Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The perils of dowloading music illegally

I am sure that most of have read about college students being fined or criminally charged for illegally downloading music from the Internet. This has been going on for several years much to the distress of artists and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA, http://www.riaa.com/aboutus.php). It all started with Napster, then Kazaa, and now Limewire and BitTorrent. These file sharing tools allow people to share music or video without purchase. Although this sounds great to resourceful consumers, it is illegal and frequently results in suits or at least warnings from the RIAA. The RIAA seems to target college students because of their tech savvy nature and interest in obtaining free media. Colleges and universities across the country frequently hear from the RIAA and have to spend time and energy tracking down illegal downloads and those sharing media. There is incrasing pressure from the federal government for campuses to get actively involved in the prevention of media file sharing (http://campustechnology.com/articles/47988/ .

To combat this illegal activity many universities have adopted packet shaping technologies or other tools to try and limit or block the illegal downloading or sharing over the campus networks. Most have not fully succeeded in this effort. In the near future this will become even more challenging, since more legal media is now being shared. An example of legal media might be a podcast (MP3 audio file) of a lecture or presentation. This is a growing form of communication offered by companies, universities, and media outlets. How do we separate the legal from the illegal? Not very easily or very effectively.

As an alternative, some campus are providing legal music sharing services within their networks. An example of one of these is www.ruckus.com . Campuses can sign up for Ruckus and students can have access to most of their favorite music for free. Of course they are hit with pretty excessive advertising, but this is nothing new and is par for the course with most media and news services on the web.

Parents and students should look for legal alternatives to music and video file sharing. At my campus we have seen warnings and at least one law suit resulting in a fine of over $2000 for illegal file sharing. There are plenty of legal options that might cost a little money like www.itunes, www.amazon.com , www.rhapsody.com ,or even www.walmart.com . My university severely limits MP3 downloads on the network, so the downloading process takes forever. This is an effort to limit its attractiveness, but we can see that this tactic will not be effective forever.

Its a legality thing, an ethical thing, and the right thing to discourage digital theft. Please do the right thing

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Web 2.0. What does this have to do with going to college

Web 2.0 is something that you often here about in the tech media and every once in awhile in the popular media. What is it and why should college freshmen even think about it?

Web 2.o is, as the name implies, a second generation of the Internet. There are actually more than a few deifinitions. If you use the web today you see much more rich content than you did five or six years ago. This has happened gradually. If you look at http://www.yahoo.com/, http://www.msn.com/, and most recently sites like iGoogle you will see portal pages which allow you to determine what you see and lots of media integration. Personalization was not a part of the first generation web. Web media (audio, video, animation...) were not there at the start, but are now common place. Look at the mashups that are all over the web today. These are pages or sites which include a combination of text, pictures, streaming audio and video, and animation. The web is much more full and integrated that it was several years ago. Remember when we were amazed that you could write something that people could actually see just by accessing your site?

What does this have to do with education and college students today? We have watched students entering higher education for the several years and see a number of interesting trends. First, students are huge consumers of web media and are pretty comfortable with going to the web for their news and information. Over the past five years most classes have added a web component, but now the use of advanced web media is growing at a rapid rate. The web is now mainstream enough for individuals to express their thoughts and ideas very easily. Expressing ideas, creative works, and collaborating are now common place. Take a look at www.youtube.com/ , www.myspace.com, www.facebook.com, www.blogspot.com/ . These are just a few well known and easy to use expression sites. Although these have been fun sites for the past year or so, they are now becoming a part of learning and teaching. For students entering college today, these and similar sites will be the self expression platforms that are a part of their education and a part of their career skill set.

Soon it will not matter whether a student decides to study education, videography, art, music, marketing or biology. The Web 2.0 skill set used to communicate ideas will be important to all careers. Who better to launch these tools in their career fields than new college graduates. The stage is already set on college campuses. High speed networks are in place. Data storage, needed to provide the work space for media creation, is cheaper than ever. Campuses need to see this trend and support it at a high level. The resources needed to create media content for the Internet need to be made available to all students, in all academic programs. The tools can be as inexpensive as a digital audio or video recorder, or high end high definition video studios. Since quality media is rarely created on a "first take", digital editing facilities need to be available. An informative discussion of what Web 2.0 is and how it compares to the first generation web can be found at:


The next generation of college graduates will need to know how to create blogs, wikis, podocasts, and audio/video media. These will be the communication platforms of most career fields in the future. This is a time of great excitement on college campuses. When shopping for a university, see what they are doing to prepare students for a Web 2.0 world. These new tools will open doors in a culture of global communications.