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August 3, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Stuff about the internet


Hey guys if you aren’t high as a kite on the latest designer ‘it’s-not-illegal-but-will-be-soon’ style date rape capable party pill you will know that we live in New Zealand. Now according to the hate filled ideographic system ‘Google Maps’ we are an archipelago—quite far a way from any other country of cultural worth. It is quite difficult for us if we want to access new films, television shows or music in a timely fashion, as we “take a while to deliver to.” It is also hard to get new ideas or communications from outside our small flesh bubble of peers, because there is only so much a tiny flesh lump cluster can create together in both an economic sense and a cultural one. The Tyranny of Distance is what I’m on about boys and girls—we are far away from the good things and can’t do anything about it. It’s distance that keeps us from having the latest fashion, information and technology that Europe and the United States have access to. Well, kind of.

When we were unreachable by anything but physical means—for example, a sailing ship—New Zealand really did have a problem when it came to advancing. A certain indigenous people of our fine country had a saying which roughly translated into “knowledge from the sea, power from the land”. I guess the land gave them tūrangawaewae—a place to stand indeed. Any who, when news papers turned up in Auckland or Wellington, they were often months out of date and incredibly precious. They’d be passed around the community or given to a printer who would take some of the articles and use them for their own news papers. The information which anchored these early European settlers to their homeland was scarce and precious.

Hold on I just got tweeted. It seems that Uther Dean secretly dances, I simply must remind myself to learn to dance better than him and in public.

Now because you are a person who lives in 2009, I do not need to explain where this is going. Information is easy to get, which is good because New Zealand’s news media is all to often a pathetic place to get information. The stories it covers are either banal or pathetically dated and it’s always a surprise to see what stories you’re actually going to get revealed to you. Dispassionately sitting with my RSS news feed and watching Paul Henry on Breakfast I’ve had to start viewing the New Zealand process of information release as a sick puppy: you never know what bits of crayons, toy soldiers, other dogs poop, etc, that it’s going to vomit on the floor. And when it does you’re always too intrigued at first to pull away and let your mum clean up its mess. Eventually when you’re done, you go stare at the next door neighbours cat or “google news” and wonder what it’d be like not to have a diseased wretch as a companion animal.

The enigmatic creature that is RarahSobson has just tweeted @uther “Is it tap?” His reply “It’s a secret.” Fuck, I do not want to have to glue bottle caps onto my brand new etnies to beat that doppelganger at his own tap dancing game. I’m not very graceful you know.

There are many reasons for this news lag: the news has to be paid for, and the story has to be something that the editors are sure will be of interest to the public, which a strong reason why we have a glut of sporting stories in our limited television news space. I use news as an example, because by default it is something that should be, you know, “new.” When it comes to other forms of entertainment I have been schooled to be more accepting of its lackful and lagging nature. I knew there were insightful and biting episodes of South Park which dealt with hot topics that satirically ravaged the American landscape. Because it’s not just the wait for the information that keeps us in the distance, it’s also the corrosive abilities of the gate keepers of New Zealand and overseas that choose what we can access. These people can also hold back a television series for months or years. When you receive it the world has moved on and you have a rusty thing that may have been a swing set or situation comedy.

Now I get to my point, I fucking swear it. I am from the internet—I named my (rather shakey) Comedy Festival show after it;  I spend my time communicating with people from all over the world through this medium more often than I talk to my flat mate Wyatt (remember him? He stole my birthday,) and this waiting around for seeing things is problematic. People see things and I can choose to have this entertainment be completely spoilt and vicariously live through my peers. I can choose to remove and segregate myself from the community effectively silencing myself and removing my peer interactions, or I can pirate this media which will allow me to be on the same footing as others in my community—but has the side effect turning me into a criminal. It is impossible to function as a full peer in a cybercommunity without accessing the topical information.

This problem is an aggravated version of the old one that all Australasian nerds faced—J. Tulloch’s interesting screed on the Australian Doctor Who fandom “We’re Only a Speck in the Ocean’: The Fans as Powerless Elite,” mentioned Australian fans feelings of inadequacy and frustration that they were were unable to contribute to their fandom in a meaningful way, let alone actually see the show in the quality and regularity that their British peers could face.

Okay I’m practicing my soft shoe shuffle, lets see Uther beat my bojangles now.

According to a former president of The Victoria Science Fiction Club—which had been running ten years, before the advent of high speed internet—a member of the club would pay an American to VCR television and mail it to Wellington so they could access this sweet sweet media. I understand premium membership in the club during those years was set at around $100 because of the eye gouging prices charged to them for access to what was free to air (or at least basic cable) for him. The poor man must have lost his wife, house and kids when the first 256k modem hit our shores. Of course,the modern Sci-Fi club is as legitimately run as the Christian Union, Christian Club, Student Christian Movement, Adventist Student Association of NZ, or the Young Nationals. Today the club legally purchases media when possible and according to my research, even received money from VUWSA for that very purpose. Kia Ora legitimate nerd social club, kia ora.

But this weeks column really isn’t about choosing to go legitimate or pointing out information is only scarce because we let it be scarce. In New Zealand have to actively choose how to access information every time we try to kill the Tyrannosaurus of Distance. I feel it’s something that we don’t really talk about enough, and right now we are trying to decide how to rewrite the copyright law. There is an almost certain chance a bunch of people will find themselves removed from the digital arena very soon because they tried to stay in it without permission, prisoners on this fucking island once more. Serves them right?


About the Author ()

Nic Sando is a god amongst men, fifteen fathoms high he be, with strange and wyrd powers at his disposal. Only a fool won't harken his ears to the east when he hears The Sando man stumping his way.

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