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Monthly Archives: April 2013

The idea of “commons” is extremely interesting. Cultural, physical and social resources that are ideally available to anybody, anywhere would be an extremely powerful thing. Indeed it IS an extremely powerful thing, because in this information age the means are finally catching up with the ideals of modern information sharing.

Of interest to me quite specifically is piracy, and the distribution of material that’s copyrighted into the public space for free. The peer to peer foundation’s website defines many of the elements of the “commons” idea, particularly outlining the whole ‘opposition to capitalism’ elements to it. This opposition to capitalism is pretty much where the entirety of film pirate’s logic derives from. In the piracy scene there’s a “fuck Hollywood” logic that rails against the capitalistic and business based tendencies of film production for money. Most would probably realise that this is just an excuse used to justify pirate activities, but it still does reflect an increased inclination in the public to not want to pay for content, but share it and experience it together. P2P filesharing, for better or worse, allowed millions and probably billions of people free access to art and culture. And not all of it illegal, just most of it probably – I think the exact number is around 90%.

Jay Walljasper’s article at nicely consolidates how the public mood is shifting in regards to things like piracy and the sharing of information freely. He talks about how people are everywhere yearning for a world that’s more sustainable and economical in terms of physical items. Everyone for instance cares or at least pretends to care about our impact on the future, past and each other. Most importantly though Walljasper’s article highlights the deep desire for satisfaction. Wikipedia, the large knowledge compendium made by the people for the people, is exactly satisfying because it is made by people and despite what some may say, its mostly accurate. Well it was accurate enough to put Encarta and friends out of business. The satisfaction of sharing a torrent is much the same, its illegal and technically stealing, but you’re contributing access to something that could mean quite a lot to you, you’re gonna only ‘seed’ movies and shows you like. By doing so, you share your greatest likes or loves with the world. You could easily say, as the P2P foundation does the film studios are fostering exclusion with their capitalistic practices, those crazy pirates are instead replacing this with good old fashioned inclusion. Everyone gets to join in on the fun.

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Archives. As humans they’re basically the greatest thing we could have. We can circumvent our own sometimes faulty memories to store bounds of information and histories. We desire a system that is flawless and cannot let us down, like our brains sometimes do. Maybe that’s why I leave post it notes everywhere like some kind of amnesiac.

As a film fan, one of my favourite websites is the Internet Movie Database. Owned by Amazon, the IMDB is the most powerful tool for basically objective movie knowledge. There are forums and other ‘sub archives’ containing opinions but ultimately I feel like it’s a shining beacon of the factual. Any individual movie page contains things like genre, parental guidance rating, duration, who’s in the movie or whatever stuff like that. I don’t know about other people but I feel like it’s definitely a joy to scroll on through the database, learning facts you never knew and so on. I guess that’s a kind of archive fever, the desire to scrawl and learn whatever knowledge you choose.

The technology of individual sites or archival systems controls how we access the content and thus understand it according to Jacques Derrida’s Archive Theory. In the case of IMDB a site contributed to by external authorities it’s pretty straight forward, the data is arranged on the page from the most important facts that people would want to know about movies at the top, down to trivia, soundtrack details and extra stuff left at the bottom.  A site like Facebook or Twitter however relies on its content from mostly personal sources. These sites are all about archiving our personal histories, in fact trawl through Facebook usingthe recently added timeline feature and you’ll find that you have a complete picture of yours or someone else’s life over the past however many years they’ve had facebook.

In this way, everyone on social media has Archive Fever, we’re obsessed with storing and accumulating data and an identity for ourselves using mechanisms in the digital space. I think in the short term it’s a great way of getting a sense of who we are. Long term, who knows though? IS too much of us published?