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July 29, 2005

Participatory Culture's Countdown

Heather Green

On Aug. 9, Participatory Culture plans to release a preview beta version of its open source digital video service.

This project fascinates me because it's a continuation of the open source, open community work that's bubbling up all over the Internet in order to make it easier for you and me and all the rest of us to create and share creative works.

I got to see a demo of this is a loud, crowded, pseudo-hip coffee shop downtown last week and it's amazing. It combines the file sharing software BitTorrent with RSS and video publishing software that the Participatory Culture folks came up.

The result: the tools and an online distribution channel that anyone can use to publish their videos online. Organizations that plan to use this include Creative Commons, Al Gore's new cable channel Current TV and Pancake Mountain, which publishes educational programming for children.

02:07 PM

digital media

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You know, I still don't get it... what is "participatory culture" *really* all about? What's the true, underlying agenda?

Is it a social phenomenon? A political activism effort? A marketing ploy? An experiment? A mere fad? A "front" for efforts not alluded to? Is it a "movement" of true substance or simply more flash in the pan hype ala dot-com?

Their web site does tell us that "Our mission is to create tools for broader, deeper engagement with culture and politics", clueing us in that somehow a political angle is involved, but nothing on the site clues us in as to what party or parties the politics is connected to, other than a couple of oblique reference to "progressive organizations" and "progressives".

Is there any good reason that the technology cannot be separated from the hinted-at politics?

There are references to a "revolution"... "The revolution will indeed be televised" and "join the citizens media revolution." Is it simply a rebellion against something, whatever that might be, or is it truly attempting to accomplish something that cannot be accomplished through other means?

Sure, "open and independent" is nominally fairly obvious, but what's beneath the surface?

As with blogs, although everybody can have one (or more), that doesn't somehow automatically make each individual's voice better or heard by a larger audience, and it certainly doesn't assure that ranking by raw popularity (or politics?) will assure that "better" voices be given higher ranking.

Are your bosses aware that you're promoting a political effort?

Simply wrapping politics in a flag of technology doesn't magically make the politics any less suspect or any more socially desirable.

Are there no good reasons for insisting on a separation of technology and politics?

-- Jack Krupansky

Posted by: Jack Krupansky at July 29, 2005 05:31 PM

Hey Jack,

My understanding is that it's simply a way for people who are producing independent videos to distribute them. So of course not everyone will do this, but I do think it taps into the production of video that people are doing more often on their own, as the price of digital technology drops.

Glad you asked and I should have put it in the post. I asked them point blank whether they will only allow their technology to be used by groups aligned with the Democratic party and they said no. So we'll just have to see if they do otherwise.

Posted by: Heather Green at July 29, 2005 05:43 PM

Hi, David with Participatory Culture here. We're glad to see discussion of our internet TV platform. I wanted to respond to some of the questions that Jack raised and to help clear up any confusion.

"Open and Independent" means precisely that, no catches. Participatory Culture is a non-profit organization that's building a free & open-source internet TV platform: our video publishing software Broadcast Machine has been available since May as a free download, and our DTV video player (also free & open-source) will be available in a preview beta version starting August 9th. (We're even holding an open-source design competition to help improve the user interface.)

We do indeed draw a parallel between the development of blogging and that of internet TV, because blogging has thrived over the past six or so years in part because it's accessible and based on open standards. Whether or not one thinks that the "best" material tends to float to the top (which we emphatically do), free & open-source is surely the system to strive for in internet TV, just as it was with blogging or podcasting.

So when we talk about a "revolution" in internet TV, we're talking about the imminent potential for everyone to have their own *free* online TV channel -- whether it's political, a personal videoblog, independent film, or anything else, the format itself is content-neutral and politically neutral. Open to everyone.

Put another way, the "revolution" is indeed the citizens media revolution (I've always favored that phrase without the apostrophe), the prospect that the emerging mass market of internet TV will be built with independent voices. Thanks for checking out our project, hope you'll take it for a spin on August 9th, and feel free to contact me anytime with more questions or for more info at : drm at ppolitics dot org.

Posted by: David Moore at July 31, 2005 03:59 PM


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