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Dirk von Gehlen, editor in charge of the German portal, points in his blog to the following impressive and viral Google commercial featuring Lady Gaga and dozens of Lady Gaga fans all around the world:

As von Gehlen emphasizes, the video is effectively a collage of copyright infringements by YouTube users, ending with the request to provide even more of those:

the web is what you make of it

In the official description of the video, Google gives more details on the background and the making of the video:

This film celebrates Lady Gaga’s special and unmediated relationship with her fans, the Little Monsters. The making of this film is a demonstration of the power of the web in its own right. […] Within hours of the release of her new single “Edge of Glory” on May 9th, fans began uploading videos on YouTube, making the song their own by dancing to it, singing it and playing it on all kinds of instruments.

The whole video and its imperative is thus completely at odds with another video released by Google about a month ago: the YouTube Copyright School, which was meant to educate users about copyright and warned them to abstain from infringements like those presented in the Lady Gaga commercial. Read the rest of this entry »

The following video is a trailer of an ethnographic film that arose during the course of my PhD project at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies:

The implementation of the EU’s main nature conservation program, Natura 2000, has more side effects than Brussels’ bureaucrats envisaged. Two village communities own common forests and pastures in Natura 2000 protected areas – one located in Vrancea Romania and the other in Galicia, Spain. Both are struggling to defend their rights to access natural resources, vital for the local economy. However, communities are not homogenous and different discourses get shaped during the village assemblies where people seem to prime their immediate needs.  Culiţǎ, a 45 year old forestry worker, and Henar, a Galician farmer, build on the collective memories of disspossetion an active resistance behavior against the EU’s Natura 2000 program. Yet, the makeshift ethos in the first community, and the demographic decline in the second seem to lead to the failure of a coherent collective resistance.


Cover "The Master Switch"Tim Wu, 2010: The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

The main theme of “The Master Switch” is the “oscillation of information industries between open and closed”, a phenomenon  Tim Wu finds and tracks in “any of the past century’s transformative technologies, whether telephony, radio, television, or film”, referring to it simply as “the Cycle” (p. 6). The historical description unsurprisingly culminates in an analysis of current battles around net neutrality and the openess of the internet.

Wu sees “a chasm opened between Google and its allies like Amazon, eBay, and nonprofits like Wikipedia on the one side and Apple, AT&T, and the entertainment conglomerates on the other” (p. 289).  Those two coalitions, however, are not to be considered “one pack of wolves chasing another” but rather as “polar bears battling lions for domination of the world”:

“Each animal, insuperably dominant in its natural element – the polar bear on ice and snow, the lion on the open plains – will undertake a land grab where it has no natural business being. The only practicable strategy will be a campaign of climate change, the polar bears seeking to cover as much of the world with snow as they can, while the lion tries to coax a savannah from the edges of a tundra.” (p. 289-290)  Read the rest of this entry »

Microfinance in India is still where it was months ago – in a stalemate with the government. The crisis of microcredit in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh which began last October with a rash of client suicides – we were the first to blog about this, and followed its development throughout – climaxed in a standoff in late October between the state legislature and microfinance institutions (MFIs). Mud was thrown by both sides in an intense blame-game, while actually the crisis had systemic causes rooted in weak legislation and a hyper-competitive market.

Neither side has found a way to break out. But the stalemate is becoming unstable. It is increasingly clear to MFIs and their funders that most loans in Andhra Pradesh will not be recoverable, since trust in the MFIs’ promise of being “here to stay” is dwindling, and the new legislation has rendered erstwhile coercive recovery practices impossible. On the other hand, the Andhra government cannot step down from its legislature issued under the promise of protecting the poor without losing face, and the Indian federal government has chosen to largely ignore the issue.

The Economic Times from Mumbai recently provided a thorough update on what happened in the past few months, which I’m quoting here. The growing problem is that the MFIs in Andhra Pradesh will need new capital soon in order to replace the loans they have written off, or will soon be forced to write off. Read the rest of this entry »

This post is provided by guest blogger Domen Bajde, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Faculty of Economics (FELU) at the University of Ljubljana/Slovenia. He is also running a personal blog at

In one of his depressingly amusing anecdotes Ronald Reagan suggests that in the US ‘War on poverty’ (declared by Lyndon B. Johnson two decades earlier) ‘poverty won.’ In the decades that followed, Reagan’s smug conclusion has resonated with many who have either lost faith in organized political/governmental action against poverty or have altogether refused to conceive of poverty as an issue of governance. Similar qualms have been raised in regard to nonprofits’ and charitable organizations’ ability to effectively besiege poverty. Not surprisingly, the ‘foot soldiers’ of the anti-poverty regiment (i.e., regular citizens/donors) are often overwhelmed by the endless charity appeals and a profound sense of hopelessness.

In our collective efforts to discover (create?) ‘fresh’ champions in the ongoing war on poverty, many heads have turned to business. Philanthropy-business hybrids, such as venture philanthropyphilanthrocapitalism or social entrepreneurship, have become central to contemporary pursuits of poverty alleviation. These hybrid alternatives are often depicted as an unproblematic marriage of economy (self-interest, resource management) and philanthropy (social values, charitable giving). Due to their supposedly apolitical and non-ideological nature they appeal to individuals of varied political convictions and domiciles (globally, so to speak). Read the rest of this entry »

I knew I was opening an interesting book when I picked up Lendol Calder’s „Financing the American Dream: A Cultural History of Consumer Credit”. But I had no idea that, in reading the historical chapters, I would stumble onto the microfinance of the early 1900s. Published in 1999, Calder’s book tracks the rise of consumer credit, from Victorian society’s scorn for debt, to credit as a practical life necessity in modern societies. It’s a great read. And against the backdrop of the 2008-2010 credit crisis, this book is as poignant as ever.

However, what astonished me most is that modern microfinance, it turns out, has its almost exact equivalent in North America in the early 20th century. The public of rich countries is currently enthralled by the notion that a supposedly innovative set of morally-driven  credit institutions could create a better society, a world without poverty, more empowered individuals… This is so much an instance of history repeating itself, it’s almost creepy. Calder writes how well-meaning people in America tried lending to the poor to help them escape poverty by building up the licensed small-loan industry – before World War I, before the Model T, before Morgan Stanley – and failed. As Calder explains on pp. 111-112, the licensed small-loan industry was created to help the poor take charge of their lives through small enterprise. But credit did not create more entrepreneurial, freer human beings; instead, as an unintended consequence it created the consumer culture of the USA which we know today.

“The lenders and reformers who organized the licensed small-loan industry did not view themselves as advance agents for debt-based mass consumerism. On the contrary, through the mid-1920s small-loan lenders conscientiously resisted modern consumerism, at least what they could see of it. The business of personal finance was perceived as an exercise in philanthropy and social welfare, as a way of liberating workers from the clutches of poverty and the loan shark. In order to combat the odium attached to their business, small-loan lenders characterized themselves as upholders of the American dream. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

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

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