Web 2.0, Social Software & Copyleft

Web 2.0,
Social Software
& Copyleft
SM3125 Critical Theory of Society
Tutorial / March 23, 2006
Instructor: Wesley Tang
Web 2.0
“The Network is the Computer”,
Jonathan Schwartz (Sun Microsystems, 1980s)
From Wikipedia, Web 2.0 usually refers
to one or more of the following:
A second generation of services available on
the World Wide Web that let people
collaborate, and share information online
The transition of websites from isolated
information silos to sources of content and
functionality, thus becoming a computing
platform serving web applications to end
Web 2.0
A social phenomenon referring to an approach
to creating and distributing Web content itself,
characterized by open communication,
decentralization of authority, freedom to share
and re-use, and "the market as a
A more organized and categorized content,
with a far more developed deeplinking web
Web 1.0  Web 2.0 (?)
Google AdSense
Bit Torrent
Britannica Online
Personal Websites
A Video Presentation by Jeff Utecht
Web 2.0
A very trendy/ tricky term (in a way like
the way in which the word is ‘synergy’
used in many Ad campaigns and
marketing slogans…) popularized by Tim
O’Reilly in his article ‘What Is Web 2.0?
Design Patterns and Business Models for
the Next Generation of Software’
Historical Aspect: An improvement /
aftermath of the dot com era?
Web 2.0
O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Meme Map:
Some Core Competencies
of Web 2.0 (by O’Reilly)
The Web as Platform
Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective
Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources
that get richer as more people use them
Trusting users as co-developers
Harnessing collective intelligence
Leveraging the long tail through customer selfservice
Software above the level of a single device
Lightweight user interfaces, development models,
AND business models
Web 2.0 - A Popular Example
Socialtext’s Wikipedia
“A free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.”
1,039,581 articles in English (as of March 23, 2006),
encompassing 123 “active” language editions (100+
articles) as of January 2006
Giving up Centralized Control (Top Down)
 More frequent updates (Bottom Up)
 A broad breath of information and data (Bottom Up)
Amateurs surpass Professionals? The Best Will
Surpass? An Opposite of Division of Labour? Decentralization of Authority (Democracy; placing
trust in users and collaborators…) vs. Creditability?
Web 2.0
Some Other Web 2.0-ish Examples?
Social Bookmarking or Social Library?
• Reviews and Listmania on Amazon.com
The ‘Tagging’ Movement:
• http://del.icio.us/
• http://www.flickr.com/
• http://www.douban.com/
Social Music Movement?
• http://www.last.fm/
Social Video Archive?
• http://www.youtube.com/
See also: Web 2.0 workgroup
Social Software
The idea of Social Software is very close to (or
even overlapping with) the concept of Web 2.0.
Some might argue that Web 2.0 is just a more nicely
packaged and technologically advanced version of Social
Software; some even criticize that Social Software is already
a fancy new name for something that have been with us for
ages – and we shall see why.
Again, it’s very difficult to clearly define Social
Software. Here is an attempt:
A community driven emerging technology which facilitates
interaction and collaboration
Many-to-many communications (Mailing List, BBS, Forum,
Blog, Wikis etc.)
It could be said that although both aim to foster a greater
sense of interaction, Social Software is not necessarily a Web
2.0 product.
Evolution of Social Software
Highlights from ‘Tracing the Evolution
of Social Software’ by Christopher Allen:
1940s — Memex
- “A memex is a device
in which an individual
stores all his books,
records, and
Evolution of Social Software
1970s — Electronic Information Exchange
System (EIES)
- Featured threaded-replies,
anonymous messages,
polling, etc.
- Pioneered many of the
concepts of BBS-style
community software
Evolution of Social Software
1990s — Groupware
- Software that
work on a
single project
by several
users at
Evolution of Social Software
2000s — Changing Evolution of Social Software
- Social software treats triads of people differently than
- Social software treats groups as first-class objects in
the system
- Software that supports group interaction
Writings on Social Software
Communications vs. Web-based Communications
• “Prior to the Web, we had hundreds of years of experience with
broadcast media, from printing presses to radio and TV. Prior to
email, we had hundreds of years experience with personal media
-- the telegraph, the telephone. But outside the internet, we had
almost nothing that supported conversation among many people
at once.”
Issues of Control: Three Political Bargains
• The first is moderation, a way of convening a jury pool of
members in good standing, whose function is to rank those posts
by quality.
• The second is meta-moderation, a way of checking those
moderators for bias, as a solution to the “Who will watch the
watchers?” problem.
• And the third is karma, a way of defining who is a member in
good standing.
Extracted from ‘Social Software and the Politics of Groups’ by Clay Shirky
Writings on Social Software
What is Social Software?
• Support for conversational interaction between individuals
or groups — including real time and "slow time"
• Support for social feedback — which allows a group to
rate the contributions of others, perhaps implicitly, leading
to the creation of digital reputation.
• Support for social networks — to explicitly create and
manage a digital expression of people's personal
relationships, and to help them build new relationships.
• Bottom-up: Social software starts with individuals: People
start with their own interests, biases and connections, and
these become reflected in social relationships, from which
a network of groups emerge from the interchange.
Extracted from ‘Are You Ready for Social Software?’ by Stowe Boyd.
Social Software
Web 2.0, Social Software and all that:
a hype, a realization of Benjamin’s idea of
‘Author as Producer’, a change of productive
relations, a new socio-economic structure (a
collaborative & sustainable economy), a new
bubble, a new way of social interaction, a
source of unreliable rumors, an enlightenment,
a progress, a better web? In what sense?
From GNU Project: Copyleft is a general method
for making a program or other work free* (see
below), and requiring all modified and extended
versions of the program to be free as well.
*Here ‘free’ means freedom (like freedom of speech), not always free of
charge ($); more discussion on ‘freedom’ in a moment.
From Wikipedia: A copyleft license uses
copyright law# (see below) in order to ensure that
every person who receives a copy or derived
version of a work can use, modify, and also
redistribute both the work, and derived versions
of the work. Thus, in a non-legal sense, copyleft
is the opposite of copyright.
# Richard Stallman: “Copyleft uses copyright law, but flips it over to serve
the opposite of its usual purpose: instead of a means of privatizing
software, it becomes a means of keeping software free. The central idea
of copyleft is that we give everyone permission to run the program, copy
the program, modify the program, and distribute modified versions--but
not permission to add restrictions of their own.”
There are many different types of copyleft licenses:
Strong Copyleft, Weak Copyleft
Full Copyleft, Partial Copyleft
Share-alike e.g. Creative Commons
The technical (and legal) distinctions between each of
the above are very complicated. Copyleft can also be
seen as a general principle, a philosophy while the
licences mentioned above are concrete and detailed
applications (with their own stances and ways of
There is however one key idea which runs through all
these licenses: to ensure that derivatives of a
licensed work stay free/ open (avoid becoming
Some Open Source licenses, on the other hand,
do not require the licensee to distribute
derivative works under the same license.
Which license provides a greater degree of
freedom, Open Source or Copyleft?
What kinds of freedom is maximized in each
Copyleft: Wu Ming
Wu Ming is a group of Europe-based Artists/
Novelists who have been publishing their books
with the following notice since 1996: The partial
or total reproduction of this book, in electronic
form or otherwise, is consented to for noncommercial purposes, provided that the original
copyright notice and this notice are included and
the publisher and source are clearly
You can actually download (free of charge) OR
buy their books online! Will you? Will you not?
Copyleft: Wu Ming
‘Notes on Copyright and Copyleft’ by Wu Ming:
Key Argument: The two horns of the false dilemma
• “Freedom to copy for them [defenders of copyright ]
means only 'piracy', 'theft', 'plagiarism' - and you can
forget about the author's remuneration. The more the
work circulates for free, the fewer copies you sell, the
more money the author loses”
• BUT Wu Ming argues that “A well respected author is
increasingly called on to make presentations (expenses
reimbursed) and to attend conferences (paid); they are
interviewed by the media (unpaid but it furthers the
cause); academic postings are offered (paid);
consultancies (paid), creative writing courses (paid); the
author has the possibility to dictate more advantageous
conditions to their publisher.”
Copyleft: Wu Ming
Wu Ming on ‘Fair Use’:
We practise a radical extension of the notion of fair use.
Fair use is "a legal principle that defines the limitations on exclusive rights
of copyright holders"
(http://www.indiana.edu/~ccumc/mmfumas/tsld010.htm). To give a few
examples: this definition includes quotation of excerpts of a work in the
context of a review or a critical essay, educational use of a text, parody,
private copy of a text that was legally purchased etc.
In the proprietary/capitalistic view, purchase is the rule and fair use is the
exception. In fact, as Ivan Hoffman wrote, "fair use should never be relied
on since it is, by definition, a defense to be raised when you are sued. And
no one on the face of the planet can ever say with any assurance, that a
given use will be deemed a fair use."
On the contrary, in our view, fair use is the rule (for it coincides with all
social use) while purchase of our books is the exception, and is left to
choice of the public. This exception allows us to earn our living.
When you buy one of our books, you are choosing to reward our efforts,
however, you are not obliged to do so: alternatively, you may copy the
book, download it etc. What you may not do is to add restrictions to this
Copyleft: Wu Ming
From an interview with Wu Ming on Copyleft and
Intellectual Property, originally published on Blow Up
Magazine (Italy):
Q. The idea that free downloads have the capacity to encourage sales of an
editorial product, be it a book or a record, struggles to find acceptance. Why?
A. It's not at all automatic. An artist needs to work at it, offer a quality
product, show they believe in it, follow the product's circulation and the effect
it has, then a reputation grows, there's the desire to discover other works by
the author etc. If culture circulates, it produces a beneficial cycle. In the case
of a book, it works really well… Our books keep selling because of
continuous word of mouth, fostered by downloads.
In the case of music, what's needed is a change of mentality. The issue is no
longer the delivery format: the majority of profits will continue to come less
and less from cd sales… The cd today is an accessory, albeit an important one,
but an accessory nevertheless. It's one of the ways of making the music and
the name of the composer circulate; of releasing messages in bottles to the
currents… But the real moment of validation and earning will increasingly be
live performance, besides the various other commercial avenues
(including soundtracks, tv ads, radio jungles). It should be noted that this is
also true for lap-top oriented music: you may sell few copies of a cd, but
venues call you to do sets, to build a sonic performance etc…
Copyleft: Wu Ming
Wu Ming’s view on MIT’s OpenCourseWare
(An Example of MIT’s OCW course page):
The project has a social purpose. Many people who are not
enrolled and may not benefit from all the MIT services can
access the content of prestigious classes anytime… It's “Open
source teaching”, by which students have everything to gain.
In fact MIT president Charles Vest also expects to gain
something, and not only prestige, fame, recognition. Many of
these lecture notes refer to books published by the MIT itself,
and Vest is sure there will be an increase in the sales.
Copyleft – Questions
A Marxist perspective:
An assumption: To oppose copyright is
to oppose Capitalism?
 A further assumption: Commodification
of Information yields greater profit?
 Copyleft – An Idealism? A More
Preferable Practice?

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