What digitization means to a lawyer

Digitization means a totally different thing for journalists, librarians and archivists, hackers, publishers, e-book readers and so on. For a lawyer, especially for a copyright lawyer, digitization means a form of reproduction. The latter activity is historically the number one exclusive economical right of rightsholders. T he Anglo-Saxon „copyright law” directly mirrors this fact. Indeed, the Continental European „author’s right regimes” (the French „droit d’auteur”, the German „Urheberrecht” or „Autorenrecht”, or the Hungarian „szerzői jog”) have guaranteed this economical right since the beginning of the existence of this legal territory.

More precisely, digitization is usually referred to as the multiplication of analogue data carriers that store protected subject matter (not only written/literary works, but others like fine art works or photographs etc.) into digital format. Since most of the creative contents are also available in digital format in our age, digitization generally affects works of the past: works of an age, when and where the multiplication of works was only possible on physical data carriers, like paper, reel tapes, audio or VHS cassettes, photo paper or CDs/DVDs. Due to the constant and rapid development of technology, however, these data carriers are increasingly deteriorated. Nowadays almost nobody uses 78RPM machines, photo reels, VHS or Betamax, and even LPs work as a niche alternative for CDs. Works that were published on any of the above data carrier, however, belong to our cultural heritage that face destruction in the lack of digital preservation.

The Summer School devoted almost a whole day to the discussion of the legal relations of digitization. Prof. Guido Westkamp introduced a comparative approach to the different treatment of several digital copyright issues in countries like the UK (where he works), Germany (where he originates from), Switzerland (another German speaking country) and the European Union (as a regional organization that oversees various aspects of copyright law in order to defend the ultimate goals of the EU: the four freedoms). Richards Gulbis and Péter Mezei added further dimensions to this debate with introducing how two minor EU member states struggle with the phenomenon of digitization related to the preservation of cultural heritage by national, public institutions, like libraries or archives. Sven Guckes, with his loose but still focused workshop introduced a licensing mechanism, the Creative Commons movement that might serve as an alternative to the rigid copyright system. A keynote speach from Alexander White highlighted the antitrust law problematics of the e-book industry. The Amazon case clearly mirrors the fact that the industry is interested in applying a digital world friendly business model to the sale of electronic publications, however, at the same time it confirmed as well, that these models shall not be based upon the „cooperative division” of the market. Finally, the roundtable dicsussion that brought together the lecturers of the day and other specialists and even the representative of the German Pirate Party mirrored how different dimensions the stakeholders might perceive in respect of the effects of the digitalization upon our culture (including journalism, constitutional rights, political liberties etc.).

The legal perspectives of digitization might have a greater importance to me, since IAAL („I am a lawyer”), but the key reason why I found the summer university incredible fascinating that it brought together different people with different priorities and perspectives. Dimensions that I would never think on on my own.

To be (or) not to be – how to overcome socio-technical dualism

The inspiring talk “Habits of Living: Data, Life and Society in Network Societies” by Nishant Shah made me think – once again – about dualisms. We’re locked to them in our everyday lives, as each element in our language exists in contrast to it’s opposite: black/white, warm/cold, male/female, life/death. For me the reified object of dualism is the now defunct, hence very present, Berlin Wall. The inherent dualism of Germany was and is east and west. With the reunification we gained another dualism: north and south. In order to describe the specifics of the different parts we describe them by their opposites: the north is what the south isn’t and the west is what the east isn’t – and the other way round.

If you were ask to describe yourself, how would you do it? Isn’t it so much easier to talk about who you’re not rather than who you are?

The problem of dualism is the underlying notion of hierarchy. Through a dualistic lens things become separate and inferior, they start to compete with one another. One of my favorite questions to ask is, if someone would rather live by the ocean or by the mountains. Ask yourself! What would you rather? Live by the calm never-ending ocean or the great majestic mountains. And while you gather your arguments think about Lady Justice’s scale and image how you fill up both sides with your arguments. What happens? The scale gets out of balance even though both sides are equally valid.

In media science we’re facing the same issue when talking about today’s media (technology). We’ve learned from STS that technology is never just technical but also social. The media (technology) inherent dichotomy of the technical and the social makes media research viscous and challenging.

In order to overcome the dualistic view Nishant Shah suggested in his talk an ‘opaque metaphor’, first introduced by Wendy Chun. In her view we have converted media (technology) into habits. By us connecting habitually to them without even thinking about them, media (technology) has made itself invisible. And this is why they so often take us by surprise.

Chun as well as Shah is trying is to overcome duality by rethinking, critiquing and challenging current ways of investigating media technology. Rather than juxtaposing the social and the technical against each other, they ask how things are shaped through one another. (Btw. they’ve done so in a Thinkathon – a thinking marathon, love the idea!)

I think this is a very valuable and much-needed approach in social science; however, I would like to propose an alternative, which is also applicable in everyday life: the method of radical acceptance. What I have observed lately is, that we’re trying so hard to overcome the dualism inherent in technology that it manifests itself even stronger. The more we talk about it, the harder it seems to change our way of thinking and the stronger appears the dualism itself. Thus, rather than rethinking our dualistic world, let’s radically accept it as it is – as a dualistic world.

‘Radical Acceptance’ is a method recommended by Tara Brach in order to heal trauma. In order to do so the fist step is to fully experience and accept all sensations that arise in our bodies. The second step is to fully welcome them with an open heart. The underlying assumption is that pain continues to cause pain, until we’ve fully experienced and accepted it. Or, as she cites Rumi, “the cure for the pain is in the pain”.

Even though cyberneticians don’t talk about pain at all, in the end they talk about the same when claiming “only variety can destroy variety”. The Law of Requisite Varity states that two systems can only be stable, when the number of states within the two systems are equal. Applied to our stated problem of duality this means that the outcome of our research needs to have two states as well.

In conclusion, in order overcome a dualistic view, I suggest that we first need to radically accept the two dualistic states and then, second, adjust our way of scientific thinking accordingly. This means, when researching media (technology) we must always look at them from the dualistic sides. By doing so, hopefully, the inherent dualism will slowly disappear – so does the trauma once you’ve accepted and re-experienced it.

About filter bubbles, silent nuns and spam. The first day of presentations.

I had the honor of chairing the first participant presentations today. Since this is a interdisciplinary summer school, there is a wide variety in backgrounds, which exposes everybody to perspectives and topics they would probably not have approached on their own.

The first presentation was given by Ana Jobin, PhD student at the University of Lausanne. She’s looking at the filter bubble, that search engines like Google create, not from the perspective of the user, as it is usually done, but from the perspective of advertisers. Her presentation sparked a lively debate about algorithms and perspectives on filter bubbles.

Michele Infante presented his research on nuns in the last cloistered convent in Naples. He looked at how they are using the internet and what impact it has on life within the convent. As a social scientist he is no stranger to field work, but there are certain challenges when it comes to researching the life of nuns who have sworn a vow of silence.

The last presentation of the day was given by Elinor Carmi, a PhD student at Goldsmiths College, University of London. She talked about spam on modern online platforms, something that is not usually in the focus of research. There was an intense discussion following the presentation. Shannon and Weaver still have that effect on people who talk about communication and communication methods.

The interdisciplinary approach led to lots of interesting and intense discussions, with feedback from different perspectives and angles. It definitely payed off, even just as a participant, but I’m very much looking forward to the discussion on my presentation on Wednesday.

How digitalization changes the way we communicate – Part One

This post is the first of a series, which will concentrate on several cases and examples about changing communicational behavior as a result of digitization. I want to start with the observation I made during the panel discussion today.

Photo: Katrin Etzrodt

“What we do with digitization and what it does to us” Guido Westkamp, Sven Guckes, Wolfgang Donsbach, Thomas Wolf, Daniel Riebe (left to right)

But let me start with a short introduction of the discussion. Four people from very different backgrounds, namely Guido Westkamp (Professor for Intellectual Property and Comparative Law), Sven Guckes (arguing from the point of view of creative commons rights), Thomas Wolf (the chief of the online ressort of DD+V Mediagroup) and  Daniel Riebe (member of the german pirate party) where brought together to discuss the issue “What we do with digitization and what it does with us”. Moderated by Prof. Wolfgang Donsbach from the Institute of Media and Communication.

I will not summarize the content of the discussion in a way that you may expect at this very moment. Instead I will talk about a phenomenon that occurred during the real time event. So what I observed was a communication situation, which took place on three channels I noticed. Number one was the so called face-to-face communication. The four discussants as well as the moderator talked about phenomenons on different dimensions related to digitization. The audience – which mainly consisted of the summer school participants and some other interested people as well – was invited to ask questions and did used this opportunity. To this point you may say, this was a pretty usual event with a pretty usual way of conversation.

Parallel digital discussion on Twitter?

Panel Discussion – Digital Audience

But since we are all digital citicens – or at least most of us – of course we tweeted about main phrases and quoted interesting answers or questions. There is a list for the summer school, which contains mainly all tweeting participants. Although somehow there wasn’t going to be a discussion going beyond quotations and phrases from the podium on this medium – at least for this panel. Well, you may say, what’s the big deal with it? That’s old news for us! And you may be right.

So what was different?

At the beginning of the panel the organizers gave us another medium: a piratepad. At first I did not realize the purpose, but after a while I was enlightened: Another way of simultaneously communicating. I got curious and followed the link. And then a real constructive conversation – at least for me – arose. Four people were joining the pad. Did the others not recognize it? Was it too less understandable? Weren’t the curious? Whatever the answer may be, the result of the pad was a third channel where not only a discussion, but also a structuring and conservation of the thoughts and arguments of the other two channels. I will not analyze this phenomenon in detail now (I/we will come back on that in another post). instead of interpreting it for you I will give you the whole content, so you can see for yourself. (I did not leave out some text, just some empty lines).

Bildschirmfoto 2013-10-01 um 21.28.08

Bildschirmfoto 2013-10-01 um 21.28.12

What does this say?

At the moment it does tell me, that there are many different ways of communicating at an event like this. The usual assumption parallel conversation happens on social network sites may not always do justice to reality and mislead our research focus. Sometimes it may occur on social collaborating sites, too. And it made me wonder, if a medium to write or structure text collaboratively, which at the same time serves as a chat-like medium, suits better to situations such as this panel discussion.

It made me also wonder about the dominance we willingly give to social network sites as users, instead of benefitting from the variety and richness of the social media universe. And it makes me wonder to what extend and what impact we can alter the origin use of a social medium. If you, e.g., have a look at the piratepad pictures, you will soon recognize that we did not just note and structure important facts, arguments and thoughts of the panel, but also had our own conversations there, too.

To conclude this observation with a statement to the discussion’s topic:

Digitization enables us to find and create additional channels to a face-to-face event. At the same time we are altering these digitalized solutions to our own needs and purposes, in ways that might not have been the intention of the creator. Therefore the process of change can be – once again – seen as a reciprocal process.


Challenges of cross disciplinary events

After a full day of workshops and presentations I noticed a re-occurring thing: talking about such a heated topic such as digitization, or shall we say – digitalization – summons debates and clashes between different disciplines, approaches and methods. In the current academic climate, that tries to encourage cross-disciplinary approaches, one cannot help but wonder how this hybridization process will manage to dissolve years of disciplinary divisions and traditions.

This is particularly interesting in such a diverse group of people, who come from different traditions even within a specific discipline. In this respect, this summer school is a test lab that beautifully shows the academic atmosphere many of us find ourselves in at the moment, and therefore, provide a great opportunity to be exposed and receive feedbacks from people who might have not encounter your work otherwise.

I am very curious to hear, learn and debate in the following days, will be diginteresenting for sure!

One! Two! Three! Blog!

Bloggers at work: fingers flying over the keyboard – postings coming soon!

The first day of workshops and presentations is over and our blogging team has grown considerably. We are very happy that we’ve inspired a lot of engaged young researchers to share their thoughts and reflections on digitization and its impact to society at this platform.
Several drafts of blog postings were already created at our bloggers meeting this evening and in the following days various personal statements will be published here.
Happy reading and commenting!

The busy bees of our summer school


Our diligent assistants of the summer school: Mihael Švitek, Yvonne Krämer, Kirsten Pfohl (left to right)

Welcome again to the summer school 2013!

These three very friendly faces may have been the first ones you’ve met, when you arrived at the museum today. And these are also the ones you can ask, if you have any questions, e.g. where or when or what is going on during the next week. So you can put your mind at rest and focus completely on the content.


Because we are living in a digital world, you can also use our contact formular or write directly to summerschool.gsw@tu-dresden.de. Of course twitter via #digitize13 will do, as well.

Countdown is running

Organisers and helpers have done a good job. The Summer School is ready to start. Only one hour is left until the first keynote speeches. Registration is already opened for our participants from all over the world. And the sun shines to welcome them. We are excited and look forward to a week full of new insights on digitization and its impact on society!

Foto 2
Summer School is opening today at the military-historical museum

We want you!


We want you – which means all participants of the summer school – to be part of this blog! In other words we want you to be a blogging scientist! We’d love to read about your impressions and thoughts about issues brought up in the workshops, keynotes and other events.
If you are interested, talk to me or Rebecca Renatus.

You don’t need to be a professional blogger already!

Even if you won’t participate in the workshop “Scientific Blogging” and even if you haven’t tried blogging before, you can still be part of our blogging community.

There’s a Blogger’s Meeting every day at the end of all sessions. You can visit us there if you have questions or want some help. We will support you, during writing a short (or if you like long) post about whatever you want to write about referring to the summer school. We will also provide material (pictures, photos, tools, sentences from the sessions …) to help you expressing your thoughts.

Why should you join the blogging community?

The more I am involved in scientific blogging the more reasons for joining this community I get. A lot of scientists already published excellent arguments. I just give you a few points, knowing that I will not meet the amount of voices. Most of the arguments I will summarize here I took from Daniel Brown and Bethany Brookshire.

  • Share your passion! The – in my impression – most repeated reason by scientific bloggers is sharing you’re passion for science: I assume you are into social sciences, digital media or whatever, because you love it. Nonetheless the time span between the start of your research and publishing the results may be months and sometimes years. Blogs give you the chance to share what you love with the public much sooner.
  • Stay present in the minds of your colleagues! “Blogs are an excellent way to continuously maintain a presence within the science community and to contribute to scientific thought, whether you write on interesting facts you’ve learned or dive deep into distilling the current primary literature” (Daniel Brown)
  • Reach out to the public! You can not only reach your colleagues, but also increase communication between you and the public to get more people interested in science.

There are personal improvements too:

  • Manage your knowledge! Blogs are a good way to collect and organize your thoughts referring to your research topic. It may therefore serve as a research diary if you like.
  • Train your writing skills! Blogging may improve your ability to ‘say it simply’, which will be important if you are trying to talk about your research to non-scientists (such as funding institutions), but also – and sometimes even more difficult to manage – if you try to explain your colleagues what you actually are doing.


Stay tuned!

Your patience will be rewarded! Finally the day has come and we will be happy to welcome all participants of our summer school on sunday. Not just anywhere, but at the military historical museum (Militärhistorisches Museum).

Digitization and the Military

You may ask: “What does this place have to do with the theme of our summer school?” Well, maybe more than you’ll guess at the first thought. For example digital computing has been shaped by military institutions, while trying to defeat their opponents. Although we will find some of these developments quite disturbing, as the affair about PRISM & Co. may demonstrate, nonetheless these developments influence digital as well as other innovations. To speak in the words of the Militärhistorische Museum, this means the military is an intrinsic part of human history and therefore is connected to research on political, social, cultural and mentality issues. That’s why one could say military institutions have an impact on digitization and also on society.

Digitization in Politics, Administrations and Society

I assume you will discover a lot of interesting connections between the exhibition and our summer school theme. Not to forget the first two keynotes who will introduce you to the digitalized society, which may foster finding even more connections. While  Dr. Wilfried Bernhardt (State Secretary of Justice and for European Affairs) will give you further insights into the area of Politics and Administration, Prof. Dr. Volker Ralf Grassmuck (Sociologist and media researcher at the Leuphana University in Lüneburg) will point out ups and downs in the digital society.

Physically Experiences of Digitization

And if this doesn’t excite you already, you’ll get the chance to physically experience digitality by playing Sportpong (we posted about that game yesterday) and of course by listening to excellent electronic music by electromeier. That’s why we are looking forward to the opening on sunday, starting at 14:00 o’clock.

As you may have figured, from this day forward we will keep you up to date about all events and activities on the summer school 2013. Since we are digital to the core – not only referring to the program – you can also follow our activities on Twitter by using the hashtag #digitize13. All participants (you’ve already received a password) will have the chance to join the summer school Facebook here.

So follow us and stay tuned …

Note: Language sometimes (and maybe in the digital world even more) can be irritating. That’s why I want to correct one misunderstanding: The Facebook mentioned in the text above, is NOT referring to the social network site! It’s a private area for all participants on our website, which contains all the pictures made during the summer school. Due to copy- and personal rights this area is password protected and only for personal use. Have fun exploring!