Rowdy Entrepreneurs and Insecure Dinosaurs, Murat Karamuftuoglu

Apr 19th, 2013 | By | Category: Extract

 

This is Insane, or Minding the Small Print

What is insane? And what is the ‘listening suggestion’ that lurks behind the very first endnote of the book? The latter is a bit easier to answer, so let me start with it. Every book has a story to tell but not a song to hum to. Well, this book has – in fact, not one but several (on the last count it was fifteen, enough to fill a CD album, or in the old days a double LP). However, don’t count yourself lucky, thinking that ‘if the ideas are not good I can at least listen the songs’ (which, I assure you, are good). You need a computer with an internet connection, or better, a record player, now back in fashion after surviving the onslaught of the CD and more lately MP3 formats, if you want to hear any of them. Neither the music nor the lyrics of the songs are included in the book (more on this below). Nor is this a book on music.

innovationThe book rather aims to shed a new light on the process of innovation, more specifically on the role of body and mind, the everyday and the ordinary in innovation. It has a philosophical and political outlook, and entertains both micro and macro level analyses. To my knowledge, it is the first book of its kind that mingles popular culture theory (as well as politics and philosophy) with innovation and entrepreneurship. It is written, true to the spirit of popular culture, in a lively style (you see, I have been an academic so far, this was my chance to escape the dryness of academic prose) with abundant popular cultural references, and textual and visual puns, hence, the references to popular music in the endnotes.

 

Songs (references to the titles) are not added in any systematic way to the text. I have not sat down and thought which song might be more fun, relevant, etc., to listen to while reading this or that section. For whatever reason I am not quite sure, the ones in the footnotes are the first ones that pop up in my mind – more or less by free association (but please do not attempt to psychoanalyze me on the basis of the suggested playlist, as there are many other favorite bands and songs which I withheld!).

How about the insanity and the small print mentioned above? It refers to the insanity of holding on to the old copyright laws in the face of increasing ease of use of information with the advances in digital technologies, in particular, the World Wide Web. With the ease with which one can copy, modify, adapt and use another’s work it is hard to enforce the old laws on the Web (remember the failure of the recent attempt in the U.S. to legislate the old regime on the online world, known as Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA). Information wants to be free, and is indeed becoming freer, although not in the print world. Despite the fact that on the Web it is practically impossible to enforce the old copyright regime, when it comes to the print form, judges and the lawyers hold on to their old guns.wikimedia

The book in your hands is not the ‘author’s cut’. The original author’s version, which has been seen only by a handful of friends, included the lyrics of the songs referenced in this edition, as well as many other photographs. The only images that are remaining in this edition are those from Wikimedia Commons, which is a user-created online repository of free-use images, or the works of my personal friends, except the one from an artist who kindly gave permission to use one of his works pro-bono. Thank you Phil Ross for your inspiring work (seeChapter 4) and the kind permission to use it here. My thanks also go to Cem and Seda who have kindly provided four of the photographs you will enjoy in the book. And thank you Wikimedia Commons for the rest of the images in the book.

Anything more would have required going through the process of individually contacting artists or their agents, representatives, etc., to license each photograph or the lyric separately, and a considerable sum of cash. In many cases it was not even possible to track the copyright owner of a photograph replicated in countless Web pages (but this does not ensure that you will be free of the threat of court action if you use them in your book). In the case of the lyrics, it would involve identifying the publishing house that owns the copyright and negotiating a license, usually for a substantial fee. The only lyric to be found in this book is a short excerpt from the Toreador Song from the operaCarmen, which is in the public domain due to its old age.

I am not advocating free use (as in ‘free beer’) of artists’ creations. They should definitely be compensated for their work, however the current intellectual property system hinders greater use of artists’ output by smaller publishers, or first-time authors, whose books may or may not sell a few thousand copies. There are many proposals for compensating the artists in the digital age while maintaining a free-for-all system for artworks and music. One such proposal is to impose a levy on internet service and/or Telecom providers to fund new content creation, similar to the levy imposed on recordable media such as cassette tapes and CDs in many countries, known as the private copying levy or tax. Similarly, several proposals for distribution of royalties gathered in this way have been put forward, including those based on measures such as the number of downloads, usage, or direct internet voting. Obviously, each proposed scheme has its advantages and disadvantages and countless arguments and counter-arguments are made for each.

However, one thing is certain in my mind from my experience in writing my first book. The licensing process can substantially be made easier for all by simply centralizing the whole process. It is not hard to imagine a centralized Web-based worldwide registry of content where content owners register their work and users register the amount of their use. It would also be helpful if the licensing fees are made payable only if a certain number of the copies of the book are sold or a certain amount of revenue is generated from sales. This would be a more fruitful arrangement for both the content creators and users as books that are geared towards general readership and priced accordingly tend to avoid use of any material that requires upfront payment given that most books published in that segment make a loss. I am sure that many counter-arguments can be leveled against such a proposal, but one thing is certain that the current system needs fixing, and almost anything would be better than what we have got presently.

Electronic books or eBooks pose other challenges. Different screen sizes of various readers and tablets available on the market mean that unless the book is designed and laid out separately for all devices, which is economically not feasible for most publishers (especially not in these times), it is impossible to guarantee that images and other formatting will appear as intended or the captions stay together with their accompanying pictures, figures, or tables. I apologize, therefore, if the eBook in your hand suffers from such problems.

Peer-to-peer file sharing, free software, and user-generated content are the frontiers where the old economic system is bursting at its seams. The ongoing worldwide economic crisis that started with the 2008 financial meltdown is a telltale sign that the current world kondratievorder will be unlikely to hold its own for very long. One of the reviewers of an early draft of this book commented that my reference to the ‘credit crunch’ of 2008 could become obsolete by the time the book is published; therefore, it is better removed. That was more than two years ago. My response was that you shouldn’t worry (or rather you should worry) about that: this is not one of those relatively short periods of recession that follow periods of rapid economic growth. The current crises cannot either be explained, in my view, by Kondratiev waves – long cycles (forty to sixty years) of boom followed by depression that characterize the modern capitalist world economy first identified by Nikolai Dmitriyevich Kondratiev (1892-1938), and popularized by Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883-1950), the founding father of innovation and entrepreneurship studies. Kondratiev and Schumpeter showed that one possible explanation of long-term cycles of ‘creative destruction’ is major technological changes or ‘great innovations’ as in the shift from ‘The Age of Oil, Electricity, the Automobile and Mass Production’ ca. 1908 to ‘The Age of Information and Telecommunications’ ca. 1971. There is, I believe, a more fundamental ongoing change that underlies the continuing economic troubles, which will not be resolved until we move from the current unipolar Atlantic-dominated world order to a new multipolar world where the Pacific basin will become the center of economic and political power – a theme explored in the final chapter of the book. The reader could, therefore, rightfully expect to find references to popular songs in Chinese, Hindi and Russian in the future editions of the book!

What will come next to replace the current world socio-economic system may not be what I hoped for or dreamt of while writing this book. I like to think of the system that will one day, no doubt in my mind, come to existence as a community of friendswho are blessed (or perhaps, ‘condemned’) with the freedom to ‘invent’ their own meanings relevant to their everyday lives, bottom-up from their own authentic experiences, not only on the online world but also in the physical world made up of flesh and bodily juices. Such a community would prize creativity and creation of new meanings out of everyday experiences instead of accepting ready-made ones that are pushed top-down by the ‘culture industry’ – a term coined by the critical theorists Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) and Max Horkheimer (1895-1973).

I would think that the happiest period of my life was from my late teenage years to my late twenties. What distinguished that decade from my later ‘adult’ life were the intensities and passions around which we, with my friends, collectively constructed our everyday lives. The common interests, dreams, and passions we discovered and explored, endless conversations we entertained, the fun we had with no or little money, the ‘reality’ that we invented – part out of fiction, part out of our concrete daily mundane experiences – that made our existence a little more meaningful. It was a period where there were no real foes as Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), the (in)famous nineteenth century philosopher – who became insane towards the end of his life – wrote in response to the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s statement about friendship:

And so, we can endure ourself, let us also endure other people; and perhaps to each of us there will come the more joyful hour when we exclaim:

‘Friends, there are no friends!’ thus said the dying sage;

‘Foes, there are no foes!’ say I, the living fool.

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rowdycoverRowdy Entrepreneurs and Insecure Dinosaurs - Popular Strategies for Innovation After the End of Endings
978-1-78099-287-7 (Paperback) £9.99 $16.95
978-1-78099-288-4 (eBook) £6.99 $9.99

Rowdy Entrepreneurs and Insecure Dinosaurs is about invention and innovation in the context of postmodern society and information economy. It applies "popular culture" theory to such companies as Virgin, Microsoft, and Apple, to analyse their innovation strategies. This is the first book of its kind that mingles popular culture theory with innovation theory and entrepreneurship. It is written, true to the spirit of popular culture, in a lively style with abundant popular cultural references, and textual and visual puns.

…well-researched and entertaining Carol Givner

Murat Karamuftuoglu is a researcher and lecturer in Information Science with a particular interest in social, political and philosophical aspects of information systems, knowledge management, aesthetics of new media, and innovation.

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