Stephen Wright, Digging in the Epistemic Commons

This is an older text, from 2005, but it's still one of the best on the issue of the paradoxical relationship between the attempts to privatize knowledge and its inherent tendency to be social, because it's based on a shared language.

The gentrye are all round, on each side they are found,
Theire wisdom’s so profound, to cheat us of our ground
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The Diggers’ Song, Gerrard Winstanley & Leon Rosselson

Using the ideas of Gabriel Tarde, Ludwig Wittgenstein and George Herbert Mead, writer and critic Stephan Wright reflects on the question of how, in a capitalist knowledge economy, to prevent intellectual property from being commodified and knowledge from becoming increasingly privatized.


Bourgeois anarchism and authoritarian democracies (First Monday, 07.2008)

First Monday published my paper in its current edition. Below is the abstract, the full text is here

Digital communication is profoundly affecting the constitution of (civil) society by drastically lowering the costs to speak across time and space with individuals and groups of any size, and by producing abundant records of all activities conducted through these media. This is accelerating two contradictory trends. On the one hand, a new breed of social organizations based on principles of weak cooperation and peer production is sharply expanding the scope of what can be achieved by civil society. These are voluntary organizations, with flat hierarchies and trust-based principles. They are focused on producing commons-based resources rather than individual property. In general, they are transformative, not revolutionary, in character. This phenomenon is termed "bourgeois anarchism." On the other hand, the liberal state - in a crisis of legitimacy and under pressure from such new organizations, both peaceful (civil society) and violent (terrorism) - is reorganizing itself around an increasingly authoritarian core, expanding surveillance into the capillary system of society, overriding civil liberties and reducing democratic oversight in exchange for the promise of security. This phenomenon is termed "authoritarian democracy."


This article was first published in Italian, in the journal Millepiani. An earlier version was delivered as a talk (view stream presentation at Ars Electronica, 2007, and published in their catalogue under the title "Our new public life".

Absorption and Exposure

Jordan Crandall posted a very interesting essay to nettime, focussing on the subjectivity of a culture of "assemblage", or as I would call it, a culture of remixing. The most interesting parts are bolded by me.

Absorption and Exposure
a working assemblage of assemblage theory
Jordan Crandall

I am interested in a certain sense of wanting to be "in" something: to participate in it, to connect with it, to synchronize with it, to be caught up with it, rather than to visually possess it. The desire to be attuned to something that is happening, or that might happen at any moment -- not necessarily as a conscious thought, but as a vaguely felt expectation. The desire to move toward something that is (or might be) happening, in order to absorb its force, touch it, taste it, surrender to it -- rather than simply to observe it.

For Bataille, this would be the erotic pull of death. I am thinking about it as a dynamic of immersion and implication that involves media-technological actors and which reorients questions of subjectivity and spectatorship. Or, in other words: an ecology of absorption and exposure. Since it involves the sensorium and the transmission of resonances, it is not something that can be understood in terms of visual mastery or language. It does not privilege reading but readiness. Rather than being about possessing something from a distance, it is about a surrender to it -- an extreme intimacy, a merging. One does not look from afar, fortifying the self, but rather enters into the fray, exposing the self.

Torrents of Desire and the Shape of the Information Landscape (book chapter)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.

We are in the midst an uneven shift from an information environment characterized by scarcity of cultural goods to one characterized by their abundance. Until very recently, even privileged people had access to a relatively limited number of news sources, books, audio recordings, films and other forms of informational goods. This was partly due to the fact that the means of mass communication were expensive, cumbersome and thus relatively centralized. In this configuration, most people were relegated to the role of consumers, or, if they lacked purchasing power, not even that. This is changing. The Internet is giving ever greater numbers of people access to efficient means of mass communication and p2p protocols such as Bittorrent are making the distribution of material highly efficient. For some reason to be further examined, more and more material is becoming freely available within this new information environment. As an effect, the current structure of the culture industries, in Adorno's sense, is being undermined, and with it, deeply-entrenched notions of intellectual property. This is happening despite well-orchestrated campaigns by major industries to prevent this shift. The campaigns include measures raging from the seemingly endless expansion of intellectual property regulations across the globe, to new technologies aimed at maintaining informational scarcity (digital rights management (DRM) systems), to mass persecution of average citizens who engage in standard practices on p2p networks.

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