The Gikii conference returned to its birthplace
in Edinburgh University this year. The ever amusing (and now Professor) Burkhard Schafer
has understatedly described Gikii as the conference without any of the boring papers; and I have to say that in five years of being privileged to participate in this ecclectic and thought provoking cyberlaw gathering I don't recall a single dud talk. The event, the company and the engagement are always terrific value.
award (the Gikii BAFTA?
) for the best Gikii comedy performance of the year this year gets shared between:
(The now Dr.) Daithí Mac Síthigh for his "What We Talk About When We Talk About Google"
on the places Google reaches from social conversation through to the courts and how the YouTube v Viacom decision caught us by surprise
Trevor Callghan for "GOOGLE WANT FREND!" or thoughts on Google and social networking and the contrast between Google and social networking giants - Google is all about data, Facebook is about people.
The situation comedy award goes to:
Hugh Hancock for "Stories for Laws: the narratives behind the Digital Economy Bill, which ones worked, and most importantly: why?
The 'I hadn't thought of it like that before' award goes to Steven Hetcher for "Conceptual Art, Found Art, Ephemeral Art, and Non-Art: Challenges to Copyright's Relevance
" on the need to lose the fixation requirement in copyright law to avoid discrimination against non fixated art creators e.g. mime or nature artists.
The 'painting a fuller educational picture of the effects of policies in practice' award goes to Andrew Cormack, ("When a PET is a Chameleon
") and Nicolas Jondet, ("The French Copyright Authority (HADOPI), the graduated response and the disconnection of illegal file-sharers
The current affairs award goes to Lilian Edwards ("The Revolution will not be Televised: Online Elections and the Future of Democracy?
"). (Since widely respected Lilian independently confirmed many of the conclusions I came to in a talk
I gave on the Digital Economy Act recently, I can now use that talk with more confidence as the basis of a book chapter I need to complete on information policymaking next month. So Lilian also gets the bonus 'thank goodness I now realise I'm not nuts, the world really does work like that' award).
Lilian Edwards and Hugh Hancock share the 'thanks for helping refine my ideas on the DEA' award.In fact I hope Hugh won't mind too much if I add one of his key lessons about the power of narrative to my conclusions. He spoke very engagingly about how people get convinced by stories. The Digital Britain Report he felt had potentially some sensible ideas about how to tackle file sharing but the unelected Lord Mandelson having met media mogul David Geffen decided to ignore the report and railroad the Digital Economy Bill through parliament.
Hugh explained how Lilian Edwards had been very active in advance of the passing of the DEA, explaining the unintended consequences of doing so. How opposition grew in parliament because MPs had an unprecedented amount of mail about it. How amendments were proposed in the House of Lords. How the Open Rights Group and others objected.
And yet the good guys got pummeled because the government passed the bill with the agreement of the other two main front benches in the wash up of legislation before the dissolution of parliament.
Well before the law comes public good and before that you have to tell MPs stories. In the case of the DEA some stories they believed, some they didn't.
Music industry story: 1000s of stuggling young artists are having their work stolen and the DEA will fix it.
Good guys story: Record labels scared of the Net, so lobbying to save themselves and don't care about side effects
Photographers story: s43 on orphan works will let big corporations steal from little photographers so have to kill s43. (They got their wish).
The thing about stories is some play better than others. All need a protagonist. The person who suffers most in the story. If your audience doesn't empathise with your protagonist your story is dead.
The music companies' protagonists (Pete Wishart 'protect the human rights of young artists') are instantly attractive and easy to sympathise with.
The good guys protagonist is you, the audience and this doesn't translate well into a story. It's too esoteric and you can't really empathise with yourself.
IF you want to grab your audience it also helps if something bad happens to your protagonist at the start.
The music labels hit the ball out of the park on this!
It also helps if your protagonist is pretty. Geeks are not pretty.
In addition you have to be able to explain how the story is really important before your audience wander off and, largely, people who aren't geeks don't see the DEA as a priority. The impact is too abstract and too far in the future.
Finally you need an emotional payoff. The emotional payloads for the 3 DEA stories are different. In the case of the music companies and the photographers you have the righteous defence of justice for the vulnerable little guy - the young artist and photographer both getting ripped off. This plays well to politicians, most of whom, at least in the early days, get into politics with honorable intentions. The extra bonus is in relation to the dealing with the envy of people who dare to take for free something these vulnerable creators have had to work so hard to produce.
The good guys story had two emotional payoffs:
- fear (people will get cut off the Net, people will be censored)
- anger (corrupt music labels are distorting our legal structures)
Unfortunately the fear message has to compete nowadays with loads of other fear messages (terror, immigration, think of the children, crime, etc.) for attention and this one is nowhere near some of the others in terms of potency. The anger message plays really well with geeks but not much with anyone else.
So the bottom line was the good guys lost because the music companies told a better story.
In any case, GikiiV was as ever a great conference. Makes me realise again that I should spend a lot more time than I do on this stuff. The day job is calling so I have to sign off but final honable mention goes to Andres
who got the biggest laugh of day 1 with his Norton Anti-Virus mirror which tells you what you're suffering from in the morning; and Burkhard
who talked (joint paper with Wiebke Abel and Radboud Winkels) about Google 2001 (don't be evil), Google 2010 (be good our way or else) and an understanding of databases as part of the problem, but realising we can make them part of the solution, of privacy in a digital age. Privacy is a collective good – privacy protection should be a collective effort.
Privacy needs you!
PS My own contribution was on curing people with a phobia for mathematics. I'll be making a software version available to Gikii organisers when I get back to my office later in the week. A copy of my earlier DEA talk slides is below: