“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.

Whose Copyright Office?

            In 2013, in a lecture at Columbia University, Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante announced an ambitious vision for the “Next Great Copyright Act.” That vision appropriately included a prominent role for the Copyright Office in helping policy makers work through some difficult issues relating to copyright and evolving technologies.

Network Neutrality in Brazil: the recently enacted Presidential Decree consolidates meaningful rules

Amidst an economic and political turmoil, Brazil gave a significant step towards protection of network neutrality – the principle that keeps the Internet an open space, free from undue control by Internet service providers (ISPs). A Presidential Decree issued right before Dilma Rousseff was temporarily removed from power on May 10 consolidates the regime established by the Marco Civil – a Federal Statute known as the “Internet Bill of Rights” in Brazil - and brings clarity to the application of meaningful rules that may effectively preserve network neutrality.

Technological Redlining

As the phenomenon known as Pokémon Go has rapidly established itself as the latest distraction (or obsession) for the growing numbers of people with GPS-enabled smart phones, we have begun to see some of the surprises and challenges that often accompany new technologies (or new uses of existing technologies). And while some of these issues are interesting only in their triviality, others have raised more serious questions about our norms, our values, and the structures (visible and invisible) that we have erected (explicitly or tacitly) as our society has progressed.


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