Thursday, April 17, 2008

The fantasy of cultural control, and the crisis of distribution

What strikes me, when reading Armin Medosch’s fascinating account of the increasingly hostile downside to all the “free” culture hype of lately, is how different logics of control become layered upon one another and serve to reinforce each other in rather nebulous ways. New technologies allow for freer exchange, but this becomes seized upon also by the cultural industries which then come to expect cheaper terms of trade for everyone involved, especially struggling artists. All this while we’re all applauding, because “free” is always good, isn’t it?

[...] the common word that digitisation makes it easier to access stuff is in fact only superficially true. Once again, on the raw, jungle-like networks this accessibility is directly determined by the search function. Mesh-like spheres like p2p and Web 2.0 networks might help to heighten the visibility of individual acts of consumption/production, but only in a way which is temporary, never fully overseeable, and ultimately statistical, where a panoptic view can only be attained by means of a search. And searches, as we all know, require prior knowledge.
Precisely because of this, well-maintained and comprehensive metadata is not enough. Active and deliberate connectors are still needed, especially since one of these primary connecting practices is the one linking the online with the offline, a gap which should not be seen as a barrier but which becomes exacerbated by the purely online ventures of social networks and torrent archives. Here Piratbyrån, Deptford.TV and burntprogress share similarities, despite the decidedly different practices of these three examples. They re-territorialise and by doing so, compel everyone into opinion or at least awareness. They shed light. They editorialise. They redistribute, or at least help users organise themselves to privately re-distribute in more orchestrated and thus more meaningful, potentially profitable ways. That can only be a good thing.
Jonas Andersson comments on the contributions made by Armin Medosch and Rasmus Fleischer (Piratbyrån) that are to appear in paper form in the Deptford.TV diaries II — Pirate Strategies reader (forthcoming, OpenMute publishing), and in digital form on Armin’s site