[-empyre-] Book Piracy and Alienated Labour

Michael Dieter mdieter at unimelb.edu.au
Fri Jun 4 12:47:28 EST 2010

Hi Sean, Emmett and the empyre list,

I'm one of the curators of the topic for this month, along with Morgan
Currie and John Haltiwanger. Thought it’s a good time to introduce myself
through some reflections on this topic of distribution.

To pick up a number of issues flagged by Emmett around sustainability, I’m
interested in asking Sean whether he can speak more about if there are
plans to perpetuate the ethos of the AAAARG.org experiment now that the
site appears to be stalled? And on this point, I’m wondering more
specifically whether AAAARG.org has a politics, and how might that be
defined. I understand that providing access to resources and
extra-institutional education are aims, but what underpins this desire, is
it an idea of radical democracy? A liberalism? An anti-capitalism?

Of course, I’ve noticed that the way you speak about the project during
interviews does imply a certain kind of politics of networking. Partly
something out of your hands, not exactly based on critique, but about
connective or reticular alternatives (“Rather than thinking of it like a
new building ... imagine scaffolding that attaches onto existing buildings
and creates new architectures between them.”).

The relation between filesharing and intellectual property is itself a
complex situation, however. I’m wondering about the point of indistinction
with this logic of networking at the center of AAAARG.org as an exchange
economy. I'm thinking of Matteo Pasquinelli's recent work here, who has
suggestively drawn attention to the parasitic dimensions of contemporary
informational economies – utilizing the philosophy of Michel Serres –
partly as a critique of free culture ideologies. A difficult point for
radical thinking to grasp, he claims, “is that all the immaterial (and
gift) economy has a material, parallel and dirty counterpart where the big
money is exchanged. See MP3 and iPod, P2P and ADSL, free music and live
concerts, Barcelona lifestyle and real estate speculation, art world and
gentrification, global brands and sweatshops”
(http://matteopasquinelli.com/docs/immaterialcivilwar.pdf). From this
perspective, even liberated knowledge exchange-based sites like AAAARG.org
(or blogs like Monoskop, not to mention massive e-book trading forums like
Gigapedia) are not only targeted as threats to the rise of e-Reader
markets, but also paradoxically prepare the way for devices like the iPad
or Kindle in the first place. Liberated resources here return to
commodification, not directly, but on the side.

Thinking about Emmett's post, I agree we need to seriously re-think the
general impulse towards free, but also question the economics of this
situation politically. We should definitely support, celebrate and fight
for open access to resources, but it seems like there's no point being
theoretically free, if there's no possibility of sustaining that autonomy.
I'm wondering Sean if you have any thoughts on this paradoxical situation?

Michael Dieter
School of Culture and Communication
University of Melbourne

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