Recent news from the Center for Civic Media | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

A Brief History of Webcomics at #ROFLCon

Panelists: R. Stevens (Diesel Sweeties), Sam Brown (Explodingdog)
Growing from the backwaters of nerdy scribblers uploading their doings onto the web, webcomics have grown into vast, mighty engines of culture online in the past decade plus. Whether it’s the firm geekery of xkcd or the more obscure dabblings of Achewood – webcomics have, more often than not, come to be the shared cultural anchor-points in the broader internet.
This panel brings together Rich Stevens and Sam Brown, who have been deep at the dark, beating heart of webcomics-land from the very beginning for a casual Q&A about the big picture of where things have been, where things are, and where they’re going.

You don't need permission to create

Rebecca Tushnet, a law professor at Georgetown, founded the Organization for Transformative Works, a nonprofit focused on fandom. They were established to make a home for people who make non-commercial transformative works who face legal challenges and copyright battles.

People often assume that certain expression is illegal when it actually is not. When Rebecca first got into law, legal institutions and lawyers were just beginning to become aware of the internet. There was a fantasy of control and a notion that digital files would lead to an era of perfectly controlled content.

Rebecca investigated the legality of fan fiction and found that it is, indeed, legal. Legal questions surrounding the Further Adventures of Mulder & Scully have been mostly resolved. The writing that comprises fan fiction is fair use. [See the Center for Social Media’s Guide to Fair Use]

Too Big To Know: Reddit, YouTube, Imgr at #ROFLCon

What do you do with the massive amounts of data that Internet sites are gathering?

Moderating is David Weinberger, from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The panelists include:

How big is big? May is YouTube's 7th birthday. They get 4 billion views per day. YouTube had 1 trillion views in 2011. Over one hour of video is uploaded on YouTube every second. YouTube is localized in 43 countries and in 60 languages.

On the 30th of April, Reddit had around 5.6 million votes on links, 5.6 million votes on comments, 11 million total votes, 69 thousand links submitted -- in one day!

Scams: Jason Scott on The Mysterious Case of Robert Hoquim #ROFLCON

Jason Scott is one of the people on the Internet who I most admire. The man behind, he has done amazing work archiving the history of computing through a series of documentaries like Get Lamp and the BBS Documentary.

Jason tells us that this isn’t going to be one of his funny talks.

He tells about The Mysterious Mister Hoqim, a scam artist who he has been studying for many years. Jason tells us that nobody actually knows the last things that went through Bob’s mind when he passed away. After his death, the authorities linked him to a fugitive named John Paul Aleshe. They were given access to a shipping container which belonged to him. When that happened, a multimillion dollar life of fraud fell apart.

Memes from the Year 2000

It's 2012. Nerds are in and internet memes can actually make you famous IRL. But way back in the Year 2000, things were different. YouTube didn't exist, and a video had to be sent around as an email attachment (remember RealPlayer?). Your mom yelled at you for tying up the phone line and GeoCities plastered banners all over your creations.

The past is well-represented here, by Eric Wu of Eric Conveys an Emotion (founded in 1998), Zblofu of Zombocom, and Jonti Picking of Weebl's Stuff. They were all online in the 90's, but things really exploded in 2000.

Eric shot still photos of himself conveying requested emotions, gradually growing more complicated, from sad to conveying sarcastic respect for an authority figure.

The crowd groans as we revisit and see how commercialized the once-pure GIF-overloaded page has become. But its spirit lives on at sites like


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