Monday, February 06, 2006


Here's an excerpt from an Amerika Online column I wrote back in the late 90s:
Think about it: if our creative "property" can be infinitely reproduced and instantaneously distributed all over the planet without noticeable cost, without our knowledge, without its even leaving our possession (it's still on the publicly-accessible server, right?), why would we want to put up firewalls to protect it? Of course, one question that immediately comes to mind as we go forth into the techno-jungle mix of wild web growth and savage pla(y)giaristic practice, is what sort of advantages would there be in protecting ones work from all of the potential interactive participants? The most obvious answer is so that the artists responsible for creating the work can get paid for it. If everything is given away for free, then how are we going to get paid for the work we do with our minds? And, if we can't get paid, what will assure the continued creation and distribution of such work?
But what about "free love information sharing" in the idealized gift economy? Too hippy-dippy for you? Well, the 21st century net art punks get it too.

And, btw, is Google doing us a favor by keeping our supposedly "private" search records out of the hands of the Fed? I think so, but others say it may raise the question of censorship from another angle.

Meanwhile, the pirate utopias of the "artificial intelligentsia" and their autopoietic tendencies, are intervening in the attention economy like never before. When Hakim Bey wrote about it in his TAZ, the cultural underground paid attention. His marquee phrases like ontological anarchism and poetic terrorism struck a nerve (pre-9/11, of course). Bey's post-specto-situationist cult philosophy was a kind of contagious schtick that influenced many of the most prominent net artists of the 90s. This includes The Yes Men. The Yes Men are part of the tradition of Satire, a rival tradition, one that proves to us that schtick can be a good thing too. We all have our schtick. For example, I dig Werner Herzog's schtick, especially when he says something like this:
There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.
Update: I was once on a panel with Hakim Bey and about seven other people. Somehow the conversation steered toward a discussion of copyright. I was on the left side of the long panel table, Bey was far right. I thought for sure we would be in agreement about the need for more copyleft practice, and mentioned his anti-copyright notice on the Autonomedia publication of TAZ. But he surprised me by saying he was reconsidering it all. I never found out what he eventually concluded, but I was glad he let TAZ go out into the world unencumbered.

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