[iDC] On Media and Memory

Brad Borevitz brad at onetwothree.net
Fri Nov 2 19:44:13 UTC 2007

>the effects of the recent blurring between media producion and consumption.

the idea of a transition from an ideology of ownership to a culture of the
use of forms is provocative. i wonder if de Certeau's notion of use as
production in his "The practice of everyday Life" is relevant. he makes a
distinction though between the realm of production he calls strategic, which
depends on power, and the triumph of place (the proper) over time, and the
tactical production through use which is the revenge of the weak, who have
no proper place, no power, and only the cunning of time in which to
manipulate the givens of the powerful to their own ends.

these categories, i think, help make sense of the landscape of struggle that
is social media. it is important to shake off the tendency towards utopian
dreaming and realize that the explosion of cultural production that we focus
on so fixedly is contextualized within a nexus of legal and technical
infrastructure that is designed and deployed by and in the interest of
global capital. 

whether it is the network itself, its protocols, the vast server farms of
google, or youtube, or myspace, their software, their terms of service, the
great edifice of international intellectual property law and multitudes of
lawyers that police the proprietary holdings of megamediacorporations ...
all of these are the constraining location of our use - of our game of
sharing. they determine the horizons of possibility while we invert and
subvert their meanings in spaces hacked out of, and borrowed from their
territories. we rent. they own.

so i don't see a change of structure in our time; it is possible that there
is an intensification of struggle. but every tactical victory is countered
by strategic maneuvers: youtube has mechanisms for the removal of
proprietary content; napster was killed, news reports show that comcast is
blocking filesharing at the network level, people are being taken to court
for sharing music; we are unprotected from electronic surveillance by the
government ... 

the insight that an art of appropriation depends on a tacit acceptance of
the proprietary is useful. but i can hardly conceive of a way to get beyond
that and to remain "art". and i don't believe that popular culture exists
outside of some idea of authorship - rather i think it is dependent on it
for its existence. 

can we even cite a work of art without simultaneously citing its author?
even more so than in literature, the work of art is tied to the authorizing
hagiographics of creative identities. all experiments in renunciation and
disavowal of intent and authority have failed, either outright or in the
recuperative movements of the market and historiographic circuits. The most
popular of popular productions are identified with the simultaneous
production of identity, either in the figure of the star, or in that bastard
of identity, the corporate brand (o holy fandom, o brand loyal minions).

but there may be a cultural realm (more) immune to claims of identity --
this is not some new technoshpere, it is simply folkculture - which must
have its memic technological counterpart (although anonymity is not the
default in cyberspace, rather it seems something that must be laboriously
produced and achieved). is there folk culture in cyberspace? the authorless
song? the "traditional". the (urban) legend. the tale.

maybe in those viral meanderings of misinformation, chain letters, sad
stories, fear mongering, and get rich quick schemes ... maybe in those
endlessly circulating and authorless texts, there is some clue to what could
come if we managed to become authorless.

Brad Borevitz

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