In the recent weeks, I have been lecturing at various places in Sweden: Landskrona, Västerås, Mölnlycke. I’ve been talking about the changing status of the book and the library, but this theme has also been situated within a general critique of so-called “social media” and the transformation of the www that has taken place over the last five years, in parallell with the economic crisis. This was also the main theme for my lecture at OCA in Oslo last month – a lecture whose point of departure, just like last time in Belgrade, was structured by the experiences of Piratbyrån.
Before lecturing in Oslo, I was interviewed by the Nordic art magazine Kunstkritikk. The interview has been published online in Norwegian as well as in English translation. Here follows some clips from the latter version:
On the “counter-revolution of the digital smorgasbord”:
A kind of shift occurred in Sweden in 2007-2008. Up until that point the record companies had clung desperately to their traditional ways of making money, but then they began to investigate new business models. Suddenly the commercial interests also began to exploit this idea of unlimited access, supplying a variety of streaming services that can be said to satisfy the same needs as file sharing – provided that you regard file sharing as simply another consumption technology. At that point it became important for us to emphasise that the potential we see in these file sharing networks is not as a means for maximising consumption. Rather, they represent an infrastructure that can be used to build selective, curatorial structures where users join up to make specific selections from this overabundance of options – instead of simply being met with a search field where you type in what you want and get it.
On “social media”, speed and disctraction:
The current commercial centralisation of the Internet – which gathered momentum by usurping a kind of enthusiasm previously mainly found among radical, anti-commercial forces – has caused much online social interaction to segue into social media such as Twitter and Facebook. It has become almost impossible to trace collective interaction backwards in time, for these media have been systematically built in a manner that does not allow access to the back history. Instead, you are prompted to click ahead, to see what is happening now, in this instant. That is why there is such a need for connecting the fast media to slower media. As long as they cannot be connected to collective memory devices they do not allow collective phenomena to emerge, leaving us with a mere culture of distraction. What we need to do is to build more alternative settings where such conversations can be had. They can be based online, but they can also be based in physical space.
And this is the post-digital scenario?
– What you might call “post-digital” is a trend that is evident in radical web politics in several ways. Many web activists have helped build hackspaces, i.e. physical spaces for experimenting with technology and for teaching encryption and anonymisation and ways of using the Internet other than those envisioned by Facebook and Apple. It certainly says something about a shift towards the post-digital world when hackers begin to see a need for meeting physically, in real life. If we are to infer any political conclusions from the post-digital manifesto I suppose that it suggests that the challenges we face in relation to Internet won’t be resolved online; they will depend on control of the physical public space. The post-digital manifesto points in this direction – from the web to the city space.
On the crisis of copyright:
– I think that the permanent crisis of copyright is inextricably linked to the permanent crisis of capitalism; a crisis we are facing right now. This is about constructs and structures that cannot be repaired. Constructs that are about to break down. The legal grey areas will multiply rather than fade away. This situation is not handled by asking what should replace our current laws. Rather, we should take our starting point in specific art forms and forms of culture, ask what we really want to protect, and then try to find solutions that safeguard those values. We are facing a long process of coming up with new alternatives. We cannot sit down and draw up a plan for a post-capitalist society. Nor can we make a plan for post-copyright culture. These are difficult processes that can fail and founder in many ways. But we must try as best we can to develop something that works.
These are some of the themes I tend to touch in my lectures these days, even though I approach them from very different angles, depending on the context.