On the transformation of everyday culture in an era of liquid modernity

Archive for the ‘cultural industries’ Category

New article: Piracy as activism

In cultural industries, everyday life, file-sharing, media ecology, p2p, politics, post-piratical, Sweden on February 10, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I have a couple of new academic articles in the pipeline.

The first one to be published in 2011 is found in the bilingual online Greek journal Re-Public, which has a current theme issue on the topic of “piracy as activism”. The aim of this issue is to explore “pirate practices and subjectivities in terms of their resistance to the dominant organisations of everyday life” (quoting the editors’ own introduction), and it’s out now, available in both Greek and English.

“It takes (at least) two to tango” is a short article about the activist subject and the pirate subject – and how it seems impossible to maintain agential “purity” in an era that is characterised by an even more complex tangle of agency, in which we as subjects are embedded. My argument, in short, is that the forms of activism found online, connected to what is commonly called the “pirate” movement, are hard to separate from consumerism and entrepreneurialism, given that what is traded remains to be products from the cultural industry, and that all forms of establishment of hubs, sites and the likes are akin to (real or potential) commercial ventures, albeit of an “outlaw” or “rogue” kind.

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The one-sided assumptions in the Pirate Bay ruling

In BitTorrent, copyright, cultural industries, economy, file-sharing, law, media ecology, p2p, politics, Sweden on November 30, 2010 at 8:03 pm

This is a translation of an article that I wrote in Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on Nov 27th, following the verdict from the Swedish Court of Appeal in the famous Pirate Bay copyright infringement case.

According to the current ruling in the Pirate Bay trial, the Court of Appeal makes a very interesting comparison between The Pirate Bay and services like Google and YouTube, which also distribute copyrighted material:

“If the nature of a search service is such that it primarily is a valuable tool in lawful activities, and of general benefit to society, if this legitimate use predominates, but the distribution or transmission of illegal material in spite of precautions cannot be ruled out, the operation of such a service should be considered as legitimate.” [emphasis added]

In fact, the ruling depends on whether one sees file-sharing as a fundamentally good thing for society, or as a public hazard. Once again, the saga of The Pirate Bay shows that the law is eminently political.

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A new, yet formalised way forward

In copyright, cultural industries, economy, file-sharing, media ecology, music, p2p, politics on March 19, 2010 at 10:47 am

Bennett Lincoff, former Director of Legal Affairs for New Media at ASCAP, was in Sweden recently. Although he is not an outright opponent of the current copyright system, he has a radical proposal of how copyright law should work online. The recording industry still bases their entire business model on selling copies; a retrograde strategy, he argues. Instead, he proposes a digital transmission right for the Internet. He argues that the Net is fundamentally incompatible with the old business model of selling individual copies of popular culture.

This is a new type of license, a digital transmission license to replace all other rights on the Internet. In his proposal, anyone who wants to transfer copyrighted material digitally would have to buy such a transmission license: websites that broadcast music, namely Internet radio or other types of streaming media, but also individual file sharers who know that they share large amounts of copyrighted music. Read the rest of this entry »

Much better, the Economist!

In cultural industries, marketing, media ecology on December 6, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Last week’s Economist featured one of the best articles on the new media landscape in a good while. Backed by solid statistics, for once, this article observed a tendency that I and many others have suspected for a long while now: Digitization benefits niche content and blockbusters, rather than the middle category of “near-hits” or “mid-list” titles. What is booming in an Internet-driven marketplace are the two extreme ends of “the long tail”, not the middle bit.
There has been an established term for this floating around on the Net for a while, actually. “The Death Valley problem” refers to how big actors are flourishing and small actors are flourishing while the ones in-between struggle:

Big companies have marketing muscle. They survive by bending the world to their will. Small companies are nimble. They survive by adapting to the world’s dynamism. In between we see a “Death Valley” filled with mid-size companies too small to bend the world, too big to adapt to it.

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Orchestral manoeuvres in the dark

In art, cultural industries, everyday life, marketing, media ecology, music on October 28, 2009 at 4:53 pm

If you are a fantastic cultural producer, what good is it if no-one hears, sees or gets to know about your work? The problem of structural support to the cultural industries is as much to do with supporting new forms of distribution and recommendation systems as it is to do with direct economic support to producers, or leveraging employment rules and state subsidies in useful ways, or due appreciation also to distinctly amateur forms of production.

That last note, about the importance of appreciating amateur forms of production, is essentially there as an inital reservation: Of course I’m in favour of an amateur-led wave of cultural production, better enabled by digital technology. Who isn’t? And of course it is great that tools and knowledge are more horizontally distributed now, favouring bazaar-like modes of organization over cathedral-like ones.

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