My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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how DRM fucks academics

One of the cardinal rules of doing ethnography is that you keep everything. Normally, this concerns the physical world so you keep letters, receipts, photos, anything that you can possibly get your hands on. We’re all still trying to figure out what this means in digital land. During my work on Friendster, i was terrible about keeping records. I should’ve kept copies of Profiles; i didn’t. I should’ve kept copies of funny videos and other such stuff; i didn’t. I very much regret this, because so many of those Profiles were deleted and now i have no record of what all happened. But then again, i didn’t think i was doing research. Mistakes made, lessons learned.

So, now, i’m really doing research. And i’m trying to keep copies of things that i analyze. Of course, saving every webpage is difficult so i fully admit that i’m doing a poor job of this. But my bigger problem is that i want to keep copies of the video that i run across. The bulk of it is on YouTube locked down by DRM. Although there are ways of getting this out of YouTube, going from flv to something usable is a bitch on a Mac. And damned if i can get .flvs working on a Mac.

The thing that is going to kill me about all of this DRM bullshit is how it completely eliminates fair use. I should be able to keep copies of these videos and mark them up as artifacts. Instead, i’m locked out. Unfortunately, explaining the DRM problem to committees who want to know why you aren’t storing the artifacts is impossible right now. Gah. Frustrating.

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