The perils of image swiping

Back in 2004, when I posted the Unauthorized iPod U2 vs. Negativland Special Edition on eBay, I wasn’t really surprised by the attention it attracted online, but I was surprised by how the facts got shaved down as the idea spread. It’s a fairly complex idea, I’ll admit—to explain it you’ve got to bring in U2 and Negativland and iPods and Island Records and Kasey Casem and Downhill Battle—and more than one entry said that the iPod was a project of Negativland or of Downhill Battle. I wasn’t personally upset by these misattributions, but it did serve as a personal reminder of the way that the accuracy of many blogs is probably a little closer to that of office gossip than of high-quality journalism.

Recently I noticed a different sort of mistake: One of the iPod images was being swiped for a Chinese blog, for an entry on a new edition of the U2 iPod that had nothing to do with Negativland:

It’s easy to imagine how this happened: This blogger wanted to pass on an Apple press release but also wanted to spruce it up with some pictures, so she entered “U2 iPod” into an image search engine and stumbled upon this photo. Not knowing anything about the Unauthorized iPod U2 vs. Negativland Special Edition—if there’s been anything written about it in the Chinese language, I’m not aware of it—she blithely included it in her blog post and never gave it a second thought.

I find it amusing to imagine some random reader of this blog seeing the unfamiliar band name in the iPod display and maybe doing a little Googling on the subject. And since discovering this, I’ve been trying to figure out if this dynamic can be exploited more generally, to dupe image-swiping bloggers into carrying subtle political messages on their own blogs … nothing comes to mind, alas. But maybe I’ll come up with something.

Bonafide art exhibit news

This September, Negativland is having a show at gigantic artspace in Tribeca, and they’ve been nice enough to invite me along. I’ll be installing a reprise of the Unauthorized iPod U2 vs. Negativland Special Edition—labeled “2G”, for the iPod cultists who know what that means—to serve as a listening station for Negativland’s music.

In preparing for the show, I’ve been spending some time in the SoHo Apple Store, trying to think of how to echo their retail design for a real-space presentation of what was originally a mostly virtual project. (Without paying for a glass staircase or anything like that, of course.) It might be perverse to admit how much I respect Apple’s design and marketing, but of course if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have done the iPod the first time ‘round.

The show runs from September 9 to October 22; read the full release here.

Adieu, iPod

Maybe it’s because Apple’s lawyers have had their hands full with other matters, who’s to say? All I know is that the three-week auction of the Unauthorized iPod U2 vs. Negativland Special Edition went off without a hitch. 20 people submitted 31 bids, with the winner being Francis Schmit, with a high bid of $667. Francis actually lives in Luxembourg, and tells me he heard about the auction from the article in the French newspaper Libération. Vive le France! Or, I suppose, Luxembourg.

After I got Francis’ money, I donated $217.50 of it—the final bid minus the $449.50 cost of materials—to Downhill Battle. Then I packed up the iPod, and shipped it off. Part of me feels wistful at sending it away, while the other part is glad to have the thing out of my bedroom. Now somebody else can have his hands on it. Whether Francis mounts it in a glass case or takes it on the metro is up to him.

Adieu, iPod

Continue reading “Adieu, iPod” »

Seven days left

With just seven days left, bidding for the Unauthorized iPod U2 vs. Negativland Special Edition is now up to $516. If you’re thinking about bidding, keep in mind that at this point, every extra dollar spent goes straight into Downhill Battle’s pockets!

This isn’t so closely related to the political issues behind the iPod, but it’s been interesting trying to run my own auction without relying on an intermediary like eBay. Beyond the general inconvenience of having to process bids and bid alerts by hand, I’ve also been trying to find a balance between making it easy for people to bid and being able to reassure bidders that all of the listed bids are serious. It brings up lots of questions about online identity and trust: I’ll have more to say about this when the auction is done.

If you want to follow conversations about this in the blogosphere, you could use the PubSub feed I created for the occasion. There have also been stories in Wired News and even Libération, which I’ve heard is one of the major newspapers in France. If I could read French, that would be even cooler.

U2 vs. Negativland vs. Apple vs. eBay vs. me, take 2

Here goes nothing: The Unauthorized iPod U2 vs. Negativland Special Edition, removed from eBay last December due to Apple’s objections, is now available for auction here on my own site. Bidding is open until March 14, 2005. This auction period is quite a bit more than what would be offered on eBay, because bid handling will be much less automated. Get your bids in now!