Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Blackberry: The Tool of Choice for Big Brother

You may have seen this new Blackberry commercial in which Research In Motion Limited (RIM) asks, "What if delivery people ran the world?" All I have to say is that I hope they never do.

The commercial begins with a teacher taking roll. One student, Callahan, is absent. The teacher uses his new Blackberry phone/walkie-talkie to ask around the school for the student. First he asks the bus driver, who "delivers" children from the back of trucks rather than using buses, who states that the kid was dropped off already. The image of children coming out of the back of the trucks adds a kind of police state flavor to the commercial, as well. The teacher rings the gym and the hallway, looking for Callahan (the hallway monitor just finds a rather nerdy-looking freshman in a locker...) but is told that the student cannot be found. The teacher then uses his Blackberry to check for any emails from the kid's parents. When none are found, the teacher informs drivers on the street to find and detain Callahan to be brought back for detention.

What message is this commercial really sending? Technology can solve problems, and the side effects of such technologies are inconsequential to getting the job done.

Blackberry is ready to bring the Orwellian nightmare one step closer to reality. Imagine living in a world in which your every action was monitored and your freedom of choice removed. This is what RIM thinks would be a better way, all brought to you by a communications device.

Neil Postman would find this an example of the technopoly; we are so utterly in love with the belief that technology can solve problems, that we forget about the cultural values our technologies make obsolete.

For reference, here is the commercial:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Breaking Conventional Wisdom On Sharing, Remixing, and Reusing Content

Nine Inch Nails' CC-licensed mp3 album, Ghosts I-IV, is also the best selling mp3 album on Amazon. A perfect summary is already available, here.

In other words, despite the fact that NIN's CC license meant that the digital album could be freely shared, remixed and reused, it was still the #1 selling album on Amazon.

RIAA, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Patent Law Absurdity: Worlds.com Claims Ownership of the Concept of MMOs

I came across this Penny Arcade comic today, which is troubling. Worlds.com is suing NCsoft for patent infringement, claiming that the game developer has infringed on their "System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space" patent. Yeah, you read that right. More information can be read here and here.

If the suit is successful, I'd suspect Worlds.com to go after all other developers of MMOs. What will happen to World of Warcraft? The new Warhammer: Age of Reckoning? Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures? And the dozens of other existing MMOs?