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Not least to celebrate their first and very successful year of blogging, the crew of the German theorieblog invited fellow German research bloggers to a one-day workshop at Humboldt University Berlin on April 9, 2011. With the help of the online-tool Piratepad some of the participants including myself collaboratively crafted a short workshop report. Since the original report is available in German only, in what follows I present a shortened  version in English and ask my fellow co-authors from Berliner Gazette,  Blogmacherei, Mind at Work, Sicherheitskulturen, Theorieblog, and Verfassungsblog to forgive me any imperfect or crude translations.

How important are offline activities for blogs? The workshop organized by the team of the Theorieblog has given a clear answer to that question: in spite of all blog-euphoria, offline is indispensable. The workshop, attended by over 22 male and female bloggers,  was meant to be structured alongside three major themes:

  1. What makes a good blog post?
  2. Blogs and their readers
  3. Blogs and the wider public

As the discussions soon showed, these issues were difficult to  keep apart and debates circled around the following, overarching questions: How do (research) blogs position themselves in the context of research and the public and how and with what aims are we blogging? Read the rest of this entry »

Practically everyone has heard the proverbial story of poor a Bangladeshi or Nigerian taking out a microloan to, say, buy a few chickens or start a small business selling mangoes, and becoming a wealthy and successful farm entrepreneur or fruit trade mogul. There is even a picture book for children about that story.

Picture books, however, don’t make the story any more real or representative. This blog has been critical of microfinance success stories in the past, because they mislead people into generalising from a few exceptional success cases (see also Tim Ogden’s smart analysis of the consequences of misleading storytelling). More generally, the blog has been critical of microfinance because not everyone who takes a loan can make a profit on a business venture and use the profit to repay the loan plus interest; very few will benefit spectacularly from this, and their successes do not equal “development”.

But donor bodies increasingly expect microfinance to become the centerpiece of development. Proposals for microfinance to reach beyond small-business-lending and into the traditional remits of the state abound. Microcredit loans are being suggested and applied by various agencies for generating access to a range of goods and services linked to development, from sending kids to school, creating better health, improving water and sanitation, to even helping with peace and reconciliation. Using microfinance for water and sanitation has been an area of particular focus (here is one prominent example, with its own success stories). Read the rest of this entry »

About 10 months ago, I posted an entry on the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, in which I outlined three scenarios that I thought were likely to occur after the Deepwater Horizon crisis. They can be labeled as no regulatory consequences, stronger public regulation and new private regulation of safety in the oil drilling industry. Today, exactly one year after the explosion of the BP’s oil drilling rag in the Gulf of Mexico killing eleven people, I have to admit that the Deepwater Horizon did not become the beginning of the new regulatory era for the oil industry. Read the rest of this entry »

Right on time before flying to Leuven for the upcoming ESF Workshop “Consuming the Illegal“, Google/YouTube published the copyright cartoon perfectly illustrating what the workshop will be about:

The copyright abolitionists over at “Against Monopoly” feature a series entitled “IP as a joke“. But this video, as funny as it may seem, is to be taken completely serious. The background for this crazy/disturbing/awkward “Copyright School” is a change in YouTube’s copyright infringement policies. As repeatedly discussed on this blog (e.g. “This Post is Available in Your Country“) and described by fellow workshop participant Domen Bajde (see “Private Negotiation of Public Goods: Collateral Damage(s)“), users who posted three videos containing (seemingly) infringing content to YouTube have not only lost those videos but all of their videos: their account was deleted.

But since even for copyright lawyers it is often difficult to distinguish between infringing and non-infringing (fair) use (see the workshop paper of Sigrid and myself), a lot of creative users remixing existing works were in constant danger to lose all their uploaded videos due to suddenly becoming a “multiple infringer”. This week, Google has softened this policy a little. “Infringers” are now first sentenced to “copyright school”. On the official YouTube-blog this reads as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

In two weeks from now, Sigrid and myself are going to take part in a three-day-workshop entitled “Consuming the Illegal: Situating Digital Piracy In Everyday Experience“.  This exploratory workshop is funded by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and mainly organized by Jason Rutter, a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the School for Mass Communication Research, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. The self-stated goal of the workshop reads as follows:

“This workshop places internet piracy – the illegal downloading of digital content – within a context of research on consumption and everyday practice. Bringing researchers from a range of social science disciplines it aims to develop theoretical and methodological perspectives to examine consumer behaviour, practices and understandings to investigate a phenomenon usually framed as deviant.”

In our contribution, entitled “Transnational Copyright: Misalignments between Regulation, Business Models and User Practice” (PDF), we want to question one of the basic premises in current debates  on copyright and also the conference title, namely that the demarcation line between legal and illegal can be easily drawn. Instead, we argue, that

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The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
April 2011

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