The Politics and Poetics of Sharing in a Digital Realm

The Politics and Poetics of Sharing in a Digital Realm

About sharing without profit motives: Wikileaks

Introduction

In his 2012 book Sharing. Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age Philippe Aigrain (1949) discusses the notion of “file sharing for creative, expressive or informative works in all media”. [1] He defines file sharing as “the act of making a file available to other individuals by putting it on-line, by sending a copy, or by rendering it accessible through a file sharing software. We defend the view that sharing without direct or indirect monetary transaction – or “non-market” sharing – is legitimate”. [2]

In 2006 Wikileaks was funded. This organisation, that operates via a website, was funded for whistleblowers from government agencies and businesses to anonymously post documents with secret information. [3] The original initiaters aren’t known, though the spokesman Julian Assange was arrested in 2010. Government agencies realized that they couldn’t judge him for violating copyright laws, so they kept him imprisoned on suspicion of rape. [4] Although the Swedish government keeps Lassange imprisoned for another reason than copyright infringement, many think that he is still being judged for his Wikileaks-practices.

In this blog I want to stress the Wikileaks-project. Why are governments so unhappy with the leaking of their documents? Why aren’t they just open for public. Why do governments want to see Assange behind bars so desperately?

Wikileaks: no copyright infringement

As I have said in the introduction of this blog, Wikileaks leaks governmental and business-related documents to the public domain. The involved aren’t glad to see their ‘private’ information circling around on the internet. Though Wikileaks hasn’t done anything illegal: they have, just as Aigrain’s definition poses, made a file available to other individuals by putting it on-line. The organisation did this without the involvement of direct or indirect monetary transactions – or financial profits. So why is it than that the involved governments and businesses become so nervous because of the sharing of their information?

Sharing: Socially valuable or a danger for society?

In his book Aigrain poses on the one hand the rights of the author, who has the right to protect his writings, and, on the other hand, the rights of the users, who tend to make use of texts if (and only if) they’re used for “scientific advancement and its benefits”. [5] In relation to this matter Aigrain says that he doesn’t think that “anyone who makes the digital representation of a work available on a peer-to-peer network is a pirate”. [6] In summary I think that we can conclude that sharing information on-line isn’t piracy, nor can it be considered as a crime (as long as you use it for ‘progressive’ purposses). I think that the government and business’ opposition – or resistance – is due to, again, power-relations.

As I have also posed in two of my previous blogs: French philosopher Michel Foucault ( 1926-1984) thinks of society in terms of power-relations. He says that power arises between people or groups – the viewer (the one with the information: in the Wikileaks-case the governments and businesses) has more power than the one being viewed (the one without information: in this case the people). [7] The viewed reproduces the desired discourse of the viewer; you could say that the viewer is in control over the one viewed.

In the Wikileaks case this would imply that governments and businesses are in control over their people. And then we tend to have, in relation to this, the assumption that governments and influential businesses don’t like the circulation of their ‘private’ information, because it causes their power and control to be weakened. Wikileaks isn’t a discussion about ‘dangerous information for society’, it is about socially valuable information that is being concealed by controlling powers, because these controlling powers don’t want to lose their control.

Conclusion

To conclude: I’d like to say that I really think that governments and businesses benefit from their controlling power. Nevertheless, the discussion about Wikileaks, copyright infringement and piracy is much bigger than this blog implies. On the other hand: if we hold Aigrain’s definition of ‘file sharing’ for truth, then Wikileaks sharing governmental and business-related information isn’t – can’t be – prosecutable. That is what makes this discussion so hard: in strict terms Assange and co. didn’t do anything wrong, yet large groups of people think about this in a different way. And although masses of people tend to think that they should be able to know what their government is up to, maybe we should realise that we do not need to know everything.

Made by Jul (Tess).

Sources

Aigrain, Philippe. (2012) Sharing. Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: 15-25.

Foucault, Michel. (1975) Discipline, Toezicht en Straf: de Geboorte van de Gevangenis. Groningen: Historische Uitgeverij, 2007.

http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikiLeaks (May 27th, 2013).


[1] Aigrain, Philippe. (2012) Sharing. Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: 15-25.

[2] Aigrain, Philippe. (2012) Sharing. Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: 15.

[5] Aigrain, Philippe. (2012) Sharing. Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: 21.

[6] Aigrain, Philippe. (2012) Sharing. Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: 21-22.

[7] Foucault, Michel. (1975) Discipline, Toezicht en Straf: de Geboorte van de Gevangenis. Groningen: Historische Uitgeverij, 2007.

On Transmedia Storytelling: Snarry Fanfiction

On Transmedia Storytelling: Snarry Fanfiction

In my last blog I posed the notion of transmedia storytelling. One form of this interdisciplinary storytelling is fanfiction. Through the Digital Art & Culture course at Radboud University Nijmegen I got introduced with ‘The Snarry Reader’; a homo-erotic form of retelling the Harry Potter book-series (in particular the relationship between Snape and Harry) that made me burst into laughter. Enough said, let’s read!

The Snarry Reader is available via clicking this link: http://snarry-reader.insanejournal.com/

Made by Jul (Tess).