In the mean time, Simon Collister was able to ask Shirky about my review, where I criticized him for talking only about non-controversial issues and omitting major questions such as copyright and business models / profiling / privacy.
Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody is reputed to be the best book ever written on Web 2.0. By why the strange silence on questions of copyright, privacy and ownership? Felix Stalder delves beneath the slick prose and upbeat message.
‘Communication tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.’ If a single sentence can represent the entire book, it must be this one. For one, it's great writing. Precise, condensed, clear. Shirky's book is full of it. It shifts attention to the right level, away from the tools and to what people do with them. It also contains the dilemma that the entire book grapples with: how to write about technology once that technology has become mundane? Lastly, it leaves a lot of things out. How do technologies become mundane? Which ones are legitimate and which ones are not? Why are some providers of ‘boring technologies’ worth billions (e.g. YouTube) while others subject to high-pressure litigation (e.g. ThePirateBay)? But Shirky doesn't want to go there, he prefers to keep the message safe and positive.
30 Years of Tactical Media
Tactical media as a practice has a long history and, it seems save to predict, an even longer future. Yet its existence as a distinct concept around which something of a social movement, or more precisely, a self-aware network of people and projects would coalesce has been relatively short lived, largely confined to the internet's first decade as a mass medium (1995-2005). During that time Geert Lovink and David Garcia, two Dutch media activists/theorists at the heart of this network, defined Tactical Media, as
what happens when the cheap 'do it yourself' media, made possible by the revolution in consumer electronics and expanded forms of distribution (from public access cable to the internet) are exploited by groups and individuals who feel aggrieved by or excluded from the wider culture. Tactical media do not just report events, as they are never impartial they always participate and it is this that more than anything separates them from mainstream media.2
Like so many other things that are now common in our informational lives, the roots of tactical media lie in the cultural innovations of radical social movements that sprang up in the late 1960s. Not only did they begin to exploit technological changes enabling to self-produce media but they created entirely new ideas of what the media could be: not just conduits for more or less sophisticated state propaganda (as in Althusser's famous analysis of the “ideological state apparatuses”3) or as a source of “objective” information provided by a professional (enlightened) elite. Rather, they reconceptualized the media as means of subjective expression, by people and for people who are not represented by the mainstream.
How would culture be created if artists were not locked into romantic notions of individual authorship and the associated drive to control the results of their labour was not enforced through ever expanding copyrights? What if cultural production was organized via principles of free access, collaborative creation and open adaptability of works? As such, the practices of a collective and transformative culture are not entirely new.
In: Hoffmann, Jeanette (Hg.). Wissen und Eigentum. Geschichte, Recht und Ökonomie stoffloser Güter. Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, Bonn. 2006