February 27, 2010

Lazy Web: South Park Scientology Video

Category: Academic,DRM-sucks — Biella @ 4:49 am

update: success, I got a copy. This means by talk will be that much better. Thank you all!

So I am giving for the upteeenth time (but I am going to retire it!) my talk on Anonymous and Scientology next week and I have decided that I want to show a clip from the South Park episode on the topic – Trapped in the Closet Season 9, Episode 12 (Original Air Date: 11/16/2005).

I made the mistake of buying it on Amazon cuz it is super DRM-FSKCING-ED and I can’t play it on Linux and I don’t know how to crack it. Anyway I also want to cut it to the relevant part, which is the wonderful history of Scientology.

Does anyone have a copy free of DRM? Or point me to where I can find one? This is within the purview of fair use, given that I am a serious academic giving serious attention to this topic :-) . Any help or pointers appreciated!

February 21, 2010

Logos of our Lives

Category: Academic,Fair Use,IP Law,Politics — Biella @ 8:52 am

Two of the more influential books that have taken swipe at our contemporary intellectual property landscape concerned themselves with trademark, logos, and capitalism. Here i am thinking of Rosemary Coombe’s seminal The Cultural Life of Intellectual Property Law and Naomi Klein’s more activist take on the subject, No Logo. What would happen if you condensed the arguments in these two books into a 15 minute video?

Well, this morning I found out what this might look like.

Someone pointed me to a mind blowing video that might be called All Logo, All the Time: an amazing visual and dystopian rendition of the alphabet soup of logos, trademark acronyms, corporate mascots that pervade our landscape, one might even say consciousness. I would take a whirl and watch before the IP police take it down.

February 14, 2010

Timing Life…

Category: Academic,Alzheimers — Biella @ 10:11 am

The Chronicle recently published a piece that drew a lot of attention on the difficulties that female academics with kids face during the first 4-7 seven years of their job when academics are expected to do nothing but produce, produce, and … produce and yet because they have produced children, they can’t produce all that much writing. I don’t share the author’s predicament in that I don’t have kids. But I have had to be an (often long-distance) caretaker for the last 8 years, 4 of which I spent considerable time in PR taking over my mom’s caretaker’s duties.

Although when it comes to female academics and kids there is a lot that can (really must) be done to facilitate a career and motherhood, when it comes to taking care of my mom, being an academic has been an odd and mixed blessing, although it did require me to play with the system self-consciously or else it would have been an early academic death.

When my mom was first falling pretty ill, I was wrapping up my dissertation. Though I was ready (on paper at least) to go on the market, I did not step foot in it. I knew that if I landed a job it would be the end of seeing my mom and since she only had a few years of capacity left, I decided to 1) apply only for one postdoctoral position (that had no teaching and was in NJ making it very easy to fly home frequently) 2) if I did not land it, I would return home to spend time with her, keep on writing but not graduate. If I had started a job right after my dissertation, I would have killed my chances of churning out articles, and worse, not have seen much of my mom.

I was lucky enough to land this postdoctoral fellowship, which was a life savior. I was able to get a heck of a lot of work done that I would never ever would have been able to do my first two years of teaching (kids or no kids) and I spent many months in PR as well. I always encourage graduate students to apply for these positions because the payback is enormous (with the exception of fellowships that require a ton of teaching), even if the applications are really time consuming, more so than applying for jobs.

Though rarely stated in such terms, the first few years of an academic position is not unlike medical residency. It takes a brutal amount of time, not only because of the sheer time you have to work but also because there is so much new to learn and so many different responsibilities to juggle. It is exhiliarting but draining, even disorienting.

But there is one important difference from our medical school counterparts (aside from the blood and guts and gore :-) ): their hell continues throughout the year, while our hell diminishes during the summer when classes end and writing is supposed to dominate your attention. Also since I am not required to be here once classes ended, I am able to leave NYC and spend it back home. I would simply not be able to do this with most any other full time job (unless it involved telecommunting) and for that I am grateful I landed the job I did. Academia, despite its rat race quality, has allowed me to visit my mom throughout the year and summer.


February 11, 2010

Explosive Mural

Category: Academic,Geek,Research,Visualization — Biella @ 7:35 pm

A mural that geeks just might like. (via one of my students…)

February 10, 2010


Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 4:49 pm

p1050051.jpg, originally uploaded by the biella.

Suffering from MEAD?

Category: Humor,Psychiatry — Biella @ 4:30 am

If I told you that you suffer from MEAD you might think (if you are an anthropologist like me) that you suffer from an obsession with a plump anthropologist of said name who popularized the discipline bringing home tales of Samoan teenagers who did not seem to suffer from the angst and anxiety of their American counterpart. Or you might think MASSIVE EMAIL ANXIETY DISORDER, which is a DSM diagnosis I invented last week and thus have minimized the work that the American Psychiatric Association will have to put into updating their DSM (you’re welcome).

So I have penned down its major characteristics and effects so that you too can identify with some other inner pathology that might mark your daily life and being (you’re welcome)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association currently defines Massive Email Anxiety Disorder (MEAD) disorder in the following way. 

Please note that while this definition of MEAD is the most definitive and clearly produced to date, there are several potential problems with this definition that will hopefully be addressed by the task forces, editors, and research coordinators of the association as time progresses. 

The Current DSM-IV  Definition (Abridged):

A.  A persistent fear of one or more ‘emails situations’ in which an author of an email worries about the status of a sent email. The individual fears that the tone or content of a message was misinterpreted or that an email never arrived to its correct destination. Alternatively, they worry excessively about why they have not received a response.

B.  Exposure to the feared situation almost invariably provokes anxiety, which may take the form of a situationally bound or situationally pre-disposed Panic Attack.

C.  The person recognizes that this fear is unreasonable or excessive.

D.  The feared situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety and distress. Alternatively the person suffering from MEAD shuffles over to their partner or office-mate to talk (obsessively) about the nature and possible effect of the email, sometimes for hours, sometimes even for days.

E.  The avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress in writing email, which interferes significantly with the person’s normal routine, occupational (academic) functioning, or social activities or relationships, or there is marked distress about having the phobia.

F.  In individuals under age 18 years, the duration is at least 6 months.

G. The fear or avoidance is not due to direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., drugs, medications) or a general medical condition not better accounted for by another mental disorder.

Problems with the DSM Definition of Massive Email Anxiety Disorder

While this definition is clearly the most definitive and precise official definition produced so far, “Massive Email Anxiety Disorder” has only been officially recognized since 2020, and the problem did not become adequately explained until the 2015 version of the DSM. Thus, the definition of MEAD disorder is becoming clearer and more precise with each edition. 

Written in “honor” of current revisions for the DSM, expected to be published in 2013


February 7, 2010

Hacker and Troller as Trickster

Category: Academic,Hackers,Humor,Troller — Biella @ 11:40 am


If you read the literature on tricksters, you will confront a string of words that capture the moral quality and sensibilities of these figures, figures scattered across time and place and largely enshrined in myths and stories:

Cunning, deceit, lying, provocateur, mischief, audacious, thief, play, shrewdness, audacity, grotesque, over the top, appetite, shocking, fun, delight, wit, trap, subversive, ability, wanderer.

These figures, which include Coyote, Loki, Hermes, and Eshu, among many more, push the envelope of what is morally acceptable and in so doing, argues Lewis Hyde (in his tome on the subject), renew and revitalize culture, especially the moral stuff of culture. They are not only boundary crossers, they are boundary makers. As the title of his book so succinctly and masterfully broadcasts “Trickster Makes this World.” Or as he suggests with a bit more elaboration:

“I want to argue a paradox that the myth asserts: that the origins, liveliness, and durability of cultures require that there be a space for figures whose function is to uncover and disrupt the very things that cultures are based on” p. 9

At the opening of the book, Hyde asks whether there are tricksters in modern industrial societies. His answer is a plain ‘no.’ The con man who might share some similarities does not qualify. For in fact what is needed is either a polytheistic system “or lacking that, he needs at least a relationship to other powers, to people, to instructions, and traditions that can manage the odd double attitude of both insisting that boundaries be respected and recognizing that in the long run their liveliness depends on having those boundaries regularly distributed” p.13 He does locate the spirit of the trickster in spirited individuals: in Picasso, in Frederick Douglass, in laudable figures who push certain boundaries and renew our world for the better but nonetheless fall short of the archetypal trickster.

I bet it is pretty obvious where I am going with all of this given my object of study: phreakers, hackers, and trollers. The trickster does exist across America, across Europe, really across the world and it is not in myth but in embodied in group and living practice: in that of the prankster, hacker, the phreaker, the troller (all of whom, have their own unique elements of course, but so does each trickster). Their relationship to other powers are many and can be located in terms of information, intellectual property, the government, language itself, institutions of power like the FBI and AT&T. The list is not short.

For a few years now I have been thinking about the linkages between the trickster and hackers as well as the troller but it was only in the fall when I found myself trapped in a hospital for a week that I finally cracked open the book by Hyde and devoured it. Within a the first few pages, it was undeniable: there are many links to be made between the trickster and hacking. Many of these figures, push boundaries of all sorts: they upset ideas of propriety and property; they use their sharpened wits sometimes for play, sometimes for political ends; they get trapped by their cunning (which happens ALL the time with tricksters! That is how they learn); and they remake the world, technically, socially, and legally and includes software, licensing and even forms of literature (think textfile, the Jargon File or most dramatically, ED).

But if the trickster generally resides in myth, and the trickster of the information age resides in practice, myth matters everywhere because there is a mythos created around these figures. Sometimes the mythos is propagated these groups (take a look of ED for example or Phrack in the past) and of course the media has played an undeniable role. And yet, unlike what is represented in the pages of Hyde, there are living, actual bodies in motion, in conversation, in transformation, a group that goes far beyond the other more controlled and bounded tricksters we might be able to locate in society, such as artistic/political groups like the Yes Men.

But the most shocking (or hard to think through) element lies less in the many associations one can make, but in the following curious fact. For the most part the trickster is enshrined in myth and stories but the tricksters I am referring to are in fact full-bodied, full-blooded groups of people who are actually engaging in all sorts of acts of trickery. This is culture not in the sense of art and myth but people and practice and this of course makes an (ethical) difference. What happens when you are the recipient not of a story offered an elder, but the recipient of trickery, an act of pranking or trolling, for example? What happens when you can trace all sorts of instances of boundary re-shifting and remaking, as with the GPL? I think this, even more than the linkages, is what makes this connection so remarkable and I trying to think through what it means to have a figure that we can find and talk to, as opposed to one embodied in myth and story.

For now I am going to leave this post short and in the next installment, will start raising some of the connections between trickery and variants of hacking and trolling.

February 6, 2010

Hard to imagine but it is our history

Category: Academic,Books/Articles,IP Law,Politics — Biella @ 10:12 am

Stowe v Thomas (1853) where the court argued that a German translation of Uncle’s Tom’s Cabins did not constitute copyright infringement (quoted from Meredith McGill’s excellent bookAmerican Literature and the Culture of Reprinting, 1834-1853:

“Before publication [the author] has the exclusive possession of his invention. His dominion is perfect. But when he has published his book and given his thoughts, sentiments, knowledge or discoveries to the world, he can have no longer an exclusive possession of them. Such an appropriation becomes impossible, and is inconsistent with the object of publication. The author’s conceptions have become common property of his readers, who cannot be deprived of the use of them, or their right to communicate them to others clothed in their own language, by lecture or by treatise”

February 3, 2010

2600 papers

Category: Hackers,Humor — Biella @ 6:19 am


Glad to see his paper on hacking and zines was picked from a pool of 2600 papers….

February 1, 2010

Patenting of Genes

Category: IP Law,patents,Politics — Biella @ 7:07 am

There is a *very important* patent case being deliberated tomorrow in NYC. I am SO tempted to ditch some important work to go. We will see… Whatever case, I will be following it closely. Does anyone know if you are allowed to bring a laptop into federal court?

ACLU attorneys Chris Hansen and Sandra Park will argue the case before Judge Robert W. Sweet of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Court. Other co-counsel in the lawsuit, including Daniel B. Ravicher, Executive Director of PUBPAT, as well as some plaintiffs and expert witnesses will also attend the hearing.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010
10:00 a.m. EST

Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse
Judge Robert Sweet’s Courtroom 18C
500 Pearl Street
New York, NY 10007