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Science Books

June 14, 2007

Wired Shut: Copyright And The Shape Of Digital Culture
Tarleton Gillespie (2007)
ISBN: 0262072823

Media giants have spent much of the Internet revolution trying to work out how to make a guaranteed buck out of going digital. They've made some modest inroads, even winning some landmark battles in the intellectual property stakes, but are yet to truly replicate the kind of commercial power they wield with traditional media. But in Wired Shut Tarleton Gillespie, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University, highlights a subtle shift in digital copyright that has occurred over the years, which has moved from relying on legal frameworks to protect commercial interests, to a greater emphasis on built-in "technical copy protection." Gillespie goes on to explain that while copy protection has so far been a war of attrition, improving encryption methods could eventually allow major media players to protect their intellectual property, and avoid costly legal wranglings. But while protecting online commercial interests may seem fair enough, according to Gillespie this is exactly the sort of thing that may ultimately usurp the spirit and democratic nature of the Internet. In fact, says Gillespie, this is such a serious prospect that legal battles over the regulation of copying have instead become battles over the regulation of copy protection design. In this regard, Gillespie uses three case studies to articulate his arguments: the failure of copy protection for portable music players with the Strategic Digital Music Initiative (SDMI); DVD encryption; and the FCC and their recommendations for digital television protection systems. Gillespie concludes that irrespective of copy protection outcomes, the way that government and commercial interests intersect will have a significant effect on how cultures express themselves in this digital age. A timely book with an important message.

Thought To Exist In The Wild: Awakening From The Nightmare Of Zoos
Derrick Jensen & Karen Tweedy-Holmes (2007)
ISBN: 0972838716

Human animals are locked up in prisons as a form of punishment, so what does this say about the zoos in which we imprison animals? Many of us may remember early trips to the zoo as something that was fun and educational, if a bit smelly. But Jensen's palpable outrage at the horror of zoo life for the animals, and Tweedy-Holmes' equally bleak, yet technically striking, images may very well challenge those romanticized notions. Thought To Exist In The Wild leaves you feeling somewhat guilty for all of those years spent unapologetically enjoying the captivity of animals that were otherwise destined to live out their days in the wild. In this light, the monkeys going berserk, or the elephants rocking to and fro in their cages should neither be considered entertaining, funny, or, cute; but recognized as animals suffering from serious distress. As with any contemporary ethical issue, there is a plethora of celebrities all too willing to associate themselves with Jensen's expose on the apparent cruelty of zoos. HBO's resident comedian Bill Maher describes Jensen's book as a "courageous and brave" demonstration of how we humans "need to dominate every living being on the planet." Drummer Andrew Hurley, from the Grammy-nominated rock band Fall Out Boy, says that Thought To Exist In The Wild "lays bare the reality of zoos: prisons for the wild creatures whose worlds we have utterly destroyed with our 'progress'." So, is there anything positive to say about zoos? Well, some zoo enclosures have moved beyond the cement and bars of traditional zoos, with animals enjoying more natural habitat-like surrounds. This may seem acceptable to some people, but to Jensen and Tweedy-Holmes the very concept of keeping animals locked up is an aberration.

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