Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Virtual Worlds Agency Electric Sheep Lays Off 22

Virtual world technology firm The Electric Sheep Company let go nearly a third of its employees yesterday. The move is part of a restructuring to focus the company on larger monetization efforts in 2008, according to CEO Sibley Verbeck.

As part of the reorganization Electric Sheep laid off 22 employees, scaling back its events staff and cancelling several projects, including the creation of an ad network for use within the Second Life virtual world.

"We feel that the time is not right to place more bets on that currently," said Verbeck of the network. "We felt that large scale advertising to the current Second Life user base by real world companies is not a big opportunity in the short term."

Although Verbeck said his firm has never had more than half its projects based in Second Life, and he still believes in Linden Lab's virtual environment, going forward Electric Sheep aims to expand to other adult virtual worlds such as Icarus and Metaplace, as well as children-oriented virtual environments.

"Marketing by outside brands in Second Life is something that is not seeing as much excitement [as there] was nine months ago, and that's appropriate because the active usage base is not growing rapidly right now in that virtual world," he said. "We're seeing a natural shake out of what projects and applications make sense using virtual worlds as a whole and Second Life in particular."

The company is retaining 54 employees and has agreements with 20 contractors to continue work on projects. Electric Sheep is not in financial difficulty for a startup firm, said Verbeck. The company intends to prioritize larger marketing and technology efforts for its clients in 2008, rather than trying to manage multiple smaller projects. Over the past year, Electric Sheep has landed several large accounts, including an investment from CBS which helped lead to a Second Life crossover event with the CSI: New York television show.

The restructuring didn't surprise or worry executives from other virtual world-oriented firms who said in such a rapidly moving industry it's not unusual to increase staff to tackle projects that are quickly discarded.

"People sometimes make the mistake of thinking that startups hatch fully formed, but the truth is that early stage startups do need to sometimes go through some very tough periods of change," said Greg Verdino, chief strategy officer for Crayon, a marketing consultancy. "Don't count [Electric Sheep] out just yet," he continued, adding, "with the Second Life naysayers in the digital advertising space probably rubbing their hands with glee over a Second Life bubble burst... if change wasn't happening that's when I would be worried."


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

ECREA conference 08 - CFP Science and Environment Communication Section




ECREA's Science and Environment Communication Section welcomes the submission of proposals for papers, posters and panels for ECREA's 2nd European Communication Conference to take place in Barcelona on 25-28 November 2008.

Section overview:

The 21st century faces unprecedented challenges in the environment and science fields. The meanings of issues such as climate change and biotechnology, and the decisions taken in relation to them, are associated with a variety of communication practices. Research on communication can therefore provide a central contribution to current debates about scientific and environmental problems and issues of democracy, citizenship and power.

The Science and Environment Communication section seeks to foster a strong network of research in the wide area of science and environment communication. Science is understood here in broad terms as research that has its roots in the social sciences, humanities or natural sciences, including technology. Environment is also understood broadly as both the natural and the built milieu.

Issues that are categorized as environmental and/or scientific are also political, economic and social, and the section therefore aims to promote an integrated, inter- and trans-disciplinary analysis of communication practices. This opens up new opportunities for research and education, including collaboration with other ECREA sections.


Examples of topic areas that can be addressed include - but are far from restricted to - the following:

* Media representations of science and/or the environment

* Political and commercial discourses on science, technology and/or the environment

* The communication of environmental or science-related risks

* The dialogic, interactive communication of research-based knowledge

* The discourse and politics of environmental activism

* The roles of communication in scientific (or environmental) governance, democracy and citizenship

* Public engagement with science and/or with environmental issues

* Constructions of nature, science and technology in popular culture

* Communication and the production of research-based knowledge

The section welcomes work that crosses a range of disciplinary (communication/ media/ cultural studies, science and technology studies, sociology, social psychology) and methodological (quantitative/qualitative/empirical/theoretical) boundaries.


Conference website:

On-line forms for submitting proposals:


Feel free to circulate this call to colleagues or any other research
networks that may be interested in submitting a proposal.

Austrian Association for American Studies 2008


35th International Annual Conference

Austrian Association for American Studies (AAAS)

Velden am Wörthersee
October 24 - 26, 2008

The dollar, Washington Irving wrote in 1837 at the height of a financial panic, is daily becoming more and more an object of worship. This saying is a useful reminder that the national monetary icon has never been simply an economic issue; it has also always been a cultural issue.

We therefore invite proposals for papers that consider peoples engagements with the Almighty Dollar, from the most ordinary, mundane daily practices to the most extra-ordinary, life-changing ones. Since such engagements can be found in literature, the arts, film, and popular culture, the possibility of topics is wide open, so long as they connect to the meanings of and the increasingly thin line between the dollar and the people who make, use, and consume it.

We look forward, then, to proposals from a wide variety of disciplines including, but not limited to, culture studies, literature, history and art history, political science and sociology, economics, communication studies, popular culture studies, folklore, anthropology, gender studies, and race studies. We encourage and wish to present a multiplicity of theoretical frames and methodologies that grapple with questions concerning the cultural work of the national monetary icon. A selection of papers will appear in a conference volume, to be published by LIT-Verlag as part of the American Studies in Austria series.

Please send your 250-300 word proposal and a 100 word biographical statement as a Word document to Eleonore Wildburger at, by May 1, 2008.

At present, our confirmed keynote speakers are: Eva Boesenberg (American Studies, Humboldt-University, Berlin); Gerda Elisabeth Moser (German Studies, University of Klagenfurt); Marc Shell (Comparative Literature, Harvard University).

The conference, while hosted by Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, will meet in Velden am Wörthersee, with the Casineum as the main venue. Velden am Wörthersee is one of Austrias premier relaxation and bathing resorts and famous for architectural marvels such as the Baumgartner Villas in the Wörthersee architecture style, and the renaissance Velden Palace built in 1590. The Palace, the Promenade, and the Casino invariably have been used as film settings. Velden am Wörthersee is located in the southern part of Austria, between Klagenfurt, the capital of the state of Carinthia and home to Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, and Villach, a major junction city and the gateway to Europes south and southeast.

Heinz Tschachler, President

Eleonore Wildburger, Secretary

Monday, December 17, 2007

Communications and Space/Place - ICS Postgrad Conference

Communication and Space/ Place

2nd Postgraduate Conference
University of Leeds, Institute of Communications Studies
Leeds, United Kingdom
Friday, 6 June 2008

Following the great success of last year's first PhD conference, the Institute of Communications Studies (ICS) at the University of Leeds will be hosting a second post-graduate conference for research in communications and media. We invite students from all disciplines at the Master's or Doctoral level to present research that pertains to the conceptualisation and/or observation of space/place in relation to communication, media and culture.

Although Space and Place can be understood broadly, the theoretical and material implications of their relationship to media and communications are important to studies in this field. The two words, taken either together or separately, are crucial to all manner of media and communications structures/networks/economies/policies, such as the discursive 'space' of contemporary politics, shifting conceptions of public and private 'places', the focus on flows between locales in a global capitalist economy, the importance of creative 'space' in the
culture industries, the decentralised 'space' of online 'citizen media', and so on. While a look at various definitions of either word reveals at once their potential compatibilities and irreconcilabilities, the linguistic convergence marked by each word's functionality as both verb
and noun presents us with myriad possibilities of thinking Space and Place. Spaces and places may be 'real' or 'virtual' environments and locales; sites of expansion or contraction; material realisations or policies of freedom or restriction. Space/Place can also be understood in terms of
culture and discursive relationships; they can be formations where the identities of groups and individuals are explored and/or constructed, and where notions of human agency encounter forces and ideologies that influence and are influenced by the ways that social actors and
institutions communicate.

The following are some possible areas of inquiry:

The problematic dichotomies of public-private, 'real'-virtual, spaces and places for the use/consumption of media.

Meaning/Representation: The spaces and places in which media and communication are produced and consumed have a profound relationship to how 'meaning' is derived from them. How are people from different cultures, ethnicities, etc. represented by and in media and communications?

What are the policies that shape the relationship of communication, space/place, and 'stakeholders' (public, state, market, NGOs etc) how is space/place regulated? How do space/place relate to prohibition of communication, or the use of various media as propaganda?

The spaces and places in which media and communication are produced and consumed have a profound relationship to how 'meaning' is derived from them. To what extent, and in which ways, are media and communications spaces/places contingent (or not) on aspects of each other and on media producers and consumers?

Are there barriers to participation in certain media/communications spaces/places? How does power operate in these spaces/places? How are new formations of power relationships developed with relation to space/place? How are old formations changing or being reinforced in
contemporary media?

What happens at the edges and intersections of spaces/places, i.e. when traditional media meet the Internet, or when communications cross over between genres and media? Does a place necessarily constitute a space, and vice versa? Are they fluid; are they mutually exclusive?

Please submit an abstract by 21 January 2008 with a general description of your research paper, indicating your topic, theoretical framework, research questions or hypotheses, and methodological considerations. The abstract should not exceed 500 words and should be attached to your email in a common document format (MS Word compatible, Word Perfect).
Should your proposal be accepted, we will ask you to provide a full paper before the conference.

All accepted full papers will be read, discussed and commented on by members of the academic staff from the Institute of Communications Studies who have expertise in your topic, method, or theoretical framework. This can be a golden opportunity for you to refine your thoughts, openly share your concerns, and receive constructive critique from professors and fellow postgraduate students working in your area. It is also a great chance to start building or expanding your
professional and academic network. Following the conference your paper will be published in the forthcoming ICS Postgraduate Conference proceedings open access online journal.

Contact Information:

Conference Website:

Important Dates:

Abstracts: 21 January 2008
Acceptance Notification: 3 March 2008
Full papers: 30 April 2008

Please indicate the following in the body of your email:

Title of presentation as it appears on the abstract
Affiliaton (program and university)
Level and year of study (ex. Master's, 2nd year)
Phone number
E-mail address
Mailing address
A/V requirements (computer/projector, film projector, VCR/DVD, stereo, etc.)
Other requirements (table, easel, hooks, display materials).
Mobility and other special needs requirements (wheel chair access, etc.)

We look forward to receiving your abstracts, and thank you for your

-The Organising Committee.

Paramount Gives Away Next Jackass Movie Online

Jackass 2.5 is coming to an Internet screen near you, and it's free. Paramount Pictures, MTV and Blockbuster have partnered to distribute the latest feature length film from the daredevil reality franchise in an ad-supported environment.

From December 19th through the 31st, the film will be distributed by movie rental firm Blockbuster's Movielink service as a streaming video over Microsoft's Silverlight media player. The movie won't be directly available from Blockbuster, but instead will be distributed by the movie's own site at As co-sponsor, Blockbuster will manage advertising for initial distribution of the film.

Blockbuster will also sell pre- and post-roll video advertising, and has signed on Clearspring to manage its inventory. Additionally, interactive marketing firm Deep Focus will support the release, according to CEO Ian Schafer.

Distributing a feature length ad-supported film online is new territory for Paramount, according to Alex Carloss, EVP and GM Digital Distribution for the studio.

"It was a wonderful opportunity to take a look at the standard model and see if we could shake it up a bit -- to prove that distribution over the Internet is real," he said.

The original Jackass television show aired on MTV from 2000 to 2001, and consisted of cast members conducting dangerous stunts or playing pranks. Jackass seemed appropriate for online distribution compared to other Paramount and MTV content, the company said, as a majority of its fans are from a younger demographic and accustomed to watching short videos online, said Carloss.

"Jackass was a property that was almost born on the Internet and designed for the Internet, with a demographic that lived and breathed on the Internet" Carloss said.


Music Industry Pressures EU Politicians for Filtered

The music and film industry continues to pursue its idea of a politically "corrected" Internet - one that they imagine could protect their old business models without requiring any extra costs on their part. This time, the fix is Internet-wide filtering. In a memo to European policy-makers, the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) has called upon ISPs in Europe to filter the content sent across their networks, block protocols used by their customers, and cut off access to persistently infringing sites from the Net.

Disturbingly, European politicians seem open to the idea of ISPs policing and interfering with their customers' communications on behalf of rightsholders. Last month, the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) tabled an amendment to a Parliamentary report that changed a request to "rethink the critical issue of intellectual property", into a call for "internet service providers to apply filtering measures to prevent copyright infringements".

EFF sent a letter pointing out that some of the groups hardest hit by blanket Internet filtering measures would be artists and teachers. But building filtering and censorship tools is not just bad for creators and education; it's bad for all of society. Any country that has a centralized system in place to pry into its citizen's private communications creates a very disturbing precedent and a dangerously powerful tool, vulnerable to misuse. Perhaps the music industry's European lobbyists have lost sight of the serious collateral damage their proposals would cause, but European citizens and their elected policymakers should not.

For the full IFPI memo requesting filtering from ISPs:

For EFF Europe's letter addressing calls for ISPs to filter for copyright infringement:

For this post:

Copyright in Canada: No Longer Business as Usual

It's been a roller-coaster few weeks for digital rights activists in Canada. A few weeks ago, rumors began circulating that the current minority Conservative government was going to present a copyright reform act before the new year. It's long been known that the US government and media companies are pressuring Canada to "normalize" its IP law with its southern neighbor.

The apparent intent of the government to slip the bill through at the very end of the Christmas parliamentary session suggested an administration that believed that importing IP law was a simple enough trade for US approval -- a law that would gather nothing more than a muted protest from those not involved in the backroom negotiations.

The administration could not have been more wrong! Despite the unseasonal timing of the bill's announcement, and with no confirmed text of the bill, Net users in Canada quickly created their own opportunities for public discussion. Spearheaded by Canadian law professor Michael Geist, over 20,000 concerned activists joined and co-ordinated their actions over a Facebook group. Thousands of them sent letters to their MPs through the Canadian grassroots site, Online Rights Canada, co-sponsored by EFF, to urge the government to consider fixing copyright law, not tightening it. And dozens visited the bill's backer, Industry Minister Jim Prentice, in person at his constituency Christmas meal last weekend. They brought food for the charity collection and hard copyright questions for the minister -- and filmed and blogged it all.

The day after, Prentice announced he was not going to introduce the bill on its scheduled date. Days later, sources close to the ministry were dropping hints that it would still be introduced before Christmas, but Prentice's press secretary confirmed that the bill had been delayed until the new year.

Industry Canada's hesitancy is an indication of how radically the political scene around IP has changed in the last few years. Copyright is now a consumer issue, not a set of deals between private industries. And, thanks to the Net, consumers can now learn, react, and protest to what troubles them at a speed that can outrun the usual government messaging tricks.

For Online Rights Canada's copyright news and activism website:

For this complete post by EFF's International Outreach Coordinator Danny O'Brien: