custodians in Mars & Medak 2017

lems related to housing, water or waterfront development)
(Mars, Medak, & Sekulić, 2016).
The struggle to challenge the property regime used to be at the forefront of the
Free Software Movement. In the spectacular chain of recent events, where the
revelations of sweeping control and surveillance of electronic communications
brought about new heroes (Manning, Assange, Snowden), the hacker is again
reduced to the heroic cypherpunk outlaw. This firmly lies within the old Cold War
paradigm of us (the good guys) vs. them (the bad guys). However, only rare and
talented people are able to master cryptography, follow exact security protocols,
practice counter-control, and create a leak of information. Unsurprisingly, these
people are usually white, male, well-educated, native speakers of English.
Therefore, the narrative of us vs. them is not necessarily the most empowering, and
we feel that it requires a complementary strategy that challenges the property
regime as a whole. As our letter at says:
We find ourselves at a decisive moment. This is the time to recognize that the
very existence of our massive knowledge commons is an act of collective
civil disobedience. It is the time to emerge from hiding and put our names
behind this act of resistance. You may feel isolated, but there are many of us.
The anger, desperation and fear of losing our library infrastructures, voiced
across the Internet, tell us that. This is the time for us custodians, being dogs,
humans or cyborgs, with our names, nicknames and pseudonyms, to raise our
voices. Share your writing – digitize a book – upload your files. Don’t let our
knowledge be crushed. Care for the libraries – care for the metadata – care
for the backup. (, 2015)

PJ & AK: Started in 2012, The Public Library project (Memory of the World,
2016a) is an important part of struggle against commodification of knowledge.
What is the project about; how did it arrive into being?
MM & TM: The Public Library project develops and affirms scenarios for
massive disobedience against current regulation of production and circulation of
knowledge and culture in the digital realm. Started in 2012, it created a lot of
resonance across the peripheries of an unevenly developed world of study and
learning. Earlier that year, takedown of the book-sharing site produced
the anxiety that the equalizing effects brought about by pi

t, they articulate a position of civil
PJ & AK: Please elaborate the position of civil disobedience. How does it
work; when is it justified?
MM & TM: Legitimating discourses usually claim that shadow libraries fall
into the category of non-commercial fair use. These arguments are definitely valid,
yet they do not build a particularly strong ground for defending knowledge
commons. Once they arrive under attack, therefore, shadow libraries are typically
shut down. In our call for collective disobedience, therefore, we want to make a
larger claim. Access to knowledge as a universal condition could not exist if we –
academics and non-academics across the unevenly developed world – did not
create own ways of commoning knowledge that we partake in producing and
learning. By introducing the figure of the custodian, we are turning the notion of
property upside down. Paraphrasing the Little Prince, to own something is to be
useful to that which you own (Saint-Exupéry, 1945). Custodians are the political
subjectivity of that disobedient work of care.
Practices of sharing, downloading, and uploading, are massive. So, if we want to
prevent our knowledge commons from being taken away over and over again, we
need to publicly and collectively stand behind our disobedient behaviour. We
should not fall into the trap of the debate about legality or illegality of our
practices. Instead, we should acknowledge that our practices, which have been
deemed illegal, are politically legitimate in the face of uneven opportunities
between the Global North and the Global South, in the face of commercialization


of education and student debt in the Global North … This is the meaning of civil
disobedience – to take responsibility for breaking unjust laws.
PJ & AK: We understand your lack of interest for debating legality –
nevertheless, legal services are very interested in your work … For instance,
Marcell has recently been involved in a law suit related to Aaaaar

the individualist, privative and 1337 (elite)
thrust of these developments.
PJ & AK: The Public Library project (Memory of the World, 2016a) arrives
very close to visions of deschooling offered by authors such as Ivan Illich (1971),
Everett Reimer (1971), Paul Goodman (1973), and John Holt (1967). Recent
research indicates that digital technologies offer some fresh opportunities for the
project of deschooling (Hart, 2001; Jandrić, 2014, 2015b), and projects such as
Monoskop (Monoskop, 2016) and The Public Library project (Memory of the
World, 2016a) provide important stepping-stones for emancipation of the
oppressed. Yet, such forms of knowledge and education are hardly – if at all –
recognised by the mainstream. How do you go about this problem? Should these
projects try and align with the mainstream, or act as subversions of the mainstream,
or both? Why?
MM & TM: We are currently developing a more fine-tuned approach to
educational aspects of amateur librarianship. The forms of custodianship over
knowledge commons that underpin the practices behind Monoskop, Public Library,
Aaaaarg, Ubu, Library Genesis, and Science Hub are part and parcel of our
contemporary world – whether you are a non-academic with no access to scholarly
libraries, or student/faculty outside of the few well-endowed academic institutions
in the Global North. As much as commercialization and privatization of education
are becoming mainstream across the world, so are the strategies of reproducing
one’s knowledge and academic research that depend on the de-commodified access
of shadow libraries.
Academic research papers are narrower in scope than textbooks, and Monoskop
is thematically more specific than Library Genesis. However, all these practices
exhibit ways in which our epistemologies and pedagogies are built around
institutional structures that reproduce inequality and differentiated access based on
race, gender, class and geography. By building own knowledge infrastructures, we
build differen

tural work equally consists of more demanding and more
popular activities, which mostly work together in synergy. Our popular Human
Rights Film Festival (2016) reaches thousands of people; yet, its highly selective
programme echoes our (more) theoretical concerns. Our political campaigns are
intended at scalability, too. Demanding and popular activities do not contradict
each other. However, they do require very different approaches and depend on
different contexts and situations. In our experience, a wide public response to a
social cause cannot be simply produced by shaping messages or promoting causes
in ways that are considered popular. The response of the public primarily depends
on a broadly shared understanding, no matter its complexity, that a certain course
of action has an actual capacity to transform a specific situation. Recognizing that
moment, and acting tactfully upon it, is fundamental to building a broad political
This can be illustrated by the aforementioned letter (2015)
that we recently co-authored with a number of our fellow library activists against
the injunction that allows Elsevier to shut down two most important repositories
providing access to scholarly writing: Science Hub and Library Genesis. The letter
is clearly a product of our specific collective work and dynamic. Yet, it clearly


articulates various aspects of discontent around this impasse in access to
knowledge, so it resonates with a huge number of people around the world and
gives them a clear indication that there are many who disobey the global
distribution of knowledge imposed by the likes of Elsevier.
PJ & AK: Your work is probably best described by John Holloway’s phrase
“in, against, and beyond the state” (Holloway, 2002, 2016). What are the main
challenges of working under such conditions? How do you go about them?
MM & TM: We could situate the Public Library project within the structure of
tactical age


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