Saturday, June 13, 2009

Digital Convergence Conference HK

Pangloss is having a bonza time at Peter Yu's East:West extravaganza (average session : 6 speakers, 15 mins each!) in HK. This is the most tightly and geekily organised conference I have ever seen. When you have two mins to go, the computer (not the chair!) warns you loudly, in Stephen Hawkings voice. When your time is up, if you don't wander off meekly, it makes a series of noises: STOP!, explosions, angry baby crying(VERY LOUD!!) and so forth - varied to prevent desensitisation. I suggest this programme be open source coded and exported to all future cons :-)

Hong Kong is currently obsessed with two things: swine flu and Green Dam Escort. No, not an aspect of Internet pornography:) HK being terrified of repeat SARS, all of us got temperature taken before allowed in to conference hall. All schools have been closed, and about 90% of locals are wearing masks. Very surreal seeing tech support, photographers and caterers all wearing masks while running around helpfully: feeling of constant risk of being dragged off to be subjected to the alien probe.

Best paper so far: Rebecca Mackinnon of Human Rights Watch, HKU, etc, on angry responses to the Green Dam Escort software embedding censorcode project . In essence from next month all PCs to be sold into mainland China are to have filtering software known as Green Dam installed on them to provide prior exlcusion of unwanted content (wherever the country of origin was). Naturally in the usual way of such censorware, newspapers have already proven that the software allows in nude body art girls but excludes Garfield; also in a lovely confluence of obsesssions, the South China Post observes nude pink pig images are also excluded..

Chinese is a punning language so Green Dam also translates (I think?) as river crab. As China Digital Times then puts it, "The first law of Chinese cyberpolitics is “Where there are River Crabs, there are Grass-Mud Horses (那里有河蟹,那里就有草泥马).” According to this “Law of the ,” online censorship always meets resistance. "

Cue numerous UGC protest YouTube vids of river crabs singing local kiddy songs about green mud horses dubbed with very rude words. Please someone look who speaks Cantonese! They played one, and all local Chinese speakers blushed and giggled! Pangloss wants a translation badly :)) Try starting here.

Anselm Kamperman Sanders later added the interesting gloss to this that Green Dam can actually be seen as a a kind of media control by standards - and thus might be open to international pressure in future by WIPO who are looking at extending control over standards as part of IP harmonisation (or WTO?) Interesting in the context of the current Chinese drive to create its own national standards eg their own version of Office formats and HDTV standards. In some ways Green Dam is the tip of an iceberg of prospective trade war.

Another fascinating paper was Anne Bartow on what I've labeled "fair trade porn": why not deny IP protection to commercial pornography (which has such in US law at least) unless it meets health and safety standards, like ensuring the sex workers involved consent, are over age, etc? Pangloss thinks there's an interesting analogy here with fair trade coffee or organic veg, where some people are prepared to pay higher prices to know more about the provenance and social goals of the product. Now porn is so widely and openly used, would there be a market for this? is porn not something you WANT to be "dirty"? And is there any spare money for fair trade porn, like organic veg, in a recession!


Andres Guadamuz said...

Damn, seems like I missed a couple of good conferences. I really like the fair-trade porn idea, Anne Bartow is brilliant.

pangloss said...

I should ay it's me who called it fair trade but Anne has published a paper on it already. I haz a copy!