"Tool Without A Handle" - Mobile Tools

This post continues my thoughts on qualities of digital tools that have helped make political and artistic expression more subjective, accessible and fluid. In the previous post, we looked at the searchability of text. In this post I examine the impact of mobility: the ability afforded by digital tools to access vast troves of information, to communicate, to record, and to create from virtually anywhere on the planet.

There are at least three significant capabilities of digital technologies that have been shaped by portability: mobile commerce, access to news and information, and visual communications. Each of these capabilities accelerated significantly with the development of the “smartphone” – in particular the Apple iPhone in 2007 – but were inherent in mobile technologies from their initiation. Below, I discuss each quality in turn and identify some of its impacts.

Stanford Researchers Seek Court Documents Ordering Companies to Help Government Defeat Encryption

Researchers at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society (CIS) filed a petition yesterday seeking to unseal judicial records in San Francisco federal district court. Their goal is to reveal how the federal government uses U.S. law to obligate smartphone manufacturers and Internet companies to decrypt private user data, turn over encryption keys, or otherwise assist law enforcement with digital surveillance.

US Department of Transportation's Automated Driving Guidance

With today's announcement, the US Department of Transportation is enthusiastically embracing automated driving -- It's saying that self-driving vehicles are coming in some form (or many forms) and that the agency can play a role not only in supervising but also in assisting this transportation transformation. The DOT is recognizing the wide range of relevant technologies, applications, and business models and is striving to address them more quickly and flexibly through its wide range of prospective and retrospective regulatory tools.

Stupid Patent of the Month: Elsevier Patents Online Peer Review

On August 30, 2016, the Patent Office issued U.S. Patent No. 9,430,468, titled; “Online peer review and method.” The owner of this patent is none other than Elsevier, the giant academic publisher. When it first applied for the patent, Elsevier sought very broad claims that could have covered a wide range of online peer review. Fortunately, by the time the patent actually issued, its claims had been narrowed significantly. So, as a practical matter, the patent will be difficult to enforce.

“Tool Without a Handle” – Tools For Art and Politics, Part 1

This blog has, to date, primarily focused on the qualities of networked information technologies and regulatory responses to them – in particular qualities that raise issues of privacy and free expression. This installment of “Tool Without a Handle” looks at the qualities that render these tools influential on artistic and political discourse. In this first part, I will look at one particular quality: searchable text.

The searchability of digital content may contribute to confirmation bias and the “filter bubble” phenomena. A pre-conceived preference as to what news or information is desired can be easily bolstered with references found via targeted searches. At the same time, a distinct value of search technology is that it has enabled a vast number of entertainment and creative works to find audiences. A library of programming the size of Netflix or YouTube is simply not navigable with the rotary dials that graced the television set of my childhood.

Unlock the Box Meets Lochner

I’m told that August is a slow month in D.C., but there is nevertheless policy drama in the air for the telecommunications and copyright nerds among us. I blogged last week about the battle currently being waged over the FCC’s effort to introduce competition into the market for cable set-top boxes—a market currently controlled by cable companies to the tune of about $20B a year.


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