Grants/Internet Futures: A documentary on the history and politics of online video

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Internet Futures: A documentary on the history and politics of online video

Applicants: Luis Felipe R. Murillo (UCLA), Adam Fish (UCLA)
Affiliation: UCLA
CC affiliated? No
Contact: Luis Felipe R. Murillo
Coordinator: Luis Felipe R. Murillo (UCLA), Adam Fish (UCLA)
Project Start: 2010/07/10
Project End: 2011/01/01
Download budget Discussion

Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.

This is a proposal to fund the production of a feature-length documentary film investigating the motives of entrepreneurs, programmers, engineers, designers, video journalists, and activists working to create -- as well as to control or liberate -- Internet video standards. We contextualize our specific case study, the recent debate over HTML5 and the future of Internet multimedia, within the broader debates about freedom and commercialization of the Internet. By highlighting the fight over Internet video standards, we will explore the discourses and practices of those who are involved and expose divergent visions and aspirations for the future of the Internet. With footage from Free and Open Source software community gatherings in Brazil (11th International Free Software Forum) and New York (11th Debian Conference), as well as video interviews with industry programmers and engineers in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, and Intellectual Property lawyers and activists in Denver (MPEG-LA and Open Media Now!), we show that the skirmish over video standards is but one contested space where the freedoms of the market and speech compete. Our goal is to explore how standards are proposed, contested, and established, providing an open space for the exposure of the debate over contending practices and aspirations regarding the future of Internet, and more generally, representation in a global civil society.

Detail the tangible project output (e.g., paper, blog post, written materials, video/film, etc.; this would be in addition to the final written report that successful grant recipients will be expected to deliver to CC at the conclusion of the project).

This project will result in a feature-length documentary film, one co-authored academic article which will supplement the documentary film, a networked community of individuals engaging in the study of the Internet, as well as the raw videographic materials for subsequent films and media products. Additionally, the two producers will blog, Tweet, and upload film drafts to and Mozilla Drumbeat for early-stage community promotion and engagement.

Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?

We target three audiences: the "general public," the Free and Open Source software community, and educators.

Our goal is to inform the general public why it is necessary to understand the technologies they use, how those technologies are shaped, what are the main forces shaping the technologies, which groups have the conditions to shape technologies, and what can be done to provide wide space for public participation in decision-making processes.

By targeting the Free and Open Source software community, we want to give visibility to those who are working to create Open Source alternatives to closed source multimedia tools. This community is important for the promotion of Free Culture. It is also recommendable to promote the development of Free and Open Source multimedia technologies for Creative Commons-licensed content production.

The third intended audience includes educators in universities in the fields of law, business, media studies, and social sciences who often write on and teach Internet theory and media production without awareness of how the video standards they use and support strengthen particular corporate strategies. By engaging with this audience, we want to promote collaborative practices to foster digital scholarship, as well as to inform the importance of openness in the level of Internet infrastructure, not only for the level of cultural production.

The video documentary format seems one of the best for bridging the gap between this very arcane topic with something that is tangible and part of everyday life (assuming the popularity of online video and the general ignorance regarding its underlying technologies). By targeting Free Software hackers, general public, and educators we want to balance the filmic narrative with technical information and the voices of those who are behind the keyboard, debating in public spaces, producing code, media, and business strategies for Internet />

What is your relationship with the community you are targeting? Why are you the best individual/organization to lead this project? Do you have prior experience in related projects?

Our project has two co-producers, Luis Felipe R. Murillo and Adam Fish, both PhD students in Anthropology at UCLA. We are the best individuals to complete this project because of our shared knowledge of video production and Free Software culture.

Luis Felipe R. Murillo has been for the past 3 years an active member of the organizing committee of the International Free Software Forum (FISL) in Brazil. For the same time, he has been working with Free Software TV, a live streaming service provided by FISL, entirely conducted with FOSS technologies and volunteers. He was responsible for the webcasting of the forum in 2009, and in 2010, his company -- Lumea Webcast -- will set-up the streaming servers and organize the webcasting of the 11th International Free Software Forum. Also, for the past 5 years he has been studying the Free Software community. He recently defended his Master's in Anthropology on the political, cultural and technical experiential domains that make up the Brazilian Free Software community. His PhD thesis will be dedicated to the study of openness and innovation in the domain of Information Technologies under the guidance of Professor Christopher Kelty at UCLA.

Adam Fish is a producer of nonfiction videos for Current TV, the US/UK/Italy/Irish cable and satellite television network for four years. Current TV is the first user-generated cable television network attempting to secure nonfiction video content from their audience of viewer-producers. As such, the network has been at the forefront of converting amateur Internet video into professional television. As lead by their mission of its founder, US VP Al Gore, Current is also a proponent of "democratizing" video production for multiple publics. Current and similar networks and start-ups working at the convergence of television-Internet video are the subjects of Adam's PhD dissertation into governance of video producing publics.

How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?

The main goal is to inform the general population and educators about the benefits of openness in respect to the Internet infrastructure and the computer programs we use on a daily basis. Our success can be ascertained through measuring how many individuals collaborate on our project from the earliest stages by providing feedback, viewing our documentary online, and remixing it. We will consider ourselves successful when the film receives 10,000 views per year online, is shown in classrooms, and is screened at five documentary and academic film festivals. Additionally, the film will serve its purpose when the raw footage is downloaded and used in documentaries of future collaborators. For our collaborators, it is hoped the film will integrate different domains of practice that are not in contact, that is, creating an instance for dialogue among IT corporations, programmers and engineers, Free Software advocates, New Media entrepreneurs, and Internet video enthusiasts.

How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?

The project has two producers, Adam Fish and Luis Felipe R. Murillo, who will be responsible for primary shooting, editing, uploading, and distributing the film. We will also be tasked with using our online platforms (Mozilla Drumbeat, Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter, etherpad, wiki, etc.) with which we will solicit feedback and contributions, circulate drafts of the film and raw footage for reuse, remixing purposes.

We plan to interview more than 15 programmers, lawyers, engineers, managers and Internet users from IT corporations, Free Software Projects, law firms, Internet Engineering Task Force participants, NGOs and Foundations that are directly involved, in some capacity, with online video and its future.

We cannot provide the exact number of participants, given the fact that we expect to have public participation for, at least, three phases of the project: capture (contributions of footage), casting (suggestions on who to interview), and the film itself (suggestions on the final product, what should be included, what should be highlighted, etc.).

The project's final product will be a documentary, which will be conducted with public support (providing feedback, comments, footage and ideas for the final product) via Mozilla Drumbeat.

Mozilla Drumbeat is empowered by a Content Management System that allows for collaborative work online. Using the platform, we will be able to publicize our content before the final product, allowing for remixing of our footage for the production of media for different purposes.

We will gather subscriptions, friends, followers, and emails we acquire in the process of producing and distributing the documentary. The goal is to create a virtual community that we will keep updated via social media on the technical, political and legal issues addressed in the film.

Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".

The documentary is designed with the goal of enriching the commons by collecting convergent and divergent narratives on the past, present and the future of the Internet.

We will benefit from the commons by using Free Software-based Content Management Systems to distribute our content and interact with potential collaborators. Also, we will draw from the commons the tools for the video production: capturing, editing and encoding using Open Source tools and patent-free formats.

In general terms, we expect the documentary to positively impact several areas: academic (by bridging academic research on the transformations of Virtual Organizations and the Intellectual Property regime with the Internet audience of the documentary); educational (one of the main goals of the documentary is to inform the Internet users about the underlying disputes over the future of the technology that they take for granted); and cultural (it will help promote the debate and provide a medium for the expression of those who are working hard to promote openness on the Internet).

Describe what technologies and tools your project will use. What kinds of technical skills and expertise do you bring to the project? What are your technical needs?

Adam Fish has conceived, produced, edited, and found paid television distribution for 15 short documentaries and three feature length documentaries. Another co-producer, Luis Felipe, has conceived, produced, edited and is now finishing one feature length documentary on garbage collectors and recycling practices in the south of Brazil. More importantly, Luis Felipe is an expert in the culture of Free Software in Brazil, and has been working for the past three years specifically with video streaming.

Between the two producers we have all necessary technical skills: cinematography, video editing, FOSS software know-how for the usage of video converters for several platforms (Internet, cellphones, DVD, etc.), ability to install video players and create multimedia content to upload to Content Management Systems. Also, we manage a server at UCLA that is dedicated for experiments with video streaming technologies. We also host a document management system and a public etherpad (

What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?

We foresee challenges in having the corporate perspective on video standards be accurately represented. This is so because we foresee difficulty accessing employees of Apple, Real Networks, and Adobe willing and able to speak on behalf of their corporations. Our goal is to emphasize the interplay of several perspectives on the past, present and future of Internet video, however there is no guarantee that some of the key authors will be willing to be interviewed. In order to overcome this difficulty, we intend to contact present employees of those three corporations and explain to them the journalistic importance of explaining their companies' positions. Secondly, we intend to speak with past employees of those corporations hoping that they would be more open to speaking on a documentary.

How do you plan to sustain your project after the Creative Commons funding has ended? Detail specific plans. How do you plan to raise revenue to continue your efforts in the future?

Concurrent to this bid for funding, we will initiate a Kickstarter fund-raising project. We will use present revenue-sharing Internet video portals to request matching funds. Mozilla Drumbeat will be used as a source for getting donations of collaborators and enthusiasts. Also, as PhD graduate students opportunities exist to find funds to distribute educational videos that we are going to apply for.

How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?

We will make the raw footage for our documentary available (under a CC-BY license) for download to anybody interested in remixing the documentary project. We also invite co-authors for future projects investigating the ongoing issue of freedom and openness for Internet video.

The documentary project can be scaled up to address the question of openness and innovation beyond Internet video, but on the Internet as a platform.

What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?

We are not dependent upon the personnel resources of Creative Commons to complete our project. However, some of the subjects of our film tend to be individuals associated with Creative Commons. We would partially rely on Creative Commons to help identify and encourage members of their network to participate. Also, we are interested in Creative Commons legal knowledge about Internet video standardization for the research component of the documentary project.

Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)

We currently use all available social media platforms to communicate to our partners. The principles of this project are active social mediasmiths who use Twitter,, Mozilla Drumbeat, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook and ancillary social media sites to remain connected to co-participants in the film and our audience of producer-viewers. We are also funded by a US NSF grant for the study of Virtual Organizations and are tasked with developing a workshop with and for our network partners. Also we are part of a research lab on "Internet and Public Culture" run by Professor Christopher Kelty and part of the research group on Virtual Organizations. Luis Felipe R. Murillo is a volunteer of (Free Software Association, a NGO from Brazil). We intend to enroll participants from those aforementioned sites in the planning and execution stages of the documentary via conference calls, video streaming, etherpad, wiki, and social media.