inter-component linkages.(1) Or… High frequency being independent from low frequency dynamics. This allows evolution to occur by level in the hierarchy making it easier and more likely. It also allows the system to be described more simply because the design of the function or the "efficiency" of each component can be separated from the internal design of the component. Thus, the fitness function of a DNA strand is a based at the end of a combination of organs which is not so concerned about the detail of the internal workings of the organs.

I have a problem with this model. It is possible that the internal design of a component may not affect the next layer up in the hierarchy, but may affect another layer. This may be very non-linear and not as easily quantifiable as "efficiency". For example, the color of an organ or skin may not have direct impact on certain variables, but may have significant impact in certain situations from the fitness point of view. I think that there is considerable "chaos" integrated in hierarchical complex systems, particularly when they have to do with information or culture. Simon talks about chaos, but classifies it as a different sort of complexity than his hierarchical complexity. This may be true in many of the models he presents, but I think that this model by itself is limited. I have a "hunch" that chaotic systems can be "described". Maybe not in words, but in some method that allows us to on the one hand deal with physical things in this sort of reductionist mode and deal with chaotic information based things in some other method and reconcile this in some other kind of output. I have a feeling that there are some answers in art, anthropology or sociology which is more familiar with the non-linear, but natural.

The way that he simplifies the complex is by collapsing similarities and creating new views that lessen the number of chunks by adding levels or by organizing a level in a certain way. This is very interesting and is probably very useful, but a risk is that there are various methods of making our storage and manipulation of a reality more efficient, but each of the methods brings with it a bias towards a specific direction or solution. (2) Simon talking about the folly of the model of optimized markets which maximize the utility function. One can find adequate solutions, but there is no optimum solution. I think that one can apply this idea to methods of describing complexity.

I very much like his style, his approach and his methods, but I think there is a risk of underestimating the impact of weak ties, culture and non-linear interactions. On the other hand, it allows a level of rigor in thinking about complex things that is very enlightening. His idea of the linearity of the brain is very useful (although he doesn't address illogical decision making processes, dreaming, emotions, etc.). His view that the utility function is too simple and aspiration and satisficing can help explain some of the problems with the idea of optimizing the utility function are useful. On the other hand, I think that trust networks, communities, SWT, common knowledge, culture, etc. are much more complex than just computing aspiration and satisfaction.

His description of the role of organization vs. markets was very interesting and I think will lead very well into Chandler, so I will reserve myself a little until then.

  1. This is really about the strength of weak ties. Simon describes some examples using scientific methods which are very useful in thinking about SWT. The idea of gravity being more important than electrical attraction at a macro level is a very good example of SWT. Talking about frequency is also very useful.
  2. Hall in Beyond Culture talks about the risks associated with thinking that your thinking is the only way to think. I think that a literal interpretation of Simon my cause greater culture gaps. For example, I think that GAAP is a very good way to organize components, but it makes certain types of assets invisible, and is a very specific viewpoint even though "the market" thinks it is reality.


OK. Below I was trying to organize a series of "chunks" that Simon was presenting as a sequence of quotes… After reading further and finally the last chapter, I realize that was presenting a series of sub-concepts that he would use to support his final theory on hierarchy, complexity and near decomposability. I'll leave the quotes to digest later and write a few thoughts about his conclusion.

We can view the matter quite symmetrically. An artifact can be thought of as a meeting point-an "interface" in today's terms-between an "inner" environment, the substance and organization of the artifact itself, and an "outer" environment, the surroundings in which it operates. p. 6

We might look toward a science of the artificial that would depend on the relative simplicity of the interface as its primary source of abstraction and generality. p. 9

In a benign environment we would learn from the motor only what it had been called upon to do; in a taxing environment we would learn something about its internal structure-specifically about those aspects of the internal structure that were chiefly instrumental in limiting performance. P. 12

The computer is a member of an important family of artifacts called symbol systems, or more explicitly, physical symbol systems. Another important member of the family is the human mind and brain. p. 21

Intelligence as Computation intelligence is the work of symbol systems…a physical symbol system…has the necessary and sufficient means for general intelligent action…p. 23

Chapter 2 Economic Rationality: Adaptive Artifice Economics illustrates well how outer and inner environment interact and, in particular, how an intelligent system's adjustment to its outer environment (its substantive rationality) is limited by its ability, through knowledge and computation, to discover appropriate adaptive behavior (its procedural rationality). p. 25

Today several branches of applied science assist the firm to achieve procedural rationality. One of them is operations research (OR); another is artificial intelligence (AI). p. 27

OR being linear and AI being heuristic

A large body of evidence shows that human choices are not consistent and transitive, as they would be if the utility function existed. p. 29

To deal with these phenomena, psychology employs the concept of aspiration level…A theory of choice employing these mechanisms acknowledges the limits of human computation and fits our empirical observations of human decision making far better than the utility maximization theory. p. 30

Roughly eighty percent of the human economic activity in the American economy, usually regarded as almost the epitome of a "market" economy, takes place in the internal environments of business and other organizations and not in the external, between-organization environments of markets. To avoid misunderstanding, it would be appropriate to call such a society an organization-&-market economy; for in order to give account of it we have to pay as much attention to organization as to markets. pp. 31-32

The key question here, one much discussed in "the new institutional economics" (NIE), is: what determines the boundary between organizations and markets; when will one be used, and when the other, to organize economic activity? p. 40

For Ars Electronica 1997 June 19, 1997: The Internet connects computers, people, sensors, vehicles, telephones, and just about anything together in a global network which is fast and cheap. This interconnectedness is the context. Context represents the way and the timing in which nodes are connected together. If content were the noun part of information, then context would be the verb part.

By Joichi Ito

For Ars Electronica 1997 June 19, 1997

The Internet connects computers, people, sensors, vehicles, telephones, and just about anything together in a global network which is fast and cheap. This interconnectedness is the context. Context represents the way and the timing in which nodes are connected together. If content were the noun part of information, then context would be the verb part.

New forms of media and communications tend to mimic its predecessors. Carl Malamud gives the example of early television where television shows often consisted of a radio announcer and a microphone on the screen. The Internet often has been called a method of online publishing or online broadcasting. Magazine publishers tell me that Internet advertising on a computer screen doesn't compare to an excellent full page ad in a magazine. Television producers often compare gritty Internet video to the power of a excellent television commercial. The Internet as a medium is not suited for the delivery of high volumes of the same information to many people. Currently,* the Internet connects everyone together at rather low bandwidth at low cost. The Internet delivers context, and it is of this that we should be building the future the Internet.

Much of the information in today's world and on the Internet expires very quickly. Fifteen minute old stock quotes become free, instant stock quotes costing money. Yesterday's newspapers are free on the Internet, but today's (or tomorrow's) can cost you money. It is a relationship with the newspaper and its reporters that is more important than the database of old articles. Your Netscape browser will expire in weeks. Stealing an old Netscape diskette at a computer shop makes very little sense. Rather than downloading lots of software, on the Internet people remember where to find what they need, or better yet, who to ask or where to search. It is information about information about information... Just as our monetary system has become very abstract, our currencies represent something that really has no physical reality, most information on the Internet is about context, rather than content. Instead of the hard data of yesteryear that could be bound in a book, stacked in a warehouse and distributed by trucks, the information on the Internet is about being connected LIVE and about being in the right place at the right time.

Communities on the Net consist of a group of people connected to each other in the form of discussions, games, or some other form of two-way connectedness. People invest time and energy into these communities and these communities evolve into a complex aggregate of relationships between people mediated by a technology and a context. It becomes a kind of place. These communities are influenced by the underlying technology, but grow far beyond the technology itself. The technology is a kind of genetic basis on which a new organism can grow, receiving input from its environment through its participants.

Artwork, writing and other forms of content which are often nearly static in the slow moving physical world can also become living things in the fluid, high-speed context of the Internet. An interesting idea or design can quickly become a popular item to be sampled, edited and redistributed. The artist can view their work, or their child, quickly develop in something quite different from what it was originally intended to be. The original artist is the parent, but unlike a child raised in complete isolation, work on the Internet is educated and formed, for better or for worse, into a product of its environment and society. Putting work on the Internet is more like giving birth than creating a static object.

Communities, multi-user games systems, markets, search engines and router configurations are all context oriented. The aesthetic of context is the design of such context-oriented systems which are outstanding in their nature. A good context-oriented system causes the network of living connections to converge, interact and grow. It adds value to the network and attracts users and connections.

The Internet is a self-organizing adaptive system. As John Casti from the Santa Fe Institute pointed out in his talk at the Ars Electronica Memesis symposium last year, one can understand completely the process in which a complex adaptive system works, but it is impossible to predict what it does. The Internet self-organizes itself in the very interesting area between total chaos and order. Eric Hughes has called it a working anarchy. When order is forced onto the Internet such as rigid protocols or singular ubiquitous operating systems, that layer becomes very brittle and as one learns in catastrophe theory, a shock to the system can cause a huge amount of damage. One virus or bug in the system could take the whole system down. The more inefficient and diverse nature of the current memetic/software pool allows the risk to be distributed. Many small earthquakes can help prevent a catastrophic earthquake. It is the inefficiency and the small errors that can help the Internet adapt and grow without imploding or exploding.

Ordered efficient systems are also very susceptible to fluctuation amplification. With feedback going in the wrong direction, small fluctuations in economy, politics, traffic or opinion can be amplified by the super-efficient network and explode or crash. Nature uses feedback systems that dampen such fluctuations in an elegant way to contain the energy and balance the systems. This non-linear balance is becoming exceedingly more important than to make the system faster or more efficient. This balance can also be explained as the aesthetic of the context.

Nearly complete chaos can also be found on the Internet in the sheer number of disorganized pieces of content and people. Total chaos can also be made much more useful by adding just enough context to help group the content and people into useful communities and networks.

Therefore, I would conclude that both complete order and complete chaos offer very little information, value or energy. Systems that help order chaos or disorder order are useful. In addition, the way in which these systems cause this non-chaos/non-ordered system to manifest should retain or create as much energy as possible while keeping a feedback system that prevents it from amplifying into destruction or dampening into nothing. This requires a group of rules or memes that attracts energy in the form of people, content, traffic, money, etc. and organizes this content in a way that grows and adds value. It is almost a kind of memetic engineering.

The memetic engineer/Internet artist is interested in coming up with an idea, software protocol or image that grows and evolves on the Internet. It is more about creating life than about creating a non-living piece of art. The memetic engineer seeks to have the particular meme copied and replicated where traditional artists are protective of their work. It is the use, familiarity and reproduction that makes a meme powerful and proves its aesthetic quality. The Internet artist and the meme both work in the medium of context rather than content.