[-empyre-] Voracious consumption and Let's not Alienate any kind of Labour

Renate Ferro rtf9 at cornell.edu
Sat Jun 5 13:07:49 EST 2010

Hi Sean,  Just thought you would like to know that my students this past
semester were obsessed with AAAARG-- downloading all of the texts that they
wanted to read especially historical ones revolving around their own thirst
for theory and philosophy. So after assignments in the reader that I gave
them NOT from AAARG,they would download other related texts from AAARG and
consume them voraciously. The fear that AAAARG might now be there tomorrow
fueled their energies to download more.  It was pretty amazing to witness.

On another note, (I don't mean to seem school marmish here) but I want to
encourage us to acknowledge the fact that we are all laborers.  Some of us
work with words, or images, or code but hopefully we are all lucky enough to
get up in the morning and systematically "work" regardless of whether it is
in academia or elsewhere.  To draw distinctions I feel is unproductive on
our -empyre list serve.

By the way thanks for explaining the correlation between AAAARG and The
Public School. Renate

On 6/4/10 8:55 PM, "Sean Dockray" <sean.patrick.dockray at gmail.com> wrote:

> If it helps, Emmett, I also have mixed and contradictory feelings
> about the practice.
> I know I've been playing too much chess recently - I'm imagining how
> discussions over "book piracy" seem to open up along fairly common
> lines: e4 - why are there restrictions on the movement of texts when
> it is technically possible to overcome geographic, political, or
> economic limitations? c5 - authors and publishers have put in real
> labor and deserve monetary compensation in return.
> The variations that might come out of this position? Attempts to prove
> that piracy actually helps book sales as opposed to reducing them.
> Arguments to settle for symbolic capital or other forms of
> valorization that can be "cashed in" elsewhere. Assurances that if
> piracy just went away the market would make sure that all those
> limitations were overcome. Proposals for micro-payments, creative
> commons, and other reforms. (This is obviously not the route chosen by
> Macmillan, who made news last year for "standing up to" Amazon over
> lower prices for digital books). Less common lines might be that
> piracy amounts to a strange form of unpaid marketing; that when it
> comes to art and theory, reading and writing doesn't break down so
> cleanly along the lines of consumption and production, or leisure and
> labor.
> Emmett's argument about alienated labor resonates with me at this
> moment in particular because I have had to wait until finishing my
> full-time day job (which is the equivalent of writing ad copy) each
> day to participate in this week's discussion! I'm assuming some in
> this discussion have a university job based in these issues, or are
> teaching a class on them, or are writing on the topics? Some are in
> the position to translate the knowledge or symbolic value from
> discussions on this list into real income. I'm conflicted when tenured
> faculty use AAAARG to make a reader for their classes, to save
> themselves time. I completely agree with the calls to think about the
> unaffiliated, selfishly I suppose, because that's my camp!
> [ One thing that I'm wondering is, should these discussions be based
> on the assumption that each download represents quantifiable lost
> income for publisher and author? Obviously this has legal precedent,
> where people end up "owing" a few million dollars because of the music
> they downloaded. But the zero-sum logic of it all frames the
> discussion in a certain way. The actual economics of publishing are a
> mystery to me and it isn't public, so I'm left with speculation (watch
> out!) based on anecdotal data. I spend roughly the same amount on
> books and art as what I make on sales, fees, and rentals  (OK, I'm
> flattering myself a little bit here). Is this common? Is it the same
> thousand dollars passing through all of our hands? ]
> How might we pose our mixed feelings in a way that isn't point-
> counterpoint, but something less identifiable; or even how do we try
> and imagine possibilities beyond the capitalist framework, something
> that's not just turning the price dial down on a product until it hits
> the level where people start using their credit card again?
> Jumping over to Michael Dieter's post, which says that file-sharing,
> like gentrification, produces value that ends up in the pockets of
> those few who own the networks or buildings or whatever, I'd agree
> that Free Culture is not the road map or destination point or anything
> (and so I haven't argued for that anywhere). Looking at the
> specificity of AAAARG, which is composed of people who are generally
> cognitive workers themselves, reading and referencing as a part of
> their practice, I see a space of confrontation over the very materials
> with which we produce; many of the authors on AAAARG are also
> registered and several of them have expressed extraordinarily nuanced,
> ambivalent, and internally conflicted positions: Paul Gilroy, Jason
> Read, and Stuart Elden for example, on the site or on other networks.
> Publishers (doing their job) surreptitiously register and send cease
> and desist letters about Marxist and anti-copyright texts. And of
> course the people who use the site think quite concretely about the
> nature of the site (what belongs?) and tactics for the project.
> What I'm getting at is that it's not my place to assign a politics to
> AAAARG, that comes out of its use and out of the responses or activity
> it provokes, its life as a public space. Nevertheless, I personally
> see it aligned with the occupation movement, as something which is
> actively trying to produce conditions for critical thought, which
> itself is being downsized and subject to inane requirements to justify
> itself through results. Although I will fully support reform demands
> that come up here (for wage increases, better health insurance,
> favorable copyright laws, etc.) I feel most invested and interested in
> autonomous spaces and forms (things like Virno's "defection modifies
> the condition within which the struggle takes place, rather than
> presupposing those conditions to be an unalterable horizon" or
> Tiqqun's "The Party is a collection of places, infrastructures,
> communised means; and the dreams, bodies, murmurs, thoughts, desires
> that circulate among those places, the *use* of those means, the
> sharing of those infrastructures.")
> Back to P2P (actually in an effort to break free of the IP
> discussion).. as Pasquinelli writes of the parasite on (between) P2P
> culture (the owners of the network who take money for that very "free"
> activity), we can always be looking at who is profiting from free
> labor and Free ideology that sustains it. My mind jumps to things like
> access to libraries (my UC Library card was taken away when I stopped
> teaching) or access to JSTOR (also removed at the same time) or
> conferences, festivals, and the like. Those knowledge networks that
> academics take for granted, but the boundaries of which are most
> apparent to the precarious laborers (grad students, lecturers,
> adjuncts who regularly cross in and out of the institution, gaining
> and losing "privileges" each time), rely on valorization as
> compensation for virtually free labor, while education remains a
> profitable industry for some.
> Finally, on this idea of "sustainability" that has been brought up
> directly or indirectly in several posts... it seems like Michael is
> asking for a response about the act of writing in general: why invest
> our energies in autonomous projects if in the end, it isn't
> sustainable (they won't sustain the people who write with a living
> wage)? Of course, capitalism isn't sustainable either, but I think his
> point is that AAAARG is more of a symptom of capitalism than a
> response to it. Maybe this comes down to whether you think the system
> generates the crisis within capitalism or if we do. Either way, I'm
> not going to make an argument for file-sharing paying writers enough
> to pay their landlord, their insurance company, their kid's daycare,
> their student loans, their credit card, and so on! AAAARG is
> definitely not the solution to that. It is contingent, happening now,
> part of a movement, something that I wouldn't want to collapse or
> simply be recuperated. A different kind of sustainability we might be
> talking about.
> A little later in the Tiqqun text the lived practice of communism is
> described as "the formation of sensibility as a force" and "the
> deployment of an archipelago of worlds." This compared to iTunes for
> books or Creative Commons... a different game entirely...
> On Jun 3, 2010, at 5:57 PM, Emmett Stinson wrote:
>> I¹ve just written an article offering a pragmatic analysis of so-
>> called Œbook piracy¹ for Overland magazine, and I have mixed and
>> contradictory feelings about the practise. On the one hand, I am
>> emphatically against any attempts to criminalise or penalise
>> activities relating to not-for-profit Œbook piracy¹ and am a staunch
>> believer in copyright reform that enables a more free and open
>> access to copyrighted material. But I also come from a publishing-
>> industry perspective and strongly believe that both authors and
>> their publishers (or other intermediaries) have a legitimate right
>> to expect payment for their labour.
>> The argument that books and information should be (monetarily) free
>> to everyone is absolutely compelling for academics; since most
>> academics have salaried positions, they don¹t need royalties from
>> books to survive. But for other kinds of writers, the idea of free
>> culture may simply result in more alienated labour (i.e. people who
>> say things like ŒI write advertising copy during the week, but I¹m a
>> novelist on weekendsŠ¹).
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

More information about the empyre mailing list