These are posts related to the 2008 Allied Media Conference.
The Miro project has come a long way from the Democracy Player I remember from years back. The folks at the Participatory Culture Foundation have re-organized the project from a media player to something many times more powerful: they are building a radically decentralized and democratic system for sharing video content.
So what exactly does that mean?
When you download Miro, by default it comes installed to use the collection of video blogs that have been submitted to the Miro Guide. Anyone can submit a video feed to the guide and pending a review (can't seem to find any documentation on how the feeds are reviewed) it will show up in the guide.
However, there's no reason you need to use the Miro Guide. You can specify any other site to pull your content from and you can individually add your own feeds. In fact, the Miro folks have gone out of their way to de-brand the program. They even offer a way to brand your own miro player.
Let's think about why this is 100 times better than YouTube:
Decentralized. There is no one web site where everyone has to upload their video that can be taken down, sold, crash or can go out of business.
Licensing. You are not handing over video content to anyone except the server storing your video - and you can choose to store your video where ever you want. You only need to publish the feed on Miro Guide. Ever read the YouTube terms of service? My favorite part:
... by submitting User Submissions to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the User Submissions ...
Standard protocols. Miro runs on RSS - already a bedrock, standard protocol.
Politics. The project is engineered to prevent the Participatory Culture Foundation from perverting its democratic potential. The software is not only free/open source, but it is designed to give equal footing to any and all content providers. That, I think, is the best indication of any groups politics. In addition, they've structured their organization in a way that keeps them honest:
People often ask why we're setup as a non-profit rather than a for-profit. Quite simply: all of us at PCF are drawn to the project because of the mission and being a non-profit is the only way we can ensure that the mission is built into the structure of the company. So many times we've seen for-profit companies lose their values as financial pressures mount, founders leave, or they get acquired. We want to make sure that can't happen. Being non-profit has other benefits as well. Most importantly, it means that we are accountable to our user community and the public. There aren't any venture capitalists or shareholders that can force us to go in a direction that's bad for users but good for profits.
And lastly, they declare their mission which explicitly states their commitment to openness.
On the last point ... from a radical movement perspective, I don't want to over estimate their politics - this is a decidedly liberal organization firmly rooted in, and limited by, the foundation dominated non-profit world. However, the core values that form the basis of the project are core values that I share and provide a powerful basis for collaboration with the left.
Miro is a project we should all be behind 100%!
In 2001 I was certain that the linux desktop revolution was just around the corner. It would hit in 2002, 2003 latest. Well, that didn't happen. By 2005 I got tired of waiting and simply switched my desktop permanently to linux. At that point, I stopped paying close attention.
As Grace Lee Boggs pointed out during her closing key note at the 2008 Allied Media Conference, unlike uprisings or revolts, revolutions take time. They move slowly. So slowly, in fact, that we often don't recognize or appreciate the amazing changes that have taken place.
I had that experience at Steven Mansour's AMC presentation on using free and open source tools to make media. Steven demonstrated, with the audience participating, how to make flyers, images, audio programs, and even videos not only using free software, but running on an Ubuntu Linux laptop. In fact, Steven barely mentioned that he was running linux! There were occasional asides of "oh, yes, I think you can do that with a Windows or a Macintosh; not sure it would work as well though."
Since I'm not up to date on multimedia applications, I learned a lot of practical information from the workshop. However, the most powerful realization that I took from the workshop was the amazing progress we've made in getting linux into the consciousness of the left.
To use the People's Production House slogan: The Internet is Yours ... If you want it.
PPH started Part 1 of the workshop by exploring the Digital Expansion Initiative. They shared both the results and the methods they use to learn about how people use the Internet and how we want it to develop (see some of their testimony).
I really appreciated their transparency: we went through the various methods for collecting research (via interviews, drawing pictures, etc) - for each method we all did it and discussed the effectiveness of the strategy.
Part II was May First/People Link - and the Internet Rights workshop.
And the results are in. The number in brackets is the number of groups that endorsed the right. We had 5 groups total.
Free Speech and peacable assembly without permit for anyone, everywhere. A right including the right to dialogue. 
Right to internet and technology public education. 
All people have the right to be involved in a public global democratic process to manage the full spectrum of communications resources: 
Right to transparency about government and corporate activity, surveillance, activities. 
Right to personal privacy; Control and consent over your personal information; transparency of information collection practices. 
Airwaves/spectrum are a public resource controlled and managed by the people for public, not private, gain. 
Community ownership of internet infrastructure (domain name system, hardware, last mile connection, software source, bandwidth) 
Network managers and/or Internet Service Providers (ISPs) cannot discriminate against content of any type. 
all people have the right to contribute content; Rights of the common over intellectual property rights 
Peoples throughout the world have free access to ubiquitous broadband and computing resources through public institutions such as schools and libraries or any local resource center if they want it. 
Riseup and Texas MEP put together a workshop on social network from a critical perspective. It was interesting to watch the tensions within the presentations. Texas MEP were full-on Facebook/My Space/etc. users. While being conscious of the risks, their position was that they are careful to only put on information that is public.
Brenna from Riseup demo's Riseup's installation of crabgrass - a social networking site designed from a collective/organizing perspective rather than an individuated perspective. She provided much of the critical analysis of the risks involved with corporate social networking sites (lack of privacy, reliability problems, etc.).
Brenna also provided Riseup's 5 horseman of the privacy apocalypse:
relational surveillance: analysis of social networks via email and phone transactions (by the government) relational-surveillance
data profiling: the aggregation of consumer data in order to build detailed profiles on the consumption habits of everyone. data-profiling
tethered computing: devices that are controlled via a ‘tether’ by the manufacturer. On the desktop, trusted computing can be seen as a way of achieving tethered computing on an otherwise agnostic and innovative device. (by corporations and the government). tethered-computing
Geo spacial surveillance: location tracking via RFID, cell phones, IP addresses (by corporations) Geo spatial-surveillance
biometric surveillance: biometric scanning via CCTV face recognition, DNA databases. biometric-surveillance
That alone made the workshop worth it. I think we struggle a lot to figure out how to communicate security concerns. The organization of these concerns - specifically the way these 5 issues are abstracted from the specific applications - is really helpful.
We had some good discussion - one person mentioned how she's uncomfortable with publishing our networks on corporate run servers.
The parting words of the workshop: We're not just fighting to get our media out, but fighting to build and own the infrastructure.
We're at the Allied Media Conference - day 1! Stay tuned for more blogs about what I'm seeing.
This is the first session on day one present by Geoff Hing. Despite the name of the session (ug - jargon hell!) - it was an interesting workshop. A few thoughts:
Tags as non-hierarchical approach to information organizing. I've never really considered the political implications of free tagging versus hierarchical categorizing. It really pushes the power of creating meaning toward the users rather than the administrators. In the worst scenarios it means everyone is an independent agent defining their own reality - the worst aspect of liberalism. On the other hand - that's where organizing comes in - to organize our own meaning (in this context that means collaboratively defining tags).
Use of device independent communication. Geoff's response to to the often stated problem "but not everyone has access to the Internet" is: then use other ways of communicating, such as cell phones (twitter) or even landlines (jot) to bridge the gap.
Use of API (application programmer interface) as means of decentralization.
It was a real relief to go to a Web 2.0 presentation that analyzed the concepts from a political perspective.
The political discussion and conclusions, however, are the same ones we've been going over and over: how do we use the Internet when not everyone has access to it or when it's too difficult for some people. I don't want to detract from this problem - it's a real one. On the other hand - I think we tend to address it too blindly in ways that lead to bad political decisions, such as using corporate services because they're "easy" and "more accessible." I think political work is struggle - and yes, we do need to struggle with this technology.