A few weeks ago, I had the honor and pleasure to give a talk in Moscow for the Russian Government, who are in the process of assessing their Intellectual Property policy, as well as Google, who co-organized the event.
While most of the other speakers (record and movie execs, WIPO officials, IP attorneys, think tankers, etc) focused on specific IP policy items, I chose instead to focus on creative communities themselves, in whose name intellectual property law is enacted and enforced. Specifically, I focused on six creative communities (three traditional, three emerging) that have thrived in the absence of copyright control or enforcement, both in terms of cultural innovation and economic benefit. (For more in-depth analysis, see the book chapter about music and fashion I co-authored with Marissa Gluck a few years back).
The specific creative communities I discussed included quilting, food, fashion, mashups, doujinshi, fansubbing, and Filipino cover bands.
The talk went over well, but whether I swayed the Russians away from potential copyright maximalism remains to be seen. Below are audio from my talk, as well as my PowerPoint slides.
You can listen to the audio here: http://bit.ly/sinnrussia2011
And here are the slides: http://slidesha.re/jKSMJM
A few weeks after my talk, President Medvedev addressed the G8 summit, and expressed his doubts about the strategic value of copyright maximalism. In his words:
"The declaration reflects an absolutely conservative position that intellectual property rights should be protected according to the existing conventions. No one questions that, but I have repeatedly stated that, unfortunately, those conventions were written 50 or almost 100 years ago, and they are unable to regulate the whole complex of relations between the copyright owner and users. . . Unfortunately, this was not included in the declaration because, in my opinion, my colleagues have a more conservative opinion than is necessary at the moment. Or maybe they just don't use the Internet and have little understanding of it."
I'm sure I can't take full credit for this, but I'd like to think I played a small role.
Posted at 11:51 in Aesthetic Theory, Appropriation, Art and Technology, Art History, Art Industry, Communication Policy, DIY, Education, Food and Drink, Globalization, Intellectual Property, Media Ownership, Music, Music Industry, Network Society, personal, Race, Remix Culture, Resistant Aesthetic Practices, Subcultures, telecom, Visual culture, work | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
One of the greatest pleasures of attending the recent Masters of Amateurism: Remix conference in Amsterdam was meeting Joost Smiers, a fellow speaker and fellow traveler in general. Joost and I began a dialogue at the conference that, to my delight, we've continued in email form ever since.
Below, Joost responds to specific passages and arguments in my book "Mashed Up," I respond to his responses, he responds to my responses, and so forth. I've avoided the threading issues by reformatting the conversation as a simple dialogue.
AS: Thank you. Simon means "listening," and Asha means "hope" -- so it's really for my children.
True. And the copyright industries in the US continue to push for legislation that would formalize this responsibility at the Federal level.
No, I haven't yet -- although I have an idea for some research on the subject that's been on my back-burner for years.
I don't read French, unfortunately. But I'd be interested to read a translation.
I agree with you completely, and I hope I haven't given any impression to the contrary.
Whose face do you see in this particular image? I made it myself, using a well-known photograph of a famous celebrity!
No idea whose face! But, you know?
Yes, I do. But I'll have to tell you privately, because I don't want to have to defend my "fair use" of the image in court.
It's the best I could think of in 2005! I also considered the term "soft culture," which would be analogous to software.
True. As I argue, this is only proto-. The ethic was there, but not the tools.
It's more common than you think, and includes the majority of US adults. I have fielded survey data on the subject since 2006. Will publish the latest data soon.
That's one of the underlying questions of the book, and I believe the answer is unequivocally yes. But it really depends on your value system and your vantage point.
I think the total eclipsing of mainstream culture is a false expectation. Much more important is the democratization of participation. It's ok if we still have Star Wars and Spiderman, as long as people can use these symbols to communicate and express themselves, as they would with any other "common" cultural element.
Yes, I think you have a compelling argument.
Yes, I think you're missing the importance of this because you're looking at the wrong metric. I don't expect or seek the neutralization of power relations, simply a renegotiation of their boundaries. Marketing and political muscle will always buy allegiance, and arguably societies need common symbols in order to function. The question is really who has the permission to use what forms of expression in which contexts. The structure of participation is more relevant than the content of participation.
I agree in principle that we should exercise our collective strength via the market and the political process to limit the cultural power of oligarchs to the extent that such power impinges on the liberties of everyone else. I guess our disagreement is really one of semantics and scope. I don't let myself believe in a world in which everyone participates and shares on an equal footing, because I don't have any interest in waging a Quixotic battle, or in being perpetually disappointed. Yet I certainly believe that we can effect change towards a more equal distribution of power, and that has always been one of my primary focuses.
I'm not sure I agree with your claim that "Not every expression has value, aesthetically, morally, or whatever." I certainly don't find value in every expression, but I've never seen an expression that wasn't valued by someone. Even the bombardment of advertisements and commercials in every communications channel, which I largely detest, are evaluated with critical enthusiasm by members of the marketing community. So the problem with this assertion is that you have to privilege your own subjective vantage point above all else -- which I'm not willing to do.
As to the rest of your argument, I wholeheartedly agree. We need to understand cultural power relations as emerging from separate but related processes at the symbolic, infrastructural, regulatory, and market levels, and to ignore any of these dimensions would undermine our understanding and effectiveness on the others.
It's an overall idea. I focus on DJs because they were "ahead of the curve" in dealing with the destabilizing effects of configurability.
I like your analysis a lot, and it doesn't differ much from mine. In my model, aesthetics, semiotics, semantics and functional design choices coexist in every form of human expression, and though the aesthetic dimension (which I conceive of as a cognitive/affective map) is more immediately evident in some forms, ultimately the distinction can only be made functionally (e.g. Duchamp's "Fountain"). Ultimately, however, I critique the value and purpose of distinguishing between aesthetic and non-aesthetic (or less-aesthetic) works as a fundamentally politicized and therefore suspect undertaking.
"Emancipate yourself from mental slavery -- none but ourselves can free our minds." I agree completely. the only question is one of efficacy. Should we work to eliminate the power of cultural oligarchs altogether through political and/or market forces; counter that power through democratized production and critique; focus on the independence of our own minds through meditation and/or cultural engagement; or some combination of the above? Our conversation keeps returning to the question of whether (cultural) power must necessarily be monopolizable. Maybe I'm brainwashed for thinking the answer is yes. Or maybe I'm just trying to develop a critical strategy based on actual rather than ideal circumstances.
I think the concept of the critic is vital to art worlds as we understand them, but part of my argument is that, like the role of "artist," the critic has become more difficult to detect in a configurable context.
So you don't recognize any value or merit in the work of Sherrie Levine, for example? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherrie_Levine). As her work argues, there's no such thing as taking work without changing it.
That's essentially what I ask my interviewees in Chapter 6.
Looks very cool. I wish I'd known about it when I was there last month!
True, although there are also economic and professional structures in place, as well as aesthetic traditions, that reinforce this distinction.
Yes, I've read that article, and it's excellent.
Not exactly. You're right that I use the term ambiguously at times. To me, nearly all cultural expression is becoming configurable in nature. However, there are some genres and traditions in which the logic of configurability has become central over the past 25 years -- e.g. hip-hop, techno, house, karaoke, remix, mashups, etc. Therefore, I focus on these communities of practice because they have a more evolved discourse and debate on the subject. My survey responses are intended to address the discursive landscape on behalf of configurable cultural actors outside of these relatively narrow fields.
Yes, I know Lovink's work fairly well. You're right, I should be in better touch with them.
Yes, one almost suspects he's staked out his claim just to enjoy the privileges of the contrarian!
Yes, that's treated as a given in the standard discourse.
Posted at 12:02 in Aesthetic Theory, Appropriation, Art and Technology, Books, Communication Policy, Cultural Studies, DIY, Education, Film, Free Software, Friends, Genre, Style and Taste, Globalization, Intellectual Property, Internet, Marketing, Media Ownership, Music, Music Industry, Network Society, personal, Politricks, Popular Culture, Remix Culture, Resistant Aesthetic Practices, telecom, viral video, Visual culture, work | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
First degree of abstraction: the common chicken, domesticated over millennia to select for edibility, docility, and big, yummy eggs.
Second degree of abstraction: a roasted chicken, delivering on the implicit promise in its breeding. Now suitable for consumption.
Third degree of abstraction: the drumstick, separated from the rest of the roasted chicken's body and reified as a meal or a product in itself. Instantly identifiable and even synecdochal, the part of the chicken standing for the whole.
Fifth degree of abstraction: "drumstix"-shaped edible dog treats, presumably made with a variety of ingredients, including a few derived from chickens. Visually, the iconography of the drumstick has been flattened and miniaturized. The shape says "chicken" to humans, who do the buying, while the smell probably says something similar to dogs, who do the eating.
Final degree of abstraction: flat, miniaturized, drumstick-shaped, reconstituted chicken-plus-other-stuff sold for human consumption. The dematerialized signifier is reunited with its original signified, albeit with the entire genealogy of abstraction still compressed between the two. The entire history of consumer culture writ small. Yum!
And, though it's not my usual cup o' tea, the song's pretty good too. Kind of Prince-y without being too precious.
(via about 9 FB friends in the last 2 hours)
It's so simple, it's brilliant. Nick Pittsinger used an open-source sound-stretching program called Paulstretch to slow down Beeeeeeber's "U Smile" to 12.5% of its original speed. The result is kind of like Vangelis meets Philip Glass. It also kind of reminds me of Bill Viola's video installation series The Passions and V/VM's audio destruction in his guise as the Caretaker.
There's been a lot of interesting research on acoustics and genre over the years, but maybe it all just comes down to tempo and its effect on timbre...J. BIEBZ - U SMILE 800% SLOWER by Shamantis
(Seen on Gawker)
Posted at 11:59 in Aesthetic Theory, Appropriation, Art and Technology, Free Software, Genre, Style and Taste, Music, Musicology, Popular Culture, Remix Culture, Resistant Aesthetic Practices, viral video, Visual culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
So far, I've avoided blogging about ChatRoulette -- mostly out of sour grapes, because I'm annoyed at myself for missing the early adoption window. Anyway, of the many wondrous uses people have found for the platform, my favorite so far is this pianist, who improvises songs about the people he's chatting with. As a songwriter, I can vouch -- this guy's got flow.
(seen on Greg's blog)
Just in case you thought that the theft vs. democratization arguments started with digital and configurable culture, Don Argott's new documentary The Art of the Steal is here to tell you otherwise:Update: for the record, I discovered this trailer when my friend, business partner, and earlier adoptrix Marissa Gluck mentioned it on Facebook.
It even has a record button. All it needs now is some decent beatmatching:
As a 1980s graffiti culture kid [my very lamely-rendered tags were "cosa" and "spirit"] and a 21st-century media tech geek, I've enjoyed all of the digital/graffiti mashups of the last few years, from Graffiti Research Lab to Sweatshoppe.
But there's something even cooler about this latest labor of love. It's not a new way to get digital information up on a wall, but rather the opposite: a method for capturing the exact motions of a tagger, in time, with an open-source light pen attached to a marker.
Back in the day, graffiti artists used to carry around "blackbooks," documenting their best work and containing sketches and studies for larger "pieces" they planned to put up on walls, subways, etc. The digital blackbook project will not only make this work available for the world to see, but offer a unique insight into the calligraphic techniques employed by writers as well.
If I could beam this back to my 1985 self, I would probably think this was something right out of Max Headroom.