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

Posts Tagged ‘Overview’

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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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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“Efter The Pirate Bay”

In file-sharing, media ecology, media history, net neutrality, p2p, post-piratical, Sweden on October 18, 2010 at 9:08 am

In September 2010, me and Pelle Snickars (Head of Research at Sweden’s Royal Library) released an anthology called Efter The Pirate Bay, a reader aimed at the Swedish general reading public, featuring a range of interesting authors on the subject of file-sharing, digitization, copyright reform and the “pirate” movement in Sweden.

See this link for more info. Unfortunately, Efter The Pirate Bay is only available in Swedish, and no English translation is planned. However, the national public interest in Sweden has been considerable, and I believe that many of the insights that I draw on in my currently finalized Ph.D. thesis and in the book are of interest to the English-language reading public as well.

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This blog is now authored by a doctor

In everyday life, file-sharing, p2p, Sweden on October 17, 2010 at 2:49 pm

The Liquidculture Notebook has been quite dormant as of lately. The reasons are many – I have been busy with relocating to Sweden, editing a brand new reader on The Pirate Bay, working as a teacher and translator. You can read more about it here (Jonas Andersson’s personal homepage).

And, more importantly: In June 2010 I went back to London in order to get through my viva voce for finally getting that Ph.D. degree. My two examiners were Don Slater (LSE) and Jon Dovey (UWE). And I’m happy to announce that I passed my viva, with no modifications!

During the summer and early autumn, the academic formalities have moved forward, very slowly, and I’m now about to register my thesis with University of London, and their Senate House academic archive. More publications are in the works. Please do not hesitate to email me if you are interested in a pdf copy.

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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Oh crud, The Economist!

In file-sharing, Internet traffic, music, p2p on November 13, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Open letter to The Economist, regarding their misleading article on the supposed “decline” of p2p-based file-sharing, where they use Sweden as a key example, however basing their interpretation on wildly misleading data. Also in their leader they uncritically continue said argument.

Sir,

It saddens me that your otherwise so respectable publication has chosen to uncritically put forward biased and badly supported evidence for your assertion this week that 60 % of Swedish file-sharers would have “cut back or stopped altogether”. The information you refer to is from a web survey conducted by the Swedish wing of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). These are by no means independent, nor statistically valid findings. In fact, the same report states that 40 % of Swedes between 15 and 74 would illegally share files every day, a higher figure than any earlier estimate and a similarly unplausible suggestion. 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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I fought a loudness war

In aesthetics, art, everyday life, media ecology, music, philosophy on October 5, 2009 at 9:17 pm

One of the most striking features of popular music in the last decade has been the “loudness war”. The music we listen to has become increasingly louder in the last 20 years, as it is now music industry standard to try and make the soundwaves contained within a sound file as maximised as possible, in terms of loudness.

By a combination of extreme compression of the dynamic range and make-up gain, the sound range is boosted to a more uniform level, removing the peaks and troughs that would normally separate a quieter verse from a pumping chorus. (Read more about it here and here.)

As this is the normative aesthetic nowadays – “it has to sound like this” – the sociology of music should really sharpen its ears and point them in this direction. It is extremely interesting in terms its philosophical implications. So, let us delve deeper into the aesthetic implications of loudness below!

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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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