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

Archive for the ‘politics’ 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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Summary of my thesis

In BitTorrent, file-sharing, media ecology, media history, p2p, politics, Sweden on October 26, 2010 at 6:35 pm

As I have now had my Ph.D. recently registered with University of London, I want to take the opportunity to present a brief summary of it here.

Obviously, in 346 pages, there is a LOT more to draw on from it. The subject of p2p-based file-sharing is a complex one, and one challenge was to concentrate all this complexity into a comprehensive – yet not overly simplifying – account.

Please email me if you want a copy of the thesis. See my personal webpage or this blog for contact details.

My thesis is about Swedish file-sharers’ own arguments and motives. I analyze how they justify their habits, and what they refer to. I interviewed Swedish file sharers and analyzed blogs, newspapers, debates and web comments. I placed great emphasis on connecting the arguments to various sociological theories of representation, agency, justification and morality, as well as to the actual technical, economic, historical, demographic and geographical conditions. As the actual p2p protocols (especially BitTorrent protocol) are so central to the drama, the sociologist’s role is to determine: What is BitTorrent? How shall we understand the “nature” of a network, and the way the users themselves constantly invoke this “nature”? Ontology – how reality is described and defined – becomes the crux of the debate.

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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 »

Avatar 3D as cinematic milestone

In aesthetics, economy, media history, movies, philosophy, politics, review on January 7, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Good action movies tend to put their CGI-generated finger on some sort of zeitgeist. James Cameron’s Avatar does, as it not only currently makes the prime example of 3D cinema as media technology, but also contains some telling clues to current philosophical, economic and political debates.

In terms of media history, 3D cinema will probably entail a rebirth of the whole Hollywood experience; particularly the screening as an event, a unique experience. This will especially come to show later in 2010, when Alice in Wonderland premieres as a Tim Burton-directed 3D movie.

The big 3D premiere of 2009, James Cameron’s Avatar, was in some ways a brilliant experience. Sure, we were expecting critical doses of trustafarian cod-spiritualism and new age (similar to the Matrix trilogy’s “Zion”). We were expecting overly evident metaphors and a lot of Messianic hubris – but so is the nature of the genre. Those things aside, it is as driven and inspired a story as Terminator 2 or the first Matrix movie ever were. Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A re “pirate politics”

In politics, post-piratical, Sweden on October 13, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Goldsmiths MA student and “occasional journalist” Justin Pickard recently contacted me to debrief me regarding some background material for a forthcoming Wired article on “pirate politics”. Here’s an edit of our email exchange, for the record:

I guess, when being asked about “pirate politics,” that the Pirate Bay court case and the subsequent popularity of The Pirate Party (in the European Parliament elections) here in Sweden has showed that there is a huge civic, national interest in questions regarding digitization, changing conditions for copyright, and issues of privacy, surveillance, data retention etc. The problem is that the mainstream parties have failed to properly debate these things, to bring them up onto the agenda.

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The Pirate Bay: Two important speculations

In file-sharing, marketing, media ecology, p2p, politics, post-piratical, Sweden on July 1, 2009 at 9:51 am

Following the announcement that The Pirate Bay will be sold to a Swedish software company, there has been a lot of turmoil and dissent in online communities.

With his typical, holier-than-thou, straight faced idealism, the Pirate Bay spokesman Peter Sunde says in his Twitter feed: ‘People hate me now for wanting to pause the 6 year free work we’ve been doing. Feels unfair.’

Why? Because the move to sell the website appears to be part of a greater manoeuvre, that the men behind The Pirate Bay have hinted about in various forms over the last year. Although a situation like this can give rise to a lot of speculation, it is therefore important to note two things…

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The Pirate Bay: Commercial acquisition in a media-historic perspective

In file-sharing, history, marketing, media ecology, p2p, politics, post-piratical, Sweden on July 1, 2009 at 9:18 am

On June 30th, 2009, The Pirate Bay announced that they are to sell their trademark and website to the Swedish software company Global Gaming Factory X, with the proviso that said company can raise the 60 million SEK (€5,5 million) needed. If it is true that the purchase will come to pass, it will be a very interesting development in terms of media history.

This is a translation of my editorial published on Swedish debate site Newsmill.se.

As a PhD student writing my thesis on Swedish file-sharing, and with a general interest in digitization as a material and historical process, I instantly thought of two observations, rooted in media history:

(1) First of all, it shows that unrestricted file-sharing need not be antithetical to capitalism. In fact, it can be argued to be as much a product of capitalism as tabloid newspapers, pyramid schemes, and ring tones.

So-called “illegal” file sharing sites and services often have a latent commercial potential, right from the beginning. The Pirate Bay has for a long while been financed by advertising and merchandise sales, for example.

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1999 > 1968 ?

In history, politics, post-piratical on April 29, 2009 at 12:14 pm

The politics of the net contain the remedy to its own inherent populism. These politics are arguably more about an “us-against-us” than an “us-against-them”.

The net is boiling and the sentence against The Pirate Bay has raised the temperature. Online civic mobilisation is bubbling throughout Europe, regarding the possible amendments to the EU Telecoms Reform Package which can guarantee better rights for everyday users, in the face of increasing commercialisation, segmentation and regulation. As the political mobilisation regarding all this has swelled very rapidly over the last months, in Sweden it has recently been suggested that this online civil movement is beginning to reach some predictable states, where self-appointed spokesmen and pre-written party manifestos appear. This is a translation of my response to those suspicions, recently published on the Swedish debate site Newsmill.se.

Something is in the air. Spring is blooming, online as well as offline. However, the roots of today’s online political mobilisation are arguably found in the digital revolution of 1999 rather than in the political turning point that was 1968.

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The Pirate Bay: The verdict marks the beginning of the “post-piratical”

In file-sharing, media ecology, p2p, politics, Sweden on April 20, 2009 at 1:31 pm

We saw a guilty verdict against all four prosecuted in the Pirate Bay trial, but this will be appealed and most likely go all the way to Sweden’s equivalent of the Supreme Court. The ruling symbolises how we are in the middle of a conflict between law and the new realities of the Internet, says media researcher Jonas Andersson.

This is a translation of my editorial published last Friday on Swedish debate site Newsmill.se.

We are entering a “post-piratical” decade. Unregulated file-sharing is a condition, no exception.

We have seen regular attacks against the “pirates”. Serious accusations, severe measures. Even convictions, such as this one. But the effect is fleeting. Some now point to the implementation of laws like IPRED and swear that “downloading is going down”. If only it were that simple. Also this effect is most likely transient. Read the rest of this entry »