Flash publishing: the press shots for Barefoot into Cyberspace

With the official launch of her book Barefoot into Cyberspace only a few weeks away, Becky Hogge and I thought it time to get some press shots done in readiness – all part of our Flash Publishing efforts.

We spent a Saturday morning clicking, posing and taking lots of shots, both outdoors and in. I’d warned Becky a day or so before that we might need to take over 70 shots, if not more, to get what we wanted and have enough variety to choose from. In the end I probably took nearer to 120, deleting some as we went along. The next stage was selecting that down to about 60, from which Becky then chose six.

These six are now available here to download and use under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Book publishing in a flash

Publishing a book can take nine to twelve months, by which time the book you’ve slaved over can seem out-dated. Enter Flash-Publishing.

As some of you know, I’ve been working with friend Becky Hogge on publishing her book Barefoot into Cyberspace. It’s been a really interesting experience with plenty of things to ponder over and consider.

One of our main challenges has been speed. The book is ‘an inside account of radical hacker culture and the forces that shape it, told in the year WikiLeaks took subversive geek politics into the mainstream’. The ‘year’ part in that sentence is what’s crucial. The year in question is December 2009 to December 2010. The book is about pertinent, timely stuff. Whilst it has a long shelf life, it also has material that you want out in the public domain as soon as possible, so that it can inform the existing debate. This is not unusual for books of a more journalistic nature.

As Becky is decided to write the book off her own bat, rather than first getting a publishing deal, it’s means that even with an enthusiastic and supportive publisher the book would not come out until next year: 2012. By that time many things could have changed, particularly as the book deals with hacker culture, which as we’ve witnessed recently with Anonymous, Lulzsec and their off-shoots hacking into everything from Sony and the CIA to the Brazilian Government and Eve Online.

Shifting sand
LulzsecIn the last month Lulzsec have been described as terrorists by a victim of their lulz:

Terrorists have no compassion for the collateral damage done to victims who aren’t the target of their ire. LulzSec expressed this emphatically by encouraging people to inflict as much damage as possible on those logins and passwords.

And if this video is anything to go by Anonymous may even have decided to enter politics with the creation of TheAnonParty (HT).

These changes and shifts in the sand mean that understanding the underlying hacker culture is increasingly important, and makes 2012 look even more distant.

What to do?
Flash publishing, that’s what.

Three weeks ago Becky finished her book. On the 28 July she’s having it’s launch party. That’s six weeks, not six, nine or twelve months.

Over on her blog Becky describes what’s been involved and who. We’ve been doing some of the preparation in parallel. The conversations and plans over marketing began a few months before the book was finished, but even so, this is a fast turn around. As Becky describes, it’s been possible through a team effort but significantly through the online tools now available. As Becky writes:

‘Thanks to platforms like Lulu, (our chosen supplier) Lightning Source, and the Amazon Kindle store, the entire process can be set up for less than a half-decent meal out.’

Innovation Reading Circle: Communication Power in the network society

Book: Communication PowerLast night the Innovation Reading Circle run by Nico Macdonald met to discuss Manuel Castells Communication Power (previously reviewed here). Nico kindly asked me to introduce the book, which on arrival became mildly more nerve inducing when I learnt I was sitting next to the George Por, a former academic colleague and friend of Castells, but he was most generous.

Below are some of the words I used as a basis for the introduction, but I can highly recommend reading Christian Fuchs review (PDF) of Castells book, as he breaks down each section and topic and clarifies many areas of the book.

Joanne Jacobs live blogged the evening and her concise summaries of what was said again make everything much clearer.

On which note, as a group we recognised that very little had been written or discussed about Communication Power and for our part in rectifying this everyone attending has been asked to write a few words on their thoughts. These will be added to the Facebook group page, more background material also can be found on the Innovation Reading Circle page for those wishing to follow the discussion further.

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Innovation Reading Circle
Introduction
14 September 2009

Communication Power
Manuel Castells
Hardback, 575 pages (of which the Appendix, Bibliography and Index take up the last 150 pages)
Published: July 2009
Oxford University Press

Communication Power, it needs to be said up front, is an academic book written in an academic style with references within the text to other academics and books. It is not an easy read, despite Castells’ hopes of it being read by anyone interested in communication and power. It takes time and dedication and there is much to digest.

The book builds on Castells’ series of three books looking at the Information Age published in the late 90s, early 2000s and his book The Network Society: A Cross-cultural Perspective. It therefore assumes the theory of a network society thus, for those seeking theoretical criticisms of the book they should also consider looking at analysis of the network society and the extent to which networks are influential on individual and institutional decision making – which is beyond the scope of this introduction, but anthropological research on how socially many of us respond to and as the herd, despite ourselves is worth reviewing.

Castells begins by relating his personal experiences living and growing up in authoritarian Franco Spain where control of information and communication were paramount to maintaining power. If Castells wanted to read Freud he had to visit the only library in Barcelona with access to Freud’s work and fill out a form explaining why he wished to read the text. To read Marx or Sartre a journey in to neighbouring France was necessary – Franco’s Spain was resolutely anti-communist. Such was the political regime and common place censorship that influenced Castells understanding and interest in power and communication and how it applies within a global media industry and age of digital and internet communication.

In the first part of the book Castells takes us from an analysis of power – referencing a great number of thinkers not normally grouped together along the way – to how this understanding of power can be applied to a network society. He describes his perspective on power as “ecectic” and summarises that:

…power is not located in one particular social sphere or institution, but it is distributed throughout the entire realm of human action. Yet, there are concentrated expressions of power relationships in certain social forms that condition and frame the practice of power in society at large by enforcing domination. Power is relational, domination is institutional.

Castells identifies four kinds of power within the network society:

  • networking power
  • network power
  • networked power
  • network-making power

The book then examines communications in a digital age, looking at areas such as key relationships between multinational media and diversified internet corporations, regulatory policies and creative audiences.

The majority of the book delves into how the relationship between communications and politics within this networked society; how it is programmed and how it needs re-programming. It can be roughly summarised as: the commons of the Internet (but note, little mention of mobile phones is made) is holding in check and modifying those who have traditionally been seen as in power. The extensive appendices and charts through the book back up his examination, and also offer and alternative starting point for understanding some of the key points of the book, such as the role of political scandal.

I am going to presume that this element of the book is that which most attendees to the reading circle will be familiar with and where most discussion will surround, so I will not spend time here examining this part too closely, other than to note that Castells comes to similar conclusions as the author of Flat Earth News, Nick Davies, regarding Rupert Murdoch:

Murdoch is an ideologically conservative media tycoon who keeps personal control over the third largest and most profitable mutlimedia business conglomerate in the world. But he is, above all, a successful businessman who understood that his power would be maximised by keeping his options open.

I will however raise, for the purposes of this reading circle introduction (the instructions of which include the examination of the “depth and quality of references”) chapter 3 and Castells’ explanation of consciousness, which forms a basis for his theories of networks of mind and power.

These explanations, and how Castells builds up his argument, are fascinating, and I was particularly taken by the theories of metaphor, narrative formation and frames, their evolutionary role and hence how they influence our understandings of, for instance, the family and organisational structures.

But as Castells admits himself, this section is “largely based on research in neuroscience as theorised by Antonio Damasio” (pg 137) and the work of George Lakoff. Whilst I have no doubt that these are a correct re-telling and explanation of Damasio’s work, they rely strongly on it and, don’t look at arguments that may have critiqued such work or look beyond neuroscience to possible other understandings of how human behaviour operates, or even if other disciplines support such theories. For example the relationship between community, narrative and ethics has been written of within philosophy, philology and theology (and in all probability sociology and political science).

This is in all probability a minor issue, but it does lead me to wonder how the academic world have received the book (I’ve not had time to look), and whether the balance between wanting many people to read what he has to say and also the need to satisfy academic requirements is one that can be easily balanced.

Castells concludes his book with a task: to ensure the preservation of the internet – “a free creation of freedom lovers” – against the power-holders within the network.

… if you think differently, communication networks will operate differently, on the condition that not only you, but I and a multitude choose to build the networks of our lives.

This is wonderfully idealistic. But is this not the same recipe for others who seek power without good intent?

An augmented reality

The term Augmented Reality is popping up in more and more places of late, as the 3D visual technology rapidly develops.

Augmented Reality describes the technology that integrates computer graphics into real-world environments. Huh? Yes, it’s not easy to describe, but this video illustrates the possibilities beautifully for books:

Ad Age is predicting that within the next six months augmented reality will become more useful and natural. It looked at several examples including Wikitude developed by by Austrian company Mobilizy, which launched this demo video in October 2008.

Mobilizy describe the application as:

Wikitude is a mobile travel guide for the Android platform based on location-based Wikipedia and Qype content. It is a handy application for planning a trip or to find out about landmarks in your surroundings; 350,000 world-wide points of interest may be searched by GPS or by address and displayed in a list view, map view or cam view.

Think about the possibilities for just a few moments, and that marketers are beginning to use these techniques in advertising, and you begin to understand how walking down the street in the future could be a very different experience, as more invisible layers of data get added to the real-world and hard surfaced environment.

More examples