Fall 2008 Editor’s Note

One of the pleasures of writing an editor’s note for a journal like
gnovis, which covers such a wealth of inspired topics, is the
opportunity to spend a quiet afternoon looking at a stack of seemingly
unrelated papers– searching for the common thread (or threads) that
holds the stack together. Some threads are easier to find than others
but, like a thread pulled from a sweater, once discovered they seem to
have no end.

In this issue, the common thread I’ve identified is one concerned with
power and control in relation to technology and information. Who
controls a particular flow of information? Who benefits from a given
technology? When does technology liberate information, as opposed to
restricting it? My questions are echoed in the following summaries but,
as usual, this thread is merely an offering – an optional technology,
so to speak, which you may use to the extent that it helps liberate the
information in this issue.

Our first article, from Katrina Pariera, Who Benefits from Telecom?
Understanding the Expressed Values Guiding the Emerging
Telecommunications Regime
, is an analysis of the language used by
international organizations concerned with telecom. Pariera identifies
a high frequency of “people-centered” language in her texts, suggesting
that the telecom regime may be moving away from market-driven
approaches and embracing a more utilitarian ethic, at least in their
expressed values.

In The “Sufficient Backdoor” Test: A New Model for Indecency Regulation
of Converged Media
, Carlyn Epstein proposes a modified version of the
“strict scrutiny” standard used by the US Supreme Court. Taking into
account media convergence and evolving technology that shifts content
control to the “receiver” (the end user), Epstein argues that a
“sufficient backdoor” test, combined with ratings standards, would
allow for stricter regulation of indecency without censoring free
speech.

Next, Gillian Brooks tackles a provocative topic in From an Amateur’s
Angle: The Impact of the Visual Image in Defining Abu Ghraib
. In a
complex analysis of the controversial torture photos from Abu Ghraib
prison, outside of Baghdad, Brooks considers everything from the cultural
imagery that influenced the original photos to the attempts by
politicians and journalists to influence the story after the photos
were leaked.

In Self-disclosure of Religious Identity on Facebook, Piotr Bobkowski
details his study of Christian young adults and their strategies for
disclosing their religious views on Facebook, suggesting a tension
between the users’ desires to control how they represent their
identities online and the structures imposed upon them by the sites
they are utilizing.

Elizabeth Clark explores this tension more directly in our final paper,
What Good is the ‘You’ in YouTube? Cyberspectacle and Subjectivity,
which contrasts the “Broadcast Yourself” ethos of the YouTube brand
with the “megaspectacle” of the YouTube medium. Is digital media truly
subversive, or just another form of Debordian alienation?

As always, I thank our contributing authors, our volunteer
peer-reviewers, and our dedicated staff for their hard work in the
preparation of this issue. This will be my final note as the Managing Editor of gnovis, and I offer my most sincere gratitude to all who have helped the journal to flourish during these past two years.

— Brad Weikel

Brad Weikel

Brad Weikel received his MA in Communication, Culture & Technology (CCT) from Georgetown University in 2009. His thesis, "From Coding to Community: Iteration, Abstraction, and Open Source Software Development" argued that programming practices, particularly iterative workflows and abstraction models, can help explain both the success and struggles of open source software. His work was a technocentric complement to prior explanations from economists, lawyers, and political and cultural theorists. While writing his thesis, Brad blogged about his topic at OpenCulture.cc, where he has since continued blogging, more broudly, about collaborative production and the commons at large. Brad was Managing Editor of gnovis during the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 school years, and Creative Director in 2006/2007. He is currently the Web & Communications Coordinator for EarthRights International.