[-empyre-] OSW: open source writing in the network

Thomas LaMarre, Prof. thomas.lamarre at mcgill.ca
Sat Jan 14 04:13:19 EST 2012

Dear Dmytri, Tiziana, and all of you who are making for such a simulating
I wished to add to the thread with some observations and concerns from my
research, which touches on these issues in a somewhat different register,
and which draws some inspiration on your work.
Previously a set of really interesting distinctions arose in the context of
open software and open source ‹ between authoring and publishing, between
product and process, open works and open publishing. As some comments have
already pointed out, there are lots of in-between activities.  One of them
for me is the massive amount of on-line translation, which tends to respect
in its way the author and product yet frequently and deliberately opens the
process of production.  Although there are surely a wide range of examples,
I am thinking specifically of the materials that I look at ‹ scanlations,
fansubs, and to a lesser degree, video game translation and adaptation, of
Japanese products, where the major language of translation is not always
likely to be English first but maybe Chinese or Korean, and where
translation frequently moves into as many as 18 languages.  The translation
is sometime very rapid, and the sheer mass of it makes it perhaps the
largest translation project ever (with some caveats about how we measure
this and if we need to).  Such translation is at once linguistic and
technical, and as such, poses some interesting questions about how we think
language functions, about the role of English, etc.  It is often creative,
labor-intensive, and complex in organization of skills.
In any event such translating is clearly very open to recuperation by
corporate producers and distributors, and it is generally valued (dismissed
or embraced) under the rubric of fan culture or fan activities in its
relation to capital flows.  At the same time there are forms of social power
in play, which evoke or re-invoke problems of nationness, ethnicity,
language, and which sometimes mobilize protest against public policy.  It
would definitely be rash to try to leverage such activities into a unified
force against capital, and I appreciated Dmytri¹s remarks in this respect:
ŒThere is no unified force capable of contesting the interests of capital.
We need to imagine how there can be one. Before we even get a say in how the
economy should be, we need the social power to overcome those who want to
preserve the privileges provided by the current system.¹
This is precisely why these Œolder¹ or Œpersistent¹ problematics so evident
in on-line fan-translations also need to be addressed in discussions of open
writing, capital and social power.  We may not be able to address open
writing as radically as we wish within the framework of universal English,
whiteness, American empire.

On 13/01/12 8:29 AM, "Dmytri Kleiner" <dk at trick.ca> wrote:

> On 12.01.2012 21:40, tterranova wrote:
>> So free culture cannot be simply about copyright. It should be about
>> the invention or even reinvention of tools which help to produce
>> different ways of communicating through the Internet. The battle
>> against the corporate giants must involve some imagination, the
>> exercise of cultural sensitivity towards technological and economic
>> innovation.
>> Sensing the ways for example in which many users have
>> become involuntary locked in certain ways of writing and publishing
>> and imagining other ways of doing it which might be more attractive.
>> I have read enough of Dmytri's work to maybe guess that his answer is
>> going to be that it will take money and wealth to do that - and I
>> agree that the invention of new means of financialization, of
>> creation
>> of liquidity are crucial to give substance to current resistance
>> against capitalist reentrenchment.
> Hey Tiziana, I strongly agree with what you have said here, very well
> said. I've left some of my favourite passages above, not because I
> intend to
> respond to them, but to encourage them to be reread as we move further
> in this discussion.
> What I'd like to emphasize is that we need more than just the invention
> of "new means," indeed, Pie-in-the-sky new economic models are
> commonplace, and you could hardly find any one of them, no matter how
> outlandish, that would be worse than the system we have in place today.
> I suspect an economic system that distributed money and control of
> productive assets completely at randomly would still be likely to be
> preferable to what we actually existing capitalism is. Ideas, ways, and
> models that could be used to improve the functioning of our economic
> system are not in short supply. The trouble is nobody who wants to
> improve it, can.
> In order to implement any idea, any change, from the tamest reform the
> most revolutionary upheaval requires that interests who benefit from the
> change have the capacity to overcome the capacities of those who's
> interests would be harmed by such a change. In the end, it's not a
> question of invention, but of social power.
> There is no unified force capable of contesting the interests of
> capital. We need to imagine how there can be one. Before we even get a
> say in how the economy should be, we need the social power to overcome
> those who want to preserve the privileges provided by the current
> system.

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