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Features - February 9, 2021

Un-spilled ink – Features – Digital Arts

All it takes to stop me in my tracks is a bout with the cold. I hereby apologise. Here”s what I should have shared with you last week:

I’m not ready to make nice says design critic Jessica Helfand at the Design Observer: “In an era that’s likely to be remembered for its love of the communal, raising the bar, like raising your voice, is likely to result in epic dissent. And why not? After all, everyone’s a critic.” Indeed.

Core 77 notes a fascinating-looking experimental ferro-fluid display designed by Germany’s Martin Frey. Just wait until they get pop-up ads onto one of these…

Pingmag interviews MTV China’s creative director, Kahing Chan, noting that amateur Sinology has become something of a popular sport in recent years.

Times Online, the internet arm of The Times and The Sunday Times, has redesigned. I’m trying to get a Q&A with the designers for the blog. Stay tuned.

Over in the world of American newspaper design, NewsDesigner notes a very large entry in a Society for News Design competition from the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile Manhattan socialites’ favourite and newspaper that first published the Sex and the City column, the New York Observer, has shrunk to tabloid format. The New York Times slyly notes: “The new wrap is short on words and seems to exist primarily to create a front-page ad space (all the rage now) and to tie the mediacentric front of the newspaper to its back, where real estate is now treated as other tabloids treat sports.” Tut, tut. Advertising in a newspaper. Well I never. By the way, this is in the NY Times’s Media and Advertising section.

Leaving so-called “old media” behind, Steve Jobs’s recent appearance on the other side of the DRM barricades provoked a lot of virtual-pencil-sharpening across the ‘net. First up, Richard Stallman congratulated Jobs’s move but noted his talking with forked-tongue:

The article pleads for us not to hold Apple responsible for iTunes’ DRM. However, nobody held a gun to Jobs’ head to make Apple implement iTunes; he and Apple cannot evade responsibility for what they did. The article also insults people who share by calling them “pirates” and calls sharing “stealing”.

Fighting back, Macrovision, probably the world’s best-known DRM company, popped-up to criticise Jobs, saying, among other things:

[…] consumers who want to consume content on only a single device can pay less than those who want to use it across all of their entertainment areas – vacation homes, cars, different devices and remotely. Abandoning DRM now will unnecessarily doom all consumers to a “one size fits all” situation that will increase costs for many of them.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball translated this:

Abandoning DRM will prevent us from forcing our customers to keep paying us over and over again for the same movies and songs they’ve already paid for.

Meanwhile, David Packman, chief executive of eMusic, one of the few legal download sites which does not implement DRM, chimed in, saying:

“DRM only serves to restrict consumer choice, prevents a larger digital music market from emerging and often makes consumers unwitting accomplices to the ambitions of technology companies. eMusic has always sold music in the way consumers want, and by focusing on the needs of the customer, we have sold more than 100 million downloads in the past three years. More than 13,000 independent labels share this view. We are hopeful the remaining four will one day join them by licensing their complete catalogues and reap the benefits of consumer demand for music’s ‘long tail’.”

None of which is wrong, but it does rather make a nonsense of eMusic’s marketing strategy, given that it makes much of how the site is dedicated to “independent” music. Of course, the counterculture was really always an over-the-counter culture.

As a result of the discussion, the Financial Times has run a poll on whether or not music companies should drop DRM.

Moving on, the Harvard Magazine suggests that architecture can help foster thinking. Imagine that – someone thinks that design isn’t a complete waste of time…

Oh, and creatives are still poorly paid. Rubbing salt into the wounds, graphic designers earn less than every other kind of designer. If it makes you feel any better, British designers score 5 out of 11 in something called Rock-osity, helping to flesh out my theory that if your industry is considered sexy people will continue to sign-up even if the wages are puny.

And finally, sad news: in its infinite wisdom the BBC has finally put an end to the best radio programme ever, Radio Three’sMixing It.

Distraught listeners, fear not. Use the good ol’ internet tubes to listen to Resonance FM and Nova on Ireland’s RTÉ Lyric FM.

So there you have it. Now I can get back to my attempt to catch up on all of the other work I should have been doing while I was busy enjoying coughing fits.

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