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Archive for April 19th, 2008

Jacques Lacan (Encyclopædia Britannica Online)

Jacques LacanFrench psychologist in full Jacques Marie Émile Lacan

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French psychoanalyst who gained an international reputation as an original interpreter of Sigmund Freud’s work.

Lacan earned a medical degree in 1932 and was a practicing psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in Paris for much of his career. He helped introduce Freudian theory into France in the 1930s, but he reached prominence only after he began conducting regular seminars at the University of Paris in 1953. He acquired celebrity status in France after the publication of his essays and lectures in Écrits (1966; Eng. trans. The Language of the Self: The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis). He founded and headed an organization called the Freudian School of Paris from 1964 until he disbanded it in 1980 for what he claimed was its failure to adhere with sufficient strictness to Freudian principles.

Lacan emphasized the primacy of language as the mirror of the unconscious mind, and he tried to introduce the study of language (as practiced in modern linguistics, philosophy, and poetics) into psychoanalytic theory. His major achievement was his reinterpretation of Freud’s work in terms of the structural linguistics developed by French writers in the second half of the 20th century. The influence he gained extended well beyond the field of psychoanalysis to make him one of the dominant figures in French cultural life during the 1970s. In his own psychoanalytic practice, Lacan was known for his unorthodox, and even eccentric, therapeutic methods.

External Web sites

This topic is discussed at the following external Web sites.

European Graduate School – Biography of Jacques Lacan

Citations

MLA Style:

Jacques Lacan.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 19 Apr. 2008 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/327112/Jacques-Lacan>.

 

APA Style:

Jacques Lacan. (2008). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 19, 2008, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/327112/Jacques-Lacan

 

More from Britannica on “Jacques Lacan”
Jacques Lacan (French psychologist)

French psychoanalyst who gained an international reputation as an original interpreter of Sigmund Freud’s work.

Lacan earned a medical degree in 1932 and was a practicing psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in Paris for much of his career. He helped introduce Freudian theory into France in the 1930s, but he reached prominence only after he began conducting regular seminars at the University of Paris in 1953. He acquired celebrity status in France after the publication of his essays and lectures in Écrits (1966; Eng. trans. The Language of the Self: The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis). He founded and headed an organization called the Freudian School of Paris from 1964 until he disbanded it in 1980 for what he claimed was its failure to adhere with sufficient strictness to Freudian principles.

Lacan emphasized the primacy of language as the mirror of the unconscious mind, and he tried to introduce the study of language (as practiced in modern linguistics, philosophy, and poetics) into psychoanalytic theory. His major achievement was his reinterpretation of Freud’s work in terms of the structural linguistics developed by French writers in the second half of the 20th century. The influence he gained extended well beyond the field of psychoanalysis to make him one of the dominant figures in French cultural life during the 1970s. In his own psychoanalytic practice, Lacan was known for his unorthodox, and even eccentric, therapeutic methods.

Freudian School of Paris (French organization)

Aspects of this topic are discussed in the following places at Britannica.

  • Irigaray Irigaray, LuceIrigaray was a member of the Freudian School of Paris, founded by Jacques Lacan, and taught at the University of Paris VIII-Vincennes from 1968 until she was dismissed in 1974 because of her doctoral thesis. Entitled Speculum de l’autre femme (Speculum of the Other Woman), it argues that history and culture are written in patriarchal language, that they exclude women’s needs and…
  • Lacan Lacan, Jacques…of his essays and lectures in Écrits (1966; Eng. trans. The Language of the Self: The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis). He founded and headed an organization called the Freudian School of Paris from 1964 until he disbanded it in 1980 for what he claimed was its failure to adhere with sufficient strictness to Freudian principles.
Tel Quel (French journal)

French avant-garde literary review published from 1960 to 1982 by Éditions du Seuil. Founded by Philippe Sollers and other young writers, this eclectic magazine published works by such practitioners of the nouveau roman (“new novel”) as Alain Robbe-Grillet and Nathalie Sarraute, as well as works by these writers’ acknowledged predecessors— e.g., James Joyce and Francis Ponge.

Much influenced by Surrealism, Tel Quel had as a goal the evaluation of 20th-century literature; it printed previously unpublished works by Antonin Artaud, Georges Bataille, and Ezra Pound, as well as contemporary literary criticism by Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, Roland Barthes, and Jacques Lacan. From 1966 to 1970 Tel Quel represented a Maoist view of Marxism.

From 1974 the review relinquished political involvement, becoming a supporter of such intellectuals as Bernard-Henri Lévy and André Glucksmann and others in the “new philosophers” movement. The critical orientation of Tel Quel shifted toward the classical Greco-Hebrew tradition, including discussion of biblical and theological questions. Its new stance included unequivocal support of worldwide human rights and the beginnings of an appreciation of modern culture, particularly that of the United States.

Aspects of this topic are discussed in the following places at Britannica.

  • place in French literature French literature…style of filmmaking. The nouveau roman was taken up by the literary theorist Jean Ricardou and promulgated by him through the avant-garde critical journal Tel Quel. (Founded in 1960 by Philippe Sollers and other writers, Tel Quel reflects the transformation and politicization of Parisian and…
  • significance to Sarduy Sarduy, Severo…fearful of its persecution of homosexuals and the censorship imposed on writers, Sarduy never went home. In Paris he became close to the group of critics and theoreticians…
Jean-François Revel (French philosopher and journalist)

French philosopher and journalist (b. Jan. 19, 1924, Marseille, France—d. April 30, 2006, Kremlin-Bicêtre, near Paris, France), was a defender of American liberal democracy, an unusual position for a French intellectual. Ricard adopted the pen name Revel in the Resistance during World War II. He graduated in philosophy from the École Normale Supérieure in 1943, after which he taught in Algeria, Mexico, and Italy before returning to France in 1956. His polemical Pourquoi des philosophes? (1957) criticized Marxism, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, and the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. In 1963 Revel left teaching for full-time journalism. Among his most influential books were Ni Marx, ni Jésus (1970; Without Marx or Jesus, 1971), La Tentation totalitaire (1976, The Totalitarian Temptation, 1977), Comment les démocraties finissent (1983; How Democracies Perish, 1984), and L’Obsession anti-américaine (2002; Anti-Americanism, 2003). In 1997 Revel was elected to the Académie Française.

semiotics (study of signs)

the study of signs and sign-using behaviour. It was defined by one of its founders, the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, as the study of “the life of signs within society.” Although the word was used in this sense in the 17th century by the English philosopher John Locke, the idea of semiotics as an interdisciplinary mode for examining phenomena in different fields emerged only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the independent work of Saussure and of the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce.

Peirce’s seminal work in the field was anchored in pragmatism and logic. He defined a sign as “something which stands to somebody for something,” and one of his major contributions to semiotics was the categorization of signs into three main types: (1) an icon, which resembles its referent (such as a road sign for falling rocks); (2) an index, which is associated with its referent (as smoke is a sign of fire); and (3) a symbol, which is related to its referent only by convention (as with words or traffic signals). Peirce also demonstrated that a sign can never have a definite meaning, for the meaning must be continuously qualified.

Saussure treated language as a sign-system, and his work in linguistics has supplied the concepts and methods that semioticians apply to sign-systems other than language. One such basic semiotic concept is Saussure’s distinction between the two inseparable components of a sign: the signifier, which in language is a set of speech sounds or marks on a page, and the signified, which is the concept or idea behind the sign. Saussure also distinguished parole, or actual individual utterances, from langue, the underlying system of conventions that makes such utterances understandable; it is this underlying langue that most interests semioticians.

This interest in the structure behind the use of particular…

 

Jacques Lacan

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Western Philosophy
20th-century philosophy
Name
Jacques Lacan
Birth April 13, 1901
Death September 9, 1981
School/tradition Psychoanalysis, Structuralism
Main interests Psychoanalysis
Notable ideas The Mirror Stage,
The Real,
The Symbolic,
The Imaginary
Influenced by Hegel, Saussure, Heidegger, Freud, Lévi-Strauss, Kojève
Influenced Guattari, Miller, Milner, Althusser, Žižek, Laclau, Mouffe, Irigaray, Badiou, Castoriadis, Lefort, Butler, McLuhan
Part of a series of articles on
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis
Constructs
Psychosexual development
Psychosocial development
ConsciousPreconsciousUnconscious
Id, ego, and super-ego
LibidoDrive
TransferenceSublimationResistanceImportant Figures
Sigmund FreudCarl Jung
Alfred AdlerOtto Rank
Anna FreudMargaret Mahler
Karen HorneyJacques Lacan
Ronald FairbairnMelanie Klein
Harry Stack Sullivan
Erik EriksonNancy Chodorow
Susan Sutherland Isaacs
Ernest JonesHeinz Kohut
John Bowlby

Important works
The Interpretation of Dreams
Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis
Beyond the Pleasure Principle
Civilization and Its Discontents

Schools of Thought
Self psychologyLacanian
Analytical psychologyObject relations
InterpersonalRelational
AttachmentEgo psychology

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Jacques-Marie-Émile Lacan (French pronounced [ʒak lakɑ̃]) (April 13, 1901September 9, 1981) was a French psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, and doctor, who made prominent contributions to the psychoanalytic movement. His yearly seminars, conducted in Paris from 1953 until his death in 1981, were a major influence in the French intellectual milieu of the 1960s and ’70s, particularly among post-structuralist thinkers.

Lacan’s ideas centered on Freudian concepts such as the unconscious, the castration complex, the ego, focusing on identifications, and the centrality of language to subjectivity. His work was interdisciplinary, drawing on linguistics, philosophy, mathematics, amongst others. Although a controversial and divisive figure, Lacan is widely read in critical theory, literary studies, and twentieth-century French philosophy, as well as in the living practice of clinical psychoanalysis.

[edit] Biography

Because Lacan, like Freud, destroyed most of his records, it is difficult to disentangle the myths, anecdotes, and rumors that have surrounded him.

[edit] Early life

Jacques Lacan was born in Paris, the eldest child of three born to Emilie and Alfred Lacan. Alfred was a successful, middle-class salesman dealing in soap and oils. Emilie was an ardent Catholic, and Lacan’s younger brother eventually entered monastic life in 1929. Lacan attended the Collège Stanislas, a well-known Jesuit high school. In the early 1920s, Lacan attended some meetings of right-wing group Action Française and met its founder Charles Maurras. By the mid-1920s, Lacan’s growing anti-religious sentiment led to tensions with his Catholic family.[1][2]

Too thin to be accepted into military service, Lacan went directly into medical school in 1920, specializing in psychiatry from 1926. He took his clinical training at Sainte-Anne, the major psychiatric hospital in central Paris. In his studies he had a particular interest in the philosophic work of Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger and, alongside many other Parisian intellectuals of the time, he attended the famous seminars on Hegel given by Alexandre Kojève.

Beginning in the 1920s, Lacan undertook analysis with Rudolph Loewenstein, which continued until 1938.

[edit] 1930s

In 1931 Lacan received his license as a forensic psychiatrist, and in 1932 was awarded the Doctorat d’état for his thesis, De la Psychose paranoiaque dans les rapports avec la personnalité. While this thesis drew considerable acclaim outside psychoanalytic circles, particularly among the surrealist artists, it was largely ignored by psychoanalysts. In 1934 Lacan became a candidate for the Société Psychoanalytique de Paris. In January of that year, he married Marie-Louise Blondin, who gave birth to their first child, Caroline, the same month. Another child, Thibaut, was born in August of 1939.

He presented his first analytic paper on the “Mirror Phase” at the 1936 Congress of the International Psychoanalytical Association in Marienbad. According to Roudinesco, Lacan’s reading was interrupted by chairman of the congress, Ernest Jones, who was unwilling to offer more than the alloted time. Frustrated with what he considered an insult, Lacan left the congress to witness first hand a mass event manipulated by Nazis, in the form of the Olympic Games in Berlin. No copy of Lacan’s original lecture remains extant.[3]

Lacan was very active in the world of Parisian writers, artists and intellectuals during the inter-war period. In addition to André Breton and Georges Bataille, he was also associated with Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. He attended the mouvement Psyché founded by Maryse Choisy. Several of his early articles were published in the Surrealist journal Minotaure and he was present at the first public reading of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Dylan Evans has speculated that Lacan was a surrealist at heart, “his interest in surrealism predates his interest in psychoanalysis. Perhaps Lacan never really abandoned his early surrealist sympathies, its neo-Romantic view of madness as ‘convulsive beauty’, its celebration of irrationality, and its hostility to the scientist who murders nature by dissecting it.”[4] As such company would suggest, during this period Lacan was better known in literary circles than psychoanalytic ones.

[edit] 1940s

The Société Psychoanalytique de Paris (SPP) was disbanded due to Nazi Germany’s occupation of France in 1940 and Lacan was subsequently called up to serve in the French army at the Val-de-Grâce military hospital in Paris, where he spent the duration of the war. His third child, Sibylle, was born in 1940.

The following year, Lacan fathered a child, Judith (who kept the name Bataille) with Sylvia Bataille (née Maklès), estranged wife of his friend Georges. There are contradictory stories about his romantic life with Sylvia Bataille in southern France during World War II. The official record shows only that Marie-Louise requested divorce after Judith’s birth, and Lacan married Sylvia in 1953.

Following the war, the SPP recommenced their meetings, and Lacan visited England for a five-week study trip, meeting English analysts Wilfred Bion and John Rickman. He was influenced by Bion’s analytic work with groups and this contributed to his own later emphasis on study groups as a structure with which to advance theoretical work in psychoanalysis.

In 1949, Lacan presented a new paper on the mirror stage to the sixteenth IPA congress in Zurich.

[edit] 1950s

In 1951 Lacan started to hold a private weekly seminar in Paris, urging what he described as “a return to Freud” concentrating upon the linguistic nature of psychological symptomatology. Becoming public in 1953, Lacan’s twenty-seven year long seminar was very influential in Parisian cultural life as well as in psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice.

In 1953, after a disagreement about analytic practice methods, Lacan and many of his colleagues left the Société Parisienne de Psychoanalyse to form a new group the Société Française de Psychanalyse (SFP). One of the consequences of this was to deprive the new group of membership within the International Psychoanalytical Association.

Encouraged by the reception of “the return to Freud” and of his report – “The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis” (Écrits) – Lacan again returned to Freud, re-reading the canon in relation with contemporary philosophy, linguistics, ethnology, biology and topology. From 1953 to 1964 at Sainte-Anne Hospital , he held his Seminars and presented case histories of patients. During this period he wrote the texts that are found in Écrits, a selection of which was first published in 1966. In his seventh Seminar of 1959-60, ‘The Ethics of Psychoanalysis’, Lacan defined his ethical foundations of psychoanalysis and constructs his “ethics for our time”; according to Freud, an ethics that would prove to be equal to the tragedy of modern man and to the “discontent of civilization”. At the roots of the ethics is desire: analysis’ only promise is austere, it is the entrance-into-the-I (in French a play of words between ‘l’entrée en je’ and ‘l’entrée en jeu’). ‘I must come to the place where the id was’, where the analysand discovers, in its absolute nakedness, the truth of his desire. The end of psychoanalysis entails ‘the purification of desire’. This text functions throughout the years as the background of Lacan’s work. He defends three assertions: that psychoanalysis must have a scientific status; that Freudian ideas have radically changed the concepts of subject, of knowledge, and of desire; that the analytic field is the only place from where it is possible to question the insufficiencies of science and philosophy.

[edit] 1960s

Starting in 1962 a complex negotiation took place to determine the status of the SFP within the IPA. Lacan’s practice—with his controversial indeterminate-length sessions in which he charged a full fee for truncated sessions, had his hair cut during sessions,[5] and Lacan’s critical stance towards psychoanalytic orthodoxy—led, in 1963, to a condition being set by the IPA that registration of the SFP was dependent upon removing Lacan from the list of SFP training analysts. Lacan left the SFP to form his own school which became known as the École Freudienne de Paris (EFP)

With Lévi-Strauss and Althusser‘s support, he was appointed lecturer at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes. He started with a seminar on The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis in January 1964 in the Dussane room at the École Normale Supérieure (in his first session he thanks the generosity of Fernand Braudel and Claude Lévi-Strauss). Lacan began to set forth his own teaching on psychoanalysis to an audience of colleagues who had joined him from the SFP. His lectures also attracted many of the École Normale’s students. He divided the École de la Cause freudienne into three sections: the section of pure psychoanalysis (training and elaboration of the theory, where members who have been analyzed but haven’t become analysts can participate); the section for applied psychoanalysis (therapeutic and clinical, physicians who have neither completed nor started analysis are welcome); the section for taking inventory of the Freudian field (it concerned the critique of psychoanalytic literature and the analysis of the theoretical relations with related or affiliated sciences (Proposition du 9 octobre 1967 sur le psychanalyste à l’Ecole).

By the 1960s, Lacan was associated—at least in the public mind—with the far left in France.[6] In May 1968 Lacan voiced his sympathy for the student protests and as a corollary a Department of Psychology was set up by his followers at the University of Vincennes (Paris VIII). Echoing this sentiment, “Shortly after the tumultuous events of May 1968, Lacan was accused by the authorities of being a subversive, and directly influencing the events that transpired.”[7]

In 1969 Lacan moved his public seminars to the Faculté de Droit (Panthéon) where he continued to deliver his expositions of analytic theory and practice till the dissolution of his School in 1980.

[edit] 1970s

Throughout the final decade of his life, Lacan continued his widely followed seminars. During this period, he focuses on the development of his concepts of masculine and feminine jouissance, and puts special emphasis on his concept of “The Real” as a point of impossible contradiction in the “Symbolic Order”. This late work had the greatest influence on feminist thought, as well as upon the informal movement that arose in the 1970s or 1980s called post-modernism.

[edit] Major concepts

[edit] The ‘Return to Freud’

Lacan’s “return to Freud” emphasizes a renewed attention to the original texts of Freud and a radical critique of Ego psychology, Melanie Klein and Object relations theory. Lacan thought that Freud’s ideas of “slips of the tongue”, jokes, etcetera, all emphasized the agency of language in subjective constitution. “Correcting” Freud from within the light of Saussure, Lévi-Strauss, and Barthes, Lacan’s “return to Freud” could be read as the realization that the pervading agency of the unconscious is intimately tied to the functions and dynamics of language, where the signifier is irremediably divorced from the signified in a chronic but generative tension of lack. In “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason Since Freud” (Écrits, pp. 161 – 197).) he argued that “the unconscious is structured like a language”; it was not a primitive or archetypal part of the mind separate from the conscious, linguistic ego, but a formation as complex and structurally sophisticated as consciousness itself. If the unconscious is structured like a language, he claimed, then the self is denied any point of reference to which to be ‘restored’ following trauma or ‘identity crisis’.

[edit] The mirror stage (le stade du miroir)

Lacan’s first official contribution to psychoanalysis was the mirror stage which he described “… as formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience”. By the early fifties, he no longer considers the mirror stage as only a moment in the life of the infant, but as the permanent structure of subjectivity. In the paradigm of The Imaginary order, the subject is permanently caught and captivated by his own image. Lacan writes, “[T]he mirror stage is a phenomenon to which I assign a twofold value. In the first place, it has historical value as it marks a decisive turning-point in the mental development of the child. In the second place, it typifies an essential libidinal relationship with the body-image”.[8]

As he further develops the concept, the stress falls less on its historical value and ever more on its structural value.[4] In his fourth Seminar, La relation d’objet, Lacan states that “the mirror stage is far from a mere phenomenon which occurs in the development of the child. It illustrates the conflictual nature of the dual relationship”.

The mirror stage describes the formation of the Ego via the process of objectification, the Ego being the result of feeling dissention between one’s perceived visual appearance and one’s perceived emotional reality. This identification is what Lacan called alienation. At six months the baby still lacks coordination, however, he can recognize himself in the mirror before attaining control over his bodily movements. He sees his image as a whole, and the synthesis of this image produces a sense of contrast with the uncoordination of the body, which is perceived as a fragmented body. This contrast is first felt by the infant as a rivalry with his own image, because the wholeness of the image threatens him with fragmentation, and thus the mirror stage gives rise to an aggressive tension between the subject and the image. To resolve this aggressive tension, the subject identifies with the image: this primary identification with the counterpart is what forms the Ego.[4] The moment of identification is to Lacan a moment of jubilation since it leads to an imaginary sense of mastery, yet the jubilation may also be accompanied by a depressive reaction, when the infant compares his own precarious sense of mastery with the omnipotence of the mother.[9] This identification also involves the ideal ego which functions as a promise of future wholeness sustaining the Ego in anticipation.

In the Mirror stage a misunderstanding – “méconnaissance” – constitutes the Ego–the ‘moi’ becomes alienated from himself through the introduction of the Imaginary order subject. It must be said that the mirror stage has also a significant symbolic dimension. The Symbolic order is present in the figure of the adult who is carrying the infant: the moment after the subject has jubilantly assumed his image as his own, he turns his head towards this adult who represents the big Other, as if to call on him to ratify this image.[10]

[edit] Other/other

While Freud uses the term “other”, referring to der Andere (the other person) and “das Andere” (otherness), Lacan’s use is more like Hegel’s, through Alexandre Kojève.

Lacan often used an algebraic symbology for his concepts:[11] the big Other is designated A (for French Autre) and the little other is designated a (italicized French autre). He asserts that an awareness of this distinction is fundamental to analytic practice: ‘the analyst must be imbued with the difference between A and a,[12] so he can situate himself in the place of Other, and not the other’.[13]

  1. The little other is the other who is not really other, but a reflection and projection of the Ego. He is both the counterpart or the other people in whom the subject perceives a visual likeness (semblable), and the specular image or the reflection of one’s body in the mirror. In this way the little other is entirely inscribed in The Imaginary order. See Objet Petit a.
  2. The big Other designates a radical alterity, an otherness transcending the illusory otherness of the Imaginary because it cannot be assimilated through identification. Lacan equates this radical alterity with language and the law: the big Other is inscribed in The Symbolic order, being in fact the Symbolic insofar as it is particularized for each subject. The Other is then another subject and also the Symbolic order which mediates the relationship with that other subject.

‘The Other must first of all be considered a locus, the locus in which speech is constituted’.[14] We can speak of the Other as a subject in a secondary sense, only when a subject may occupy this position and thereby embody the Other for another subject.[15]

When he argues that speech originates not in the Ego nor in the subject, but in the Other, Lacan stresses that speech and language are beyond one’s conscious control; they come from another place, outside consciousness, and then ‘the unconscious is the discourse of the Other’.[16] When conceiving the Other as a place, Lacan refers to Freud’s concept of physical locality, in which the unconscious is described as “the other scene”.

“It is the mother who first occupies the position of the big Other for the child, it is she who receives the child’s primitive cries and retroactively sanctions them as a particular message”.[4] The castration complex is formed when the child discovers that this Other is not complete, that there is a Lack (manque) in the Other. This means that there is always a signifier missing from the trove of signifiers constituted by the Other. Lacan illustrates this incomplete Other graphically by striking a bar through the symbol A; hence another name for the castrated, incomplete Other is the ‘barred Other’.[17][18]

[edit] The Three Orders

[edit] The Imaginary

Lacan thought the relationship between the Ego and the reflected image means that the Ego and the Imaginary order itself are places of radical alienation: “alienation is constitutive of the Imaginary order”.[14] This relationship is also narcissistic. So the Imaginary is the field of images and imagination, and deception: the main illusions of this order are synthesis, autonomy, duality, similarity.

The Imaginary is structured by the Symbolic order: in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis Lacan argues how the visual field is structured by symbolic laws. Thus the Imaginary involves a linguistic dimension. If the signifier is the foundation of the Symbolic, the signified and signification are part of the Imaginary order. Language has Symbolic and Imaginary connotations; in its Imaginary aspect, language is the “wall of language” which inverts and distorts the discourse of the Other. On the other hand, the Imaginary is rooted in the subject’s relationship with its own body (the image of the body). In Fetishism: the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real Lacan argues that in the sexual plane the Imaginary appears as sexual display and courtship love.

Lacan accused major psychoanalytic schools of reducing the practice of psychoanalysis to the Imaginary order by making identification with the analyst the objective of analysis (see Écrits, “The Directions of the Treatment”). He proposes the use of the Symbolic as the way to dislodge the disabling fixations of the Imaginary: the analyst transforms the images into words. “The use of the Symbolic is the only way for the analytic process to cross the plane of identification.”[19]

[edit] The Symbolic

In his Seminar IV “La relation d’objet” Lacan asserts that the concepts of Law and Structure are unthinkable without language: thus the Symbolic is a linguistic dimension. Yet, he does not simply equate this order with language since language involves the Imaginary and the Real as well. The dimension proper of language in the Symbolic is that of the signifier, that is a dimension in which elements have no positive existence but which are constituted by virtue of their mutual differences.

The Symbolic is also the field of radical alterity, that is the Other: the unconscious is the discourse of this Other. Besides it is the realm of the Law which regulates desire in the Oedipus complex. We may add that the Symbolic is the domain of culture as opposed to the Imaginary order of nature. As important elements in the Symbolic, the concepts of death and lack (manque) connive to make of the pleasure principle the regulator of the distance from the Thing (das ding an sich) and the death drive which goes “beyond the pleasure principle by means of repetition”—”the death drive is only a mask of the Symbolic order.”[11]

It is by working in the Symbolic order that the analyst can produce changes in the subjective position of the analysand; these changes will produce imaginary effects since the Imaginary is structured by the Symbolic.[4] Thus, it is the Symbolic which is determinant of subjectivity, and the Imaginary, made of images and appearances, is the effect of the Symbolic.

[edit] The Real

Not only opposed to the Imaginary, the Real is also located outside the Symbolic. Unlike the latter which is constituted in terms of oppositions, i.e. presence/absence, “there is no absence in the Real.”[11] Whereas the Symbolic opposition presence/absence implies the possibility that something may be missing from the Symbolic, “the Real is always in its place.”[19] If the Symbolic is a set of differentiated elements, signifiers, the Real in itself is undifferentiated, it bears no fissure. The Symbolic introduces “a cut in the real”, in the process of signification: “it is the world of words that creates the world of things – things originally confused in the “here and now” of the all in the process of coming into being.[20]

Thus the Real is that which is outside language, resisting symbolization absolutely. In Seminar XI Lacan defines the Real as “the impossible” because it is impossible to imagine and impossible to integrate into the Symbolic, being impossibly attainable. It is this resistance to symbolization that lends the Real its traumatic quality. In his Seminar “La relation d’objet”, Lacan reads Freud’s case on “Little Hans.” He distinguishes two real elements which intrude and disrupt the child’s imaginary pre-oedipical harmony: the real penis which is felt in infantile masturbation and the newly born sister.

Finally, the Real is the object of anxiety in that it lacks any possible mediation, and is “the essential object which is not an object any longer, but this something faced with which all words cease and all categories fail, the object of anxiety par excellence.”[11]

[edit] Desire

Lacan’s désir follows Freud’s concept of Wunsch and it is central to Lacanian theories. For the aim of the talking cure – psychoanalysis – is precisely to lead the analysand to uncover the truth about their desire, but this is only possible if that desire is articulated, or spoken.[21] Lacan said that “it is only once it is formulated, named in the presence of the other, that desire appears in the full sense of the term.”[22] “That the subject should come to recognize and to name his/her desire, that is the efficacious action of analysis. But it is not a question of recognizing something which would be entirely given. In naming it, the subject creates, brings forth, a new presence in the world.”[11] “[W]hat is important is to teach the subject to name, to articulate, to bring desire into existence.” Now, although the truth about desire is somehow present in discourse, discourse can never articulate the whole truth about desire: whenever discourse attempts to articulate desire, there is always a leftover, a surplus.[21]

In The Signification of the Phallus Lacan distinguishes desire from need and demand. Need is a biological instinct that is articulated in demand, yet demand has a double function, on one hand it articulates need and on the other acts as a demand for love. So, even after the need articulated in demand is satisfied, the demand for love remains unsatisfied and this leftover is desire.[23] For Lacan “desire is neither the appetite for satisfaction nor the demand for love, but the difference that results from the subtraction of the first from the second” (article cited). Desire then is the surplus produced by the articulation of need in demand (Dylan Evans). Lacan adds that “desire begins to take shape in the margin in which demand becomes separated from need” (article cited). Hence desire can never be satisfied, or as Slavoj Žižek puts it “desire’s raison d’être is not to realize its goal, to find full satisfaction, but to reproduce itself as desire.”

It is also important to distinguish between desire and the drives. If they belong to the field of the Other (as opposed to love), desire is one, whereas the drives are many. The drives are the partial manifestations of a single force called desire (see “The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis”). If one can surmise that objet petit a is the object of desire, it is not the object towards which desire tends, but the cause of desire. For desire is not a relation to an object but a relation to a lack (manque). Then desire appears as a social construct since it is always constituted in a dialectical relationship.

[edit] Drives

Lacan maintains Freud’s distinction between Trieb (drive) and Instinkt (instinct) in that drives differ from biological needs because they can never be satisfied and do not aim at an object but rather circle perpetually round it, so the real source of jouissance is to repeat the movement of this closed circuit. In the same Seminar Lacan posits the drives as both cultural and symbolic (discourse) constructs, to him “the drive is not a given, something archaic, primordial”. Yet he incorporates the four elements of the drives as defined by Freud (the pressure, the end, the object and the source) to his theory of the drive’s circuit: the drive originates in the erogenous zone, circles round the object, and then returns to the erogenous zone. The circuit is structured by the three grammatical voices:

  1. the active voice (to see)
  2. the reflexive voice (to see oneself)
  3. the passive voice (to be seen)

The active and reflexive voices are autoerotic, they lack a subject. It is only when the drive completes its circuit with the passive voice that a new subject appears. So although it is the “passive” voice, the drive is essentially active, “to make oneself be seen” instead of “to be seen.” The circuit of the drive is the only way for the subject to transgress the pleasure principle.

Lacan identifies four partial drives: the oral drive (the erogenous zones are the lips, the partial object the breast), the anal drive (the anus and the faeces), the scopic drive (the eyes and the gaze) and the invocatory drive (the ears and the voice). The first two relate to demand and the last two to desire. If the drives are closely related to desire, they are the partial aspects in which desire is realized: again, desire in one and undivided whereas the drives are partial manifestations of desire.

[edit] Other concepts

[edit] Writings and seminars

Although Lacan is a major figure in the history of psychoanalysis, his Seminar lectures – contains the majority of his life’s work, though some of these remain yet unpublished. Jacques-Alain Miller, the sole editor of Lacan’s seminars, has been regularly conducting since 1984 a series of lectures, “L’orientation lacanienne”, within the structure of ParisVIII. Miller’s teachings have been published in the US by the journal Lacanian Ink.

Lacan claims that his Écrits were not to be understood, but would produce a meaning effect in the reader similar to some mystical texts. Lacan’s writing is notoriously difficult due to the repeated Hegelian/Kojèvean allusions, wide theoretical divergences from other psychoanalytic and philosophical thinking, and Lacan’s obscure prose style.

[edit] Criticism

Although Lacan is associated with it, he was criticized by major figures associated with post-structuralism (and the related postmodernism school). Jacques Derrida characterized Lacan as taking a structuralist approach to psychoanalysis. Derrida claimed this led Lacan to inherit a Freudian “phallocentrism,” exemplified by Lacan’s conception of the phallus as the “primary signifier” that determines the social order of signifiers. Derrida deconstructs the Freudian conception of “penis envy”, upon which female subjectivity is determined “as an absence,” to show that the primacy of the male phallus entails a hierarchy between phallic presence and absence that ultimately collapses.

While he has been criticized for adopting a Freudian phallocentric stance in his psychoanalytic theories, many feminists believe Lacan provides a useful analysis of gender biases and imposed roles. Some feminist critics, such as Luce Irigaray,[24] accuse Lacan of maintaining the sexist tradition in psychoanalysis. Others feminists, such as Judith Butler,[25] Jane Gallop,[26] Bracha Ettinger, [27] and Elizabeth Grosz,[7] have each interpreted Lacan’s work as opening up new possibilities for feminist theory.

Other critics have often dismissed Lacan and his work in a more-or-less wholesale fashion. François Roustang[28] called Lacan’s output “extravagant” and an “incoherent system of pseudo-scientific gibberish.” Noam Chomsky described Lacan as “an amusing and perfectly self-conscious charlatan”[29].In Fashionable Nonsense, Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont accuse Lacan of “superficial erudition” and of abusing scientific concepts he does not understand.

Defenders of Lacanian thinking dispute most external criticism, stating that these critics’ misunderstand—or often simply have not read—Lacan’s texts. Bruce Fink has dismissed Sokal and Bricmont, claiming they have “no idea whatsoever what Lacan is up to,” and accuses them of elevating a distaste for Lacan’s writing style into an attack on his thought as a whole.[30] Similarly, Arkady Plotnitsky claims that Lacan uses the mathematical concepts more accurately than do Sokal and Bricmont.[31]

[edit] Sources

[edit] References

  1. ^ Roudinesco, Elisabeth Jacques Lacan & Co.: a history of psychoanalysis in France, 1925-1985, 1990, Chicago University Press
  2. ^ Perry Meisel (April 13, 1997). The Unanalyzable. New York Times.
  3. ^ Roudinesco, Elisabeth. ‘The mirror stage: an obliterated archive’ The Cambridge Companion to Lacan. Ed. Jean-Michel Rabaté. Cambridge: CUP, 2003
  4. ^ a b c d e Evans, Dylan “From Lacan to Darwin”, in The Literary Animal; Evolution and the Nature of Narrative, eds. Jonathan Gottschall and David Sloan Wilson, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2005
  5. ^ Review of Bruce Fink’s A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis: Theory and Technique
  6. ^ French Communist Party “official philosopher” Louis Althusser did much to advance this association in the 1960s. Zoltán Tar and Judith Marcus in Frankfurt school of sociology. ISBN 0878559639 (p.276) write, for example, Althusser’s call to Marxists that the Lacanian enterprise might … help further revolutionary ends, endorsed Lacan’s work even further.
  7. ^ a b Elizabeth A. Grosz, Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction
  8. ^ Lacan, J., Some reflections on the Ego in Écrits
  9. ^ Lacan, J., La relation d’objet in Écrits
  10. ^ Lacan, Tenth Seminar, L’angoisse, 1962-1963
  11. ^ a b c d e Lacan, J., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book II : The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis 1954-1955 (W. W. Norton & Company, 1991), ISBN 9780393307092
  12. ^ Lacan, J., The Freudian Thing in Écrits
  13. ^ Lacan, J., Psychoanalysis and its Teaching in Écrits
  14. ^ a b Lacan, Seminar III: The Psychoses
  15. ^ Lacan, Seminar VIII: Le transfert
  16. ^ Lacan, J., Seminar on “The Purloined Letter” in Écrits
  17. ^ Lacan, J., The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious in Écrits
  18. ^ Lacan, Seminar V: Les formations de l’inconscient
  19. ^ a b Lacan, J. Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis
  20. ^ Lacan, J., The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis in Écrits
  21. ^ a b Fink, Bruce, The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance (Princeton University Press, 1996), ISBN 9780691015897
  22. ^ Lacan, J., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book I : Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953-1954 “…what is important is to teach the subject to name, to articulate, to bring desire into existence” (W. W. Norton & Company, 1991), ISBN 9780393306972
  23. ^ Lacan, J., ‘The Signification of the Phallus’ in Écrits
  24. ^ Irigary, Luce, This Sex Which Is Not One 1977, (Eng. trans. 1985)
  25. ^ Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993)
  26. ^ Gallop, Jane, Reading Lacan. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985.
  27. ^ Ettinger, Bracha L., The Matrixial Borderspace, University of Minnesota Press, 2006 (essays from 1994-1999, published in French as “Régard et éspace-de-bord matrixiels”, Bruxelles: La Lettre Volée, 1999) and Special Issue of Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 21, n.1, 2004.
  28. ^ Roustang, François, The Lacanian Delusion
  29. ^ Usenet, 1996
  30. ^ Bruce Fink, Lacan to the Letter
  31. ^ Arkady Plotnitsky, The Knowable and the Unknowable

[edit] Bibliography

Selected works published in English listed below. More complete listings can be found at Lacan Dot Com.

*referenced above

[edit] Works about Lacan’s Work and Theory

  • Badiou, Alain, “The Formulas of L’Etourdit” (New York: Lacanian Ink 27, 2006.)
  • —————, “Lacan and the Pre-Socratics”, Lacan Dot Com, 2006.
  • Benvenuto, Bice; Kennedy, Roger, The Works of Jacques Lacan (London, 1986, Free Association Books.)
  • Bowie, Malcolm, Lacan (London: Fontana, 1991). (An introduction.)
  • Dor, Joel, The Clinical Lacan (New York: Other Press, 1999)
  • —————, Introduction to the Reading of Lacan: The Unconscious Structured Like a Language (New York: Other Press, 2001)
  • Elliott, Anthony and Stephen Frosh(eds.), Psychoanalysis in Contexts: Paths between Theory and Modern Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1995). (A recent overview.)
  • Ettinger, Bracha L., “The Feminine/Prenatal Weaving in the Matrixial Subjectivity-as-Encounter.” Psychoanalytic Dialogues, VII:3, The Analytic Press, New York, 1997.
  • —————, “Matrixial Gaze and Screen: Other than Phallic and Beyond the Late Lacan.” In: Laura Doyle (ed.) Bodies of Resistance. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2001.
  • —————, “Weaving Trans-Subjective Texture or The Matrixial Sinthome.” In : Thurston, Luke (ed.), Re-inventing the Symptom: Essays on the final Lacan. NY: The Other Press, 2002.
  • Evans, Dylan, An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, Routledge, 1996.
  • Fink, Bruce, The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).
  • —————, Lacan to the Letter: Reading Ecrits Closely, University of Minnesota, 2004.
  • Forrester, John, Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis (Basingstoke and London: Macmillan, 1985).
  • Fryer, David Ross, The Intervention of the Other: Ethical Subjectivity in Levinas and Lacan (New York: Other Press, 2004)
  • Gallop, Jane, Reading Lacan. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985.
  • —————, The Daughter’s Seduction: Feminism and Psychoanalysis. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982.
  • Gherovici, Patricia, The Puerto Rican Syndrome (New York: Other Press, 2003)
  • Glynos, Jason and Yannis Stravrakakis, ED, Lacan and Science. London :Karnac Books, May 2002.
  • Harari, Roberto, Lacan’s Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis: An Introduction (New York: Other Press, 2004)
  • —————, Lacan’s Seminar on “Anxiety”: An Introduction (New York: Other Press, 2005)
  • Homer, Sean, Jacques Lacan (London: Routledge, 2005)
  • Lander, Romulo, Subjective Experience and the Logic of the Other (New York: Other Press, 2006)
  • Leupin, Alexandre, Lacan Today (New York: Other Press, 2004)
  • Mathelin, Catherine, Lacanian Psychotherpay with Children: The Broken Piano (New York: Other Press, 1999)
  • McGowan, Todd and Sheila Kunkle Eds., Lacan and Contemporary Film (New York: Other Press, 2004)
  • Miller, Jacques-Alain, “Introduction to Reading Jacques Lacan’s Seminar on Anxiety I ” (New York: Lacanian Ink 26, 2005.)
  • —————, “Introduction to Reading Jacques Lacan’s Seminar on Anxiety II” (New York: Lacanian Ink 27, 2006.)
  • —————, “Jacques Lacan’s Later Teachings” (New York: Lacanian Ink 21, 2003.)
  • —————, “The Paradigms of Jouissance” (New York, Lacanian Ink 17, 2000.)
  • —————, “Suture: Elements of the Logic of the Signifier”, Lacan Dot Com, 2006.
  • Moustafa, Safouan, Four Lessons of Psychoanalysis (New York: Other Press, 2004)
  • Nasio, Juan-David , Book of Love and Pain: The Thinking at the Limit with Freud and Lacan. Translated by David Pettigrew and Francois Raffoul (Albany: SUNY Press, 2003)
  • —————, Five Lessons on the Psychoanalytic Theory of Jacques Lacan. Translated by David Pettigrew and Francois Raffoul (Albany: SUNY Press, 1998)
  • —————, Hysteria: The Splendid Child of Psychoanalysis. Translated by Susan Fairfield (New York: Other Press, 1998)
  • Pettigrew, David and François Raffoul (eds.), Disseminating Lacan (Albany: SUNY Press, 1996)
  • Rabaté, Jean-Michel (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Lacan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)
  • Rose, Jacqueline, Sexuality in the Field of Vision (London: Verso, 1986)
  • Roudinesco, Élisabeth, “Jacques Lacan: His Life and Work”. Translated by Bray B. New York, Columbia University Press, 1997
  • Turkle, Sherry, Psychoanalytic Politics: Jacques Lacan and Freud’s French Revolution, 2nd edition, Guildford Press, New York, 1992
  • ————— and Wollheim, Richard, ‘Lacan: an exchange’, New York Review of Books, 26 (9), 1979, p. 44.
  • Soler, Colette, What Lacan Said About Women Translated by John Holland (New York: Other Press, 2006)
  • Thurston, Luke (ed.), “Re-inventing the Symptom”, NY: Other Press, 2002.
  • Van Haute, Philippe, Against Adaptation: Lacan’s “Subversion” of the Subject (New York: Other Press, 2002)
  • Van Haute, Philippe and Tomas Geyskens, Confusion of Tongues: The Primacy of Sexuality in Freud, Ferenczi, and Laplanche (New York: Other Press, 2004)
  • Webster, Richard, Why Freud Was Wrong-Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis (Harper Collins, 1995.)
  • Wilden, Anthony, ‘Jacques Lacan: A partial bibliography’, Yale French Studies, 36/37, 1966, pp. 263–268.
  • Žižek, Slavoj, “Woman is One of the Names-of-the-Father, or how Not to misread Lacan´s formulas of sexuation”, Lacan Dot Com, 2005.
  • —————, ‘The object as a limit of discourse: approaches to the Lacanian real’, Prose Studies, 11 (3), 1988, pp. 94–120.
  • —————, Interrogating the Real, ed. Rex Butler and Scott Stephens (London and New York: Continuum, 2005).
  • —————, “Jacques Lacan as Reader of Hegel” (New York: Lacanian Ink 27, 2006.)

[edit] External links

[edit] Introductions

[edit] Practice

[edit] Theory

[edit] Criticism

 

Persondata
NAME Lacan, Jacques
ALTERNATIVE NAMES  
SHORT DESCRIPTION French psychologist
DATE OF BIRTH 13 April 1901
PLACE OF BIRTH Paris, France
DATE OF DEATH 9 September 1981
PLACE OF DEATH Paris, France

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About the social semantic web

Web 2.0 – what´s next?

It´s a web of data, stupid!

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News Analysis April 17, 2008, 12:04AM EST

IBM, eBay: The Boost from Overseas

A weak U.S. dollar and fast growth abroad are helping tech companies handle the economic slump—and beat analyst expectations

Two tech bellwethers showed on Apr. 16 what it takes to shrug off the U.S. economic slump: international exposure and a weak U.S. dollar. IBM (IBM), a global seller of software and computer services, and eBay (EBAY), the online shopping giant, both released first quarter results that exceeded analysts’ expectations and raised respective forecasts for this year’s financial performance. In both cases, sluggish U.S. gains were offset by faster growth abroad, allaying concern over how well tech titans can weather the storm.

Electronic commerce pioneer eBay reported profits of $460 million on $2.19 billion in revenue, a 24% increase from the prior year. Fueling the growth was growing demand for U.S. goods abroad and strong activity on eBay’s international sites. About 54% of sales on eBay’s shopping sites and 43% of revenues from eBay’s PayPal payments business came from markets outside the US. “There is no doubt that there are uncertain economic times ahead of us that will impact retail and could impact e-commerce,” newly appointed eBay Chief Executive John Donahoe said in a telephone interview following a call with analysts. “We are glad to be a global business…and the U.S. is on sale right now given the relatively weak dollar.”

Despite the U.S. slowdown, eBay raised its guidance for the full year. It now expects net revenue of $8.7 billion to $9 billion for the full year, with roughly 25% margins. That’s up from the $8.5 to $8.7 billion in revenue eBay had projected in January. Shares of San Jose (Calif.) eBay rose 0.4%, to $32.12, in extended trading on Apr. 16.

IBM’s surprise strength

Likewise, IBM said net income rose 26%, to $2.32 billion, or $1.65 a share, beating analysts’ expectations for per-share earnings of about $1.45. Sales increased 11%, to $24.5 billion, also exceeding the analyst forecast of $23.6 billion in revenue. “Big Blue has proven that it can do well at a time of boom as well as doom,” Annex Research analyst Bob Djurdjevic wrote in an Apr. 16 research note.

Like his counterpart at eBay, IBM Chief Executive also raised full-year projections. “IBM had a very good quarter, and a good start to 2008,” he said in a statement. “These results reinforce our confidence in IBM’s ability to perform well in a dynamic global economy” and reflect the company’s efforts to expand in overseas markets, he said. IBM boosted its forecast for per-share earnings in 2008 to at least $8.50, a 25¢ increase from the target it issued in February.

About two-thirds of IBM’s revenue comes from abroad, helping IBM benefit from areas of the world that are growing more quickly than the U.S. IBM also attributed gains to weakness in the U.S. dollar, which boosts the value of overseas revenue. Excluding foreign exchange impact, revenue would have risen 4%, IBM said. Sales in the region that includes Europe, the Middle East, and Africa increased 16%. In Asia-Pacific, revenue gained 14%. Both regions outpaced the Americas, where sales climbed 8%.

The company exhibited strength even in financial services, which rose 14%. IBM said in January that it detected signs of weakness in the sector, which has been buffeted by losses amid the mortgage and housing malaise. IBM’s results show “the banking segment woes are company-specific, not generic in nature,” according to Djurdjevic. Shares of Armonk (N.Y.) IBM gained 2.5%, to $123.44, in extended trading.

Changes at eBay

As upbeat as eBay executives were about overall performance, they underscored the challenges facing Donahoe, who replaced Meg Whitman as CEO this month. On his first call at eBay’s helm, Donahoe reiterated plans to make eBay’s shopping sites more buyer friendly and reaccelerate growth in the company’s core business.

EBay’s shopping sites accounted for about 67% of revenue this quarter and still fuels much of PayPal’s business, despite strong demand for PayPal from other sites. “This is a barge and they are dipping oars in the water to try to turn it around,” says American Technology Research analyst Tim Boyd, who has a buy on the stock. “It is going to take a long long time to turn it around, and it is not without risk.”

Earlier this year, eBay announced sweeping changes (BusinessWeek.com, 1/29/08) to its fee structure that appealed more to sellers of higher-ticket items and fixed price goods. The new fee structure reduced up-front fees up to 25% for listing items in an auction and up to 50% for listing items in stores. It also decreased percentage-based fees for higher ticket items and offered discounts to PowerSellers who receive high ratings from users. Meanwhile, many smaller merchants who sell goods priced at $100 or less saw fee increases, or those who rely heavily on auctions saw the overall amount they pay to eBay increase.

Many see the changes as a signal that eBay is moving away from the auction format and toward fixed pricing, a segment of the marketplace that has seen higher growth and appeals to many buyers who shop online for convenience as well as deals. “The price increase does hurt the auction traditionalists pretty significantly,” says Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor, a software and services company that helps more than 6,000 businesses manage their inventory on eBay, Amazon (AMZN), Overstock.com (OSTK), and other e-commerce sites. “They are definitely trimming auction content from the site.”

“Still Room for Small Sellers”

While unwilling to say that eBay is moving away from its auction roots, Donahoe did say that the company would be somewhat format agnostic when it comes to how items are sold. If buyers want fixed prices, that’s what they will get. “From the beginning, eBay was about great deals and a wide selection and that is still what we stand for,” said Donahoe after the earnings call. “But as search has developed, you can get a great deal in a fixed-price format.”

The changes to date have received mixed reactions. Many sellers, such as those advised by Wingo, have applauded the efforts and report more shopping activity and higher returns. Others have been so upset by the fee changes and changes to the feedback system that prevent sellers from leaving negative buyer feedback that they have boycotted the site. “[Donahoe] is not interested in the small seller because they give eBay a flea market atmosphere,” says Terry Norman, a longtime eBay buyer and merchant who sells audio books, instruction manuals, and other items on the site.

Donahoe admits that some of the changes may have affected some auction sellers too harshly and that the company heeds their concerns. “There is absolutely still room for small sellers on eBay,” he says.

As he works to appease sellers, Donahoe will need to navigate the company through a domestic slowdown. Meantime, he and Palmisano can take satisfaction from international operations that for now leave their companies well insulated from gloom and doom in the U.S.

Holahan is a writer for BusinessWeek.com in New York .

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Yahoo’s Mixed Message

Special Report March 18, 2008, 5:56PM EST

Yahoo’s Mixed Message

An optimistic announcement is meant to show the Internet portal doesn’t need help from Google, News Corp., or AOL. Do shareholders buy it?

https://i0.wp.com/images.businessweek.com/story/08/370/0319_yang.jpgYahoo CEO Jerry Yang Getty Images

Here’s the message Yahoo! (YHOO) wanted to convey with its unscheduled update to investors: We’re sticking by our growth forecasts despite the slowing economy, and that’s all you need to know about why we’re strong enough to keep rebuffing that pesky Microsoft takeover bid.

Here’s the message many investors took away from the Mar. 18 declaration: All those serpentine maneuvers Yahoo has reportedly undertaken to keep Microsoft at bay—including talks with News Corp. (NWS), Google (GOOG), and AOL (AOL)—aren’t panning out. So Yahoo is sticking to a strategy of growing the best it can on its own.

Reiterating the 2008 projections it gave in late January, just days before Microsoft’s unsolicited bid, Yahoo said it expects to bring in between $4.32 billion and $4.8 billion in full-year profits on $7.2 billion to $8 billion in sales. Moreover, the company expects annual revenue to reach $8.8 billion by 2010. “Yahoo is positioned for accelerated financial growth—we have a powerful consumer brand, a huge global audience and a highly profitable operating model,” Yahoo Chief Executive and co-founder Jerry Yang said during the presentation.

Remaining Low Amid Market Rally

Yahoo also strove to ease speculation the current quarter might produce an earnings disappointment that would send the one-time Web kingpin scurrying into Microsoft’s protective embrace. First-quarter revenue is still expected to total between $1.68 billion and $1.84 billion. Should Yahoo miss Wall Street’s expectations when it reports its first quarter results in April investors might start dumping its shares, fearful Microsoft will lower its bid.

Yahoo’s update helped boost its shares by 7% amid a broad market rally spurred by the Federal Reserve’s latest cut in lending rates. But despite the gain the stock remained nearly $2 dollars below the roughly $29.50 a share that Microsoft’s cash-and-stock bid is now worth—a sign investors don’t have much confidence Microsoft will sweeten its offer.

The reaction among industry analysts was mixed. In a note to investors, BMO Capital Markets analyst Leland Westerfield wrote Yahoo had shown its goals were even “more optimistic” than analysts previously thought. “Yahoo is presenting its case to remain independent of Microsoft, or at minimum, support why the buyout offer from Microsoft is insufficient in the Yahoo board’s estimation,” wrote Westerfield.

Online Ad Revenues Feeling the Pain

Yet Yahoo’s bullish forecast, including a promise to double its operating cash flow to $3.7 billion by 2010, sounded hollow to some. “To say they are being aggressive is an understatement,” said UBS analyst Benjamin Schachter. “This is a company that hasn’t executed for a couple years, why should we believe that they will be able to grow the top line while keeping costs down?”

The ambitious projections may be even harder to meet given the increasingly grim economic outlook. Separately on Mar. 18, research firm eMarketer reduced its 2008 estimate for U.S. online ad revenues to $25.8 billion, down from an earlier forecast of $27.5 billion. Though the floundering economy would harm ad-supported sites less than other media—thanks to a shift in marketing dollars from traditional media to the Web—it will still slow the market’s growth, said David Hallerman, a senior eMarketer analyst.

Share Prices Have Slipped

Analysts and investors have been burned before by buying too heavily into Yahoo’s growth hype. A year ago many took management’s assurances that a new search-advertising system, Panama, was performing better than expected as an indication profits would beat expectations. Instead, Yahoo failed to show a significant boost from higher ad-clicks after the system’s debut and reported an 11% drop in profits during the first quarter of 2007 (BusinessWeek.com, 4/18/08).

Microsoft did not return calls seeking comment. The software maker has thus far refused to raise its bid despite Yahoo’s assertion the offer “significantly undervalued” the company. Instead, Microsoft threatened to nominate a slate of directors to Yahoo’s board who would favor the deal (BusinessWeek.com, 3/6/08). The offer, initially worth $44.6 billion, now values Yahoo at $42.4 billion because Microsoft’s share price has slipped since the bid was launched.

Though the companies have reportedly been talking in recent days, there’s been no sign that Microsoft is willing to open its purse any wider.

Holahan is a writer for BusinessWeek.com in New York .

SPECIAL REPORT

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Google Beats the Bears

Technology April 17, 2008, 9:58PM EST

Google Beats the Bears

Despite analyst nay-saying and fewer paid ad clicks leading up to its first-quarter earnings announcement, the search giant reports solid growth

https://i0.wp.com/images.businessweek.com/story/08/370/0418_google.jpgEric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Google Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images

The Google bears are scurrying back into the woods. On Apr. 17, Google quelled concerns that the slowing economy would finally hurt its business. Thanks to strong international growth and better payoffs from its search ads, Google (GOOG) turned in higher profit and revenue than Wall Street had expected. The shares jumped more than 17% in post-market-close trading Apr. 17, and soared 18% to $529.17 in early trading Friday. The stock closed at $449.54 the previous session.

Google had been facing increasingly stiff headwinds during the quarter, from reports of a drop-off in ad clicks on its search results pages (BusinessWeek, 4/3/08) to increasing competition and the departures of some key executives.

But the company reported that earnings, excluding employee stock compensation, rose 30%, to $4.84 a share, higher than Wall Street estimates of $4.52 a share. Gross sales were up 42% from a year ago, to $5.19 billion, while net sales after payments to Web sites providing traffic to Google totaled $3.7 billion. Both beat analysts’ expectations. “This will mean a sigh of relief from investors,” says Rob Sanderson, an analyst at American Technology Research. “Google came through with a very solid quarter.”

Google’s Effect

Google’s results add to signs that the faltering U.S. economy is having a muted impact on tech companies with growing international businesses. First-quarter results from IBM (IBM) and eBay (EBAY) were stronger than analysts had forecast (BusinessWeek.com, 4/17/08). In Google’s case, overseas revenue accounts for more than half the total for the first time. Other Internet companies also rallied in the wake of Google’s repost: Chinese search engine Baidu (BIDU) gained 8%, and Amazon.com (AMZN) climbed 3%.

First-quarter figures from Google may also hold clues to how another closely watched Internet company, Yahoo! (YHOO), will fare in efforts to resist an unwelcome takeover bid from Microsoft (MSFT). Better-than-expected results would give credence to Yahoo’s assertion that it’s worth more than the $31 a share Microsoft has offered. Yahoo reports first-quarter results on Apr. 22.

Currently “Well-Positioned”

Google CEO Eric Schmidt made clear the company expects few economic obstacles. “We do not see an impact at this time,” he said in an analyst conference call. “We’re well-positioned for 2008 and beyond, regardless of the business environment.” Moreover, in the event “economics change,” Google’s targeted ads should prove even more appealing, Schmidt added, referring to the idea that companies would demand advertising with a measurable impact.

The company’s bottom line also benefited as Google kept costs under control. Although the purchase of ad-serving firm DoubleClick added 1,500 people to Google’s staff, for a total of 19,156, the company slowed the pace of hiring. Google hired about 850 people, much fewer than the 2,130 it brought in the peak third quarter. It also laid off 10% of DoubleClick’s U.S. staff and expects 15% more to leave as the companies meld.

Responsible for Ad-Click Decline

One of the biggest concerns Google faced in the runup to its results stemmed from reports of a precipitous decline in paid clicks. Figures from market researcher comScore (SCOR) suggested paid-click growth had screeched to a near-halt, rising just 1.8% in the first quarter from a year ago. Google measures paid clicks differently than comScore, which employs a panel of Internet users to gauge clicks. By Google’s count, paid clicks rose 20% from a year ago and 7% from the fourth quarter.

That’s still down from 30% year-over-year growth in last year’s fourth quarter and 45% growth in the third quarter. The slowing had put Google’s results under a microscope and contributed to the pessimism that prompted at least 16 analysts to reduce Google earnings estimates. Investors had hammered the stock, sending it down 34% so far this year, to 449.54 on Apr. 17 before the earnings report. In extended trading, Google stock rose to 525.96.

Google has attributed virtually all the decline in paid clicks to changes it purposely made. Late last year, it decreased the clickable area around ads to reduce accidental clicks. It also has been gradually reducing the number of search results that return paid ads by tweaking its search formulas to discourage ads that link to sites chiefly intended to capture clicks rather than sell products or provide useful content.

The result, Google and many analysts contended, should be an increase in what advertisers pay per click, since those clicks will be from more serious buyers. That appears to be just what happened. American Technology Research’s Sanderson says revenue per paid click rose 17.2% in the first quarter, up from a 14.7% gain in the fourth quarter and a 7.6% increase in the third quarter. Search marketing firms concur that clicks are getting more valuable. “Click prices continue to move up slowly and steadily,” says Kevin Lee, executive chairman of search marketing firm Didit.

Concerns for the Future

Even if Schmidt doesn’t see clouds on the horizon, other recent reports suggest the company faces challenges ahead. Search marketing firm SearchIgnite said Apr. 15 that Google’s share of search marketing spending fell to 70.4%, from 74.5% three months ago, largely at the expense of Yahoo, whose share rose from 19.6% to 24.2%. “We’re concerned about intra-quarter trends that showed declining growth,” says SearchIgnite CEO Roger Barnette.

And while Google’s numbers show ad-click growth isn’t slowing as much as comScore figures indicate, some analysts remain concerned about the decline nonetheless. Google still hasn’t proved the price-per-click increase is big enough to make up for the overall decline in clicks, says Clayton Moran, an analyst at Stanford Group. “It wasn’t as bad as the original fears…but the results don’t negate the trend,” Moran says. “It is clear that growth is decelerating rather rapidly.” Moran has a hold rating on Google, with a $500 price target.

Economic Impact

John Aiken, managing director of Majestic Research, believes that besides Google’s own changes, most of the decline in paid clicks is due to Google’s mainstay small and midsize business customers cutting back their search-ad spending as the economy sours. “If you’re less likely to search for a vacation to Bermuda, you’re going to be clicking less,” explains R. Michael Leo, CEO of ad technology and services firm Operative.

At the same time, however, Leo sees no slowdown in online advertising to date. And the impact of the slowing economy on online advertising could yet go in Google’s favor. Although few believe the industry is immune to a recession, a downturn could drive more ad money online because ads there are more accountable, noted Andrea Kerr Redniss, a senior vice-president at ad agency Optimedia, who spoke at an ad technology conference in San Francisco Apr. 15. If so, it appears Google is in a position to benefit as much as anyone.

Hof is BusinessWeek’s Silicon Valley bureau chief.
With Catherine Holahan in New York.

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Mon

Apr 14
2008

Andy Oram

Book review: “The Future of the Internet (And How to Stop It)”

 

Most of us in the computer field have heard more than our fill about the free software movement, the copyright wars, the scourge of spyware and SQL injection attacks, the Great Firewall of China, and other battles for the control of our computers and networks. But your education is stifled until you have absorbed the insights offered by comprehensive thinkers such as Jonathan Zittrain, who presents in this brand new book some critical and welcome anchor points for discussions of Internet policy. Now we have a definitive statement from a leading law professor at Harvard and Oxford, who combines a scholar’s insight into legal doctrines with a nitty-gritty knowledge of life on the Internet.

You can read Zittrain for cogent discussions of key issues in copyright, filtering, licensing, censorship, and other pressing issues in computing and networking. But you’re rewarded even more if you read this book to grasp fundamental questions of law and society, such as:

  • What determines the legitimacy of laws and those who make and enforce them?
  • What relationship does the law on the books bear to the law as enforced, and how does the gray area between them affect the evolution of society?
  • What is the proper attitude of citizens toward law-makers and regulators, and how much power is healthy for either side to have?
  • How can community self-organization stave off the need for heavy-handed legislation–and how, in contrast, can premature legislation preclude constructive solutions by self-organized communities?

Core questions such as these power Zittrain’s tour of technology and law on today’s networks. “The Future of the Internet” takes us briskly down familiar paths, offering valuable summaries of current debates, but Zittrain also tries always to hack away at the brambles that block the end of each path. Thanks to his unusually informed perspective, he usually–although not always–succeeds in pushing us forward a few meticulously footnoted footsteps.

 

Zittrain has summarized the points in this book in an online article, but reading the whole book pays off because of its depth of legal reasoning.

Informed recommendations

One of Zittrain’s most applicable suggestions–and one that exemplifies the positive philosophy he brings to his subject–is his solution for handling computer viruses. Currently, non-expert computer users are either helpless in the face of viruses or employ inadequate firewall products that block useful programs along with infections. When Internet service providers scramble to block malware at the router, proponents of network neutrality complain that they’re violating the end-to-end principle. The dilemma seems unsolvable.

Zittrain cuts the Gordian knot by suggesting user empowerment. Experts who know how to track and identify viruses or spyware can label them as such, and less expert users can check ratings on every download. Tools are urgently needed that aggregate widely distributed ratings and present them to users in a very simple screen of information whenever they initiate something potentially dangerous. (Zittrain cites, as a model, the partnership between Google and the StopBadware project run by his colleagues at the Berkman Center.)

Users could have a choice of proxies to help them decide what on put on their computers. Additionally, instead of politely hiding network activity from users, mass-market operating systems can show the information in a manner that is easy to grasp, so that the user has a clue when the computer is at risk of turning into a zombie. Zittrain would probably be gratified by a simple security enhancment recommended in the Febuary issue of Communications of the ACM: a suggestion that a wireless router notify each host using the router how many hosts are currently using it, so that wardriving could immediately be detected by users.

Other people have suggested distributed self-defending security systems, but Zittrain links the whole endeavor to the hope provided by the Internet’s ability to bring together people who shared positive goals. If software vendors and Internet security researchers gathered around this vision, a self-interested and self-organized community could protect itself, with more able members educating the less able ones.

As an alternative to restrictive software that sinks roots deep into the operating system and locks down computers, such tools could actually improve Internet users’ knowledge and sense of community while putting a dent in identity theft, spam, and distributed denial of service attacks.

Throughout the wide range of topics described in his book, Zittrain looks first to technically powered solutions that unite people of good will and encourage potential malfactors to renounce anti-social behavior. But his tone lies far from that of cocky cyberpunk hackers who boast that their technological solutions can protect them from all cyberharm (and damned be less savvy cybercitizens). Zittrain is too good a lawyer to dismiss the power of governments, or to assume that such power can only be oppressive. Thus:

  • He calls for a new Manhattan Project that would draw in government, research institutions, and individual programmers to solve the afore-mentioned malware problem.
  • He allows that the government should be allowed a lower threshold for access to financial data than access to other personal data.
  • He suggests regulation to enforce data portability, so that user data stored by online services could be retrieved by the owners when they wanted to switch services or when the services failed. (This is the online equivalent to the historic endorsement of open office standards that has been passed by governments in several countries and was nearly hatched in the state of Massachusetts, before a careless legislature ran an off-road vehicle over it.)

Zittrain is not a fan of network neutrality as most proponents describe it, but he sympathizes with the end-to-end principle and would like the principle of neutrality applied to APIs offered by web services such as Google’s. If web service providers claim that their data is available for creative uses by outsiders, they should not be allowed to arbitrarily cut off those outsiders that happen to be competitively successful or disruptive to their business models.

I find this recommendation particularly intriguing, because the promising area of web services is currently fraught with uncertainty that’s clearly holding back socially beneficial uses. Traditional PCs seem a rock of stability in comparison to the services exploited by modern web services, which vendors can whisk away like apparitions in the night.

You probably know, from such scandals as Yahoo!’s cooperation with the Chinese government in tracking down dissidents and Microsoft’s release of search data for a “research project” at the Department of Justice, that data stored at an online service is intrinsically less secure than data stored on your computer. But did you know that the law itself in the U.S. grants substantially less protection against search and seizure to your data when it’s stored at a service? Zittrain’s elucidation of this legal limbo, although it demands close reading, is a valuable window into the issues of technology and policy for lay readers.

Concerning medical privacy, in particular, the World Privacy Forunm noted in a February report (PDF) that personal health records stored by generic organizations such as Microsoft or Google are not protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Therefore, the records will probably be fair game for subpoenas in divorce cases, lawsuits, etc. The individual also has fewer rights when trying to correct entries.

Well, I’ve given you the quick tour of Zittrain’s book, which is like doing the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in an hour. Now we’ll meet back in the lobby by the elephant statue, as it were, and examine the key concept that runs through his book.

Generativity: the new battle cry

We’ve all heard so much in the past decade about “innovation” that I’m in danger of having my readers snap the browser tab shut on this web page when they see the word. (I remember when the fingers-down-the-throat word in the business world was “synergy.” That word finally disappeared along with the businesses that invoked it to justify their mergers.)

Zittrain has coined a term that captures with more richness and potential what’s happening in our economy: generativity, a measure of how many new, unexpected, and (occasionally) useful things can be developed thanks to an available platform. He lists a number of famous generative technologies, ranging from duct tape and Lego bricks to the all-time heavyweight champion of generativity, the core Internet protocols. But the effects of the Internet are predicated on many other generative technologies that have contributed to the wave of innovation over the past fifteen years or so:

  • Personal computer hardware, which accepts an unlimited variety of devices
  • Personal computer operating systems, which let ordinary consumers load any program that’s compiled to run on them
  • Free software, which encourages infinite extensions

The boon of generativity is threatened in two major ways: network restrictions and locked-down devices such as the Xbox, TiVo, and iPhone, which Zittrain calls tethered appliances. The network and the endpoint are symbiotically linked in their power: freedom in one can help keep the flame of freedom burning on the other, while correspondingly, dousing the embers on one can dim generativity on the other.

Appliances are not bad. The Xbox, TiVo, and iPhone have their place, and Zittrain points out that even the trenchantly open One Laptop Per Child system embeds a trusted computing substrate called Bitfrost that combines digital signatures, sandboxing, and mandatory access controls to prevent downloads from harming the system. Unlike trusted computing platforms in proprietary products, Bitfrost can be overridden by a sophisticated user, but requires a BIOS reflash.

The degree to which a system is “appliancized” is inversely related to its generativity. We need to make sure that at least some of the population can preserve generativity in order to create technology at new levels. Furthermore, everyone needs generative systems in order to prevent vendors from choking off mass adoption of innovations.

Many of the Internet’s dangers stem from the attributes of a good generative system. Zittrain, in addition to highlighting about ease of mastery and accessibility, points out that a highly generative system makes it easy to transfer capabilities from highly sophisticated developers to untrained users. This is not entirely sweet. For instance, security guru Bruce Schneier has repeatedly pointed out that easy transferability is the bane of Internet security.

It’s bad enough, Schneier says, that systems inevitably contain bugs that can be fatally exploited by top-notch coders and cryptography experts. What really threatens the Internet is that these experts can bundle the exploits into kits that script kiddies can download and use with minimal education. Sharing tools that perform intrusions is not in itself malicious; these tools are important for system administrators, programmers who reverse engineer applications (another skill with both good and evil applications), and other users. But the practice definitely swells the number of malicious programs foraging the Internet for victims.

Once we accept the value of generativity, technical solutions can allow us to preserve it while protecting ourselves from the bugs and intrusions that it makes us so easy to succomb to. For instance, instead of adopting a fortress mentality, public libraries and other institutions could run virtual operating systems on computers they want to protect. In our homes, our computers could have one operating system open to experimental applications (and instantly reloadable if compromised), side by side with another that is locked down. This would allow ordinary people the same generative freedom as programmers, who typically maintain work platforms and development platforms.

Value at the fringe

Among Zittrain’s most alarming insights is how calls for a safer Internet, and for one more friendly to copyright and trademark holders, can feed into general governmental control over its population in an age where more and more activity moves online. This danger–also prophesied by Swedish Pirate Party leader Rickard Falkvinge–makes generativity a concern to an immensely larger citizenry than the usual suspects consisting of free software developers and remix musicians. Zittrain’s exploration of technology’s “regulability” rises far beyond the book’s opening subject toward an expansive contribution to our understanding of the relations among citizens, governments, and the commonwealth.

Every business has suffered from the hammerlock of a new computer system that turns out to prevent employees from making the tiny exceptions to rules that previously allowed smooth operations. Perfect control on operating systems or the Internet could cause similar disasters, which range from the added costs of DRM in schools to clamp-downs by repressive regimes. Zittrain lays out several interesting legal considerations that aren’t usually raised, overtly in defense of deliberately leaky enforcement regimes.

Concurring and dissenting opinions

 

I should mention before going further that Zittrain showed me an early paper on the subject underlying his book, and cited me in his acknowledgments as one of the people whose conversations with him influenced the book. Had I the chance to discuss the following issues with him, I would have advised a few changes to the text.

 

The intractability of privacy violations

Zittrain’s last chapter focuses on privacy, which is widely understood to have passed a threshold in the past few years. Given cell phone cameras, the complex data-sharing services on popular social networks, and other tools in the hands of ordinary computer users, privacy can now be violated by irresponsible crowds in addition to large companies and governments.

First, I think Zittrain exaggerates the shift. If he believes that government and corporate abuses are now only a tiny sliver of a larger problem created by peer production on the Internet, I wonder whether he’s ever been barred from an airplane by the TSA or denied coverage by an insurance company.

But the problems he points to in privacy-violating activities that have suddenly become everyday behaviors–such as tagging photos on Flickr with people’s names–are real. He tries to apply lessons from an earlier chapter focusing on the checks and balances that make Wikipedia successful. Unfortunately, I think the analogy is weak.

Wikipedia, as Zittrain points out, remains a centralized institution under the ultimate control of one man. Authority fans out from creator Jimbo Wales in an admirably broad and flexible spread, but creativity and control at each level depend on the backstop provided at the next higher level. I agree with Zittrain that some of the solutions found here can be translated to the wider and wilder Internet, but in the area of privacy I don’t find the analogy persuasive.

Even appliances depend on generative systems

The forward thrust created by generative technologies is so powerful that one finds them in even supposedly non-generative appliances. Most embedded devices with non-trivial capabilities (devices that need more than a while-loop for an operating system) use general-purpose operating systems, often Linux or the reduced-fat version of Windows known as Windows CE.

Zittrain contrasts generative PCs and free software to appliances such as the TiVo, Xbox, and iPhone. The irony is that these are all based on generative technologies. The manufacturers could not resist the opportunity to cut development costs by using robust and freely available platforms.

TiVo uses Linux as its operating system, the Xbox runs on general-purpose hardware that has been successfully hacked to run Linux, and the iPhone–which epitomizes to Zittrain the supreme tethered appliance–has BSD inside. Because of its innately generative qualities (including the relatively transparent language of its API, Objective-C), the iPhone was opened up just a few months after its release in a textbook kind of collaboration among self-organized hackers, leading to a free software toolkit that lets any programmer create new applications using all the features of the iPhone.

These examples underline the challenge Tim O’Reilly used to pose to Microsoft: without open platforms, where will its next wave of technology come from? It looks like Microsoft listened, considering its current tentative support for a few free free software projects. An industry of appliances would be poorer without generative technology.

The tether chafes

One of the central points of Zittrain’s book is that embattled computer users, worn down by the onslaught of malware, tend to retreat and give up control to centers of authority, whether by installing restrictive firewalls or buying tethered appliances that were built from the ground up to be closed.

Zittrain has several wonderful sections laying out the long-term detriment of this choice, not only for obvious topics such as technological innovation and fair use of copyrighted material, but for the balance between government and individual rights. He’s on top of all the abuses caused by manufacturers who keep control of their devices and send them automated updates–sometimes updates that deliberately disable previously available features. Tethered appliances respond to their vendors with the same flexible slavishness as computers taken over by roving bots.

But Zittrain does not use available evidence to rebut the seductive claim that choosing appliances over applications leads to more safety for the user and the overall community. Does it?

I think we have plenty of evidence to resist the tethering of previously open computers. For instance, what would most computer users trust more than a CD from Sony? And to ward off the dangers of the open Internet, should we turn to telephone companies to protect our privacy and personal data? I need say no more.

Among web services, the same worries apply. The dominant Internet appliance is Google, and every service it unveils seems to raise such fears about privacy that it has to perennially trot out its “don’t be evil” motto.

But nowhere has the trust in appliances been more dangerous than the calamitous rush to electronic voting machines without paper output, which cannot be adequately audited after deployment. We need to say loudly: closing down open systems is no solution to security risks. (Richard M. Stallman made similar points in response to Zittrain’s article, and Susan Crawford in her response.)

Web 2.0 extends generativity

The wide-area-network equivalent of a tethered alliance is “software as a service,” also known as an Application Service Provider. Here, I have to insist that Zittrain gets his terminology wrong. In place of these common industry terms, he refers to the phenomenon as Web 2.0.

Controversy has always surrounded the term Web 2.0, to be sure, despite attempts to define the phrase by Tim O’Reilly, who is credited with inventing it. Although everybody reads his own biases into the term, I don’t see any meaningful definition of Web 2.0 that includes web sites where users just log in to run an application remotely. I did see one other speaker misunderstand the term this way, but we have to resist the trend to “mash up” useful terms to the point where they lose their value and all come out in some bland uniformity.

Web 2.0 features–such as simple APIs and ways to incorporate user-submitted content–extend generativity as much as blogs and wikis do. They’re a critical stage in the ongoing evolution of the Internet. But Zittrain does offer some important critiques. Google Maps can discourage competition by co-opting it through its powerful API. And this ultimately means more control for Google–control it could leverage to artificially set the direction for mapping applications.

Thus, Web 2.0 technologies can be seen as an enablers that open up the data and applications controlled by corporations, but also as the soft glove than allow the corporate fist to push itself further and further into their clients’ lives.

My glosses and musings on “The Future of the Internet” show how much meat it provides for analysis and discussion. Anyone who can make it through this long review would get a lot from the book. In addition to drawing links among useful recommendations for preserving our freedom, Zittrain proves that the legal frameworks for making such decisions are more complex than most technologists and policy makers credit them for.

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Google Docs … so what – the ONE reason why you should care

(cross posting from Mike Riversdale: Enterprise 2.0 New Zealand style blog)

Google Apps … on-line word processing … a slightly interesting “battle” between Google and Microsoft … !? … who, apart from those with shares or have their status/job entangled to one or the other, gives a stuff really ?

If this was about who can make pretty words on a computer then I wouldn’t even bother you with it. The writing of words into something that can then be printed or even, heavens above, retrieved later to be changed and then printed again isn’t the point.

I use a gazzillion ‘editors’ for doing just that – a list of those I can remember in 30 seconds:

  • GMail (home) / Outlook (clients) email editor for creating my emails
  • Google Calendar (home) / Outlook (clients) editor for editing the description of my events
  • Blogger editor for creating my blog posts just like this
  • Text Editor on my Ubuntu machine for editing little text files I need
  • Notepad on any Windows machine for editing little text files I need
  • Profile editors around the web to update the my “about Mike”
  • Microsoft Word when I have to write a document
  • Google Docs when I have to write a document
  • OpenOffice when I have to write a document
  • … there’s bound to be many MANY others

And they all, basically, do the job.
They let me type in words, I can format those words, I can place the words in different parts of the page/screen and I can add niceties to those words (pictures, headers/footers … blah blah blah)

And they all will let me do it … really, the creation of “nice words” is easy to do with any of them.

So what!
What is the big deal about Google Docs?

The big deal is that Google Docs isn’t about “me”.
Fundamentally and by the very nature of being on the web it is about “me” + “you”.

All of the above examples of editing talk about me doing it – I edit using, I format and I place on the screen. At some point (not always) there is the need to include at least on another person in the words being created.

How many times have you written something that is for your eyes only?
In those cases I am willing to bet it makes no difference how flash the editor is, you just want to jot something down – I’m thinking of the on-line equivalent of the serviette, the back of the fag packet or the corner of a newspaper page. Anything will do – in my case that usually what I use Ubuntu Text Editor for – something quick, easy and does the job of writing the words.

Mostly however the reason the words are written down is so that the words can be shared with someone else, maybe even just one other. Even if that one other person is merely going to receive the words, read them and never return to the document again there is the need to get the words to them.

It is no longer about “me” but about “us”.

Documents (PC-based I’m thinking) are fundamentally about “one person”.
The document you edit looks lovingly into your eyes proclaiming ever lasting love just for you. If someone else tries to muscle in on this close(d) relationship they will get told to go away, I am with someone else – usually with a message like this:

Of course the words inside the document want to be loved by all and to love all. They force the document to dump one person and love another in a serial monogamy type of way. The document that was only for you will quite easily tell you to go away as they are now in a one-on-one relationship with someone else.

This issue – words love all / documents love one at a time – is a fundamental issue that many have tried to solve using any number of clever means. We’ve had software attempting to mediate the differences – every electronic document management (EDMS) system you’ve battled against lives this category. We’ve had consultants claiming to solve it via changes in work practices – ‘workflow” and the bottlenecks they employ.

The most common way employed by everyone ever is … copy the document.
The words love this – they can love more and more people. More words can join them as they spread around the network – you can put in your words, I can add my words, Stevens from Accounts can remove the words he doesn’t want – the words are out there, they love to be free and are loving all.

But once set free they’re bloody near impossible to reign back in, for a start where the frig are they – out there in the wilds of the electronic world running free is all well and good until some poor sod has to try and reign them in.

Many an organisation I have worked with has had the need of a dedicated “poor sod” to chase down the words of many, the coral them into one area and stick them all back into one document again. Normally this is done only to then send it all back out again and start the loop once more.

Google Docs?

Google Docs doesn’t live in the ‘document’ world. Oh it has similar naming conventions, it uses all the jargon that we’re used to and it pretends to be a document … but it’s not because it comes from the ‘words’ world view. It knows that the words you’re gonna edit are, 99.9% of the time, going to want to be loved by many more that you. And being on the Web they know that the world of connected people at your fingertips is massive. Not only is there the list of attractive people in your contacts list but there is everyone with an internet connection!

Google Docs lives to share the words:

  • knows that words want to be shared and that’s why you’ve typed them.
  • its world view knows/understands its connected environment
  • its capabilities are built to use this environment

Whilst I don’t think Google Docs lets the words share the love quite easily enough. For instance what if I want to share only one paragraph with the world or want to allow a bunch of people edit one page but not the rest etc etc. But Google Docs has taken the biggest step, from here on in it’s refining.

A quick word about wikis.
Wikis live by understanding the the connectivity of their environment and the innate desire of words to love all and be loved by all. In the future will there be no difference between a Google Doc and a wiki page … in fact, it may be so close already it’s just a matter of semantics and opinion.

Is only Google Docs that get this. No, it’s not just Google Docs that are taking these fundamental steps, replace “Google Docs” with “Zoho Writer and I’m equally as happy with this post. Again, you could also replace everything with “wiki” and get an even finer example of my point.

And so, if you still think that using an editor (whatever type it is … but I bet it’s Microsoft Word) is all about “you” and no-one else then take a moment to ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Who do I want to see those words I just saved and can they, right now?
  2. Who will change those words I’ve typed (even if it’s verbally/by email and you do the donkey work of re-editing)?
  3. What do I do to share my words and is it as easy as I want?

Enjoyed this, three other articles you might like to read:

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